Weekly Chasidic Story #1270 (s5782-32)
10 Nissan 5782/April 11, 2022
"Things are quiet
now," his business associates reassured him. "The cyclone is distant
and the streets here are calm. You can come. There's nothing to worry about."
But Mr. Max Cohen still was not convinced.
1) Passover Seder will take place on this Friday evening - Shabbat.
Tonight, Tuesday, 11th Nissan (April 12) starts the 120th anniversary of the birth
of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing
Mr. Max Cohen from Manchester received a call from a
business associate in Bangladesh. "Mr. Cohen, we've prepared a large shipment
of merchandise for you. We are eagerly awaiting your arrival, so we can close
Mr. Cohen was equally keen on the deal. For years, he
had benefited from his association with the textile industry in that country.
And yet he had mixed feelings.
He was familiar with the country, rife with
civil uprisings and natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
a year earlier, he had fled the country without concluding his business, after
violent fighting had broken out in the streets. Some months later, enroute from
Hong Kong, he canceled a stopover in Bangladesh because a full-force cyclone had
ripped through the country.
On April 21, 1991, one month before the flight
he had reserved, the 9:00 PM news had reported that another cyclone had hit Bangladesh
[which left 138,000 dead and 10 million homeless]. That, and the fact that by
10:00 PM he had not received an answer from the Rebbe, were enough to cause Mr.
Cohen to seriously consider canceling his flight.
He spoke several times
to his associates there. They tried repeatedly to calm his fears. "Things
are quiet now, Max," they reassured him. "The worst of the cyclone is
over and the streets here in Chittagong are calm. There is nothing to worry about."
Cohen still was not convinced. After considerable deliberation, he proceeded with
the arrangements for the trip, but faxed the details of his plans to the Lubavitcher
Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, asking his advice
His flight was scheduled for the following Sunday. Throughout
the entire week Mr. Cohen remained in contact with the Rebbe's office in the Crown
Heights section of Brooklyn, inquiring whether or not he had received a reply,
but to no avail. Sunday morning, Mr. Cohen called the Rebbe's secretary at his
home. "Is there anything you can do for me? I need an answer urgently."
difficult to ask the Rebbe such matters on Sunday, because he devotes many hours
to distributing dollars," the secretary said. (Beginning in 1986, the Rebbe
would conduct a weekly "receiving line"; every visitor received a dollar
to give to charity.)
In the evening Mr. Cohen drove to the airport. There
was still time before the 10:30 PM departure. "If an answer from the Rebbe
comes, I'll be ready to go," he thought as he checked in.
passengers relaxed in the departure lobby, Mr. Cohen nervously called Lubavitch
headquarters several times. Friends in Crown Heights also tried to verify if there
was an answer for him. In his dilemma, he called his brother-in-law, David Jaffe,
for advice. After he hung up the phone, David had an idea. He hurried over to
the dollar line and asked the Rebbe for a reply for his brother-in-law.
his baggage was being removed from the plane, he placed a final call to his father-in-law,
Abraham Jaffe, in Manchester. "I'll have to stay overnight in London,"
he said. "I'll return to Manchester tomorrow." As they conversed, Mr.
Cohen began to unwind and relax from the tense hours he had gone through. The
men continued talking casually for a while, when Mr. Jaffe heard a beep on his
line. "Excuse me, Max, I have another call. I'll put you on hold for just
On the other line was his son David from Crown Heights.
"I have news for Max," he said excitedly, "but I don't know how
to reach him." With a press on the button, the elder Mr. Jaffe connected
Max with a conference call. The two men listened in anticipation as David related
"When I reached the Rebbe, it was 5:00 PM, and already
10:00 PM in London. I described Max's situation to the Rebbe, explaining that
he was at the airport waiting for the Rebbe's blessing. 'It's tumultuous there,'
the Rebbe said. I ventured to tell the Rebbe that things had become calmer. The
Rebbe then handed me a dollar for Max, and gave him his blessing for a successful
"I turned to go, but the Rebbe's attendant called me back.
The Rebbe gave me another dollar and said: 'This is for the shaliach (emissary)
"I stood transfixed in amazement. 'Jews in Bangladesh?'
I wondered. 'And a Lubavitch shaliach at that?'
