Baruch Hashem
 
Print these Stories before Shabbos, so you can enjoy them during Shabbos
 
 
THE SEARCHING SOULS
by Esti (Lynn) Wilson

We were two average Americans living average American lives: working until all hours of the night; talking constantly of work, real estate, and early retirement; finding ways to entertain ourselves through movies, bars, the gym, and TV.

I had met Doug at my new job. It took me a while to let him know I was Jewish, for I was afraid it would take away from my Yuppie status. Little did I know that being Jewish only enhanced my status in his eyes. We fell in love, got married, had two children...typical American story...or was it?

Doug was raised in a Catholic home. By the time I met him, he clearly did not consider himself a Catholic. His upbringing had given him a bad taste for organized religion and he was very wary of anything that smelled of it. As soon as we were "married" he began a study process of the history of the Jews. It was an intellectual pursuit to gain an understanding of a people and their heritage, as well as an attempt to gain an understanding of his meshugana Jewish wife. Doug consistently encouraged me to explore my own roots, to find an appropriate synagogue, to get involved in Judaism, to learn.

We paid our dues, went to services once a month on Friday evenings, and attended various events. Meanwhile, my brother had returned from a year in yeshiva in Jerusalem wearing tzitzit and a kipa. For Doug and me, having my brother in our home was a luxury. We felt we had our own private Rabbi to help us continue our learning.

We began to realize that a general understanding of Jewish tradition wasn't enough. We had a feeling there must be something more out there. Then Chabad moved in around the corner from our home. We finally went one Shabbat. When I left, my soul knew it had discovered the bigger thing - Hashem's Torah. The wheels that had been set in motion were now starting to turn at freight train speed. I had a fire burning within me, which needed to be fed with more Torah learning.

My husband had his own journey from here on. Prior to this point, we were on similar paths; however, now that we had discovered the Torah, our journeys took different directions. I knew from that point that my mission was to grow in learning Torah and to teach our children to become good Torah Jews. For my husband however, it wasn't the same... he wasn't a Jew.

It had become a very exciting and wonderful time for us, but a very difficult one as well, in that we didn't know where we, as a couple, would go from here. But we continued to learn, began observing Shabbat and started keeping kosher. Doug learned to read Hebrew and started to take an interest in Yiddishkeit. Something had changed in him - the pursuit was no longer intellectual, it was something else. He struggled with the concept of G‑d, but continued to push forward... always forward. I remained quiet about wanting my husband to be Jewish, but prayed to G‑d every night to help Doug along that path.

Doug observed the Sabbath, he went to shul every Saturday, and read and read. Then one day, the minute Shabbat ended, he said, "I have to go somewhere, I'll be right back." He came home about two hours later and told me he had asked our Chabad Rabbi if he could convert! I had had no idea he was ready for this.

The following year proved to be joyful, stressful, and a little scary. For, although we anticipated his final conversion as a joyful moment, the interim period was very difficult. Doug was given a program to study, and in the following months he was very focused on that program.

It was truly an amazing process to watch him go through. There was a fire burning in him, pushing him towards his goal. It was a very human drive but definitely had supernatural qualities. The day came when our Rabbi and the Rabbi from the Bet Din (Rabbincial Court) agreed he was ready.

The four weeks from when we received the date until the conversion was certainly a crazy time in our lives. Not only did Doug have to prepare for the conversion but we also had to prepare for Pesach. In addition, we had to plan our wedding, which would follow Doug's conversion. We decided that since this was our first Jewish wedding, we were going to treat it as such. By the time the day came, we were both high on adrenaline.

We arrived at the Bet Din with great anticipation and a whole lot of nervousness on my part. We were later told that prospective converts are not even allowed in front of the Bet Din unless they believe you're going to pass. He came out with a huge smile, and the Rabbis were saying Mazel Tov. I was very curious why it had gone so fast, and Doug's teacher (who was sitting in on the Bet Din) told me they had asked him questions which most people would probably not be able to answer. In addition, it was obvious to the Rabbis that his answers as to why he wanted to be a Jew were true and came from his heart and soul.

After the meeting with the Bet Din, we went directly to the mikva, where my husband completed his conversion and became Chaim Wilson. It was an overwhelming moment for us, but we were not done yet-we still had to be married! Onward to the wedding we went. Probably the most touching moment of the evening was when Chaim spoke. He thanked a number of people and then thanked me in a special way. He began by reading Aishes Chayil ("Woman of Valor") in Hebrew. It was truly a tremendous moment. A newly born Jew reading the language of our people in front of over 100 people. I was so proud.

