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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 9
Unveiling Hidden Treasures

by Eliyahu and Malka Touger

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  Shepherding His FlockPrecious Souls  

The wife of one of New York's distinguished Rabbis came to the Rebbe one Sunday to receive a dollar for charity. The Rebbe greeted her warmly, saying: "It's so nice to see you. You have not been here for a while. But that's the way it is with really precious things. You see them only from time to time."

The Torah relates that when G-d sought out Moshe our teacher, He appeared to him in a burning bush. When Moshe saw the bush, he said: [1] "I will turn aside now, and see this great sight."

There are commentators who explain that this was a test of Moshe's leadership ability. A leader must be sensitive to a great sight. When he sees it, rather than continue his ordinary routine, he should turn aside to give it the attention it deserves.

Others take issue, explaining that the uniqueness of Moshe, and similarly his spiritual heirs, the Jewish leaders of subsequent generations, is not merely the ability to respond to obvious greatness. What distinguishes a Jewish leader is his appreciation that every Jew possesses innate greatness, and his care and sensitivity in nurturing that potential and enabling it to flourish.

On the weekend after Shavuos 5745, the Aleph Institute organized a two-week Torah Study Retreat in Crown Heights for Jews in federal prisons.

The 18 participants were involved in lectures, study programs and hands-on workshops about their Jewish roots. Included in the program was participation in the Rebbe's farbrengen on Shabbos afternoon.

Shortly before the farbrengen, Rabbi Leibl Groner, the Rebbe's secretary, came looking for the institute's director, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar. "The Rebbe has asked," Rabbi Groner told him, "that the prisoners not be seated together at the farbrengen, but be interspersed among the crowd."

Rabbi Lipskar looked at him quizzically; he had reserved seating in one area, and re-seating the participants would involve considerable adjustments. Rabbi Groner, however, proceeded to explain the Rebbe's reason. If they are seated together, the Rebbe had said, people will ask who they are. It will be said that they are prisoners, and this will be embarrassing to them. To prevent this from happening, they should be seated separately.

The Rebbe also explained that although at the end of the farbrengen he would be distributing bottles of mashkeh, he would not give a bottle to this group, although they were most deserving of this extra concern. This would attract attention, and their identity would be revealed. Rather than risk causing them embarrassment, the Rebbe preferred not to give them mashkeh. Instead, the Rebbe raised their spirits by including in that farbrengen an extraordinarily forward-looking dissertation concerning prisoners.

A woman from France who had begun the journey back to her Jewish roots once went to the Rebbe for yechidus. Her parents had never given her a Jewish name, and one of her requests was that the Rebbe choose a name for her.

The Rebbe responded: "Your French name is Jacqueline. That is the feminine form of Jacque. Jacque resembles the Hebrew Yaakov. You should choose the name Yaakovah."

The woman thanked the Rebbe, but he sensed a certain apprehension. "You don't understand Hebrew," he continued. "Don't worry, I will write it down for you so that you will not forget." And the Rebbe wrote the name Yaakovah on a small piece of paper and gave it to the woman.

She appreciated the gift, had it encased, and wore it as a pendant.

When Miriam Rosenblum (née Wolosow) was nine years old, she and her family were living in Dublin, Ireland. In that city, there were relatively few Jewish families with girls her age, so she was happy to find a friend by the name of Lila Zolondik. The friendship also had a spiritual dimension, since Miriam encouraged Lila to observe the mitzvos with warmth and care.

Shortly afterwards, tragedy struck the Zolondik family and Lila's father passed away. Miriam wrote the Rebbe about her friend and asked for a blessing.

Two years later - during which the Rebbe received countless other letters and requests for blessings - Miriam went to New York for her first yechidus. The Rebbe's first questions were: "How is Lila Zolondik? Are you still in contact with her?"

The widow of renowned sculptor Jacques Lifchitz came for a private audience with the Rebbe shortly after her husband's sudden passing.

