Join the Family Business

A Modern Orthodox bocher arrived at the Zal in Kfar Chabad in his shirt and jeans. After studying diligently for several years, he continued his studies at Crown Heights where he met his Kallah. His father asked him to join his business following his wedding. The chosson, however, insisted  that he’ll continue for 2 years in kollel possibly followed by a lifetime of Shlichus. They decided the Rebbe will settle the matter at Yechidus.

Some weeks before his chasuno, he entered the Rebbe’s room along with his parents for yechidus. During yechidus, the Rebbe uncharacteristically agreed with the father’s request. It was customary that following Yechidus with his parents, the Choson would see the Rebbe again privately. To be sure he understood correctly, the Choson asked again about his future following his Chasunoh. To the Choson’s disappointment, the Rebbe reiterated what he previously told the parents.

Sadly, the Choson’s father took ill during Sheva Brochos. Shortly thereafter he passed on, leaving his business to his newly-married son.

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The cough

This story discusses an Israeli bocher who arrived in 770 for kevutzoh. Money back at home was tight and he determined to help out. Problem was hanholo did not permit him to take off any time from his studies for anything else. Determined as he was, he secured himself a job at the Williamsburg Padriad (Matzoh bakery) as their mashgiach because they paid their mashgichim well.

Well, when the year ended, he returned to Israel. As he descended the plane, he suddenly began sneezing heavily. As the sneezing developed to wheezing and whooping, he consulted all the doctors he could. Unfortunately, they were of no help.

At last the coughing stopped as abruptly as it began. When the bocher visited the Kfar Chabad yeshiva, he tearfully told the talmidim gathered there of his saga. He told them of all the money he threw on these useless doctors. He calculated that it was when he spent on them the last penny he earned at the padriad that the cold stopped.

Friday 21 Shvot 5777

An Israeli bocher prepared for his upcoming Tishrey trip to the Rebbe. He was keenly aware of his character shortcomings but this didn’t particularly perturb him. He expected that the experience of Tishrey in the Rebbe’s presence and in the environment of 770 would have their impact on his personality; He decided not to do the hard work himself.

Well, Tishrey came and went. The bocher returned to Eretz Yisroel in the same condition he left. He expressed his surprise in a letter to the Rebbe; perhaps he was trying to excuse himself: He did what he had to – he came to the Rebbe for Tishrey.

At any rate, the Rebbe replied to him curtly: That’s because your Yetzer Horo came along with you without a ticket.

(See also ‘סיפורי חסידים – רש״י זוין – עה”מ סיw218)

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The Rebbe had a constant cough; he can be heard coughing on the recording of any farbrengen. President Shazar had a similar condition. At one yechidus, he suggested that the Rebbe consult the New York specialist who successfully cured Mr. Shazar’s cough. The Rebbe replied that when his chasidim will stop thinking מחשבות זרות, he’ll stop coughing too.

(See also the Rebbe’s remarks at the end of באתי לגני תשי”א concerning the מיטעלער רבי.)

The boxer with the 4 Minim

A pair of Lubavitcher Yungerleit knocked on the doors of Hollywood looking for Jews with which to bench on the Arba Minim. One of the gentlemen who answered was a man of enormous dimensions and long hair – a true hippie. Our friends offered him the opportunity to make a brocho. Yet he assured them that he already fulfilled the Mitzvoh that morning. Unfazed, the yungerleit emphasized to him the importance of the Mitzvah, the blessings it would bestow upon him personally, the protection it would offer Israel and its soldiers as well its benefits to the entire Jewish nation. But the gentleman insisted that he already made a brocho that day. The chasidim persisted as they continued to impress upon him the importance of the mitzvoh.

Finally, the gentleman told them,” I see you don’t believe me. Follow me inside and I’ll show you the set I made the Brocho on.”

Incredulous, the Chasidim followed him inside, and were awed to behold the beautiful set he showed them.

“Where did you get them from?” they demanded.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

“This we’ve got to hear.”

“Sure!

“I’m a retired boxer. One time I was teamed up against a black boxer.

“Now, one thing you’ve got to know about boxing. Not always the stronger or the superior boxer wins a tournament. You see, games are at times sponsored. And the sponsors occasionally indicate who they wish to win the match. At this particular game, I was notified that my opponent was to win.

“And so I competed poorly, ensuring my opponent victory. He apparently had it in for me, as he proceeded to beat pulp out of me as I lay defeated. Finally, Emergency services intervened and an ambulance transported me unconscious as good as dead to the hospital.

“In the meantime, I sensed my life ended and I stood before a tribunal of 3 Rabbis who’d now decide my fate, after reviewing my life. 2 quickly said that I wasted my entire life on nonsense and for me to continue living, therefore, serves no purpose.

