Ver Bistu?

Shalom aleichem!

Mazel tov to Yosef & Chaya Mendlewicz on the birth of their daughter, Esther Miriam!

Mazel tov to David Engel on his wedding next week! Mazel tov to his parents Moshe & Judy!

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This Thursday marks the birthday of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, often referred to as the Rebbe Rashab (an acronym for his Hebrew initials).

It is also the day that we moved to Queens, 10 years ago.

In honor of this day, I share with you two short stories about the Rebbe Rashab.

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In the town of Lubavitch, there was a teacher named Reb Zundel Beshenkovitzer. For various reasons, he ended up parting ways with the village of Lubavitch and the Chassidic lifestyle.

One day, Reb Zundel found himself in a difficult situation, and was unable to find help anywhere. He decided to return to Lubavitch, and ask the Rebbe Rashab for assistance.

When one wanted to request something of the Rebbe Rashab, the custom was to write one’s name on a piece of paper, then to write the question below it.

The Rebbe read his note and asked in Yiddish, “Ver bistu?” (Who are you?)

Reb Zundel responded with his name, his father’s name, and noted that he had previously learned in Lubavitch.

“Ich ken dir nisht. Ver bistu?” (I don’t recognize you. Who are you?)

This happened a few more times, until Reb Zundel realized what the Rebbe Rashab was really saying — namely, that he didn’t recognize him, because he had changed into a different person — and began to cry.

The contrite Reb Zundel ended up returning permanently to Lubavitch and the Chassidic brotherhood, and recounted this story years later at a Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering).

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Reb Pesachya from Kherson was a chassid of the Rebbe Rashab. One time, at a Simchas Torah Farbrengen with the Rebbe Rashab, Reb Pesachya — having already said l’chaim once or twice — stood up and declared (though he was speaking to the Rebbe, he followed the convention of addressing him reverently in the third person):

“The Rebbe always says that he does not perform miracles — but I have a story to tell!

“One summer, I had a private audience with the Rebbe, and the Rebbe told me the following: ‘You work in the forests, and sometimes you even need to spend a few days in a row in the forest. When Chanukah arrives, don’t forget to bring candles with you. Just make sure that they are big candles.’

“When Chanukah arrived, I indeed needed to spend a few days in the forest. Recalling the Rebbe’s words, I brought large candles with me.

“While in the forest, thieves came upon me, took all my money, and said they were going to kill me. I pleaded with them to spare my life, but they said they could not do so, since then I would certainly go to the police who would pursue them. They said they had no choice but to kill me.

“My continued pleading went nowhere. I asked them if I could have one final request, and they agreed. It was Chanukah, I said, and our tradition requires us to light candles each night. Out of their ‘great compassion,’ they permitted me to light my candles.

“As I was lighting them, the local landowner passed nearby, and saw the light. He had a revolver with him, chased away the robbers, and saved me.”

Concluding, Reb Pesachya said, “Is that not a miracle?!”

The Rebbe Rashab said: Zogt a niggun! – “Someone, time to start up a song!”

Shabbat Shalom,