In the course of the meeting, she mentioned that her husband had been working on a massive sculpture of a phoenix (a mythical bird) for the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus.

A sculptor in her own right, Mrs. Lifchitz had considered completing her husband's work, but had been advised that the phoenix is a non-Jewish symbol.

How could she complete such a sculpture and have it brought to Jerusalem?

The Rebbe called for his secretary, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, and asked him for the book of Job. When he received the sacred text, the Rebbe opened it to chapter 29, verse 18, which reads: "and I shall multiply my days like the chol."

The Rebbe proceeded to explain the Midrashic commentary[2] to the verse, which describes the chol as a bird that lives for 1,000 years, dies, and then is resurrected from its ashes.

Clearly, the phoenix was a Jewish symbol!

Mrs. Lifchitz was delighted at the explanation, and dedicated herself to the project, which she completed shortly thereafter.

The Rebbe had given her a gift of personal rejuvenation that enabled her to complete a symbol of rejuvenation for others.

Shortly after the Rebbe assumed the nesius, several young American men from secular backgrounds began studying in the Lubavitcher yeshivah. One of them, a student from Chicago, received his draft notice a few short months after he had begun studying.

He was very upset. "While I was not observant," he explained to his friends, "I had all the time in the world and misused it, and yet I was not drafted. Now suddenly, when I've started to appreciate the importance of time, and have begun using it wisely, I am no longer my own master. How could G-d do this to me?"

With complaints of this nature, and with some practical questions such as "Should I claim to be a conscientious objector, or should I flee to Canada and begin studying in the Lubavitcher yeshivah in Montreal?", he approached the Rebbe at yechidus.

The Rebbe told him to enter the army and not to worry about the lost time. "It is a descent," the Rebbe explained, "for the purpose of an ascent."

And then the Rebbe stood up to illustrate what he meant. "Standing next to the chair like this," he told the student, "I would never be able to jump over it. But if I were to take a few steps back" - and the Rebbe did so - "and get a running start, I could jump over it."

The student spent two years in the army, serving in different posts in Western Europe. Throughout this period, he fastidiously observed the mitzvos, finding time to pray and study in even the most difficult of circumstances.

When he completed his tour of duty, he returned to New York and prepared to enter yechidus. He had several serious questions concerning his future: Should he return to yeshivah, or should he begin contemplating a career? Should he start considering marriage? And he had some questions regarding religious observance. Should he begin growing a beard, for example.

All in all, he had 10 major questions, each with several minor inquiries associated with it. For example, if the Rebbe told him to grow a beard, how should he deal with his mother's objections? If the Rebbe told to think about a career, in which area should he start looking?

He wrote down his 10 major questions, but instead of handing the list to the Rebbe, he held it in his own hand and asked the questions verbally. To each of his major questions, the Rebbe answered in great detail, anticipating all the minor questions that were in his mind.

As the young man asked question after question, he began to grow more amazed at the Rebbe's answers. Obviously, he was reading his mind! On every point which he wanted clarified, the Rebbe answered in precise detail, foreseeing all the secondary issues he had thought of bringing up.

After having five questions answered in this fashion, he froze in amazement, unable to continue. The Rebbe, however, continued for him, stating both the questions and the answers, until in this fashion he had dealt with all 10 issues that the young man had wished to resolve.

This story must be appreciated within the context of the unique harmony which prevails in Pittsburgh's religious community. There have always been close feelings between the city's Lubavitcher chassidim and other traditional Orthodox communities. At one point, the Lubavitch Yeshivah and the Orthodox Hillel Day School shared the same property. On a personal level, the families were so close that in many ways they comprised a single homogenous entity.

For this reason, it was not surprising that Yale Butler, son of one of the leading Orthodox families, became an active member of Lubavitch's Mesibos Shabbos youth program and developed a personal relationship with Rabbi Yossi Shpielman, its director. Not that Yale was becoming a Lubavitcher. On the contrary, he was an active member of Bnei Akiva and was comfortable with that ideology. But he saw no contradiction between that and absorbing the vibrancy which Lubavitch infused into Jewish life.

