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December 21, 1990 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

facade bespeaks a foundation
that is unlikely to crumble.
As part of the organized
Pegishah group, we were
ushered to an area that allow-
ed us a better view of the
Rebbe. Enclosed in dark glass,
the women's area is suspend-
ed above the men's section.
The entire room is so packed
that there is virtually no
movement. Amid the sea of
black jackets, hats and beards
below, are occasional bursts of
color attributable to dresses
worn by children held by their
fathers. The Rebbe enters and
a wide gap forms to let the
88-year-old leader through.
He walks briskly, purposeful-
ly, and takes his seat in a red
velvet chair. He scans the
crowd and nods in acknow-
ledgement as people raise
small cups of wine in a
L'Chayim. The crowd, despite
its size, is silent as the Rebbe

The Rebbe is a
tzadik who
functions on a
level higher than
that of the
ordinary Jew.

makes Kiddush over some
wine, takes some challah and
begins to deliver a religious
discourse.
There are no notes and he
speaks in Yiddish without
pause. Behind him sits an ar-
ray of white-bearded men,
clearly the respected elders.
Flanking him in front are
several undistinctive men
who are pointed out as those
who memorize everything the
Rebbe says. After Shabbat
they convene to commit to
writing all the Rebbe's words.
This is quite a remarkable
feat when one considers that
the Rebbe speaks for hours at
a time. But the acumen of
these men is even further
tested during the holidays
when up to three consecutive
days of discussions must be
memorized and then
recorded.
We are told that immediate-
ly after the Rebbe speaks,
three groups of approximate-
ly 60 yeshiva students each,
assemble to review the
Rebbe's talk. They are then
dispatched locally throughout
New York to brief various
religious groups and leaders
on what the Rebbe has said.
After morning services on
Sunday, most of the Michigan
group walked along Kingston
Avenue and browsed in the
many stores. There was a
festive atmosphere in front of
770 where long lines had
already formed and vendors
sold paraphernalia emblazon-
ed with photographs of the
Rebbe.

Old, young, rich, poor, good,
bad — they all come as Jews
wanting the same thing — a
blessing from a man few real-
ly know but whom many
believe is capable of miracles.
For some he is an inspiration,
while others object to the
power of his leadership. Men-
tion the Rebbe and discussion
flourishes.
The Rebbe's critics, however,
object to what they consider
his cult-like status. Worship-
ping a rabbi is not Jewish
they argue, and many Jews
are disturbed by the fact that
the Rebbe has never visited
Israel.
Rabbi Silberberg however,
explains that these are
misconceptions. "No one, God
forbid, worships the Rebbe.
The Rebbe (shlita) is a tzadik
who functions on a level
higher than that of the or-
dinary Jew. Because he is
closer to God, he is blessed
with knowledge and insight.
He is an adviser, a guide, a
friend and emissary for all
Jews and we are privileged in
these troubled times to have
so holy a man who can func-
tion in this way," he says.
With respect to never hav-
ing visited Israel, it is well
known that the Rebbe never
leaves Crown Heights except
to visit the grave of the
previous Rebbe, his father,
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak
Schneerson.
At 1:30 in the afternoon our
group convened and we were
directed into 770. We descend-
ed a narrow hallway and
climbed stairs which
thousands before us had
ascended. The noise of the
crowd dimmed as we got
closer to the Rebbe. Personal-
ly I felt a swell of emotion,
thinking about what I wanted
to say and as I approached, I
was left speechless, distracted
by my own feelings. I held my
young son, to whom he hand-
ed a dollar and said almost
imperceptibly that we should
have Brachas (blessings) and
Hatzlacha (success). I was
struck by the kindness of this
special man and by the inten-
sity in his eyes. A large
woman nudged me forward,
and within a few steps, I was
out of 770.
I have heard people say they
have been changed by the ex-
perience of meeting the
Rebbe. For me it provided an
opportunity to reflect upon
my deepest hopes, something
that like most people, I don't
take much time to think
about. Still the meeting was
only one facet of a weekend
which was rich with visual
images, spiritual details and
special feelings for many of
the people with whom we had
shared experience.



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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

37

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