Berlin Made No Impression on Rebbe

Berlin, Germany 1928 – 1932
Rabbi Sholom Kovalski tells of taking Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik to visit the Rebbe in 1964. During the drive home, Rav Soloveitchik shared some personal recollections of the Rebbe, from their time together in Berlin

...The journey from Yeshiva University to Crown Heights took over an hour, affording me lots of time to discuss the Lubavitcher Rebbe with the Rav [Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik]. During the discussion, I asked the Rav to tell me about the Rebbe as a person, his imposing character, his personality, his great Torah scholarship, as well as his relationship with him.

The Rav told me that he was a great admirer of the Rebbe. He said that their relationship began when they met in Berlin where they were both studying at the University of Berlin. During that period, they would often meet at the home of the Torah scholar Rabbi Chaim Heller. It was in the course of these meetings that a strong friendship developed between the two men, both of whom were destined to become outstanding spiritual leaders of the century.

The Rav recalled that the Rebbe always carried the key to the mikvah (ritual pool) with him when he attended lectures at the university. "At about two or three o'clock every afternoon when he left the university he would go straight to the mikvah. No one was aware of this custom and I only learnt about it by chance," the Rav said.

"On another occasion, I offered the Rebbe a drink. The Rebbe refused. When I started pressuring him I understood that he was fasting that day. It was Monday and the Rebbe was fasting.

"Imagine that," Rabbi Soloveitchik said to me, "a Berlin University student immersed in secular studies maintains this custom of mikvah and fasting!

"Studying together with us in the university at the time were other Jewish students from other communities. Some of them are considered today to be famous Torah giants. In the university they behaved the same way as other university students, but the Rebbe behaved like a Jew from Warsaw or from Russia. Berlin made absolutely no impression upon him at all.

"This made a huge impression on me. Additionally, the Rebbe had an amazing memory." The Rav described the Rebbe's memory as "gevaldig" (astounding). "In all my life, I never encountered someone with such a memory."

..."The Rebbe was very hidden." I want you to know that Rav Soloveitchik couldn’t get over how hidden, how quiet, the Rebbe was. "Very few people knew who he was; very few people knew who he came from."

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Chabad Lubavitch Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson university student in Berlin Germany went to the mikva every day. He lived like in a Jewish community in Poland Berlin made absolutely no impression upon him at all unlike other future famous torah giants who acted like the other students. Beard, yarmulke, kippa