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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 13
Beyond Nature's Limits

by Eliyahu and Malka Touger

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  "Rejoice O Barren One"Sparks of Greatness  

In the 1950s, a group of Jewish university students met with the Rebbe to speak about the questions and difficulties they experienced maintaining their faith despite the challenges which scientific knowledge and the demands of secular American society appeared to present. In the course of the discussion, one of the students bluntly asked the Rebbe: "It has been said that the Rebbe can perform miracles. Is this true?"

The Rebbe answered: Every Jew possesses a soul which is an actual part of G-d. Like G-d, the Jew's soul is not limited by the constraints of the natural order. The Torah is the medium which connects a Jew to his G-dly source. When a Jew attaches himself to the Torah, his G-dly potential is revealed, and he is not bound by the natural order.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Rebbe turned to the students and said: Let us all work miracles. We entered this room with limited spiritual horizons. Let's all make a commitment to expand them immeasurably, to advance in our devotion to the Torah and its mitzvos in a manner which could truly be considered miraculous.

The Rebbe's words recall an old chassidic adage with regard to miracles: "Our Sages say: [1] 'A tzaddik decrees, and G-d carries out his will.' It is, however, far more instructive to watch a tzaddik carry out G-d's will, than to watch G-d carry out a tzaddik's will."

We see, nevertheless, that chassidim have always told stories of the miracles their Rebbeim performed. Indeed, those stories have a unique attraction, sometimes luring our attention far more persuasively than an instructive story of how to advance our divine service.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the chassidic movement, has been identified with miracles, so much so that Yiddish speakers use the expression "a Baal Shem'ske maaseh" (a story like those of the Baal Shem Tov) to refer to a miracle.

It is popularly explained that Baal Shem Tov performed miracles out of necessity. A Jew was in dire need, and out of concern, he worked a miracle to extricate him from his situation.

But there is a deeper motif. The Baal Shem Tov performed miracles not merely to help the person, but to reveal a dimension of G-dliness which transcends the natural order. A miracle expands our perspective and enables us to appreciate the inner G-dliness that permeates every dimension of our existence.

Nature and its limitations are not the sum total of our frame of reference. On the contrary, there is a higher reality which is not confined by these limitations. As our Sages said: [2] "He who ordained that oil should burn [can] ordain that vinegar shall burn."

Seeing one miracle makes it possible for us to understand that our lives and the world we live in is one continuous series of miracles. Hearing of the miracles performed by the Baal Shem Tov and his spiritual heirs lifts us beyond the day-to-day details of material existence and sensitizes us to the spiritual reality which lies at the core of our lives.

Pinchas Krinsky had developed a relationship with the Rebbe during the lifetime of the Rebbe Rayatz. As a student in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah, he would volunteer to help with various tasks that came up in the organizations - Kehot Publications, Merkos (the Central Organization for Jewish Education), and Machne Israel - which the Rebbe directed.

Pinchas returned to Boston before the Rebbe Rayatz passed away. On 14 MarCheshvan, 5711 (1950), three months before the Rebbe formally accepted the nesius, the mother of one of Pinchas's friends called him with somber news. Her son, A.S., who had been a student in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in New York, had been found unconscious in the street. Evidently, he had been hit by a car. He was brought to the hospital, where he remained in a coma.

Pinchas called New York and spoke to Rabbi Chodakov, asking him to inform the Rebbe of A.S.'s condition and request a blessing.

Rabbi Chodakov called back with the following message from the Rebbe: Pinchas should immerse himself in a mikveh before going to the hospital. He should approach the patient directly and speak the following words: "A., the Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac, son of the Rebbe, Sholom DovBer, has been notified. Therefore you will be well." The Rebbe also asked that Pinchas apprise him of any positive developments.

When Pinchas got to the hospital, A. was unconscious and attached to various life-sustaining machines. After the nurses allowed him to approach the patient, Pinchas followed the Rebbe's instructions to the letter.

