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Wednesday
Jun272018

SECRET MISSION MAN

There probably wasn’t a shliach of the Rebbe who went to Moscow in the 70’s and 80’s who did not visit the home of Alexander (Sasha) and Genia Lokatzky. * For many years, the two of them operated as lone soldiers in association with the Marina Roscha shul and endangered their lives to maintain Judaism in that city. * During the past two years, R’ Alexander suffered much due to a lung problem and he recently passed away. * Menachem Ziegelboim recalls his visit of a few years back to the Lokatzky family in Neve Daniel and heard their unbelievable story of heroism. * Part 1 of 2

LEFT: The slaughterhouse that Alexander built in Marina Roscha. Young Jews learned shechita there
RIGHT: R’ Alexander presenting the Rebbe with the first Tanya printed in Russia after the Revolution
An orange sun moved behind the mountains of Yerushalayim as I left the tunnel and turned left toward yishuv Neve Daniel, which is located high up in the mountains, about 1000 meters above sea level. A majestic tranquility settled upon Gush Etzion, giving a visitor a feeling of serenity.

I knocked on the heavy oak door of R’ Alexander/Sasha’s home, which overlooks a magnificent view. A moment later, I was welcomed with a handshake by R’ Sasha and a smile by his wife. R’ Sasha took out a bunch of albums, and together we looked at hundreds of pictures. We saw the glowing images of senior Anash led by R’ Getsha a”h, sitting at a farbrengen with just a few participants; secret chuppos and brissin; and documentation of the secret construction of mikvaos in the 70’s and 80’s. It was like having the large tapestry of Jewish life that was lived with great courage and secrecy, spread out before your eyes.

The photos cover two decades during which this couple was the linchpin of Lubavitch life in Moscow. There probably wasn’t a shliach of the Rebbe who went to Moscow in the 70’s and 80’s who wasn’t welcomed to the Lokatzky home. In preparing for the interview, a shliach told me that when the Lokatzkys received permission to emigrate in the great wave of emigration, there were shluchim who wondered, “Where will we eat now?”

It was only because of the late hour that I had to close the albums, to hear from this “secret mission man” who operated for years, fearlessly, in and around the Marina Roscha shul. Even after having heard so many stories of mesirus nefesh, it was still a pleasure to hear this man of true mesirus nefesh tell his fascinating stories spiced with good humor.

FIRST STEPS

“It is hard for me to say when I began going to Marina Roscha, because there are two possible answers. In order that you will understand this, I will start from the end.

“The week that I left Russia, I found two pictures taken in Marina Roscha with my grandfather standing in the center. My grandfather was one of the people who maintained Marina Roscha and saw to keeping up the minyan. He took me to shul as far back as I can remember as a child.

“When I got older and realized the danger involved, I didn’t dare go anymore, but for years I took my grandfather to shul in my car and waited for him, so after the davening I could bring him home. Before he died, my grandfather said to me, ‘Sasha, never forget this place.’ Despite this last will and testament, I did not dare to enter the shul. Many years passed, and I did not go in.”

In 5728, when he was 20, Sasha married Genia, the granddaughter of religious grandparents from Warsaw. “My parents were not religious, but my grandparents observed mitzvos. When we began learning more Torah, we suddenly recognized many lines that my father quoted from his youth.” The couple had two daughters.

In 5736, the couple submitted a request to emigrate, but was refused. They were put on the black list and Sasha was fired from his job as an engineer for a chain of restaurants. He had to take a job as a bus and truck driver.

“The change began in 5741 when my son Yossi was born,” said Sasha. “Although I had stopped going to shul, I knew I had to circumcise my son. I went to Marina Roscha to find a mohel, and the elders there sent me to R’ Mottel Lifshitz who davened in the big Archipova shul.

“I asked him to circumcise my son. Since he knew me from the days that I went to shul, he agreed to do it. It was at that time that my connection to the Chassidim was renewed and has not stopped since then.”

Mrs. Lokatzky: “I remember that when R’ Mottel came to check the baby, he asked Alex, ‘Are you a kohen?’ Alex was nervous, but said yes.

“How did Alex know? Because as a child he was hyperactive and in the family they joked and said it was because he is a kohen. He understood this to mean that a kohen is someone with excessive energy, and when he wanted to describe someone highly energetic he would call him a kohen.”

