Friday, June 4, 2010

Paris 1947 - New York 1990 - a Fascinating Encounter with The Rebbe

The Avner Institute would like to present a heartwarming encounter which took place with the Rebbe while he was living in Paris and which ended nearly 45 years later at “Sunday Dollars” in New York, 1990. This encounter was told by Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Meirowitz from Bnei Brak, who heard it directly from the involved individual.

The Rebbe Archive would like to present a beautiful photo of the Rebbe, with special thanks to Yechi Ezagui.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Meirowitz relates:

"I was born in Paris 45 years ago, an only child, to parents who were already on in years. When I was still young we moved to Jerusalem. At a tender age I realized that there was some kind of secret concerning my birth, though my parents never spoke about it.

It was not until I was 24 years old, a short while before I was married, that my father approached me and told me this story:

“During the war, my parents fled Poland for Russia. They moved from place to place until they arrived in Tashkent. There were many refugees there, among them Chabad Chasidim. My father always spoke with great praise for the Chabadniks he met in Tashkent: their willingness to help others; the length and carefulness of their prayers—but most importantly, about their selfless devotion to ensuring Jewish education for children.

When the war ended, my father was already 50 and my mother was about 40. They had been married for over 20 years and childless. They left Russia for Paris where they found fellow refugees, among them a large group of Chabadniks, some of whom they knew from Tashkent.

One day, soon after their arrival in Paris, my father heard from one of his Chabad friends that an important visitor had come to the city--Rabbi Schneerson [the present Rebbe. Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson], the son-in-law of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He had come from New York to Paris to see his mother upon her arrival from Russia.

My father met with Rabbi Schneerson from time to time in the synagogue and discussed Torah matters with him. My father derived much pleasure from these talks.

When they first met, it was close to Passover. During their conversation, Rabbi Schneerson asked my father about his family. My father began to sob and said that he had no children. Rabbi Schneerson took my father's hand warmly and said, "With G-d's help, next year on Passover you will be able to fulfill the mitzva of 'And you shall tell it [the story of Passover] to your children.'"

I was born 10 months later. On the night of the Seder, I was two months old. With tremendous emotion my father fulfilled the mitzva of "And you shall tell it to your children."

I remember that the Seder night was always a very special and emotional time in my house. My father would carefully answer any question I had and explain everything with great patience and detail. It was only after my father revealed the facts surrounding my birth that I understood why the Seder was always so special.

A few years ago, my daughter married a yeshiva student from Lakewood, New Jersey. On Passover, two years ago, she was due to give birth. My wife, children, and I traveled to New Jersey to help and be with her for Passover.

On the first Shabbat there, I told my son-in-law that I wanted to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I asked if he knew when the Rebbe sees people and he told me that on Sunday the Rebbe "gives out dollars." Anyone could come at that time.

I arranged a ride into Brooklyn for that Sunday. When I got to Crown Heights, to the place Chabadniks call "770," I was shocked to see the length of the line. There were thousands of people. My son and I stood for about 5 hours. During those five hours, I managed to tell him--for the first time--the wondrous story surrounding my birth. He was very moved. Now he understood why I was so insistent on going to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

It was around 5:00. We arrived at the place near where the Rebbe gives out dollars and I could see the Rebbe's face. The dignity of the Rebbe's face had a tremendous impact on me. The Rebbe's energy, despite the fact that he had been standing for over five hours giving dollars to thousands of people, astounded me.

People passed by quickly. I hadn't prepared anything to say. I only wanted to see the Rebbe once. It would be my way of thanking him.

My turn came quickly. My son went before me. The Rebbe gave him a dollar and told him, "Blessing and success." Then he asked my son in Yiddish, "Did you prepare to ask the Four Questions?"

My son answered positively and the Rebbe gave him another dollar, saying with a smile, "This is for the Four Questions."

Then the Rebbe gave me a dollar and told me, "Blessing and success." He gave me another dollar and added, "This is for the explanation of the Four Questions." Suddenly, the Rebbe's look intensified and, with a very broad smile, he said, "And this is for the 'And you shall tell it to your children.'"

I don't remember what happened next. I only know that a moment later I found myself outside, overcome with emotion. I was told that I had stood there in front of the Rebbe motionless until someone had led me out.