Chapter 2: The Concerns of This
At the turn of the century, Reb Shmuel Gourary
was a successful businessman whose enterprises brought him into
contact with many chassidim from Poland and Galicia. Once after
a contract was negotiated, he and a group of several chassidim,
each following a different Rebbe, sat down to talk. Each told a
story of a miracle his Rebbe had performed.
The other chassidim had impressive stories, relating
how their Rebbeim had helped heal the sick, bless the childless
with offspring, and bring about financial success. When Reb Shmuel’s
turn came, he told about an investment he had made in the forests
of Russia. He had hesitated to make the investment, for a substantial
sum was required and there was a great risk that the onset of the
Russian winter would delay the timber from ever reaching its destination
downstream. On the other hand, he stood to make a hefty profit.
He consulted the Rebbe Rashab who told him to go ahead and invest.
From the beginning, problems began to arise: the
cost of labor rose, and the quality of timber was not as high as
expected. On several occasions Reb Shmuel asked the Rebbe if perhaps
he should pull out, accept whatever losses he had suffered, but
still save something. Each time, the Rebbe told him to persevere.
Finally, as they were preparing to ship the logs downriver, a cold
spell hit and the river froze. That was the end; by the spring,
the timber would be almost useless.
“So what’s the miracle?” Reb
Shmuel’s listeners asked. “The miracle is,” he
replied, “that I remained a chassid. I trust the Rebbe and
know that this was for my own good. Had this happened to any one
of you, you would probably have gone looking for a new Rebbe.”
In Chabad, the connection with a Rebbe is an all-encompassing
one. It does not depend on “what the Rebbe has done for me,”
but is rather a deep, inner bond, based on the realization that
the Rebbe can guide every facet of a person’s spiritual development.
On the other hand, the tangible benefits that often result from
a connection with the Rebbe cannot be ignored.
Mr. Jeffrey Kimball, a lawyer and an active member
of the Lubavitch community in Springfield, Mass., weighed the offer.
Although it was no small investment, the profits seemed so secure
that the banks had offered to lend him the 15 million dollars required
without guarantors. Nevertheless, Mr. Kimball valued the Rebbe’s
advice. Before signing the contract, he asked for a blessing.
The Rebbe’s reply consisted of two lengthy
pages discussing the importance of adhering to a Torah lifestyle.
“A Jew who fulfills G-d’s commandments,” the Rebbe
wrote, will merit Divine blessings for success in all his endeavors.
At the bottom of the letter, after his signature, the Rebbe added
a postscript: “Regarding the business offer it is not advisable.”
Mr. Kimball had his answer. Now it was his associates’
turn to ponder. How could he possibly turn down such a sound enterprise?
Despite their insistence, Mr. Kimball trusted the Rebbe and did
not make the investment.
Two years later, the soundness of the Rebbe’s
reply became openly apparent. Mr. Kimball had been asked to make
a long-term investment in Nicaragua. Despite the country’s
previous stability, its government had been overthrown by Communist
rebels and many foreign investments were nationalized.
“Sounds like a decent offer,” mused
Mr. Aharonson as he reached for the phone. A carpenter had advertised
his workshop in the “For Sale” section of a local paper.
Shortly after an initial conversation, the two
men met to discuss the details. The potential buyer and the seller
were both eager to cut a deal, and they soon felt ready to draw
up a contract.
“I’ve made an appointment with the
lawyer for tomorrow at 10 o’clock,” said the carpenter
as he stood up.
He extended his hand to Mr. Aharonson, who shook
it warmly, but added: “No, tomorrow is too soon. Although
I’m very interested, I want to handle one more detail. You
see, I always ask the Lubavitcher Rebbe for his consent and blessing
before confirming any business transaction.”
Although such an approach is common among the Rebbe’s
followers, it was strange to the carpenter. He agreed, but with
some hesitation. “I respect your faith,” he answered,
“but please do not delay too long. After all, I do have other
A few days later, the carpenter received a phone
call. “I’m sorry,” said Mr. Aharonson. “I
am canceling my offer. The Rebbe implied that the deal is not for
The next day, a fire destroyed the carpentry. However,
the financial loss was not as bad as it might have been had the
transaction actually taken place.
The carpentry had been insured by its original
owner. Thus, he suffered no major loss. As a matter of fact, he
received more money from the insurance than he would have received
from the sale. Mr. Aharonson, on the other hand, would not have
been covered by this policy.
The Rebbe’s advice thus proved beneficial
to both the buyer and the seller in a transaction that never took
“I cannot understand why I still have not
received the Rebbe’s blessing for this trip,” Rabbi
Nemes mused to himself nervously. Rabbi Nemes is a stamp dealer
who often trades bring him into contact with postal authorities
and private collectors in Central America. He would regularly visit
Nicaragua in the winter and had already scheduled his appointments
for this year’s trip. As always, before finalizing his journey,
he wrote to the Rebbe for a blessing. But instead of receiving an
immediate answer, this time he had to wait for a reply.