Alexander laughed. “When I asked R’ Mottel how he knew to ask, he said it wasn’t my business. I said, ‘R’ Mottel, I’m interested in knowing because my grandfather also told me I’m a kohen. I’d like to know what it is.’ Then he said, ‘If your grandfather told you that he’s a kohen, ask him how he knows.’”

After the bris, Sasha became closer with the people who davened in shul and he visited the shul more often. R’ Gershon Rosenstein (who served as the spiritual leader of the youth) visited the Lokatzkys and suggested they learn more about Judaism. As a result, the Lokatzkys became more involved and began to learn more and keep a few mitzvos.

PLAYING WITH FIRE

Their trial by fire in communal work was the Purim shpiel that took place on Purim 5744/1984 at Marina Roscha. The celebration was planned in advance and only a few friends knew about it. When they arrived at the appointed time, they were surprised to see about 800 Jews crowding the rickety building.
“It was a shock for us. The KGB came immediately and wanted to stop the event and clear the place out with the excuse that the building was old and could fall apart any minute. I got up the nerve and said, ‘Don’t worry. We have G-d and He will protect us.’”

The shul was really in poor condition. It was built in 5683/1923, mostly from logs. Over the years, the wood rotted and even the pillars upon which the entire building stood were already rotted. The KGB was pleased about this and they were just waiting for the day when they could destroy the building because of the danger.

Sasha Lokatzky decided that the shul would not be allowed to rot, and instead he would renovate it from floor to ceiling. He knew that he would not get a building permit and would have to do the work in secret, especially because the large office building of the KGB was situated right opposite the shul and looked out over everyone who went in, in addition to the police patrol that constantly went around.

R’ Alexander: “The decision to renovate became that much stronger when we saw how successful the work we did with Jews was. As a result, a relatively large number of young people began visiting the shul and bringing it to life.

“The first project was to pave a path to the shul, a place that was always covered with deep mud that made it hard to enter. This was almost impossible because of the police patrols. Well, being a hyperactive kohen, I decided to do it.

“I found a group of workers who were paving with asphalt on a nearby street. I told them that I wanted to lay asphalt at the entrance to the shul. I told them that the authorities would not be pleased and there was danger involved. In exchange for a huge sum, which was a large number of bottles of vodka, they agreed to do the work. At that time, you couldn’t buy more than one bottle of vodka at a time. R’ Yaakov Vilga had gotten the bottles because he was working as a stock boy for a grocery store.

“On the appointed night, we quickly began the work and by five in the morning it was done. When the KGB arrived at seven, they saw the new asphalt path. At ten o’clock, I was already at the KGB offices, having been called down. One of the interrogators yelled at me, ‘Why did you do that? Did you have a permit?’

“I played dumb and said, ‘I didn’t do it. I also came to shul and saw it for the first time, just like you. And anyway, if they fixed up a neglected part of the state, what crime is there in that?’

“The first project ended well. R’ Gershon Rosenstein came to me and said he saw that I had the ability to deal with these things and he asked me to start renovating the building.

“My first success spurred me on to continue. I began fixing the fence around the shul so they wouldn’t be able to see everyone who went in. I did that work also, mostly at night. Then I began checking out the shul and when I opened the foundation beams I was shocked to see that they were all rotten and were already sunken in.”

OPERATING UNDER DANGEROUS CONDITIONS

At the time, within the Jewish community in Moscow there was a sort of “religious council” that supervised, under government auspices, what was going on in the two shuls and religious matters in the city. Obviously, the person in charge was associated with the KGB.

“Over time, we developed a warm relationship with him. When I went to him the first time to try and get on the same page, I approached him firmly. I opened my jacket wide and said, ‘See here, I have no weapons and I don’t want to fight you. All I want is for Jews not to forget their Jewish names. This is my work and my life. I am not afraid of you and I’m asking you not to interfere.’

“It seems this aggressive stance appealed to him and he became a fan of my work. On holidays he would come to Marina Roscha and ask me whether I would take care of the prayer services. I would say, ‘Go home, you can rely on me that everything will be run properly.’ In general, in this shul we were more independent than at the big Archipova shul where government-appointed gabbaim ruled. There was a government appointed gabbai at Marina Roscha too, but he had a Jewish heart. He was always in a dilemma. On the one hand, he appreciated my work because he knew that I would continue to maintain the shul; on the other hand, he was obligated to constantly report to them.”

How did he react to the renovations going on?

