Over forty years without a vacation:
The Rebbe’s daily schedule was characterized by its orderliness. The Rebbe would go to his office in the morning, and would only leave again long after midnight. This would happen every single day. Over the years, the Rebbe never took a single day’s vacation, paid any visits, or went on any trips.
The Rebbe turns down an invitation to the White House:
When President Carter of the United States invited the Rebbe to the White House to confer a particular honor upon him, the Rebbe politely rejected the invitation. He sent a message to the Rebbe stating that he never made visits or went on trips. The Rebbe added that rather than being a time for parties and celebrations, a person’s birthday should be an opportunity for reflection and self-improvement.
A simple life:
Chabad Chassidus is seen by many as a strong economic force. Nonetheless, the Rebbe himself lived simply and inexpensively. He spent most of his day in a modest study, simply furnished, with many books and boxes of letters from around the world. The Rebbe’s own private room was modestly and simply furnished.
A monthly salary:
Jews from around the world sent the Rebbe money and donations, but all of this was put into the Chabad movement’s public fund. The Rebbe himself insisted on receiving a modest monthly wage that was paid from central Chabad funds.
The Rebbe refused a new Cadillac:
A millionaire who was a Chabad Chassid once bought the Rebbe a brand new Cadillac. The vehicle was presented to the Rebbe as a surprise before the Rebbe set out to make a routine car journey. The Rebbe asked to return the Cadillac, saying, “The old car is good enough for me.”
A personal example:
The Rebbe’s unstinting dedication and perseverance in fulfilling various tasks that he took upon himself made him an excellent role model. The Rebbe never said, “I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” It is said that even before the Rebbe accepted the leadership, during a visit to the Chabad community in France he told the Chassidim that they were not doing enough to bring Jews closer to their heritage. The Chassidim replied that they did not know how to go about this.
“Do you want to know what to do?” the Rebbe asked. “Come with me!” The Rebbe then got up and went out into the street. There, he took out a shovel, climbed up to a high spot, and began to wave the shovel around quickly. It did not take too long before a large crowd of curious bystanders had gathered. The Rebbe then began to speak about ethics and values …
Personally handling hundreds of letters a day:
Every day, the Rebbe received hundreds of letters from around the world. The Rebbe insisted that he would open the envelopes personally. He once said, “People write about such personal matters, and it is very important that I handle their letters personally.”
For around thirty years, the Rebbe would grant personal audiences, known as “yechidus,” to individuals. These meetings took place three times a week at the beginning, and then twice weekly. Sometimes, these audiences would last until dawn, and only then would the Rebbe return home. The following morning, the Rebbe would return to his office as usual, for another day of work.
A complete day of working with the public:
One of the most amazing aspects of the Rebbe’s work with the public was his reception of people every Sunday at his office. These receptions were held during the last years on a very regular basis. The Rebbe would remain standing for four or five hours, during which he would greet thousands of people. He would hear their requests and give advice, encouragement, and blessings. Every single person would receive a dollar bill, which was supposed to be given to tzedakah.
A command of eight languages:
The Rebbe had a complete command of eight languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, English, French, German, Italian, and Latin. The Rebbe had studied some of these languages during his childhood, and had learned the rest from the various countries that he lived in.
An extraordinary memory:
The Rebbe had a phenomenal memory. Journalist Shaul Schiff (Hatzofeh) related that during his first yechidus with the Rebbe, he handed the Rebbe a note in which he wrote down his requests and questions. The Rebbe read the note and then said, “I already received a letter from you in the past.” The surprised journalist answered, “That’s not possible. Maybe there’s some mistake …” The Rebbe smiled and said, “You’ll remember, you’ll remember.” Then, the Rebbe added, “Perhaps I should remind you.” Opening a desk drawer, the Rebbe pulled out a letter and handed it to Mr. Schiff. Mr. Schiff immediately turned pale. It was a letter that he had indeed written several years earlier on behalf of a man who had wanted to write to the Rebbe for a blessing. Although the letter did not bear Mr. Schiff’s name, the Rebbe had recognized his handwriting immediately from all of the thousands of letters that he had received since.
