# 345 (s5764-39) 27 Sivan 5764

A Higher Vision

Rabbi Kalmanson, the Lubavitcher's Rebbe's representative in Cincinnati, had drifted off to sleep shortly before 2AM, but now the phone was ringing.

A Higher Vision

Tuvia Natkin

It was Thursday night at 2 A.M. Not long before, Rabbi Kalmanson, the representative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Cincinnati, Ohio, had drifted off to sleep after an exhausting day. Now the phone was ringing. The voice at the other end, desperate and sobbing, cut through like a knife.

Someone named Mrs. Koppel wanted to see him urgently. "Now, or tomorrow morning?" he asked, hoping to rest a while longer. "Now. Right away," came the answer. She would be at his house in half an hour.


Exactly thirty minutes later she arrived with her husband, who was blind. They sat, and when Rabbi Kalmanson asked what the problem was, she began crying bitterly, inconsolably.

She regained control and told about herself and her family. They had three daughters, and no ties to anything Jewish, no Temples - nothing. She and her husband had grown up the same way. They lived ethical lives and did their best to follow the Ten Commandments.

"Our family was wonderful and happy." Tears streamed from her eyes. "I always took such pride in the closeness and understanding between our daughters and ourselves. There were no secrets; we were all like good friends. We discussed everything openly with the kids. Whether it was problems or happy times, all of us were in it together. We gave the girls everything: refinement, education, music…it was the ideal family."

The problem started, she explained, when their middle daughter was seventeen. She had come into her daughter's room one day and found a New Testament beneath her pillow. She was stunned. True, she wasn't religious, she took pride in her liberalism - but seeing the New Testament under her daughter's pillow broke her heart.

When her daughter came home her mother had asked for an explanation. "Yes, I have begun to believe in J…s," her daughter replied.
"Why did you keep it to yourself?" asked the mother in growing shock.
"I didn't feel I needed to say anything."


"I became furious," said the mother. "How could she not share with us the enormous transformation she was going through? And I couldn't accept the idea that my daughter identified with Christianity. I was hysterical, yelling, I would never agree to her becoming involved with Christians." Moments later the daughter bolted from the house.

The parents, frightened, found and brought her back home, tacitly agreeing to overlook her new religious alliances.

How had the whole matter come about? One of her schoolteachers was a "born-again" Christian who had set his sights on his students' souls; the young woman was a prize candidate.

With smooth talk he succeeded in bringing her closer to their religion, while persuading her not to mention anything at home until she was sufficiently strong. When she asked if it was permissible to lie to her parents, he answered: Yes, for their lofty goals it was permitted to lie.

Her parents were convinced that their daughter had fallen into a deep trap and that she was determined, G-d forbid, to convert. They raced desperately from one expert to the next seeking advice. Nothing worked.

Then, earlier that evening, a doctor had told the mother: "Try Chabad, speak to Rabbi Kalmanson. Maybe he can help." That's how they reached Rabbi Kalmanson's home in the middle of the night.


Now, weeping and broken, they sat facing him. Their eyes glistened with hope and pleading. The only sound was the clock. 3:30 A.M. The street was silent, the house quiet. Rabbi Kalmanson sat thinking how to save a Jewish soul from destruction.

He advised them to come for a Shabbos evening dinner; it's customary to have guests, he explained. They can tell their daughter that they met someone who invited them over - no strings attached.

The parents and their daughters duly arrived Friday night. Mrs. Kalmanson greeted them; her husband was still in shul. When he walked into the room the mother's jaw dropped. Thursday night, wearing a suit, he appeared "normal," but now, in a long black frock coat…?

He sang Shalom Aleichem - explaining its meaning, made Kiddush, and they sat down to eat. Though he made no reference to the issue at hand, from time to time he tossed a few choice words toward their middle daughter.She in turn responded with provocative comments.

Rabbi Kalmanson pretended not to notice, continuing with the festive meal and conversation, hoping she would lay her cards out on the table.


Towards the end his hopes materialized. She made repeated remarks about religion and Christianity. Rabbi Kalmanson asked why she was so interested, and she opened up.


The dialogue began in earnest. Rabbi Kalmanson's tactic was simple: "Look," he said, "I know nothing about Christianity, but then, you don't know a thing about Judaism. Let's make a deal. I'm prepared to hear about Christianity on condition that you'll listen to me regarding Judaism." The young woman's eyes lit up. "She was a real missionary," Rabbi Kalmanson said.



The Shabbos dinner ended at 6 A.M. The daughter, thrilled by the rabbi's attention to her insights, proposed that they stay in touch. A second meeting was arranged for the coming Tuesday. She came and began to explain, to convince… He nodded thoughtfully at her words, weighing them in earnestness.


Things continued in the same vein for a second and a third week, until - in the fourth week - Rabbi Kalmanson began his counterattack. Confident of her promising disciple she had let down her guard.

Rabbi Kalmanson took full advantage, firing one salvo after another until she was completely flustered, deluged by questions. She vowed to come back with answers, but it was already too late.


Slowly and deliberately Rabbi Kalmanson brought her back to Judaism. She began observing Torah and mitzvos. Shabbos candles came first, then kashrus and prayer. Several months later she arranged a bus trip to the Rebbe for Simchas Torah.


But the story wasn't over. In one of their theological disputations, Rabbi Kalmanson shifted gears into one of the Rebbe's miracles. When the talk turned to her father's blindness (the result of an operation to correct high blood pressure) he said abruptly: "Who knows? Maybe your whole about-face to Christianity was only in order to cure your father."


"I have no idea why I said this," Rabbi Kalmanson admitted. "It was pure madness. When she already began keeping Torah and mitzvos, she asked me one day what I had meant."


Rabbi Kalmanson suggested that she write to the Rebbe and ask for his advice and blessing. She received a reply - that she should put up kosher mezuzos at home, that her father put on kosher tefillin, and to take counsel with a doctor-friend regarding the blindness.

She began at once to help her father with tefillin. Rabbi Kalmanson put up the mezuzos after her family showed no interest in purchasing forty for their sizeable house. Regarding the doctor-friend Rabbi Kalmanson conferred with the physician who had earlier referred the girl's mother to him.


The doctor laughed and said it wasn't his field, but Rabbi Kalmanson, untroubled, looked forward to good news. In fact, the doctor called him one day to say that he had read a medical journal report about a New York specialist who had developed new eye-surgery techniques. It was worth looking into.


The doctor contacted the specialist and learned that there was a chance - only a chance - that it might benefit their father. Surgery would last four to five hours; an additional operation would be required. Only then would they know if the procedure had succeeded.

After much vacillation the family opted for surgery.

Rabbi Kalmanson accompanied the father to the surgical clinic. The operation proceeded normally and the family settled in for the anticipated four to five hours. A half-hour later the surgeon bolted from the operating room and ran to his office. A while later he raced back and, in minutes, came out ashen-faced. An attendant wheeled the patient's bed to the recovery room. The family watched in terror.

Days later the doctor removed the bandages. Everyone held their breath. "I can see! I can see!" the father shouted. Emotions ran high. The doctor said he could not explain how the surgery took such little time. He thought at first he had forgotten something - that's why he ran to his office. But it was clear that everything had gone properly. It was a complete mystery to him.

A few months later the father was driving around town.


[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 preeminent 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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