“He couldn’t report it since by the time he came, we were always done. However, when I wanted to make big changes, which took days to do, I couldn’t hide that, so I did it in the most official way possible.

“I held an official meeting of the shul administration in which we spoke about renovating a side room. The decision to renovate was written down in the protocols. Obviously, we renovated not only that room but the entire building. When I was called down for interrogation, I said I did nothing wrong and was only acting on the official decision of the shul administration and there was nothing illegal about it.”

Mrs. Lokatzky: “The KGB knew who was behind the renovations and kept looking for an official pretext to incriminate him. At first, they thought he would only fix the fence a little bit and the entrance path and then calm down from his craziness, but at the same time people were greatly inspired and many young people began frequenting the shul which became a Jewish center. This displeased them. They knew that the plans were much broader and they could not allow that. At that time, we saw miracles at every step. We felt the Rebbe’s brachos accompanying us throughout, and thanks to those brachos, they never managed to catch Sasha in the act.”

How did you get all the building materials?

“That’s also a long story; no less difficult than the construction story. In Marina Roscha there was a man named Sholom Yartovsky who was also a refusenik, and a disabled war veteran. These people had special privileges to buy building materials and circumvent the usual waiting list. He agreed to give us his disability papers as though he wanted to buy the building materials. It was a dangerous thing to do because the amount of bricks I needed was unusual and they immediately saw that this wasn’t meant for a private dwelling. Not only that, but I came with documents that weren’t mine.”

Genia: “At that time, someone who wanted to buy bricks had to wait two years on a waiting list. There was a special list for the war wounded but they also had to wait half a year. Sasha however went to the factory with a demand for a huge amount of bricks for that same day!”

Alexander: “I had an agreement with the laborers that they would start building the following day. When I went to the factory, I found out that the manager and his deputy were on vacation. I asked who held the power to sign off and went to him. In exchange for a huge bribe, he gave me as many bricks as I wanted. Only two hours later, I had filled a semi-trailer with bricks.

“The truck arrived at Marina Roscha at night and blocked the entire portion of the street opposite the KGB building. The bricks had to be unloaded extremely quickly so as not to cause a ruckus. I remember that it started pouring which made the work difficult. I quickly rounded up all of the laborers and also brought a group of Jewish activists who helped. Everyone stood in two lines, a row of Jews and a row of non-Jews, passing bricks hand to hand into the building. By the next morning there was no sign that anything had occurred the night before. The bricks were in the building and none were the wiser.

“When they found out about it, they tried to accuse me of stealing the building materials from building sites in the area. One day, they took a piece of ceramic tile from the mikva and tried to match it at every building site in the area. To my great fortune, I had receipts for all the building materials.

“When they saw that the purchase had really taken place, they tried to find out who the workers were and what form of salary they had received. They could not understand how I had gotten the workers; either we had taken people away from their regular jobs, and that was desertion, or we had taken official workers who were not reporting their earnings. And they wanted to know how we were able to pay for it all. I maintained that the money came from the shul’s pushka.”

Where did the money really come from?

“That is one of the most interesting things. For a long time, the Rebbe sent us electronic appliances, mainly cameras and tape recorders, and we sold them on the black market. We used that money for the construction. The cameras came with various emissaries from outside the country. (Laughing): In order to renovate Marina Roscha, three stories, we had to sell six-seven cameras.”

THE DEVOTED SHLUCHIM

Speaking of the various shluchim who visited Moscow and brought “merchandise” with them, both spiritual and physical, the Lokatskys knew them all.

“There was no shliach who came to Moscow who did not have a meal with me,” said Mrs. Lokatzky proudly.

The Lokatzkys have many stories about the shluchim’s stay in Moscow. They were often moved by their dedication and even more by the Rebbe’s concern for the Jews of Russia, a concern that showed itself in various ways.

Mrs. Lokatzky: “We felt how the Jews of Russia were on the Rebbe’s shoulders and he cared about us. Not a week went by without foreigners calling us and saying, ‘We are friends who came to Russia and we want to meet you.’

“There were Chassidim in various countries like the U.S., Europe, and Australia who, every time a tourist traveled to Russia, sent items with him. These were electronics to finance activities, and kosher food like frankfurters, hard cheese, and even candy. (Emotionally): The Rebbe always saw to it that they would bring something for the women for the holiday and even presents for the children. The shluchim also asked what we wanted to convey to the U.S., with all of us understanding what that meant.”

