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The Rebbe Remembered
by Mr. Amiram Avital

My first encounter with Lubavitch sounds much more like an old chassidic tale than an incidental meeting in Corevallis, Oregon. It was 1985, and I had been working as a mechanical engineer for the Israeli defense department when my contract terminated.

We decided to spend a sabbatical year traveling throughout the States. Four weeks before returning to Israel, my wife developed a growth in her throat.The Rebbe

At first, we didn't pay much attention. We were on vacation and didn't want to be bothered. But the growth swelled each day and couldn't be ignored.

I am used to functioning under tense conditions. I tried to be calm as the doctors diagnosed a malignant tumor requiring an immediate operation.

We tried to collect our thoughts. Perhaps we should fly directly to our next destination, San Francisco, where we could board a direct flight back to Israel. We would rather be at home than in Corevallis during this critical time. But the doctors insisted that the situation was urgent.

The next morning, as I was walking towards the university complex, I heard a voice calling me to stop. A bearded man with a black hat approached.

"Excuse me sir," said the man in Hebrew. "You're Jewish, aren't you? Why do you look so troubled?"

My worry gave way to irritated surprise: "I beg your pardon, but whatever brings you to confront a stranger? And besides, how did you know that I am Jewish and that I speak Hebrew?"

The man was not deterred. With friendly compassion, he insisted that I share my worry with him. I told the man of my wife's illness and of our dilemma.

The man listened sympathetically, then told me about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose blessings had assisted many Jews. I had heard much about Lubavitch; I remembered those friendly bearded men who had visited even the most remote army bases in Israel. But I had never had any close contact with any chassidim or with the Rebbe.

Yet, I decided to give the Rebbe a chance. Incidentally, I never saw that bearded man before, nor did I ever see him again.

Ignoring the doctors' advice that we receive care locally, we were soon on line at a travel agency. At first, we were told that there were no flights available from Oregon to New York until Saturday.

I could not see traveling on Shabbos to get a blessing from the Rebbe. As I turned towards the door, the agent suddenly called me back: "Sir, you're in luck. I just located a cancellation. You can leave Oregon on Thursday and arrive in New York on Friday. Your flight to Israel departs Sunday afternoon."

I didn't know that much about Divine Providence then, but I could not help but marvel at this coincidence, and that of the timely encounter with the mysterious bearded gentleman.

We were hosted graciously in New York. On Sunday, I took my place on the line to see Rebbe. I was impressed by the Rebbe's dignity, and felt calm as an inner voice told me that we had made the right decision. If anyone could help us, the Rebbe could.

When my turn came, I introduced myself as an Israeli officer and asked for a blessing for my wife's condition. The Rebbe handed me two dollars and said "Blessings and success." I was already moving on when someone whispered loudly, "Sir, the Rebbe is beckoning you to come back."

"When are you going back to Israel?" the Rebbe asked as I rushed back.

"Today."

The Rebbe handed me two additional dollars: "This is for parnossah (earning a livelihood) in Israel."

Outside, I met my wife. She told me that she told the Rebbe about the tumor, and the Rebbe gave her a blessing for a complete recovery. However, after leaving the line she blanked out and could not remember what the Rebbe said. Without thinking, she got back on line.

When she reached the Rebbe a second time, she described her illness again. The Rebbe said, "But I already wished you a speedy recovery. Do not worry," handed her another dollar and blessed her again. It was amazing that the Rebbe remembered her out of all those people.

Back in Israel, we went straight to a doctor, who confirmed the existence of a growth and performed an operation three days later.

The final lab results confounded the doctors. The growth should not have been classified as a tumor and it was not malignant.

I still faced another problem. Although I had received a salary during my sabbatical, when I returned, I was without a job. Yet, I believed in the Rebbe's "post-scripted" blessing for a livelihood and I landed another very comfortable position in a matter of days.

 

 


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