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The Eshel-Hachnosas Orchim Dinner
By S. Choveiv

"Hachnosas Orchim is greater than greeting the Shechina," say Chazal. There are also many other statements along these lines, but when the Rebbe suddenly talks about hachnasas orchim so much, it becomes even more urgent.

"The intention is literal: all local residents must give the guests food, drink, and lodging, and they must do so generously, with their money, body, and soul..." said the Rebbe MH"M in the sicha of Ki Savo 5740.

Have you ever thought about this seriously? Try to imagine how you feel when you host a couple, friends, or a family. You clean up, empty rooms, send the children to sleep on the couch, and do all you can so that your guests feel comfortable.

Now imagine what it means to have the Rebbe’s guests. Close your eyes and picture it. It’s one o’clock in the morning and you have already said ha’mapil and are about to go to sleep when suddenly the phone rings and it’s Rabbi Chadakov on the line. "The Rebbe is looking for you. The Rebbe has an important guest and he wants you to feed him and take care of him."

"The main thing is action," the Rebbe went on to say in that sicha. Yes, it’s not just imagination. It’s for real. To the credit of Crown Heights residents, they really go all out; whether it’s a hundred boys who eat with them at each meal (yes, there are hosts like that) or mattresses covering their living room.

And it’s not just physically extending themselves that they do, but their money and their hearts, as well. The greatest proof for this is the hundreds of people who participated in the magnificent dinner for Hachnosas Orchim on Motzaei Shabbos Bereishis.

At 9:30 in the evening, hundreds of guests began entering Oholei Torah’s beautiful hall. With Yossi Cohen’s music playing in the background, people took their places at a festive Melaveh Malka meal and took a look at the special gift printed especially for the dinner.

The talented Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, the emcee for the evening, captivated the crowd with fascinating and humorous stories illustrating the importance of hachnasas orchim.

A video was shown of Tishrei scenes with the Rebbe, and the Rebbe’s encouraging the singing of "Yechi," infusing the audience with feelings of bitachon and emuna that the Rebbe is about to come and redeem us. Then the director of Merkaz Chabad HaOlami L’Kabbolas Pnei Moshiach, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hendel, presented an award to R’ Avi Taub.

R’ Avi Taub approached the microphone and said, "It’s a difficult time. The sea is stormy, the waves are high and dangerous and there is only one life preserver - hiskashrus to the Nasi HaDor, the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach." R’ Avi went on to relate a story that happened while repairing the k’varim in Russia as the Rebbe’s emissary. He described being stuck on a mountaintop during a snow storm, when he suddenly saw the Rebbe extending his gartel to him. He grabbed the gartel and was saved.

"Hachnosas Orchim is the Rebbe’s gartel. It is an organization that enables one to connect to the Rebbe, both b’ruchniyus and b’gashmiyus. I ask everybody who can to contribute, for this is the place, this is the time, and this is the goal."

Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba, member of the Crown Heights beis din, was the next speaker. "Before the world was created," Rabbi Osdoba related, "the earth was void and there was darkness, but there was a ‘spirit of G-d.’ The Midrash says this spirit was the spirit of Moshiach. This is the purpose of creation. Just as the luchos were broken because they no longer were holy since the letters had flown away, so too the world is emptiness and darkness. It’s just the spirit of G-d, the spirit of Moshiach, which brings the world into existence."

The chairman of the Vaad HaKohol, R’ Michoel Chazan described taking his children to see different sukkos around the neighborhood. "We saw many sukkos and then for the finale we went to the giant Hachnosas Orchim sukka. ‘This is the nicest sukka,’ I told them. ‘This is where the Rebbe’s guests eat, thousands of bachurim who come from around the world to the Rebbe and who eat in this sukka."

The lights dimmed and another video was shown, this time of the work of Hachnosas Orchim this year. It’s hard to convey the scope of their work in seven minutes. Scenes of the apartments, the dining room, the kitchen, the sukka, the sedarim, the farbrengens, mivtzaim, and davening with the Rebbe were shown. A full month of non-stop work in a seven minute video, but now people have more of an idea of what Hachnosas Orchim is all about.

