Set Your Eyes Upon The Heavens
In preparation for Yud-Alef Nissan, the birthday of the Rebbe MH"M, we present fifty stories of the Rebbe, including directives, quotes, Torah thoughts, and miracles. The common denominator is the lesson in avodas Hashem. * The stories were collected and written by Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Reichman, who heard them firsthand. * Part 1


The Chassid Rabbi Nachum Gorelnik, one of the students of Tomchei Tmimim in Lubavitch, related: Once a Bucharian family was standing in line for lekach. When the brothers from the family passed by the Rebbe, they pointed out one brother and told the Rebbe that his vision was weak and he could barely see. The doctors were afraid he would lose his eyesight entirely, r’l. The Rebbe said, "‘S’u marom eineichem’ (Lift up your eyes On High) - a Jew must see."

I was standing nearby and was surprised to hear the Rebbe speaking to them with a Sephardic pronunciation, like an Israeli. After I had my turn and had left, I saw a commotion near 770. It turned out that as soon as that brother left the Rebbe, he noticed that his eyesight was improving. Chassidim gathered around him, talking about this excitedly. The brothers got nervous and quickly left.

(Heard firsthand.)


In 5713 (1953), a person had a private audience with the Rebbe in which the Rebbe told him to learn and repeat verses from the Torah by heart. The man had been married for eight years and had no children, and he asked for a bracha and got one. The man, however, was not satisfied; he asked specifically for a promise. The Rebbe told him that only Hashem can promise. The man insisted and said, "I am not asking for more than what the Rebbe can promise."

The Rebbe asked for the couple’s names and said that the names should be checked to see precisely what they were. The couple subsequently had three children.


The Chassid Rabbi Yisroel Tzvi Heber related: When my friend, Rabbi Avrohom Tzvi Cohen, a’h, returned from visiting the Rebbe in 5726 (1966), I asked him what he noticed that was special about the Rebbe. He told me that in his youth he had visited many Polish tzaddikim, but never encountered the bittul and anava that he found in the Rebbe.

I asked him to explain what he meant, and he said that one of the times the Rebbe returned from the Ohel, the Rebbe walked to the end of the hall in 770 in order to wash his hands. At that moment he (R’ Avrohom Tzvi) was standing there washing his hands and did not notice the Rebbe standing behind him. Suddenly, he turned a little and noticed the Rebbe waiting. R’ Avrohom trembled and turned pale. The Rebbe immediately apologized and asked his pardon for causing him to feel uncomfortable. "That’s how I saw the Rebbe’s tremendous bittul and anava; how sensitive he is not to cause any unpleasantness to the Chassidim."


A Lubavitcher who was one of the first baalei teshuva in Eretz Yisroel (either preceding or at the beginning of the Rebbe’s leadership) had a relative he was trying, unsuccessfully, to convince to put on t’fillin. This Chassid once had a private audience with the Rebbe and asked the Rebbe to influence that relative to put on t’fillin every day.

The Rebbe remarked, "Every Jew who doesn’t put on t’fillin makes a hole in my heart."

(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Laufer.)


On Shabbos Bereishis 5753, R’ Dovid Goldstein farbrenged in the sukka in the courtyard of 770. He related a few incidents that took place in the beginning of the Rebbe’s leadership.

He once asked the Rebbe for advice on how to get rid of unwanted thoughts. The Rebbe told him to picture the Rebbe Rayatz in his mind.

On another occasion, he asked the same question and the Rebbe answered, "Machshavos zaros? Vos hot dos a shaichus tzu dir?" (Foreign thoughts? What connection do they have with you?)


R’ Dovid Goldstein: The year the Rebbe Rayatz was nistalek, I went to the Rebbe after davening and asked what the beginning of avoda is. The Rebbe said, "The beginning of avoda is to refrain from doing what you want."

