By Dovi Scheiner
The flight from JFK to Boston’s Logan was about as short as they come. The cabby was friendly, and after a few right turns and a few left turns, informed me that we had arrived at 45 Portina Road. Before exiting the car, I stared at the home. Simple, quiet, unassuming. Little did I know…
She was just a girl on a train. A bright, opinionated girl, from Israel, on a train in Boston, where she was a student.
When she saw him, the man with the beard, her mind began to race.
She thought of societal rifts, of cultural discord, of needless enmity, of the inability of two people, who have so much shared history, to connect in any meaningful way.
And then he smiled.
It was a smile that would change her life. But for now it shattered her preconceptions.
She approached him. She began to blabber. About societal rifts, cultural discord, needless enmity. He listened respectfully. He smiled kindly. Before exiting the train, he handed her a piece of paper. She stared at the paper. There was an address. 45 Portina Road.
When I heard how my uncle Leibel would spend his Thursday evenings, my eyes opened wide with wonder, and my heart filled with awe.
On Thursday evenings, Leibel would head to the local supermarket. He would take out his mini pad, the kind with the coils at the top, and write on page after page: “Rabbi Leib & Leah Scheiner, 45 Portina Road, Brighton, (617) 254-8240”. Then he would walk the aisles, find Jews, tear off a page, and invite them for a Shabbos meal. He was once spotted roaming the supermarket aisles with an empty cart. Someone asked what he was up to. He replied, “I’m shopping for Jews.”
And they came. Students and teachers. Fathers and daughters. Brothers and sisters. They came because they had caught a glimpse of something extremely rare, and they wanted more. They had seen truth. Where does one find truth these days? 45 Portina Road.
How did Leibel Scheiner end up on Portina Road? The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent him there.
Leibel enjoyed a special relationship with the Rebbe. Once, the Rebbe lamented at a Farbrengen that no one asks him questions on his Sichas. That night was a busy one for Leibel. He ran around the house, pulling out all sorts of Seforim. He composed a letter. That Shabbos the Rebbe mentioned that someone had asked him questions.
Once, Leibel asked the Rebbe how much Chanukah Gelt he should give his children. The Rebbe told him that each night he should give each child a quarter, a dime, and a nickel.
And when you’d ask Leibel a question in Halacha, he’d tell you that he had to look it up. Once, a student called his bluff. “But you know the answer,” the student insisted, “you should trust yourself more!” Leibel nodded in humble affirmation, “Yes,” he admitted, “that’s what the Rebbe told me.”
But now it was time for me to exit the taxi and enter the Shiva House. My uncle Leibel had passed away.
I never knew how great he was. So long as he lived he made certain that no one spoke of him. But now the stories flowed, a healing salve on an open wound.
One week before Leibel passed away, the doctors informed the family that he was in his final hours. He recited Viduy and asked for a Shulchan Aruch. Slowly, painfully, as it hurt him to speak, he began to recite the laws of Aveilus, lovingly imparting to his children how to observe his passing in accordance with Halacha.