Chapter 7: Yechidus
The word yechidus signifies a private meeting.
But for chassidim, the concept of a yechidus with a Rebbe has a
far deeper implication. The word yechidah refers to the highest
rung of the soul, the innermost core which is at one with G-d in
constant and consummate unity. A yechidus with his Rebbe a one-to-one
encounter between the yechidah of the chassid and the yechidah of
the Rebbe charges the chassid’s yechidah with dynamism, so
that it vitalizes his day-to-day conduct.
“Of all my yechidus experiences,” related
Rabbi Yehudah Leib Posner, “the one I remember most wasn’t
only for me. During the Spring of 1965, I was assistant principal
of an elementary school for girls in Vineland, New Jersey. I had
been trying to direct the eighth grade graduates to enroll in religious
high schools. I suggested that they visit New York City and acquaint
themselves with the different educational opportunities available
for them there: Bais Rivkah , the Lubavitch High School for girls,
the Beis Yaakov schools, and others.
“I organized a trip to New York on Sunday
with a stop in Crown Heights and a tour of the Lubavitch school.
I then phoned the office at “770” and arranged with
the secretary, Rabbi Shalom Mendel Simpson, to arrange that the
girls meet the Rebbe at yechidus for the girls at 3:00 on Sunday.
“The trip was very pleasant, and at 2:45
on Sunday we were waiting outside “770”. However, in
the office I was told that the Rebbe had unintentionally not been
informed of the arrangement. Rabbi Simpson asked us to wait a short
while, and then announced that the girls would be able to see the
Rebbe after minchah at 3:15.
“It was Pesach Sheni, the minor holiday instituted
to enable all those who had not offered a sacrifice on Passover
to compensate by bringing an offering on this date. The Rebbe spoke
to the girls about the lesson one can learn from this holiday, that
Es iz nito kein farfal’n Nothing is ever lost; there is always
an opportunity to compensate.
“After the Rebbe finished talking to the
girls, I requested an opportunity for a personal yechidus and the
“Afterwards, I wondered how great an exception
the Rebbe had made to grant the girls yechidus on such short notice.
I was curious how far in advance it was necessary to schedule yechidus.
I asked Rabbi Simpson if he could arrange a yechidus for me in the
near future. Rabbi Simpson shook his head.
“ ‘Of course, I don’t mean tomorrow
or the next day,’ I said quickly, fully aware of the waiting
line for yechidus. ‘I had in mind about six weeks from today.’
Rabbi Simpson shook his head again. ‘It’s
absolutely full. There are no openings until after Sukkos.’
“I understood something about the Rebbe’s
choice of priorities. For myself, I had been told that I would have
to wait at least five months to be received at yechidus. But when
six young girls might possibly be influenced in their choice of
high school education, the Rebbe took time in mid-day to speak to
them despite the lack of previous notification.”
And the Rebbe’s words made a difference.
Most of the six girls decided to continue their Jewish education.
Back in the ‘seventies, distraught parents
often placed long-distance phone calls to Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Drizin,
the shaliach in Berkeley, California. They sought help in communicating
with their children who had joined cults and communes, or who were
drifting about on the permissive West Coast shores.
So he was not fazed when a worried father, Mr.
Friedman, called from New York to ask for help in contacting his
“She’s a lovely girl, a student at
Columbia,” Mr. Friedman’s words tumbled out in confusion.
“They’re in Immigrant Gap, California now…. Our
family tries to keep Shabbos … but her black boyfriend is
a missionary Christian…. Tomorrow night, he’s taking
her to Hawaii to convert her to Christianity. I think she’s
only doing it to please him. Please help.”
Rabbi Drizin promised that he would do what he
could. However, it was Friday. He wasn’t even sure that he
could find Immigrant Gap.
“I hesitated,” recalled Rabbi Drizin.
“I had heard the town’s name before and I believed that
it was somewhere near Sacramento. But I had no address, I didn’t
want to run late shortly before Shabbos. Could I really influence
a stranger and bring about a change on such a critical issue on
one short visit?”
