Hurt His Feelings

The name of Reb Berke Chein, who passed away in Israel in 1990, is loved and revered throughout the world of Chabad. He was known for his self sacrifice under the Stalinist regime, and his sweet humility.

Reb Berke was responsible for gathering funds from the Chabad community in Israel, to be sent to the world Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn.

After collecting the funds, he would pass them to Rabbi Efraim Wolff, who would then deliver them to New York.

As Reb Berke aged, and the Chabad community in Israel grew, it became more difficult for him to collect these funds. There were those who discussed assigning someone to assist him in this task.

Rabbi Wolff wasn’t sure if he liked this idea, so he asked the Rebbe for permission to raise the issue with Reb Berke.

If they were to ask Reb Berke if he needed assistance, it may hurt his feelings, the Rebbe advised. He may feel that they think he is weak and no longer able to do a good job, and it would therefore be preferable for things to continue as they are, even if it is not as good as it could be.

Reb Berke passed away about a year later.

I asked a friend of mine — a Chabad representative in Binghamton, NY, and a grandson of Reb Berke — if he could share any particularly memorable things about his grandfather.

Amongst other things, he recalled that his grandfather, at the directive of the Rebbe, wore four pairs of tefillin (something reserved for only the most pious individuals); was very meticulous about the performance of mitzvos; and he would study the 32nd chapter of Tanya every day before prayer (the chapter elucidates the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself”).