by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
It was the summer of 5741 (1981) and the director of a few institutions in Eretz Yisroel received a certified letter from the bank that if he does not clear up the debt of one hundred thousand dollars in a months time, the bank will begin proceedings of foreclosure and other legal actions against the institutions.
Realizing that the bank was serious, and that indeed it was not normal to be always in debt, Rabbi – decided that he has no choice but do whatever it takes to save the institutions. After discussing it with others, he concluded that he will go to America for a month’s time and put all his energy in raising the necessary funds. He called up his acquaintances and friends in New York and apprised them of the situation and asked that they help him save the institutions that serve hundreds of people.
They all agreed to help. Some arranged parlor meetings others contacted their own friends and Rabbi —‘s daily schedule was full. His friends and acquaintances indeed made a tremendous effort and money was coming in. However, the days went by swiftly and three days before he was to return to Eretz Yisroel he sat down with his gracious host to figure out what else he can do.
He had raised in these three weeks the sum of sixty-four thousand dollars. Ordinarily this would have been considered a tremendous success for a first time campaign, going to wonderful people whom he had never met before. But the problem was that he desperately needed another thirty-six thousand and where is he going to get it from in just three days.
His host was thoughtful for a while and then said, “If I was in your situation, I would go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask him for his advice.”
Rabbi – looked at him in astonishment and replied, I don’t know what your connection to Lubavitch and the Rebbe is, but my connection is absolutely non existence. Not that I have anything against the Rebbe or the movement, but you know I am Sephardic, of Moroccan descent and Lubavitch is Ashkenazic etc. We each have our own customs, institutions etc., and that is it.
The host replied, I am not a Lubavitcher and I am also a Sephardi, however, I know for a fact that the Lubavitcher Rebbe has assisted, guided and advised numerous non-Lubavitch institutions and Yeshivos in their time of difficulty and I am going to arrange a meeting for you with him.
The director wasn’t positive that this was the right thing, but his host who had gone out of his way to accommodate him and had arranged most of the meetings was insisting on it, and besides he had already exhausted all of his other possibilities, so he agreed.
When he entered the Rebbe’s room the following night, he informed the Rebbe about his institutions, and the imminent crisis they are facing. He gave a brief review of how much money he had raised in the three weeks he was here and from whom, but what is he to do about the remaining thirty six thousand that is missing and he needs to raise it in the next two days.
The Rebbe asked him, was he planning on going to Montreal, Canada and he replied no.
So the Rebbe said, I think you should go there and you will be successful in maintaining and expanding the institutions. With those words the yechidus concluded and the person left somewhat bewildered.
His host who was waiting for him outside of 770, saw him and asked, “What did the Lubavitcher Rebbe tell you?
He replied with disappointment, he told me it would be a good idea to go to Montreal. Who am I going to stay by in Montreal and how am I supposed to raise that amount in a day or two, he didn’t say. Am I to go to Montreal and sit in the airport? I just don’t understand it!
The host replied, If the Lubavitcher Rebbe told you clearly to go to Montreal, you are going there tomorrow morning. As soon as we get home, I am going to call my friend who has a travel agency and he will book you a ticket to Montreal, which I will be happy to pay for it. Now tell me, do you know even one Jew in Montreal.
Yes I know a young man, Rabbi Dovid Cohen. He is a Lubavitcher from Moroccan descent.
Early next morning after Shacharis, his host drove him to the airport and from there while he was waiting to board the plane, he contacted Rabbi Cohen and asked him if he could help him, since the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised him to go to Montreal.
Rabbi Cohen replied, you are most welcomed to stay by my house and while you are flying in, I will think of whom we can approach. I will do whatever I can to help you.
Early that afternoon he arrived in Rabbi Cohen’s house and Rabbi Cohen said, I am a sofer and I remembered that there was a Jew who was thinking of ordering a sefer Torah, but for some reason it didn’t happen. Now that you are here, I will call him and ask if we can meet him in his office.
Obviously the director agreed and Rabbi Cohen made the call. The person listened to his request and replied, I can not meet you in my office, but I would be honored and pleased to meet you this evening in my house.
That evening Rabbi Cohen drove to the individual house and introduced Rabbi –, who explained the uniqueness of his institutions and the dire situation they are in now. He concluded, I came to Canada, because last night I was by the Lubavitcher Rebbe and he advised me to come to Canada.
The person listened intently and then opened up his drawer and began writing a few checks. He then gave them to Rabbi — and said, the first check of eight thousand you can deposit immediately and the other ones on the dates noted. I am positive Rabbi Cohen or you will be able to find people who will loan you the other twenty-right thousand until the noted dates.
The director was overwhelmed, this one individual had indeed given him the entire thirty six thousand, just as the Rebbe had predicted. However, he couldn’t contain his amazement and said, while I am indeed most thankful and appreciative for your tremendous generosity, I have one question. It is evident that you don’t have all this money at this time, so why indeed did you give to the institutions that you have never heard of, the entire amount.
The man thoughtfully replied, “Tonight is my thirty-sixth birthday and you told me that the Rebbe sent you to Montreal and you had no idea whom you will approach, besides Rabbi Cohen. Rabbi Cohen is not a fundraiser and I don’t know of how many wealthy Jews he has contact with. So in essence I understood that the Rebbe was sending you to me, on my thirty sixth birthday with a request that I help you. And then I heard that you are missing exactly thirty six thousand, so I decided to fulfill the Tzaddiks’ request in full, and I am positive that he will bless me that I can maintain it and that my thirty-sixth year, be full in every measure.
I am posting this story in conjunction with my own yom holedes and may I also merit to fulfill the Rebbe’s requests of me in full.
At the same time I ask of those who have an interesting or inspiring story to please share it with me so that I can publicize it. Thank you
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He will be farbrenging this week at Chabad at Stony Brook University and is available to farbreng in your community. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org