“Yet, I was prompted to go. I planned what
I thought was enough time to get there and back, left another two
hours for discussion, and an hour to get ready for Shabbos. Instinctively,
I hurried over to the Chabad House to pick up my tallis. I brushed
by a poster announcing our Saturday night program, and again reminded
myself that I must be home for Shabbos.
“After setting out on my journey, I realized
that I had miscalculated. Immigrant Gap was further than I thought,
but I had already traveled so far that I could not turn back. I
arrived at five thirty, only a few hours before sunset. The residents
of the tiny village could not direct me to the person I described.
Realizing that I would have to stay here over Shabbos, I notified
my family and then bought some kosher food. Finally, after an intense
search, I located the people in a cottage atop a hill on the outskirts
“It was just a few minutes before Shabbos
when I knocked on the door. The owners, a devout Christian family,
invited me in, and I saw their guests the man and woman in the dining
room Adina and her friend. I introduced myself and told Adina the
purpose of my visit. She showed no interest and left the room. Her
missionary companion, in contrast, was more friendly. Perhaps he
thought I would be an interesting challenge.
“I asked the houseowners if I could spend
the night and the next day. They cordially offered me a spacious
“That Shabbos was quite an experience. Most
of the day was spent in intense conversation. I often regretted
being pitted against Adina, whose responses alternated between indifference
and hostility. Instead of speaking to her directly, I spent most
of the time speaking to her friend, trying to impress both of them
with one concept: Before Adina should consider adopting a different
religion, she should know more about her own.
“Late Saturday night, shortly before their
scheduled flight to Hawaii, Adina surprised me by agreeing to attend
a course on Judaism. I immediately placed two phone calls: one to
Bais Chanah a Lubavitch institute for girls in Minnesota and the
other to an airline ticket office. Early Sunday morning, I drove
Adina to the airport in Sacramento.
“On the road, Adina broke the tense silence
between us: ‘I assure you, Rabbi, that you have no idea why
I decided to accompany you. Not only that, but I’m sure that
you have no idea what you are doing here in the first place!’
“Her outburst caught me unprepared. I had
naively concluded that my extensive persuasion had finally borne
“ ‘You see,’ she continued, ‘fifteen
years ago, when I was growing up in New York, my father and I visited
the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I did not understand what was being said
at that meeting, but over the years, my father explained it to me.
“ ‘While the Rebbe was granting us
blessings, he stopped and said to my father: ‘A day will come
when you will need assistance with this child contact us and we
“ ‘Initially, I was not impressed when
you introduced yourself on Friday as an emissary of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe. Then, on Saturday, the profound prophecy of those words struck
me. Nothing you said convinced me to change my plans. I still want
to go to Hawaii, but I cannot disregard those far-sighted words
of your Rebbe. I decided to go only out of respect for his profound
Today, Adina is the mother of a lovely, observant
family in Jerusalem.
An Israeli police officer taking a professional
training course in America decided to take advantage of his stay
in the States in order to meet the Rebbe privately at yechidus.
He handed the Rebbe a list of his family members, requesting a blessing
for each of them.
After reading the note, the Rebbe asked: “How
is your wife’s leg?”
When the police officer simply responded with a
blank look, the Rebbe gently reminded him about a letter that his
son had written ten years earlier while attending a Lubavitch school.
When the child had been in third grade, the officer’s
wife had contracted a serious leg illness. The child’s teacher
saw his concern, and suggested that he write a letter to the Rebbe.
Soon he received a blessing for a speedy recovery. In due time,
his mother’s leg healed.
In the interim, the officer and his family had
moved to a different city, the children had grown up, and the officer
had forgotten about the illness until now, when he was reminded
by the Rebbe.
Later, the officer explained, “I do not know
what is more moving to me: the fact that the Rebbe remembered after
ten years and many thousands of other letters, or the genuine interest
and care the Rebbe expressed for the well-being of another person.”