Yale has always been an individualist, and a creative one. In 1960, when he was a seventh-grader, he became editor of the Hillel newspaper. He wanted his first edition to attract attention throughout Pittsburgh's Jewish community, so he thought of a spoof.

One of the more active figures in Pittsburgh's Jewish community was a Lubavitcher who often wore an army hat and jacket. This and his untrimmed beard reminded many of Fidel Castro. In fact, the association was so common that he was nicknamed "Castro" throughout the community.

(This was almost 40 years ago, and Castro's dictatorial, anti-American policies were not widely known at the time. On the contrary, to many Americans, he was a flashy underdog fighting Cuba's despotic leader, Batista.)

Yale decided to expand on the association. He wrote a fictional account about an invasion of Cuba in which Castro's troops were in danger of being wiped out. In desperation, Castro called to his brethren in 770. They contacted the Rebbe and the order was given: chassidim were to march on the Brooklyn Navy Yard, commandeer several submarines, and sail to Castro's rescue.

Yale's story did attract attention, but not the kind he desired. Many in Pittsburgh's Jewish community read his article, but few approved. Even as a jest, it was simply out of place.

Leaders of the traditional Orthodox community reprimanded the 12 year old for his lack of sensitivity, as did his parents. He was encouraged to apologize to Rabbi Sholom Posner, the head of the Lubavitch community. In the end, this first issue of the paper was also its final edition.

Rabbi Shpielman, with whom Yale shared a developing relationship, did not think of reprimanding him. Instead, he wanted to introduce Yale to the chassid-Rebbe relationship.

"You have to meet the Rebbe," he told Yale. "Once you discover who he is, you will see how inappropriate your piece was."

Yale was not unwilling, and Rabbi Shpielman began to speak to him about yechidus. Shortly afterwards, Yale's Bnei Akiva chapter had a Shabbaton in Crown Heights, and this appeared to be a perfect opportunity. On the Sunday after the Shabbaton, he would do some shopping, in Judaica stores on the East Side, and that evening he would meet the Rebbe.

Rabbi Shpielman had promised to meet him at 770 and enter yechidus with him, so Yale felt comfortable when he arrived that evening. He did not have to wait long for yechidus, and soon he and Rabbi Shpielman entered the Rebbe's room.

The Rebbe motioned for Yale to sit down. As he did, he noticed Rabbi Shpielman leaving. At this point, he began to feel a little daunted. After all, he was only a seventh-grader and was sitting alone with the Rebbe!

The Rebbe spoke to Yale warmly, telling him that he knew of his family and its work on behalf of the mikveh and Jewish education in Pittsburgh. Yale was moved by the cordial words. The Rebbe continued, complimenting Yale for his talent as a writer.

Up until this point, Yale had been mesmerized by the Rebbe's eyes, but then he noticed a copy of his article on the Rebbe's desk! The Rebbe, however, made no mention of the article at all. Instead, he spoke of a person's obligation to appreciate that his talents are a trust that he should use for the benefit of others. In particular, the Rebbe emphasized, a writer should use his abilities to promote Jewish unity and the love of one Jew for another.

Instead of the sheer terror Yale felt when he saw his article on the Rebbe's table, his feelings turned to relaxation and then empowerment. The Rebbe had recognized his potential and given him encouragement with regard to its expression.

Years passed. In 1979, after receiving his Rabbinic ordination and working as a Rabbi in Vancouver, Yale moved to Los Angeles, where, among his other responsibilities, he wrote a weekly column for the B'nai Brith Messenger. After several months, Joe Cummins, its publisher, asked him to write an additional column on the weekly Torah reading.

