Baruch Hashem

Shabbos Stories for B'har & B'chukosei
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 Will He Ever See?

This story began in 1973 in New York. Daniel Londberg wasn't always blind. He was born a normal child until he was two hours old.

The accident was an explainable one. The nurse made a mistake between silver nitrate eye drops and the silver nitrate solution used for cleaning the area of the umbilical chord. The former is 1% solution and the latter 70 times stronger. As the first drops hit little Daniel's eyes he began to scream in horrific pain and was scarred and blinded for life.

The doctors heard the screams, rushed in and tried all they could to minimize the damage. They even said they succeeded a bit, just to calm little Daniel's parents who were torn in agony over the child's suffering, but in fact the damage was irreverseable.

But they didn't give up. As soon as Daniel was released from the hospital they searched for a cure. They went from doctor to doctor, expert to expert but none came. One world- renowned professor even screamed at them and ousted them from his office for wasting his time with their helpless case. Others told them to just accept the boy's blindness and begin preparing his future; special schooling, Seeing Eye dog etc.

But for some reason, as illogical as it was, they believed that Daniel would see again and all this would seem like a terrible nightmare.

Then a small window of hope opened in the form of one Dr. Hornblass. Unlike all the other doctors he took a lot of his time, explained to them exactly how the eye works and answered all their questions. Then he took several weeks of examinations, tests, took samples, x-rays and kept charts and notes until he announced that he had a cure, or at least a possibility of a cure, which is more than they had up to now. The treatment would take a month and then they would have to wait for a few months to see the results.

Hopes were high, tension was great and their nerves were wearing out. After three months Dr. Hornblass called them into his office, told them to be seated and solemnly announced that he had done his best, but there had been no results - none whatsoever. They had no choice but to accept. It was futile to do otherwise. The child would be blind.

The Londbergs were broken in heart and soul; exhausted and depressed after a year and a half of running to hospitals and doctors with no progress! They decided to accept their fate.

But fate can be tricky.

Mr. Londberg decided to take a few weeks' vacation from his work for rest and recovery. He was a teacher by profession and was an expert in several topics. In his first place of work they were very understanding and gave him two weeks. But in his second place; a job teaching English in a Lubavitcher Torah Academy in Brooklyn, although they gave him the vacation he asked for, he sensed there was something wrong, it wasn't with a whole heart.

As soon as he returned from his vacation he met another one of the teachers there in the hall, a very knowledgeable and friendly Rabbi named Menachem Mendel Tenenbaum who asked him if everything was all right and where he had been.

When Mr. Londberg explained what had happened the Rabbi looked him in the eyes and asked, "Tell me, did you write a letter to the Rebbe?"

Now Londberg understood why they didn't want to give him the leave! He had heard that these Lubavitchers actually believe that their Rebbe can do miracles. They were probably wondering why he didn't just ask the Rebbe for a blessing and finished! But to him it was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo! He'd never do it! Who ever heard of such things? Miracles? Every normal person knew it was all superstition. There were no such things.

"Just write to the Rebbe" Rabbi Tenenbaum interrupted Londberg's thoughts "And it could be that all your problems will be over. At least try it. A lot of people got helped. It's sort of like how Moses took the Jews from Egypt."

Londberg liked this Rabbi Tenenbaum; he was an intelligent, well rounded, good natured man and they had exchanged a few friendly words many times in the few years he had been teaching there. He listened and tears came to his eyes. Who would believe that he, George Londberg, a normal, rational man, would ever consult a Rabbi for a blessing! But his back was to the wall.

"Okay" he replied, "You're sure it works? Okay I'll give it a try. What do I have to do? Let's just sit down in one of these rooms and you'll tell me what to write."

But the Rabbi hesitated. He had something more to say.

"Let me ask you a personal question" he said in the most caring way, "do you put on Tefillin?" Londberg shrugged his shoulders and shook his head 'no' hoping it didn't disqualify him.

"Listen, George" The Rabbi continued, "Blessings are sort of like rain; they don't work so well unless you plow and plant first. So I think that if you want to ask for a blessing you should at least make a vessel for the blessing. For instance, putting on Tefillin every day."

