Weekly Story: His Touch Changed Me

by Rabbi Sholom Avtzon

In honor of Yud Aleph Nissan, I am posting the following thought and story about the Rebbe that I heard from Rabbi Nissin Mangel this past Shabbos in Ksav Sofer, who heard it directly from the person himself.

As we know, sometimes we explain that Shabbos is the culmination of the week that past, while other times, we explain that Shabbos blesses the incoming week. Both of these points are true, but today we will be focusing on the latter.

As everyone knows the Rebbe’s birthday is in this coming week. So one may ask where in the parsha is Yud Aleph Nissan – the Rebbe – alluded to?

It is stated, (Vayikra 6:20) “whatever touches the korbon shall become holy”. This is explained, that if a piece of bread or anything touches the korbon, it also becomes holy and has the same guidelines as the korbon, where and for how long it can be eaten.

With this thought, one can see how the Rebbe is referred to in the possuk.

On Kingston Avenue, between Eastern Parkway and Union Street was a store called Mr. Mikes. Mr. Mike was a very friendly and pleasant individual who served the community. Although in the 50’s (when this happened), Lubavitch was not quite large, he developed a relationship with them.

Everyday on his way to visit his mother, the Rebbe would pass by Mr. Mike’s store and raise his hand in a gesture and greeting to him. Mr. Mike was astute and realized that to the other Jewish storekeepers and individuals who the Rebbe passed by on his way to his mothers’ apartment, the Rebbe nodded in greeting, but to him, the big Rabbi raises his hand. Is the Rabbi perhaps trying to politely pass on a message?

After contemplating it for a while, he thought that perhaps the Rabbi is not merely greeting him, but is also pointing towards the heaven and reminding him that there is One above us, and we should conduct ourselves accordingly.

As this thought passed through his mind, he appreciated the Rebbe’s sensitivity. The Rabbi is telling me something, while everyone thinks he is merely greeting me in a most friendly manner. He is saying a rebuke, without embarrassing me in the least. In fact he is allowing me to decide if it is a greeting as everyone thinks, or is it something more. He is shoeing me a tremendous amount of respect. So he decided that he, who owns a hat store and sells various hats and caps, would also begin to wear a cap to cover his head and will no longer go bare head in the store.

The next day, he awaited the time that the Rebbe would pass by (I believe it was often around 6pm), and looked carefully through the window to see the Rebbe’s gesture. Sure enough the Rebbe passed by, but instead of raising his hand in greeting; the Rebbe greeted him as he greeted all of the other storekeepers with a nod. Mr. Mike was pleased that his intuition was correct and his respect and admiration for the Rebbe intensified daily.

After a period of time (I don’t know if it was weeks, months or even years), Mr. Mike went into 770 and requested to be admitted into the Rebbe’s room for a meeting. He had no concept of what Yechidus with the Rebbe was; to him it was to meet a person whom he admires greatly.

Entering the Rebbe’s room he said, “Rabbi, I didn’t come to ask you a question or request from you a blessing; I just want to express my friendship and give you a hug.”

The Rebbe stood up from his chair and walked in front of his desk and he stood a few inches away from me, showing that he is allowing me to do as I requested. I did as I expressed myself and placed my hands around him and gave him a hug.

To my astonishment, at the same time, the Rebbe embraced me in a heartfelt hug of his own and I realized that our feelings of friendship and admiration are mutual.’

Leaving his room, I decided I can no longer remain unobservant as I was until then. The great Rabbi genuinely loves me because I am a Jew, and therefore there must be much more to Judaism than I thought. It has meaning and purpose. I began observing various mitzvos and that Friday afternoon, I closed my store for Shabbos for the first time and never looked back.

So yes, whoever comes into contact with holiness becomes elevated them self!

Today Yud Aleph Nissan, let us strengthen our own connection to the Rebbe and help another Jew become connected and the extra mitzvah that would ensue from that connection may it tip the scale to finally bring an end to this golus and usher in the days of Moshiach, may it be speedily in our days.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books about the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gnail.com

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