Chapter 1: Enhancing Achievement
Not long before his passing, Reb Zushya of Anapoli
told his disciples: “When I appear before the heavenly court
in judgment, they’re not going to ask me, ‘Zushya, why
weren’t you as great as Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob?’ They’re
going to ask me, ‘Zushya, why weren’t you Zushya? Why
weren’t you the best Zushya you could possibly be?’
This thrust motivating every individual to use
his own capacities, whatever they may be, to the utmost has always
characterized the relationship the Rebbe has established with people
from many different walks of life. We have collected several examples
of various people whose relationship with the Rebbe has escalated
their potential for achievement.
Professor Yirmeyahu (Herman) Branover has achieved
world-wide renown as an authority on magneto-hydrodynamics. Research
in this area of alternative energy technology is carried out by
a very limited number of highly trained professionals. Raised in
the then Soviet Union, Professor Branover’s published research
had won him an international reputation in this field in the ‘60s.
Along with his work on hydrodynamics, Professor
Branover has a dynamic Jewish heart. He applied for an emigration
visa to Israel, knowing that it would mark the end of his professional
career in the Soviet Union. He was dismissed from his post at the
Academy of Sciences in Riga and prevented from continuing his research.
During this time, he was exposed to the Torah and
mitzvos by members of the Lubavitch chassidic underground. When
he was finally allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel
in 1972, he was already fully observant.
After making aliyah, Professor Branover was in
constant demand as a lecturer, but not only in his profession. He
was frequently invited to lecture on science and Torah. Campus audiences
around the globe were extremely interested to hear an internationally
renowned scientist reconcile his belief in the Torah with the supposed
conflicts emerging from modern science.
“In the winter of 1973,” relates Professor
Branover, “I was on a lecture tour in the United States. Towards
the end of the two-month tour, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, one of the
leading shluchim, requested that I add the University of Pennsylvania
to my itinerary. My wife and I were both weary from the constant
travel, but our commitment to spread Torah motivated us to agree.
“Shortly before the scheduled date, I was
privileged to visit the Rebbe Shlita at yechidus (a private meeting).
Among other matters, I mentioned the trip to Philadelphia. The Rebbe
inquired about the details of the program and commented: ‘During
your stay in Philadelphia, do not forget to introduce yourself to
a local professor who has an interest in your field.’
“The Rebbe’s statement baffled me.
I was well acquainted with the names of the American scientists
involved in magneto-hydrodynamics and I knew the universities with
which they were associated. I was certain that no Philadelphian
was familiar with my field.
“I made the trip to Philadelphia following
the busy schedule of lectures. On the morning of my arrival, when
Rabbi Shem Tov met me at the train station, I spoke about my encounter
with the Rebbe. I mentioned the Rebbe’s strange remark and
added that it appeared to be an error.
“ ‘The Rebbe does not make mistakes,’
Rabbi Shemtov said emphatically. ‘Allow me to assist you in
locating the scientist.’
“Rabbi Shemtov convinced me to visit Temple
University and the University of Pennsylvania and to check the faculties
of these institutions. After many hours of searching, we were introduced
to Professor Hsuan Yeh. It was a refreshing change of pace to engage
in a sophisticated discussion with a person who was clearly knowledgeable
As we concluded our conversation, Professor Yeh
said: ‘In six weeks there will be a Magneto-Hydrodynamic Energy
Convention at Stanford University in California. Although the program
is already finalized, I will insist that your name be added to the
list of lecturers. A colleague who has arrived so recently from
Russia should be given the opportunity to present his thoughts.’
“I looked at him in surprise. ‘Didn’t
you just say that the program was finalized?’
Professor Yeh added with a smile, ‘You see,
I am on the program committee.’
“I appreciated the Professor’s offer,
and yet I graciously declined, explaining that both my wife and
I were anxious to return to our home in Israel. The trip had already
been extended more than we would have liked.
