The 28th of Sivan marks the historic day in 1941 when the Lubavitch Rebbe and Rebbetzin arrived safely on American shores after escaping Nazi-occupied France. They settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, where the previous Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, had established Lubavitch headquarters a year earlier at 770 Eastern Parkway.
A few days after they arrived, the Rebbe led a farbrengen, a chassidic gathering, in 770. It was on Thursday night, between the second and third day of Tammuz. The farbrengen began around 9 p.m., and continued until three in the morning.
The Rebbe came in with his siddur in his hand. He requested that the elder chassidim say something; they declined, however, since they wanted to hear from the Rebbe, the newly arrived son-in-law of the Rebbe Rayatz. The Rebbe then asked the people if anyone had a question in chassidus. The Rebbe asked some of the people for their name and their mother’s name.
The Rebbe began the farbrengen by quoting the Gemara (Brachos 54b) and Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 10:8) regarding Arba’ah tzrichim lehodos – the four categories of people who must offer thanks, including one who was not well, one who was in danger in jail and so on. The Rebbe went on to expound on these four categories from the angles of nigleh (the revealed aspects of Torah), Kabbalah, and chassidus. During the discourse, the Rebbe answered the questions posed earlier by those in attendance. To the amazement of all in attendance, the Rebbe connected the answers with the names of those who asked the questions.
Then the Rebbe turned to some of the talmidim who had been sent from the United States by the Rebbe Rayatz in 1939 to study in the Lubavitch yeshiva in Otwock, Poland. I heard this story from HaGaon R’ Meir Greenberg, z”l, who was one of those talmidim:
During their trip, the students passed through Paris. The Rebbe, who was in Paris at that time, went to see them at the train station and spent several hours with them, conversing in learning, until the train departed for Poland and cut short their discussion.
At the farbrengen two years later in 1941, the Rebbe turned to them and said, “Itztir kenen mir mamshich zein – now we can continue.” Notwithstanding the war that was raging during those two years, the Rebbe simply picked up the conversation where they had left off!
Thirty years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s arrival, the Rebbe distributed by hand a specially-produced kuntres (booklet) to each chassid. In the kuntres, we find a line that is very telling. The Rebbe writes that on the 28th day of Sivan there began a tenufah chadashah – a new thrust – in the work of hafatzas hamaayanos chutza – spreading the wellsprings of Torah and chassidus to the outermost places.
In this the Rebbe revealed that while this thrust was started by his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe’s arrival on the 28th of Sivan, was the beginning of a new thrust and a new era.
Upon arriving in America the Rebbe was appointed chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and of Machaneh Yisrael – the central Lubavitch organizations that continue to function to this day. The Rebbe was also appointed editor of Kehot (an acronym for Karnei Hod Torah – “the rays of the Torah’s glory”), which has since published books in many languages throughout the world, in order to reach every single Jew and to ensure that the wellsprings of chassidus reach everywhere.
It is interesting that the Rebbe entered the United States a second time in 1947, after he went to Paris for three months to accompany his mother, Rebbetzin Chana, to America. Amazingly, the Rebbe entered the United States on the same day each time – Monday morning, the 28th of Sivan.
This day, as the Rebbe explains, gives each and every one of us strength. The Hebrew letters for 28, chof ches, spell ko’ach – strength. Sivan is the month of mattan Torah. It gives us strength in learning Torah, teaching Torah, spreading Torah and the observance of mitzvos. This will, indeed, prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach – speedily in our own days.