As the date of his departure came near, Rabbi Nemes
asked one of the Rebbe’s secretaries to help him. After speaking
with the Rebbe, the secretary asked Rabbi Nemes for a detailed itinerary
of the trip. When Rabbi Nemes forwarded the information to the Rebbe,
the Rebbe responded: “Make the trip but not at present.”
Rabbi Nemes found it difficult to comprehend the
Rebbe’s advice. ‘This is the most profitable season
for purchasing stamps,’ he thought. ‘Moreover, I have
already arranged meetings with prominent dealers. And postponing
this trip will complicate the other journeys I had planned. I cannot
understand this; the Rebbe has never suggested a change in my plans
Nevertheless, the Rebbe’s followers are not
deterred simply because they don’t comprehend his advice.
Rabbi Nemes postponed his trip and canceled his appointments.
One need not be a devout believer in Divine Providence
to appreciate the immense sense of relief felt by Rabbi Nemes and
his family when they heard the shocking news that weekend. A severe
earthquake had struck Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, causing
thousands of casualties and tremendous damage. “And I had
been booked in a downtown hotel there,” Rabbi Nemes thought
with a shudder.
As time passed and the airport at Managua opened
again to commercial traffic, Rabbi Nemes considered making his journey.
His family was apprehensive. “The city is still plagued with
widespread theft and plundering,” they argued. But Rabbi Nemes
felt optimistic. “The Rebbe did not disapprove of the trip
entirely,” he told them. “He merely suggested that I
postpone it.” Rabbi Nemes was further encouraged by the Rebbe’s
prompt blessing to reschedule the trip.
Rabbi Nemes was not prepared for the vast destruction
in the streets of Managua. Collapsed buildings and mounds of rubble
littered the city. Countless homeless wandered aimlessly, making
its familiar districts seem foreign even to a frequent visitor.
With great difficulty and anxiety, Rabbi Nemes
made his way to the Central Post Office. In contrast to his somber
expectations, he was astounded to find the huge building standing
erect, almost untouched by the earthquake. Quickening his step,
he proceeded to the room of an official with whom he often did business.
As he opened the door, the official jumped up with
a start. “Goodness! What a surprise!” he exclaimed with
delight. “I hadn’t expected any stamp dealer to come
After a friendly exchange, Rabbi Nemes began to
talk business. However, the local man stopped him. “As you
see, the city is in a state of upheaval. It will be some time until
it is rebuilt. The stamp business is obviously not an immediate
priority. You are a trustworthy dealer and we’ve always worked
well together. Help yourself to any stamps you require. We’ll
be in touch about the price and payment schedule at a future date.”
“That trip to Nicaragua was the most profitable
I have ever made,” concluded Rabbi Nemes.
“Let me tell you of a personal experience
I had,” began the young man from Antwerp. “I had been
studying at Yeshivas Kol Torah in Jerusalem when my father fell
ill. The ever-rising medical bills and prolonged absence from work
drained our family’s resources. I was compelled to leave my
studies and go into business to help shoulder the burden.
“An acquaintance suggested that I write to
the Lubavitcher Rebbe and request his blessing. I was only too happy
to do so, green as I was in the business world. In his response,
the Rebbe advised me to buy as many shares of a particular stock
as possible the following Sunday.
“I followed the Rebbe’s advice, although
that particular stock did not seem to have any particular promise.
Two days later, the price of these stocks unexpectedly soared. I
immediately sold my shares, netting a very handsome profit.”
A chassid of the Sadigora Rebbe joined the line
to receive a dollar from the Rebbe one Sunday. He had been given
an attractive offer to purchase a bakery, but was not sure what
to do. He had difficulty contacting his own Rebbe and the owner
of the bakery was pressing for an answer. When the chassid asked
the Rebbe about the proposition, the Rebbe replied: “Why ask
me? Ask a Rabbi from Cleveland.”
The Sadigora chassid was bewildered at this strange
reply, and left “770” puzzled and unsure of the course
of action he should take. As it happened, he met an elderly couple
on the way to his car and offered to give them a lift. In the course
of conversation, the man introduced himself as a Rabbi from Cleveland.
The chassid immediately asked their advice regarding
the purchase of the bakery. If this unusual turn of events seemed
incredible, the chassid was further shocked to learn that the couple
was related to the owners of the bakery.
“Since you asked,” said the Rabbi’s
wife, “I’ll tell you. The owner of the bakery is a decent
fellow, but his business faltered because the workers are not trustworthy.”
The Sadigora chassid had his answer. The contract
of sale had included a clause requiring the purchaser to continue
to employ the present staff. Needless to say, he did not purchase