Weekly Chasidic Story #1009 (s5777-27 / 7 Nissan 5777)

The Broader Outlook

"As far as I know, the Lubavitcher Rebbe never visited London and had no first-hand knowledge of London."

Connection: Seasonal--the 116th anniversary of the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The Broader Outlook


When one developed a relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe of our generation --and I (Ephraim "Freddie" Hager) think this is true for most people--it helped one realize more about oneself. It wasn't about analyzing the Rebbe, like going to interview a great man and finding out more about him; it was about meeting yourself.

The second time I went into "yechidus" -- a private audience with the Rebbe -- was Yud Shevat 5730/1970. Many of us flew over especially for it, the 20th anniversary of the sixth Rebbe's passing and the Rebbe's succession to the leadership. It was Sunday evening, and the Rebbe's secretary Rabbi Groner called me over and said that the Rebbe wants to see each of the guests in yechidus.

I never expected to receive a yechidus, because I had one some five months previously. This night it was a ten minute yechidus, which was much shorter than the previous time. There were hundreds of people going in that night. In that yechidus, the Rebbe asked me, "What do the students in London University do about kosher food?"

So I said, "Well, they are now rebuilding Hillel House; it'll be finished in October and then there will be facilities." This was January, 1970.

So the Rebbe looked at me, a piercing look...and he says, "So tell me: Until October is it permissible to eat non-kosher food?" I felt very, very stupid.

Before I go on, I must say this: As far as I know, the Rebbe never visited London and had no first-hand knowledge of London.

"As far as I understand," the Rebbe continued, "the University of London is not a typical university campus with all the colleges in one location, but the colleges are spread out and dotted around parts of the town; so would I not be correct in saying that only a committed student who is specifically looking for kosher food will come to the Hillel House?"

Of course I agreed.

So the Rebbe says, "What do we do about the other students?"

Silence from yours truly...

The Rebbe said, "Wouldn't it be a good idea to make a meal service and actively invite people to come and eat kosher food?"

So I got very enthusiastic and I warmed to the theme and I said, "That's a wonderful idea! And we could have lectures and guest speakers, and draw them closer to Torah Judaism..."

The Rebbe held up his hand and said, "That's very nice and it may be a good idea, but that's not what I have in mind. What I have in mind with this suggestion is purely that a Jewish boy should sit next to a Jewish girl; he should sit eating a kosher meal next to a Jewish girl rather than eating a non-kosher meal next to a non-Jewish girl."

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I told the Rebbe "We'll do it."

And we did it.

I came back to London and talked to a friend of mine, a very enthusiastic young man, and we arranged a meal service. We collaborated with one of the then major restaurants in London and they delivered meals to three colleges; I think it was London School of Economics, Kings College and Imperial College in London. And the service went on for many years. I think, in some sort of transmuted way, it still continues.

The service was a tremendous success. We used to go out two or three times a week raising money because it needed a lot of subsidy and I think I did more of that than studying at university. I think my grades reflected that fact, but we won't dwell on that...

This came out of one ten minute yechidus! And it was only part of a ten minute yechidus ...It was a monumental, cataclysmic idea which must have changed many peoples' lives.

There are a number of leaders-rabbis, rebbes, heads of yeshivas, who worry about their communities--and that's great, very laudable and very wonderful, and we need more leaders like that. But the Rebbe had a broader outlook. He was concerned about the wider world. He was concerned about people that he'd never met, that he may possibly never meet but that concerned him, and it wouldn't let him sleep and it wouldn't let him rest until he did something about it...

Source: Excerpted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a mailing of "JEM - Here's My Story" (//JEmedia.org), as part of their extraordinary "My Encounter with the Rebbe" project, documenting the life of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson of righteous memory, in one of the thousand plus videotaped interviews conducted to date with seniors who knew the Rebbe in the early years, even in the 30's and 40's before he became the Rebbe.
Ephraim "Freddie" Hager was interviewed in his home in London in the summer of 2007. He passed away in 2011.

Connection: Seasonal--the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Biographical note:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe: [11 Nissan 5662 - 3 Tammuz 5754 (April 1902 - June 1994 C.E.)], became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law's passing on 10 Shvat 5710 (1950 C.E.). He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe are dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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