“I returned to New York and we prepared to
return home. Just before leaving, I wrote the Rebbe a report of
our trip to Philadelphia, mentioning my encounter with Professor
Yeh. Once again, the Rebbe made an unexpected statement. He advised
me to reschedule my plans and to accept the invitation, for the
convention presented an important opportunity.
“My wife and I were taken by surprise by
the Rebbe’s response. Despite the need to rearrange our plans,
we were acquainted enough with the Rebbe to value his advice. I
called Professor Yeh, who was happy to arrange for me to deliver
“The significance of my participation at
the convention became clear very rapidly. I met two representatives
of the Office of Naval Research in Virginia who had read about my
work, and who were prepared to finance further research. They added,
‘We understand that you want to establish your laboratory
in Israel, and we are willing to provide you with funds for your
“As a result, I set up a laboratory in Beer
Sheva, which has gained worldwide recognition for its magneto-hydrodynamics
research. My contract with the Office of Naval Research was been
renewed six times since that original grant. I could not have imagined
at that point how valuable and far-reaching the Rebbe’s advice
This year, 1993, marks twenty years since the Stanford
convention. My project has just been awarded a 15-million dollar
grant by the United States government to further research and development
of this energy technology.”
Professor Branover frequently briefs the Rebbe
on his various research projects. In one report, he presented a
very sophisticated study built upon extensive calculations that
had been prepared by computer. As he reviewed the details, the Rebbe
remarked: “Two numbers here are inconsistent.”
Professor Branover was stunned. “But all
the calculations were done by computer and the program used is based
on our most advanced theory.”
The Rebbe smiled. “With all due respect to
the experts, you will see that there is an error.”
In the preparation of the calculations, an incongruity
indeed had appeared. It took Professor Branover’s research
team six months to locate it.
Once before Professor Branover was scheduled to
address a conference of Jewish scientists, the Rebbe told him: “You
have an important message to communicate. Tell your colleagues that
as a scholar of solar energy you encourage every Jew to emulate
“Why is this star of such great importance?
There are larger heavenly bodies, indeed, many which dwarf the sun
in size. What is unique about the sun? It provides light and generates
“There are other heavenly phenomena called
black holes. These are also powerful sources of energy, but in this
instance, the energy is directed inward. The black holes pull everything,
even the energy they emit, to themselves.
“The sun, by contrast, generously gives of
itself to the entire planetary system. So, too, a Jew must radiate
Ahavas Yisrael love for a fellow Jew. After all, if the sun was
only capable of heating its own mass, who would have paid any attention
Professor Branover also is active in developing
programs of Jewish education and professional training for Jews
in the former Soviet Union and for Russian immigrants to Eretz Yisrael.
In the course of these activities, he has been chosen by the Rebbe
for several missions.
“In the spring of 1985, I received word from
the Rebbe’s office that the Rebbe requested to speak to me,”
relates Professor Branover. “Of course, I arrived at “770”
as soon as I could. The Rebbe greeted me and informed me of his
desire that I relay his forthcoming message to various persons in
Russia. Not in my wildest dreams was I prepared for the content
of the message.
“The Rebbe unraveled before me the precise
details of the unbelievable change that was going to take place
in Russia. With Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascent to power, a new
era of openness and freedom would begin, the Rebbe prophesied. Waves
of Russian Jews would immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. Two years afterwards,
in expectation of this wave of immigration, the Rebbe initiated
the plan to build a special housing project in Jerusalem for the
“To say that I was stunned is quite an understatement.
If I had heard these words from anyone but the Rebbe, I would have
dismissed them as fantasy. As such, I was neither surprised nor
offended when various people in Russia whom I contacted by phone
were skeptical. ‘Are you sure this is exactly what the Rebbe
said?’ they asked again and again. And, may I add, these people
were not unfamiliar with the Rebbe. Quite the contrary, these were
his own people who were directing the Lubavitch underground activities
in Russia. It was simply that the Rebbe’s prediction seemed
“In the spring of 1985, newspapers such as
the New York Times and the New York Post had published front-page
articles predicting that Gorbachev’s government would follow
a Communist hard line. This was felt even more powerfully by people
who were living in the then Soviet Union.
