Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gimmel Tammuz

Today is the 19th yahrzeit of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. Under his watch, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has grown into a global force to be reckoned with, with Chabad houses and "shluchim" an ubiquitous presence wherever one finds himself.

The Rebbe was equally known for his encyclopedic knowledge as well as his ruach haKodesh; however, it was his concern for every Jew no matter who or where, that surpasses everything else for this writer.

A wonderful story I heard:

There was a holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after the War. With no mate, no money, and no prospects, this Jew was advised to go see the Lubavitcher Rebbe who had only recently succeeded his late father-in-law, the previous Rebbe. The Rebbe told him about a fledgling community in South America that needed infrastructure like Jewish day schools. "Go there," the Rebbe told him, "build up a school. You'll find parnassah as well as a wife."

Heeding the Rebbe's suggestion, the man moved to this small town and established the day school. He presided over a quickly flourishing community for many years. He remarried, and had several children.

Many years later, a non religious woman from the community approached him, begging him for his help. Athough they were not religious, they had tried to remain traditional, but now their only daughter had fallen for a non Jewish boy and they were engaged to be married shortly. Could the rabbi please talk to her and convince her not to go through with the marriage? The rabbi wasn't sure what he could do, but he agreed to try.

He met with the young lady one day, and that had a long conversation, but at the end, she was still committed to her beau. "We're in love, and I'm marrying him in a month," she said decisively.

But her mother couldn't bear accepting that. "Please, rabbi...! You must help me!" she implored. The rabbi tried a second time to reach out to the young bride, but this time her resistance was even more forceful. "Enough of this!" she retorted. "You don't know me, don't try to meddle in my affairs. I do not want to hear from you again."

Defeated, the rabbi returned to the mother with his negative report, and yet she insisted that he must do something, anything to help her daughter. At a loss, the rabbi decided to try calling the United States to contact the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His advice had been so helpful so long ago - if anyone had an eitzah it would be the Rebbe.

After explaining to the Rebbe's assistant the nature of his call, the assistant placed him on hold. Returning a few moments later, the assistant responded: "The Rebbe says that you are to tell the girl that there is a Jew in Brooklyn, New York that cannot sleep because she is going to marry a gentile boy."

Unsure that he heard correctly, the rabbi asked for clarification. "You heard correctly," the assistant replied, "the Rebbe cannot sleep because she is marrying a non Jew. Go tell her this." With that, the assistant hung up.

The rabbi sat next to the phone, trying to figure out what to do. She had already told him that she didn't want to hear from him anymore! And how was he going to tell her the Rebbe's message, anyway? She would just think he's crazy...

As he was sitting there, the phone rang; it was the Rebbe's assistant calling back, with a message from the Rebbe. "When the Rebbe tells you to do something, there is no time to waste. Now go tell her!"

The rabbi called the girl up. Apologizing, he begged her to meet with him just one more time, and after that, he would never bother her again. He only had one thing to tell her; it was too important to say over the phone. Could they meet just one more time? Reluctantly she agreed and they arranged to meet in a few days' time at a cafe; she was no longer willing to come to his office.

When he went to meet her, her posture and attitude had completely changed. Impatient, she snapped at him. "Well, what's so important that you had to tell me in person?" She stood there with her arms folded, waiting. Taking a deep breath, the rabbi looked at her and said: "There is a Jew in Brooklyn who can't sleep because you're going to marry out of the faith."

The girl looked at him strangely. "What are you talking about?" she demanded.

"Have you ever heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?" he asked. "No," she replied, "you're the only rabbi I know. Who's this Rebbe?"

The rabbi always carried picture of the Rebbe in his wallet, and at this point, he fished it out and showed it to her. Staring at the picture, she took it with trembling hands. "This... this is the Rebbe?" she asked. He nodded. She began crying. "When you first told me the message, I knew something was happening that I couldn't understand. But when you showed me this picture...For the past few nights, I've been having the same dream. This face," she held up the photo.

"This person keeps asking me why I won't let him sleep!"

She broke off the engagement with her fiancee and began looking into Judaism. She became of ba'alat Teshuva, married and has children, and they all live in Eretz Yisrael today.

The rabbi in the story included this story in an article in a Jewish newspaper shortly after the Rebbe's death, when certain people were trying to discredit the Rebbe and call his stature into question.

Z'chuso yagein aleinu!


Micha Berger said...

Today is also the zeroth yahrtzeit of HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth zt"l, author of Shemiras Shabbos keHilkhasah.

תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים

Micha Berger said...

It is also the 21st yahrzeit of R' Shneiur Zalman Kotler, and the 15th yahrzeit of R' Noson Wachtfogel.