Despite his absolute faith in the Rebbe, he was dumbfounded at what took place. Within moments, A. regained consciousness, looked at Pinchas, and said: "Hi, Pinny." He then asked to have the feeding tube in his nose removed because it was uncomfortable. Pinchas went into the hall and relayed his friend's request to the doctors. Without waiting to hear that it was A.S. himself who had asked that the tube be removed, they said: "It can't be removed. He will be lucky if he comes to in a week or ten days." They were shocked to find that he had regained consciousness. Pinchas then called New York to inform the Rebbe of what had happened.

The next time Pinchas went to New York, the Rebbe asked him: "Were there other people on the ward?"

"Yes," Krinsky answered.

"Did you go to them as well?" the Rebbe asked.

"No," Krinsky answered, suddenly aware of the Rebbe's intent. Here the gift of life had been in his hands, and he had not used it fully!

When the story was told, the Rebbe said that his father-in-law was still performing miracles. The chassidim thought otherwise.

In the summer of 5719 (1959), two brothers arrived at the shul of Rabbi Moshe Aharon Geisinsky. They were wearing black shivah ribbons and recited Kaddish. Over the coming weeks they continued to attend services, and Rabbi Geisinsky was able to develop a relationship with them. The brothers, Louis and Max Hozinsky, prided themselves on being direct descendants of the great tzaddik, R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.

Louis bore the tzaddik's Hebrew name. Perhaps for that reason, he showed a greater interest in Jewish practice. He began to put on tefillin every day, invited Rabbi Geisinsky to his home to put up mezuzos, and took on certain aspects of Shabbos observance.

After he had been putting on tefillin consistently, Rabbi Geisinsky encouraged him to write a letter to the Rebbe informing him of his commitment and asking for a blessing. Louis did so, and received a warm reply.

One weekday evening, Rabbi Geisinsky took Louis to join the Rebbe for the evening service. Louis emerged awe-struck. "It must be that he's too holy for me," he told Rabbi Geisinsky. "Never have I felt such fear! I've met Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, but none of them made me feel like this! It's too much for me! I don't want to see him again!" Rabbi Geisinsky did not press the issue, and their relationship continued.

In 1959, Yom Kippur began on Sunday evening. At 10 PM on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the beginning of that holy day, Rabbi Geisinsky was startled to hear his door bell ring. Though it was later than usual for guests to call, Rabbi Geisinsky answered the door. He was surprised to see a very worried Louis Hozinsky. Louis explained that his younger brother Max was waiting in the car, too embarrassed to speak to the Rabbi. Rabbi Geisinsky approached Max and invited him in.

Max began to tell his story. A week earlier, he had been examined at a hospital and the doctors had diagnosed cancer. They had wanted to operate immediately, and only sent him home because there were no empty beds. He had gone from doctor to doctor for another opinion, and all had concurred with the previous diagnosis.

Earlier that day, he continued, he had seen a great specialist, who told him that the diagnosis was probably correct, and that an operation would be necessary in the near future. Nevertheless, he was not as emphatic about the time factor and felt that Max could wait a while for the operation. When Max returned home, the doctors from the first hospital had called, saying they now had an open bed and that Mr. Hozinsky should come immediately.

"Give me a blessing and advice," Max asked Rabbi Geisinsky, "What should I do?"

Rabbi Geisinsky tried to explain that such matters were beyond his ability, but the brothers pressed him for an answer.

"This is a matter with which only the Rebbe can deal," Rabbi Geisinsky told them. He then instructed them to speak to Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe's personal secretary, and ask to see the Rebbe immediately. If Rabbi Chodakov would not agree, Rabbi Geisinsky advised them to wait for an opportunity to approach the Rebbe and speak to him directly.

The brothers immediately proceeded to 770, arriving at approximately 11:00 p.m. Rabbi Chodakov explained that it was impossible to see the Rebbe at this time, and suggested they write a letter. (In general, the custom among the Rebbeim was to remain awake the entire night before Yom Kippur and not to receive any callers whatsoever.)

The brothers waited outside the Rebbe's office until about midnight, when the Rebbe emerged and locked the door.

Louis introduced himself and told the Rebbe that he had an urgent matter to discuss. The Rebbe re-opened the door to his room and invited the brothers in. "I was expecting you," he told them.

After hearing the details of his condition, the Rebbe told Max: "I have a medicine for you. Begin putting on tefillin, starting tomorrow. There is no need for an operation. All you need is a diet. I will prescribe one for you. After three weeks, visit Dr. Seligson (the Rebbe's personal doctor and chassid) and take his advice."