"The Rebbe surely
noticed my astonishment, for he added: 'There is a Jew in that country who is
involved with Lubavitch. I shall forward the dollars by special delivery to Max's
hotel in Bangladesh. I won't keep you another moment.'"
no time to lose. Laden with his suitcases that had already been deplaned, and
the Rebbe's blessing, Mr. Cohen boarded in the nick of time.
flight gave him ample time to recollect his thoughts and muse at the unbelievable
chain of events. If David hadn't had that idea; if I hadn't called my father-in-law;
if we hadn't prolonged our conversation; if David's call would have come a minute
later . . . what divine providence!
But what was mostly on his mind was
the mysterious mission from the Rebbe to deliver a dollar to "a Jew who is
involved in Lubavitch activity." He had traveled to Bangladesh many times.
His business associates were all Muslims, and so was almost everyone else he had
ever met there. A Jew in Bangladesh? A Lubavitch activist? Even if so how was
he supposed to locate him in a population of 114 million...?
in the city of Chittagong in eastern Bangladesh, Mr. Cohen checked into Hotel
Agribad and set out to find the person for whom the Rebbe had sent the dollar.
two days of searching, Mr. Cohen returned to his hotel weary and frustrated. Just
then he noticed a man hurrying towards the elevator before its doors closed. There
was something striking in the man's face. A thought flashed through his mind.
He retraced his steps towards the elevator.
"Excuse me, sir, are you
The man turned around and stared at Mr. Cohen. The elevator
doors closed, but the man remained standing there.
Minutes later, the two men were deep in conversation
in Mr. Cohen's hotel room. Two Jews, two worlds of business, personal concerns,
and interesting experiences came together in a meeting of chance in distant Bangladesh.
was it chance? As they conversed, Mr. Cohen sensed that this indeed was the man
he was looking for.
"The Lubavitcher Rebbe asked me to deliver a dollar
to a Jew who is involved in Lubavitch activity in Bangladesh."
man, who had introduced himself as Walter from North Carolina, was visibly moved.
"Yes, I know the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and from time to time I am involved in
Lubavitch activities," he said slowly. "I suppose this is the Rebbe's
way of expressing his concern and encouragement to a simple Jew halfway around
And Walter began to tell his story:
business takes me to many places throughout the world, but I have spent most of
my recent years in Bangladesh. Come what may, however, I always go back to North
Carolina at least twice a year, for Passover and for the High Holidays.
my business brought me to Bangladesh, I was an active member of the Jewish community
in Charlotte, North Carolina. We have a large community with many members, but
like other communities in the States, many do not observe mitzvot. Intermarriage
is on the rise, and our youth lack direction. So I wholeheartedly welcomed the
young Lubavitch couple who arrived in North Carolina in 1980, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak
and Mrs. Mariasha Groner.
"I did my best to help them acclimate themselves
into our community and get started with their work. I maintain a close, steady
relationship with them, even though seven years have passed since I moved here.
Also, my wife and I travel back twice a year for the holidays.
phoning Rabbi Groner some years ago, I discussed an issue which had been on my
mind. Over the years, I had met a number of Jewish families who spend extended
periods of time here in Bangladesh on business. They and their children had very
little, if any, connection with Jewish values and observance. Rabbi Groner helped
me organize a Jewish education program for the children. Since then, he has been
sending me educational material from North Carolina.
three years ago, Rabbi Groner mentioned that he had included a report of my Bangladesh
activities in his periodic reports of his own activities to the Rebbe."
continued slowly, and his next words were emotionally charged: "Don't ask
me too many questions about our providential meeting here. I honestly have no
"I, and all the families with whom I am involved,
live in Dhaka, the capital. My business affairs have always been located in the
same area. I never traveled to other parts of this country until this Monday morning,
when I felt a sudden urge to see some of the tourist attractions in this area.
This is how I happened to be here in Chittagong. I plan to return to Dhaka tomorrow
"It seems that the Rebbe saw fit to encourage me, a distant
Jew whom he heard about three years ago!"
Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "To Know and to Care" vol. 1.
You can hear Max Cohen tell the story, with a video clip of his dialogue with
the Rebbe, on Chabad,org. In fact, a number of details there differ from the above
story, and presumably are more accurate. I added a few at the last moment.)
1) Passover Seder will take place on this Friday evening - Shabbat.
Tuesday is the 120th anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's birth.
Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe :
[11 Nissan 5662 - 3 Tammuz 5754 (April 1902 - June 1994 C.E.)], became the seventh
Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law's passing on 10 Shvat 5710
(1950 C.E.). He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second
half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and
hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects,
the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on
the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism
number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed,
as well as dozens of English renditions.
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them
live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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also available for purchase on
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