By Dovid Zaklikowski for COLlive and Hasidic Archives
It was New Year’s Eve, 1952, young Chana Zuber’s birthday. She was about to meet old friends from Scandinavia, where her father was once chief rabbi, across a nearby park in residential Massachusetts.
That evening, her father Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Zuber, decided to accompany his daughter through the park. He donned his black hat and long black coat, and they set out.
After dropping off his daughter, he headed home. Suddenly, several thugs jumped him, robbing him of a measly sum of money and leaving him bleeding to death. The beloved rabbi, community leader and scholar died from his wounds.
Chana struggled to deal with this horrific trauma. Ultimately, she built a new life despite her brutal loss. She married Mottel Sharfstein, and they became a family. Sadly, several years later, a mere five years after her father had been murdered, her mother passed away. Shortly thereafter, her mother-in-law passed away as well.
The young woman was devastated. She had grown up in Sweden without grandparents and had always envisioned her children surrounded by doting grandparents. Now, Chana and Mottel were alone.
Through the period after her father’s passing, the Rebbe guided her as a father would. Following the slew of fresh losses, she penned her sorrows to the Rebbe and scheduled an appointment to see him. In a private audience with the Rebbe, she burst into tears.
With great compassion, the Rebbe explained, “It is our firm belief that G-d is the Master of the world, and constantly attends to everything that occurs, as well as to every individual. It is impossible for the human mind to fully grasp the ways of G-d.”
Ultimately, the Rebbe explained, G-d has His reasons for how and why matters evolve. However, one’s connection with his or her deceased parents cannot be diminished by their physical passing. The Rebbe provided a metaphor:
“Created matter cannot be completely destroyed. For example, if you burn a piece of paper, you will be left with ash. There is always something that will remain, though its form or shape may change. Similarly, a human being cannot be obliterated. When you love someone, you don’t just love their body; you love the person’s soul, character, and intrinsic nature. These elements cannot be obliterated.”
In another illustration, the Rebbe spoke of a person who travels far from home to fill a position of honor in a royal palace. No one would regard his departure as a tragedy.
The Rebbe concluded, “Living life with joy, as your parents would want, will bring the greatest merit and happiness to their souls. This will also bring you and your loved ones additional blessings, both physically and spiritually.”