Jun 12, 2018
Bochurs Diary of Gimmel Tammuz

Zalmy Heber, a bochur at the time of Gimmel Tammuz 5754, shares his personal recollection of what transpired on that fateful day.

By: Zalmy Heber Shliach in Tacoma, WA

As the day of ' is approaching, yet again for the 24th time , I would like to share my memories as a in Yeshiva, of that fateful day, 24 years ago. (I have not shared this until now).

[A note to the reader: During the last 24 years, I did not read any articles or diaries written by others that are that day, as I did not want to dilute or taint my own memories of what transpired. What Im about to write now are personalmemories that are etched and pressed into my mind for the past 24 years, and are now coming out to see the light of day.

Oh, and one more note. Im not a writer by nature, so you will find this account to be more in the style of a conversation that I would be having with someone at a Chassidishe farbrengen, rather than an article written for publication].

During the years of " " I was a learning in . As you can imagine, that time period was total chaos for us . From " and on, we found ourselves constantly running back and forth to 770, sometimes a couple of times a day, in order to see the Rebbe when he came out on the porch. First we would get a message on our beeper, Mincha now, and we would run back and forth from Yeshiva to 770. Later, another beep would come in, Maariv now, and we would get just a couple of minutes notice to run back to 770 again for , all the way from Yeshiva on Troy Ave. (Usually this was about a 20 minute walk dont ask how we made it in five minutes.).

Many of us would also go to Manhattan every to be near the Rebbe, first while the Rebbe was in Mount Sinai hospital for a short period of time, and then in Beth Israel Hospital (or as we liked calling it ).

This all takes an emotional toll on a young that grew up being accustomed to going to 770 to hear a , or for a , or dollars. Suddenly, we were running to 770 just to get a glimpse of the Rebbe with the hope that maybe a miracle would actually happen, and we would hear a .

On top of all that, this was the same year that our class experienced the tragic loss of our dear Ari Halberstam ", and all the drama that came together with it. It was especially traumatic for me as that year, each Friday Ari and I were Mivtzoim partners, and that past summer we were roommates in camp. Even though we knew Aris life was taken away as , it didnt make it any easier to bear. (Aris passing was just a couple of months before ' .)

Fast forward to the second half of ". For a few months leading up to the before ' , every (and most weekdays) I stayed nearby the Rebbes hospital Beth Israel, just as many other did. The before ' was no different.

After many long hours of , I arrived there Friday afternoon, davened, learned, said , ate and along with everyone else. All were held in a large auditorium of the hospital, and all the took place in a public school cafeteria directly across the street from the hospital.

We all knew the Rebbes (as it was called then), and we understood that it was not good. The and doctors kept on coming to update us all, leaving us with confusing and cryptic messages of what exactly was going on.

That evening, I felt a strong urge to be as close to the Rebbe as physically possible. I told my friend Yossi that I would like to go up in the hospital and spend the night as close to the Rebbe as I possibly can. I asked him if he would like to join me, and he agreed.

We started climbing the stairs of the hospital, unsure of how far we would be able to go, as the building had extra security at each entrance and on each floor. The Rebbes room was on the seventh floor, and that floor was locked and had additional security.

Against all odds, we made it up to the sixth-floor lounge area without being caught by a security guard. Once there, we began saying and learning together. I dozed on and off throughout the night, all while being one floor directly under the Rebbes room. At some point in the early morning, a security guard did ask us to leave and go back downstairs. Of course we complied.

We walked to a Mikvah that was many blocks away in anold shul, and then returned to Daven, recite more , learn, and eat together with everyone. All the that came for spent most of the day , learning, or saying .

Throughout the duration of the day, they kept on updating us on the . The messages that were coming our way were not clear and it was hard to understand what was really going on. But it was clear enough for us to comprehend that the situationwas not good.

Even though the Rebbes wasnt good, it never once crossed my mind to even think about the worst. . . So after was over, I went home to get some rest and planned to come back the next day.

