Story: When the Rebbe Took Back His Dollar

Yeshiva World News today published the following story of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, which was excerpted with permission from Torah Tavlin vol. 3, a collection of stories and sayings, wit and wisdom from Torah leaders by Rabbi Dovid Hoffman:

Aside from the horrendous loss of life World War II dealt us, another disastrous effect of the Holocaust was, for many survivors, loss of faith. After all they had experienced they tragically threw off any remnant of their Jewish past and their lineage.

One such man survived the Holocaust in body, but not in spirit. He was “angry” with Hashem and vowed to shake off anything to do with religion. After some time in a DP camp, he boarded a ship that brought him to New York, and he resettled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He soon married a similarly disenchanted woman. They had a son who was the apple of their eye, but they were careful to raise him without any Yiddishkeit; no bris milah, no Shabbos, no Torah!

The child grew up with only the slightest awareness of his religion. As it happened, he married a Jewish woman, but there was nothing even remotely religious about their lifestyle. Just as his father had done, he carefully and intentionally instilled a dislike for religion in his children and never celebrated Jewish holidays. This worked for all of his children—except one. To the man’s displeasure and chagrin, one of his sons became a ba’al teshuvah!

Although they lived in very different worlds, the religious son remained close to his anti-religious father. And so, when the young man called to inform him of the happy news that he was engaged to be married and he wanted his father to attend his chasunah, he was shocked by his father’s hostile reaction. “I have no interest in your religious ceremony! In fact, it pains me. My son, I love you and would do anything you ask of me, but I cannot attend a religious wedding. It simply conflicts with everything I stand for!”

The son took a few moments to digest this information. Then he seized the moment. “Okay, Dad, so don’t come if it bothers you so much. But when you say you will do anything else I ask of you…do you really mean it?”

“Yes, anything. If I can physically do it, I will do it for you. I give you my word.”

The son didn’t hesitate. “Okay, Dad. If that’s the case, then the one thing I ask of you is that you have a circumcision!”

A circumcision! The father was shocked. A bris milah was something he always avoided, for it was the quintessential sign of Judaism, the one thing he disliked most. On the other hand, he had given his word to his son to physically perform anything he asked. At first he said no, but after quite a bit of arguing, eventually he agreed and underwent the procedure.

It seemed that the bris had an immediate effect on his psyche, for a few days later, while still recuperating from the difficult surgery, he began to reconsider his decision not to attend his son’s religious wedding. He would come for a short while, he told himself, definitely not long enough to be influenced by those religious fanatics.

At the wedding, the father was so impressed by the enthusiasm of his son’s friends that he found himself dancing enthusiastically and just couldn’t pull himself away! At one point, the caterer approached the father and said, “Sir, I am so inspired by your joyous countenance that I wish to present you with a gift, something which is very precious. It is a dollar bill blessed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R’ Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l.”

The father looked at the man and then at the bill. Suddenly, he turned pale and collapsed in a faint. When he regained consciousness, the first words he uttered were, “That’s my dollar bill!” Then he fainted again.

When he was finally fully revived, he explained his dramatic reaction.

“As a teenager growing up in Crown Heights, I once went with a few of my public school buddies on a Sunday morning to an old man who just gave out dollar bills for no reason. We stood on line giddily watching as the bearded man handed out dollar after dollar. When my turn arrived, he handed me a bill which I greedily took and moved on. But, suddenly, he called me back and asked me if I had a circumcision. I told him no, and upon hearing my answer, he proceeded to take back my dollar. Cryptically, he proclaimed, ‘When you have your bris, I will give you back your dollar.’”

The father shook his head in wonder. “Well, I just had my bris last week, and now, all these years later, I see that the rabbi sure kept his word!”

Torah Tavlin vol. 3 is available in Judaica bookstores, or direct from Israel Bookshop Publications by clicking here.


  • 1. Strange wrote:

    This story has been disputed by many.

    The versions told is that the Rebbe promised a dollar when it was done but did not take back after giving.

    Webby did you confirm this story is valid?

  • 4. להד"ם wrote:

    Never EVER heard that the rebbe should take back a dollar from someone. If someone knows otherwise I will stand corrected.

    Also, the timeline is suspect. A child born in the forties or fifties was not a kid in the late eightys or early nineties. He would have been an adult. Adults with no relation to religion don’t stand in line for hours to get a dollar from an “old man”.

    In sum nothing in this story makes sense so I’m calling להד”ם the on this one

  • 5. Here is the true verified story as related by Rabbi Yisroel Fried from Chabad Upper West Side wrote:

    The family came to America from Moscow in the late 70s. The boy – who
    eventually became one of our Baalei Batim – received a Bris in Moscow from
    an American at 8 days but his father never did.