Our lives have since proceeded at a steady pace of Torah growth. We feel tremendous gratitude to the Rebbe for sending Chabad to us. We look forward to the coming of the Moshiach.

Fans and Players

A Baseball Lesson
 
from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The last trolley of the evening rolled by on Kingston Avenue on a chilly winter night in 1955 as a jolly young Shimshon Stock ushered a close acquaintance and his soon-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son into the Lubavitch synagogue, around the corner at 770 Eastern Parkway.

Inside "770", soon to become famous as Lubavitch World Headquarters, was the study and office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who a few years earlier had accepted the leadership of this small Chassidic community still struggling to recover from the ravages of Stalinism and the Holocaust. At the time, the Rebbe had only a handful of emissaries scattered across Israel, America, Europe and North Africa; but he was already relentlessly and tirelessly building a global network of communities soon to gain worldwide renown for its unconventional yet contemporary ways of reaching out to Jewish youth.

Shimshon, born and bred in the New World, was very much the "American Boy". Yet he had enjoyed a close and special friendship with the Rebbe prior to the passing of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe — the Rebbe's father-in-law Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn — which continued on after the Rebbe accepted the mantel of leadership. He now introduced his friend and his friend's son to the Rebbe, who greeted them with his comforting and warm handshake, requesting them to please take a seat.

The Rebbe briefly blessed the boy that he should grow to become a source of pride to the Jewish people and to his family. As they turned to leave, Rebbe surprised the three Americans with the question he addressed to the youngster: "Are you a baseball fan?"

The Bar-Mitzvah boy replied that he was.

"Which team are you a fan of — the Yankees or the Dodgers?"

The Dodgers, replied the boy.

"Does your father have the same feeling for the Dodgers as you have?"

No.

"Does he take you out to games?"

Well, every once in a while my father takes me to a game. We were at a game a month ago.

"How was the game?"

It was disappointing, the 13-year-old confessed. By the sixth inning, the Dodgers were losing nine-to-two, so we decided to leave.

"Did the players also leave the game when you left?"

Rabbi, the players can't leave in the middle of the game!

"Why not?" asked the Rebbe. "Explain to me how this works."

There are players and fans, the baseball fan explained. The fans can leave when they like — they're not part of the game and the game could, and does, continue after they leave. But the players need to stay and try to win until the game is over.

"That is the lesson I want to teach you in Judaism," said the Rebbe with a smile. "You can be either a fan or a player. Be a player."

Outside 770 father and son said goodbye to Shimshon, the three now sharing a new admiration of a pioneer in Jewish education.

The Power of Keeping Shabbos

David Solomon was what you would call a self-made man. He lived in Manhattan and had built himself up from almost nothing with his own 'two hands'. Today was a multi-millionaire with several factories, had substantial holdings on Wall Street and knew exactly how loud money 'talks'.

Of course there was no place in his life for Judaism and no time for anything except business ... and family.

The most precious of all his possessions was his eighteen year old daughter. She was the apple of his eye. Her picture was on his desk and every wall of his office. He dreamed of the day that she would marry and he would see grandchildren. He even had a special fund saved up to buy her a new house and whatever she needed. And that day would soon be here.

He was sitting in his office when the phone rang. 'Mr. Solomon?" asked an official sounding voice on the other end of the line.

"Yes."

'Have you got a daughter by the name of Sarah Solomon?

Again he answered yes.

"This is a police officer speaking from County hospital. You'd better get down here fast, Mr. Solomon. Your daughter has been in a pretty severe automobile accident."

Mr. Solomon asked a few questions to make sure it wasn't a prank, slammed the phone down grabbed his keys and raced out of the office.

It was a nightmare. She was in critical condition. In a coma. Wires and instruments were attached to every part of her body. The doctors said that it was impossible to operate until her condition stabilized.

He stood there weeping. What could he do? His wife arrived and she too burst out in tears.

The next few days were almost without sleep. They waited in the hall for some news from the doctors. Perhaps she opened her eyes? Perhaps there would be some improvement?

But the only message of hope he received was his father's suggestion that he consult with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

"He's the only one that can help" his father said. "I have friends that he did big miracles for. If anyone can help you he can. Just go, get an appointment and get to see him.

David's emotions began flipping. At first he was excited; there was hope! But then he became disappointed .. in himself. What? I, Dovid Solomon, a normal, successful American businessman going to soothsayers and healers?

