Chassidic Story #238

#238 (s5762-34) 26 Iyar 5762
I was so nervous, my hands wouldnt stop shaking. The flight would pass over several Arab countries. ...I wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe...."


"The Six Day War was a great miraculous victory for Israel, thanks be to G-d, but it sure put a hole in my carefully arranged plans," relates Mr. Moshe H., an Israeli who maintains a large clothing store in Manhattan. "I needed to make a business trip to Taiwan and Australia, and on the way back to New York I planned to stop in Israel to visit with my mother in Jerusalem, whom I hadn't seen in many years. I made very careful arrangements long before; why, I must have been carrying the tickets around for over six months in advance. Then, shortly before I was supposed to leave, the war broke out, and the high tension that followed in its aftermath wrecked my life.

"I can't describe to you how nervous and worried I was. My hands wouldn't stop shaking. In those days, the flight from Australia to Israel passed over several Arab countries. Their governments permitted it because Israel was only a refueling stop for that airline on the way to the USA. Nevertheless, Jews with Israeli citizenship didn't usually take this route. Even though there was no scheduled stop in any of those Arab countries, somehow I felt in my heart that this time would be different and we would have to land-perhaps in Egypt, perhaps Syria, or even Iraq. I shuddered at the thought, but I couldn't stop thinking it.

"As the day of my flight grew nearer, I became increasingly nervous. That last week, I wasn't able to concentrate at work at all. I would sit in my store and be consumed by daydreams of nightmarish scenarios, and then bolt awake and find myself drenched in sweat. How could I dare to go? On the other hand, how could I not? The trip was crucial for my business. Besides, my mother was very sick.... What should I do? I felt lost and confused.

"That Friday, the last one before my scheduled departure, an old customer came into my shop who I hadn't seen for a long time: Rabbi Meir Plotkin, a Chabad chasid from Montreal. I was excited to see him. As soon as he walked in, the idea popped into my head that he, a dedicated shaliach (emissary) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, should be able to advise me, and help me relax. For his part, he sensed right away that I was not as outgoing and cheerful with my customers as usual, and asked me what was bothering me. I told him my itinerary, and the fears I couldn't shake of a forced landing in an Arab country. Right away, he suggested that I inform the Rebbe of my worries and see what he would say.

"I laughed. Even if I wanted to, how could I get the Rebbe's blessing, I said to him. It is only a few hours till Shabbat, and on Sunday I am already flying.

"But Rabbi Plotkin was insistent. How could I even think of departing on such a trip without consulting, or at least notifying the Rebbe. I agreed to do it, but only if he would take care of it all. I told him that since he was going to Crown Heights anyway, he could write a note in my name about what we had talked about and bring it into the Rebbe's office. He accepted the mission, but said that he wouldn't wait; he intended to phone in the message to the Rebbe's secretariat right away.

"Only half an hour later the phone rang and one of the Rebbe's secretaries was on the line. He reported that the Rebbe responded, 'Check mezuzahs immediately; may the trip be successful; I'll pray for you at the resting place of my revered father-in-law' (the Previous Rebbe).

"The Rebbe's answer made me feel much better, but how could I possibly have time to check my mezuzahs? And why should I anyway? It was only recently that I had bought and moved into a new house, and had put up brand-new expensive mezuzahs written specially for me by a recognized expert scribe. Surely they were kosher. I couldn't understand how anything could possibly be wrong with them.

"Rabbi Plotkin happened to pass by again after that, and he got very excited when he heard the Rebbe's answer. 'Nu!' he exclaimed, slapping me on the shoulder. 'Mazal Tov! Your trip is now ratified by the Rebbe. So you don't need to worry any more.

" 'I don't think you'll manage to check your mezuzahs before Shabbat,' he mused. 'But that's alright. You can arrange for a sofer (scribe) to do it Saturday night. I am sure everything will be fine.'

"I told him I didn't think it was necessary to check the mezuzahs since I had just bought them, and they were high quality ones. His forceful reply surprised me. 'Remember how afraid you were before you got the answer from the Rebbe? You were quivering from tension. And now you can consider not following the instructions the Rebbe told you personally? Even if you don't understand, you must have your mezuzahs checked! Even if it will cost you a hundred or two hundred dollars, what does that matter? Take care! Don't fly without checking the mezuzahs.'

"I took his warning seriously. On Saturday night I called a scribe to come to my house. I told him I didn't care what it would cost, as long as he would finish that same night.

"The scribe began his work. After a short time, he called to me, 'My dear sir: these mezuzos are flawed; they have never been kosher.'

"I was shocked. The scribe from whom I had purchased them was meticulously observant and an acknowledged master craftsman. How could mezuzahs that he had written be invalid?

"I didn't have time to think about it more. I was relieved the checking had been done. On the spot I purchased new mezuzahs for all the doors of my house and had them put up. At first I was still worried. I felt that since my mezuzahs weren't kosher, something unforeseen would happen on the trip. But then, on second thought, I decided that since I had the Rebbe's blessing-and look how right he had been about the mezuzahs!-surely his promise that the trip would be successful would also come true.

"I boarded the plane in a good mood, looking forward to what would be.

