The Avner Institute presents a story as told by Rabbi Pesach Tzvi Schmerling, Chabad Shliach in Far Rockaway, NY, about his father-in-law and the Rebbe’s secretary Rabbi Binyomin Klein, of blessed memory, who learned from his holy employer how to speak up and how to defuse an awkward situation.
Rabbi Schmerling relates:
On many occasions my father-in-law Rabbi Binyomin Klein, of blessed memory, said one never ask questions about the Rebbe‘s conduct. He was true to his word: throughout his years of loyal service, he never asked once why the Rebbe did or said something.
But one time, there was an exception.
“One morning,” Rabbi Klein said, “as I drove the Rebbe from his house to 770, he asked that, if it weren’t too difficult for me, I should come to him afterward. Therefore, when we arrived at 770, I followed the Rebbe to his room.
“The Rebbe showed me a letter he had received from someone in Kfar Chabad who complained that on my last visit to Kfar Chabad, I had not visited him, which left the gentleman with offended. Apparently he had read into this and come up with his own ideas.
“In embarrassment I tried to explain to the Rebbe my predicament”
“Some time beforehand I had gone to Eretz Yisroel and brought with me a package from my father-in-law, Rabbi Mordechai Shusterman, to his sister, Mrs. Golda Nadel, who lived in Kfar Chabad. When I left her house, Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, the community leader, met me and invited me in for a cup of tea. When I left his house, I ran into Rabbi Mendel Futerfas, who also schlepped me to his house.
“Then I passed by the home of the person who wrote the letter. I saw his wife outside and asked her, ‘Is your husband at home?’
“No,” she answered.
“When I said I would call later, she said, ‘The phone isn’t working.’
“‘Too bad,’ I said. Then I added, ‘Oh well, please give him my regards.’
“I related all this to the Rebbe. But since this upset me, I veered from my usual practice, so for the first and only time I asked the Rebbe why he should believe every story people wrote to him.
“The Rebbe said, ‘If I believed everything that was written to me, I’d have to chase everybody out of here.’
“But the Rebbe, seeing how this still upset me, added, ‘You shouldn’t care so much about it since you are in good company. They write all kinds of things about me too.'”
When my father-in-law gave over this story, he was still moved – on the one hand, the unpleasantness of actually questioning the Rebbe; on the other, the conciliatory words the Rebbe said to him so lovingly.
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