A week and a half ago I spent a very powerful Shabbos davening with in presence of the Skwere Rebbe of Boro Park, Grand Rebbe Yechiel Michel Twersky.
The Rebbe was on his annual visit to Chicago which included minyanim, a tish, Shalosh Seudos, and private appointments with many, many people. He has, as did his father z’tl, been coming to Chicago for over forty years, I’ve been told.
I admit, I felt a bit out of my element, but I had come with a friend (who has know the Rebbe for many years) and it was an opportunity that I (and my son) wanted to experience. Aside from the many Skwere chassidim that to Chicago with the Rebbe, there was a huge crowd of people, like myself, who had decided to daven with this minyan for Shabbos night. I was warmly welcomed, as was everyone, by the Rebbe’s Gabbai, who handled much of details of the Rebbe’s visit. Davening was full of warmth and energy. After davening everyone lined up to have the honor of giving the Skwere Rebbe “Shalom”.
The tish that night was gelvaldik! The zemiros and niggunim were beautiful. There was a large crowd of men (and women on the women’s side of the mechizah) of all ages. The group that came to the tish represented all types of Yidden, some walked over a mile in the snow to come. We all sat around a very large rectangle table. The Rebbe first made kiddush over wine and then was brought a silver bowl and washing cup to him, so that he could wash at the table. In from of the Rebbe were two of the largest challos I had ever seen. Around the challos were twelve little braided challos, as well. After making Hamozei, the Rebbe was served fish, onion kugel (which is awesome), and chicken. The Rebbe was also served soup in a silver bowl and dipped onion kugel in it. It’s the Rebbe’s minhag to dip all of his food in salt, as well.
As is customary, after the Rebbe was served each dish his gabbiem passed out ‘shirayim’ to all that attended. Several people attending the tish were asked to lead certain zemios and the Rebbe himself started singing “Kol MeKadesh”. After a beautiful bentching, each of us were directed to go up and personally receive fruit from the Rebbe directly, as well as wish the Rebbe a “Gut Shabbos”. Then, before leaving, we all stood up and danced around the table. What a way to end a Shabbos night. I was singing the niggunim with my son as we walked home in the snow.
Shabbos morning, as well as Mincha was just as nice. Mincha has a large crowd of ‘locals’ and the Rebbe and his Gabbai gave me the kibud of gelilah to the Rebbe’s hagbah. I was honored and was also handed a gartel to wear for my kibud.
Shalosh Seudos bei the Rebbe was very intimate. Aside from his chassidim, there was a very nice crowd that attended. Again, he washed and had the large challos, some fish from Friday night (as is his minhag), white fish, and herring, and applesauce. Each of us attending went over to the Rebbe to receive a small piece of challah with herring on it. Shirayim were also give out at this meal. Special zemiros booklets were on the table and we started singing. I found it interesting that they sang “Baruch Keil Elyon” at Shalosh Seudos, as I’ve only sung it during Shabbos lunch. After Shalosh Seudos the Rebbe’s Gabbai handed my friend and I each one of the special little braided challos that had surrounded the Rebbe’s Lechem Mishna on Shabbos. We were told that that the Rebbe’s challos are given out as as segulah and should be used with our own Lechem Minsha on Shabbos until erev Pesach, when it should be burned. I was touched.
After davening Maariv we went outside for Kiddush Levanah and then we made Havdalah and went home.
Fast forward to Wednesday night, last week. The friend who had brought me to daven by the Rebbe had gotten a call to come see the Rebbe. We arrived at the home were he was staying at 11:45pm. The living room was filled with people who had wanted to have an audience with the Rebbe, too. The Rebbe had been seeing many people every night during his visit in Chicago from after Maariv at 6:30pm until the very late hours of the night. We waited, while the Rebbe saw other people that had appointments before us and then I was called to come have my audience with the Skwere Rebbe at 1:20 am.
I was very nervous, as I had never done anything like this before. The Rebbe put me at ease right away with only a look into his eyes. His presence was calming and welcoming. He was genuine, inquisitive, thoughtful, and assuring. After speaking for almost twenty minutes, I felt honored and privileged that the Rebbe took time to see me. As I left I saw that there were people waiting to see the Rebbe. It was only days later that I found out the Rebbe had been receiving people until 4:30 am that morning.
I am very much looking forward to the Skwere Rebbe’s next visit to Chicago.