Weekly Chasidic Story # 1387 (5784-44) 2 Tammuz 5784 (July 8, 2024)

"It Happened on the BQE"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe looked at him directly and said, "Why are you asking me? Ask a Rav in Cleveland whether to buy the business or not." His wife was crushed. They stood in line for five hours for that!?

Why this week: Monday night-Tuesday is the 30th yahrzeit of the LubavitcherRebbe.

:Story in PDF format for more convenient printing

It Happened on the BQE


A few decades ago, Reb Leib-Ber (Barry) Silberschlag then a young man with two kids, was working at B&H photo in Manhattan. During that time, he was offered the opportunity to move from NYC and buy the 'Lax and Mandel Bakery' in Cleveland.

The kosher bakery was well-known and popular since its founding in 1956; it posed to be very lucrative for the new owner. Still, Leib-Ber was a faithful chasid and didn't want to close the deal without the blessing of his Rebbe. However, the Sadigora Rebbe was not available that week, so he decided to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn.

He elected to do so on a Sunday morning when the Rebbe was known to give a dollar bill [for charity] and a blessing to whomever was waiting on line. He took along his wife and two children for the experience, but it turned out to be difficult when they had to stand in line that Sunday for nearly five hours.

As Leib-Ber got close enough to see what was going on, he realized that his time with the Rebbe would be maybe a few seconds. This reminded him of a story in a Midrash of a King who granted everyone in the country the opportunity to request one thing. One clever person realized that he would not have enough time with the king so he posed his request as a question that the king needed to answer.

Leib-Ber decided he would do the same. When he came before the Rebbe, he asked, "Rebbe, Should I buy the Lax and Mandel Bakery in Cleveland?"

The Rebbe looked at him directly and said, "Why are you asking me? Ask a Rav in Cleveland." And with that the family was pushed past he Rebbe to the exit. Reb Leib Ber's wife was devastated. They stood in line for five hours for that!? Reb Leib Ber, though, was not perturbed. He suggested to his wife to have emunas tzadikim - faith in the Righteous.

The family decided that instead of going straight home to Boro Park, they would visit their bubby [grandmother] who lived in Williamsburg - a short drive from Crown Heights. They spent an hour or so there and headed towards home.

Their route included driving on the BQE [Brooklyn-Queens Expressway] that connects Williamsburg to Boro Park. Very often, people looking to get from one Jewish enclave to the other would stand at the entrance to the highway and hope that people would offer them rides. Seeing an older couple standing near the entrance, Leib-Ber asked his wife if it would be ok to offer them a lift. She agreed, moving to the back to allow the older gentleman the front seat.

After everyone was settled, they introduced themselves. Their male passenger was the Clevelander Rebbe (!) visiting family in New York [see Appendix A]. Leib-Ber was astounded. He explained to the Rebbe what had happened with the Lubavitcher Rebbe just a short time before.

The Rebbe's wife interrupted and asked, "Which bakery?" "Lax and Mandel" the young man replied,

The Rebbetzin responded, "Lax and Mandel is owned by my cousin. Let me tell you why it's for sale. My cousin is an invalid and can't manage the bakery. The bakers are robbing him blind. The business is good, but it's not making any money. Unless you're a baker, don't buy it." [see Appendix B]

Reb Leib Ber told me that he was very impressed with the Rebbe's vision and that he had felt the whole time that the Rebbe was not just brushing his request aside.

Why this week: Monday night-Tuesday is the 30th yahrzeit of the LubavitcherRebbe.

Appendix A: The Clevelander chasidic dynasty was founded by Rabbi Meir Leifer, of the the Nadvorna chasidic dynasty, when he moved to the USA in 1922, and settled in Cleveland. Previously, in Europe, he had lived in Budapest, Hungary, where he led a large following. In 1934 he moved to Williamsburg. When he died in 1941, he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rabbi Usher-Mordechai Rosenbaum. After the 2nd Clevelander passed away in 1991, he was succeeded by his son, the 3rd and current Clevelander Rebbe, Rabbi Yehoshua-Heshel Rosenbaum. [excerpted from Wiki]. Therefore, either one of the latter two rebbes must be the Clevelander Rebbe of the above story, depending on whether it took place before or after 1991
Appendix B: Shimon Lax and Burt Mandel founded the Lax and Mandel Bakery in 1956 on South Taylor Road in the Cedar-Taylor neighborhood of Cleveland Heights. It became a fixture in the Cleveland Jewish community for nearly 60 years, until it closed in May 2015 at its then current location, 14439 Cedar Road in South Euclid. Barak Ben-Tor, the last owner, had hoped to sell it, but was unable to. In June 2015, he put everything in it up for auction, including the recipes.

Story Source: Freely adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from a submission in 2021 by ?
[In my records from a number of years ago I recorded that this story was sent to me by a certain (non-Chabad) chasid. But when I emailed him last week to clarify a certain detail, he insisted that not only did he not send it to me, he had never even heard the story. So if whoever submitted it in the name of someone who heard it from Mr. Silberschlag is reading this, please get in touch with me.]

Footnore: 1 (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway)

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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