Rabbi Butler explained that he was already over-committed, and could not do the column himself. "If you want a good piece on the weekly portion," he told Mr. Cummins, "why don't you use the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe? They come out every week, they're articulate, and a wide range of people would be interested in reading them." Mr. Cummins accepted the idea, and the Rebbe's sichos began to appear weekly in the Messenger.

In 1982, Yale became the publisher of the paper. One of the programs he introduced was lifetime subscriptions. One night, as he sat reviewing the list of people who had purchased these subscriptions, he came across the name, M.M. Schneerson. The Rebbe had answered the ad personally, and had enclosed his own check in payment.

Rabbi Butler had been sending the Rebbe a paper each week without charge; after all, the Rebbe's column appeared in it. The Rebbe, however, had felt the need to pay for a subscription.

From time to time, the Rebbe would ask Rabbi Butler to publicize his perspective with regard to certain issues such as Israel's right to Judah and Samaria, the halachic perspective with regard to the Law of Return, and other concerns facing the American Jewish community.

It appears that the Rebbe never forgot the "Castro" article, once telling Rabbi Shimon Raichik of L.A. that Yale had shown skill as a writer "since childhood."

A noted Rabbi had come to the Rebbe for yechidus before his eldest daughter was to be married. "Forgive me for mixing into your personal life," the Rebbe told him at the conclusion of their meeting, "but I have a request of you. Let your beard grow. It's appropriate for a man of your position.

"And," the Rebbe added with a smile, "it's appropriate for the new phase that will begin in your personal life. After all, soon you're going to become a zeide (a grandfather), and you should look like a zeide!"

The Rabbi happily agreed to the Rebbe's request, and asked: "Perhaps I should also change my style of hat (the Rabbi would wear a round hat) to that worn by the Rebbe?"

"No," the Rebbe replied with a wave of his hand, "that's a superficial matter. I have followers who think that by putting on the same hat I do, and having it dented exactly as I do, they'll establish a connection with me. That isn't the way.

"The way to establish a connection is to invest energy in the same areas in which I invest my energy."

Once a Rabbi who was active in various educational programs in the Orthodox community came to consult the Rebbe about them at yechidus. At the end of the yechidus, he requested a blessing for his son, Moshe, who was suffering from pneumonia.

The Rebbe asked for the name of the child's mother. The Rabbi answered: "Fruma." The Rebbe then gave his blessing. Shortly afterwards, Moshe recovered.

Fifteen years later, this same Rabbi came to see the Rebbe at yechidus regarding another communal matter. As he entered the Rebbe's room, the Rebbe greeted him: "How is your son doing?"

"I have three sons," the Rabbi answered. "About which son is the Rebbe asking?"

"Moshe ben Fruma," the Rebbe replied.

"Letters to the Rebbe," explains Rabbi Yisrael Deren, "are not always answered on paper." To illustrate his point, Rabbi Deren tells the following story.

When he moved to Stamford to open the regional office of Lubavitch, he noticed that a men's mikveh was being built in the city, and was curious as to whose initiative this was. He was told that it was being built by an Israeli who was not well known in the Jewish community.

Shortly thereafter, he received a fax from Mr. Dov Parshan, who had been vacationing in Miami. Mr. Parshan reported that he had met an Israeli who was living in Stamford and was interested in advancing his Jewish involvement.

Shortly afterwards, Rabbi Deren received a call from a woman who wanted to register her child in his pre-school. As they were talking, the woman mentioned that her husband was Israeli and that they had just returned from a vacation in Miami. She was amazed when Rabbi Deren addressed her by name and conveyed regards from Mr. Parshan!

The woman had not realized Rabbi Deren was associated with Lubavitch; she had heard about the high educational standards of his school, and that was what had attracted her attention. When he explained that he was the local Lubavitch representative, she told him that her husband would like to speak to him.

Rabbi Deren was agreeable, and shortly afterwards, the husband called. He said he wanted to speak to Rabbi Deren at length, and so they arranged an appointment for eight that evening. Rabbi Deren was puzzled when the man said he would see him at eight, and that his wife would come over at nine.

