Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Rebbe Photo 1949 & Inspiring Encounter - Brazil 1962

To the Rebbe, outreach was not limited to Jews. He frequently spoke of teaching people of all backgrounds, and many non-Jews were helped by the Rebbe’s special powers. The Avner Institute presents an amazing encounter related by Rabbi Shabsi Alpern, Director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Brazil, who will never forget the Rebbe’s personal attention to a very sick girl, in 1962.

The Rebbe Archive would like to present a newly released photo of the Rebbe (standing in the background, second to the left, under the chupah) at the wedding of Rabbi Peretz and Chaya Ita Hecht, which took place 22 Adar 5709 (1949) at the Clinton Plaza Hall. With special thanks to Rabbi Shea Hecht.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Alpern relates:

In earlier years when I first arrived in Brazil, the Chabad House would host a lecture every Tuesday evening. Often non-Jews attended.

One non-Jewish couple in particular appeared week after week. After one of the lectures I approached them and asked what had brought them there to explore Judaism. Why were they so interested?

The mother explained sadly, “My daughter Angela. She’s only eleven, but the doctors have found a tumor in her back. We hear there is a great rabbi in Brooklyn who is known to give effective blessings.”

She shot me a glance, a certain fear in her eyes. “We are anxious to meet this rabbi; perhaps he will give a blessing that will heal our daughter.”

I decided to write a letter to the Rebbe on their behalf and ask for a blessing for Angela. Weeks went by after the letter had been sent to New York, and this couple still never missed a lecture. Finally, when I arrived at the Chabad House one week, I sensed a jubilant atmosphere.

Angelo’s parents ran up to me. “We just went for a checkup, and the doctors were shocked to see that the entire growth had disappeared.”

Later that year I went to New York for 12 Tammuz, the date commemorating the birthday of the Previous Rebbe and his release from Russian prison. I was to leave for Brazil on a Monday and, it was hoped, meet with the Rebbe.

On Sunday afternoon, I was told that Rabbi Leibel Groner, one of the Rebbe’s secretaries, was looking for me. Rabbi Groner gave me a small note from the Rebbe that asked:

“Ma shlom hayalda v’hahemshech la’ze? [How is the girl doing and what was the result?]”

I immediately chided myself for not having let the Rebbe know that Angela had recovered. I sat down by the table of Rabbi Eliyahu Quint, another secretary of the Rebbe, and wrote a letter detailing Angela’s health.

As I finished, I turned over the note that I had received from the Rebbe about the girl, and I realized that it was my very own handwriting on the other side! On the very same letter that I had first written to the Rebbe about the girl, the Rebbe had torn a piece of the letter and answered me. Amazingly, the Rebbe had kept my letter all that time, waiting to hear the fate of this non-Jewish Brazilian girl.

When I returned to Brazil, I spoke to Angela’s mother and said that the “great rabbi” from Brooklyn had asked about her daughter. Curiously, she wanted to know what day the Rebbe had made this inquiry.

“Sunday,” I said.

Her eyes widened. “Now I know why the Rebbe waited until Sunday. This past Sunday was Angela’s birthday!”