Levi Yitzchok Bar-Zohar, eleven years old, represented the guests. He confidently approached the mike as the crowd hushed. It isn’t often that a child gets up to speak. "Allow me to share a personal experience," he began. The crowd was touched as he described his feelings as he stood at the Birkas HaTmimim on Yom Kippur eve. "I know that this was made possible by the wonderful residents of Crown Heights, so on behalf of myself and the fifty boys in my group, and the hundreds of young men and thousands of bachurim, I want to say: Thank you."

Rabbi Hendel proclaimed "Yechi" and then went on to say, "This tremendous work is not accomplished by our kochos. We work for the Rebbe MH"M and it’s all his kochos. None of us can say, "kochi v’otzem yadi," for anybody who gets involved knows the truth. The guests are not our guests. They are the Rebbe’s guests, and the Rebbe takes care of them.

"We thank Hashem for the great privilege of being the ones to take care of the Rebbe’s guests b’gashmiyus and b’ruchniyus . A special thanks to the hundred members of the Hachnosas Orchim team and the chayalei beis Dovid, who work unceasingly with great personal sacrifice, all so that the Rebbe’s guests should be able to draw upon the kochos and spiritual hashpaos of Tishrei."

Rabbi Hendel went on to thank those who support Hachnosas Orchim financially and said, "This year an incredible phenomenon occurred. There were fifty amudei chesed, fifty individuals who contributed $1800 each for this important cause." He went on to list the fifty people, who were applauded vigorously by the crowd. Then he described a new project as a preparation for the revelation of the Rebbe MH"M and for the ilui nishmas Rabbi Yehuda Kalman Marlow, a’h, the rav of Crown Heights. The 5 million dollar project includes a new building with 300 places for sleeping, which will serve as a permanent hostel throughout the year for guests who come from around the world to 770. In addition, it will have a kitchen and a huge dining room.

The presentation of the new project took the crowd by surprise and they responded with applause. In conclusion, Rabbi Hendel thanked some major supporters, among them Rabbi Yitzchok Raitport, who unfortunately couldn’t attend the dinner and speak as he usually does, because of the sudden and shocking death of his son, the bachur Shalom Ber, a’h.

Rabbi Hendel went on to thank R’ Shalom Ber Drizin and R’ Shlomo Kalisch, and then Rabbi M.M. Shagalov was called upon to accept an award for his tremendous support.

Rabbi Shagalov began his speech with a personal story. "A friend of mine, a prominent attorney lives in an exclusive building in Manhattan. When I asked him how yom tov was, he told me excitedly about the group of bachurim who came from Brooklyn on foot and brought the joy of yom tov to him in a way that he had never before experienced.

"We see that Hachnosas Orchim is not just a chayus for the community, but a chayus and a simcha for all of New York."

The waiters began serving while Ari Cadaner, a solo with the Miami Boys choir, sang Chabad niggunim. He was followed by the next speaker, the Rebbe’s secretary and director of Merkaz L’Inyonei Chinuch, Rabbi Shalom Mendel Simpson, who said, "Although I cannot host the Rebbe’s guests for Tishrei, since I live in Brighton Beach, I had the privilege of having the bachurim come to my shul on Simchas Torah."

The next speaker, Rabbi Yisroel Gordon, shaliach in New Jersey, one of the ziknei Anash and one of the first students of Tomchei Tmimim in the United States. Rabbi Gordon described his experiences of the first Tishrei with the Rebbe Rayatz in New York.

The final speaker was Rabbi Zalman Landau, who concluded the evening with a farbrengen which revolved around hachnasas orchim, Tishrei with the Rebbe, and how to "live with the Rebbe."


The Eshel-Hachnosas Orchim dinner

(From right to left)
Rabbi Yehoshua Dubrowsky, Rabbi Refael Wilschansky,
Rabbi Yisroel Gordon, Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, Rabbi L.Y. Shapiro,
Rabbi Moshe Morosov, Rabbi Shlomo Matusof, Rabbi Yitzchok Springer



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