Weekly Story: A Historic Visit (part 2)

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzom

The response to last week’s article was heartwarming. Not only was appreciation expressed, but additional anecdotes and insights of this historic trip were given. I will share some of them:

Three weeks after the Rebbe was in Eretz Yisroel a Jew, who was an avowed communist showed Reb Mendel Futerfas a letter that he received from a friend, who also was no longer observant. He wrote, that he heard that the Rebbe was going to visit the kosel. Although he was living in Eretz Yisroel for some years, he hadn’t felt a need to go to the kosel, but he went that day to observe what will happen.

He writes, “….I am positive that from the day the kosel was erected until today, the kosel never heard/experienced a mincha like today….

That was his impression.

Furthermore, a baal halachah mentioned that he finds it interesting that although the minhag is not to say the brocha of Shehechiyanu in the three weeks, even on Shabbos, yet it is evident that the rabbonim felt the chassidim were allowed and perhaps supposed to say it. It is compared to a pidyon Haben that comes out in the three weeks that it is said (shulchan aruch, chapter 551)

Also the tradition in the Pariz family is that Reb Avrohom found a treasure in his orchard, and felt it was a present from heaven for the Rebbe.

Finally, not only did Chassidei Chabad put up posters encouraging other Jews to come and greet the Rebbe, but almost every community publicized his coming creating the tremendous arousal that it accomplished. The Zhivila Rebbe declared that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was the tzaddik of the generation.

At this time, I request if anyone has information on the Frierdiker Rebbe’s trip to America that year, can you forward it to me or contact me and we will discuss it.

While he was based in New York, he visited, Chicago, S. Louis, Milwaukee, Boston and Washington D.C. and stopped off in Philadelphia as well. The general information is in Toldos Chabad bartzos habris, but I am looking for additional details.  (Rabbi Landau of S. Louis posted a detailed description about the visit there on Chabad.org)

Thank you; with your assistance we can post the stories of these visits as well. Now we will continue with the Frierdiker Rebbe’s historic visit to Eretz Yisroel in 5689 (1929).

Tuesday, the 7th of Av

Shortly after twelve noon the Rebbe was on his way to Chevron. This time a large contingent joined him, and there were a few buses in the caravan. Around a half hour later, he stopped off at kever Rochel in Beis Lechem. When he came there he was greeted by hundreds of people, who gave him pidyoinos to daven on their behalf at kever rochel.

Being that he wanted to also be in Chevron that day, the Rebbe informed them to give the pidyonos to his chassidim, who will then give them all to him and he will read all of  them at the tzion. When he entered the room he tearfully said tehillim and lit eighteen candles,[1] and read his pidyon and all the pidyoinos that he was given. He exited the room two and a half hours later.

The drive from Beis Lechem to Chevron would normally take around a half hour. However, being that many people joined the caravan on foot, the caravan become a slow procession which drew attention by all. They stopped in the settlement of Migdal Eider (now known as Bas Ayin), on the outskirts of Chevron where the community made a reception for the Rebbe, and where he was greeted by a delegation of the leaders of Chevron.[2]

The Rebbe arrived in Chevron at three-thirty and went to the house of Reb Yaakov Yosef Slonim.[3] When the Rebbe was informed that the community wishes to give him Sholom Aleichem, the Rebbe consented and they all entered the house. Knowing that the Rebbe had barely eaten anything that day, they asked the Rebbe to eat. After ascertaining that it was from the shechita of the chossid Reb Moshe Goldshmid, the Rebbe ate.

At five in the afternoon the Rebbe began his walk to the meoras hamechpeila. On the way he passed Beis Romano which was bought by his father the Rebbe Rashab and where Toras Emes used to be,[4] before it was reestablished in Yerushalayim.

They then came to the meoras hamechpeila and the Rebbe walked up to the seventh step, and there is whee he davened mincha with the minyan. Whoever was close to the Rebbe was overwhelmed by emotions. The first brocha of Shemone esreh the Rebbe davened with the tune that he would daven on the Yomim noraim and like then it was extremely lengthy. After Atah Gibor, he davened in his regular tune. People noticed the tears rolling down his cheeks and his siddur becoming soaked from them.

After mincha, the Sheik who controlled Chevron made an exception and allowed the Rebbe, his son in law, the Rashag and a few others to enter the cave itself.[5] Being that they don’t allow dirty shoes to enter, the Arabs placed oversized leather on their shoes and tied them. [The instruction of the Mufti of Yerushalayim not to allow the Rebbe entry arrived a few minutes after the Rebbe left from there.]