George was in a dilemma. On one hand it was ridiculous; this is the 20th century! But on the other hand he was a Jew and he really knew nothing about Judaism and… who knows… maybe Moses did do miracles! Maybe there is such a thing today too?!

He agreed, wrote the letter to the Rebbe with the promise to put on Tefillin and gave it to Rabbi Tenenbaum to hand in.

The next day George's phone rang, Rabbi Tenenbaum was excited! "Good news! The Rebbe answered! And it was very positive!" But Londberg had trouble sharing the excitement. He still had big doubts about this blessing thing! He didn't really listen as the Rabbi Tenenbaum emotionally read the Rebbe's answer in Yiddish and tried to translate in English.

The only think that registered was when the Rabbi reminded him about his promise to put on Tefillin.

The next day when George returned from work his wife was in an emotional turmoil. She swore that little Daniel had reacted a few times to light… that his eyes seemed to follow things! The next day George took the child to Dr. Hornblass who made a short examination of Daniel and looked up angrily. "Have you been to another doctor without telling me? After all the time and care I've given you, you could have at least informed me!"

"Certainly not!" Was the reply, "Why do you ask?"

"If so, then I don't understand what is going on." the doctor said in wonder, "Your son is beginning to see! I thought this was medically impossible!"

When Londberg told him of the Rebbe's blessing the Doctor seemed to be relieved and said "Ahh, now I understand; the Lubavitcher Rebbe! With the Rebbe everything is possible."

Three months later, with the constant care and guidance of doctor Hornblass, Daniel's sight returned to him totally and five years later, when he was seven, he underwent plastic surgery that totally removed the scars.

Possessed vs Kosher
 
This story happened some thirty years ago in Minnesota. The heroes are Yigal and Nechama, two typical Israeli kibbutzniks. They were intelligent, sensitive, anti-religious (especially Judaism), and living in America.

Both had good jobs and would have lived happily ever after if it wasn't for the day that Nechama became.....possessed.

It was early one Monday morning when it happened. They were both getting ready to go to work. Nechama was making coffee for the two of them and Yigal was in the bathroom just finishing shaving when he heard her shouting from the other room.

"Hey! You don't have to yell! One minute, I'm coming!" he shouted above her voice as he dried his face and went to her. And there she was, standing in the middle of the living room shaking her hands and head strangely and shouting at the ceiling.

He tried to calm her down and even got her seated on the couch but it didn't help. She stood and began shouting again until, after fifteen more minutes, she finally sat down on her own and became silent. After a few minutes she began talking normally and didn't remember a thing.

Yigal called his and her bosses to say they wouldn't be in and took her to the doctor. But the checkup and the tests he took showed nothing. He suggested they wait, and if it happened again to go to a psychiatrist for more comprehensive testing.

Two days later it happened again but this time for half an hour and they went to the hospital for neurological tests. But they too gave no clue as to what was going on.

Yigal didn't know what to do. The attacks came without warning and were becoming more severe. The next week she had four; one lasted over an hour.

Going to work was out of the question for either of them. He couldn't leave her alone and certainly not with the children. But on the other hand, she couldn't be hospitalized; when she wasn't having a fit she was completely normal and didn't even recall anything she had done. The only chance was to try other doctors or perhaps alternative medicine.

For months they ran from office to office and from treatment to treatment. Poor Nechama took pills, shots, massages, acupuncture, changed her diet, and did tens of other things but the attacks continued.

But help often comes from strange places. Someone suggested to her that since everything else failed maybe she should consult with a Rabbi.

At first she refused. "No, no!" she protested, "not a Rabbi! How could a Rabbi possibly help? Rabbis are for weddings and burials and things not about life."

"But this Rabbi is different," her friend said. "I heard him speak and he was very practical and positive." With no other choice Nechama agreed. "But don't let my husband know!" she warned her friend.

The Rabbi was the well-known Chabad Chassid, teacher, world lecturer, and author Rabbi Manis Friedman, and when he heard her story he immediately suggested that they write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

"G‑d is the source of all health and life and the Rebbe has a special way of connecting people to the Creator of the Universe," he explained.

She wrote and the answer was soon in coming.