250 volumes of teachings:
The Rebbe is one of the most prolific philosophers in Jewish history. His teachings fill around 250 volumes. These include insights and explanations on the themes of the Torah, halachic rulings, essays and philosophical thought, resolutions of contemporary issues, and various responsa.
Speaking without the use of notes:
The Rebbe used to deliver various discourses and address gatherings of thousands of people. These “farbrengens” would sometimes last for as long as seven or eight hours, and were interspersed with Chassidic melodies. The Rebbe would discuss various Jewish themes, quoting from a wide variety of Jewish literature. This would be done without reference to any written notes.
Visiting the gravesite of his father-in-law:
In recent years, the Rebbe would visit the gravesite of his father-in-law, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, also known as the Rebbe Rayatz, twice a week. There, the Rebbe would read out thousands of requests for blessings that he had received from people around the world. For hours, the Rebbe would stand there
praying on behalf of Jews everywhere.
Fasting two days a week:
While the Rebbe was still young, those who were close to him noticed that he used to fast very often. His father even sent him letters asking him to reduce the extent of his fast and to look after his health. On the days when he would visit his father-in-law’s gravesite, the Rebbe would not eat until he had left there. Usually, there were two such days every week.
The Rebbe would only sleep very little. Some nights of the week, he would receive people for yechidus, and on other nights he would sit at home and answer letters. “When I know that Jews are waiting for my answer, I can’t sleep,” the Rebbe once said.
The Rebbe always showed a special affection for children. He would speak to them lovingly, give them coins for charity, and even appear at children’s rallies at his study hall. A considerable part of the Rebbe’s activities and work was directed towards children.
A personal relationship with the Chassidim
The Rebbe had a personal relationship with thousands of his Chassidim and their families, and he was aware of every aspect of their lives. More than once, people would be impressed with the Rebbe’s concern for their problems that they had described to him in letters that they had written in the past but had since been resolved and forgotten.
Knowing how to listen:
The Rebbe knew how to listen to other people. Anyone who held a discussion with him would say that they felt how the Rebbe was listening with great concentration, as if nothing else existed in his world apart from him.
The Rebbe and the secret services:
The Rebbe had access to huge amounts of information. Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel says, “One diplomat told me that the Rebbe gave him an assessment of a certain situation that was so accurate that it was as if he had access to the most recent reports of the secret services.”
Apart from acquiring scientific knowledge from studying at various universities in his younger days, the Rebbe was up to date with the latest research and developments. A senior scientist once said, “The Rebbe is as much of an expert on the laws of nuclear physics as any lecturer at the University of Princeton.
A deep expression:
Anyone who ever met with the Rebbe personally always remembers his eyes. The Rebbe’s eyes were penetrating, alert, and full of life. Even the most cool, unemotional people would talk about this feeling, as if the Rebbe’s eyes were searching their hearts and reaching the depths of their souls.
American law for the Rebbe:
The U.S. House of Representatives made the Rebbe’s birthday a “national day of education.” This step was taken as a sign of appreciation for the Rebbe’s unique personality and his work in instilling educational values within the Jewish and non-Jewish population.
The promotion of women’s activities and education:
The Rebbe put much emphasis on the role of Jewish women. He encouraged women to play an active part in community life, established the Nshei Chabad women’s organization, and saw the woman as the foundation of the Jewish home. The Rebbe often held audiences for women and addressed the women’s conventions that take place in Crown Heights twice a year.
Why was the Rebbe never tired?
Once, when the Rebbe had spent many hours on his feet receiving visitors, an elderly woman asked, “How come you are not tired?” The Rebbe smiled and replied, “Every Jew is like a diamond, and when we count diamonds we never get tired. …”