They entered from Yaakov’s gate and exited from Avrohom’s gate. They were inside for fifteen minutes.[6] The Arabs who accompanied them informed them each gate/grave who it is.

On his way out, the Rebbe gave generously to the many Arabs who stretched out their hands for a donation. He then toured Beis Hadassah, looking intently at every room.

At seven thirty the Rebbe went into the Avrohom Avinu shul which was bought by the Mitteler Rebbe and also Beis Romano.

He went to the large shul where chassidim had davened all along and davened maariv. After maariv, he sat on the bimah and said the maamar, Yihe Hashem Elokeinu e’minoo… for around forty minutes. Although, many of the people never heard Chassidus, the Rebbe said it in a manner that they all were able to comprehend it and be inspired.

On his way back to Yerushalayim, the Rebbe fulfilled his promise to the Rosh Yeshiva of the Slodbodka yeshiva by visiting the yeshiva and blessing their two hundred sixty students. He then continued on his way and arrived in Yerushalayim at ten in the evening.[7]

Wednesday, the 8th of Av

The day began quite early, as by eight in the morning, the Rebbe had already learned his shiurim and davened Shacharis. He then received a telegram from his family, asking about his well-being. At eleven, his uncle Reb Moshe HaCohen Horenstein who came to Eretz Yisroel the previous day visited him. Then he began accepting people for yechidus, which continued for six hours until five in the afternoon, besides for a short break for the Rebbe to eat something..

Rav Woldorsky had a lengthy yechidus for an hour and half, as he discussed with the Rebbe about establishing a vaad to build mikvoas in Eretz Yisroel. All of the Tmimim, students of Toras Emes, had a yechidus as well as some other individuals.

Maariv and eicha were said with a minyan in the hotel.[8]

Thursday, Tisha B’av

Shavharis and Kinos were in the hotel. After mid-day he went to Ha Hazeisim[9] and davened by the ohel’s of Zecharia HaNavi, the Ohr HaChaim,[10] The Pri Chodush[11] and  Shimon HaTzaddik. On the way to the burial site of the kings of Beis Dovid on Har Tzion, he stopped at the courtyard of Calba Savua and the caves of the Sanhedria ketana and gedolah.

After the fast, the Rebbe went to Yeshivas Toras Emes to farbreng with the students. In the beginning they sang chassidishe niggunim, and then the Rebbe explained the purpose of Tomchei Tmimim, and what is expected from a Tomim; to elevate oneself higher than the challenges the world presents and transform the world into a Torah world.

He then said the maamar, Arah Hireisa l’daas, and the farbrengen came to a close around four hours later at 12:30 in the morning.

Friday, the 10th of Av

At eight in the morning, which was after Shacharis, the Rebbe began transcribing the maamar he said the night before and concluded writing it, two hours later at 10. He then went to visit various institutions in Yerushalayim. His first visit was in the Diskin Orphanage home, and was greeted by Rabbi Sonnenefeld, Rabbi Eliyahu Klazkin as well as the administration of the orphanage. From there he visited the old age home, Shararei Tzedek hospital and was given a tour by Dr. Moshe Wallach and also visted the Bikur Cholim hospital.

When he returned to the hotel, he accepted people for a Yechidus, until 1:30. Then Reb Nochm Twersky visited the Rebbe with his two sons Reb Avrohom Dov and Reb Dovid, and he spoke with them for a half hour.

When he returned from the mikva, he received letters from his family and sent a telegram informing them that he is alright and wished them a gut Shabbos.

Sometime during that day he also purchased his return boat ticket from Alexandria Egypt back to Triste, Italy.

Shabbos the 11th of Av

He awoke at five in the morning, before dawn, and began preparing for davening, and sat down for the seudah at two in the afternoon. Shabbos afternoon the Rebbe spoke from a platform on the roof of the hotel, that was built erev Shabbos. The maamar was on the possuk Gadol yeheye kovod habayis … and he began saying it after mincha at 6:30 until 7:40.

As in the previous week, many of the Jews that came were not chassidei Chabad, yet they expressed their appreciation by saying, If only the Rebbe would stay a few more shabbosim and we will be able to hear similar teachings. One of those who were there was the Reb Moshe Mordechai Biderman, who later on succeeded his father Reb Shimon Nota, as the Levoler Rebbe, who couldn’t come himself because of an illness.

