November 19, 2013
Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz in #903, Stories

“In our community in New Zealand there is a woman who is an aguna. Her husband is in New York and for twelve years he has been refusing to divorce her. Whenever I come to New York I go to his house and beg him to release his wife, but he always refuses … This year, the miracle happened and he was willing to give her a get.”  


The idea that the Rebbe promulgated, that we must feel the Geula while still in galus, can be applied practically in our day-to-day lives. One example of this is how some shluchim celebrate their birthday. I have no other way of describing it than to say “Geula’dike Gifts.” 

Many a shliach knows that his birthday is a once a year opportunity to be mekarev people in a special way, even those whom he doesn’t see all year long at the Chabad House or shul. This is how it works. He lets as many people as possible know that on a certain day he will be celebrating his birthday at the Chabad House. Even those who don’t usually attend the Yud-Tes Kislev, Hei Teves or Yud Shevat farbrengens show up for the shliach’s personal party. When they all show up, he is able to discuss important matters.

R’ Shimshon Tal, shliach in Hod HaSharon, invited two shluchim as guests to one of his birthday celebrations. They turned it from an ordinary birthday party into a day of good resolutions made by all the participants.

The two lecturers were R’ Sagi Har Shefer, shliach in Nes Tziyona, and R’ Yosef Chaim Bolton, a personal trainer. First, R’ Har Shefer spoke. After a short, inspiring D’var Torah, he made a suggestion that the participants could not refuse, that each of them give R’ Tal a birthday present – a spiritual gift. Each one was to say what good resolution he was willing to commit to, and this was his gift to the shliach.

The idea took off. Two men said they would wear a gartel from now on when they daven. A third one committed to making a donation to the Chabad House. A fourth committed to attending another shiur, and so it continued. The party took on a spiritual and practical air, and they all got into the spirit of making good resolutions and taking on mitzvos.

To illustrate how seriously this is taken: one of the men, who had committed to wearing a gartel, showed up one day at the Chabad House and began davening when he realized he wasn’t wearing a gartel. He had forgotten it at home. He was so flustered by this that he asked one of the Chassidim whether he was permitted to continue davening. It was only after he found an electrical cord which he tied around himself that he felt better and continued davening.

The second speaker, R’ Bolton, explained how it is possible to use the techniques of personal training in one’s service of Hashem. We don’t need to be set in our old ways; we can move forward and add to our mitzva observance. Even if until now, you thought you couldn’t, you can! Among other things, he spoke about it being hard to attend shiurim because of tiredness. 

He came across as both professional and sincere, and some of the participants committed and actually began showing up to shiurim at the Chabad House. 

All because of a birthday!


Surprisingly, by the end of the farbrengen there were still some participants who hadn’t come up with a good hachlata to give the shliach as a gift. It is precisely for people like these that we have R’ Shimshon Tal. He will eventually visit with each of them and tell them what hachlata is right for them. One of them is a regular worshiper at the Chabad House who attends only on Shabbos, along with his two little children. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make much of an effort to keep his children quiet. They run around, make noise and even go over to their father to talk to him in the middle of the davening.

After R’ Tal had already sensitively brought up the matter several times, to no avail, he devoted his weekly sermon on Friday night to the topic of respect for a shul and the need for quiet. He did not mention any names or cite personal examples. He just opened the Siddur to the end of Shmoneh Esrei and read what is written there, from the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch: “And a person should teach his young children and train them to say ‘Amen,’ and as soon as a child says Amen, he has a share in the World to Come. They must be trained to stand with awe and fear. As for those who run around in shul in play, it is better not to bring them to shul at all.”

The man with the rowdy children figured out that the sermon was directed at him and he was offended. He could barely wish the rabbi a “Shabbat Shalom” at the end of the davening. R’ Tal called him after Shabbos several times, but the man did not answer the phone. It was only a few days later, in a conversation that R’ Tal managed to have with him, that the man admitted that he did not appreciate the sermon. He even said he hoped the Chabad House would “accept” him with the children. 

“Every week I am busy with work and the only time I have to be with the children and talk to them is on Shabbos, in shul. I look forward all week to the davening at the Chabad House and I myself want to sit and daven. And you want me to train my children at that time?”