“But the third Rabbi suggested that they give me one more chance, to which his colleagues readily agreed. I then opened my eyes to find darkness all around me. I felt my body drop. I later learnt that the nurse who carried me to the hospital morgue was stunned when she felt movement in my bag and in her great fear dropped the bag with me inside on the floor.

“After this near death experience, I quit boxing. I earned enough to retire in style. one night in early fall, as I flipped through the TV stations, my wife caught site of a venerated Rabbi addressing an audience of thousands of people in an unintelligible language. As soon as I saw the Rabbi, I swooned. When I got to, I explained my bewildered wife that he had the same face as the famous Rabbi I told her about who saved my life while I was taken away to the morgue.

“I called the number running across the bottom of the TV screen, demanding  to speak to the Rabbi.”

Let me interrupt the narrator’s story momentarily to explain to you that these calls were fielded by a team of Bochrim who sat in the room of WLCC during each weekday farbrengen.

“I was told this was impossible. The Rebbe was addressing a large crowd. I could try the Rebbe’s secretariat on the morrow. Determined, I called the next morning and was informed that the Rebbe doesn’t take phone calls. I could write to him though. And write to him I did.

“Several days later, the secretariat called me back. The Rebbe received my letter and requested that I meet him in his office that same week. My return trip was already paid and booked. [Writer’s note: The narrator briefly repeated to his spellbound listeners what the Rebbe explained to him. Sorry I don’t remember this part.] As the yechidus concluded, the Rebbe said that as we’re approaching Sukkos, he’s handing me a set of 4 minim which he wants me to be sure to use daily throughout the festival.

“And that’s the story of these Arba minim.”

The Rov of Shklov

A Yungerman applied for the Rabbonus in a small European shtetl. A large and influential contingent of its Jewish population were Lubavitcher Chasidim and so any potential candidate required the approval of the Rebbe Maharash.

When the aspiring Rov met the Rebbe, the Rebbe made his approval conditional that he receive Smichoh from the Shklover Rov. The yungerman raised an eyebrow for the Rov of Shklov was known to be a fierce opponent of the Rebbe, but he heeded what he was told.

The Rov of Shklov was no less stunned to hear what brought the yungerman to him. He quizzed him and was satisfied with the young man’s replies but was still perturbed by the Rebbe’s strange stipulation. He instructed the yungerman to return in the evening for his smicho.

In the evening, the Rov continued the interview in an attempt to uncover the Rebbe’s possible reason. He finally advised the Yungerman that he’ll need to sleep over it and he’ll give the young man his reply the next morning.

The Rov spent the entire night attempting to get to the bottom of the matter. He started to wonder whether he possibly met the applicant before. Then, he remembered something. Years ago, he traveled on a wagon with another passenger. During the trip, the wagon was stopped by a Russian soldier who requested access to the wagon. The driver let him aboard.

The soldier, turning out to be a cross-dressed woman, began conversing with the other passenger. The Rov from Shklov was dismayed to hear the dialogue get progressively vulgar. Now, he recognized the young man who came to him for Smicho as that passenger.

The next morning, the Rov asked the yungerman whether he ever traveled with a Russian soldier and a third passenger and told the yungerman, “You’re not getting any Smicho from me…”

(Heard at a Montreal farbrengen.)

The Baal Kore with the Biur

I believe this story was published in the המאור journal, but considering that not everyone necessarily has easy access to המאור, I’ll reproduce it here.

Rabbi Amsel visited some city in the States for ש”ק. He was the second person to walk into שול on  שבת morning. The שמש was already there preparing the לייענען as was his wont. To the Rabbi’s consternation, the שמש was using a חומש with Mendelsohn’s Biur. Now, in the אלטע היים, the Biur was used for nothing but שריפת חמץ and BBQ’s.

When, as expected, Rav Amsel was called up to the תורה, he declared that this שמש will not לייען his ‘עלי. Either he read it himself, or he won’t accept an ‘עלי altogether . The שמש protested the great בזיון displayed against him, but the גבאי advised him that Rav Amsel was a respected רב whereas he was only a שמש; he had no real option other than comply.

That night, after שבת ended, the שמש called on him. The visiting Rov admitted him into his apartment and the שמש began: The visiting Rabbi apparently saw through his very religious appearance and understood that he had a dark past:

When he first arrived at this שטעטל, he had difficulty finding פרנסה. But, then one day, the local conservative congregation approached him to be their Rabbi. You need to remember that the the conservative synagogue of that era closely resembled the average Modern Orthodox Synagogues of the era. At any rate, he accepted the position. When telling his wife of his new vocation, he of course did not disclose to her what kind of “House of Worship” this was. Yet, one Shabbos, his wife decided to surprise him So she stealthily followed him to “Shul”. Yet, as she sat there, the bitter truth hit her.

