Weekly Chasidic Story #677 (s5771-11 / 8 Kislev 5771)

Mission impossible in Manhattan's East Village

The emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe had made a promise to a grieving father that he would find his runaway teenage daughter.

Connection: Seasonal - 14 Kislev (21/11/10)


Mission Impossible
in Manhattan's East Village

The city was hot and sweltering on that summer eve in 1989. The Chabad rabbi looked incongruously out of place in Manhattan's East Village, with his long beard and black coat.
Nevertheless, the Chabad rabbi was determined. He had made a promise to a grieving father in Southern California, a man who was a leader in the Jewish community of his city, that he would find his runaway teenage daughter. "Sarah is in New York City, that's all we know. Can you find her for me?" the man had begged the rabbi during a recent visit.

Mission impossible? Not for the rabbi. With a lot of effort and a little bit of mazel (luck), he finally found someone who recognized Sarah's picture. After that he was able to track her to an urban commune.

He invited her to come to his home in Brooklyn for a Shabbat meal. She not only came but returned many times and began finding her way back to Judaism. After a while, she met a young man from Israel, who was also rediscovering Judaism.

More time went by, and then…"We want you to marry us," Sarah told the rabbi.

The father of the bride was delighted beyond belief, but the father of the groom less so. He was a holocaust survivor from a rabbinical family, but his experiences during the war had so alienated him from his faith that he had raised his children as a humanistic ethicist, completely devoid of spirituality or mention of G-d.

The father made his son promise that he would not be asked to recite any blessings or prayers either at the ceremony or during the reception. Only on this condition would he attend the wedding.

On the morning of the wedding, the rabbi wrote a note to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to inform him about the marriage and to ask for a blessing for the bride and groom.

The Rebbe, upon receiving the note, put it together with hundreds of others that he would read aloud that day at the "Ohel," the resting place of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.

On this day, upon reading the note from the rabbi, the Rebbe wrote a few words on a paper and directed that it be given immediately to the rabbi.

The Rebbe had written that today's date, the date that the young couple chose for their wedding, was the 14th of Kislev, the same day on which the Rebbe and Rebbetzin were married decades earlier, in 1928. The note explained that the groom's grandfather was a Rabbi in Warsaw then and had attended the Rebbe's wedding. As a wedding present the rabbi had given them a book that he had written. The Rebbe directed the Chabad rabbi to go to the Rebbe's office, find the book, and take it to the chupa (wedding ceremony canopy) that evening."

Of course, the rabbi did exactly as the Rebbe had instructed. Just before the ceremony, the bride asked the rabbi to say a few words. The rabbi decided to tell the story about the book he was carrying.

He related how the Rebbe had asked that the book be at the chupa and explained that through the presence of the book the groom's grandfather, the former rabbi from Warsaw, would be spiritually represented at the wedding of his grandson, a grandson from whom he now has so much nachas (pleasure).

Upon hearing these words, the father of the groom abruptly stood up and quickly left the room. The rabbi found him, a few minutes later, weeping quietly in a phone booth in the lobby of the hotel.

"Rabbi," he sobbed "when I was a child, my father took me to Cheder (Torah elementary school for boys) where I loved studying, but I forgot everything. I wanted to forget. I made myself forget. Now I see that my father never gave up on me, even from Heaven. Won't you take me in hand and teach me again?"

Source: Excerpted and edited by Yerachmiel Tilles from the full version that first appeared in InsideOut Magazine, and was subsequently posted on L'ChaimWeekly.org

Connection: Seasonal - 14 Kislev (21/11/10)

Biographical note:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (11 Nissan 1902 - 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn 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.


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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