#543 (s5768-33 / 17 Nissan 5768)

Sorbonne Kindnesses

"How is your great Rabbi M. M. Schneerson?" asked the non-Jew. "I know him very well."

Sorbonne Kindnesses


Yehuda Schwartz was a truck driver in Paris for the meat importing firm of Daniel Amram, which distributed kosher meat throughout France. Both men are Chabad Chasidim, (followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson).

One day, Yehuda was driving a large truck that Amram had just bought second-hand from a well known used car company. As soon as he began the trip he sensed something was wrong; the brakes and steering wheel seemed to be unusually stiff. He told himself that it was probably because the truck had been refurbished before sale. Reassured, he loaded up and drove off.

Near the end of the day he was riding on a bridge high above a river at about fifty miles per hour when it happened. He began braking for a traffic light in the distance, but when he pushed on the pedal it just sank limply to the floor and stayed there! He had no brakes!

He had to think fast. There were cars in front of him. He tried downshifting but he was going downhill too fast for that to help-- in a second he would plow into the car in front of him. To the left was oncoming traffic, there was no time. He had to act fast.

He grabbed the steering wheel, yelled 'Shema Yisroel' and, at the last moment, turned it sharply to the right. The truck swerved crazily and shook, hit the curb and flew through the air. His safety belt held him down but he bounced wildly as the truck plowed through the barrier- railing (lucky no one had been on the sidewalk!) and arched over the water! In a second he would plunge into the cold, murky current far below - he could almost feel the impact! He braced himself and prayed to G-d for help and shuddered.

But the truck didn't fall! It just hovered in the air -- in mid-air!!

The next day all the newspapers in France carried the picture of his truck: balanced like a seesaw on the edge of the bridge, half way through the railing over the water. It was a miracle!

But it was an expensive one. The city of Paris presented Daniel Amram with the bill. Damages to the bridge were over ten thousand dollars worth of francs, the towing was another thousand and the traffic ticket another thousand - not counting the damages to the truck.

Daniel was used to miracles and was thankful for this one too - but now he was angry. That used-car company had signed and sworn that the truck was in 100% working order. If anyone was to blame it was them! He decided to take them to court.

A week later he appeared in court for the pre-trial hearing accompanied by his lawyer. It wouldn't be an easy case, he would have to prove that the brakes didn't work when they bought the truck, but he was ready for a fight.

The defendant entered the courtroom alone -- an elderly, well-dressed gentile. He glanced at Amram as the charges were read.

But to everyone's surprise, after hearing the charges, the old man turned to the judge and announced that, although he was wealthy and could easily win the case by hiring the best lawyers in France, because he sees that his opponents are chasidic Jews he decided to forfeit and will pay all damages including the fine.

Daniel was amazed; such a miracle he never expected. The judge and police were so surprised and impressed that they cancelled the fine on the spot and the case was dismissed.

As everyone was leaving the courtroom the gentile walked over to Daniel and said that he would be willing to have the truck towed to his garage, some three hours away, and fixed at his expense as well. He even offered that when the truck would be finished, he would take Yehuda the driver back with him to pick it up the next time he would be in Paris.

Daniel could not believe his ears, but afraid that the fellow might change his mind he just smiled, shook the man's hand, said 'thank you' over and over again and kept quiet.

Three weeks later the old man returned to Paris and picked up Yehuda. About an hour into the ride back to the garage he turned to him and asked "You are a follower of Lubavitch aren't you? And so is your boss Mr. Amram. Correct?"

Schwartz answered in the affirmative.

"So I thought! Well, how is your great Rabbi Schneerson? I hope he is well. …Ahh! I see you are surprised. Well it so happens that I know your Rabbi very well."

He saw that Schwartz was all ears so he continued.

"You see, in the late 1930's, even before the Nazi invasion, things were terrible here in France. Everything was upside down. But I decided that I wouldn't succumb to the insanity and I enrolled in the Sorbonne to learn mathematics.

"It was there that I got to know your Rabbi. He was in my class. He was truly a different type of human being. Besides being very polite and charming, he was incredibly intelligent and there was something royal about him. He didn't speak much but when he spoke everyone listened. The most incredible thing was that he never seemed to listen in class or even look at the lecturer; he was always reading some Hebrew book that was on his lap.

But he always knew the answers.

"The classes were very difficult, but in those terrible times our financial situation was worse. In fact, the only way some of us, me included, could make ends meet was by going into the country early every Monday morning and buying baskets of produce that we would sell wholesale to the vendors for market day. But it meant we had to miss the Monday lecture which was the main lecture of the week.

"So the first time your Rabbi Shneerson saw that we were missing, he took notes for us in great detail and gave them to us when we returned. It was terribly kind and thoughtful of him. In fact, if it weren't for him, none of us would have passed.

"Well, at the end of the semester the final test was so difficult that the professor announced that he would give us five hours to finish instead of the allotted three. So we were all surprised when your Rabbi gathered all his papers after a half an hour, put them in the envelope and handed them in.

"Everyone was watching. The professor must have figured that he didn't know the answers so he pulled out the papers and had a look. Well, when he saw they had all been filled out he scoffed aloud and said incredulously to the Rabbi before the entire class, "What, were you cheating or is this some sort of sorcery?"

"The Rebbe just looked at him, did not say a word and left the room.

"Well, you can imagine how amazed everyone was when the tests were checked and it was discovered that the Rebbe had answered everything 100% correctly!!

"It was the talk of the University. In fact on graduation day the professor actually apologized to him in front of the entire student body. And even then the professor could not contain his wonder. On the stage, he asked the Rebbe if he could please explain how it was humanly possible for him to finish the exam so quickly and accurately?"

"I'll never forget the Rebbe's answer. He said:

"'The Jewish people have a book of wisdom called the Talmud and one who learns it properly can understand and answer all of the test questions.'"


[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition of his friend and colleague Rabbi Tuvia Bolton, the popular teacher, musician and storyteller, in his weekly email for the yeshiva which he heads, Ohr Tmimim (ohrtmimim.org/torah )].

Biographical note:

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (11 Nissan 1902 - 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn on 10 Shvat 1950. 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.

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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