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What You Need and What You are Needed For

No Small Matter

A Shepherd of Souls

Reaching Outward

Digging For Roots

Jewels in the Streets

Opening the Iron Fist

Shepherding His Flock

Unveiling Hidden Treasures

Precious Souls

"The Language of the Wise is Healing"

"Rejoice O Barren One"

Beyond Nature's Limits

Sparks of Greatness

More Than During His Lifetime


Glossary and Biographical Index

To Know and To Care - Volume 2
An Anthology of Chassidic Stories
about the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

Chapter 4
Reaching Outward

by Eliyahu and Malka Touger

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  A Shepherd of SoulsDigging For Roots  

"You do your Rebbe a disservice by telling so many miracle stories about him," a friend once told me.

"What do you mean?" I responded.

"The Rebbe changed the direction of traditional Jewry," my friend began to explain. "Before he assumed leadership of Lubavitch, religious Jewry was on the defensive. He turned the tables and enabled it to advance. For this, every observant Jew, whether or not he is his chassid, owes the Rebbe a debt.

"In cities and countries where Jewish observance would never have been given a chance, the Rebbe made it a reality. These are the Rebbe's true miracles. Whatever private salvation he was able to achieve for individuals detracts from these greater achievements."

For the Rebbe, these efforts have never been looked at as private matters, and he has inspired thousands of young men and women to devote themselves to these goals.

This is the point of this chapter: To shed some light on the personal side of the Rebbe's efforts to inspire the spread of Jewish awareness and practice throughout the world.

In 5732 (1972), the Rebbe celebrated his 70th birthday. On that occasion, he called for the establishment of 70 new Chabad institutions. Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, director of Chabad activities in California, undertook to establish 10 of these by setting up 10 new Chabad Houses in that state.

At the same farbrengen, Rabbi Cunin brought several of the donors to the Rebbe to present him with the key to the Chabad House that had recently been established on the UCLA campus. The Rebbe told them: "If you're giving me the key, then it becomes my house. And if it's my house, I want its doors to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone in need."

And he added: "This is going to start a pattern. It will be like a chain-store. Soon there will be Chabad Houses all over the country."

Before Rabbi and Mrs. Sholom Ber Lipskar departed for shlichus in Miami, Florida, they went to the Rebbe for yechidus. The Rebbe showered unique blessings on them, wishing them success in both their outreach efforts and their personal lives. He told them: "I am going with you."

Inspired by these blessings, the Lipskars dedicated themselves to increasing Jewish awareness and practice, and met with extraordinary success. They were able to inspire many individuals to adopt a deeper Jewish identity and increase their Jewish practice.

A year later, the Lipskars again went to yechidus, and Rabbi Lipskar gave the Rebbe a detailed written report of his activities throughout the year. The Rebbe bent over and read it with concentration. While he was doing so, Rabbi Lipskar felt a certain pride. After all, it had been a good year, and he was certain that his achievements would bring the Rebbe satisfaction.

In the middle of reading, the Rebbe looked up at Rabbi Lipskar. "What about that young girl concerning whom you wrote to me?"

At first, Rabbi Lipskar did not recall the girl to whom the Rebbe was referring. And then he remembered. Several months earlier, on their way to shul one Shabbos, he and his wife had met a young Jewish girl who had become involved in a religious cult. They had established a relationship with the girl, and helped wean her away from the cult. In the course of their discussions, the girl had mentioned that she came from a broken home. The Lipskars had written to the Rebbe describing the girl's situation and asking for a blessing. In the letter, they had mentioned her mother's status.

The Rebbe had replied with a blessing, but had asked Rabbi Lipskar to make sure that the mother had received a Rabbinically acceptable get (bill of divorce).

Rabbi Lipskar had made preliminary inquiries about the matter, but had been unable to locate the mother. The demands of his schedule eventually pushed the matter entirely out of his thoughts. But although he had forgotten, the Rebbe had remembered, and wanted an answer.

After the yechidus was over, Rabbi Lipskar set out to verify the status of the girl's mother. After 48 hours of intensive effort, he was able to assure the Rebbe that the woman had in fact received an acceptable get.

Rabbi Lipskar understood the Rebbe's question as a lesson to him. Even though a person may achieve success in many spheres, he must also pay close attention to the details affecting the life of every Jewish child whom one has touched.

