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Thursday
Sep192019

A Ba’al Teshuvah in 2 Weeks…

– 1 –

“Merkos Shlichus.” Two words that contain a wealth of meaning.  Every year, during the summer, talmidim in 770 would go on shlichus for Merkos L’Inyonei Shlichus to towns and countries near and far, to find lost Jews. The goal: to ignite their Jewish spark and draw them close to their Father in heaven.

This phenomenon began in the first years of the nesius, long before our times when there is a shliach in almost every country and city. The arrival of the tmimim, nearly always a pair, would sometimes become a news item. Reporters would pursue the bearded fellows with their black hats, suits and tzitzis, and want to interview them. The bachurim would take the opportunity to convey a message to the Jews of that area, which led them to discover Jews they hadn’t known about.

Merkos Shlichus has continued throughout the years, to this very day.

 – 2 –

Our story happened on Rosh Chodesh Av 5712. Several pairs of bachurim went out on shlichus that summer. Among them were Dovid Raskin who went with his friends Asher Mendlowitz, Yehoshua Wilansky and Eliyahu Gross to Cincinnati. The four of them spread and strengthened Judaism among the Jews there and gave out Jewish booklets that had been published by Kehot.

Their trip was for nearly three weeks, until 20 Av. They hoped to return on that day to participate in the special farbrengen the Rebbe held to mark his father’s yartzeit.

Before they left, they went to the Rebbe who personally bade them well and gave them instructions. “When you see a Jew, give him regards from me.”

The bachurim did so and throughout their trip, whenever they met a Jew they gave him regards from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. People were often surprised.

“Really? The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me regards?” was the reaction of many people. “How does he know me?”

The bachurim answered, “If you have a question, write to the Rebbe and ask him. What we know is that the Rebbe sent you regards.”

Dovid Raskin was a bachur who came from Russia and had been given an authentic Chassidic education. He had asked the Rebbe whether he should wear a tie when on shlichus. He said that his friends, the American bachurim, told him to wear a tie, but he didn’t want to. But if it would make the shlichus more successful, he was willing to do so.

The Rebbe said, “A Chassidishe bachur does not need to wear a tie. As for my wearing a tie, this is because that is what the Rebbe [Rayatz] did, but when going on shlichus and the like, one can wear a tie temporarily.”

 – 3 –

The trip from New York to Cincinnati was made by car which had a sign on it, in Yiddish and English, in big letters: Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. Next to that was a brief explanation about the purpose of the organization.

Throughout their stay in Cincinnati, the bachurim made efforts to reach as many Jews as possible and touch their souls. The one who mainly spoke with local Jews was Eliyahu Gross who, being American-born, had a fluent English.

R’ Yaakov Goldstein, who grew up in Cincinnati and was there that summer,  describes the impression the bachurim made on him when he was an eight-year-old child:

“My father was very excited when the shluchim came and was thrilled to host them. Without their realizing it, they also made a deep Chassidishe impression on me which stayed with me through the years.”

The bachurim visited many places where Jews lived and “Boruch Hashem, we were successful in our work,” R’ Raskin later recounted. “The Rebbe wanted the trip that year to be publicized. In many towns, the papers wrote about the trip of the students as emissaries of the Rebbe.”

The delegation of tmimim to Cincinnati also met with Dr. Schmidt who worked as a reporter for a local Jewish paper. Dr. Schmidt was a communal activist, a member of the Vaad Hatzalah that operated in Germany and France after World War II. As part of his public work, he wrote for a newspaper. In this role, he was very familiar with Chassidus and Chabad Chassidim and he often wrote about the work of Lubavitch.

“He even took a picture of the passengers standing next to their car to put in the paper,” said R’ Raskin. “Surely this will give nachas to the Rebbe.”

They spent their first night in the home of Rabbi Lustig, one of the known Torah personalities in the city.

At the end of their first day, after an exhausting trip, their host suggested, “Do you want to meet with Rabbi Silver?”

The gaon Rabbi Eliezer Silver was a legendary personality in Cincinnati, the rav of the city, and an askan whose name was well known among the Jews of the United States.

“It would be an honor,” said the bachurim, who had not considered that the opportunity would present itself so readily. R’ Lustig quickly made an appointment for the Rebbe’s shluchim to meet with the rav.

“Why did you come here? inquired R’ Silver.

“We came to be mekarev Jews to Yiddishkeit,” they said.

“How long will you be staying here?” he asked.

“About two to three weeks,” they said.

R’ Silver smiled and said, “Do you think that within two to three weeks it is possible to get someone to become a shomer mitzvos?”

Dovid Raskin responded with a simple “yes.”

“How?” asked R’ Silver.

“Just like that,” said the soldier. He did not need explanations or logic. He knew that this was the goal for which he had been sent and therefore, that is what would happen.

After some conversation, their visit ended and the bachurim said goodbye.

 – 4 –

The large, well-appointed Cheruff home was in the heart of Cincinnati. Despite the size, only one person lived there, a young Jew named Abraham (Avrohom). His parents had died relatively young and he lived in the big house alone.

After a day or two, R’ Lustig suggested that the bachurim sleep in the young man’s home. The bachurim moved there after receiving the man’s consent.

The two-three week stay of bachurim who came directly from 770, made a powerful impression on Avrohom who began putting on tefillin every day. Within a short time, he committed to keeping mitzvos. Although the process was lengthy, during those two-and-a half weeks spent together the man committed to changing his life from one extreme to another. He eventually became a Lubavitcher Chassid.

At a later point, he went to 770 where Rabbi Yisrael Jacobson set his eyes on the young man, and later arranged a good shidduch for him with a Jewish girl from Memphis. The Rebbe gave his consent and blessing to the shidduch.

Rabbi Silver worked to raise money for the many wedding expenses. It was a Chassidishe wedding in which the bachurim-tmimim and the friends of the kalla rejoiced.

The Cheruffs moved to Memphis where he worked as a shomer Shabbos pharmacist and where they raised their children, all religious.  Their son Reuven Cheruff is today an active member of Anash in the Chicago area with a large family of ten children. This was because Dovid Raskin, with his deep faith, said yes, certainly, it was possible to be mekarev someone in two weeks. How? Just like that.

He knew what he was talking about.

***

Dovid Raskin, who was close with Rebbetzin Chana, visited her after returning to New York. He told her about his shlichus adventures which she enjoyed hearing.

When he finished, the Rebbetzin said she had asked her son, the Rebbe, whether Dovid Raskin would return for the Chof Av farbrengen. She greatly desired that the bachur who had been with her husband [Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson] when he passed away, would be present at the farbrengen to mark the yartzeit.

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