* * *

"I was in the Far East and Australia, and was markedly successful in all my affairs, turning larger-than-expected profits. The flight from Australia to Israel is very long and wearying, and by the time we had traveled most of the way, nearly all the passengers were trying to sleep. I too had napped a bit. In a few hours we would be in Israel and my ordeal would be over. I was anticipating how my Tel Aviv-New York flight would be packed with Israelis, and that simple thought was making me very happy. I dozed again.

"Suddenly, the silence was split by the crackling of the loudspeaker. 'Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,' came the cheerful voice of the stewardess. 'We have just discovered a small problem in the left motor of the airplane. As I said, it is only a minor problem. After a routine landing and a quick repair, we will be on our way again to Israel and then to the United States.' Then she added, almost as an afterthought, 'This will give you the opportunity to enjoy the international airport of Beirut.'

"My heart tumbled. In an instant I was running to the front of the plane. I could feel that I was already covered with anxious sweat. I banged on the door of the cockpit and screamed 'Help!' A security guard jumped out and barred my way. I pleaded with him to let me speak to the pilot, crying that my life was in danger. The crew captain, hearing me yelling hysterically, came over and asked me what was the matter. Gasping, I told him that the decision to land at Beirut Airport was for me a death sentence! Israel was in a state of war with Lebanon, and also it was right after their humiliating defeat in the Six Day War, I explained to them.. I was traveling on an Israeli passport and they might shoot me on the spot when they saw it, without bothering to make any inquiries.

"The captain's eyes opened wide in surprise. He said they didn't realize there were any Israelis on the plane. Promising to do his best to take care of it, he disappeared into the front cabin.

After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, he came back, smiling. 'I arranged something,' he informed me. 'We received permission to land at the Damascus Airport. They said they will be happy to help us. It is only a little out of our way. So we will go there instead of Beirut, okay?'

" 'From the frying pan to the fire! From the wolf to the tiger!' I exclaimed to the captain. 'If this is really the only choice, then between Lebanon and Syria, certainly Lebanon is the least of evils'

"I recalled the Rebbe's blessing, and in simple faith relied on it for my salvation. What might have happened if I hadn't listened to Rabbi Plotkin!

"As we began our descent, the captain was even more nervous than I was. He was the one responsible for the well-being of the passengers, and he well understood the great danger I was in. Yet, I was only one person; he couldn't compromise the safety of the hundreds of other passengers solely on my account. He looked around for a hiding place to conceal me, but it quickly became evident that nothing was adequate.

"While we were still in the air, the Lebanese communicated that no passengers would be permitted to disembark. They were suspicious of a plane that was on its way to Israel suddenly asking to land in Beirut. Perhaps, somehow, it was a tricky Israeli plot. The Lebanese border police would board the plane to check each person's documents, they said.

"The captain announced to the passengers that everyone should remain in his seat and prepare his passport for inspection. 'don't worry,' he added; 'there is nothing to be afraid of.'

"I began to read Tehillim (Book of Psalms), begging the Creator of the world to save me at this critical juncture. There really wasn't much else that could be done. We decided that I should lie across two seats and cover my head with a blanket. When the police officer asked who was laying there, my seatmate would say that I was quite sick and had been sleeping the entire flight.

True, it wasn't much of a plan, but we couldn't think of a better one.

* * *

"The doors of the plane swung open. In marched a number of uniformed policemen. I lay crunched up and immobile under the blanket for hours, the whole time not daring to budge. The inspectors still hadn't reached my row. I felt the spirit of the Rebbe hovering over me, protecting me. 'The trip shall be successful'-the Rebbe's words reverberated in my ears as if his secretary was right there and saying them over and over again.

"Suddenly, I heard the Arabic-accented voice of a policeman next to me. I stopped breathing. He checked the passport of the person seated next to me. Then...he moved on to the next row. He didn't even bother to inquire as to the identity of whoever was lying under the blanket. A miracle! I gave thanks to G?d Almighty for saving my life, and was filled with praise and gratitude for the Rebbe, in whose merit I was able to get through this agonizing ordeal and helped me to maintain my sanity.

"I still couldn't get up or remove the blanket. The Lebanese had left a guard in the plane to make sure nothing illegal would take place, and no security risks. I lay still for more hours.

"I lost all track of time. I was hungry and thirsty, and the pressure from my bladder was all but unbearable. Still, I didn't move. What kept me going was the Rebbe's holy blessing. I told myself that until now nothing bad had happened to me because the Rebbe had promised, 'The trip shall be successful,' so certainly the rest of the way I would be protected too. But, oy, what might have occurred already if Rabbi Plotkin hadn't walked into my store that day.

"At some point I fell asleep or fainted. The next thing I knew was when the stewardesses woke me up. We had already taken off. They gave me some fruit and cold water to drink. I felt like I had been restored to life.

Shortly after, the pilot told me that the Lebanese policeman who had inspected my section of the airplane had said to him afterwards, 'How interesting. You've been on this plane for two days already, and that dead body I saw in one of the seats towards the back didn't even start to stink yet.'

" 'Then I understood,' said the pilot, 'why he didn't ask for your passport!'

"It is as clear to me now as then," Moshe concluded his story, "that if I hadn't had kosher mezuzahs, I wouldn't be sitting here telling you all this."


[Translated-adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (first published in
Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Lekket Sipurim I, pp. 65-68.You may pass on this email rendition to whomever you wish, as long as you give full credit, including Ascent's email and internet addresses.]

Biographical note:
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (11 Nissan 1902 - 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty 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.


back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page
Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION