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32 Friday January
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THE REBBE'S EMPIRE
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To His People
What it's like to attend
a Lubavitch `fahrbrengen'
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BY JOSEPH BEN ZVI
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You walk inside Lubavitch world head-
quarters in Brooklyn's Crown Heights
and the first thing you see is a gold 770,
inlaid in the floor. To the right is an of-
fice manned by two rabbis, the Rebbe's
personal secretaries. They answer a con-
stant flow of phone calls from around the
world from people who have questions for
the Rebbe, who want a blessing from the
Rebbe, who have problems, need
answers. They also handle the flood of
mail he receives daily. All of it goes to the
Rebbe unopened. He then decides which
he will answer — whatever answer he
gives will be followed to the letter. The
Rebbe's word goes.
To the left is a brown door which leads
to an antechamber known as the "lower
Garden . of Eden." It's called that,
because it leads to the Rebbe's private
Because he is 83 years old and has had
a heart attack, the Rebbe doesn't see as
many people in his office as he used to.
Yiehidus, a private , audience with the
Rebbe, the most coveted of things, now
only goes to those who are about to get
married or who are visiting from over-
The stories told -about the Rebbe's ad-
vice to people are legion. And not just on
religious subjects. Math professors are "
said to submit their papers to the Rebbe
before publishing. A solar scientist, in
talking to the Rebbe about his work, was
advised to try something that resulted in
a 20 percent increase in energy produc-
tion. But there mostly is the spiritual,
such as the man , suffering from a heart
problem who was advised by the Rebbe
to check the mezuzah in his house and
found the words "with all my heart" had
been erased, The man fixed the mezuzah
and immediately felt better.
To bring the words of the Rebbe to
more people, you find a room in 770 filled
with phones and recording equipment.
It's part of a hook-up used when the
Rebbe holds a' major fahrbrengen, or
Hasidic gathe-ing. The Rebbe's, talk is
transmitted around the world, coMplete
with simultaneous translation. It also ,
goes' out over cable TV around the
United States. •
Tonight is a fahrbrengen and I have
come to -see it first-hand.
8:30 p.m. One hour to go. Fahrbrengens
are held an average of twice a month and
give the Rebbe an opliortunity to address
his followers on issues of religion and
issues of the day. Often the. Rebbe is very
political — he spoke out frequently and
strongly against the pullback from the
Sinai and urged that it be stopped. Most
ly, though, while he does bring in world
events, he talks about how to live a good