The Rebbe came to meet me

Friday, 31 March, 2023 - 7:06 am

In 1969, Freddy Hager z”l was a 21-year-old London student who went to New York to meet the Rebbe. An appointment was set for a yechidut with the Rebbe at a standard time for such meetings: 2:45 am.

I never met R. Efraim Hager, but last night I watched an interview in which he described how impressed he was when he saw the huge variety of people in the Rebbe’s waiting room – men and women, young and old, chassidim and non-chassidim. Their varied styles of dress showed that each one was coming from a completely different world and presumably had different sorts of problems. They would speak with the Rebbe of very different things, and yet, all of them, with no exceptions, would emerge from their few minutes with the Rebbe pleased, happy, and mainly satisfied with the Rebbe’s response.

Amazing, isn’t it?

While watching this interview that was conducted by the dear JEM people, I thought to myself: The Rebbe has a birthday this coming Sunday, the 11th of Nissan. I try to learn from the Rebbe – both from his teachings and from his behavior. Is this something I can learn from him? Does this ability to receive such different people belong only to the “Rebbe” – the Rosh Bnei Yisrael – or also to an ordinary person? Is the ability to receive and listen to every human being a gift that only a tzaddik has, or can an ordinary Jew do it as well?

There was something else that R. Hager said towards the beginning, which gave me a direction and the idea that perhaps something of all this belongs to all of us, and if so, certainly we should learn from it. This is what he said: “When I went into the Rebbe, he looked up at me with his two enormous blue pools of eyes, and he looked like a young man who had got out of bed especially to come and see me. I didn’t feel I’d come to see him. I felt he had come to see me. He was wide awake and totally interested and involved in me.

“I’ve noticed a similar reaction from many people who’ve been to the Rebbe. That they went to visit the Rebbe expecting to being acquainted with a great man, but what actually happened when they went into yechidus they became acquainted with themselves.”


Imagine a 20-, 30-, 60-year-old person coming into the Rebbe for a few minutes in the wee hours of the morning, and in those few minutes he rediscovers himself. He meets up with a deeper understanding of who he is, or, to use Freddy Hager’s words, he gets acquainted with himself.

This second part of his interview provided some sort of answer to my question. To give a person who encounters you the real feeling that at this moment he is the center of your world and your interests is pretty hard, but not impossible. Of course, there are different levels of ability, to what extent and for how long, but it is definitely possible. So here is something that I can learn from the Rebbe on the occasion of his birthday: When a man or woman come to talk with me, to ask for advice or just to pour out their hearts, I will listen to them fully, and for a change I will not think about myself, but about them. Who knows, maybe it will work in conversations with my wife and children as well – to concentrate on them during those moments.

I don’t really think that everyone will come out satisfied and pleased from a few minutes with me, but it is clear to me that the more I manage to place the other person in the center when he is talking to me, he will certainly come out with more energies and happier than if I would have concentrated on myself. 

Shabbat Shalom, and a kosher and happy Pesach to all,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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