As they were about to leave, the Rebbe reiterated: "I was expecting that you would come tonight for medicine, and your medicine is to put on tefillin." Three times, the Rebbe repeated "Your medicine is to put on tefillin."

The brothers called Rabbi Geisinsky at 12:45 and told him of their meeting.

The next day, as was his custom every year on the day before Yom Kippur, the Rebbe distributed lekach (honey cake) to his chassidim. Rabbi Geisinsky joined the long line of followers. When his turn came, the Rebbe told him: "The Hozinsky brothers were here last night."

Rabbi Geisinsky replied that he knew of their visit.

"Did he put on tefillin?" the Rebbe asked.

"I don't know," Rabbi Geisinsky answered, "I assume he did."

"Make sure he puts on tefillin," the Rebbe said.

Afterwards, Rabbi Geisinsky called and found out that Max had indeed put on tefillin. He told the two brothers about the importance of fasting on Yom Kippur, and Louis agreed to fast for the first time in his life. Because of Max's physical condition, Rabbi Geisinsky consulted with other rabbis, and they agreed that he should eat small amounts at spaced intervals, as prescribed in the Shulchan Aruch.

Max was too concerned about his condition to wait three weeks before consulting Dr. Seligson. Instead, he called him directly after Yom Kippur and arranged an examination.

When Max entered, he told Dr. Seligson that the Rebbe had sent him. "What did the Rebbe say?" the doctor asked.

"Are you a chassid or a doctor?" Max replied.

Dr. Seligson performed an examination and saw that a severe problem existed. He also advised an operation. It was only then that Max told him the Rebbe's advice.

"Wait until I consult the Rebbe," Dr. Seligson told him.

Late that night, Dr. Seligson called Max and told him that he no longer advised an operation. Instead, Max should follow the Rebbe's instructions carefully.

Max immediately called Rabbi Geisinsky - it was then Tuesday night - and told him all the particulars, adding that since Saturday night he had already gained three pounds, which, for a cancer patient, is more than surprising.

Several days later, Max called Rabbi Geisinsky again. His sister was pressing him, he explained, to have X-rays taken and to consult a well-known specialist. Would doing so be going against the Rebbe's wishes? Could Rabbi Geisinsky ask the Rebbe for him?

Rabbi Geisinsky submitted the request. The Rebbe replied that if Max himself wanted the examination, he should go.

Max scheduled the examination, but the X-rays were inconclusive. The doctor scheduled another visit in six weeks.

During the next three weeks, Max gained 12 pounds. After taking the second set of X-rays, the specialist declared that there was no trace of cancer. Indeed, he called the hospital and demanded to know why they had thought of operating! The hospital doctors couldn't understand; the growth was obvious in the original X-rays. Why had it disappeared?

On Yud-Beis Tammuz (Tammuz 12), 5687 (1927), the Previous Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was released from prison in Stalinist Russia. Ever since then, the date is celebrated as a major holiday among Lubavitcher chassidim.

Rabbi Berel Baumgarten, the Rebbe's shliach in Argentina, cherished this occasion, and often spent the day at 770, taking in the Rebbe's farbrengen. At other times, he used the holiday as an opportunity to spread awareness of chassidism to others.

One year, however, he was forced to travel from Argentina to Brazil, and realized that on Yud-Beis Tammuz, he would be in the middle of his journey. Disturbed at the prospect of spending this auspicious date far from anyone with whom he could share his feelings, he sent the Rebbe a telegram before he left home, asking to be remembered on that date.

In order to reach Brazil, Rabbi Baumgarten had to cross the Iguacu River by ferry - a boat with an open deck covered by an awning, with several heavy-duty rafts tied together to carry cars and cargo.

Together with several others, Rabbi Baumgarten followed instructions and drove his car onto the raft. As soon as the cars were parked, he and the others left their vehicles and enjoyed the fresh air beneath the awning. At first, Rabbi Baumgarten was happy to find that two of his fellow passengers were Jews. But his joy turned to consternation when he discovered that they were totally alienated from their heritage, and had no desire to hear about Jewish practice or ideas. One of them brazenly flaunted a ham sandwich before him, making it clear how little Judaism meant to him. Feeling that further conversation would be futile, and offended by their actions, Rabbi Baumgarten returned to his car and opened his books to study.

