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Wednesday
Sep132017

EVERYONE HAS A STORY 

One fine day four years ago, I was busy working at my computer when the phone rang.

“Are you the father of Yitzchok Berger?” I was asked. I figured it was the Doctors’ office that wanted to make an appointment for a routine checkup for the ten-month old baby. But when I said yes, I was surprised to hear the following. “This is Tzivos Hashem. Your son won a ticket to the Rebbe.”

I was stunned. Although all my children are registered in Tzivos Hashem, I had no idea about the bi-monthly raffle for a trip to the Rebbe. I was completely unprepared for this. My thoughts were interrupted when I was told that the prize could be given to another child who was in the Tzivos Hashem program.

My wife and I took time to digest the exciting news and we tried coming up with the best plan. We considered allowing an older brother to go, because it was complicated to travel with a baby, and also because the older ones had never been to the Rebbe before and would be able to appreciate it. But after thinking about the spiritual aspect of winning, we decided that if the baby won, he had to go to the Rebbe. And obviously, due to his age, his parents would join him.

His winning was a news item on chabad.info with a cute picture of Itzik playing in a toy box. Friends and family congratulated us, but all of them warned us that traveling with a baby is challenging. They further argued that he wouldn’t understand a thing, and if his older brothers went, it would make a tremendous spiritual impression on them. We listened to them all but were determined that the one who won, would be the one to go.

When it came time to planning the trip logistics, we saw that taking the baby while leaving the rest of the family in Eretz Yisroel was no small thing. Upon weighing all the options, it was either I go along with my wife and the baby or leave my wife in Eretz Yisroel and take the baby with my ten-year-old son Mendy. My wife wrote to the Rebbe, put the letter in a volume of Igros Kodesh, opened it and showed it to me. I read it and nearly fainted. Just three days earlier, Mendy had written to the Rebbe on a completely different topic and had opened the Igros Kodesh and asked me to explain it to him, and that is what I was seeing on the right side.

The letter (Vol. 13, letter #4481) on the right was written in Yiddish and was addressed to Agudas N’shei u’B’nos Chabad in France. At the time, I did not understand what connection there was to my son. Now, when we asked about his traveling to the Rebbe, it was an answer that pertained to his mother – N’shei Chabad. I continued reading on the left side (letter #4482) and as I read the first lines, I understood the connection to us:

“If only you would accustom yourself, at least a little bit, to kabbalas ol, you would question your way of thinking and even about your decisions, which may be incorrect. That it seems otherwise to you is because, as Chazal say, a person is subjective. Consequently, before taking an extreme step or a step that pertains to general matters, you should consult with someone else who is not subjective in this.”

We had consulted with people, and they told us differently than we thought. We immediately spoke to Mendy and told him that the Rebbe wants him to come.

As for the baby, he is almost five and he recently heard about the raffle he won four years ago. He is demanding to be first in line to go to the Rebbe.

***

I’ll end with something newer. Mendy recently won a ticket for a plane ride over the countryside through the Tzivos Hashem branch in Nachalat Har Chabad. We had to go to the airport, S’dei Dov in Tel Aviv, where Mendy would get to ride the heavens. For young kids, it’s an adventure, but Mendy already flew twice to the Rebbe and this trip to the airport and the waiting made us think twice about it. In the end, we decided that if Mendy won, he should go.

We arrived at the airport along with dozens of others who won and we all had to go through a security check. The guard asked the usual questions like, did you pack this yourself (the bag with the bottle of water and snack). We still weren’t through when another guard came up from behind and gave me a penetrating look. He held out his hand hesitantly and asked, “Are you Shneur?”

I hadn’t figured out what he wanted from me and how he knew my name before seeing my papers, when he asked, “You taught children for their bar mitzva in Arad?” I said yes and he, with a triumphant smile, said, “I am Vadim and I studied for my bar mitzva with you!”

It was exactly twenty years ago. I had finished learning for smicha in Arad and at the request of Rabbi Bentzion Lipsker, the rav of Arad, I prepared immigrant boys for their bar mitzva.

I asked him whether he put on t’fillin and he said, “Sometimes.” Then, after some discussion, he agreed that he would put on t’fillin that day.

So the Rebbe orchestrated events that someone should have the z’chus of putting on t’fillin thanks to Mendy’s winning a ticket to fly the heavens.

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