    Hasgachah Protis – when they came to America, one of the first people they
    met at the Chabad House in their city was the Mohel who had given the boy
    his bris in Moscow. The Shliach told the father of the importance of Bris
    – along with the rest of yiddishkeit – but he never actually was able to
    make the decision at his age to go ahead with it.

    The son told me that he had heard from family members (either his father or
    his cousin, who himself had a Bris later in life) that the Shliach was
    discussing his family as well as other Russian families in his city with
    the Rebbe (apparently in a yechidus). He said that his family was the first
    refusenik family to arrive in that city, but the Rebbe knew many more
    refuseniks were coming and the Shliach’s discussion with the Rebbe was
    about how to help all of these new Russian families. In that context, the
    Shliach had mentioned to the Rebbe the issue of the father needing a Bris.
    The Rebbe said to tell the father that “if he gets a Bris, he will receive
    a dollar from me.” The son told me the phrase “receive a dollar from me”
    always stuck in his head. Why didn’t the Rebbe say “I will give him (or
    send him) a dollar?”

    Years later, the son was living on the West Side and became engaged. His
    marriage was in another city and the mesader kiddushin was a Shliach. On
    the way to the wedding the son noticed his father was somewhat quiet and
    reserved but he didn’t think anything of it.

    Under the Chuppah his Kallah was surprised to see a small bottle of red
    wine that the Shliach mixed in to the white wine to be used for 7
    Brachos. This bothered her since she wanted only white wine (which is
    customary) so there would be no chance of spilling red wine on the dress.
    Obviously in the middle of the Chuppah she didn’t say anything and at any
    rate, no wine spilled.

    At the wedding, his father didn’t dance at all and the son thought that was
    odd. The son finally asked him about it. After all, it is his wedding, the
    most special day of his life, and his father shouldn’t dance with him? The
    father said that he didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but in honor
    of his son’s wedding, and in order to be a complete Jew for his
    son’s wedding, he finally had a Bris. R Shain was the mohel.

    He then explained that the red wine at the Chuppah was the wine that the
    Brachah was said on at the Bris.

    One of the Sheva Brachos was held at the Deli Kasba restaurant on the West
    Side. In attendance at the Sheva brachos was Lubavitcher who was close with
    the chosson and was his roommate for a while before the wedding. When he
    heard this entire story told over at the Sheva Brachos, with the great
    mesiras nefesh of the father, merov hispaalus, he excalimed “you deserve a
    dollar from the Rebbe for what you did!” And he pulled out one of his
    personal dollars he had received from the Rebbe from his pocket and gave
    it to the father.

    The date written on the dollar, which was of course the date that this
    friend has received the dollar from the Rebbe years earlier, before Gimmel
    Tammuz, was the exact date(day and month, though not year) which the father
    had received his Bris, days before his son’s wedding.

  • 6. Mike wrote:

    The main point here is that this story, in general, is well known and often repeated in non-Lubavitch circles. We should embrace it.

  • 8. to number 5 wrote:

    Thank you for the clarification from a very trustworthy source. Yasher koach!

  • 10. Thank you #5 wrote:

    A beautiful story: both the real one and the other one.
    We can learn from both.

  • 11. To number 6 wrote:

    Don’t be so nispoel nor complimented that we should embrace the story simply because it’s told!

    Especially when

    A) there are disrespectful undercurrents in the story
    B) the main part of the story goes against one of the Rebbe’s main teachings on the value of one mitzvah
    The story has very misnagdish undertones that to suggest the Rebbe wouldn’t allow a person to give tzedaka without a Bris

    Very irresponsible of the publisher to print without verifying the facts

  • 12. Every one knows storys "grow" wrote:

    Guys the point is to show the rebbe promised a dollar after he gets a bris, and years later the promise was filled (heard this story many times before with all kinds of twisted twisted)

  • 13. Self respecting Lubavitcher wrote:

    Any self respecting Lubavitcher would be appalled when hearing an untrue version of a true story involving the Rebbe. Anyone suggesting we “embrace” because it sounds nice or that since stories grow we shouldn’t be upset. Are COMPLETELY wrong in there attitude.

    For one, we learnt from the Frierdiker Rebbe how important it is to be medayic in every prat(point) of a story. Not leaving one word in that isn’t true.

    Secondly, stories and divrei torah are all we have left until Mashiach comes. We owe it to our children to make sure every story is printed and said over in its correct form. Every action the Rebbe did is a learning opportunity and if we let people distort the truth then we have nothing to give over to our kids.

  • 14. Self respecting Lubavitcher wrote:

    Another point as to why we shouldn’t just accept it.

    The version printed is a distortion of the true story and is written in a way that is very disrespectful of Lubavitch and the Rebbe. To suggest that the Rebbe was a Noisen Umachzer is simply a lie and defamation of the Rebbe’s character.


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