Stories & Memories of Rabbi Wagner

By: Chaim Y Munitz May 11

My Recollections of Rabbi Wagner A"H

Rabbi Nochum Greenwald, who was in the older class my first year in yeshiva, put it simply, “Rabbi Akiva lost 24,000 Talmidim. Today 24,000 Talmidim lost Rabbi Akiva”.

My Yeshiva Experience

Before I actually came to Yeshiva for my first year, I was a counselor in CGI Montreal. Camp ended about a week into the start of Yeshiva. That caused a bit of a back and forth between Yeshiva and camp. Rabbi Wagner eventually allowed me to come late, granted I would keep up with the learning material. He sent me an email detailing what I should learn. No comment, I'll just post the email below.

When I did arrive in Yeshiva for the first time, my brother, who had been a bochur in Yeshiva before me, told me to join Rabbi Wagner’s class. Which I did. I’m sure that even if I sat in the front, it would have still gone over my head. I sat there amazed but not understanding a thing, wondering if the other Bochurim understood (they did). I joined my actual class soon after, but this was my first experience stepping into the world that was Yeshivas Lubavitch Toronto.

This went on for about 2 weeks until the Motzei Shabbos Slichos farbrengen. This was my real initiation to Yeshiva, my first Rabbi Wagner farbrengen. I was a shy young bochur soaking everything in. The class above us really did a good job welcoming us in. Es Chata’ay Ani Mazkir HaYom, if I correctly remember Leizer P. was the Saar HaMashkin and every time he came to fill my was still full. He and Shloimy R. encouraged me to drink L’Chaim (not more than 4) and it did not take long until we were all jumping and dancing and singing for hours and hours until Selichos, Mamash Vakeldikerheit! This was Rabbi Wagner. This was his Yeshiva.


We were almost spoiled with Rabbi Wagner’s farbrengans, knowing without asking that every Shabbos afternoon, you could just walk into his house and there he would be farbrenging. These farbengens lifted us to a whole different world. When you were there, it was “Emes HaVaya L’Olam!”. Rabbi Wagner was a true Chossid who lived Rebbe every day and inspired us to do the same.

He had a way of calling you out by a farbrengen, giving you attention, and letting you know that you mattered. I was not one of the top bochurim by any stretch of the imagination nor was I one of the bochurim who was particularly close (buddy-buddy) with him in Yeshiva but by farbrengens he found ways to connect.

I remember one particular farbrengen where there was a break in the speaking and I absentmindedly began to hum a niggun under my breath (I really grew a love for Niggunim in Toronto). Somehow Rabbi Wagner heard and began to sing the Niggun out loud and everyone joined in. From then on, I was encouraged to start Niggunim by many of the farbrengens.

Another memorable farbrengen was by a Purim Meshulash. It was Shabbos day after davening and most bochurim were under the tables already. I had leined that Shabbos so I was one of the few Bochurim at the table when Rabbi Wagner decided we were going to walk and continue the farbrengen at Rabbi Goldstein’s house. I think there was 8 of us and we walked with Rabbi Wagner right out the door. Eventually other Bochurim caught wind, and everyone started trickling in. I think we ended up moving on again during that farbrengen too.

“Du zolst haben ah tolk”

On a personal note, I don’t remember the background or why, but Rabbi Wagner once saw me in the hallway and told me “Du zolst haben ah tolk”. I had no idea what that meant and when I asked him, he just smiled. Asking around, I found out that it meant to be mesudar and orderly. That was something I worked on while in Toronto and still carry with me through my adult life. I think about it often.

As a Father

There was this one Shabbos where Yitzchok’l invited me for the meal. I came along with another bochur, Shimon D., and we got to see Rabbi Wagner, not as a mashpia, but as a father. To watch his care as he listened to each Dvar Torah and asked the Parsha questions to his young children left a deep impression upon me. I think I appreciate it even more now as a father myself and understand the challenge of the balance between work and family.

Purim Note

Another special moment that stayed with me was on Purim, although I can’t remember if it was my first or second year. Rabbi Wagner gave each Bochur Shalach Manos and inside was a personal note. The note was a message that Rabbi Wagner wrote based on the name of the Bochur. I couldn’t believe that he sat and thought about each Bochur and wrote these messages.  I have searched for hours today but I cannot locate this little piece of paper.


After my Yeshiva years as I was an older Bochur, I asked Rabbi Wagner to be my personal Mashpia. He readily agreed. I had a discussion with him on how to write a Pan. He was also there for me when it came time for Shidduchim and I spoke with him too regarding moving on Shlichus to Sydney, Australia. 

I once donated to one of the Yeshiva fundraising campaigns and Rabbi Wagner sent an email of thanks (I’m sure he sent to all who joined). I thanked him for my years in Yeshiva and asked him if he would ever think to publish his weekly emails in a book (Many of the stories I share to my Facebook page Chabad Treasures are from his emails). He wrote back, “I actually printed a booklet "Cyber Farbrengens" for the chasuna of my daughter this past summer, which included the first year or so of emails. I'll have to find a way to get it to you.” And he did. When I opened the book, I found he had written a personal note to me.

My last correspondence with him was a few months ago when I told him I was working on a min-podcast for Mechanchim (“Let’s Talk Chinuch”) and was dedicating it to him for a Refuah Shelaimah. He responded, “Wow! Thank you so much! That's what helps more than anything”.

This is all but a "drop in the bucket".

May the family have much strength during this challenging time and may we be Zocheh to farbreng once again with Reb Michoel Akiva Gershon ben Refoel Menachem Nochum with the coming of Moshiach now!

Share Your Story

loading Processing...