The tzaddik Reb Shlomo Goldman of Zhivill, said in praise of the Frierdiker Rebbe, it is known, those who know when Moshiach will come don’t say and those who say don’t know. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he knows when Moshiach is coming and he has permission to publicize it.

Sunday, the 11th of Av

Knowing that today was his final full day in Yerushalayim and that a large amount of Jews would want to speak with him, he began the day at 5:30. At seven he sat down to write the maamar of yesterday and concluded it at 8:30. He then gave it to Reb Alter Simchovitch.

At nine he went to the house of Reb Shlomo Yehuda Leib Eliezerov and after twenty minutes went with him on a tour of the Bucharin community. Their first stop was in the yeshiva Midrash Shlomo where the Sephardic rabbonim and community leaders waited to greet him. The block was packed with the members of the community, men women and children on the street and rooftops hoping to get a glimpse of the Rebbe.

From there he went to their yeshiva B’nei Tzion and the Rebbe was pleased by what he saw. During the consecutive years, he would send them a donation.

He then went to the mansion of Reb Elisha Yehodiov, as an expression of gratitude for offering his mansion for his use.[12]

He then went to the yeshiva Eitz Chaim and from 11 to 11:30 he visited an orphanage. He then paid another visit to the Rishon L’Tzion  and after a short discussion, went with him to the school Beis Chinuch hakiluli and Yeshivas Ohel Yaakov, that he lead. Then together they went to take leave from Rabbi Sonnenfeld  and after a forty minute discussion went to see a housing project where many Jews lived.

He then visited the hospital Misgav Ladach, and from its roof top he looked at the place of the Beis Hamikdash/ Har Habayis. He visited the library of the Sdei Chemed, the yeshivos Poras Yosef and Shaaarei Shomayim. He also wanted to visit the yeshiva Chayei Olam, but he was informed it was too dangerous to go as trouble is brewing with the Arabs. Sadly the pogrom of Chevron would bear it out that coming Shabbos.

A few hours later in the afternoon the situation calmed down and he visited the Tzemach Tzedek shul in the old city. There many of his relatives[13] gathered and he greeted and blessed them. After he went to depart from Rav Kook and came back to the hotel at eight in the evening.

Waiting for him were around a hundred people who were hoping to have a yechidus. He accepted some, davened maaariv and then continued accepting them until one-thirty in the morning.

Monday, the 13th of Av

At five in the morning, three and a half hours after yechidus concluded the Rebbe awoke and prepared for Shacharis, which concluded at 6:30. He then went with British officers as an escort to the Kosel. The Rebbe approached the kosel and gazed at it with pleasure. During the next hour, he poured out his heart in prayer, said some Tehillim and read his pa”n.

When he returned to the hotel there were hundreds of people who came to see him one last time before he leaves and a few of them were allowed to speak with him.

At 9:45 the Rebbe left the hotel and on his way he picked up Judge Gad Frumkin[14] and spoke with him on his way to Tel Aviv. He was escorted by hundreds of chassidim in ten cars, four vans and six buses.

In Tel Aviv

The Rebbe caravan arrived in Tel Aviv at 11:30, and he was welcomed by a thousand people. He greeted and blessed them and entered the city. All along the road until he arrived at the hotel Sfat Yam, people stood to greet him. By the hotel there were a few thousand people waiting to greet him.

At three in the afternoon the Rebbe began accepting yechidus and more than six hundred people met with him. At five they davened mincha, and then he continued accepting another 700 people.

The Rebbe wrote, the greeting of so many people exhausted me. However I feel that it can bring a positive feeling in many of them towards Torah and mitzvos.

Maariv concluded at 10:30 and the Rebbe was informed that there is a large crowd waiting to greet him in the courtyard. The Rebbe went out to bless them and was taken aback at the large crowd of six to eight thousand people, and he blessed them. For the next two hours around eighty communal leaders, spoke with him individually and in groups.

Tuesday, the 14th of Av

The day began at 5:30 in the morning, and from six to eight was preparation to davening and davening. Then for the next two hours he greeted around four hundred young men and at ten Rav Avrohom Avichzor, the Rov of Alexandria visited him. The Rebbe then went to meet his relative Reb Schneur Zalman Slonim, the Rov of Yaffa and Tel Aviv.