“When I related the response from Russia
to the Rebbe, he requested that I contact them once again, assuring
them that these changes would indeed take place.
“The realization of the Rebbe’s words
is now history. In 1992, when Mikhail Gorbachev visited Israel,
I was introduced to him, and I told him and his wife Rayisa what
the Rebbe had said seven years earlier. Gorbachev was stunned. ‘When
I assumed power in 1987, I myself had no concrete plan for the future.
I would like to meet this man who knew so much about the direction
which my country and I would follow.’ ”
It is difficult to tell whether the business enterprises
of Reb Yissachar Dov Weiss, a prominent West Coast businessman,
support his charity endeavors or whether the distribution of charity
sustains the business. Reb Yissachar Dov prefers the second explanation.
“That is the real bottom line,” he maintains. “Let
me tell you about a friend also involved in business.
“This man had attempted several business
ventures, but none of them had met with success. Once, he consulted
the Rebbe before embarking on a new business. The Rebbe suggested
that he give five thousand dollars to charity before starting the
new position. The man was pressed for funds and failed to heed the
Rebbe’s advice. Shortly afterwards, his business faltered.
“Some time later, the man again presented
his troubles to the Rebbe. ‘I had advised you to give a substantial
amount of money to charity,’ the Rebbe reminded him. Saying
this, he removed a volume of the Talmud from his shelf and read
from it: ‘Rabbi Yochanan teaches, Aser bishvil shetisasher’
“Tithe so that you may prosper.”1 Had you donated the
money to charity, I would have been able to address a claim to Rabbi
In another instance, Reb Yissachar Dov explained
that “I have always wanted to fulfill my obligation to give
charity properly. I was not always sure how much to give or which
charity was the most deserving. I decided to consult with the Rebbe.
“The Rebbe responded: ‘The most important
thing is to give tzedakah with an open and happy heart. Take pen
in hand, and you will be able to sense the proper amount to write
on the check.’
Having established such a relationship with the
Rebbe, it is not surprising that Reb Yissachar Dov often consults
him about his business affairs. “Once,” Reb Yissachar
Dov recalled, “I asked the Rebbe whether my company should
go public on the stock market. ‘One can make a fortune overnight,’
I said with enthusiasm. ‘This will enable me to donate a million
dollars to Lubavitch institutions.’
“The Rebbe was less enthusiastic about my
grandiose plans. After a short silence, he asked, ‘Why would
you want others to have a say in your business?’
“I was persistent, and ultimately, I received
his blessing for the endeavor. Afterwards, the Rebbe asked: ‘And
what will you give me?’ I responded spontaneously that I was
willing to offer anything.
“ ‘In that case,’ the Rebbe replied,
‘I would like you to give me a thousand pages of Talmudic
On many occasions the Rebbe’s advice saved
Reb Yissachar Dov from extensive losses. A favorite story involves
an investment offer for Liberian diamonds on Africa’s West
Coast in 1976.
“The Belgian diamond dealers who had made
the proposal were familiar with my business procedures,” related
Reb Yissachar Dov. “They knew that the Rebbe’s blessing
was essential to any of my endeavors. They were, however, surprised
by the degree to which I relied upon him.
“ ‘We understand that you want your
Rebbe’s blessing,’ their representative remarked. ‘After
all, we are considering a million dollar project. But….’
“ ‘Excuse me,’ I cut him off.
‘I will not invest anything before I receive the Rebbe’s
blessing and consent.’
“The jewelers were very anxious that I invest.
‘We want to clarify your statement. Do you really mean that
you will not take advantage of this opportunity unless the Rebbe
approves? What does the Rebbe know about business or about African
“I did not answer. My past experience and
burgeoning bank account had proven to me that the Rebbe’s
approval exceeded any calculable value.
“At my next opportunity, I discussed the
subject with the Rebbe. He told me not to invest, warning me that
a revolution was impendent.
“I was surprised. ‘How’s that?’
I asked the Rebbe. ‘Everybody in the business world knows
that Liberia, a neutral country, is the Switzerland of Africa.’