The Rebbe wrote that he was pained to hear of her illness but assured her that if she and her family would be careful from now on to eat only kosher food, she would return to normal health.

It didn't take much to convince her to try, she was desperate! She threw caution to the winds and decided to go for it.

It wasn't really that hard. She and Rabbi Friedman's wife hit it off well and after a conversation of an hour or so they went shopping. Meanwhile, Rabbi Friedman sent a group of young Chassidim to make her kitchen kosher; the stove, the dishes, the pots and pans, even the spoons and forks had to be boiled or torched to make them fit for Torah standards.

Nechama returned home with ten shopping bags full of kosher food and new orders for the family.

But Yigal held his head in agony. Just when he thought that things couldn't get worse....now this! Before it was only her but now she wanted to "infect" him and the kids as well!

He was trying to be calm and speak to her logically when the bell rang and the young Chassidim that Rabbi Friedman sent entered with a huge pot, a blow torch, and other implements to work on the kitchen.

That night Yigal called a friend and asked for help, and he called the right person. "There is a fortune teller!" his friend said with great certainty. "Not just a fortune teller but a healer and miracle worker. Everyone goes to her and she is amazing! I think she's a gypsy from India or something but if anyone can help, she can. I'll make an appointment for tonight and we'll go together."

"Phew!" Yigal sighed with relief. "Finally something normal!"

That evening he was seated opposite the miracle lady, pouring out his heart while his friend sat next to him, looking alternatively at him and her to see what she would respond.

She heard the story, thought for a moment in silence, looked at him
seriously and said, "Wait a minute, you are Israeli, right? I mean....you are Jewish? Correct? So why do you come to me? You Jews have a grand Jewish Rabbi in Brooklyn that has a thousand times my powers! Even more than that! And he is never wrong. Why don't you go to him?"

Yigal tried to explain that Rabbis are not healers and that Judaism is too archaic, complicated, and meaningless for him but the fortune teller just shrugged her shoulders. She couldn't understand what he was getting at.

That night Yigal returned home a defeated man....or rather a victorious one. He had begun to defeat all his false conceptions about G‑d and His commandments. He announced that he was willing to be a partner in Nechama's kosher craze. Until the next attack, that is.

But the next attack never came. In fact, Yigal and his wife, although they still do not consider themselves to be at all religious, keep kosher, Shabbat, and he even puts on tefillin daily to add health to the world.

And, of course, a big picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe adorns the most prominent wall in their living room.

Because of a Pinch of Snuff

There was once a rich chassid who was known for his piety and erudition. We'll call him Reb Yaakov.

One day, a very distressed Reb Yaakov was standing before the great chassidic master, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. He was on the verge of tears.

"I can't understand it," he lamented. "Everything I do is failing. I used to have such good business sense. It's as though I've been cursed! Has someone cursed me?"

The Baal Shem Tov said nothing. Reb Yaakov tried to wait but the silence was unbearable.

"Every time I make an investment it ends in disaster. I'm losing money hand over fist! What should I do?"

The Baal Shem Tov looked up at him sadly and said, "Your snuff box."

"My snuff box?" Reb Yaakov asked nervously, fumbling in his jacket pocket producing a small, finely decorated, golden box which he proceeded to open.

But the Baal Shem Tov paid no attention and continued.

"About a half year ago you were sitting in shul (synagogue) with some of your friends and you took that box out and offered them snuff. Do you remember?"

"I... I don't.. That is... almost every day some of us we sit together after shachrit (morning prayer) and pass around ..."

"Do you remember the day that you took out your snuff box and offered everyone to take a bit of snuff, but when you saw a beggar stand up from his seat in the corner and head towards you to take some you closed it and put it back in your pocket? Do you remember?"

Reb Yaakov tried not to remember but suddenly the scene was there in his memory, clear as day. He didn't want that bum to get too close. He looked disgusting. Not only that, but he had been in the middle of a conversation with his friends...

"Well," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "maybe it meant nothing to you at the time because your success and wealth had hardened your heart. But you really shamed that man to the core of his being. So it was decided in heaven that all your worldly possessions will be taken from you and be given to him."