Shortly after I got home I fell asleep, but a short while later, my mother (") woke me up. She was standing over my bed and sobbing. When I asked her what happened, she kept on repeating over and over again, The Rebbe... the Rebbe... the Rebbe.... I said to her, What about the Rebbe?, not even allowing the thought to cross my mind. And she just kept on saying over and over again, The Rebbe. . .the Rebbe. . . I understood from her demeanor that something unthinkable had just happened.

Since I had fallen asleep with my clothes still on, I was able to jump up and immediately run to 770, only to confirm what happened. We all showed each other the now famous beep message that we got on our beepers from WLCC stating the words ' ' . I quickly ran to the Mikvah to be ready for what would come our way.

I took a in hand, and we all just kept looking at each other trying to find the right words to say, but no real wordswere coming out of our mouths. I waited around until we were told that the Rebbe would be coming back to 770 very shortly. In all honesty, I truly thought that we would see the Rebbe returning to 770, alive and well.

It was already 4:00 am, and I remember standing next to Reb Nachum Kaplan when we were told that the ambulance with the Rebbe was down Eastern Parkway. We stood near the steps of 770 waiting for it to arrive.

As the Rebbe was taken out of the ambulance, all those who were standing around burst out into uncontrollable crying and sobbing. I remember Reb Nachum Kaplan crying out the words, Oy Rebbe. . .Oy Rebbe..! Before we could even blink, they closed the doors of 770, leaving us all outside crying and wondering what would be next. . . A harsh reality descended upon me. I hung around 770 for the remaining wee hours of the morning, in somewhat of a daze, or more like a zombie.

At some point we were informed of the time of a Levaya, which was scheduled for late that afternoon, on Sunday, . It was scheduled for later in the day in order to give a chance forthe many from all over the world to fly in.

All different kinds of thoughts were racing through my mind as I stood there watching some dancing, some crying, and others dancing and crying at the same time (or as some called it then: ). No one could judge what each person was feeling or how they were reacting, as this was mostdefinitely an outburst of raw emotions on the highest level.

Who did not think the Rebbe was going to be and was coming that day?! Yet at the same time, we were still preparing to be at the Levaya.

During those long hours, I remember seeing the remove the Rebbes table from the upstairs Zal. This was the table the Rebbe would use during the Lamed and Mem years for Mincha and Maariv. (The table was built by Reb Yankel Lipskier). They were removing the table in order to take it apart to make the for the Rebbe.

What was very surreal was when I saw them remove the downstairs , the one the Rebbe used for saying . This was a relatively new (the one that had a front panel). Now it was being dismantled to be used for the Rebbes .

I recall that there was talk between some as to where the would be. Some background first:

After passed away, in , the were the where she is now, and not in . At that time, the Rebbe purchased five plots right across from his mother, in the mens section. Therefore, now on , some wondered if maybe thats where the Rebbe wanted to be. Most felt that the Rebbe would want to be near the in the .

The was that the Rebbe would definitely want to be in the , as the Rebbe and the are . And .

Starting from early in the morning and for part of the day, many had a chance to stand in line and stream past the Rebbes room, while getting a quick glimpse into the open door as the Rebbe was on . The scene gave me such a jolt, as normally the Rebbe would be standing at that very same door, greeting us with a smile on his face. Oy and now. . . . !?!? We all asked .

The line to the Rebbes room was moving from the direction of the driveway, and up the staircase into . It felt like you were coming for ". It felt like you were about to give your to the Rebbe, or to receive a piece of Lekach from the Rebbe. (see picture below) Standing there brought back such vivid flashbacks of " of that past year, only this time, we had a in hand and tears streaming down our faces. We all asked each other for help to do the proper on our clothing.

When I exited the main door of 770, I stood on the west side of the pathway, and stayed in that spot until the Levayastarted. All that time, while saying , I watched the stream of politicians and from all backgrounds coming in and out of the main door of 770 to pay their respects to the Rebbe. I saw the many hundreds of and that had just arrived from overseas. I can just imagine the intense pressure they must have had to find a flight to arrive on time from overseas, while at the same time be constantly thinking about the Rebbe and what just happened.