Suddenly, there was a powerful jolt - a banana boat had slammed into the raft! Huge beams that had been piled in a corner of the raft began tumbling down, pushing cars off the raft and into the Iguacu River. To his shock, Rabbi Baumgarten's car also began to move. He slammed his foot on the brake, but was powerless to stop the car's forward motion. It too crashed into the waves and started to sink!

Now Rabbi Baumgarten was a big man, over six feet tall and more than 250 pounds. Yet, as big and strong as he was, he couldn't open the car door; the water pressure was simply too great. What happened next, he never knew, but suddenly his door opened, and he found himself out of the car and in the water, being pulled upward.

His troubles, however, were far from over. Yes, he had escaped the sinking vehicle, but Rabbi Baumgarten had never learned to swim. Frantically kicking and flailing his arms for what seemed like hours, he was at the end of his strength when his head suddenly broke through the water. Exhausted, Rabbi Baumgarten could only bob helplessly up and down; he had no idea what was keeping him afloat. Between waves, he could see the raft close by, but was powerless to move towards it.

To make matters even worse, he could hear a rumbling thunder in the distance, and realized with horror that the river's powerful current was beginning to pull him away from the raft, and towards a waterfall! As the white water crashed over him, Rabbi Baumgarten looked up to see a man heaving a life-preserver toward him. It splashed into the river just within reach.

Rabbi Baumgarten grabbed the life-preserver and drew it close. He tried to put it over his body, but he was simply too big. Though his strength was giving out, there was no alternative; he would have to hold on by hand. While in the water, he pictured the Rebbe's face before him.

After he had been hauled into the raft and was able to regain his composure, the two Jews whom he had met previously approached him, overcome with remorse. They realized that it was because of them that Rabbi Baumgarten had returned to his car, and apologized for their previous conduct. The man who had flaunted the sandwich even promised to keep kosher from that time onward.

After Rabbi Baumgarten reached the far shore, he began to contemplate his situation. He had no explanation for the miracle that had occurred. Days later, he understood. When he called the Rebbe's office and asked that the Rebbe be told what had happened, one of the secretaries told him when his telegram had been delivered. Calculating the difference in time-zones, he realized that the Rebbe must have been reading the telegram at precisely the time that his car had been dislodged from the raft!

All these calculations, however, came later; at the moment, he had more immediate concerns. His personal belongings had all been lost with the car, and he was far from any Jewish community. Where would he find a tallis and tefillin with which to pray?

Now in Brazil, Tammuz falls in the winter and the days are short. Rabbi Baumgarten found that there was a small airport nearby, but no flights were scheduled until late afternoon; he would not be able to reach another city before sunset. He did not know what to do, being unable to conceive of letting the day pass without putting on tefillin.

He inquired about hiring a private plane. Although the cost was exorbitant, he was able to find a pilot who could fly him to another city before sunset. He sent a telegram to the leaders of the Jewish community there, asking them to meet him at the airport with tefillin.

There was a mix-up in communications, however, and no one greeted Rabbi Baumgarten at the airport. With less than an hour left before nightfall, Rabbi Baumgarten grabbed a cab and told him to hurry to the nearest synagogue. Unfortunately, night fell before he could get there. Broken-hearted, he stopped the cab and sat down on a nearby park bench and cried.

At his next yechidus, he asked the Rebbe how he could atone for not putting on tefillin that day.

Before answering his question, the Rebbe looked up at him and asked: "Well, did I think about you? Yes or no?"

He then instructed Rabbi Baumgarten to study the laws of tefillin in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, and the discourses in chassidic thought that speak about the subjugation of heart and mind - the spiritual message associated with the mitzvah of tefillin.

Rabbi Baumgarten lamented that a pocket-sized Siddur and Tanya which he had been given by the Rebbe were now at the bottom of the Iguacu River. "Could the Rebbe please replace them?" he asked.

"Why? Is it my fault?" replied the Rebbe with a smile. He did, however, give Rabbi Baumgarten another Siddur and Tanya.