A few minutes later, while walking down the steps of the Rebbe Rayatz’s house, the Rebbe told me that he didn’t mean that if I wanted to put on t’fillin that I should refrain! He smiled broadly towards his mother, Rebbetzin Chana, who was accompanying the Rebbe down the steps as he said this.


Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi relates: One of the T’mimim in a yechidus complained to the Rebbe about an undesirable habit he had. Whenever he left yeshiva and went home, the first thing he did was go to the refrigerator and look to see what was available. The talmid complained that although he felt this was unsuitable, he couldn’t stop.

The Rebbe told him to picture himself as a shliach and the director of a big operation in a large city. Wouldn’t he be embarrassed in that position to do something so childish? This thought would lead him to a more elevated frame of mind and would end this type of conduct.

As a matter of fact, subsequently, the talmid did become a shliach and the director of a big operation in a large city, exactly as the Rebbe had said.

(Heard from the shliach.)


The Chassid Rabbi Zalman Leib Estulin relates:

I heard from R’ Shlomo Movshovitz that in yechidus he told the Rebbe the custom of his hometown Strashela - that all the Jewish townspeople went to pray and ask for mercy on Erev Rosh HaShana at the resting place of the tzaddik Rav Aharon, zt’l, one of the outstanding students of the Alter Rebbe.

R’ Shlomo said that when he mentioned the name of his hometown, the Rebbe stood up in reverence.

(Heard firsthand.)


R’ Zalman goes on to relate:

I saw a Jew approach the Rebbe between sichos at a farbrengen, and ask for a bracha "Az di nit sheina machala vet nit zain in Eretz Yisroel" (that the "not nice" disease not spread to Eretz Yisroel).

The Rebbe smiled and said, "Zol sheina machalos oich nit zain in Eretz Yisroel" (there shouldn’t be nice diseases in Eretz Yisroel either).

(Heard firsthand.)


Over forty years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, then Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F., visited the Rebbe. After he returned to Eretz Yisroel, he had a letter sent out to key rabbanim in the country, asking them to send delegations to his office so that he could tell them what the Rebbe had told him, which would have positive ramifications.

Rabbi Yisroel Leibov, director of Tzeirei Agudas Chabad, and Rabbi Avrohom Chanoch Glitzenstein, a’h, were two of the people who attended.

Among the things Rabbi Goren related was that the Rebbe asked him when the drafting of girls would be abolished. Rabbi Goren had replied to the Rebbe that the committee that dispensed religious exemptions were rabbanim who released as many girls as possible. The Rebbe dismissed that, saying he didn’t only mean religious girls. Rabbi Goren explained that the army’s lack of manpower made it hard to release the girls, but since many Moroccan Jews had recently emigrated to Eretz Yisroel (1957-1959), Moroccan men would probably, in another two years after they learned the language sufficiently, replace the girls. Then the rabbanim would be able to abolish mandatory drafting of girls.

"When the Rebbe heard that he told me, ‘Hostu gemacht shver oif dem hartz oif tzvei yor’" (You made it hard on my heart for two years).

(Heard from Rabbi Yehuda Leib Zalmanov.)


More from R’ Leibel Zalmanov: In Iyar 5714 (1954) I went to the Rebbe for the first time by winning the first raffle of its kind in Eretz Yisroel. A few days after I arrived, my cousin, Rabbi Shmuel Zalmanov (editor of HaTamim and Seifer HaNiggunim) had a yechidus with the Rebbe.

The Rebbe asked him about me: "Is your cousin adept in public speaking?" Shmuel answered that he didn’t know me because this was the first time he was meeting me. The Rebbe replied, "Then he should review Chassidus on Friday night, and we’ll see how he speaks."

My cousin told me what the Rebbe had said. The next Friday night, while one of the T’mimim reviewed Chassidus, I said a maamer out loud. When I finished, the old mashpia, Rabbi Shmuel Levitin, came over to me and said, as though in amazement, "We always knew that people come to Lubavitch to listen. Now times have changed and you come to Lubavitch to speak?!" I didn’t reply, but I knew that this was what the Rebbe had wanted.

