Sunday, March 6, 2016

Remembering the Rebbe

Tonight I am sitting here emotional thinking about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Since putting down drugs, I find that one of the beauties, that used to be torture, is that I can feel emotion. For that I am grateful. 
Tonight and tomorrow marks 24 years from the date that the Rebbe had a stroke while visiting the grave of his saintly father-in-law and predecessor. While I do not have any memories of this Holy man, as I was not born until after the stroke, I feel a very strong connection with this Holy individual. He was the hand to which millions did and still do come.
I would like to share a brief story from the Rebbe, A teacher at a Chabad yeshiva once received a request from a friend to mention his name to the Rebbe for a refuah shleimah (compleate healing) when passing by for kos shel bracha (wine that the Rebbe would distribute after making a blessing on it at the end of a Jewish Holiday). The teacher agreed to do so, but when his turn came, he was so emotional that he did not manage to say anything. As the Rebbe poured some wine into his cup, he looked at the teacher with a penetrating gaze before saying "lechaim," and adding, "a refuah shleimah!" 
I would like to end of with a more recent story from just a few years ago, 
Here is a story that occurred in Kfar Chabad, Israel some five years ago.
It's not easy to imagine being blind - we can close our eyes and try but in a pinch we can always open them. But not Mrs. Schecter.
She was really blind.
She had been a housewife, a school teacher and normal, loving mother to her large family... until she got the flu.
It was some sort of strange flu that just didn't stop and after several weeks of it she decided that she had better visit the hospital for tests.
But after another week of intensive examinations and various tests nothing unusual showed up. 'Ordinary Viral Flu' they called it and sent her home to let the disease take its course and just naturally fade away.
But it didn't.
In fact, a few days later she was reading a book in bed when suddenly the letters became fuzzy. She looked up at the clock on the wall and became a blur. And then, as though someone turned off the switch, the room suddenly turned black with a few vague gray shadows.
She had lost her sight.
She kept calm. told her children to call their father from work and she was back in the hospital shortly after.
But this time, after a day of concentrated and intensive testing the doctors weren't so optimistic. They solemnly announced that the prognosis was dismal. Most probably the flu had affected her brain. There was no treatment for her condition and... they felt obligated to tell her that... the blindness could be, that is, most probably was, permanent.
Mrs. Schecter, a religious Jew, believed strongly in Divine Providence; if this was G-d's will then she would certainly make the most of it. But she was also a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that never took darkness for an answer.
There was only one way to be sure. She dictated to her children a letter to the Rebbe and had them insert it in one of the books of 'Igrot Kodesh'; (to date 23 volumes of letters that the Lubavitcher Rebbe answered to various questions in the first 18 of his 42 years as Rebbe.)
The letter ended with the words "And may G-d, blessed be He, return the light of her eyes".
The letter was her only thread of hope... but it was a very strong thread.
She learned to function without eyes. She already knew all of the prayers that we Jews say thrice daily by heart and it wasn't long before she learned how to cook, clean the house and function almost normally while continuing to search for and visit better doctors and experts. But it was in vain. All they could do was raise their hands in defeat and suggest that she should learn to read Braille.
Her friends, neighbors and family added special psalms to say for her recovery, others added in good deeds but the weeks and months passed with no change.
Her best friend wrote another letter to the Rebbe for advice and inserted it randomly in volume 8. It opened to a long letter (page 143) to someone that had problems with his eyes, advising him to add in the learning of Torah which illuminates the world, and also in the Chabad Chassidic teachings which illuminate the Torah.
Mr. Schecter added a new early-morning Chassidut class to his already crowded daily schedule. But still no change - none at all.
One Thursday afternoon there was a knock on her door. One of her children answered and when she opened the door standing there was a woman that no one had ever seen. She asked if this was the Schecter residence and asked if she could talk to the lady of the house.
Mrs. Schecter appeared, the strange woman entered, they sat opposite one another and she held out a dollar bill and begged Mrs. Schecter to take it; it was a dollar from the hand of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that would restore her sight.
But Mrs. Schecter was not impressed. She thanked the woman warmly but explained that she herself had been by the Rebbe several times for 'dollars' (every Sunday thousands of people stood in line to receive blessings and at least one dollar bill from the Rebbe to encourage them to also give charity.) and had several of her own.
"But this dollar was different!" the woman insisted. She related that she herself had once been terminally ill and when a friend of hers passed before the Rebbe one Sunday and requested a blessing for her the Rebbe handed her a dollar and replied, "This will be for a miraculous recovery."
Just days later she unexplainably and miraculously recovered and since then she had given this dollar to many seriously ill people with amazing results. So when she heard about Mrs. Schecter's tragic blindness she knew that this dollar would help.
Needless to say she agreed to take it.
Two days later on Shabbat afternoon as Mrs. Schecter was carefully setting the table for the afternoon meal groping for the knives and forks suddenly her eyes began to vibrate almost painfully. She put her hands to her eyes and began pressing. she didn't know what was happening. But there was first a flash of strong light and then...
She could see!!! When she took her hands away she could see! She could even read! It was as though nothing ever happened.
The news spread like wildfire in Kfar Chabad and just hours later their house was filled with an informal thanksgiving 'Farbrengan' (Chassidic get-together) that was unforgettable.
After Shabbat the word even spread to the Israeli media and reporters with filming crews rushed in to cover the story. Finally there was good news!
Two days later the woman who brought the dollar appeared, took it back and disappeared just as mysteriously as she had arrived. (Interestingly, to this day no one has any idea who she is.) 

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