In 5732 (1972), Yocheved Chanah Ratner married Avraham David Stauber. It was a gilt-edged wedding. Both came from wealthy, well-connected Californian Jewish families. They seemed to be riding the peak of good fortune.

But the wheel of fortune has been known to turn. Two years later, when David graduated from law school, the Ratner-Staubers took a long-awaited European vacation. While driving through Greece, their sportscar veered off a mountain road and plunged into a deep ravine. Avraham David escaped with minor injuries, but his young wife was stuck in the wreck for hours. When she was finally extricated she was bleeding all over, and partially paralyzed. By helicopter, she was flown to a hospital in Athens.

The extent of Yocheved Chanah's injuries was beyond the expertise of the Greek doctors. Fearing damage to her spine, they inserted a metal plate in her back. The surgery was unsuccessful; indeed, it increased the extent of her paralysis. Gangrene and hepatitis set in. Out of fear and frustration, the doctors advised the Ratner-Staubers to have her transferred to an American facility.

Resolving to provide their daughter with the finest medical care, her parents had her brought to a hospital in California. After an initial examination, the doctors were very pessimistic. They doubted Yocheved Chanah would ever be able to sit up again.

Shortly after her arrival at the hospital, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, West Coast Director of Chabad-Lubavitch, visited Mrs. Ratner-Stauber. Yocheved Chanah's father had been one of Chabad's initial supporters in Los Angeles, and for several months before leaving for Europe, the Ratner-Staubers had attended Shabbos services at the Chabad House. Indeed, a week before they departed, they had been Shabbos guests at the Cunin home.

Rabbi Cunin was direct and to the point: Many seriously ill people had been helped by the Rebbe. Yocheved Chanah should write to ask for a blessing.

Yocheved Chanah had never written to the Rebbe before, but the thought that his blessing might help filled her with hope. As she composed the letter, she felt a spiritual connection and a sense of inner peace.

The Rebbe replied immediately, sending a response in duplicate by special delivery, one copy to the hospital where Yocheved Chanah was convalescing and another to Rabbi Cunin. Moreover, he had one of his secretaries call Rabbi Cunin and convey the essence of his message verbally, to make sure that Yocheved Chanah received an answer before Shabbos.

The Rebbe instructed Yocheved Chanah to light Shabbos candles,[3] preferably by kindling the lights herself. He also emphasized the importance of bitachon (trust in G-d's ability to heal), and concluded with a blessing.

Yocheved Chanah was partially paralyzed, and had been given instructions not to move, for any movement could further damage the nerves in her spine. For her to light candles meant that her husband had to place one in her hand and move it so that she could light. This he did for several months.

Yocheved Chanah's condition began to improve, and she was moved from the hospital to a rehab center. One Friday her husband was visiting and her parents were supposed to come and bring the Shabbos candles. The Ratners became stuck in traffic, however, and arrived after Shabbos had begun. Yocheved Chanah knew that she should not light candles after Shabbos had started, and so did not have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah.

Later that night, she began hemorrhaging. The doctors did not know what to do. At one point, they thought she had only moments to live.

After the Shabbos ended, her husband called Rabbi Cunin and told him the story. Rabbi Cunin had him promise never to allow such a situation to repeat itself and called the Rebbe's secretariat. Shortly afterwards, the hemorrhages stopped.

From that point onward, Yocheved Chanah made marked improvements, and within four months she was discharged from the rehab center. Although she remained confined to a wheelchair, she returned home and began to resume ordinary life. So complete was her recovery that she would - and still does - swim for several hours a day.

When she was discharged, the doctors warned her not to enter pregnancy for at least two years. She did not heed their warning, and entered her first pregnancy shortly thereafter. It goes without saying that one of the first things she did after conceiving was to write to the Rebbe telling of the doctors' concern and asking for his blessings.

The Rebbe replied, promising her an easy pregnancy and an easy birth, that both she and the baby would be healthy, and that she would deliver a happy and healthy child at an auspicious hour.

When Yocheved Chanah told her doctor about the pregnancy, he advised her to abort. Having a child would be too risky, he told her.