Rabbi Moshe Hecht, the veteran shliach in New Haven, Connecticut, once found himself $100,000 short of the amount needed to cover the budget for the school he directed. Rabbi Hecht had a plan to raise the sum by finding 100 "friends" who would each donate $1,000. He told the Rebbe of his idea, asking for a blessing that his efforts should succeed.

The Rebbe replied with a blessing, and added : "From one such friend you have certainly not yet received a donation. His name is Menachem Schneerson. Check for participation enclosed."

Together with the letter was a check for $1,000.

Reb Sholom Posner, the Rebbe's shliach in Pittsburgh for many years, once told the Rebbe at yechidus of the purchase and renovation of a building to serve as a school and community center. He concluded by asking the Rebbe if he would like to become a partner in the effort, not only through his blessings and advice, but also by making a monetary contribution.

The Rebbe agreed, and told Rabbi Posner: "I would be happy if other shluchim would learn from you and make such requests."

George Rohr is a businessman who had often been inspired by the Rebbe, and who supports many Lubavitch activities. Once, when receiving lekach before Yom Kippur, it occurred to him that he should give something to the Rebbe and not merely take from him. With that thought in mind, he told the Rebbe that for Rosh HaShanah, he had organized a minyan for over 130 Jews who had no Jewish background.

The Rebbe immediately became serious. "With no background?" he repeated, looking at Rohr intently.

Not understanding what he had said wrong, Rohr could only say it again: "With no background."

"Go back and tell them," the Rebbe said, "that they have a Jewish background! They have the background of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov."

"A hearty yasher koach," said Rabbi Chodakov (the Rebbe's personal secretary) to Rabbi Mendel Baumgarten.

Rabbi Baumgarten was surprised. Rabbi Chodakov was not prone to emotional expressions. It's true that the Rebbe had just given Rabbi Baumgarten and his wife a broad smile as he left 770, but why was Rabbi Chodakov so excited?

It was about 2 AM Monday morning. Rabbi Baumgarten and his wife had just returned from conducting a Shabbaton with university students in College Park, Maryland. His chassidic sixth sense told him that since participation in such outreach efforts was encouraged by the Rebbe, he should stop in at 770 before going home.

When he arrived, the Rebbe had just finished seeing people for yechidus that night, so Rabbi Baumgarten decided to stay and watch as the Rebbe left the building. As the Rebbe was leaving, he saw Rabbi Baumgarten and his wife waiting in the corridor, and gave them a broad smile.

Why was Rabbi Chodakov so happy? "Throughout the week, the Rebbe has been earnest, intense, you could almost say upset," he told Rabbi Baumgarten. "Even at the farbrengen on Shabbos, he spoke in a demanding tone, asking why the chassidim were not doing more outreach work. This is the first time he has smiled all week!"

On entering the Rebbe's room for yechidus, a Lubavitch communal leader noticed that the Rebbe had an almost sad expression on his face. With some boldness, he asked the Rebbe what was troubling him.

The Rebbe replied that there was a family in Crown Heights with six children, five boys and one girl. The boys had already grown up, married and assumed positions in shlichus in cities around the world. A while ago, the girl had also married. Recently, she and her husband wrote asking the Rebbe to let them accept a shlichus position in a distant city.

The Rebbe gave his approval contingent on the consent of the woman's parents. Although this would mean that the elder couple would be alone, they willingly agreed.

"At the present moment," the Rebbe concluded, "the parents and their daughter are at the airport saying farewell, and many tears are being shed. It's true that they are tears of joy, but nevertheless, when they are crying, how can I not cry?"

In 1941, while fleeing from the Nazis, the Rebbe spent about a year in the city of Nice in Southern France. Almost 40 years later, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pinson arrived in Nice as the Rebbe's shliach, determined to bring Yiddishkeit to that city.

Rabbi Pinson's activities were blessed with success from the beginning, and he soon had to look for a building to serve as a school and a center for Chabad's outreach activities.

On four different occasions, he found what he thought was an appropriate spot, and each time he asked the Rebbe whether he should purchase the site. The Rebbe replied by referring him to Rabbi Binyamin Gorodetsky, who served as the Rebbe's chief representative in Europe and North Africa. On each occasion, Rabbi Gorodetsky took the question back to the Rebbe, who then explained why he thought the location was unsuitable.

Rabbi Pinson is by no means an idle dreamer. And yet, like all of us, there are times when he too can become smitten by a particular vision. On a road leading to the home in which the Rebbe had stayed, there was a large building with ample grounds. "The Rebbe must have looked at this building several times each day," Rabbi Pinson thought to himself. "This is the perfect location for my school!"

