Aug 11, 2016
'Message to All Chabad Shluchim'

Senior Toronto Rabbi Dovid Schochet shares a personal story that happened to him and offers an uplifting message to all Shluchim.

Rabbi Dovid Shochet has served the Jewish community of Toronto since 1957 and is presently the president of the Toronto Rabbinical Council. He was interviewed in his home by Jem's Here's My Story in June of 2012.

Full PDF here

I was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland, but in 1947, when I was fifteen, my family moved to the Netherlands, where my father became the Chief Rabbi of the Hague, and opened a yeshivah for Hungarian refugees from the war. Five years later, I came to New York to enroll in the central Lubavitch yeshivah in Crown Heights.

I chose a Lubavitch yeshivah at the urging of my uncle, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov, who was then secretary to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. But what really decided me was the pride in being Jewish that the Lubavitch chasidim exhibited. In Europe, many observant Jews tried to blend in – for which you couldn't blame them, considering the degree of anti-Semitism that existed. They would cover their heads, although not with a yarmulke which would make them stand out; they'd wear a cap or a hat that looked like every other person's headgear. But Lubavitcher chasidim openly wore yarmulkes and even went on the streets with the strings of their tzitzit hanging out. That impressed me very much.

In 1952, when I enrolled in the Lubavitcher yeshivah, I had my first audience with the Rebbe. What I distinctly remember from that first audience is the lesson he imparted to me about appreciating life. "Don't take life for granted," he said. "In the morning, when you wake up, thank G-d for everything that has been given to you."

He went on to say that many people go to sleep at night and, when they wake up in the morning, they expect their shoes to be by their bed where they left them the night before. As they are getting dressed, they complain that the weather is too cold or too hot. In effect, they are criticizing G-d – because who makes the weather? Instead, they should be grateful that they are still alive, that their possessions are still with them, that a new day is beginning where they have an opportunity to do many good deeds. It was a lesson I never forgot.

In that first audience, the Rebbe also advised me to go into Jewish education. I had been planning to enroll in university after finishing my yeshivah studies, with the intent of becoming an electrical engineer, but the Rebbe said that I would find working in Jewish outreach much more rewarding because, as he put it, "every Jew is a diamond."

I followed his advice and, in 1957, I was appointed the Rebbe's emissary to Toronto, where I have been ever since. After I was already well established there, I was invited by Rabbi Mottel Zajac, the Rebbe's emissary to Buffalo, to give a talk to local university students. It turned out though that the audience would be mostly non-Jewish and that representatives of other religions would be speaking as well, so my first inclination was to refuse; I did not want to take the time away from my other duties in Jewish outreach. However, I did call the Rebbe's office to ask what I should do.

The answer that I received was that it is worthwhile to influence non-Jews positively, especially regarding the mitzvah of giving charity. I was also advised to recount a story attributed by some to the famous 17th century Polish rabbi, Yom Tov Lipmann (from whom I am descended, though I didn't know it at the time).

So I did this. I attended the gathering and told the story which happened in Krakow in the days of Rabbi Yom Tov, who is also known as Tosfos Yom Tov after the title of his most famous book.

This story concerned the town scrooge called Yossele the Miser. He was a Jew, but because he flatly refused to give charity, the Jews in Krakow hated him. So much so that, when he passed away, they buried him on the very edge of the cemetery in a place set aside for unworthy people. They felt he didn't deserve any better.

But, a couple of weeks after his funeral, a tumult was unleashed in the town. Poor people who had depended on handouts from the butcher and the baker were suddenly being turned away. As well, the funds for free loans, for help with wedding costs, for medical emergencies, had somehow mysteriously dried up.

Distraught, the people of the community came knocking on Rabbi Yom Tov's door demanding an explanation. When he investigated, he learned that the benefactor behind all the charity in the town had been none other than Yossele. He had reimbursed the butcher and the baker for their handouts; he had kept the free-loan fund afloat. He just didn't want anybody to know.