Throughout the day, thousands of men, women, and children from all the different New York neighborhoods, began pouring onto Eastern Parkway to participate in the Levaya.(Since many of the streets around the neighborhood were closed, it prevented thousands of more people from participating.)

Then that painful moment arrived. . . the main door of 770 opened and I saw the Rebbes being carried outside on the shoulders of . At that moment, the entire crowd burst out in this high pitched shriek that was deafening to the ears.

As the started to move closer to where I was standing, I noticed the Rebbes silk Kapote on top of the . It gave me such a shudder. I felt such a void and pit in my stomach, that I just leapt out of my place and ran towards the . I continued following right behind it until it made its way to the service lane and reached the hearse - a black SUV of the . (It was really a Boro Park Hatzalah members SUV with sirens and flashing lights, which was borrowed for the Levaya).

Inside the back of the SUV there was a group of who were part of the (It was their months ). They were sitting in the back of the SUV with their backs to the windows on both sides. They sat with their feet in a stretched out position and the Rebbes was placed on top of their feet, so that the would never be put down on any surface until it reached the for the actual .

I found myself standing right in front of the open back of the SUV, and for whatever reason, I kind of started leaningtowards the back of SUV. I felt such a strong need to be veryclose to the Rebbe. I began running behind the SUV down Eastern Parkway. I knew I had to go to the behind the Rebbe. How I would manage that, I didnt know. But I just knew I had to do it.

There was a station wagon packed with Chassidim driving a couple of cars behind the Rebbes, which had its back window open. I remember that all I was able to see was that the back window was open, there were many people packed inside of it, and it was driving further and further away from me.

I ran as fast as humanly possible to catch up to it. About a block later, I got close enough to that car, and thats when I dove headfirst into the open back window of the moving station wagon, landing right on . . . Reb Meir Harligs lap. He started yelling at me with his high pitched voice What do you think you are doing? Are you ??? Are you a ?? But when he took one look at my facial expressions, he allowed me to stay in the back of the station wagon for the entire ride.

I dont remember too much of the ride, as I was still trying to catch my breath from that short but very fast run. All I couldhear was the sound of crying from inside the car, and the sound of screeching sirens from outside the car.

We got to the cemetery fairly quickly as the procession of cars of the Levaya had a police escort.

As soon as we got there, I immediately raced towards the , only to find that the parameters of the actual were fully secured to prevent people from entering the .

I knew I had to be inside somehow, some way. My eye caught the sight of a ladder leaning on the western wall of the , and without thinking or asking anyone, I climbed the ladder, and jumped over the wall into the which was full of people. Some of the wanted me to go out, but there was no chance I was going to leave. I landed on the right side of the , on the right of ' , but closer to the western side, close to where the Rebbes room used to be (before it burned down).

Soon thereafter, amidst the chaos, the was brought in. It was a very difficult task for the to maneuver the through the tight doorways. It took some extra time, and there were lots of nerve-racking moments to say the least.

I remember that when they were lowering down theRebbes , I felt such a chill going through my entire body and broke out in a cold sweat. What was I witnessing at this very moment?? Can it actually be happening?? Your eyes see what is happening, but your mind refuses to accept. . . Ithink Im probably one of maybe 100 people in the world, that actually witnessed this moment with their own eyes.

There was a temporary wall in the which the had built that morning to hold back the earth from over the '. The wall was constructed out of several thick metal stakes and planks of wood, which were placed in between them.

One of the members of went down to do that which was necessary to be done, as well as to remove the temporary wood wall. As he removed the lower planks of wood, part of the ' and a white cloth sticking out from underneath it became revealed. All of us standing aroundwere able to see it. This was a chilling sight on its own account.

A challenge arose when the person that went down was having a difficult time removing the stakes. As hard as he tried, he was unsuccessful. The and started talking together, trying to come up with a plan. It was determined that one of the Shmira members standing nearby would attempt to give it a try. YH did go down and after several long and difficult attempts, he was successful in removing the stake.