As soon as the man began to speak, Rabbi Deren understood why he and his wife were coming separately; there was a certain distance between them.

The husband began to tell his story. He used to live in Queens, and operated a business there. Each Friday, students from the Central Lubavitch yeshivah would come by to put on tefillin with him. He was not receptive at first, but the students' friendliness gradually won him over, and he began to look forward to their visits. Once, a few weeks passed without them stopping by, and he realized that he genuinely missed them.

One mitzvah led to another, and slowly but surely, he began to advance in Jewish practice. He purchased his own tefillin, began observing Shabbos, and started eating kosher.

His wife, however, was less than interested. When they moved to Connecticut, their differences had been aggravated. The husband wanted to identify with the more observant community. He was also anxious to take other steps which reflected his increased commitment, but his wife, by contrast, wanted the status quo.

Rabbi Deren tried to smooth things out, talking to them until [3] a.m.. He was able to convince the husband to relax the pressure on his wife. "It took time before you reached this level of commitment," Rabbi Deren reminded him. "Give your wife a chance to do the same. Let her Jewish involvement grow at her own pace."

And he explained to the wife the need to respect her husband's spiritual development. Even if she did not share his interest in Jewish practice, she should at least show appreciation for his efforts to advance himself spiritually.

Their discussion took place Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the Israeli called and reported that the domestic friction had not abated. On Thursday, he came to Rabbi Deren's office and poured his heart out in frustration.

Rabbi Deren did not know what more to do; he had said everything he had to say. He had only one suggestion: write to the Rebbe.

The man composed a letter to the Rebbe and Rabbi Deren faxed it to the Rebbe's office. That weekend, Rabbi Deren had to attend a Bar-Mitzvah in England, so he hurried off to the airport.

On Sunday, Rabbi Deren called his wife, and she told him that it was imperative for him to call the Israeli; the man had called several times with urgent messages.

So Rabbi Deren called him from England, and was surprised by his happy tone. His wife had begun to show a positive interest in Jewish practice!

What had happened? That Thursday night, the couple had gone to a vegetarian restaurant with several non-Jewish friends. There they were joined by a non-Jew who worked as a butler for a Jewish multi-millionaire. The table talk turned to religious observance, and the butler explained how his employer, the magnate, put on a tallis and tefillin, and prayed every day.

The Israeli's wife was shocked. She had always made fun of her husband's tefillin, and now she was hearing a gentile speak of the practice with a respect that bordered on reverence. And the idea that a contemporary multi-millionaire was steadfast in his Jewish observance was also an eye opener; so religious practice wasn't only for the ghetto!

That Friday, the man lit Shabbos candles. Shortly afterwards, he heard his wife pull up in the driveway. Was it too late? she wanted to know, could she still light the candles?

And as they talked over Shabbos, she showed a new-found respect for her husband's Jewish practice. Thursday afternoon, the letter had been sent to the Rebbe, and Thursday night, her attitude had begun to change.

Yechidus, a personal meeting with the Rebbe, has always been regarded as a special experience. For the Rabbinical students in 770, however, the event was treated with a uniqueness all its own. Well before the day of yechidus, and certainly on the day itself, the student would occupy himself in earnest preparation. As he waited outside the Rebbe's door, he would recite Tehillim (Psalms) with devotion. He would write out his requests beforehand and, when his turn came, would enter the Rebbe's room with awe and trepidation. He would not dare shake the Rebbe's hand, or sit. Instead, he would stand at rigid attention, straining to concentrate on every word the Rebbe said.

Just as the student strove to focus his spiritual energies, so too the Rebbe responded with intense concentration. He would read the student's letter carefully and responded with short, pointed answers.

There was a student from a non-Lubavitcher yeshivah who came to many leading Rabbis seeking blessings and advice. Before he visited the Rebbe, he asked several of the students at the Lubavitcher Yeshivah students how they conducted themselves during yechidus, and tried to imitate their behavior. For several years, he went to yechidus once a year. He was inspired by these meetings, but would have liked to relax and exchange ideas.

