Weekly Chasidic Story #986 (s5777-03 / 14 Tishrei 5777)

Preferable to Silver

He explained his community's desire to honor the Lubavitcher Rebbe with an impressive gift, but his own reluctance to do so if it should be against the Rebbe's wishes.

Connection:Seaonal - Sukkot

Preferable to Silver

Rabbi Shmuel Lew


My father-in-law, Zalman Jaffe (of blessed memory), born in Manchester, UK, was a proud descendent of Chabad Chassidim. He and my mother-in-law Roselyn were introduced to the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe in the early days of the Rebbe's leadership. Eventually this acquaintance developed into personal friendship, and each year my in-laws merited regular visits, especially during Shavuot, which were recorded and published annually in my father-in-law's popular diary, the "My Encounter with the Rebbe" series.

It was during one of those annual visits that my wife Hindy got a peek at the Rebbe's ornate silver menorah. In spite of its size and beauty, the Rebbe didn't use it. He preferred a small and simple one for the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles.

My father-in-law, remembering the sight at farbrengens of the Rebbe being handed a plain bottle of wine in a paper bag for the kos shel brachos (the "cup of blessings"-from which the Rebbe would personally distribute small cups of wine to whomever filed by him), decided that something more fitting was needed. Therefore, for the Rebbe's 80th birthday -- 11 Nissan 5742 (4 days before Passover 1982) - he wanted to present the Rebbe, on behalf of the Manchester community, with a lovely silver decanter.

But worried the Rebbe wouldn't use it, my father-in-law first wrote to the Rebbetzin (the Rebbe's wife), explaining his community's desire to honor the Rebbe with an impressive gift but his own reluctance to do something if it would be against the Rebbe's wishes. He asked the Rebbetzin to consult with her husband and promised to call a week later for the answer.

A week passed. Then, courageously, my father-in-law phoned the Rebbetzin.

The Rebbetzin replied said that the Rebbe had not reacted. However, a day or so later, my father-in-law received a letter from the Rebbe, at the end of which lay the Rebbe's response.
P.S. Mrs. Schneerson told me about the request about the bottle and the paper bag. Forgive me, but while we will accept the thought as though it actually happened, I prefer a bottle with a paper bag more than a beautiful, silver bottle.

The Rebbe added:
There are many reasons, but I'll tell you one of them that I hope you will understand. I do not want to make a barrier between my way of life and the way of life of those around me.

He gave an example:
I have many silver esrog boxes, but I prefer to use a cardboard box.


Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a 2013 email of the Avner Institute (Rebbebook@gmail.com).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, l.o.o.g. [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 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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