Weekly Chasidic Story #1000 (s5777-18 / 3 Shvat 5777)

Right on Time

Rabbi Avraham-Yitzchak Kohn (the previous Rebbe of Toldos Aharon) noticed that his travelling companions were rubbing their eyes in amazement.

Connection: Seasonal - Yud Shvat: Passing of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe in 5710 (1950); inauguration of the 7th Rebbe in 5711 (1951)

Right on Time

Approximately three decades ago, Rabbi Avraham-Yitzchak Kohn, the rebbe of the Toldos Aharon chasidim of Jerusalem (headquartered in the Meah Shearim neighborhood), went for a few weeks in the summer to Switzerland for a vacation in one of its Alpine towns. While in Switzerland, it occurred to the rebbe that since he was already temporarily 'exiled' from the holy land, it should visit some of the holy burial sites located in that part of the world.

The rebbe beckoned to his chief attendant who was standing nearby and discussed his desire to make a trip to Poland for that purpose. The 18th century chasidic leader, Rebbe Elimelech in Lizhinsk, was buried there, and Cracow had several historic synagogues, such as that of the great 16th century authority in Jewish law, 'the Ramah' (Rabbi Moshe Isserles).

The attendant hurried to set a plan into motion. Consulting with several wealthy chasidim, he managed to reserve and pay for comfortable seating on the Swiss railway for the rebbe and the small group that would accompany him.

A major problem, however, remained: the rebbe and his entourage totaled eight men-two short of the quorum required for daily prayers.

The chasidic businessmen got busy on their phones, and were able to arrange that at every stop where the rebbe and party would debark from the train, two local Jews would join them to complete their minyan for prayer.

Everything went smoothly in Lizhinsk, and also in Sanz where the famed Divrei Chayim had lived and was buried. A special feeling of spiritual elevation enveloped the members of the group at each place. In particular, a glow of deep tranquility was recognizable on the face of the rebbe from Jerusalem.

The group arrived in Cracow on the morning of Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the concluding month of the Jewish year. [The month of Elul marks the final thirty days of preparation for Rosh Hashana and the inauguration of the new year.] As in the other cities, one of the rebbe's travelling companions set out to wait at the pre-arranged meeting place for the two Jews who would complete the minyan. He found the spot easily, but the two locals were nowhere in sight. Finally, the companion returned to the rebbe with the disheartening report that the two men had never shown up.

The rebbe thought for a moment. "Let us all go together to the ancient shul of the Ramah," he suggested. "Perhaps some Jews will be there that will combine with us for the [special, lengthy Rosh Chodesh morning] prayer."

So they did, but when they arrived their hopes were quickly dashed. The synagogue was empty and not a soul was in sight. Despairing of any other possibility, they donned tallit and tefilin, in order to begin the prayers without the full quorum. It was getting late.

The rebbe was specially pained by the situation. It had been decades since he had failed to say a single Shacharit, Musaf, Mincha or Maariv prayer with a minyan, and now, on the holy Rosh Chodesh Elul of all days, and in the holy shul of the Ramah of all places, it should be his lot to have to pray without the required minyan?

Then he noticed that his travelling companions were staring up the street, as though they could not believe their eyes. There, in the midst of the non-Jewish residences, walked two young men whose appearance stamped them clearly as yeshiva students! For a moment they thought it was a hallucination, or perhaps it was a dream and in a moment they would awake. What could yeshiva boys possibly be doing here?

Yet there they were, and walking in their direction, straight towards the old synagogue. And they were each carrying a tefillin bag! It looked just as if they expected to find a minyan for the Rosh Chodesh morning prayer. A member of the rebbe's group even heard one of the boys remark to the other, "Boruch HaShem-Thank G-d, it looks like we will be able to pray in a minyan today too."

The chasidim were convinced that the two were angels who had dropped from heaven to enable the rebbe to pray with a minyan. Still they refrained from questioning them in order not to delay the prayer any longer.

The young men quickly put on their tefilin and the now-complete minyan began to pray. The rebbe set the tone for an extraordinary Rosh Chodesh prayer. All present felt they never would forget this morning at the synagogue in Cracow.

Upon conclusion of the prayer service, the rebbe called over the two students, Chabad chasidim by their manner of dress. He greeted them, blessed them and then asked that they tell him what had brought them to Crakow.

The students explained that they were there for the summer as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the center they had opened to attract the local Jews was located nearby. As to what they were doing on this particular street at this particular time, they both smiled broadly before one explained.

"Two months ago, shortly after we arrived, we received a telegram from the Rebbe's personal secretary, Rabbi Hodakov.* In it he wrote that the Rebbe expects that on Rosh Chodesh Elul we will pray in the morning at the synagogue of the Ramah. And so, here we are!"

The admiration of the Toldos Aharon rebbe knew no bounds. "Long have I known that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is exceptionally far-sighted," he murmured emotionally. "But I never guessed the extent of his concern for every single Jew.

"This is simply unbelievable!" he continued. "The Rebbe knew even before we knew that we would be in this location, and that we would be lacking two for a minyan. Such vision! Yet as busy as he is, he found the time to explain to his secretary how to take care of our problem. This is a true leader of the Jewish people."

Source: Translated-supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the Hebrew rendition in HaGeulah #98X ?.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Avrohom-Yitzchok Kohn (5674 [in Tsfat!]- 27 Kislev 5757/1914 - Chanukah 1996) was the second Toldos Aharon Rebbe and son-in-law of Rabbi Aharon "Areleh" Roth, founder of the dynasty. He is the author of Divrei Emunah. Four of his many sons are rebbes today.
[It is recorded that he instructed his followers to study several of the printed works of Rabbi Aharon HaLevi Horowitz of Strashelye (1766-1828), who was a leading disciple of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), and, I've been told by a few of his chasidim, other teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman as well.]

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.

Editor's note: Rabbis Groner, Klein and Krinsky were more public aides and therefore better known. In fact, however, they were employees of Rabbi Chaim-Mordechai-Isaac Hodakov, the head of the Secretariat, not the Rebbe himself.

Connection: Seasonal - Yud Shvat (this year-Feb. 6th): Passing of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe in 5710 (1950); inauguration of the 7th Rebbe in 5711 (1951).

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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