#536 (s5768-25 / 20 Adar I 5768)

Suburban Miracle Minyans

starring Ascent's own Rabbi "Big Mo" on the road in the snow.

Suburban Miracle Minyans

by Mordechai "Big Mo" Siev (as told to Yerachmiel Tilles)


My father passed away in New York in March of 2007, and our family was "sitting shiva" together at my brother Joel's and his wife Toba's house in Long Island. I had planned to go into Crown Heights (The Chabad-Lubavitch neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY) for Shabbat to finish sitting shiva there in order to be more easily available to my friends.

On Friday morning it started to snow and sleet, and by noon time the roads were traitorous. As it became closer to Shabbat, my mom said she didn't want me driving into Brooklyn in such weather. I called the local Chabad representative in Huntington, Long Island, Rabbi Asher Vaisfiche, who had helped me out by arranging minyans locally during the shiva week. He agreed that I should come and stay with him for Shabbat, but he admitted that so far he has only four people for the minyan: me, him, the assistant rabbi and his brother-in-law. He said that he would make a lot of phone calls to get the rest of a minyan together so I can say kaddish.

When I arrived at his house 45 minutes before Shabbat, the weather had gotten even worse. The rabbi was still trying to get the minyan together but wasn't exactly sure how to accomplish it. Then, fifteen minutes before Shabbat, the rabbi got a phone call from a car of six yeshiva students who were stuck on the Long Island Expressway and wanted to know if they could come and spend Shabbat with him! The rabbi agreed and we had our minyan!

The rabbi told me that in all of his 15 years there in Huntington he never had a minyan for all of the Shabbat prayer services. This time we even had a minyan for the customary recitation of the entire tehillim (Five Book of Psalms) before the morning prayer on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh. So, our minyan was very special and we had a tremendous Shabbat together.

Now turn the clock back 25 years.

I was a student in the Lubavitch yeshiva in Morristown, New Jersey, and I was in charge of driving yeshiva students on Friday to their community outreach projects and then picking them up to go on to Brooklyn to be with the Rebbe for Shabbat. That Friday morning when it started to snow, we decided because of the weather conditions to set out earlier. I gathered my friends and we left the yeshiva, all twelve of us, and headed out to different points in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the snow continued. When I went to pick up everybody, the snow was still falling very heavily. We tried to make it over the Goethel's bridge towards Brooklyn, but the bridge was closed and we had to turn around and head back to Morristown.

The driving was extremely difficult in the blizzard conditions. I made it only halfway, to Livingston, NJ, and then I had to pull the van over to the side of the road - it was already only five minutes before Shabbat.

We put on all our clothing, locked the van and started to walk in the snow. We finally got to a neighborhood and started searching for a house with a mezuzah on the door. When we found one, we knocked on the front door. A woman looked out from above and called out to her husband, "Irving, don't open up, they are coming from the yeshiva to try to collect money."

I yelled to her "Lady, are you serious? We are stranded and there is a big snow storm going on; please open up," but it did not help. We had to trudge on.

A few doors further and we found another mezuzah. We knocked on the door, and this time the reaction was very different. A man opened the door and immediately smiled at us and said, "Come in, come in my friends." We piled in and he started to count how many we were. "A minyan!" he exclaimed. "I've been saying kaddish for my father all year and thought because of the snow storm I would have to miss it for the first time. And now G-d Al-mighty has blessed me with all of you wonderful students." We stayed for both Mincha and Maariv, much to his great appreciation. After that we had to walk for an hour and a half to the house of the local Chabad couple, Kazenesk if I remember the name correctly, who welcomed us warmly and fed us excellently.

Clearly, with that minyan for my father on that stormy Shabbat in Long Island, G-d was paying me back 25 years later for the minyan in New Jersey. I saw how the whole world and all of our lives is one big connection.

I have recorded this story down in honor of my father's first yahrzeit, which on the Jewish calendar falls on the 21st of Adar I. His name is Avraham Shimon ben Yaakov Shlomo Siev, may his memory be blessed and be an inspiration for me, my family and all of us.

Rabbi Mordechai "Big Mo" Siev is director of English-speaking activities at Ascent of Safed.

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

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