One of the first students at the Yeshivas Tomchei
Temimim , the yeshivah established in the village of Lubavitch in
1897 by the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rashab, was Rabbi Shneur
Zalman Gorelik, who later became the first rav of Kfar Chabad in
Israel. Rabbi Gorelik assumed this position at the age of 70, following
a lifetime of vibrant communal activity. He established and managed
a gemach, free loan fund, from his own salary, thus helping many
struggling immigrant families establish the future Lubavitch center
Once Rabbi Gorelik confided in a friend, “Besides
the mitzvah of offering free loans, the gemach helps me perform
my rabbinical duties. You see, I am not young, and it is difficult
for me to pay home visits as an active Rabbi should in our growing
“When people come for a loan, I can offer
them assistance and guidance about their families, their finances,
and their spiritual advancement.
But at his first yechidus, when he was already
eighty years old, Rabbi Gorelik mentioned that the gemach required
too much of his time.
The Rebbe replied, “To the contrary. The
gemach grants you additional time.” And Rabbi Gorelik was
indeed granted much time, living well into his nineties.
At one point, Rabbi Gorelik told the Rebbe that
he felt Kfar Chabad deserved a more dignified Rav. The Rebbe replied:
“You can increase your dignity.”
Professor Lombruzi is a prominent physicist who
lives in Nice, France. He had become acquainted with Lubavitch,
and once made a trip to New York to meet the Rebbe. Among the topics
he discussed with the Rebbe during yechidus was a book on the subject
of electricity. “I invested years of research and hard work
in the publication, but it has not sold successfully,” he
said disappointedly. As he spoke, Professor Lombruzi presented a
copy of the book to the Rebbe as a gift.
The Rebbe leafed through the book for about a minute,
and offered some constructive criticism. He suggested publishing
a revised edition, promising that it and his subsequent works would
gain a wide readership.
Many years have elapsed since the professor’s
first encounter with the Rebbe. He has published over twenty other
volumes following his first book, and each one was a prodigious
success. They have been translated into eight languages and have
been chosen as compulsory texts in many major universities in France
and other European countries. The title page of each book bears
a dedication to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Curiosity, more than anything else, brought an
Israeli journalist to yechidus in 1971. He had been visiting the
States, and some of his American acquaintances said that they could
arrange an encounter between him and the Rebbe.
Though he lacked the reverence of the Rebbe’s
followers, he appreciated the opportunity to meet such a great man.
When the arranged date came, he entered the Rebbe’s study
and handed him a note with his questions and requests, as he had
The Rebbe gazed intently at the piece of paper.
“I recognize this handwriting. You have written to me in the
past,” he said.
The journalist was taken aback by this unexpected
comment. “With all due respect,” he replied. “I
have never written you a letter.”
The Rebbe sat in deep thought for a few moments.
“There is no doubt that you have written to me in the past,”
the Rebbe maintained. As he spoke, he opened the drawer of his desk,
took out a piece of paper and handed it to the journalist.
The journalist stared at the paper, stunned. Here
it was, a letter to the Rebbe written in his own handwriting. But
what is this at the bottom? The letter was signed by someone else.
Then he remembered. A few years earlier, during
the Six Day War, one of his buddies had injured his hand. After
the war, the friend had wanted to send a letter to the Rebbe. Unfortunately,
because of his injury, he was unable to write. The journalist wrote
as his friend dictated, and the injured man managed to sign his
The journalist’s attitude changed abruptly.
The yechidus became far more than a curiosity, and he departed far
less indifferent than when he had entered.
The Rebbe receives thousands of letters every week.
Any letter which he decides to keep at hand must have a specific
“Upon the Rebbe’s request, I delivered
to his office forty volumes of scientific reports which I had prepared
for the American Government. But I didn’t really think he
would take a look at them,” related Dr. Velvel Green, a professor
of microbiology. “After all, how would he find time to read
through all this extensive research?”
