In the early 1950’s, there lived a Jewish non-observant family in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.
One Shabbat, their daughter became very ill and they rushed her to the hospital. The parents became frightened and realized that their daughter would need a miracle to recover. The mother, who had distant Chassidic relatives, told her husband that she heard that there is someone called a ‘tzadik’ who can give blessings and the blessing will come true. She asked her husband to find such a tzadik and get a bracha for their daughter to recover.
Her husband was not enamored by the idea. He felt that these rabbis were performing some time of ‘magic’ in order to earn a living. But on his wife’s insistence, he went to some rabbis he heard about and promised them $10,000 on the condition that they assure him that his daughter will get better.
Though at the time, this was a huge amount, nevertheless, he could not find any tzadik who would make such a promise.
From his inquiries, he also heard about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He decided to try one more stop. He would go to 770 – Lubavitch World Headquarters and try to meet with the Rebbe. When he came to 770, the evening service was being recited for the conclusion of the holy Shabbat. It was motzoei Shabbat. He walked over to one of the Chassidim and told him that he came to see the Rebbe on a very important matter. He informed him that it was imperative for him to see the Rebbe right away. The Chasid explained to him, that it doesn’t work this way here. First, he would need to approach the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Chadokov, z’l and he would then direct him.
He approached Rabbi Chadakov telling him about his daughter’s dangerous condition and said that it was very important for him to see the Rebbe right away. Rabbi Chadakov told him that right after Havdallah he would enter the Rebbe’s room and mention his request for an immediate audience.
When Havdallah concluded, Rabbi Chadakov went in to the Rebbe. When he came out, he said to this man that right now it is not possible to go in, but the Rebbe invited him to come back tomorrow morning for an audience.
The man was taken aback. He became angry: “What do you mean to wait till the morning? I just told you that my daughter is seriously ill, and her condition is steadily deteriorating. By tomorrow morning, she may not be here at all, G-d forbid!”
Rabbi Chadokov turned to him and said: “Please tell me, why you came to see the Rebbe? If you came to the Rebbe because you believe the Rebbe can help you, then when the Rebbe says that you should come in the morning, you can rely on his word; and if you don’t’ believe, why did you come?!”
These words had the desired effect. In the morning, before heading out to 770, the father called and spoke with the doctors in the hospital. When they got on the phone, they told him that something most unusual and amazing happened. Generally, in an illness such as the daughter had, there is no chance that the illness will remain static; either the patient gets worse or improves but never remains the same. By your daughter, they told him, the last 12-13 hours there has been no change whatsoever. She has remained the same.
The father made a mental calculation and realized that the timing the doctors were talking about coincided with the exact time when he was in 770 and received the Rebbe’s response. He now began to understand that something special was happening here.
He returned to 770 and was admitted into the Rebbe’s room. The Rebbe said to him:
“In Heaven they are waiting for you and all depends on you!”
The Rebbe continued and said that if he wants his daughter to recover, he needs to take upon himself three things: keep Shabbat, put on Tefillin, and, if I remember correctly, the third thing was keep Kosher.
The father began to mumble and excuse himself. He said that it is not possible for him to change his life so drastically. He told the Rebbe that he can give more money but how can he take upon himself these things?!
The Rebbe said to him:
“This is not a matter of debate with me; I am simple telling you the facts as they are.”
The father realized that he was in the presence of a holy person and he needed to make a decision. He told the Rebbe that he would take these three mitzvot upon himself. However, he said, he does not know how to put on Tefillin. The Rebbe told him that the bachurim – the Yeshiva students will show him what to do.
True to his word, in the beginning he would come every day to 770 and R’ Berl Junik, a’h, who was a bachur then, would put on Tefillin with him until he learned to do it himself.
The Rebbe warned the Chabad institutions that they were not to take any money not even one dollar from this man. He did not want him to think that his money was bringing about the blessings. Only the mitzvot that he undertook were the vessel for the blessing.
This story took place in the summer of 5710 (1950) (a number of months after the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe on Yud Shevat 5710).
On Shabbat Parshat Vayigash, 5711, the father made a kiddush – a festive meal of gratitude in 770 for his daughter’s miraculous recovery.
The Rebbe personally attended this kiddush!
This story was recorded by Reb Yoel Kahn*, of blessed memory, printed in the sefer Bedarkei HaChassidim – pg 202-205.
Reb Yoel adds: “I remember that this man’s name was Yehuda Leib. The kiddush took place on the Shabbat of the Torah portion of Vayigash which begins with the words: “Vayigash eilav Yehuda”. At the informal farbrengen that Shabbat, the Rebbe remarked: “Vayigash eilav Yehuda” … and Yehuda approached him … (in the Torah it is referring to Judah approaching Joseph).
*Reb Yoel was the foremost scribe of the Rebbe’s oral talks which were said over a period of a number of hours on Shabbat and Holidays. With his G-d-given talent, he memorized and transcribed these talks and prepared them for the Rebbe to edit before publication. Reb Yoel taught and guided thousands of young Chassidim who looked up to him and whose lives were notably enriched. He passed away on July 15, 2021 – 6th Menachem Av. For more information about this incredibly ‘rich’ Chasid, please visit: www.chabad.org/rebyoel