This week we present a copy of the Rebbe’s handwritten notes to a story written by his trusted secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel, who was also a renowned author of storybooks. The story involves a seemingly harsh lesson taught by one of the Lubavitcher Rebbes to his son, and the Rebbe’s handwritten note advises “tzorich iyun godol ha’bi’ur” ([the story] needs to be carefully studied for an explanation).
It’s Me: A True Story
by Rabbi Nissan Mindel
After years of study, the young son of one of the Lubavitcher Rebbes returned home to see his parents after a long absence.
The coach had not even come to a halt, when the young scholar jumped off and ran into the house, hardly able to restrain his longing to see his father and mother. Impatiently he knocked at the door which was locked, as it was already night when he arrived.
“Who is there?” came the beloved voice of his father. “It’s me, Father.” And when it took a few seconds hesitation, the young man repeated even more impatiently: “Me, it’s me, dear Father.” The door opened. The young scholar faced his revered father and embraced him. Yet before he had a chance even to step into the house, the father, his face and features serious, said: “My son, I am very happy that you have returned. But I have to ask something of you. There is something very, very urgent that you have to do in this town, a hundred miles from here. Remain dressed as you are and rush there without delay.”
“But, father” pleaded the young man disconsolately, “let me at least come in and spend the rest of the night here with you. Tomorrow morning I shall be glad to fulfill your request.” “No, my dear son, I am sorry, the coach is still waiting. Go out and continue your trip. When you arrive there, you will know for what purpose Divine Providence needs you there.”
The tone in his father’s voice made the young scholar realize that his father was determined and that no pleading would change his mind. Unable to understand, yet full of reverence for his great father and his wisdom, the young man turned around, went back to the coach and set out for the journey to the town, a hundred miles from Lubavitch.
After wearisome traveling, the young son of the Rebbe arrived at the large inn outside the city and prepared to go to sleep. The following morning he arose, ready to enter the city and to find out what particular mission his father might have had in mind when he sent him.
How great was his astonishment however, when he was called before the burly innkeeper, who grabbed him and shouted: “You thief, give me back my silver that you stole from me. One of my servants observed you putting it in your bag.”
In vain the young scholar tried to defend himself and to plead his innocence. Mercilessly the rough innkeeper began to slap and punch him around, unwilling to listen. The young man was almost half dead when a servant came running with the silverware. “Here it is, master. One of the maids misplaced it in the wrong drawer.”
Black and blue from the rough treatment, the young scholar left the inn a few minutes later. Suddenly he understood why he had to travel a hundred miles to be innocently accused of theft and to be slapped and beaten murderously.
“You were right, my son,” confirmed the Rebbe this idea, after his beloved son’s return. “Only One being, G-d Himself, can say: I, it’s me. Man has to be humble and must not display such sureness of his own self and worth. Or else he has to travel far and undergo much harrowing experience like you, to learn his lesson.”
(the Rebbe’s notation: “tzorich iyun godol ha’bi’ur” – [the story] needs to be carefully studied for an explanation.)
The above story will appear in the forthcoming book by Nissan Mindel Publications – Chabad in America Through the Folders of Nissan Mindel.”
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.