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Wednesday
Jun072017

FORESEEN IN ADVANCE

For nearly a century and a half, the ‘Bikur Cholim Hospital’ was a permanent fixture in the center of the Holy City of Yerushalayim. With a highly esteemed reputation among the local population, hundreds of thousands of Jews received medical care here over the years. However, when R’ Yitzchak Ben-Ari [Strasberg] received an offer to serve as its administrator, the Rebbe told him in a letter to look into the matter of pensions. In light of the Rebbe’s reservations, Ben-Ari understood that he should not accept the offer. It was only several decades later that he realized that the Rebbe knew exactly what he didn’t know, despite his longstanding association with the public health system…

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

It was a sad moment in the winter of 5772. Representatives of the legendaryBikur Cholim Hospitalin the heart of Yerushalayim stood facing the district court building, waiting for the judges verdict. The judge pounded his gavel, and after reading his decision, he ordered the immediate termination of the hospitals non-profit status. In other words, “Bikur Cholimceased to function officially as an independent medical center.

“The truth is that the Rebbe prophesized with sharp accuracy the reason that brought on the massive crisis leading to the closing of the Hospital – in a letter he sent me in 5728,” R’ Yitzchak Ben-Ari (Strasberg) from Yerushalayim told Beis Moshiach in his fascinating story. This was the sad ending for this hospital as an independent medical entity. [NOTE: “Bikur Cholim” eventually became a subsidiary of Yerushalayim’s “Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center.” – N.A.]

R’ Yitzchak Ben-Ari is a well-known public servant within the national religious community, in Yerushalayim and nationally, holding numerous high-ranking positions over the past several decades. He ran and guided numerous public projects while also serving as secretary of the chief rabbinate committee for choosing the chief rabbis of Eretz Yisroel in the elections held in 5733. I addition, he also served as director-general of the Israel Ministry of Health and was the personal assistant to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. Afterwards, he worked for the Jewish Agency.

Prior to holding these positions, he served in several important roles with the Health Ministry before receiving an offer to become the administrator of the “Bikur Cholim Hospital.” However, the Rebbe’s reply dissuaded him from accepting this high-ranking position. He followed the Rebbe’s instructions, even though he failed to understand the reason why.

Over a period of many years, he was a trusted advisor and confidant to prominent figures in Israeli politics. While he showed great appreciation for the various national leaders during this time, calling them “the men of the generation of the Nephilim,” he saved his greatest appreciation for the Rebbe.

The source of his firm bond to Chabad Chassidus and to the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, is his wife Yehudis, youngest  daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Mendel Cadaner, of blessed memory, one of the most prominent Chabad chassidim in the Holy City of Yerushalayim.

 

FROM MEA SH’ARIM
TO CHABAD

“I was born and raised in the Mea Sh’arim neighborhood to a family belonging to the Perushim community. My only connection in my childhood to Chabad Chassidus was when I periodically went with my father to daven Mincha and Maariv at the local ‘Baal HaTanya’ shul.

“When I reached marriageable age, this connection took on a new dimension. A shidduch was suggested for me with the daughter of Rabbi Cadaner, a leading chassid of the local Chabad community. This marked the first time that I had been exposed to the tremendous faith and reverence of Chabad Chassidim towards the Rebbe. Consent for the match had to come from the Rebbe, and only when it arrived was the shidduch agreed upon. Thus, I was privileged to join this marvelous family.

“My father-in-law knew the Rebbe back in the days when he lived in Nikolayev prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, and he would speak about him in lofty terms.

“The first time I was sent to the United States on behalf of the Ministry of Health, I took the opportunity while in New York to visit 770. When I arrived at the beis midrash, a farbrengen was taking place. When I mentioned that I was Rabbi Cadaner’s son-in-law on an overseas mission for the government of Israel, they led me up to the farbrengen platform, where I was honored to receive ‘mashke’ and a bracha from the Rebbe.

“Another curious event took place several years later, in 5743, when I was working as a representative of the Jewish Agency in South Africa. My wife traveled that summer for a vacation to Eretz HaKodesh. During this time, Operation Peace for the Galilee had commenced, and our son Ehud was an IDF soldier on the battlefront. Naturally, we were very worried and my wife took advantage of the opportunity to travel first to New York to request a bracha from the Rebbe for our son. She arrived at 770 on a Thursday with our younger son Shai, and she immediately submitted a letter to the Rebbe’s mazkirus. She spent that Shabbos with her brother Moshe and his son Zev Cadaner.

“On Sunday, an answer to my wife’s letter had still not come, and she was waiting in front of 770 for the Rebbe to return from the Ohel. As the car arrived, she approached the door. The secretary who came forward to open the car door tried to get her to move away. However, when my wife told the Rebbe that she was R’ Mendel Cadaner’s daughter, the Rebbe motioned for her to come forward. He heard my wife’s expressions of concern about our son, and then gave him a bracha that he would return safely from the battlefront. The Rebbe then blessed our son to grow and give us much nachas. Today, Ehud lives in Tel Aviv, runs a successful company, and is well-known for his many acts of kindness and charity.

“While I was raised in a Litvishe home, I became a big supporter of the Rebbe after my wedding. Today, I consider myself a Lubavitcher chassid.”

 

AN EXCELLENT JOB OFFER AND THE REBBE’S EXPRESSION OF DOUBT

“After I completed my compulsory military service, the Minister for Religious Affairs, R’ Yitzchak Refael of the National Religious Party, asked me to work in the Ministry of Health. I started at the lowest rung of the ladder, and over a period of time, I eventually climbed to the top with my appointment as the ministry’s director-general. Later, at the end of the sixties, in consideration of my professional experience and connections in the Ministry of Health, I was offered the position of administrator of the ‘Bikur Cholim’ Hospital. Even in those days, it was already quite clear to me that when presented with such an offer or some other potential change in my life, I must first ask the Rebbe and request his bracha, and so I did on this occasion as well.