Reb Yaakov was stunned. He couldn't believe his ears: all this because of a pinch of snuff? But it was happening, it was true! He was loosing everything at a frightening pace. And now that he thought about it, that beggar seemed to have disappeared. It was a curse all right; but it was he who had cursed himself!

He looked at the Baal Shem Tov imploringly and stammered, "Is there any way I can..."

"The only one way you would get your wealth back," the Baal Shem Tov said, "is if the process is reversed. If you ask him for a pinch of snuff and he refuses you, then he will lose it all to you, just as you did to him..."

Reb Yaakov returned home. Things proceeded the way that they had been going for the last six months. Within a few weeks he indeed lost everything, including his house and belongings, just as the Baal Shem Tov said he would.

He also discovered that the beggar — we'll call him Isaac — had suddenly become a rich businessman. He was now making daring investments all over the place and was associating with some of the wealthiest men in the country.

Several times Reb Yaakov considered just going up to Isaac as he left his house in the morning and asking him for a pinch of snuff, but decided against it. He would wait for a better opportunity. A time when he was busy or distracted and likely to refuse him.

Finally the opportunity came.

One morning, the shul bulletin board had a notice pinned to it inviting everyone in the city to the wedding of.... Mr. Issac's daughter. It would be in two weeks in the large town square.

Two weeks later Reb Yaakov was there with a foolproof plan.

The wedding ceremony was underway. The band played solemnly and then stopped as the couple stood under the wedding canopy. The rabbi finished all the blessings, the groom broke the glass, the band broke into joyous playing. Hundreds of people surrounded the newlywed couple and their parents. Everyone began dancing, shaking the hands of the groom and the father of the bride, slapping them on the shoulders and calling out Mazal Tov!

And at that very moment Reb Yaakov ran up to Mr. Issac, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Please give me a pinch of snuff!"

Mr. Issac looked at him strangely. He turned back to the person that he had been speaking to (Aha! He was ignoring Reb Yaakov!), mumbled an apology, then turned back around, snuff box in hand, and offered it to the guest with the strange request.

Reb Yaakov fainted. A doctor was called. He was carried to a side room and after a few minutes Mr. Issac appeared.

"He'll be alright" said the doctor. "Maybe it was too warm or something."

"But why is he weeping?" Mr. Issac asked.

"I'll tell you why" said Reb Yaakov. "Remember me? I'm the rich man who insulted you so badly by refusing to give you a pinch of snuff months ago in shul, and because of that I lost all my riches and you gained them. Well, just now when you didn't act selfishly as I did back then, I lost my only chance to regain my wealth." And he resumed crying.

But our story has a happy ending.

When Mr. Issac heard the entire story, he calmed Reb Yaakov down, invited him to the wedding feast, and reassured him: "If the Baal Shem Tov says that you're the cause of my sudden wealth, then the least I can do for you is to provide you with a home and a job for the rest of your life..."

 
The Rebbe Knows Tasmania
Raquel E. HaSofer

My story starts many years before my own birth. My father grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, an avowed Communist and atheist.

In 1949, when he was expelled from Egypt for illegal political activities, he moved to Israel, became an officer in the army and met my mother. Together they became members of a non-religious kibbutz.

In 1954 they moved to Tasmania, Australia.

The small Jewish community in Tasmania was totally assimilated. The president of the community approached my father and requested of him that since he was the only Jew in the community who knew Hebrew, would he please lead the services in the synagogue?

Needless to say, my father was taken totally by surprise.

"Are you absolutely crazy?" he asked. "I am an atheist. I know nothing about religion or G‑d, nor do I believe in any of it!" Nevertheless, to his own amazement, the community won him over, and my father took on the job of leading the services.

My father's belief in Communism had already been severely shaken years before when it became clear to him that the Communist "show" trials in Czechoslovakia were a sham.

As a result, he and my mother started looking into Judaism and their feelings towards G‑dliness gradually grew. They began to be attracted to the Torah and mitzvot and wished to abide by at least some of them.

My mother remembered some of the laws of Shabbat and kashrut from her parents' home, so they kept whatever they could and thirsted for more. Yet this was not enough. Each day they prayed their own private prayers to G‑d, that He should somehow send them some kind of information about Judaism.