“The Rebbe was determined in his opinion:
The political situation was shaky, and investment was dangerous.
Anything longterm should not be considered at all. Only something
where money can go in and out immediately was worth thinking about.
“The Belgian dealers were extremely disappointed
and skeptical. ‘A revolution in Liberia? The most stable country
“Soon afterwards, I invested fifty thousand
dollars in the diamond business. I hired a broker, instructing him
to purchase Liberian diamonds quickly and to depart immediately.
He purchased coarse stones which were to be cut, polished, and then
forwarded to the buyer.
“Shortly afterwards, the revolution which
the Rebbe had predicted broke out. The stones were never exported,
and I reclaimed only a portion of the price I paid. I comforted
myself with the thought that I had not invested millions.”
Rabbi Yitzchak Vorst is one of the dynamic forces
behind Lubavitch activity in Holland. He is well suited to the job,
because precise timing and calculated scheduling are ingrained in
his Dutch culture. He has also been the recipient of numerous “timely”
responses when corresponding with the Rebbe. It is obviously not
a simple question of culture.
Rabbi Vorst relates, “World War II could
not sever my family’s seven-generation link with the Dutch
Jewish community. After the trials and tribulations of the war,
my father devoted himself to rebuilding Jewish life here, while
at the same time urging the youth to emigrate to Israel. When I
graduated as an engineer, I postponed my career, choosing to taste
deeper Torah study. I enrolled in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Lod,
“During the spring, I spent the yeshivah
break in the then small town of Ashdot Yam, by the sea. I learned
that a new harbor was being built there. Considering my future,
I inquired about possible employment at the project. My application
was readily accepted. Having spent two months of study at the yeshivah,
I desired to seek the Rebbe’s advice and blessing before making
a final decision and signing a contract.
“I wrote the Rebbe a letter, but I did not
receive a response. I consulted with the yeshivah’s mashpia
Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Keselman, who served as a spiritual mentor to
the students. ‘Perhaps the letter was lost in the mail,’
he suggested. I wrote again. Still no reply. I asked Rabbi Keselman
once again. With a thoughtful look, he responded, ‘I think
the Rebbe is waiting for you to decide for yourself whether you
want to continue your yeshivah studies.’
I had already come to the conclusion that I should
continue the course of study I had begun at yeshivah. So on Friday
morning, I wrote the Rebbe of my decision. I went out to mail the
letter, only to discover two days later that a letter for me had
arrived from New York, posted before the Rebbe received my letter.
“The Rebbe’s reply to my question was
clear. He advised me to continue studying for at least two years.
The letter was dated the 9th of Elul.
“After an inspiring year at yeshivah in Israel,
I felt that it was time to travel to the States and see the Rebbe.
Shortly after my arrival, I prepared myself for a private yechidus.
My letter contained several questions and requests for blessings.
I also included a note about my father , the late chief Rabbi of
Rotterdam, reiterating a previous requests that the Rebbe appoint
an official shaliach to fill the urgent needs of the Dutch Jewish
community. To date, my father had not received a reply.
“After responding to my personal questions,
the Rebbe addressed himself to my father’s request and said:
‘I have not yet found the appropriate person who both desires
and is capable of filling this position.’ At this point, the
Rebbe’s eyes met mine, and he looked at me with a broad smile.
“Later, contemplating on this yechidus, I
suspected that the Rebbe was hinting that I assume this responsibility.
I decided to ask the Rebbe if this was his intention. The Rebbe’s
answer was short and to the point: ‘Continue your studies.’
“Months passed, and I concentrated vigorously
on my studies. Eventually, my visa rights were nearing expiry and
I consulted the Rebbe again. I was debating whether to return to
Israel or to extend my stay in the States.
“I did not receive an answer. Upon the advice
of the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Hodakov, I wrote a second
time. There was still no reply. But a month later I did receive
the Rebbe’s answer, which clearly indicated that I should
return to help build the Dutch Jewish community. Wondering why this
answer had been so long in coming, I glanced at the date of the
reply. It was the 9th of Elul, exactly two years since that first
reply which I had received while still studying in Israel: to continue
studying for at least two years!
