What did the Rebbe deny an anguished mother a blessing? Why did he weep for a newlywed couple? The Avner Institute presents some direct and indirect encounters, where the Rebbe’s thoughts powerfully communed with those in need, be it a blessing, a cure, or a gift. With special thanks to Rabbis Zalman Berger and Yosef Levin.
“Far but Near”
Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz relates:
A dear friend of mine entered the Rebbe’s room. To his surprise, the Rebbe looked particularly serious and lost in thought.
Mustering the courage, my friend asked the Rebbe what was wrong. The Rebbe narrated what had happened.
A young couple had come to see him — newlyweds, wanting to go on shlichus. So naturally they wanted the Rebbe’s blessing.
“I told them that in order for get a blessing for me, they must first make sure their parents approve of their decision,” the Rebbe explained.
A few days later, they returned with their parents’ permission, and the Rebbe accordingly gave his blessing.
The Rebbe sighed and his face grew even graver. “The woman is an only sister to five brothers, all shluchim.” He enumerated the locations. “But now the parents are alone, with all their children far from them.”
The Rebbe gazed out the window. “Right now, they’re all at the airport, crying. Although their tears are tears of joy, they are still tears, and I am with them at this moment.”
“Gift for the Wife”
Rabbi Tzi Pekkar relates:
My yechidus had pretty much ended, when the Rebbe said, “It is customary, when traveling home, to buy a gift for the wife.”
He removed from his drawer a hundred-dollar bill and handed it to me.
“This money is mine, and I can use it as I please. Take the money and buy a gift for your wife. With the remaining money, buy Jewish books for your children.”
“I’m Happy with Him”
Rabbi Y.Y. Katzen relates:
When my father, Rabbi Aharon Avigdor Kazen, was a student at Tomchei T’mimim in 770, my uncle had a yechidus on behalf of my grandfather.
My uncle asked the Rebbe, “How is my brother Aharon? My father is worried about him.”
The Rebbe replied, “Ich bin tzufrieden fun em, ober ich veis nisht tzu er iz tzufrieden fun zich alien – I’m happy with him, but I don’t know if he’s happy with himself.”
“No Answer is Also an Answer”
Rabbi Elimelech Tiefenbrun relates:
One hot summer night, a woman called me and asked if I was acquainted with a certain family. When I said that I was, she replied, “Then perhaps you can help me.
“In my shul, there is a woman who is a cardiologist, an expert who works at Mount Sinai. This past Shabbos, I heard her crying. When I asked her what was wrong, the cardiologist said that a lady had come to her with a very sick child, whom she refused to hospitalize. A week had gone by and the child was still not getting treated. The doctor was deeply concerned and frustrated.”
This woman herself sounded on the verge of tears. “Since you know this boy’s family, maybe you could speak to the mother? Can you convince her to listen to this doctor?”
“I’ll try,” I mumbled, uncertainly.
I looked up the family’s number and dialed. When the mother answered, I asked her, “What is going on?”
When I explained my reason for calling, she snapped, “You also know the story?”
Then she explained that after being told by the doctor to hospitalize her child, she had written to the Rebbe but did not receive an answer.
“I wrote again, but still nothing. And what do you think – that I’ll hospitalize my son without the Rebbe’s blessing? No way! I will not call the doctor until I get an answer from him,” she declared.
I didn’t want to argue. I told her she was right, and I decided to ask the secretaries about the delay.
The next day I spoke with Rabbi Binyamin Klein. He said that three times he had placed the woman’s letter on top of the pile waiting for the Rebbe, but the Rebbe did not answer.
“You’re not the only one who’s asking,” Rabbi Klein said. “The doctor calls every day and asks whether the Rebbe answered the letter.”
Several days passed. Still, no reply. Finally the mother took her son to a different cardiologist, who said that the boy’s condition was not serious.
“Just make sure that when he goes to camp he doesn’t run around too much,” this doctor said.
The mother wrote to the Rebbe, giving him the second diagnosis. Shortly later she received an answer – to continue visiting the second doctor.
What did I learn from this story? “No answer” from the Rebbe is also an answer.