When he saw she was adamant, he changed his tone. "We'll schedule a Cesarean delivery," he told her. In his mind, a natural childbirth was absolutely out of the question.

Yocheved Chanah was resolute. She switched doctors, explaining: "My Rabbi promised me an easy birth. Why shouldn't it be natural?"

She chose the same obstetrician who had delivered Rabbi Cunin's children. He respected the Rebbe, and was willing to attempt a natural birth. He made one condition. "If at any moment, I decide a Cesarean is necessary, you must agree without argument," he told Yocheved Chanah.

True to the Rebbe's words, the pregnancy was easy. The birth was natural and the baby was delivered without complications.

And the baby was born "in an auspicious hour." The Ratner-Staubers had planned to name the child Aliyahu Simcha Adom after Yocheved Chanah's grandfather, and Adom was born on his namesake's yahrzeit.

A little less than two years after Adom was born, Yocheved Chanah entered a second pregnancy. Again, she wrote to the Rebbe for a blessing and received a warm reply.

Several months later, she was surprised to receive an unsolicited letter: "I am reiterating my blessings for your child. May you raise him to Torah, marriage and good deeds."

The family's curiosity was further piqued when, at the Rebbe's Yud-Alef Nissan farbrengen, Yocheved Chanah's father approached him and asked for a blessing. The Rebbe covered the microphone and told him: "Your grandson will be fine."

Several days later, the Ratner-Staubers understood the Rebbe's intent. On the morning after the Second Seder, Adom fell ill and was rushed to hospital. The doctors diagnosed spinal meningitis. They did what they could, but had little hope of combating the dread disease. Bluntly, they told the Ratner-Staubers that the child would not survive.

As soon as the holiday ended, Rabbi Cunin called to tell the Rebbe what had happened, but received no answer. During this time, little Adom hovered between life and death.

Then one day, Rabbi Cunin rushed into Adom's hospital room. "The Rebbe gave his blessing," he told the Ratner-Staubers. And directly afterwards, as if it had been planned, a doctor entered with test results indicating that the baby's condition had taken a turn for the better.

Shortly afterwards, Aliyahu Simchah Adom recovered, and continued to develop normally, with no sign of what he had undergone.

The Baal Shem Tov initiated the custom of holding Mashiach's Seudah (the feast of Mashiach) on the last day of Pesach. At 770, this was always the occasion for a unique farbrengen at which, in keeping with the custom established by the Rebbe Rashab, the Rebbe and all those present each drank four cups of wine. At the conclusion of the gathering, the Rebbe would lead the chassidim in the grace after meals while holding a fifth cup, and afterwards would distribute wine from this cup - "the cup of blessing" - to all the chassidim, as well as to Jews from all walks of life, who filed by to receive this blessing.

Reb Sholom Yeshaya Deitsch was one of the dedicated chassidim in the Crown Heights community who never missed a farbrengen. Even when his sons were very young, he would take them along, educating them to treasure time spent with the Rebbe. Mashiach's Seudah was surely no exception and so, on the last day of Pesach, 5727 (1967), Reb Sholom Yeshaya took his place at the farbrengen, positioning his youngest son Avraham Moshe, then a boy of 11, at one of the tables behind him.

The farbrengen proceeded, and the Rebbe delivered several sichos. In between, the chassidim sang niggunim, and some used the opportunity to say LeChaim to the Rebbe. At one point between sichos, Reb Sholom noticed the Rebbe looking intently in his direction, and holding up four fingers, a sign that someone should partake of the four cups of wine.

To whom was the Rebbe gesturing? Reb Sholom assumed that it was to another chassid nearby; he was certain it was not to him. But when, almost insistently, the Rebbe pointed to Reb Sholom's son, Avraham Moshe, and held up four fingers, the intent became clear: The boy should also drink the four cups.[4]

So Reb Sholom filled a cup and gave it to his son. The boy held it up to the Rebbe, received a nod of approval, recited the blessing and drank it to the bottom. The Rebbe smiled and began delivering another sichah.

After concluding that sichah, the Rebbe again turned to Reb Sholom and Avraham Moshe, holding three fingers up and one bent over. Again, the intent was clear, and the boy downed his second cup.

