Many years ago, I received a voice message on the Chabad House answering machine. The person on the call was asking desperately for a return call. So, I called him back.
(Sometime later after we had gotten to know each other, he told me that he had left messages for other rabbis and even a priest, and I was the only rabbi who called him back!)
We met. He told me his name was Bobby Jay. He was Jewish and wanted more spirituality in his life. He told me that he only knows two things about his Judaism which he heard from his grandmother. One, he said, he understands; and the other, he doesn’t.
Grandma told me, he said, that we come from a long line of rabbis – 32 generations of rabbis! The second thing she told me, he continued, which I don’t understand is I am a ‘Levi’!
We continued to meet and study together almost daily. We became very close. We learned Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – the abbreviated Code of Jewish Law – how one lives his life as a Jew in every aspect. Soon he was staying over for Shabbat at our house. Then, with his consent, I arranged for him to be included in the congregation of Israel and receive a proper kosher brit milah – circumcision.
About a year later, I organized a community trip to the Rebbe for a Shabbat weekend. We would stay for Sunday in order to participate in the Rebbe’s famous ‘Sunday Dollars’ for tzedakah and BLESSINGS!
Bobby expressed an interest in going since there was something personal he wished to ask the Rebbe.
Since he did not have any extra funds to pay for a plane ticket, I offered to buy him a ticket and enable him to join the group.
It’s a bit difficult for me to explain how important his name ‘Bobby Jay’ was to him. He had so much pride in his name and would say it almost in a sing song: “Bobby Jay! Bobby Jay!”
On the plane I asked him if he would not mind sharing what he wanted to ask the Rebbe. He told me that it bothers him that he doesn’t have a Jewish name and he was planning to ask the Rebbe to give him an idea for a name that would be suitable for him. I was happy to hear this and agreed it was a good idea.
Shabbat in Crown Heights was very uplifting. We attended the Rebbe’s beautiful inspiring farbrengen. All in all it was an amazing Shabbat and enjoyed by all who came.
Sunday, we stood in line to see the Rebbe. I told Bobby, that though the line passes quickly by the Rebbe, don’t rush and don’t let anyone rush you, just ask the Rebbe what’s in your heart.
When it was his turn and he came in front of the Rebbe, he stopped and told the Rebbe that he wasn’t given a Jewish name and asked if the Rebbe would please give him a Jewish name. The Rebbe responded and asked him, “What is your English name?”
He answered, “Robert!” (I must admit I was taken aback, as he always referred to himself as Bobby…)
The Rebbe told him, “Choose Reuven” and then the Rebbe added, “and this will ensure you will have healthy Jewish children.”
We went outside and I saw that he was very emotional. He shared the following with me:
For years I have felt very unstable and not calm. My insides felt like a storm brewing. The minute the Rebbe told me my Jewish name is Reuven, suddenly the storm blew out of me and I felt stable and calm for the first time.
Reuven then added: “The Rebbe must be a mind reader!”
I asked him why he thought so.
Reuven said: “I didn’t want to take the Rebbe’s time and tell him that due to my history of substance abuse, I was also concerned that I wouldn’t have healthy children. So, I thought perhaps it would be better that I shouldn’t have any children at all.” (G-d forbid)
But after the Rebbe gave me my name, he added, “and then you will have healthy Jewish children!”
Today Reuven is a proud father of a Jewish family.
As told by Rabbi Moishe Weiss – Chabad of Sherman Oaks, California
Please see: Maor #2250 for daily Rebbe video.
Here is a transcript of the Rebbe video when Bobby received his Jewish name Reuven from the Rebbe.
“Rebbe, I was never given a Jewish name at birth, and would the Rebbe give me one.”
Rebbe: “What is your English name?”
Rebbe: “Then you’ll choose a name in Hebrew that begins with a “Reish”. For example, the first son of our forefather Yaakov (Jacob), his name was Reuven. You can choose this name as your name also. And may G-d Al-mighty bless you to have healthy and Jewish kids.”
Rebbe: “Blessing and success.” The Rebbe gave him an additional Dollar and added:
Rebbe: “For your new name.”