But maybe this was something different? After all, this was a respected Jewish Rabbi. He even heard that he was a great leader, a serious person. He was uncertain.

Then suddenly he was afraid. "I don't do any commandments. How can I go to this Rabbi? I'll be so ashaimed."

But then his confidence returned. He remembered his money. "I'll give a big donation and the Rabbi will certainly hear what I have to say."

Dovid drove down to the Rebbe's headquarters in Brooklyn to arrange a 'Yechidut'; a private meeting. Usually people had to wait for even months but because of the urgency that evening he was standing before the Rebbe.

"Rebbe!" He began to cry. "My daughter had a terrible accident. She is in critical condition. Rebbe, can you save her? Here, here is a check for fifty thousand dollars! For your institutions."

The Rebbe just looked at him without seeming to notice the check and said. "If you want to save your daughter you must begin to observe Shabbat."

"Rebbe," he replied "I can't promise such a thing. I'm a very busy man and I'm not a religious Jew. Here!" he took out his checkbook put it on the Rebbe's desk and began writing, "Here. One hundred thousand dollars! Please, Rebbe please take it, just save my daughter."

The Rebbe looked at him even more intently and said. "Mr. Solomon I am here to help you, I'm not thinking of myself. If you want her to be healthy keep the Sabbath."

"Rebbe, here!" Said Solomon as he signed his name to another check and placed it before the Rebbe. "It's an open check. Write what you want. Take what you need, just save her!!" He was really crying now. Looking deeply into the Rebbe's eyes for some hope.

"G‑d is responsible for her healing." the Rebbe replied. "You must appeal to Him. I can only help with prayer but you must also do your part" . "At least keep the Sabbath. Then your daughter will be healthy and you will even see grandchildren from her."

Mr. Solomon gathered up his checks. Said he would think about it, shook the Rebbe's hand and left closing the door after him. He waited around for a while outside the door hoping that the Rebbe would call him back. But he didn't and Solomon returned to the hospital empty handed.

That night he couldn't sleep. The meeting with the Rebbe made a deep impression on him. The Rebbe's face danced before his eyes saying "I am here to help you, not to help myself. keep Shabbat". It was the first time in his life he met a man that was not interested in his own personal profit.

Meanwhile Sarah's condition deteriorated.

"Nu" He said to his wife. This Shabbat we won't drive or turn on any lights. I mean we'll be staying in the hospital anyway so we have nowhere to go. And I think I remember how to make Kiddush; we can at least begin to do what Rabbi Shneerson said."

That Sunday there was some improvement and the next Sunday she opened her eyes for the first time in a month.

Mr. Solomon became a 'Shomer Shabbos' Jew and his daughter Sarah not only became completely healed, she eventually got married and had several children. Just as the Rebbe said.

 

           Eyes to See                        
                                                        by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

Daniel was just a baby when his parents moved from Russia to Israel. His father was a doctor and quickly found work in Israel and things looked good, until the "allergy."

Daniel was only four and a half years old when his eyes started itching. At first it was just annoying but it developed into more. The itching didn't let up and it was getting more painful.

The doctors ordered all sorts of tests. They thought that perhaps it was a nervous condition, perhaps something hereditary, perhaps an infection, perhaps an allergy.

And meanwhile, the pain was becoming unbearable. Eventually the doctors concluded that it was a rare eye disease caused by a virus which made the eyes react violently to light.

Poor little Daniel had to take pills, get shots and wear special
sunglasses to insure that no sunlight would reach his eyes. Although
there was some relief, the problem was not solved.

Even in the dark, Daniel's  eyes itched constantly. And if there was
ever a bright light - a camera flash, the passing glare of a car window on the classroom wall, clouds parting on a rainy summer day - Daniel would begin screaming in excruciating pain.

His parents refused to be defeated. They vowed to spare no money, time or trouble to search for the cure. They took Daniel from one specialist to another. Each time the doctors came up with new theories and tried new approaches, but inevitably these also failed.

In addition to conventional medicine Danny's parents did not rule out
"alternative methods." He was taken to the greatest experts in
acupuncture, massages, herbs, oils, diets, meditations, amulets, unique gems, ancient Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Russian healing, etc. but nothing worked.

Then there were blessings from great rabbis. When Daniel's parents heard that there were holy rabbis whose blessings bore fruit, their hopes again rose.

They went from rabbi to rabbi, city to city. They visited all of the
greatest rabbis in Israel who had made the lame walk and the barren give birth. But for some reason, Daniel was different. He remained in pain.