Before , Reb Shloime Cunin spoke to the Rebbe in simple but words filled with much . He was begging the Rebbe to be , and said: Rebbe you still have time to be . He then went on assuring the Rebbe ,that we, his and his , ' . It was a very frank and direct talk, yet bursting with emotion. (I wonder if there is a recording of it, as it would be interesting to hear it again).

You can only imagine the intense crying and uncontrollable sobbing that burst forth from everyone standing there when the took place. Oy. . . Its too hard to explain and too painful to describe.

I remember standing next to Reb Avrumi Leiter, just holding his hand and sobbing. I said to him, My entire life I stood on the Rebbes right side for ,, , . . . and now Im standing at the Rebbes right side again, one more last time .

A was led by Reb Levitche Schapiro from the . As he started saying the words ...with his legendary tone, many standing in the broke down in bitter tears. But it was the words that he highlighted towards the end of that that really got me all . As I listened to him say the words again in his legendary tone - .... , I was trying to make sense of the meaning, as these words were being said about the Rebbe!! The phrase kept on playing in my head over and over again

was recited by all of the four with lots of tearful emotion. Afterwards, all those present inside the filed by in front of the Rebbe, to say some and ask . After some time, I did that as well, and then exited the . Ieventually made my way back to 770 to sit shiva amongst all the .

Growing up under the Rebbes feet, both literally and figuratively, constantly being around the Rebbe and 770, and to being present by all the and , I was certain that this day was not going to end without the .After all, to be able to hear over and over how the Rebbe spoke to us about and , naturally I was sure that this was the day.

That night, I was to be able to sit and learn all night in the Rebbes room along with a group of . I remember learning the famous about ' . The Rebbe was explaining that the day of ' is the " . The only thing that I was able to reason in my mind was that historywas repeating itself, and that its just a matter of time before we will all see the . I made up my mind right then and there that I would dedicate my life to finishing the job the Rebbestarted - the job of bringing the .

For the next week, I pretty much spent most of my timebetween going back and forth to the , and being in 770. Chassidim gathered together for a large Farbrengen to encourage and inspire one another, and to try to make sense of all that was happening.

For that summer, my plan was to be a counselor in Camp Gan Yisroel in Parksville, NY. All of us shared the same feeling that we, in no way, felt ready to go to camp and have a summer of fun. It was unthinkable to go on a bus leaving for camp, just one short week after ' .

The director of camp knew how we all felt, so together with Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, he called for a meeting with all the staff. They explained to us that as much as it does not make sense in our hearts and minds to go to camp at this time, this is still what the Rebbe would have wanted from all of us at this time. They told us that especially now, the Rebbe would want us to give the an understanding of what a Rebbe is, and how to prepare for the coming of Moshiach.

That message resonated with us, and most of the that committed to be counselors for that summer still went to camp. We gave it our all, for the sake of doing what the Rebbe would want from us, and for the sake of instilling extra to the Rebbe in the campers. We called it ( ). Each time we staff felt down and not in the mood of fun, we winked at each other and shouted: .

Doing what the Rebbe wanted from us and going to campalso turned out to be a , as the unspoken reality was, that had all the camps not continued as planned, it would have taken a long time for us Chassidim and us , to be able to move forward and continue on.

24 years have passed since ' . Baruch Hashem Im on Shlichus now for the last 15 years, still trying to fulfill my promise I made that night, to finish the job the Rebbe started - the task of completing the last , and bringing the . I know that the only thing we can ask from Hashem now is to let the Rebbe fulfill his promise of . We will then be reunited with the Rebbe once again with the coming of Moshiach .

Oy Rebbe, Oy Rebbe, we need you. . . - . . .Were sick of this cant bear anymore, why dont you open the door? Your children are yearning to be with you, how long must this continue? Bring the fulfilling your vow, to bring Moshiach right now. . .to bring Moshiach right now!!!

