My family’s association with Chabad-Lubavitch goes back to my grandfather Rabbi Moshe Kowalsky, who, when he was a boy growing up in Warsaw, became enamored with the Chabad way. And he decided to run away from home and travel all the way from Poland to Russia, to learn at the Chabad yeshiva in Lubavitch.
His father, that is my great-grandfather, was a fierce Kotzker chasid, and he would have none of it. He went after his son to bring him back.
When my great-grandfather arrived in Lubavitch, he was invited to spend Shabbos with the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, and he consented. After that Shabbos – instead of demanding that his son return immediately home to Warsaw – he declared, “I was so impressed by the spirituality I experienced over Shabbos that I consent to have my son stay here.” So my grandfather got to study with Chabad, and he received rabbinic ordination from Chabad, and he became a very big Lubavitcher chasid.
In later years, when he was living in New York, my grandfather had an apartment in the same building as the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and he even purchased a gravesite within four cubits of the gravesite of the Previous Rebbe, which is of course where the Rebbe is now buried as well.
I visited my grandfather often and my earliest memory – from the time I was about eight years old – is the Rosh Hashanah Tashlich ceremony at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The Rebbe would come marching down the street with all of his chasidim following behind him, in formation. It looked almost like a military parade. (more…)