R’ Sasha: “The Rebbe even took advantage of trips made by people distant from Judaism and even those who were Reform. We had Reform Jews coming to us and saying that Ezras Achim asked them to bring certain items to Russian Jews. Once, we even had people coming from Hollywood who came to make a movie and they said that they were contacted by Ezras Achim who asked them to bring something for the children.”

We were joined in the conversation by R’ Yaakov Vilga, also an activist from Moscow:

“A young French couple once called and said they wanted to meet me. I was used to this and agreed to meet them at the entrance to the subway station. That day, it was minus 25 degrees outside. I waited for them and suddenly, the two of them lurched out of the subway without hats. As was usual in these situations, I led and they followed me until my home. When they walked in, they took out kippot and put them on. I didn’t understand. I asked, ‘Outside it was freezing and your heads were uncovered while inside you wear hats?’ They explained that their rabbi in France told them that even religious Jews in Moscow went about with their heads uncovered, which was completely incorrect. In any case, they had been asked by Anash in France to bring us items.

“There were several types of emissaries,” added R’ Yaakov. “There was one type of shliach who came and brought whatever he brought for us and even sat a little and talked to us, then returned to his hotel. Then there were emissaries who were simply devoted to their mission, heart and soul.

“I remember that Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner came from Australia for Pesach one year. Pesach followed Shabbos and there were three holy days in a row. On Motzaei Pesach, they drove him to his hotel and we saw he had no more strength. We calculated how much he walked on those three days. He was in Marina Roscha, he visited R’ Getsha and me and Alexander, of course. We concluded that he walked more than 60 kilometers (over 37 miles) during those three days. He himself didn’t believe this and said that if they brought him all of Moscow to testify that that is what he walked, they would not believe him in New York.

“In that candid moment, I asked him why he exerted himself so much when he could have been at the Cosmos Hotel, where he was staying, and walk to Marina Roscha and then return to the hotel. He said, ‘The Rebbe told me, you have to be here and here, and on Pesach here, here and here.’ That’s when I realized that he got precise instructions about where to be and where not to be.”

R’ Alexander: “We had people coming in the bitter cold. I remember one of the emissaries coming on Shabbos after walking eight kilometers (close to 5 miles) in minus thirty degrees! When he arrived, he was a block of ice. I must mention that the person responsible for all the packages was R’ Moshe Levertov who called us often to find out what we needed.”

Mrs. Genia: “I was impressed that the Rebbe was very concerned about the women too. Every time that the emissaries came from abroad, they always arranged shiurim for women. Many women came to shiurim on Halacha, Tanya, parenting, etc. The women were very excited about this; when an emissary arrived, the atmosphere warmed up. There was a feeling of family among all of those involved, and many refuseniks became Jewishly-involved because of this warm atmosphere created by the shluchim. We felt that the Rebbe loves us and is very concerned about us.”

SLAMMED FROM BEHIND

Where did you talk to the shluchim?

R’ Alexander: “We did not talk in the shul itself. We only did so either on the way home or in the car and secret places.”

How did the shluchim contact you without you suspecting you were being trapped?

“They usually called and introduced themselves as friends. Then we arranged to meet with them in an agreed upon place, whether it was a certain subway station, or many preferred coming to our house. Many of the shluchim got exact directions in New York about how to reach our home, the main thing being not having to ask strangers on the street. They knew which subway station to enter and where to get off; which direction to turn and which bus to get on and which stop to get off, and from there, how to get to our street and our address.

“One time, people called us who came as part of the American delegation to the Human Rights Congress that took place in Moscow. We arranged that I would pick them up from the entrance to their hotel. I waited patiently. When I saw them exit, I went to the right side of the car and opened the door. I suddenly felt a powerful slap on my hand and in that second, the door of the car slammed shut. Someone standing behind me shouted in vulgar Russian that if I wanted to continue living, I should quickly scram.

“Out of the corner of my eye I saw those people approaching the car. I didn’t know whether to wait for them to leave or drive away immediately and wait for another opportunity. But the man pushed me into the car and forced me to turn on the engine and go. I didn’t even see his face. I began driving and saw them enter another car parked not far away. After we passed a few streets, I saw that they had noticed what happened in time and immediately entered another car and followed me.”

DANGEROUS ROAD TRIP

Sasha’s childhood “hyperactivity” stayed with him as an adult. He was constantly active. Based on instructions he received from the Rebbe in various ways, he decided to devote himself to building mikvaos throughout the Soviet Union. This entailed great personal danger (more about that in the next article, G-d willing).