“While I was studying in New York, I had
another experience with the Rebbe’s ‘expertise’
in proper timing. I was twenty-five, and my friends and relatives
had gently hinted that I consider marriage. I sought the Rebbe’s
advice. Instead of extending his usual blessing for this type of
question, the Rebbe responded, ‘Do not pursue this matter
at all until the end of the school year, or at least until after
the holiday of Shavuos.’
“The answer surprised me. I wondered about
the two dates which the Rebbe had mentioned. What did he mean by
“Only later did I grasp the extent of this
time frame. In Brunoy (near Paris), there is a well-known Lubavitch
family called Kalmanson. Some time after I received the above answer
from the Rebbe, their daughter considered a trip to the States.
Her intention was two-fold; to see the Rebbe, and to inquire about
a suitable match. She debated whether to spend the holiday of Shavuos
in Crown Heights or to set her departure date for the end of the
“That young woman later became my wife. It
now became clear that the time when I was to begin acting on my
future had depended upon the departure date on her Paris-New York
“Making a total commitment to a Lubavitch
way of life was an ongoing process for me,” explains Rabbi
Nachman Meir Bernhard, Rabbi of the prestigious Oxford Synagogue
in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Before I left America for
South Africa, it was the Rebbe who, in a long first Yechidus in
1964, convinced me that I had a responsibility to return to the
Rabbinate, although I had inclinations to the contrary, and he encouraged
me to accept my present Rabbinic position.
“After ten more years of community service,
I began to consider leaving the Rabbinate again. For many years,
I had been longing to settle in Eretz Yisrael , and I felt that
the time had come to make this dream a reality. I began making plans
and scheduled a pilot trip in search of a suitable position and
housing. I was involved enough in Lubavitch by that time to know
that I should consult the Rebbe before making any binding decisions.
So, after my visit to Eretz Yisrael , I flew to New York before
returning to South Africa.
“It was the summer of 1974, and this was
my second yechidus with the Rebbe. At great length, the Rebbe explained
why I could accomplish much more by continuing to serve the South
African Jewish community, ‘Don’t you think that I too
would like to be there (in Eretz Yisrael), close to the Kedushah
(holiness)? But we have responsibilities.’
“Though I obviously said I would follow the
Rebbe’s directive, I could not hide my disappointment. I felt
the need to discuss the matter further with the Rebbe before my
return to South Africa, and I hesitantly requested to be allowed
another yechidus. I was grateful when the Rebbe agreed to see me
again on Sunday, for I knew this was most unusual.
“That Shabbos, the Rebbe granted me extraordinary
measures of attention and encouragement. I appreciated this very
much, and the first thing I said when I went into his study on Sunday
was a word of thanks for the expression of closeness (Keiruv).
“ ‘Expressing closeness is a two-way
street,’ the Rebbe replied.
“ ‘Must I too show closeness to the
Rebbe?!’ I asked in wonder.
“ ‘What does the Rebbe mean? I have
already agreed to accept the Rebbe’s advice. I am staying
in South Africa.’
“ ‘Yes,’ said the Rebbe, ‘but
your decision should not be made with the resignation of one who
has reluctantly accepted a decree. Rather, it should come happily
“Although I didn’t move to Eretz Yisrael
, over the years the Rebbe spoke to me on several occasions about
issues concerning the Holy Land. Once he told me of a conversation
he had with the then Minister of Defense of Israel. The Rebbe had
asked him what plan or strategy the government had for the next
“The Minister answered, ‘G-d will help.’
“ ‘What’s going on here?’
the Rebbe said. ‘I am asking you like a layman (i.e., from
a worldly perspective), and you are answering me like a Rebbe!’
