By Mrs. Brocha Sapochkinsky, Shlucha in Westlake Village, CA
Dawn is barely on the horizon as I disembark from my flight from California and make my way to the Ohel. It’s a rarity indeed that I find myself standing there all alone, reading maaneh loshon and selfishly enjoying the solitude, while mindful that at any moment my privacy will be roused by a gentle rap on the door and the arrival of a fellow petitioner.
My eyes steal a glance away from the words and peer at the thousands of papers placed respectfully – and no doubt tearfully – at the resting place of these two tzadikim. I scan the area and wonder about all of the tzorres that have been given over to the Rebbe. The pleas for shidduchim, the illnesses r”l, money problems, sholom bayis, and the myriad of other issues that I can’t even begin to imagine.
And then I think of my community back in Westlake Village. Save for the precious few who have made the trip to New York and experienced Crown Heights, 770 and a visit to the Ohel, the task of effectively describing the Rebbe to them remains elusive and daunting. How do you really impart the idea of Rosh B’nei Yisroel? How do you reverently explain that the Rebbe wasn’t just a gifted visionary, a miracle worker, a dynamic personality and a scholar of no parallel to a people for whom the concept of a Rebbe is so foreign. (Yes, we’ve come a long way since Gimmel Tammuz when one congregant expressed his anxiety that Lubavitch might tap one of our local shluchim as a possible replacement for the Rebbe and another attempted to console me by reflecting on the Rebbe’s 92 years and offering the clichéd “may no younger one pass away”.)
Enter JEM’s My Story. A brilliant repository of personal encounters that goes way beyond the thousands of precious “Rebbe stories” that you and your baalei batim have previously heard or read. The topics shared in the nearly 400 pages reveal the Rebbe’s behind-the-scenes involvement in so many global issues. Each and every story provides a fascinating and penetrating bird’s eye-view of what yechidus was like and a sampling of the diverse people who sought the Rebbe’s guidance on the most private and public issues.
Allow me to share just two reflections. One of our congregants just returned from two weeks of work at Intel in Israel. He enthusiastically shared his positive experiences with the rest of the shul, relating how amazing it was to see a mezuzah on every door, kosher cafeterias, a daily mincha minyan etc. and of course how Israel is a global leader in technology. Imagine his shock when he began reading the My Story book we had gifted him and learned of the Rebbe’s involvement in shaping Israel’s astounding path to technological success that ultimately led to Intel’s opening their largest plant in Jerusalem.
My father, Rabbi Leibel Posner sheyichye, has bli ayin hora been blessed with a prodigious memory. He can recount the most trivial details of events that took place decades ago, especially when they are connected with, or took place in the Rebbe’s courtyard. Two days after receiving My Story he called to tell me that he had read the book cover to cover and that he was amazed. “I’ve never heard any of these stories and I’ve never even heard of most of these people.”
Yes, there are many amazing books written about the Rebbe and many “Rebbe miracle story books”. My Story is different. Meticulously researched for accuracy and thoroughly reviewed before publication, each story presents a mesmerizing and dynamic probe, exposing everyone to the Rebbe’s full-on engagement and contribution to so much of the Jewish and secular world that we all take for granted. Does My Story replace a visit to 770 and the Ohel? Absolutely not. But it sure whets the appetite of baalei battim to participate in the next Crown Heights Shabbaton.
In addition to making a treasured gift, My Story is a powerful reminder of who we, as chassidim, represent at all times. I, for one, found many directives for the issues that I regularly encounter. It’s a must-buy for you and for your baal habatim!
They can be ordered at jemstore.com.