I didn’t consider myself a Lubavitcher, but I lived in Crown Heights for a short time after I got married. I would attend the Rebbe’s farbrengens from time to time, but my relationship was always from a distance.
I mention this because of what happened later on.
Three years after we married, my wife and I moved away to Silver Spring, Maryland, where I attended the University of Maryland. I received a PhD in psychology and began working as a psychologist in the local school system. Besides this, I used to give classes in Talmud – one on Shabbos afternoon for the general public, and one on Tuesday night for a smaller group who wanted to learn on a deeper level.
I was in my early thirties, so I suppose I was too young for a midlife crisis – or maybe I arrived at a midlife crisis earlier than most people – but around this time, I was torn with a number of very pressing questions:
Should I stay in Torah learning, or should I continue in psychology? And if so, how should I further my career? Should I move into private psychotherapy work or accept an offer from one of the county social service organizations in the area? Also, I wasn’t sure what was best for my children in terms of educational options in Silver Spring.
In addition to all these dilemmas, like everybody else I guess, I had my own questions of faith and trust in God, as well as some philosophical questions. I was in a state of uncertainty.
All these questions had me depressed, and I was unsure what to do or where to go. I spoke to various close friends, and one of them – a Chabad chosid – suggested that I visit the Rebbe.
And so it was that in February of 1971 I called the Rebbe.
The Rebbe’s secretary answered the phone in English, with a simple, “Hello, who’s this?”
Now as I was talking to the secretary, in the background – I recognized his voice from the farbrengens I had attended – the Rebbe was asking in Yiddish, “Who’s calling?”
I replied, “A Yid fun Maryland – A Jew from Maryland.”
I told the secretary that I have many questions which I would like to discuss with the Rebbe – questions about what direction my life should take, questions regarding my career, questions of faith… I explained that I was at a very uncertain stage in my life and I didn’t know where to turn.
I spoke in English and, as I was talking, the Rebbe’s secretary was repeating and paraphrasing my words in Yiddish – I imagine he was doing this so that the Rebbe should hear.