When he returned to the hotel he was greeted by the deputy head of the city, who invited him to tour the Tel Aviv. The Rebbe responded that Yerushalayim is the foremost city in a Jews life, for it was chosen by Hashem. He also added that his part is “Strengthening the learning of the Torah and observance of its commandments.”

After their thirty-five minute conversation, the Rebbe accepted around seven hundred people in Yechidus during the next three hours.

One of the Jews that came was a former Tomim, who sadly lost his way. When he heard that the Rebbe was in Eretz Yisroel, he wanted to visit him, but he was embarrassed and continued pushing it off. Knowing that today is now or never, he came to the Rebbe. The Rebbe recognized him and the turmoil he was undergoing and said, “We circle and circle, but at the end we meet.”

Meeting the Rebbe and seeing the Rebbe’s happiness in greeting him had a profound effect and he returned to the ways of his youth.

While many communities sent delegations requesting that the Rebbe visit them also, there was not enough time to do so, and the Rebbe decided to visit Petach Tikva and Bnei Brak.

The reception in Petach Tikva was in the large shul. The Rebbe spoke with the communal leades about the education and spiritual well-being of the community. The head of the community, promised to establish a cheder, like they used to be. He then visited the Lomza yeshiva, and blessed the benefactor of the yeshiva that he should be able to establish many more Torah centers.

He then stopped off in the fairly new community of Bnei Brak and there too the reception was in the main shul. The Rebbe inquired about the learning of the adults and children, blessed them with success and returned to Tel Aviv by six.

From six to eight, he accepted yechidus. People flocked to the hotel and there were over ten thousand people in the courtyard, plus an addition two thousand that climbed onto the roof of the hotel. They heard that the Rebbe will say a mamar and they waited.

At ten in the evening the Rebbe came out and said the maamar, Ki Ner Mitzva v’Torah Ohr for fifty minutes. For almost all of them this was the first time hearing Chassidus Chabad, yet they all were silent the entire time.

That night his son in law the Rashag came down with a fever and in order that he could rest better, they moved to a different hotel for the next two nights. They arrived there at midnight and at one, the Rebbe went to his room.

Wednesday the 15th of Av

Once again the Rebbe was up at 5 in the morning, and the preparations to davening and davening took three hours. At eight he went back to Sfat Hayam. For the next nine hours he was in his room writing the maamar that he had just said and other things.

At five he went to visit Rav Aharon Eliyahu Milekoobsky, and at six he returned to the hotel. Yechidus was then until nine and then the Rebbe greeted groups of forty to fifty people at a time. At ten he ate something and then went to the other hotel.

Thursday, the 16th of Av

After sleeping again for only a few hours, the Rebbe was awake at five and prepared for Shacharis. At eight he returned to Sfat Hayam, ate breakfast and accepted a few people for a yechidus, including Reb Aharon Eliyahu Milekoobsky. At ten he left to the train station, with a caravan of fifteen buses, with around three hundred chassidim singing. The strange phenomenon was noticed with interest by the Jews of Tel Aviv.

They arrived at the station at 10:35, and the Rebbe was invited to the large waiting room, and around five hundred chassidim entered also. Shortly before eleven the Rebbe walked slowly to the train. Walking up to the top step, he turned around to see and be seen by all. He then said, “[Our sages taught us], ‘one is not to depart from his friend, unless he says a halacha.’ Since there is not enough time to say a maamar, I will give over a lengthy maamar.”[15]  He then blessed them and the crowd returned the blessing to him and the train began to move towards mitzrayim.[16]

The conductor treated the Rebbe and his entourage with utmost respect. He informed them that he was instructed not to open their suitcases. When they had to walk over the SuezCanal, he assisted the Rebbe by personally carrying his luggage. Before the Rebbe boarded the connection train, to Cairo, he came over and reverently kissed the Rebbe’s hand.

They arrived in Cairo at 10:30 at night, and went to a hotel. At midnight, Reb Moshe Yitzchok took the Rebbe to see the pyramids in Gaza. The Rebbe was there for an hour and half and eturned to the hotel at 3:45 in the morning.

Being that his schedule was to be up at five, he decided not to sleep at all. At 6:45 he left the hotel and the train to Alexandria departed at 7:15, and arrived at ten.

From two to three he spoke with his relative Reb Dovid Tzvi Aryeh Schneersohn and then spoke with other individuals.

