In pre-war Poland, the chassidim of R. Avraham Mordechai of Gur would boast that their Rebbe had tens of thousands of chassidim who did not put on tefillin, nor did they fast on Yom Kippur. If a listener questioned this statement, they would take him to any local cheder teeming with happy, young faces, adding: “These are some of the Rebbe’s most ardent followers.”

It is common to compare the relationship between a chassid and a Rebbe to that between a father and a son. True as this is in general, it has a unique meaning when applied to the relationship which children share with the Rebbe. The energy and intensity the Rebbe would show at a children’s rally or at Lag BaOmer parades was singular. When he would speak to children at yechidus or while distributing dollars for charity, he was focused on them entirely; it was as if there was nothing else in his world at that time. The stories that follow try to capture something of that relationship.


A Lubavitch woman took two of her children to the Rebbe for yechidus. Her son was seven and her daughter was five-and-a-half. At yechidus, the Rebbe asked the boy if he could recite the Shema. The son answered that he could, and at the Rebbe’s prompting, proceeded to recite it word for word. The Rebbe smiled in appreciation, reached into his drawer, took out a shiny silver dollar and gave it to him.

He then turned to the daughter. “Can you say the Shema ?”

Perhaps because of shyness or perhaps because she was simply awe-struck, the girl remained tongue-tied. The Rebbe reached into his drawer, took out another silver dollar, and gave it to the girl’s mother. “This is for your daughter,” he told her. “Tonight, before she goes to sleep, she will recite the Shema. Give it to her then.”


“My most memorable encounter with the Rebbe took place at my first yechidus ,” a shliach in a Mid-Western city recalls. “I was eight years old. My family had taken great strides in increasing their Jewish practice due to the influence of the local shliach, and because of a unique relationship my father had established with the Rebbe.

“At home, we had been told much about how great the Rebbe was, and now I was encountering him first hand. After speaking to my father and mother, the Rebbe turned to my sister and myself, and asked for our Hebrew names.

“My sister answered at once, but I was too overcome with awe to speak. My father pushed me: ‘Dovid, tell the Rebbe your name,’ but I was just too nervous to get a word out.

“The Rebbe diverted the conversation, and shortly afterwards, the yechidus ended.

“On the following day, I was playing on the lawn outside 770 with some of the children of the family that was hosting us. Suddenly, it was announced that the Rebbe was leaving for home. I rushed to the walkway and stood at attention as the Rebbe strode down the stairs.

“He stopped and stood still right in front of me. ‘Now, can you tell me your Hebrew name?” he asked.

“ ‘Sure, it’s Dovid,’ I replied. The Rebbe smiled and walked on.

“Over 20 years have passed, and yet I still marvel at how deeply that encounter touched me.”


Every year, on the day before Pesach, the Rebbe would personally distribute matzos to the chassidim. Young Yosef Yitzchak was very excited. This year, he was Bar Mitzvah. Because of his father’s Rabbinic responsibilities in a New Jersey suburb, he was unable to go himself, and so Yosef Yitzchak would be bringing a matzah from the Rebbe for the entire family.

Yosef Yitzchak felt very proud about having been entrusted with this responsibility. When he approached the Rebbe and received a piece of matzah, he had a thought, and without thinking much farther, he asked: “Can I have a special piece for my father?”

The Rebbe gave one at once. Seeing the Rebbe’s willingness, Yosef Yitzchak asked again: “Can I have a piece for my mother?” And when the Rebbe gave him another piece, he asked again: “And for my zeide, for my bubbe,\'85 for my brother\'85 and for my sister?” With a subtle smile, the Rebbe gave him pieces of matzah for each one.

Yosef Yitzchak made the trip home in high spirits. The Rebbe had given him so many pieces of matzah for his family!

But Yosef Yitzchak’s happiness was cut short when he presented the pieces to his father. Instead of responding with joy, his father gave him a short, stern lesson on how precious the Rebbe’s time was, and how chassidim did whatever they could to prevent that time from being wasted. “It is not important how much of the Rebbe’s matzah you have,” his father told him. “Even the tiniest piece is enough. We could have all broken off pieces from the piece you received for yourself.

“And what did you do? You asked for a piece for me, for your mother, for your zeide etc. etc., causing the Rebbe to wait unnecessarily.”

Yosef Yitzchak understood, and now regretted what he had done.

A year later, the lad again went to receive matzah from the Rebbe for his family. He had taken his father’s reprimand to heart, and resolved to say absolutely nothing when receiving his piece. He approached the Rebbe, received his matzah , and began to move away. The Rebbe looked at him with a warm, gentle smile and called him back: “What about your father? Your mother? Your zeide ?” the Rebbe asked him, giving him another large piece.


Menachem always looked forward to the Rebbe’s Shavuos farbrengen. Beyond the excitement every chassid feels at such gatherings, this one had special significance for Menachem. The day after Shavuos was his birthday, and he would consider the kos shel berachah the wine which the Rebbe distributed at the conclusion of the farbrengen as the Rebbe’s birthday present.

One year, as was his custom, Menachem did not hasten to get in line for kos shel berachah. Although there were some who hurried to approach the Rebbe, the yeshivah students generally chose to wait, sing joyous chassidic melodies, and watch the Rebbe while he distributed the wine.

Menachem reviewed the subjects expounded at the farbrengen with some friends, and then joined them in singing and watching the Rebbe. He would, he thought, approach the Rebbe after the lines thinned out.

Watching the Rebbe can be very absorbing, and Menachem did not realize that the number of people in line was dwindling. Suddenly, he realized that a song had ended, a few last people approached the Rebbe for wine, and then the Rebbe reached for his siddur to recite a final blessing. Kos shel berachah had ended; Menachem had missed his opportunity!

If it had been another farbrengen, Menachem might have resigned himself to the loss, but this was his “birthday” farbrengen! The following day, he wrote the Rebbe that he had unwillingly missed receiving kos shel berachah the night before. Was there any way to receive it now?

A short while afterwards, the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Binyomin Klein, entered the yeshivah’ s study hall and called Menachem out. He did not want the others to know, he told Menachem, but he had something for him from the Rebbe.

The Rebbe had sent him wine from kos shel berachah!


When he was eight or nine, Levi Markel would often go to receive a dollar from the Rebbe on Sundays. One Sunday, after receiving a dollar for himself, he told the Rebbe that the day was his brother’s birthday. The Rebbe gave him a second dollar and told him: “This is for Moshie.”

At the time, Levi did not think this was anything special, but afterwards it struck him. That the Rebbe remembered Moshie's name without being reminded was out of the ordinary, yet understandable. But Levi had two other brothers besides Moshie. How did the Rebbe know it was Moshie's birthday?