“Before sending my letter to the Rebbe, I made a thorough investigation into this proposal, and I found that the offer was most worthwhile and potentially quite lucrative. In those days, the ‘Bikur Cholim’ Hospital was considered a most prominent and respected medical institution.

“The Rebbe’s reply was not long in coming, and eventually it was printed in ‘Igros Kodesh’ (Vol. 25, Letter #9406):

B”H, 8 Kislev 5728

Brooklyn, N.Y.

The venerable and pious chassid and counsel, R’ Yitzchak Strasberg, sh’yichyeh

15 Bayit Vegan Street, Yerushalayim (may it be rebuilt and re-established)

Shalom u’v’racha!

After some delay, his letter was received, in which he writes about his current position and about the offer to serve as administrator of the “Bikur Cholim” Hospital.

While this offer of a new position is generally suitable, it is not clear from his letter regarding the financial conditions for the new position, including the matter of pensions, etc. Furthermore, and most importantly, is it firmly established, i.e., if the new position is certain and not on a trial basis. Thus, if these two details are in order, it would be appropriate to take an interest in the new offer.

Since all matters are by Divine Providence, I have the obligation and privilege here to arouse the need for learning the inner teachings of Torah as well, which have been revealed in our generation in the teachings of Chassidus. It is my hope, at least from now on, that he will have regular classes in this each day, in addition to the holy day of Shabbos.

It would be proper to check your t’fillin and mezuzos if they haven’t been checked in twelve months.

With blessing for good news.

“I read the answer again and again. I knew that if the Rebbe didn’t explicitly write that I should accept the offer, it would be appropriate to check the matter out carefully. The Rebbe never dictates to someone what he should do, rather he always gives advice that the person can accept or not. However, for someone who knows how to read between the lines, the Rebbe doesn’t express doubts for no reason and he was obviously sending me to do some investigative work.

“You have to realize that back in those days, the ‘Bikur Cholim’ Hospital was one of Yerushalayim’s most respected medical institutions. Countless people had passed through its gates, even employing numerous eminent doctors. Nevertheless, the Rebbe didn’t write to me about the challenges this job would pose or at least about the great privilege of working in such a place. Instead, he asked me to look into whether there was a financial problem specifically regarding the pension payments…

“The Rebbe writes and as Chassidim, we obey. To the amazement of many of my good friends and close acquaintances, I refused to accept the position. As an alternative, I agreed to run – on a short-term basis – the hospital’s rehabilitation ward. I worked there for three and a half years, building a good professional staff, adding advanced medical equipment, and giving the unit an excellent reputation across the country.

“After leaving my position with ‘Bikur Cholim,’ I was asked by Dr. Yosef Burg to serve as secretary of the committee for choosing the chief rabbis of Eretz Yisroel.

“Later, I administered the ‘Givat Washington’ educational center and even served as a close advisor to the chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Eretz Yisroel, Rabbi Shlomo Goren. While Rabbi Goren had numerous disagreements with the Rebbe, he generally identified with the Rebbe’s path and his opinions. I heard him make many warm statements about the Rebbe. On one occasion, I personally delivered a private letter from Rabbi Goren to the Rebbe, followed by my bringing the Rebbe’s reply back to Rabbi Goren. I didn’t know then, nor do I know even now, what he wrote and how the Rebbe responded. After Rabbi Goren’s retirement, I was appointed as an emissary of the Jewish Agency in South Africa, where I worked in close cooperation with the Rebbe’s shluchim.”

 

PENSION FUND PROBLEMS PREDICTED BY THE REBBE 44 YEARS EARLIER

“All during those years, I often thought about the letter I had received from the Rebbe, which caused me not to accept the position as hospital administrator, and what the Rebbe meant when he wrote about checking into the pension plan.

“One morning, after more than four decades, everything became clear to me in an instant. As I was reading one of the local papers, there was a front-page article announcing the economic difficulties that had entangled the hospital. It had failed to pay salaries to its employees for several months, compelling them to impose work slowdowns and a strike on the premises. Later, efforts were made to sell the institution to various authorities.

“Eventually, the Ministry of Health got involved and agreed to transfer a large sum of money to cover the hospital’s budgetary deficits. However, this was on the condition that the hospital must close its gates, and that’s exactly what happened.

“The most amazing detail of this whole affair was how the institution’s tremendous financial corruption had been common knowledge over a period of several years when the ‘Bikur Cholim’ administration did not fulfill its legal obligation to its employees by paying the pension insurance deducted from their salaries… After many long years of devoted service, giving all their time, strength, and energy to this hospital, the employees were left with nothing.

“As many people now know, after considerable efforts by the Ministry of Health, the hospital’s outstanding debts were paid, the facility was closed, and a portion of the medical staff was hired by the ‘Shaarei Tzedek’ Hospital. As the affair made its way through the court system, my astonishment continued to grow. I am overcome with emotion every time I tell this story. The Rebbe could have given a clear answer: Don’t accept the offer - or he could have written: Consult with knowledgeable friends. But that’s not what happened. The Rebbe’s answer was razor-sharp: “Check into the matter of the pensions” – and it was there that the shame and disgrace of the hospital administrators was revealed by their intentional mishandling of their employees’ hard-earned money. A literal prophecy. Who would have believed that such a prominent and longstanding institution in the heart of Yerushalayim, would one gray and dismal day close its gates? It turns out that there was someone who knew long before anyone could have possibly imagined it…”

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