He then grew very serious and said, ‘The truth is, they have
“The Rebbe has also expressed his opinion
on South Africa’s internal policies. On more than one occasion,
he spoke of the need for the government to replace the apartheid
regulations with a system of justice and equity. Upon the Rebbe’s
directive, Rabbi Lipskar, the head shliach in South Africa, and
I once visited the former Prime Minister, John Vorster, and encouraged
him in his very cautious pioneering attempts to modify these policies,
conveying the Rebbe’s prophetic words that South Africa had
a bright future.
“Some months later, we received notice from
government officials that the Prime Minister requested to see us
again. This was just a short time before a scheduled historic meeting
in Europe with U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, which the
South African government regarded as vital to the country’s
“After welcoming us, the Prime Minister lost
no time in expressing his desire: ‘I would like to know what
the Gentleman in New York has to say now.’ This was just one
of many indications that innumerable Jews and Gentiles have drawn
great comfort from the Rebbe’s repeated reassurances that
all will be well in South Africa and that there is no need to fear,
panic or flee.
On a more personal note, Rabbi Bernhard recalls
one of numerous occasions when the Rebbe assisted him with regard
to his family. “Once, during yechidus, I mentioned that one
of my daughters who had been an excellent student was becoming lax
and falling behind in her studies. The Rebbe listened attentively
and said, ‘This is not laziness. She has a particular medical
problem’, which he named. ‘Your wife should take her
to a specialist, who will find and treat the condition.’
“After the yechidus, I immediately phoned
my wife. She took our daughter to see a specialist, who arrived
at the same diagnosis, and prescribed effective treatment.”
“For the past twenty-odd years, since I had
first met the Rebbe, my life can be described as a pocket full of
miracles,” says Mr. David Chase, one of America’s foremost
businessmen. “And I don’t mean only in my business endeavors.
To the contrary, the greatest miracle of them may have been my ability
to appreciate the message that the Rebbe conveys. My relationship
with the Rebbe has given me and many others a sensitivity to matters
which are beyond ordinary mortal understanding. For this reason,
over the years, I have committed myself to advancing the Rebbe’s
work in many areas and to different people.
“The Rebbe’s directives are so far-reaching
and never ending. The Rebbe himself once described his ‘insatiable
appetite’ for ongoing Jewish activity. Perhaps it is the Rebbe’s
total lack of self-concern and constant devotion to the welfare
of others that has motivated me to regard my Lubavitch activity
as a cherished labor of love.
“Once, at the annual meeting of the Machne
Israel Development Fund, I told the Rebbe how pleased I was to be
one of the soldiers in his army.
“You are not merely a soldier,” the
Rebbe replied. “You are my general.”
“Some time later, when I came to receive
a dollar on Sunday, I received a promotion; the Rebbe told me, “I
regard you as a five-star general.”
“I consider it my pleasure and duty to help
others benefit from an association with the Rebbe, just as I have
benefited in both my business and private life. My activities bring
me in contact with many public figures around the world, and I do
not hesitate to share my experiences with the Rebbe and with his
directives with Jews and non-Jews.
“I often visit my native land, Poland, where
I have business interests. Prior to one trip to Poland, I visited
New York and asked for the Rebbe’s blessing. The Rebbe handed
me an additional dollar, saying: “Give this to a person in
Poland who will benefit the Jewish people.”
“Due to my business endeavors, I have various
contacts in the Polish government, and I contemplated who would
be the proper recipient of the Rebbe’s dollar. One day I found
myself aboard a domestic flight with the newly elected President
Lech Walesa. I had several contacts with Mr. Walesa in the past,
and it occurred to me that I would not be able to find a better
person to whom to give the Rebbe’s dollar. I approached him,
handed him the dollar, and conveyed the Rebbe’s message.
“Mr. Walesa looked at me thoughtfully. “I
sincerely hope I will be able to live up to your Rebbe’s expectation.”
“After this encounter, my acquaintance with
Mr. Walesa grew and we became quite friendly. Some time later, Mr.
Walesa personally invited me to accompany him on his upcoming visit
to Israel. This trip was a major breakthrough in relations between
the two countries, and he felt that my inclusion in his delegation
would be helpful.
