323 (s5764-14/ 29 Kislev)

Dreaming of the Sleepless

"I'm a Munkatcher chassid; but I'm most certainly a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe."


Dreaming of the Sleepless


Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Schwartz published a number of books about the Munkatcher Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro, the author of Minchas Elazar. One of them describes the Munkatcher Rebbe's trip to Jerusalem and his otherworldly meeting with the Chacham Alfandari, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tsfat from 1910 to 1920 (see Story #316 in this series -YT).

Once, during a plane trip, Rabbi Schwartz remarked to his seatmate, a Chabad chassid, "I'm a Munkatcher chassid, not a Chabadnik; but I'm most certainly a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
His association with the Rebbe began in 1946-47. A Holocaust survivor, he had reached America completely alone. Knowing of the closeness between the Munkatcher Rebbe and the Rebbe Rayatz (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn), he decided to meet with the latter as soon as he arrived in New York.

"I came to the Rebbe," he told his travel companion, "and my heart poured out all of my experiences. I asked for his blessings and guidance in choosing my life's path. The Rebbe gave me his blessing and advised me to meet his young son-in-law, the Ramash, as he was called then.

"The Ramash counseled me to go to Brazil. Many Jews were there, he said, and he expected that before long a sizable influx of Holocaust survivors would arrive. With practically no Jewish education there to speak of, it would be wise to help establish proper schools.

"And that's what I did. You could write a whole book on my adventures in that far-off land. Thank G-d, I followed the Rebbe's advice and opened a school that succeeded in strengthening many Jews in Torah and mitzvos.

"Over the years, of course, I maintained close contact with the Ramash, who had meanwhile become the new Rebbe. Though I kept my connection to Munkatch, I was definitely a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a true man of G-d. Through him I had the privilege of playing a part in many miracles, events matching the stories of the Baal Shem Tov. If we meet again I could spend whole days and nights telling them."
"A student of mine," Rabbi Schwartz began, "once came to me after school to say that his parents wanted to see me urgently. I told him I would be happy to meet them at my home that evening.
"Walking through the front door, without a word, the mother burst into tears. Her daughter had become close to a gentile and now she was talking about marrying him. 'Nothing I say can change her mind. If she goes ahead with this our lives won't be worth living,' she blurted. 'Look, you're the principal of our son's school. We're so happy with his progress, and…please, could you help? Maybe you can influence her.'

"I agreed and, that evening, called to invite her to talk. Not interested in my offer, she slammed the phone down. So, too, when I called a second time.
"I didn't give up. The next day I got her address from her parents and went in person. Not brazen enough to close the door on me, she told me to come in. I explained not only the gravity of her actions, but also the utter misery she was causing her parents. None of my words reached her; I left empty-handed two hours later.
"I decided to contact the Rebbe. I called Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe's senior private secretary and a close acquaintance of mine, told him the problem, and requested that he ask the Rebbe what I should do. Rabbi Hodakov told me to wait on the line, and a few minutes later answered: 'The Rebbe said that you should tell the young woman that there is a Jew in New York who is unable to sleep at night because of her desire to marry a non-Jew.'

"I didn't understand at first what he meant and asked Rabbi Hodakov for the Jew's name. Then I heard the Rebbe's voice: 'His name is Mendel Schneerson.'
"That was the end of the conversation. I was stunned. Yet, I thought to myself, why should she care if a Jew in New York couldn't sleep? The telephone rang in the middle of these musings. It was Rabbi Hodakov: 'The Rebbe asked me to tell you two things: first, a shliach should carry out his mission in good faith and trust, not with doubts. Second, you can tell her that she is well-acquainted with the Jew in New York.'

"Naturally I was floored - and eager to see her again. I went at once to her home, but she was away. I left a note, with my phone number, that I needed to meet with her urgently.
"When she called the next morning I said I had something important to tell her. She was wary: probably another attempt to browbeat her. After convincing her it was vital, she consented to see me later that day.
"At our meeting I repeated the exact content of the Rebbe's message: 'There is a Jew in New York who is unable to sleep at night because of her desire to marry a non-Jew.'
"The Lubavitcher Rebbe."
"This is why you called me?!" she raged. "This is the urgent matter?! Who is this Lubavitcher Rebbe? What difference does it make to me?"

"He says you know him."
"No! I don't know him!"
"You most certainly do. If the Rebbe said so, then you know him!"
"What does he look like?"
I searched for a picture of the Rebbe. Seeing it, she blanched: "For two nights I've been seeing this person; he comes to me in my dreams pleading with me not to marry my boyfriend. I didn't attach any significance to it; I assumed it was the upshot of all your nagging."
"You can rest assured," Rabbi Schwartz concluded, "that in the end the young woman did not marry the non-Jew…"


[Translated by Tuvia Natkin for his soon-to-be-published Our Man in Dakar (based on the Hebrew original, VeRabim Heishiv MeiAvon by Aharon-Dov Halperin). Tuvia Natkin is a writer and translator who resides in Tsfat. He may be reached at tuvian@actcom.co.il. This story is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced in either print or electronic form without permission of the publisher, Sifriyat Kfar Chabad.]

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 pre-eminent 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 in the original Hebrew and Yiddish versions, as well as dozens of English renditions.


Yrachmiel 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.

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