After Shabbos I was asked to go with Rabbi Dov Ber Baumgarten, a’h (who was active among Jewish students in New York), to lecture at one of the colleges. Although the students didn’t understand much of what I said, they were attracted to Chabad because hearing someone speak in Hebrew had appeal at that time.

That’s what the Rebbe wanted to accomplish in his desire that I speak in public.


Two Wosner brothers lived near the Chabad shul in Bnei Brak. They would often daven in that shul. At a farbrengen, they once said that their father had come to Eretz Yisroel as a refugee during the war, and had an extremely difficult time making a living.

Someone then told their father to mention the problem to the new Lubavitcher Rebbe, who might be able to help him. The father followed that suggestion and wrote to the Rebbe about his situation. He mentioned that he previously had been a shochet.

A few weeks went by. One day a package came in the mail in which two sh’chita knives were enclosed. The father used to say that this encouragement gave him the strength to get on his feet again, and he worked as a shochet and bodeik for decades to come.

(Heard from L. Zalmanov.)


Rabbi Moshe Yaroslavsky related: In the early years of the Hachnasas Orchim organization, the Rebbe would visit the hall of Hachnasas Orchim on Shabbos Shuva. He always told me to walk ahead of him, giving one of two reasons. Either he used to say that baal bayis b’rosh (the homeowner goes first), or he would say that machnis orach b’rosh (the host goes first).

One year the Rebbe looked at the Shabbos candles and asked why there were so few. The reason was that most of the women lit where they slept. Since then, I made sure to light many candles in the dining room.

(Heard firsthand.)


More from R’ Moshe Yaroslavsky: One year we were returning to Eretz Yisroel on the 15th of Cheshvan. It was a Sunday, so my wife and I went to receive a bracha at "dollars." The Rebbe gave me an additional dollar saying, "For the guests." The Rebbe also gave my wife an extra dollar and said, "For the guests."

My wife said we were no longer busy with guests because two weeks had passed since Hachnasas Orchim had closed. The Rebbe replied, "I saw him involved with guests yesterday."

At first I didn’t understand what the Rebbe meant. After additional thought I remembered something. At the farbrengen on Shabbos there were many guests on the dais, among them a group from Brazil and a group from Los Angeles. It was very crowded, and one of the guests said that the overcrowding was sakanas nefashos (endangering lives).

Hearing that, I told him that at one of the tishen of the Gerrer Rebbe (R’ Avrohom Mordechai) in Eretz Yisroel, the crowding was terrible and somebody yelled out sakanas nefashos! The Gerrer Rebbe heard him and replied, "Takanas nefashos" (fixing of souls).

All the guests in the vicinity smiled as I told this, and just at that moment the Rebbe looked towards us. I realized that this is what the Rebbe meant when he said, "I saw him involved with the guests."


Rabbi Aharon Serebryanski of Melbourne related: One of the Telzer roshei yeshiva in Cleveland was a good friend of Rabbi Chaim Gutnick from the time they both had learned in Telz in Lithuania. The rosh yeshiva once asked Rabbi Gutnick why Yud-Tes Kislev is called Chag HaChagim (Holiday of Holidays).

Some time later, Rabbi Gutnick mentioned this question at a yechidus. "What did you answer?" asked the Rebbe. "I told him that since Chabad Chassidim have a number of special days in the calendar, they call the loftiest day Chag HaChagim."

The Rebbe dismissed this explanation and explained it himself. Yud-Tes Kislev is Chag HaChagim, the holiday that gives life to all holidays. Without learning Chassidus, which we were given on Yud-Tes Kislev, we would have no inner connection with yetzias Mitzrayim or any other holiday. Yud-Tes Kislev is the day that infuses all holidays with the ability to arouse within us a festive spirit, and that’s why it is literally Chag HaChagim.

(Heard firsthand at a farbrengen in Kislev 5749 in 770.)

(To be continued.)



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