Rabbi Yom Tov was so moved by this man's selfless actions and humility that he announced that, when he himself passed away, he should be buried on the edge of the cemetery next to Yossele.

When I finished telling this story, which was well received, a young priest came over to me and asked me to repeat it. At first I declined, saying jokingly, "I did my best; my English won't be any better next time." But he was so insistent that I agreed and invited him to my hotel room where I related the story for a second time.

I noticed that when I was speaking, he seemed very agitated. He kept pacing the floor, and when I finished, he asked me to tell the story for a third time. Thinking that he must be mentally unhinged, I demanded to know why he had this obsession with this story.

He said, "I think that Yossele was my great-grandfather."

"How could that be?" I asked. "He was a Jew and you are a priest!"

He explained that his mother was a Polish refugee from the war, and when she married his father, who was an officer in the army, she had to agree to keep her true identity a secret. But, before she died, she confessed it all to her son. She revealed her background of Jewish ancestry, and she told him a very similar story about one of his forbearers.

"That means you are a Jew," I said. "And if you are Jew, you are obligated to follow the Torah and keep its commandments."

He said nothing and left, and I thought that I would never hear from him again. But I did.

Years later, when I was visiting Jerusalem, a bearded man approached me near the Western Wall. "Rabbi Schochet, Shalom Aleichem," he said.

"Do I know you?" I asked.

"You know my old self. I'm the guy that spoke with you in Buffalo … After our conversation, I did a lot of thinking, and I decided to return to my roots. And here I am now a Breslover chasid."

When I heard that, I realized why the Rebbe told me to give that speech and tell that story. It was no coincidence. I needed to speak before that non-Jewish audience in Buffalo, because there was one Jew there that had to be saved.

So to all Chabad emissaries I say – don't complain that the Rebbe sent you out into the world where life is difficult. Don't think, "I should not be here," or "I don't want to this or that." Remember what it is all about – if you save one person, you save the world.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
Mrs R.Elyovics-Vorst Antwerp, Belgium
Beautiful story. When your father was Rov in the Hague, he
advised my father to send my brothers to Gateshead Yeshiva
in 1952. My sisters and i went to Gateshead Seminary and we are b.H all Shomer Torah and mitswes, our children, grand children and great grandchildren, living all around the world.
(8/11/2016 12:23:08 PM)
Emes, Thank you.
(8/11/2016 1:36:58 PM)
The Rebbe says, you do! A true chosid
Like father like son!
Kudos to rabbi Schochet!
(8/11/2016 1:38:44 PM)
Thank you for sharing
As a shliach that goes through this on a weekly basis, it's nice to read a story like this from someone who heard it physically from the Rebbe