Most Read Most Comments
Rabbi Heber in the center
Rabbi Heber in the center
Rabbi Heber seen in the far left of the photo in green shirt
Rabbi Heber seen in the far left of the photo in green shirt

Opinions and Comments
Gimmel Tammuz
I too recall that night. My husband and I were at the hospital when it all started to happen. It seems like yesterday and its all so clear to me.
(6/12/2018 9:29:52 PM)
"Sadly" only one word comes to mind...superb!!!!!!!
Fantastically written took me 3 different days to read it (First got it in some WA group) just couldn't read it all at one bc of how painfully written and described.....:(:(:(

just for context I am 60...and was there at ohel as well but not inside ....

but this kid Zalmy is something else.... AND has pics to back his claim ....(I came to NY in the mid 70's so I remember him as a kid always there....first they lived in Moristown (he's the sun of the Rosh Yeshivah Horav hagaon Shmulik Heber) where i was in yeshivah then.

Moshiach now !!!!!!

(6/12/2018 9:34:26 PM)
I am sure that the feelings coming through the review of that unforgettable day are one hundred percent sincere and that alone should end this bitter GOLUS! AD MOSAI?!
(6/12/2018 10:27:16 PM)
I'm speechless.
(6/13/2018 12:10:28 AM)
Gimel tamuz
Thank you for sharing this with us!! Can't stop crying.
(6/13/2018 12:53:08 AM)
Well written.
Thanks you for sharing this even though it's hard to share and hard to read.
(6/13/2018 2:36:53 AM)
something missing
we stood watching all through the night a large group singing and dancing yechi.... it was electric , we all thought moshiach had arrived , we were convinced moshiach was coming that night , im still convinced ... something special happened no doubt , I did not cry , i rejoiced . I strongly believe the Rebbe MHM went on his next journey that night as Melech Hamoshiach ! Yechi Hamelech !
(6/13/2018 5:05:27 AM)
well written
Well written.
(6/13/2018 5:13:20 AM)
Made me cry
Wow well written. Moving. Did you say you saw the Rebbe after the histalkus? Who said Kaddish for the whole year?
(6/13/2018 5:22:14 AM)
Very Painful
As painful as it is we all are certain that ' , .
(6/13/2018 7:48:41 AM)
To #9
The Mazkirus took it upon themselves to say Kaddish throughout the year and on each of the subsequent Yartzeits. May this year bring an end to any need for saying Kaddish!
(6/13/2018 9:48:35 AM)
mind blowing
Rabbi Z Heber was a shliach in Kingsley way yeshiva when I was a bochur, he lived the Rebbe day and night, I still remember many of the projects he did with us.

Moshiach now
(6/13/2018 2:52:17 PM)
Thank you for sharing
May we be zoche to the hisgalus now, and Zalmy, I have no doubt that you will once again be right up there!
(6/13/2018 3:47:11 PM)
Amazing recall
You waited 24 years to share this? I too was there but did not jump into a moving car You are clearly a determined and capable young man and I thank you for telling us your recollections. Even though the memories are too terrible to hear
Mashiach now
(6/13/2018 4:38:59 PM)
Can't contain my tears.
Thank you for sharing and giving me such a clear glimse into what it was like on gimmel tammuz.

Ad mosai!
(6/13/2018 4:52:28 PM)
No mention of Yechi
Rabbi Heber forgot to mention when Zalman Lipskier said "Yechi Adonaynu" aloud three time and everyone in the Ohel - while sobbing - repeated after him....
(6/13/2018 5:16:18 PM)
Thank you
I will be having a very different Gimmel Tammuz. This made me cry.
(6/13/2018 11:57:55 PM)
Thank you
' has never before felt so real , thank ou r sharing
(6/14/2018 9:08:58 AM)
thank you!
thank you for shearing such deep feelings it gave me a real chizuk! !
(6/14/2018 4:20:05 PM)
Thank you for sharing this
Just printed it out to read and share with my family over Shabbos.
(6/15/2018 4:57:29 PM)
Thank you
I was born afterward and grew up hearing stories and accounts of but I never connected for the first time in my life I cried and feel it.
(6/17/2018 3:42:10 PM)
#20 Continued
My husband and I were both very moved. Thank you again for baring your personal memories to benefit the Klal.
(6/18/2018 1:55:33 AM)
To #21
Same feelings.
Thank you for sharing
(6/21/2018 4:56:11 PM)
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