My mother, in particular, became convinced that since every generation in Jewish history always had a leader, anointed by G‑d, to lead the Jewish people, there must be a leader assigned to lead and help the Jews of this generation, too.

At that point she felt an urgency, and from the depth of her being cried out: "G‑d! If there is a leader of this generation who has the absolute responsibility to help every Jew, then I demand of him, from this remote corner of the world, to reach out to us and help us, too!"

Soon after this, Rabbi Chaim Gutnick, a Lubavitcher rabbi from Melbourne, Australia, unexpectedly received a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, telling him to go to Tasmania. Although he had no idea why he was going, Rabbi Gutnick organized a visit to Tasmania.

The moment he arrived in Tasmania, he was accosted by my parents who triumphantly announced to him: "Rabbi! You are the answer to our prayers! We have begged G‑d to send us some information about how to be Jewish, and finally you are here. You must come to our house immediately and show us the ways of a Jew."

So Rabbi Gutnick helped them and came back the following year as well. The Rebbe had literally stretched out his hand to a small island in distant Australia to answer the call of two lone Jews. This was the beginning of my parents' way up the eternal ladder of Judaism and their eternal attachment to the Rebbe.

Later, it was my parents' turn to be the envoys of the Rebbe to save a Jewish soul.

One day, out of the blue, my father received an invitation to go for nine months to Malaysia, a Muslim country with no Jewish community.

He wrote to the Rebbe, who advised him to accept.

During a private audience with the Rebbe, the Rebbe told my parents that they were going to Malaysia on a mission to save Jewish souls.

For the entire time that they were in Malaysia, however, they did not meet any Jews! They did befriend a Buddhist monk called Mahinda, to whom my father taught some elements of Chasidut. Mahinda greatly admired these teachings.

One day, after they returned home to Sydney, Australia, they were contacted by a young Jewish woman from England. She told them that she had gone to Malaysia to search for spiritual truth and had wanted to study Buddhism with Mahinda.

Mahinda asked her, "Why are you seeking truth in Buddhism? You can find all the truth you need in your own faith," and he sent her to my parents.

The Rebbe's mission was successful: a Jewish soul was saved through their trip to Malaysia. The young woman is now married, and an active member of the Lubavitch community in Sydney.

Some time later, my mother had a stillborn child. When the doctors told her that she could not have any more children, she became depressed and frustrated.

In a private audience she asked the Rebbe for a blessing for another child. She also explained that she was very upset because she felt an overwhelming connection to the Rebbe and all the preceding Rebbes, but she did not feel a connection to the Previous Rebbe. For a moment the Rebbe looked very concerned, but then a wide smile swept across his holy face and he said, "You will, you will!"

Soon, contrary to all the doctors' opinions, my mother became pregnant, and I was born from the Rebbe's blessing on the 10th of Shevat, the yahrtzeit of the Previous Rebbe.

My connection to the Rebbe has deepened greatly through my study of his teachings at Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The intensity of the atmosphere, the caring, and quality of the teaching has strengthened my eternal bond to the tzadik (holy rightous person) of the generation, the Rebbe.

 The Baal Shem Tov Pays His Debt

It was well after midday and hundreds of guests had been waiting almost two hours in the crowded wedding hall for the wedding to begin. The food was prepared, the tables were set, the band was sitting on the stage, even the bride and groom were ready, but the Baal Shem Tov (Besh't for short) wasn't there, and the wedding couldn't begin without him.

No one really thought it would be an ordinary wedding. The groom was an orphan that the Besh't had adopted, and the bride, also an orphan, had been raised in the home of one of his holiest pupils, Rabbi Zev Kitzes. But now the two Rabbis were secluded in one of the side rooms of the wedding hall and no one dared to so much as knock on their door. Who knows what awesomely mystical and intensely holy matters they were occupied in!

No one dreamed that the delay was because of …. money.

It seems that both Rabbis had promised dowries of two hundred rubles (a small fortune) to the newlyweds, but so far only Rabbi Kitzes brought money and he refused to begin the wedding until the other party came up with his share. After all, the future of the newlyweds was at stake.

The strange thing was that the Besh't didn't seem to be worried in the least. He just calmly sat back and waited, as though it was only a matter of time until the money would drop from heaven! The minutes ticked by.