After four years of visiting the Rebbe, and before leaving to study in Eretz Yisrael, he decided to change his approach. "I don't have the advantage of being a Lubavitcher, so why should I have the disadvantage?" he asked himself. "I don't have the intense, ongoing relationship with the Rebbe that the other students have, so why should I be limited by the restrictions associated with it?"

He decided that this time, he would talk freely, and air several issues of concern.

With this thought in mind, he entered the Rebbe's room. As if he had read his mind, the Rebbe welcomed him with a warm Shalom Aleichem, and extended his hand in greeting!

Elimelech Seidman was a US army chaplain who in the fall of '91 was serving in Frankfurt, Germany. He had been visiting the States, and was due to return to Germany from New York. Before leaving, he called one of his fellow chaplains, Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein, partly to talk army business, and partly because they were old friends.

"Now that you're in New York," Rabbi Goldstein said, "you've got to come to the Rebbe to receive a dollar."

Elimelech had other plans, but it was impossible to say No to Rabbi Goldstein. And so, a few hours later, the two met in uniform outside 770.

Rabbi Goldstein instructed Elimelech to write a short note asking for a blessing, to put that note on the Rebbe's table, and tell him his name, rank and posting.

Elimelech did exactly as Rabbi Goldstein told him. When he approached the Rebbe, he placed the note on the table and told the Rebbe his name and rank.

"You've written to me before, haven't you?" the Rebbe asked.

"Well, I wrote a note just now," Elimelech answered.

"I mean a while ago," the Rebbe continued.

"I don't remember," Elimelech responded.

Rabbi Goldstein said something tactful to smooth things over, and the two departed. Afterwards, Elimelech heard that a friend, Rabbi Yossi Shemtov, the shliach in Tuscon, Arizona, whom he had shared a relationship while serving as a chaplain in that area, was visiting in Crown Heights that day and stopped by to pay him a call.

He told Rabbi Shemtov about his meeting with the Rebbe, and Rabbi Shemtov reminded him that, five years before, Elimelech and his wife had been childless. They had seen many doctors, but none had been able to help. When he had mentioned the matter to Rabbi Shemtov, he was advised to write the Rebbe. "You may not receive a written answer," Rabbi Shemtov had told him, "but I can assure you that the Rebbe takes note of every letter written to him. And he will pray for anyone who needs a blessing."

Elimelech had thought to himself: "We have been seeing so many doctors, why not give this approach a chance?" He wrote the letter, and did not receive a written answer.

But now, he was certain that the Rebbe indeed kept all letters in mind. He had forgotten about the letter, but the Rebbe - who had received so many thousands of letters in the interim - had remembered.

Elimelech was also a little remorseful; he had missed an opportunity. In those five years, he and his wife had been blessed with two children. Just as he had asked the Rebbe for a blessing, he should have shared the good news that his wish had been granted.

Morrie Steiman is one of San Diego's leading Jewish philanthropists. Through his father and uncle, his family shared a connection to the Lubavitcher Rebbeim and, encouraged by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, he sought to renew the relationship.

He had met the Rebbe several times, and had begun to develop a bond with him. "Do chassidim give shalom to the Rebbe?" he asked Rabbi Bogomilsky, referring to a custom among Polish chassidim, but not practiced within Lubavitch, to greet one's Rebbe and shake his hand.

"Everyone has their own relationship with the Rebbe," Rabbi Bogomilsky answered. "What I do and what other chassidim do does not have to affect the way you relate to him."

And so Mr. Steiman asked for an opportunity to give shalom to the Rebbe. In those years, the Rebbe would recite his morning prayers alone, but every Monday and Thursday he would hear the Torah reading at the service conducted by the yeshivah students in the small shul upstairs at 770. It was arranged that Mr. Steiman would attend a Monday morning Torah reading. After being honored with Hagbah, he hurried to stand in the small foyer between the Rebbe's room and the shul, intending to stop the Rebbe as he passed and shake his hand.