(Mazal Tov on the recent wedding of MD)
(8/11/2016 1:48:26 PM)
Yossele the Holy Miser
The story is best told with a strumming guitar. . .
(8/11/2016 2:21:11 PM)
WOW. This is the best post I have ever read. Genuine advice for life that hits home to every single person regardless of where he is and what he is doing. Thank you Rabbi Schochet for the thousands who reach out to you yearly for your wisdom, guidance, psakim....for the hundreds of bochurim that you give smicha or dayanus to....for the community that you have built in Toronto....for being a shining light to the international jewish community and for so much more
(8/11/2016 2:34:49 PM)
to #1
i have the chills reading your comments. what an incredible thing for you to post and allow the Schochet family to know the impact that their father/grandfather had in just one interaction when he had multiple interactions with people daily...imagine how many more such stories there are.
(8/11/2016 3:04:28 PM)
The Schochets are royalty. All of them and especially Reb Dovid. Very aptly named.
(8/11/2016 3:25:30 PM)
# 6
Can only echo what you write, and add...
...Every Yid is a "Shaliach", no matter where we find ourselves. One does not necessarily have to be 'officially appointed' or sent to some far out location to make a difference.
Great to be reminded, every now and then though.
(8/11/2016 3:38:39 PM)
no labels
Knowing Rabbi Schochet he did not choose the title of the article. He would have never given labels to limit his advice only to official shluchim. He does not differentiate between people and would have considered the Rebbe's advice and his own to be for each and every Yid.
(8/11/2016 3:58:32 PM)
Count your blessings!
Thank you Hashem for each and every day.
Thank you for giving us a Rebbe who has taught us about the true meaning of life.
Thank you Hashem that I am a Lubavitcher and The Rebbe is My Rebbe.
(8/11/2016 3:58:51 PM)
thank you for sharing!
the message of The Rebbe brings tears to my eyes
the idea of thanking Hashem, appreciating life and knowing that we are all in a specific place at a specific time have been rekindled
The Rebbe knows, The Rebbe cares, The Rebbe is with us
(8/11/2016 5:00:05 PM)
So special!
I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and right away knew that I would!
Rabbi Schochet is such a special person, we are so privileged to have him as our Rav in Toronto.
Always so full of toichen, and love for a fellow yid.
There is a lot to learn from this article!
(8/11/2016 5:23:19 PM)
Best post ever!
Thank you, I really needed to read this TODAY. In a time that I felt most lost, this reminded me once again that everything happens for a reason and we are exactly where we are supposed to be
(8/11/2016 5:47:40 PM)
To #5
Indeed, Sholom Carelbach tells the story as if it happened to him. When he was confronted about his claim that this story had happened to him, he readily admitted that he actually “borrowed” the story to inspire others.

A basic hashkafa in Judaism:

The revelation of Mattan Torah took place in public in front of a multitude of witnesses who verified that it took place, which gives it credibility. Just as here, Rabbi Mottel Zajac, the Rebbe’s emissary to Buffalo, invited and coordinated the event and verified the entire story.

In contrast, the claims from other religions of various revelations all of which took place in private with hardly anyone to verify that the story actually happened - as in Shlomo Carelbach's version of "his" story, leaves us suspect, to say the least, until it was clarified that the artistic "entertainer" Shlomo Carelbach used his artistic license to alter the story (with good intentions).
(8/11/2016 5:52:32 PM)
Thank you
And amen to # 9, 11, & 12.
(8/11/2016 6:26:13 PM)
My Zaidy!
Zaidy, we love you and are so proud to be your grandchildren! Each Friday as we call you to wish you a good shabbos, we think about the tremendous gifts you have given us. Your care, love and concern for each one of us is so special!
(8/11/2016 8:11:25 PM)
thank you My Encounter
I read these stories every week, but this one really hit the spot!

These stories literally uplifts my week!
(8/11/2016 8:23:01 PM)
R Shlomo Carlebach
I saw this same exact story attributed to R Shlomo Carlebach in the book Holy Brother. Anyone have any idea about the connection?
(8/11/2016 9:02:23 PM)
Boruch Hashem for all our blessings!
Can never get tired of hearing this story, it is truly one the most inspiring of all time. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us to keep a perspective and appreciate al lthat is good every moment.
(8/11/2016 9:28:52 PM)
my father
I am a princess not because I have a prince but because I am the daughter of a King.
(8/11/2016 11:04:14 PM)
To #19
See comment #15
When Shlomo Carelbach was confronted about his claim that this story had happened to him, he readily admitted that he actually “borrowed” the story to inspire others (an entertainer's artistic license with good intentions).
(8/12/2016 8:19:09 AM)
To my Rebbe Dov Schochet
The Rebbe inspired You and You inspired me.
I certainly miss you, now that I am in Monsey NY.
BatSheva Sarah Gamoran
(8/14/2016 1:00:12 PM)
The mesora of stories: Who said it, when, and who it happened to, are all part of Torah. Whoever says a Torah in the name of the one who originated it brings Geulah. Let's all try and be precise. We all bear responsibility for precision. Stories aren't for entertainment but for mesorah.
(8/14/2016 3:45:33 PM)
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