He tried to find the owner of the building, but without success. After several months of searching, while on a visit to New York one summer, he asked the Rebbe for a blessing to help him purchase the building. The Rebbe consented at once.

When he returned to France, Rabbi Pinson realized that the lease on the building he was renting for the school was up; he had to find a different location. One ad in the "For Rent" section of the newspaper attracted his attention. He inquired about it, and it turned out to be precisely the property on which his attention had become fixed.

He offered to buy the property, but the owner explained that he had recently inherited it, and that his accountant had advised him that for tax purposes, it was preferable for him to rent it out.

Not seeing any alternative, Rabbi Pinson agreed to rent the property. Feeling that the gentile owner would have difficulty understanding the Rebbe-chassid relationship, he phrased his agreement in the following manner: "There is, however, one condition. My school is a local branch of an international organization with headquarters in New York. Before I enter into any binding commitment, I must receive approval from the head of the organization."

The owner was willing to give Rabbi Pinson several days, so Rabbi Pinson phoned the Rebbe's secretary, Rabbi Klein, and requested that he ask the Rebbe if he should rent the building or not. The Rebbe responded within an hour that Rabbi Pinson should buy the building.

Rabbi Pinson was unsure of what to do. He thought, however, that if he could negotiate a rental agreement, perhaps he could have an option to buy added to the contract. With these thoughts in mind, he contacted the owner again.

When he told the owner that the head in New York had agreed to the rental, the owner told him: "I've changed my mind. I spoke to my accountant, and he says he can arrange for me to sell the property after all. Are you interested? If not, I'll look for someone else."

Rabbi Pinson told the owner that he would be happy to buy the property. As the negotiations grew serious, Rabbi Pinson realized that he would not be able pay the entire price, and would have to take out a mortgage. Now, obtaining a mortgage in France takes time, particularly for a charitable organization. Since it would be impossible to make all the arrangements before the school year began, Rabbi Pinson decided it would be necessary to rent the property for at least several months.

Before their next meeting, Rabbi Pinson withdrew a large amount of cash from his bank. Shortly after they began speaking, he put the money on the table and offered to rent the property for three months.

"But we spoke about buying," the owner of the property said.

Rabbi Pinson explained that he was even more interested in buying than the owner was in selling, but that he was experiencing difficulty in arranging a mortgage, and needed to open the school in time for the fall term.

Reluctantly, the owner agreed. When his secretary typed out the rental contract, she mistakenly made it for six months instead of three. Rabbi Pinson was very happy, since it would have been very difficult to complete the process in three months, and now he would have ample time.

After making several applications for a mortgage, Rabbi Pinson was told that as a representative of a charitable organization that had just begun activities in the city, the only way that he would be granted a mortgage would be if the city council agreed to serve as a guarantor. This was an accepted practice in the city, and had been done for several charitable and religious organizations in the past. It had, however, never been done for a Jewish organization.

Rabbi Pinson asked the Chief Rabbi of Nice to approach the council on his behalf, but the Chief Rabbi explained that he was uncomfortable about making such a bold request. He offered instead to make an appointment with the mayor to speak about a different issue, and take Rabbi Pinson along. Rabbi Pinson could then broach the question about the guarantee.

Seeing no other option, Rabbi Pinson agreed. Before the appointment, he wrote the Rebbe for a blessing, and at the appropriate time met the Chief Rabbi outside the mayor's office.

When they entered, the mayor listened to the Chief Rabbi's request. Although it was a minor matter, the mayor did not offer any assistance. After such an inauspicious response, the Chief Rabbi was hesitant to introduce Rabbi Pinson, but he had made a commitment, and so he made the introduction.

As Rabbi Pinson started to speak, the mayor began to relax. Without any apparent reason, he offered to bring the question to the city council, and to push for its acceptance.

But this was not the end of Rabbi Pinson's trials. Although the city council passed the motion, it still had to be approved by a provincial prefect. The prefect had not heard of either Rabbi Pinson or Lubavitch, and did not understand why the city council had offered to guarantee the mortgage. Without giving the matter a second thought, he vetoed the request.

So Rabbi Pinson found himself calling on the Chief Rabbi again, this time asking him to arrange a meeting with the prefect. The Chief Rabbi agreed to use the same ploy as before; he would approach the prefect on his own business, and take Rabbi Pinson along. The Chief Rabbi would make the introductions, but from that point on, Rabbi Pinson would have to speak for himself.