“Though I was not inclined to accept the
invitation, I saw this as a further step in enhancing the impact
of the Rebbe’s influence on ‘a person who will benefit
the Jewish people,’ and I agreed. Mr. Walesa told me he wanted
to express the regret of the Polish people for their inexcusable
behavior towards the Jews during World War II.
“As a Holocaust survivor myself, I insisted
that his statement be forthright, without minimizing the issue or
covering it up with bland diplomatic wording.
“Mr. Walesa surprised the Israeli government
with his non-evasive statement of regret on behalf of the Polish
people. Subsequently, former Prime Minister Shamir was very demanding
in several points, including a change in the pro-Arab approach that
had been advocated by Poland’s previous Communist leaders
and a cessation of arms sales to countries hostile to Israel. Despite
Poland’s heavy financial loss, one could almost see the Rebbe’s
directive at work as Mr. Walesa agreed to one concession after another.
“Later, I accompanied him on a visit to the
Diaspora Museum, where I pointed out the picture of the Rebbe which
is displayed there. “Is this my Rebbe?” Mr. Walesa asked
bowing his head in reverence. Mr. Walesa’s response was striking.
He was clearly impressed and moved by the Rebbe’s intense
gaze. He actually lowered his head as if acknowledging his leadership.
“In many other instances, I have been privileged
to bring the Rebbe’s message to people who might otherwise
not have been exposed to them. The best way we can reciprocate for
the good which the Rebbe showers upon us is to express his teachings,
ideals, and principles in our daily lives.”
Great Torah giants of our day stand in awe before
the magnitude of the all-encompassing knowledge of Torah texts and
sources which the Rebbe displays in all realms and levels of study.
The illustrious Rabbi Yisrael Yitzchak Piekarski, Rosh Yeshivah
in Lubavitch for many years, said: “Appreciation of the Rebbe’s
unparalleled knowledge of Torah takes priority over describing his
miraculous feats. Nevertheless, there is a connection between the
two. If I am not mistaken, the Rebbe himself once said, ‘One
who is great in the study of Torah law (nigleh) is also great in
other things.’ ”
His preference for highlighting the Rebbe’s
scholarship did not, however, prevent Rabbi Piekarski from relating
some of his own personal experiences with the Rebbe. “Once,
prior to a journey, I visited the Rebbe. When I informed him of
the details of my return flight, he responded, ‘Why should
you stay away so long? You can return two days earlier.’ I
was very surprised. I had already made all the arrangements and
booked my flight. The departure date fitted my itinerary perfectly.
“Of course, I did not question the Rebbe’s
remark, and immediately changed my plans. Later, I learned that
the flight on which I was originally scheduled to depart met with
disaster. The plane was involved in a tragic accident in Bulgaria
and its passengers perished.
“And yet,” continued Rabbi Piekarski,
“perhaps more than these miracles, is the tremendous concern
for others that the Rebbe displays. His willingness to deal with
the most insignificant and minute details touches me most deeply.
“Before my annual summer trip, the Rebbe
always asks about my itinerary and the length of my stay in each
country. He always gives me shaliach mitzvah2 coins in the currency
of the countries I will visit. As a rule, Switzerland is usually
my first stop.
“Once, the Rebbe spent a considerable amount
of time searching his drawers for Swiss coins. Waiting uncomfortably,
I finally said that the Swiss accept U.S. coins as well. Only then
did the Rebbe seem satisfied and stop his search.
“On another occasion, shortly before the
wedding of a certain yeshivah student of limited means, the Rebbe
questioned me in detail about the wedding arrangements. I could
not understand how the Rebbe knew of all these minute details, nor
could I understand his concern. The Rebbe noticed my discomfort
in discussing these details and explained, ‘I manage the distribution
of funds from several charities. This is a responsibility that I
don’t want to give up.’ ”
1. Taanis 9a.
2. It is customary to give a traveler some money to give to charity
in the course of his journey. This designates him as a shaliach
(“emissary”) charged with a mitzvah. Our Sages (Pesachim
8a) declare: “A person who is on a mission to perform a mitzvah
will not be harmed.”