Weekly Chasidic Story #1004 (s5777-22 / 1 Adar 5777)

Descent for the Sake of Ascent

Rabbi Yitzchak-Dovid Grossman received the Israel Prize for 'lifetime special contribution to society and the State' a week before he was to fly to the USA


Connection: Weekly Reading of Trumah -- the beginning is all about donations


Descent for the Sake of Ascent
by Yerachmiel Tilles


In 2004 Rabbi Yitzchak-Dovid Grossman received the Israel Prize for 'lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State.'

The week after, he was scheduled to fly to the USA for yet another fundraising expedition in support of his Migdal Ohr institutions. When he reached Ben Gurion international airport, he wasn't feeling well. El Al, the Israel airline, offered to upgrade his ticket to first class, assuring him that he had enough Frequent Flyer points that it wouldn't cost him a single shekel.

Rabbi Grossman struggled with the idea. In all his many dozens of flights abroad he had never flown first class--what would his benefactors think if the money they gave him for his worthy causes was used to purchase such expensive tickets? But because of his health and the fact that it was "free," he decided to do it this one time.

The row of first class contains only six seats --- 2-2-2 instead of 3-5-3 --- wide and plush. The Rabbi was seated in the first set, with an empty seat next to him. In the middle pair was sitting an elderly American couple, clearly not Jewish. Suddenly Rabbi Grossman was seized with an impulse to do something he had never done on an airplane. He stood up, walked over to them and introduced himself.

"Shalom. I am Rabbi Grossman, a rabbi in the Galilee," he said to them in English, "I have a number of schools and homes for orphans, teenagers at-risk, and children from broken families and violent homes. Perhaps you would like to see a video of them?"

Surprised, they agreed. How could they refuse the holy-looking rabbi.

Rabbi Grossman had noticed immediately that the man was quite enormous; he fit in his wide first-class seat only with difficulty. So he reached across the man to lower the tray of the woman's seat instead, placing upon it his DVD player and giving each of them one of the ear buds. The video ran for about 7 minutes. They seemed interested. When it finished he again reached across to take back his machine. In doing so he inadvertently leaned upon the arm of the man's seat.

What he didn't realize was that in the arm of a first class seat is a button that slides the seat down to be 180* flat, for a bed, and he had accidently pressed it. BOOM!

Aided by the man's weight, the seat accelerated into horizontal position, slamming the man flat on his back. Rabbi Grossman didn't know what to do. He was so embarrassed he couldn't think clearly. He just wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the lid over himself.

He mumbled one apology after another-"Excuse me, excuse me! Forgive me, forgive me!"--but it felt silly and ineffective. In his confusion, for some reason that he can't understand even till this day, he ceased speaking, bent down, and planted a kiss on the prone man's forehead. Then he quickly pressed the button to restore the astonished man to sitting position and darted back to his seat.

For several minutes he sat there unmoving, berating himself for his clumsiness. "How could I have done such a thing?" He didn't dare even to turn his head in the direction of the couple; instead he just kept his eyes closed. So he was startled when five minutes later he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the heavy man whom he had toppled.

[At this point in his recital, Rabbi Grossman paused and his face turned serious. "I am a Rabbi in Israel. I know it is forbidden to lie and I don't lie. What I am about to tell you may sound unbelievable or even absurd, but I assure you it is absolutely true, without any exaggeration."]

"Rabbi, I am Reverend John Hagee from San Antonio, Texas," the man addressed me and offered his hand for a shake.

He continued. "I am a good friend of Israel. In fact, I am the founder and head of 'Christians United for Israel.' I have made many trips there and have met personally with every prime minister since Begin.

"This time I came prepared to give a very large donation in the name of my organization, designated for a program that provides a warm environment for Jewish children in need. 'Bibi' is my good friend and so are many other people in the highest echelon of the government, but I was not happy with any of the existing venues they offered me, so I held back the money.

"Then I made a vow. I prayed to G-d that He send me a sign for who to give the money to. What was the sign? I will tell you. And my wife will confirm this; you can ask her.

"I said, 'If a person presents me with a program for such children and kisses me on the forehead, he is the one to whom we will give this contribution!"

And he did. Right there on the airplane. Very generous and, for the rabbi, perfectly timed. Rabbi Grossman was struggling to build a large housing complex for teenaged girls. He had signed a contract and paid the initial installments, but hadn't the slightest idea how he would be able to finish paying for it. The six-figure check that Mr. Hagee wrote enabled him to complete the project.

Rabbi Grossman was stunned. What were the chances that he would find himself in a situation that he, a chasidic Jew and a rabbi, would feel compelled to kiss a Christian evangelist pastor whose television broadcasts are watched by millions? Add in the first-time first-class ticket, being seated next to the couple, the inexplicable urge to show them the video, accidently knocking down a multi-millionaire-the odds must be many trillions to one.

He smiled. When G-d wants something good to happen, it will certainly happen.

Source: Translated and transcribed from the six-minute video sent to me by my son Yehuda of Rabbi Grossman telling this story (in Hebrew) to an entranced audience.
[IF you understand spoken Hebrew and you send me a request via WhatsApp (+972-526-770-137) or email (address at top), I'll be happy to send you the video. My puny effort (and even if it were magnificent) cannot do justice to hearing and seeing Rabbi Grossman's live presentation.]

Connection: Weekly Reading of Trumah - charitable donations
(Would also be great for the weekly reading of Chaye Sara - Eliezer's prayer for a divine portent.)

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, chief rabbi of Migdal Ha'Emek since 1969 at age 23, is a sixth generation Jerusalemite. He is a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council and a recipient of the Israel Prize and many other prestigious government awards for his successful efforts to bridge the gap between the religious and secular populations in Israel (thus his nickname from 40 years ago, the Disco Rabbi). His Migdal Ohr educational institutions and charitable organizations in Migdal Emek service thousands of underprivileged and at-risk children and teenagers.

Translator's note (mostly from Wiki):
Rev. John Charles Hagee is the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television broadcasts on ten television networks to more than 150 million households in the USA, and on networks around the globe. He is also the author of over 20 books. As the national chairman of 'Christians United for Israel,' he has been to Israel more than two dozen times. His organization has given several million dollars to bring Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel, as well as millions to support Jewish orphanages and other worthy causes for the Jewish people in Israel and around the globe.

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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