From great depression, she took ill and weeks later passed on. Needless to say, her husband was broken and guilt-ridden by her untimely demise. He gave up the Conservative pulpit and decided to devote himself working for Yiddishkeit. With time, he landed his current position. Now he’s asking the Rov how hw can rectify his past.

Rav Amsel explained that he knew nothing of his past. He disqualified him from reading his ‘עלי simply because he prepared it out of a חומש with the Biur. He instructed the שמש never to use it again.

Machine Rabbis

R’ Shmuel Levitin headed a Yeshiva in Nevel, Russia for training Rabbis. He remarked, “My Yeshiva produces machine Rabbis,” and explained, “When manufacturing machine tzitizs, one inserts wool on one side of the machine and tzitzis emerge from the other end. With matzos, one inserts flour into one end, and Matzo comes out the other. In my Yeshiva, א גוי אן עם הארץ walks in from one side and an ordained Rabbi walks out the other.

(Repeated by my grandfather.)

The Rabbi and wagon driver

Chief Rabbi Izaak of Homil never veered from his practise of praying at great length even while on the road. These lengthy sessions gave his uneducated wagon driver ample time for observations and thought… After one such session, he shared with the Rabbi an observation he made from their many trips: The faster the horses ran, the quicker the wheels turned…

The Rabbi advised him once more that spending more time to at least daven like a mentsh, rather than gobbling through it, would allow him less time to focus on such nonsense.

To which the wagon driver retorted, “How can the Rabbi compare himself with me? We both stared school together in the same class. With his sharp mind the Rabbi quickly ascended to Chumosh, then Mishna and Gemoro class. You barely spent 3 months learning Ivri? How well can you know it? No wonder it takes you so long to read through the Siddur. With my thick head, I spent years in Krioh class. After so much time, I became so fluent in Ivri, I fly through the Hebrew prayers in no time…

The mashpia and the bath tender

Shortly before his demise, R’ Shmuel Ber of Bobroisk shared a story with his disciples. He was always awkward about sharing it, he explained, but he did not want to take it to the grave. One time, a difficult question in a specific Maamar bothered him. In yechidus, he asked the Rebbe Rashab about him and the Rebbe advised him to ask the bath tender in his own shtetl. Surprised, R’ Shmuel dutifully did what he was tod. Twitching his eyebrows, the bath tender thought several moments and then blew R’ Shmuel away with the answer he came up with.

R’ Shmuel was incredulous. True, this Chasidishe bath tender studied some Chasidus and, in general, was a שטיקל יודע ספר but he certainly was no match for this leading mashpia. You need to understand exactly R’ Shmuel’s standing. When the Rebbe Rashab said the deep hemshech ayin bais, the misnagdim could not believe that the fifty year old Rebbe came up with it himself. They were certain that the senior mashpia with his advanced knowledge in Chasidus, assisted the Rebbe with its contents.

So R’ Shmuel asked the simple bath tender how he came up with the answer. The bath tender explained that apparently R’ Shmuel must have been so deeply exasperated by this question that he turned to a simple bath tender for an answer. Seeing how much it bothered R’ Shmuel, he made his best effort to attempt to resolve it.

Sugar and blood veins on the walls?

The Rebbe Rashab was known to boil before Pesach all sugar he consumed during the Yom Tov. The idea was that as the sugar dissolved into liquid, any wheat kernels in it would become noticeable and would be removed. (The sugar back then was not necessarily as pure as it is today and there were legitimate concerns of other grains mixed in it.)

His own brother-in -law R’ Moshe Horenstein (I’m not sure he was a Lubavitcher) owned a sugar plant. During one Pesach he personally offered the Rebbe some cubes vouching that his factory went to great lengths to ensure all sugar was pure. The Rebbe turned one cube on all its corners. Then, breaking the cube, a seed came right out.

R’ Moishe later remarked that this incident did not sway him. He reminded his listeners about a מחלוקת the holy Arizal had with the local מרא דאתרא, meaning the Bais Yosef about a specific animal part. The Beis Yosef writes in Shulchon Aruch that the part may be consumed after all blood veins and fats were properly removed (or cut open). The Arizal, however, maintained that the part is too infested with blood veins and fats and cannot, therefore be properly cleaned of these items.

At a repast he hosted, the Beis Yosef served the Arizal the exact part they were debating. He wished to finally bring the matter to rest. The Arizal simply turned over the meat a few times, cut it open and showed the Bais Yosef some veins which were overlooked. The Beis Yosef was very disturbed by this incident. He practically advised world Jewry to eat a meat cut which was certain to contain prohibited blood and fat. In his dream that night, however, the Beis Yosef was advised not to be discouraged. The Arizal in his great holiness could produce blood veins on the walls…

“So too,” concluded R’ Moshe, “the Rebbe can produce grains on the walls…”

(Rav Zevin relates a similar story regarding R’ Akiva Eiger and his son-in-law the Chasam Sofer.)