How did a “committed agnostic” find his way back to Judaism? The Avner Institute presents a fascinating encounter of Dr. Binyomin Goldensky from Jerusalem, whose daughter’s wedding took on special significance and encouragement from the Rebbe, with special thanks to Reb Menachem Zagelbaum.
It was summer of 5732 (1972). After a year of work in the U.S. for the Israeli Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Avrohom Goldensky made his final preparations for his trip back home._
On the day before his flight, one of his friends suggested a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “Since you’re here already, it’s a shame to miss out on the opportunity.” Although an avowed socialist and a secularist, Dr. Goldensky dialed the number given to arrange an appointment.
Years before, Dr. Goldensky had been in a serious traffic accident where the doctors had been forced to amputate a portion of both his legs. Through determination Dr. Goldensky had overcome his handicap and returned to his job at the Transportation Ministry.
The Rebbe’s secretary scheduled him for 1:00 a.m., two days before his flight. When he entered the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe rose and helped him sit down. The Rebbe and the doctor began to talk, the Rebbe taking an interest in his work and asking him about the research he had done on Breslov Chassidus, as well as other topics.
At the end of their meeting, the Rebbe suddenly switched gears. “It pays to stay on a bit in the United States. You should see Dr. — for an examination.” The Rebbe added that the cost of the visit would be his responsibility.
The Rebbe then asked about the doctor’s family and his only daughter. When he asked Dr. Goldensky not to forget to send him an invitation to his daughter’s wedding, the doctor recoiled in surprise. “But my daughter is still young. She’s years away from marriage.” Nevertheless, the Rebbe insisted.
->Three Times<- Dr. Goldensky left the yechidus bewildered over the Rebbe’s medical knowledge. However, he honored the Rebbe’s request and postponed his flight. That same night the Rebbe personally secured an appointment with a top physician. After a thorough examination, the physician delivered the results to Dr. Goldensky. “It was a miracle you were examined now. Your spinal cord is about to deteriorate due to your build. However, you don’t have to be treated here. You can have it done in Hadassah Hospital in Israel.” The next day, no longer questioning the Rebbe’s medical authority, Dr. Goldensky returned to 770 to thank the Rebbe. When the Rebbe entered, he stopped to speak with the doctor, who reported the findings of the examination. Pleased, the Rebbe continued, “Since there will be a farbrengen on Shabbos, you are invited to stay. I will remind you once again, don’t forget to send me an invitation to your daughter’s wedding.” Dr. Goldensky spent Shabbos in Crown Heights and even attended the Rebbe’s farbrengen, during which he enjoyed the Rebbe’s special attention and a l’chaim, a toast. Before the doctor’s departure, the Rebbe blessed him with a safe trip and asked him to keep in touch with Chabad congregants in Jerusalem. Once again the doctor heard the familiar line, “I am reminding you for the third time, don’t forget to invite me to your daughter’s wedding.” ->Sudden Interest<- Puzzled, Dr. Goldensky left 770 for the airport. Once home in Jerusalem, he became friendly with Chabad Chassidim, who came to change the mezuzoth of his home and to help him put on tefillin. Given his intellectual nature, he developed an interest in Chabad Chassidism and eventually established a weekly class. This was attended by many of his acquaintances, who had heard his talks about the Rebbe’s greatness and vision. Three years passed. When his daughter was about to marry, he remembered the Rebbe’s thrice-made request and duly sent the Rebbe an invitation. On that very day it happened: Dr. Goldensky collapsed from a sudden heart attack and was whisked to the intensive care unit, where his Chassidic acquaintances, hearing the dreadful news, came to visit. A few days later, one of them presented him with a letter from the Rebbe, three and a half pages long. In the letter the Rebbe blessed him in honor of his daughter’s wedding and explained the significance of marriage according to Chassidic thought. >Entire Purpose<- The Rebbe also demanded that he begin to fulfill the mitzvoth in earnest -- “for that is man’s entire purpose.” _No doubt you will suspect me, rightfully so, that my intent in writing the above is not for the sake of homiletics, and is certainly not for the sake of giving mussar [ethics], G-d forbid, but only as it pertains to actual deed. The main thing is the deed, i.e., actual mitzvoth; not only understanding their value, but to actually perform them. That is the most important thing. It does not matter a great deal whether understanding is delayed and only comes after the actual fulfillment._ **The Rebbe elaborated:** _Knowing him and seeing his determination – despite the state of his health – in his relationships with the people around him – and quite the contrary: this has inspired him to overcome all the difficulties and to demonstrate that not only is he not inferior, G-d forbid, to the people around him, but able to compete with and even surpass them. In this he was successful, and with – and this is most important – a smiling countenance and with optimism. Therefore, I have no doubt that if he truly decides to at least make an effort to establish his daughter’s life, starting with her marriage, he will do all in his power to ensure that not only will it not be a contradiction on his part, but on the contrary, he will provide a role model by changing his own life._ **The Rebbe concluded:** It would seem proper to ask forgiveness for my mixing in to the private lives of him and her in the way I expressed it. However, since the matter is so vital and so important and so serious, I do not have permission not to express my thoughts and hopes. Although gravely ill, Dr. Goldensky spent a long time on the Rebbe’s letter, poring over it from beginning to end. When he finished he said to those around him, “The letter is extremely vital. I must fulfill everything it says.” Those were his last words. Shortly thereafter Dr. Goldensky passed on. It was only afterwards that his friends understood the Rebbe’s request for an invitation to the wedding. The Rebbe had foreseen what would happen in the prior days, knowing that this was the time, more than ever, to influence him toward a complete teshuva. Indeed, the doctor merited to return his soul to his Creator after resolving to fulfill Torah and mitzvoth. Yesh koneh olamo b’shaa achas -- there are those who acquire their World [to Come] in but an hour. To receive this to your inbox email: [email protected]