It took Daniel an average of one and a half hours every morning to open his eyes; the lids were simply stuck closed. In school he had to sit behind a special partition in the classroom where no bright light could enter and it goes without saying that he could not play like the other children.

Finally, after they had tried everything available and Danny was eleven years old the foremost eye expert in Israel sadly contacted Danny's parents and advised them to teach him Braille. If possible he should be prepared psychologically for in another year, he told them, Danny would be blind

It was just before this time that Daniel's parents had decided to move to America. They had found good jobs in New York, friends had found a place for them to live and also a renown specialist for Daniel. Before they knew it they were on the plane to a new chapter in life. Perhaps the change in place would change their "mazal" (luck) as well.

The first Shabbat in America they spent at the home of a friend in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, world headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim. On Shabbat, Daniel's parents attended a "farbrengen" (Chasidic gathering) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Daniel also attended the farbrengen and
recalls that it was interesting to look at the Rebbe's face.

The next day was Sunday. It was already a number of years that the
Lubavitcher Rebbe was distributing dollar bills to be given to charity
to thousands of Jews and non-Jews each week who came from all corners of the world.

That Sunday,  Daniel and his parents also stood in the long line and
awaited their turn for a precious moment with the Rebbe.

When their turn came, young Daniel was anything but shy. He looked up through his thick, dark glasses at the Rebbe and said in Russian: "I
want to be healthy and I want to be a Talmudic scholar. And I wish the Rebbe success and health."

The Rebbe smiled, gave Daniel a dollar and said "Amen." As Daniel was about to leave, the Rebbe added "B'karov Mamash - very, very soon."

One week later on Sunday morning, Daniel woke up and opened his eyes! It was the first time in six years that they weren't stuck closed.

Daniel noticed that there was no itching. He put on his glasses, went to the window, opened the shades, and looked outside. It was a beautiful summer day. He opened his eyes as wide as possible, slowly removed the glasses and began to cry from joy.

The pain was gone.

The next day the specialist, after performing a thorough examination,
concluded that Daniel probably needing reading glasses, but that was it. From what he could see, there had never been any other problem. Had it not been for all of the medical records that Daniel's father had
meticulously saved over the years, no one would have believed
differently.

Daniel went on to receive his rabbinic ordination from the
Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva in Morristown, New Jersey. A number of years ago he married and just a little while ago he became an emissary of the Rebbe in a very active and growing Chabad House in Russia, where I met Daniel and heard this story directly from him.
 
It Was His Love
 
Rabbi Glukowski was a teacher in Toronto. It was his job to teach Torah to the Jewish children in the school, but he also had a hobby: Teaching Torah to yet more Jews. 

In fact he was so good at it that he was often offered payment for these 'outside' activities. But he always refused, saying that the Lubavitcher Rebbe once told him that the wage he received for teaching also included 'a few other special projects of his own''

One day he received a telephone call from a man that he had never met in his life and who he had no idea where he got his phone number. 

The fellow was frantic. He was Jewish and his son, who we will call Sheldon, somehow got involved with a cult called Hari Krishna and no one had heard from him for months. The man was going out of his mind and was about to call the police when someone gave him the Rabbi's number.   

Rabbi Glukowski expressed sympathies at the tragic news but didn't
understand what it had to do with him. After all, he was a normal religious Jew with no experience with cults or such things. True he was an venturous sort of person with a tremendous love for all mankind, especially his fellow Jews, but he didn't understand anything about cults and certainly didn't have the time to go searching in India or somewhere else to find about this cult.

But the man on the other end of the phone wouldn't take no for an answer. He didn't care if the Rabbi knew about cults or not, he had heard his name from friends and was convinced that if anyone could get his son out it as him. Not only that but he had tried a lot of other things and called a lot of other people and nothing else worked.

And as far as locating his son, that was no problem. It so happened that he knew the exact location of his son, or at least where he was when he was last heard from several months ago; in an Ashram in Toronto, not far from where the Rabbi worked.

Something told Rabbi Glukowski to do it. It was crazy! But this could be another of his 'special projects'. He took the challenge.

With no plan, strategy or inside information whatsoever he woke early the next morning, located the Ashram, said a short prayer, put on a smile and began knocking on the massive front door (there was no door bell).

At first no one answered. They probably peeked out, saw a religious Jew and figured they should ignore him till he went away. But after he knocked for ten minutes without stopping a gruff voice from the other side of the closed door answered, "Who is it?! What do you want?!"