But plans do not always go as expected. That day, there were many visitors to 770. The Rebbe walked briskly out to his office, and Mr. Steiman was not able to catch his attention.

Mr. Steiman was slightly surprised. On previous occasions, he had received much personal encouragement from the Rebbe, and yet now the Rebbe had walked past without even a sign of recognition. Needless to say, Mr. Steiman was disappointed; he was certain that the Rebbe had not recognized him.

Several weeks later, he received his first and only letter from the Rebbe. The Rebbe began by thanking him for his visit to 770, and apologizing for the fact that although he had noticed him, circumstances had not allowed for a proper exchange of greetings.

Once at yechidus, the Rebbe asked Prof. Paul Rosenbloom where he was sending his son to school.

Prof. Rosenbloom answered that the boy was attending the Manhattan Hebrew Day School.

"Oh, Rabbi Sholom Rephun is the principal there," the Rebbe responded. "He used to work in Release Time for us."

When the Rosenblooms described the encounter to Rabbi Rephun, he was amazed. "I never met the Rebbe, or even wrote to him," he exclaimed. "Yes, I worked for Release Time, but so did over 200 other rabbinical students, and that was 19 years ago. The only way the Rebbe could have known about my involvement was from the reports that Rabbi Hecht's office submitted. This means that the Rebbe had minor details of reports that were 19 years old at his fingertips!"

If you go through the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, you'll find many shuls named for European towns or chassidic courts: Bobov, Gur, Munkatch, Belz, and many others. One of the smaller shuls on 49th Street is named Foltichen, after a Rumanian city that was home to the chassidim of the Foltichener Rebbe.

Today, his grandson, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Twersky, continues the family tradition. From morning to night, the young Foltichener Rebbe is involved in helping others.

One day, a young Lubavitcher family visited from Providence, RI. The Foltichener Rebbe had met them several years earlier when he had visited New England. Now they stopped in after visiting Crown Heights.

As is customary with some chassidic Rebbeim, the guests do most of the talking. In this case, one of the children mentioned that they had just stood in line for hours to receive a berachah and a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Foltichener smiled and said proudly: "I too received a blessing and a dollar from the Rebbe. Only I didn't stand in line. In fact, I didn't even ask for it!"

He was immediately pressed for the story. "A poor widow approached me for tzedakah. Rather than just give her a donation, I helped her set up a business. She purchased some items to resell, and I let her use the women's section of our shul as her store. Every day, people from around the neighborhood would come and buy things.

"Once, she decided to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a berachah for parnosah. After standing in line, the Rebbe gave his berachah and a dollar. Then he gave her another dollar. Before the young woman could ask for an explanation, the Rebbe smiled and said: 'Give this to the one who helps you!'

Rabbi Eli Kaplan has many Lubavitch relatives, and so found many occasions to ask for the Rebbe's blessings. One Sunday, when the Rebbe was distributing dollars for charity, he came to seek a blessing for a daughter who had just become pregnant.

The Rebbe asked for his daughter's Hebrew name and her mother's name, and gave a blessing for a successful pregnancy and a healthy child.

Rabbi Kaplan then continued, telling the Rebbe that since he was a kohen, he would like to give the Rebbe a blessing. The Rebbe agreed, and so Rabbi Kaplan said: "May G-d enable you to continue with your holy work and be successful."

"Thank you," the Rebbe answered, "but I cannot do this alone; I need your help."

As Rabbi Kaplan was turning to leave, the Rebbe asked him: "Are you ready to recite the Priestly Blessings in the Beis HaMikdash?"



  1. (Back to text) Shmos 3:3.

  2. (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 19:5, Yalkut Shimoni, Vol. II, sec. 917, cited by Rashi in his commentary to the verse.

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