The earliest appointment the Chief Rabbi could receive was Nissan 11, the Rebbe's birthday. Rabbi Pinson received this news with mixed emotions. He had always spent this day in 770, attending the Rebbe's farbrengen. If he were to meet the prefect on this day, he would have to forgo the trip. On the other hand, he understood that the appointment falling on the Rebbe's birthday was an obvious sign of Divine Providence. He told the Chief Rabbi to confirm the meeting, and wrote a letter to the Rebbe asking for a blessing for success.

The prefect greeted the Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Pinson warmly. As Rabbi Pinson explained the nature of Lubavitch activities, the prefect realized that he was dealing with a world-wide organization with a long and proud history of community service. He was prepared to approve the guarantee.

"Just submit your request to the city council again with minor changes," he told Rabbi Pinson. "They will okay it, and this time I will approve it."

Rabbi Pinson asked him if it would be possible for him to simply rescind his previous veto.

"No, that is just not done," the prefect replied. "Once a veto has been issued, it is not overturned. Take the matter back to the city council, and then I will okay it."

Rabbi Pinson realized that his rental contract was running out, and doubted his chances of receiving prompt approval from the city council a second time. "Today is the birthday of our Rebbe, a great spiritual leader recognized by the entire world," he told the prefect. He explained that each year the American Congress would declare Nissan 11 "Education Day."

"You can join in this initiative," he told the prefect. "Yes, it means doing something out of the ordinary, but help us purchase our school! Consider it a birthday present to the Rebbe."

The members of the city council were amazed when Rabbi Pinson brought them the letter from the prefect rescinding his veto; it had never happened before. Nonetheless, they checked their protocols and found that it was acceptable.

With the council as guarantor, he had no trouble obtaining a mortgage. Soon afterwards, holding the sales contract in his hand, Rabbi Pinson watched the children leaving the school.

"Did the Rebbe envision this," he mused, "when he passed this building 40 years ago?"

In the 1960s, the Lubavitch Youth Organization would often organize chassidic Shabbatons with synagogues from every part of the religious spectrum. When the congregations were not themselves observant, prayers would be held in the social hall with a mechitzah, and afterwards the chassidim and the congregation would join for communal meals.

In May of 5729 (1969), several couples from Crown Heights conducted such a Shabbaton in Steubenville, Ohio. The Shabbos was beautiful and inspiring; the talks, the singing and dancing, the interpersonal communication - everything exceeded the highest expectations. The couples came back to Crown Heights with wonderful feelings of accomplishment.

That Sunday afternoon, the Rebbe delivered an address as part of the annual convention of the Lubavitch Women's Organization. After the address, the women were given the opportunity to meet with the Rebbe.

One of the women who had traveled to the Steubenville Shabbaton took the opportunity to tell the Rebbe about the event. "Everyone was very moved," she related. "The president of the congregation said he was so inspired that he was taking the mechitzah home as a souvenir!"

"Instead of taking it home," replied the Rebbe with a smile, "it would have been better if he had decided to leave it in the synagogue!"

Rabbi Yossi Biston and his brother Aaron have developed a slight variation of the traditional Yissachar-Zevulun partnership. Aaron is involved in business, while Yossi dedicates himself to Torah outreach, spreading Torah in and around Broward County, Florida.

At one of the meetings of the Machne Israel Development Fund, Aaron told the Rebbe that he was helping Yossi purchase a new facility, but they were encountering problems getting a zoning approval.

The Bistons were completely perplexed by the Rebbe's reply: "In the sichah I just delivered, I already said to make Chabad centers bigger."

Baffled, they looked at one another... The problem was one of zoning, not size. How could making a building larger convince a city to approve its being rezoned? Moreover, how was it possible to make the building bigger if they couldn't get a permit to use it for commercial purposes? If anything, the current large size and operational scope of the facility appeared to be the problem!

Upon his return to Florida, Rabbi Biston went to the commission meeting in a desperate attempt to resolve the zoning dispute. The mayor greeted him warmly, but explained that the building could not be approved by the zoning commission because it didn't include sufficient parking space for the planned center. The words of the Rebbe, "Make it bigger," echoed in Yossi's mind.

Providentially, a parcel of land at the back of the center came on the market, perfectly suited for the needed parking lot. The sale was consummated the same day.

Having thus fulfilled the Rebbe's directive to "make it bigger," the Bistons were not surprised that the center received the city's approval shortly thereafter.

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