As the farbrengen continued, young Avraham Moshe drank his third and fourth cups of wine. Shortly thereafter the farbrengen concluded, and the chassidim lined up to receive wine from "the cup of blessing."

Avraham Moshe, however, was not among them; the late hour and the four cups of wine had taken their toll, and the lad had fallen fast asleep on a table. One of the Deitschs' neighbors volunteered to carry him home while his father stayed behind to partake of "the cup of blessing."

When Reb Sholom approached the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked him where his son was. When Reb Sholom explained that the boy had fallen asleep, the Rebbe smiled understandingly. Reb Sholom then moved on, curious as to the meaning of the sequence of events.

Several weeks later, on the holiday of Shavuos, Reb Sholom suffered his first heart attack. When he had recuperated enough to take his place at a farbrengen, he approached the Rebbe and asked for a blessing for health. In reply, the Rebbe told him: "I gave your son the four cups to drink."

One Saturday night, shortly after the Sabbath ended, the phone rang in the home of Rabbi Leibl Groner, the Rebbe's secretary. It was an elderly chassid, asking for a blessing for his wife. She had been in hospital for several days, and her condition was critical.

"Would Rabbi Groner ask the Rebbe for a blessing?" the chassid asked.

Rabbi Groner offered some words of reassurance, but told the chassid that it was often difficult to establish contact with the Rebbe on a Saturday night. He would try, but if it was not possible, he would pass on the message first thing Sunday morning.

As Rabbi Groner had suspected, he was unable to contact the Rebbe that night. Sunday morning, as soon as the Rebbe came to 770, Rabbi Groner told him of the chassid's wife. The Rebbe listened, and told Rabbi Groner to call Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe's senior aide.

Rabbi Groner got Rabbi Chodakov on the line. After speaking to the Rebbe for several minutes, Rabbi Chodakov told Rabbi Groner to call the chassid so that he, Rabbi Chodakov, could communicate a message from the Rebbe.

Several moments after Rabbi Chodakov spoke to the chassid, the old man called Rabbi Groner back and told him the entire story.

His wife had been ill for several days. On Friday night, her condition had become so desperate that the doctors abandoned hope. Early Saturday morning, however, her condition took a sharp turn for the better. Nevertheless, as soon as the Sabbath ended, the chassid had called Rabbi Groner to ask for the Rebbe's blessing. During the interim, her condition continued to improve, and the doctors were confident that she would recover.

"Rabbi Chodakov said the Rebbe had instructed him to tell me that my wife's condition had begun to improve about 5:00 a.m. Saturday. He emphasized that, in case I might think this was due to other factors, I was to tell you that her recovery came about because someone had thought about her at that time."

It was one of those pleasant moments at which a shliach can sit back and take satisfaction in the success of his work. He had begun a day camp, and had been able to inspire the children and many of their parents to deeper Jewish involvement.

One couple in particular had shown an active interest, and were making steady progress in observance. The woman had just given birth, and the new parents were honoring the shliach by choosing him as the sandek.[5] And so it was with feelings of calm satisfaction that the shliach took hold of the infant.

Suddenly, he was jolted out of his reverie by a look of alarm on the mohel's face. The child was turning blue!

There was no thought of performing the bris. One of the guests knew first-aid, and administered artificial respiration until the ambulance arrived. The child was rushed to the hospital and placed in intensive care.

Startled by the turn of events, the shliach called Crown Heights and related the incident to the Rebbe's secretary, asking for a blessing. The Rebbe responded: "Apparently, the woman has not practiced the laws of taharas hamishpachah. What has happened until now is history. If she will promise to keep these laws in the future, her child will recover."

The shliach was somewhat hesitant about speaking to the woman; although he had developed a close relationship with the family, they had never spoken about such intimate matters. But did he have a choice? A child's life was hanging in the balance!

He called and found the mother resting after several hours at the hospital. He asked if she would like him and his wife to come over for support, and she said "yes." During their visit, the shliach found an appropriate opportunity to mention the Rebbe's comment.

"Have you ever heard about taharas hamishpachah?" he asked the woman.

"Yes," she responded, "my mother used to go to the mikveh."

"Well," he said, somewhat at a loss about how to continue, "when I asked the Rebbe for a blessing for your child, he responded by saying that your observance of these laws was lacking."