Suddenly the sound of horse's hoofs was heard outside, the door to the hall burst open and a well-dressed, bearded Jew ran in trying to talk in a low voice, "Where is the Baal Shem Tov?" He gasped, trying to catch his breath. "I must see him! Is he here? It is really urgent!"

Everyone recognized the rider; it was none other than the wealthiest Jew in the area, Rav Shraga. It must have been a pretty important thing that kept him from the wedding up to now. They pointed to the room where the Besh't was.

Ignoring their warnings he ran to the door, knocked once or twice, opened it and entered.

"Rebbe!" He said to the Besh't closing the door behind him, "You must run! Leave here immediately!" He was on one knee before the seated rabbi and was almost in tears. "Rabbi! I have a horse and here is some money, run for your life!!"

The Besh't shrugged his shoulders and turned his hands palms up as to say "what for?" and Rav Shraga continued.

"It's very serious! It's awful!! Just a few hours ago the Mayor came to me at the risk of his life, and told me that that devil, the Baron is blazing mad. He claims you owe him one thousand guilder! You know how much money that is? It's a fortune! And how much the Baron hates Jews! He said that if he doesn't get the money in cash by sunset he's going to imprison you, and that means sure death. Your only hope is to run!! Here, see? I brought a horse and …. "

The Besh't just looked at him as though he just heard the most trivial news and said "Just go to the Baron and fix it up!"

"But Rebbe!" exclaimed Rav Shraga "OY!! If only I could! If it was only so easy! Rebbe, Where can I come up with such a sum? I would have to sell two of my factories and even then I wouldn't be paid in cash, and there's no time!!"

The Besh't just looked at him serenely and repeated, "Just go to the Baron and fix it up."

Rav Shraga understood that something supra-rational was going on here. He took one last look at the Besh't, turned, ran out the door to his horse, jumped on and rode off in the direction of the Baron's huge castle trying not to think of what he was doing; "a Chassid does what his Rebbe says, joyfully" he thought to himself.

One hour later he was being led by four huge guards into the Baron's chambers. Surrounded by servants and soldiers the evil man was seated in an ornate chair next to a huge table. "Ahh Jew! I suppose you have come to pay the debts of your thieving Rabbi; ONE THOUSAND in CASH?! RIGHT??" He asked with a wicked smirk. "Let's see the money, Mister Jew!"

Rav Shraga suddenly felt a strange calm come over him, as though he was talking to his best friend. "Certainly, dear Baron! But first, could you be so kind as to show me the account, I would just like to see that everything is in order."

The countenance of the Baron suddenly changed. "That is a reasonable request." He said congenially. Then turning to one of his servants he requested that he bring the books.

Moments later the servant returned, the Baron took the book from his hands and began to turn the pages. "Ahh, here it is! Israel Baal Shem, here it is….. hmmm. A strange silence filled the room broken only by the Baron's occasional murmuring. Without looking up from the book he mumbled to himself, "Well, a man is just a man. After all we are all only human."

No one dared interrupt him or ask for an explanation. He just kept looking at the figures going over and over them and repeating the same phrase, "Well a man is just a man etc." until he looked up at Rav Shraga apologetically.

"Well, looks like I made a mistake. The figures don't lie. It seems that your Rabbi loaned me some money, a fairly large sum, and, well in any case he owes me nothing. In fact……… I ….. owe …… HIM! Just a moment." He spoke as though he was really ashamed. He stood, walked to a safe in the wall, turned the dial back and forth several times, opened it's thick metal door, counted out a large number of coins, put them in a small bag and handed them to the Jew saying,

"Here! It's two hundred guilder And tell him I'm sorry. Actually I'm beginning to rethink my entire attitude toward the Jews. Tell him I would like to pay him a visit at his convenience."

Rav Shraga took the bag, warmly shook the Baron's hand, assured him he would relay his message and in less than an hour was back in the room where the two tzadikim (holy Jews) were sitting.

"Ahh! Boruch HaShem! Thank G‑d!" said the Besh't when he saw Rav Shraga enter. He took the bag of coins and without even looking inside, gave it to Rav Kitzis and said "This is what I was waiting for, now the wedding can begin."