At 4:30 in the afternoon he left his hotel to board the ship, and once he entered his cabin # 7, he began to prepare for Shabbos. Shabbos at noon, the boat went on its way. Shortly before that the port, the Rebbe thanked the Schneersohn brothers for all of their help during these two weeks. Sunday most of the day the Rebbe spent on learning and writing.

Sunday evening the Rebbe was informed about the massacre that took place that Shabbos in Chevron. While the Rebbe wasn’t feeling so good the last few days, and on motzei Shabbos Dr. Wallach who was also a passenger on the boat spend some time with him. But the terrible news affected him.

Sunday night he retired at 12:30, feeling weak. But then at around four in the morning, he developed a searing pain on his left side, which endured for three hours.[17] At seven the Rebbe instructed the Rashag to request Dr. Wallach to visit him. Dr. Wallach told the Rebbe what to do and also gave him a shot and the pains subsided.

Dr. Wallach continued to attend to the Rebbe until the Rebbe arrived in Munich, Germany.

During one time, Dr. Wallach asked the Rebbe for forgiveness. The Rebbe inquired why, you treated me and restored my health?

The Dr. replied, It is a definite fact that being that the Rebbe is the leader of the Jewish nation, he should be healthy. If I wouldn’t have been on the boat, then there would not have been an availability for the Rebbe to be healed, so definitely, he would not have become ill. So my being on the boat caused that the Rebbe could become ill and suffer temporarily, for that I am asking mechila.[18]

After a few weeks the Frierdiker Rebbe made his historic visit to America.

POSTSCRIPT

As the Frierdiker Rebbe wrote in a letter to the chassidim in Eretz Yisroel that he was coming there to daven, as he was not able to daven at the ohelim in Russia. While it is clear that he was davening on behalf of Russian Jewry, it is also plausible to believe that he was davening that his trip to America be successful.

Yes he was coming to America a to raise money for Russian Jewry, but he also utilized the occasion to to plant the seeds for the future. As eleven years later he settled in America. So perhaps this visit was to begin to thaw the “ice” of American Jewry.

This weeks’ post is l”zechus the complete and immediate refuah of my sister Chaya Rivkah bas Cheyena, among all cholei Yisroel.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

 

[1] Author’s note: I assume it was for 18 individuals or groups, similar to what he did at the ohel of the ===.

[2] Among them were; Reb Moshe Shmuel Kastel (who was killed eleven days later in the Chevron pogrom) hy”d, Reb Yaakov Yosef Slonim, the Sephardic Rabbonim of Chevron with the head of the Chevron community as well as a representative of the Slodbodka yeshiva of Chevron.

[3] He was a –grandson of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel, hence a cousin to the Rebbe.

[4] At the onset of WWI, Turkey evicted all Russian citizens from Eretz Yisroel, including the mashoia of the yeshiva, Rabbi Havlin.

[5] The next time Jews were allowed inside the cave was after it was redeemed in 1967.

[6] Some say that the Rebbe was allowed to go into each gate and touch the stones of each matzeiva.

[7] Waiting for him was a telegram from his mother Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah, asking him not to fast???

[8] In a letter to his family, the Rebbe laments the fact that he noticed Jews eating and drinking on Tisha B’av as if it was a regular day.

[9] One of those who accompanied the Rebbe was the mashpia Reb Nissan Horowitz, who would relate that he had the zechus of holding his umbrella to shield the Rebbe from the intense sun rays.

[10] Rav Chaim ben Ittar.

[11] Rav Chizkiya De-Saluha

[12] As noted previously in the chapter, the Rebbe informed them that he doesn’t want to stay in a person’s private house, rather he prefers to stay in a hotel.

[13] Primarily descendants of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Kuli-Slonim.

[14] His father Reb Yisroel Dov was a chossid of the Rebbe Rashab and the editor of the paper Chavatzeles, where he promoted the opinion of the Rebbe.

[15] The maamar he gave was on this very halacha of one is not to depart from his friend, unless he says a halacha.

[16] Some chassidim traveled a short distance on the train with the Rebbe, while his relatives, the brothers, Moshe Yitzchok and Schneur Zalman Schneersohn, the sons of Reb Dovid Tzvi Aryeh, went with them to Cairo, as they lived in Egypt.

[17] In another letter he notes that it affected his kidneys.

[18] The Rebbe related this story during the == farbrengen.

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