"How does he know?" exclaimed the woman.

"He's a Rebbe," answered the shliach, "and he's promising that if you make a commitment to observe these laws in the future, your baby will recover."

The woman promised to observe the mitzvah, and shortly afterwards the baby was released from hospital. The shliach was again called to serve as the sandek, and this time the bris proceeded without incident.

Mrs. Terri Naiditch, a member of the Lubavitch community in Pittsburgh, once received the following letter from her father:

"In the fall of 1985, I went for a check-up shortly before my crucial business season started, as was my habit in those years.

"I was referred to a dermatologist to confirm that a mole on my back had all the earmarks of a malignant melanoma - a potentially lethal affliction that can spread cancer throughout the body. He in turn sent me to the Mayo Clinic to see about having the mole removed.

"At the Mayo Clinic, I asked the head of the dermatology unit to tell me frankly whether the thing was malignant, for I was also suffering intense pain from a botched root canal, and was so discouraged by the pain and worry that I was considering early retirement. He not only confirmed that it was malignant, but even had his whole staff come in and look at my mole, evidently as a textbook example of a melanoma. (I had studied a pamphlet on this disorder, and had seen for myself that mine was identical to one of the most graphic illustrations.)

"Upon hearing of my planned operation, you and Pinky appealed to Rebbe Menachem Schneerson to intercede on my behalf, which he generously did.

"You know the sequel: When the operation took place, the tissue was sent out for the obligatory biopsy, and only moments after I was sewn up, the surgeon returned with the greeting: 'Boy, were you lucky! It's not malignant!'

"Now, you know that your mother and our dear friends the Dotys were there with me, and that their prayers and others were offered for me. The unique thing in my appreciation, though, was the help of the Rebbe. I do not make any claim - I do not feel qualified to do so - that G-d saved me from this life-threatening malady because of the Rebbe's intervention. Yet I have complete faith in the Mayo Clinic's staff and their diagnosis, and to me this experience cannot be explained in purely logical terms. I shall always feel a debt to, and a special affection for, the Rebbe - may his memory be a blessing to us all.



Now, Mrs. Naiditch is a convert; her father, John Huff, is not Jewish. Nonetheless, when a blessing was requested for him, the Rebbe responded.

A tall, dark, good-looking gentleman walked into 770 and asked to see the Rebbe. Rabbi Groner, the Rebbe's secretary, asked him who he was and the purpose of his visit.

"I am a doctor from South America," the visitor replied, "and I would like to meet the man who can perform life-saving miracles from thousands of miles away."

The man was an obstetrician. A Jewish woman had entered his hospital to give birth, but he had immediately realized there were severe complications. He called the husband aside and told him that a major decision had to be made. Either the baby could be delivered, which would kill the mother, or the infant could be sacrificed to save the woman. The decision was the father's, but he had to make his choice quickly.

The father wept, not knowing what to do. Then a Jewish woman standing nearby, hearing the man's anguish, approached and gently asked if anything could be done.

The husband told her the choice that he had to make, and confessed that he simply didn't know what to do.

The woman answered that there was a great tzaddik in New York who could work wonders. She then took the initiative and called the Rebbe's office. When Rabbi Groner was told the story, he said he would consult the Rebbe, and that the person should call back soon.

The Rebbe told Rabbi Groner to find out if the mother-to-be would accept the mitzvah of taharas hamishpachah.

When the man called back and was given the Rebbe's reply, his sister-in-law (who was with him) promised that she would see to it that her sister kept the mitzvah.

When the Rebbe received this assurance, he told Rabbi Groner that the husband should instruct the doctor to deliver the baby, and that both mother and child would be safe.

The happy results so surprised the physician that on his next trip to the US, he made it a point to visit 770.



  1. (Back to text) 1. Cf. Taanis 23a.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid., 25a.

  3. (Back to text) This was before the Rebbe began Mivtza Neshek, the widespread campaign to encourage women and girls to light Shabbos candles.

  4. (Back to text) Since this time, the Rebbe encouraged that also women and children participate in Mashiach's Seudah, and partake of four cups of wine or grape juice.

  5. (Back to text) The person who holds a baby while the circumcision is performed.

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