R’ Tal explained it wasn’t a contradiction. It was great that he looked forward all week to davening on Shabbos, and it was good that he wanted to daven and wonderful that he wanted to talk to his children, but he had to find a way to do it all properly.

With a lot of good will, they came to an agreement.


After R’ Sagi Har Shefer saw how people were willing to make commitments in the shliach’s honor, he decided to adopt this method for his own birthday, a few weeks later. He also invited mekuravim to a party. They drank l’chaim and people were encouraged to give the shliach spiritual gifts. Here are the results:

The deputy mayor announced that he committed to donning t’fillin every day for the next month. Someone else, a person whom you wouldn’t guess attended the davening at the Chabad House every day, committed to wearing a gartel during davening.

A young man, someone who regularly attended all the Chabad House activities, who had been told by R’ Sagi many times to start growing a beard, always said it wasn’t time for that yet. At this birthday farbrengen, as hachlatos flew around from all directions, he got up and said he had a surprise for the rabbi. From that day on, he wouldn’t touch his beard.

Some men said they would commit to daven with one of the minyanim at the Chabad House. One decided to go to the Rebbe for the next holiday. Another one, an editor of a local paper, did not wear a kippa. This didn’t stop him from committing to buying tzitzis, which he wears every day. Others said they would show up to say T’hillim on Shabbos Mevarchim, and the list goes on.


Here is another story, told by a participant of a farbrengen at the Chabad House in Nes Tziyona. Nissim Levy, an Israeli who immigrated to the US, lived in Crown Heights for six years and worked as a cab driver. Nissim drove many shluchim to important meetings, to the airport, etc.

(The fact that Nissim was present at the farbrengen in Nes Tziyona is also an incredible story of Hashgacha Pratis. When Nissim decided to return to Eretz Yisroel, he knew that he wanted to live in the Shfela region, Rishon L’Tziyon, Rechovos, or someplace similar, but he was unable to find an apartment. He looked for weeks, perused all the ads in the papers, visited real estate agents, checked out possibilities in about ten cities, but did not find what he was looking for. He finally found a nice apartment in Nes Tziyona. It was only later that he discovered that he was a neighbor of R’ Sagi. He realized that the Rebbe had guided him from the worldwide Chabad headquarters to the Chabad center in Nes Tziyona. Today, he attends the davening, shiurim, and mivtzaim and even publicizes the miracles that he saw with his own eyes in 770 and on the many trips he made throughout New York).

One day, the shliach in New Zealand, R’ Mendy, called him. He knew Nissim from before and was in New York. He wanted to be driven from Crown Heights to LaGuardia airport. The shliach told him that he was flying to Chicago and from there to New Zealand. Nissim drove him and then went home. At midnight, he was awakened by the ringing of the phone. It was the shliach.

“I am at the airport in Chicago and realized that I lost my bag with my tallis and t’fillin at LaGuardia airport. Please, go there and find it.”

Although it was freezing and snowing outside, Nissim went back to the airport. As soon as he came to the passenger terminal, he met the janitor. Nissim asked him whether he had found a bag and the employee told him, “You are probably looking for that big bag that Jews use.” He took him to the lost and found department and gave him the bag. The shliach called again, heard the good news, and thanked Nissim for the efforts he had expended in locating his bag.

Nissim went back home and got up later that morning to daven in 770. To his surprise, he met the shliach, who told him he had postponed his trip to New Zealand and had returned to New York to get his tallis and t’fillin bag. Nissim was taken aback and asked him why it was so important to return to New York and change his itinerary in order to get his t’fillin back immediately. The shliach’s answer was completely unexpected.

“In our community in New Zealand there is a woman who is an aguna. Her husband is in New York and for twelve years he has been refusing to divorce her. Whenever I come to New York, I go to his house and beg him to release his wife, but he is not interested in listening to me or anyone else who tries to convince him.

“This year, the miracle happened and he was willing to give her a get. We did everything we had to do and I received the get for the woman. Since it was so important, I kept it safe in my tallis and t’fillin bag. Now do you understand why it was so important to me to return and get it? Now, I can go back to New Zealand.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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