Rosh Chodesh Kislev In Boro Park
Last Tuesday, I received an e-mail that informed me that his plane would be arriving at JFK the next day at 4:15 pm. My mind started spinning. The date I had anticipated was soon about to happen.
Without having any logistical details nailed down for our potential meeting, I could not restrain my excitement. I couldn't sleep. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and ran 5.5 miles on my treadmill as I eagerly anticipated calling him later that day to confirm a place and time for our first meeting.
Coupled with this excitement was the knowledge that I was finally going to meet Chabakuk Elisha after over two years of e-mails back and forth. Upon learning that I was planning to arrive on a train on Sunday morning, Chabakuk Elisha offered to meet me at Penn Station so we could spend some time together before he would later escort me to my meeting.
Shortly before 11:00 on the morning of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, I arrived at Penn Station and quickly found Chabakuk Elisha waiting for me. We took the F train back to Boro Park and then had lunch over at his house before my scheduled appointment with the Sudilkover Rebbe at 1:30 in the afternoon.
Arriving at the house on 55th Street where the Sudilkover Rebbe was staying, we knocked on the door but there was no answer. A neighbor mentioned that the Rebbe had gone out earlier in the day. I tried his cell phone number but again there was no answer.
Here I was, after making a three hour train trip, I was about to meet the Rebbe, and the Rebbe was no where to be found. So, Chabakuk Elisha and I did the only thing we could. We waited, and waited, and waited some more; standing in front of the house as some neighbors observed us with curiosity.
Suddenly, my cell phone rang and it was the Sudilkover Rebbe, apologizing profusely for being late. Normally, an extremely punctual person, it bothered him tremendously that he had kept me waiting. At 2:15, the Rebbe walked around the corner said "Shulem Aleichem!", shook my hand, gave me a big hug, and then we went into the house where he made me a cup of coffee before we sat down to talk for the next three hours.
I presented the Rebbe with a Degel Machaneh Ephraim that was printed in Hungary during the Holocaust along with two stones that I had collected during my visit to Sudilkov. I told him that one of the stones was to be placed on his father's matzeva and the other one was for him to keep. The Rebbe eyes lit up when I handed him these gifts and he was deeply appreciative; looking at both the sefer and at the stones as if they were diamonds.
Our three-hour conversation ranged over many topics of which I will write about more later. Shortly before I had to leave, the Rebbe and I walked over to the Bobover shul to daven Mincha. The Rebbe then told me that he had another specific piece of advice just before Chabakuk Elisha returned to pick me up. He suggested that since we did not have any more time that I call him so he could tell me this advice over the phone. That I did the next day and I spent another hour on the phone with him getting this advice.
From my meeting with the Rebbe, Chabakuk Elisha and I drove over to visit Rabbi Dovid Sears at his apartment and later went out to dinner with him in Flatbush. Because of the lateness of the hour, we unfotunately did not have much time to spend with him.
Chabakuk Elisha and his wife kindly escorted me on the subway all the way back to Penn Station and sent me on the train with a goody bag of homemade treats. Boarding the 9:05 train home, my head was spinning a million miles an hour trying to process all that happened that day.
I wondered how I could fit the eventful whole day into just one posting. Then, I came to the conclusion that I could simply not do so. I can easily write at least two more posting about my three hour discussion with the Sudilkover Rebbe.
As I sit now reflecting about the precious moments that I spent with him, I realize that within his words are worlds upon worlds.