The following is part one of an encounter with a Jew from Buffalo, New York, who came to 770 to see the Rebbe. It was a meeting that lasted only sixty seconds but forever changed this person's life. Special thanks to Rabbi Shabtai Slavaticki for his recollection of this encounter, and to the RebbeArchive@Gmail.Com for the photograph.
A Stranger Approaches the
The door opened and the Rebbe stepped out. There was absolute silence, a complete hush. All eyes were focused on the Rebbe. Each one of us gazed at the Rebbe with his own private thoughts and feelings. Some of us looked at the Rebbe with love, others with awe, still others with a sense of shame. Many took the opportunity to pray.
The Rebbe strode in the direction of the waiting car, as Rabbi Krinsky Opened the door. In another moment the Rebbe would enter the car, the door would close, and he would begin the short trip home. I didn't notice him until the Rebbe was going towards the steps.
He was standing on the sidewalk, near the brick railing opposite the Rebbe's room. He was a tall young man, with a clean-shaven, refined-looking face. I judged him to be approximately 25 years old. The yarmulke perched atop his head looked slightly embarrassed, like a guest who had yet to find a comfortable position. In fact, the yarmulke revealed everything about him...
As soon as he saw the Rebbe come out of 770, he walked up the steps towards him, although we could sense his hesitation. It was also obvious that He was very emotional. I think we all stopped breathing. Who was this guy? And what did he want From the Rebbe? The Rebbe paused and turned his holy head in the young man's direction. We All saw him say something to the Rebbe, but we couldn't hear what it was. All we could do was watch from afar as the Rebbe gave him his attention. When the young man finished, the Rebbe looked at him and uttered a few words.
At the same time, the Rebbe lifted his holy hands into the air and made a wide, circling gesture. The young man was listening intently to the Rebbe's words.
But we could see that he was still somewhat tense, as if he was not entirely satisfied with the Rebbe's answer. For a few seconds he just stood there uncomfortably, hesitating whether or not to continue. Finally he seemed to gather his courage, raised his head and asked another question. We were all watching the Rebbe's holy countenance, and saw the faintest flicker of a smile and a look of satisfaction. It seemed as if the Rebbe had been
anticipating the question. With an expression exuding warmth and love, the Rebbe looked directly into the young man's eyes and said a few more words, pointing with his holy finger towards the young man's heart.
We couldn't hear a thing, but we could tell that whatever the Rebbe had told him was completely unexpected. The young man stood there in shock, rooted to his place on the sidewalk. The Rebbe gave him a slight nod, and then continued on his way to the waiting car.
Groping in the Dark
As soon as the Rebbe had departed, all of us bachurim emerged from our "hiding places." Some went back inside 770, while others returned to whatever they had been doing. The most curious among us, however, just had to find out what the Rebbe had said. We watched the young man from a distance, trying to figure out how to initiate a conversation without seeming too nosy. The young man walked down the steps into 770 and took a seat on one of the benches in the back. He then lowered his head onto his arms and burst into tears. No one had the nerve to approach him. We stood to the side, unwilling to intrude on his emotions at such a time.
After about 15 minutes he seemed to have calmed down, so we walked over to him. We started very innocuously. Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
Of course, the whole time we were trying to ask more. Maybe we knew some of the same people, or perhaps we had something else in common? Our world is a world of lies. We often say one thing, while thinking something completely different. We say "bruchim habaim" and "shalom aleichem" in welcome, while actually meaning "tzeischem leshalom," good-bye. We bring up various topics, but we're only beating around the bush. There are some people who spend their whole lives dancing around the subject of life, but never actually talk about life itself. When will all the barriers fall away?
We sat down next the fellow and began to chat, but the whole time there was only one question on our minds. What had the Rebbe said to him? Would he agree to tell us?
We couldn't figure out a way to broach the subject. Then, as if quite incidentally, one of us "happened" to ask, "Why did the Rebbe raise his hands while speaking to you?" The young man smiled, as if he appreciated the cleverness of the Question. "I'm sure you want to know what I asked the Rebbe," he said." Let me tell you exactly what happened... To be continued next week.