The Mechanic Who Ran A Hat Store

The young newly married couple were happy in every respect. But when the young man lost his job, their joy was clouded over. An expert mechanic, he just couldn’t find another job, and their panic increased from one day to the next as they grappled with their financial difficulties.

One day, the young man was speaking to some of his acquaintances, who happened to be Chassidim of the Rebbe Rashab, zt’l, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneerson, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe.

“Why don’t you go to see the Rebbe?” they told him. “He is very wise and saintly and he will help you.”

The young man, who was not a chasid, responded, “What does the Rebbe know about being a mechanic? How can he possibly help me?”

But as time passed and no job appeared the proposition gained credibility in his mind. After all, the young man reasoned, what do I have to lose? He went to the Chassidim and told them that he was now ready to see their Rebbe. Everyone contributed a little and soon they had enough money to send the young mechanic to Lubavitch.

When it was the mechanic’s turn to speak privately with the Rebbe, he described his terrible plight to him. The Rebbe listened attentively. When the mechanic finished, the Rebbe said, “You and your wife should go to a certain city. There you should open a hat store.” These cryptic words were followed by a generous blessing.  The Rebbe blessed the young couple with much success.  Confused by the Rebbe’s response, the young man departed for home.

Upon his return, he confronted the Chassidim. “Your Rebbe gave me the strangest advice,” he told them. “I am supposed to go to a city I never even heard of and sell hats – something I know nothing about.”

The Chassidim were not in the least bit put off by what they heard.

“A Rebbe is not like other people,” they told him. “If he gives you advice, listen to him, even if it makes no sense to you. The Rebbe sees further than we do,” they concluded.

The young man left. He discussed it with his wife, and they decided that maybe they should follow the Rebbe’s advice. Another collection was taken up and soon the young couple were on their way to what they hoped would be a new beginning.

When they arrived in the town, they looked for a suitable property, but all they could afford was a very small place on the outskirts of town. How would anyone ever find out about their shop? Would anyone come to buy hats from them? Their doubts were confirmed as days and weeks went by. They sat in their tiny shop and looked at their beautiful hats, but no one came. They began to wonder if they had made a mistake by listening to the Chassidim and following the advice of the Rebbe.

Then one day a luxurious coach pulled up in front of their shop. A well-dressed man entered their modest shop and said, “I am returning home from a business trip and I’m looking for a gift for my wife.” He began selecting hats and placing them on the counter. Within the space of several minutes, the man had amassed a great selection of hats. In fact, almost every hat in the little store was sitting on the counter.

“How much do I owe you?” he asked.

The young proprietors stood tongue-tied. If they charged him the actual price, he would surely change his mind about this extravagant purchase, so they mentioned a much lower price.

“What!” the wealthy man exclaimed. “That can’t be the correct price!”

“Actually, sir,” replied the man, “we are giving you the wholesale price.”

“No, I insist on paying a fair price for your merchandise,” said the buyer.  He counted out a generous sum to cover the many hats he had chosen and was about to leave when, seeing the young man’s downcast appearance, he stopped in his tracks.

“What,” he asked solicitously, “is the reason for your downcast appearance?”

The wealthy man’s inquiry elicited a detailed explanation.

“I’m a mechanic,” the young man said, “and a very good one, too. But a few months ago, I lost my job and couldn’t find another one. The Chassidim in my town convinced me to go to their Rebbe and the Rebbe told me to move to this town and set up a hat business. Your purchase has set us on our feet. But really, Sir, I am a mechanic, not a shopkeeper.”

“I may have the perfect solution!” cried the wealthy man. “My brother owns a factory and two of his most valuable machines stopped working almost six months ago. He is at his wits end since no one seems to be able to fix them. Maybe you’ll be successful.” The wealthy man then gave him a letter of introduction and lent him the money for traveling expenses.

A week later the young man reported to the factory and two days later, to the great relief of the factory owner, both machines were up and running.

“You’re the only one who was able to repair the machinery and I’d like to offer you a position,” said the factory owner. “How would you like to be the manager of my factory?”

The young man was overcome with happiness at his change of fortune.

Some months later, the young couple returned to their hometown and the Chassidim anxiously gathered around them wanting to hear how they were doing. The happy couple recounted the whole story, and they drew the obvious conclusion -The Rebbe was right and so were his loyal Chassidim!

Adapted from L’Chaim Publication # 1646 section: It Happened Once

*Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneerson, fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe was a great leader of Russian Jewry. His leadership remained steadfast as the world was plunged into WWI and the onslaught of all the varied ‘…isms’ in Russia including the rise of communism. He was called the ‘Rambam’ of Chabad Chassidut, explaining deep Chassidic concepts in a manner to be understood by anyone who chose to study it. In 1897, he established the Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva in the city of Lubavitch, Russia, and personally prepared the dual curriculum of ‘nigleh and chassidut’ which the Yeshiva students would study with equal enthusiasm both the revealed and esoteric parts of Torah. These students became leaders and  teachers and with tremendous self-sacrifice kept the flame of Judaism alive in Russia during the communist regime. Today there are branches of Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva with many thousands of students all around the world.

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