Some months later, when the professor came to see
the Rebbe for yechidus, the Rebbe noted that a conclusion reached
in Volume 18 contradicted an assumption in Volume 38. 1
“Gifted, eh?” remarked the engineer.
“Well, we shall see. I will write down a mathematical problem
for you to present to them. If they can solve it, I will put their
names on the university honors list!”
Yeshayahu delivered the equation to the boys and
returned with their solutions a while later. Ostrovsky was amazed.
“They are all correct,” he announced. He set aside one
of the papers. “This one displays the most concise and direct
method of calculating the answer,” he added. That paper was
Some time later, the headmaster of the local preparatory
school visited the Schneerson home. He desired to test the reports
he had heard about Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s oldest son. He presented
the youth with a complex mathematical problem, allotting him three
days to solve it. Half an hour later, while the headmaster was still
speaking to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, the youth returned with his answer.
The headmaster considering him impudent at having worked on the
problem so swiftly. He pocketed the paper without even looking at
At one-thirty in the morning, the telephone rang
in the Schneerson home. “Please forgive me for calling at
this unearthly hour,” the headmaster said excitedly. “But
I could not contain myself. Your son’s solution to the problem
I gave him is absolutely correct. I can’t believe this; even
an experienced mathematician would have taken three days to solve
Migdal Ha’Emek is a development town in northern
Israel. Anyone who meets Uzi Biton, the cook at the Migdal Or educational
complex in that city, cannot see anything lacking in his manual
ability. He effortlessly drags huge sacks of potatoes or large cartons
of oranges around the campus kitchen.
“Look at the scar near my fingers,”
he points with a smile to his hand, which is stirring the contents
of a huge pot. “I was wounded in the army. The palm of my
hand was severely cut and the doctors told me that I had little
chance of ever moving my fingers again. I underwent prolonged physical
therapy to renew the blood flow, but to no avail. Having no other
choice, I learned to live with my handicap.
“After my discharge from the army, I began
to plan my future. During this time, I encountered Chabad and became
more committed to Jewish life. Shortly afterwards, I decided to
visit the Rebbe. In those days, it was still possible to have a
private yechidus. As I prepared the note for yechidus, I wondered
if I would be able to understand and remember everything the Rebbe
would say. I decided to record the yechidus on a pocket tape recorder
which I would place in my jacket pocket.
“The two points in my note to the Rebbe reflected
the two issues which were of pressing importance in my life at that
time: The first was the prospect of marriage. A young woman had
already been introduced to me. The second, of course, was my handicap.
“The Rebbe read the note, marked it with
a pencil, looked up at me, and said: ‘Go ahead and propose
marriage. Plan the wedding in the nearest possible future. And may
G-d grant you a full recovery immediately.’
“I fervently answered Amen and left the Rebbe’s
study. Outside, I was eager to review the Rebbe’s words and
reached into my pocket for the recorder. Suddenly, I realized to
my amazement that my injured hand had removed the tape recorder
a feat previously unthinkable! The Rebbe’s blessing for immediate
recovery had been fulfilled in the most literal sense.
“His advice about marriage also taught me
about the Rebbe’s far-reaching vision and precision of words.
I proposed to my wife shortly after my return, and plans were made
for the wedding. Nevertheless, for various reasons, the wedding
did not take place “in the nearest possible future.”
Shortly afterwards, my fiancee’s father passed away. Not only
did he not merit to see his daughter married, but we had to postpone
the marriage until after the year of mourning.”
1. The Rebbe’s ability to assimilate mathematical and scientific
knowledge was noticed at a young age and was table-talk throughout
Yekatrinoslav, the town where the Rebbe’s father served as
Rav.Yeshayahu Sher, then a young lad who frequented the Schneerson
home, studied privately with a noted engineer named Ostrovsky. He
once told his teacher about the three gifted sons of Rabbi Levi
Yitzchok Schneerson (the Rebbe’s father the Rebbe had two
brothers; DovBer and Yisroel Aryeh Leib).