"Hello!" he replied brightly, "My name is Glukowski, Rabbi Glukowski, and I want to talk to Sheldon Greenbaum. Anyone called Sheldon Greenbaum in there? His parents are worried about him."

There were a few moments of silence and he almost considered to give them another ten minute knocking session when a different voice came from behind the closed door. "Yes, this is the one who is called Sheldon."

"Sheldon? Sheldon Greenbaum?" yelled the Rabbi. A faint grunt signifying 'yes' was heard from the other side.

"Hey! Hi Sheldon! Your father called me and he's worried. He might just call the police."

"I'm okay!" he answered.

"Listen Sheldon.  Do me a favor. Your father called me and asked me to contact you because he's worried and he said he might call the police because he's worried."

"So what do you want me to do?"

The Rabbi had to think fast and suddenly it came to him. "Listen, if you call him he won't believe you. He'll think you are brainwashed. I mean, three months is a long time not to call. And if I call him, what will I say?
I can't lie and say you're all right, I haven't even seen you.  So I have an idea.." Rabbi Glukowski knew he was really crossing the line here but he went through with it. "Come to my house this Shabbat and then I can tell him I saw you for a full day and he won't worry. What do you say?"

"One minute." Was the reply.

After a few minutes of silence the door opened and out stepped a thin
fellow, shaved head except for a clump of hair on the top with some sort of ornament dangling between his eyes. He was dressed in an orange robe wearing loose sandals and was carrying some sort of shapeless leather briefcase that looked like it was made in Tibet. He declared, "I am ready." 

Rabbi Glukowski took him to his house, which was only a few streets away, showed him to a room in the basement asked him if he wanted anything to eat or drink, or if he possibly wanted to take a shower. But Sheldon just gave a close-mouthed smile, sat as straight-backed as possible and shook his head serenely 'no'.

That evening, as the Rabbi expected, Sheldon declined his offer to go with him and his sons to Synagogue.  When they returned an hour or so later from the prayers they all sat down, Sheldon included, to the Shabbat meal. Luckily there were enough potatoes, salad and bread to keep their vegetarian guest satisfied.

Rabbi Glukowski had no problem talking Torah at the dinner table but he soon realized that none of it was really pertinent to spaced-out Sheldon. So he tried a joke. no reaction, a story.. no reaction, something about family, life, sports, hobbies, animals. no luck; Sheldon just smiled, sat straight backed and nodded his head and finally said a few words before he retired to his basement room.

That night Rabbi Glukowski was awaked from his sleep by a low groaning noise that filtered up into his bedroom from the basement.

He put on his slippers and night-robe and went down to have a look.  The moaning became louder as he descended and realized he was witnessing some sort of ritual.

Sheldon had a picture or some sort of statue propped up on a chair before him and he was actually bowing to it while chanting some monotonous mantra.

It was too weird for the Rabbi to bear: he had never seen a Jew actually worshiping an idol - certainly not right here in his house!!
He didn't know what to do.  It was out of the question to let it continue, but on the other hand he couldn't get angry or evict him... poor Sheldon thought he was doing a big mitzvah!

So Rabbi Glukowski sat up the entire night and talked to him.  Occasionally he went to get a cup of coffee to keep him up but he just kept talking. Not one word about idolatry, because he didn't know what to say, and also not too much about Judaism, because it turned Sheldon off, but about everything else under the sun; especially stories. 

The next day Sheldon was so exhausted that he slept the entire day, waking only for the Shabbat meal and, needless to say, Rabbi Glukowski was a wreck. He would have liked to also catch a few hours of sleep but Shabbat was one of his busiest days, praying, being with his family and teaching several classes.

Years later (only a few years ago) Rabbi Glukowski passed away and his children, all of whom had already married and had children of their own, spent the seven-day mourning period in his home in Toronto. In that time hundreds, of people came to comfort the mourners and to praise the deceased. Among them was a thin, middle aged, religious fellow with sparkling eyes that no one seemed to recognize.  

He sat opposite the mourners and said; "When I heard your father passed away I had to come. Remember me? I was by your house about fifteen years ago for one Shabbat. You were all younger then, so was I but I had a shaved head and was wearing an orange robe."

He told them of how that Shabbat got him to begin to think about his Jewish soul seriously for the first time in his life until finally he went to a yeshiva a year or so later and liked it.

"You know what did it?" He concluded his story," You know what really
impressed me about your father?  It wasn't anything he said; in fact even the next day I didn't remember any of it, not a word.  It was his love. I never saw such unconditional love in my life. That is what changed my mind."