Weekly Chasidic Story #1294 (5783-01) 3 Tishrei
5783 (Sept. 28, 2022)
"I lost everything in the Holocaust. An old friend found me a job in the
Vaad HaHatzala ('Rescue Council') offices in Paris. The constant workload my
position required helped me maintain my sanity."
Connection: This Motzei Shabbat (Sat. nite), the 6th of Tishrei 5783, starts
the 60th yahrzeit of the Rebbetzin Chana.
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing
"I suppose I should have felt thankful and lucky," relates
Feivel S. about his involvement in the rehabilitation of displaced Jews in post-war
Europe. "I found it difficult to be optimistic about life after having
lost everything in the Holocaust. An old friend of mine found me a job in the
Vaad HaHatzala (Rescue Council) offices in Paris. The constant workload my position
required helped me maintain my sanity.
"Sitting behind a big gray desk piled with papers, files, and forms, I
found both solace and misery: solace in being in a position to help others reconstruct
their lives, constant misery while listening to tale after tale of woe.
"One day, I heard a gentle knock at the door to my office. This was a pleasant
change from the familiar nervous rapping of troubled survivors.
"'Come in,' I called.
"A well-dressed, bearded man walked up to my desk. I was deeply impressed
from the first moment I saw him. His distinguished features radiated inner peace.
That overwhelmed me, for in post-war Europe inner peace was a very rare commodity.
Moreover, his peaceful composure was catchy, and for the first time in years,
I felt at ease.
"'How can I help you?' I asked.
"'My mother, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, has arrived here from Russia.
I have come to facilitate her immigration to the United States. Can you please
advise me how much time I will have to set aside for this procedure? I would
like to organize my schedule accordingly.'"
"I could not take my eyes off this soft-spoken man. He was the first person
to come through my office who radiated a sense of direction, expressing the
desire to calculate time and spend it wisely. In the shambles of a chaotic Europe,
here was a man who valued his minutes.
"I promised to offer whatever assistance I could, assuring him that I would
try to process the necessary papers myself so that he could be free to use his
time as he saw fit. I gave him all the forms that had to be filled out, and
he supplied all the information required.
Afterwards, he expressed his gratitude and left my office. Though I had not
said so, I was also grateful to him. The few minutes he had spent with me endowed
me with renewed dedication and sense of purpose.
"Many years passed. In the interim, I married, built a family and immigrated
to the States. One day, I was driving through Brooklyn with a co-worker. 'Let's
go visit the Lubavitch headquarters,' he suggested.
"'Why not?' I replied. Seventeen years had passed since that incident in
Paris. Although I had never gone to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I had since learned
that he was the man who had visited my office then, and that meeting was still
etched in my memory.
"We arrived at 770 in the midst of a 'farbrengen' - a Chasidic gathering
with thousands in attendance. I marveled at the sight: an atmosphere of spiritual
intensity in sharp contrast to the ordinary American environment. I looked around
slowly, shifting my eyes periodically from the Rebbe to the chasidim.
"Suddenly, I caught the Rebbe's eye
or was it that he caught mine?
He was looking at me directly, while he motioned to one of his attendants and
said something to him. Before I knew it, the attendant was beside me.
'The Rebbe has requested that you come to him,' he whispered to me. I was both
surprised and flustered at the unexpected attention.
"I followed the attendant shakily and found myself face to face with the
Rebbe. It was the same warm and eloquent voice that echoed in my ears from seventeen
"'Yasher Ko'ach ['well done'] for your efforts on behalf of my mother seventeen
years ago in Paris. Blessing and thanks for everything you did.'"
Source: From "To Know and to Care" by Rabbi Eliyahu
and Malka Touger, as reprinted in Living Jewish #431 and adapted by Yerachmiel
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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