By Sarah Barth
For about two months, I had fixated on the need to travel to the Rebbe’s Ohel prior to Pesach and around the week of March 19 and had been tracking fares etc. Little could I have imagined that the opportunity to actually make that visit would occur under the most unlikely circumstances imaginable and courtesy of the Chabad of Brentwood in California, led by Shluchim Rabbi Baruch Y. and Rebbetzin Channa Hecht.
To appreciate the story, one has to go back to the appointment by the Rebbe of Rabbi Shlomo and Miriam Cunin as California Shluchim and the subsequent appointment of their daughter and son-in-law, the Hechts, to run the Chabad of Brentwood.
Those singular appointments set the stage for the connection between Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hecht and myself in regards to the care and attention they lavished on my aunt – a 93 year old woman (Miriam bat Avraham Benyamin) who never married or had children and who by hashgacha pratis lived all alone down the block from the Chabad House.
It was to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hecht who I turned to when my aunt was originally in need of Jewish labor to help in taking care of maintenance items needing repair and it was that one request which ignited a steady stream of weekly visitations to my aunt by Chabad young women and the Rebbetzin in the most humble and sensitive fashion (i.e., the young women never let on to my aunt that they were checking on her even when Shabbat was early and they had no time for “just visiting and fabrenging”!)
It was this constant visitation that created the scenario this past week where I felt comfortable contacting Rebbetzin Hecht to just “check in on my aunt” when those of us out of town/and in Eretz Yisrael were not able to reach my aunt. And it was thanks to the young woman sent by Rebbetzin Hecht who discovered my aunt’s body and had the presence of mind to call 911 and to the fast interference which Rebbetzin Hecht did to keep the authorities away from the body of my aunt and get the Chevra Kadisha to come and take the body to the Jewish mortuary that allowed a proper Jewish burial to take place within 48 hours!.
What transpired during those precious 48 hours after that moment of the body’s discovery is completely attributable back to the Rebbe’s appointment of Rabbi Cunin and the Hechts as the Hechts coordinated the entire funeral from the recommendation and coordination of the Chabad cemetery plot (given that there was no plot pre-arranged) to the delivery of the eulogy to the arrangement of the extra 4 men to serve as the minyan for the deceased at the cemetery to the willingness to recite kaddish for my aunt for the year.
And while all of these “technicalities” were being arranged there was also time in true Chabad Rebbe spirit to encourage those relatives who had never donned tefillin to agree to put on tefillin (in memory of my aunt) not only at the time of the quickly convened meeting to discuss the funeral process, but at the actual funeral itself – all the while that Rebbetzin Hecht was discussing the importance of lighting candles and going to the mikveh in memory of my aunt to the women who attended the small family funeral and who had not yet taken on these mitzvot.
The Rebbe could not have had more nachas than watching the sensitivity and dedication of his beloved shluchim Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hecht in assuming all the responsibilities associated with the funeral as if they had planned the “event” for months and had nothing else on the calendar
How does all this tie into the Ohel?
Well, as a result of the emergency notice of death and what I am sure was the bracha of the Rebbe, I was able to jump on a plane from Eretz Yisrael to Los Angeles on 2 hour notice and help with the funeral discussions and at the end of the week make that visit to the Ohel.
The visit was done in full gratitude to the Rebbe for sending out his shluchim to Los Angles and for many nissim that had occurred in connection with the funeral and most of all to orchestrate my visit that I yearned to have happened the exact time period that I wanted to visit – albeit by a geographic route completely thousands of miles from the direct route of Eretz Yisrael to the Ohel.
This past week, I witnessed first-hand how Chabad shluchim exhibited the philosophy and teachings of the Rebbe in grand style and demonstrated the chesed shel emet that Chabad displays 24/7 in every part of the globe. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hecht displayed that Chesed in an extraordinary fashion and one that only the personage of the Rebbe could have inspired.
In addition to the other nissim, my aunt z”l is (thanks to Rabbi and Rebbitzin Hecht) buried in the Mount Olive Memorial Park in Commerce where my beloved daily Chitas teacher Rabbi Josh Gordon z”l is buried alongside his late friend, Rabbi Avrohom Levitansky, whose children, Isaac and Eli Levitansky, are Chabad rabbis in Santa Monica. As Rebbetzin Hecht said, my aunt is probably learning chitas from Rabbi Gordon already in shemayim!
–Sarah Barth is a resident of Beit Shemesh in Israel and the founder of Together in Happiness/B’Yachad B’Osher.