“In the period before perestroika, I also helped Dovid Nachshon and Avi Taub in their work of building up the gravesites and markers. That was dangerous work. I’ll tell you a little story to illustrate this.

“One time, we traveled by car from Kiev to Niezhen. They had come on business and had no permission to travel to Niezhen, and we traveled without documents. Somehow, we managed to slip out of the hotel in Kiev and set out. It was nighttime and very cold. Police stopped us for a random check. As we had decided ahead of time, they acted drunk and remained in the car while I went out with my papers. When the policeman asked me about them, I said we had been at a party and they were completely drunk. When I saw that he wasn’t letting us go so fast, I gave him 100 rubles.”

OUR PHONE WAS CONSTANTLY BUGGED

The Lokatzky couple’s home was open to every Jew who went to Moscow in order to teach Judaism and had no place to stay, or baalei teshuva who had no place to eat kosher food, and even for the occasional Chassidishe farbrengen. Everyone knew that their home was open. People ate and slept there for months, with men sleeping in one room and women in another.

Mrs. Lokatzky devoted much of her time to cooking for many guests. On Shabbos, they had about 30 people at their table. “True, we had no privacy, but it was a happy time. Our home was an oasis of Judaism while disregarding that outside was oppressive Russia. We felt what it was to live a truly Jewish life.”

The KGB didn’t know what was going on in your home?

(Her, laughing): “Of course, they knew. Our phone was always bugged. I once spoke with a friend and told her about problems our daughter was having in school and suddenly, I heard another voice saying, ‘Yeah, that’s what should be done to Jews.’

“But as I said, in the normal way of things, they should have arrested Sasha numerous times for the renovations and mikvaos and many other things he was involved with. But we saw the Rebbe’s brachos protecting us.”

MIRACLE IN PRINTING THE TANYA

R’ Sasha could have filled a big book with the many stories and experiences he was part of; it would have definitely sold well.

One of the projects he did before making aliya was printing the Tanya in Moscow for the first time.

In 5748, at the start of perestroika, a shliach told Alex that he was asked to tell him that the Rebbe wanted the Tanya printed in Moscow. Printing a book, certainly a book in a foreign language, and all the more so in the Hebrew language, was harder than splitting the sea. When R’ Alexander described it as “a very difficult situation,” that tells you that it was. “I cannot describe the bureaucracy that we had to contend with in order to print the book. In ordinary circumstances, you need to start submitting requests for permits and wait at least two years.

“It was necessary to speak with 100 government offices such as the municipality, the censors, the cultural ministry, the national library, the international committee of the Soviet Union for published works etc. Each of them had to go over the book in Russian translation and issue a permit, and with this permit you had to go to the next office and convince the manager that the previous permit was genuine, and so on. I had no doubt that from the get-go the first office would refuse to print a Jewish book, in Hebrew letters no less, but since the Rebbe wanted it, we wanted to do it.

“We didn’t know where to start. Then a Jew by the name of Tzvi Shirokov came to our aid. He was an officer in the quartermaster corps of the Red Army and had many contacts in the Moscow municipality. Some time before, he started coming to Marina Roscha even though he wasn’t religious. For some reason, he liked our work and he agreed to help. To obtain the permits he began using his connections. The big miracle happened and all the permits were obtained in only two months!”

R’ Alexander laughed and said that even in Eretz Yisroel no one can get 11 permits within two months, even if it would be a matter of national importance.

“The amazing thing,” Sasha marvels, “is that we had to give the Tanya translated into Russian to every person who gave us a permit, so they could review it. In certain places, they sat and learned entire pages of Tanya!

“The problems weren’t over. We had to convince a printer to do it. When we went to printers with the book, they refused to even discuss it and looked at us as if we were lunatics. In the end, we went to a printing house that agreed to do the work but explained that he had three years’ worth of work and we needed to wait our turn. In exchange for a lot of money, he agreed to do the work, and this was also because of the contacts of Shirokov and giving him a big gift. That moved aside the entire line.

“When we wanted to start printing the Tanya, we saw that the logistical problems were complicated. We published the main text of the book by photocopying previous editions, but when we wanted to add the title page and closing page, it was not possible to obtain Hebrew letters in all of Russia. After much effort, we found the letters in a print house called ‘Spark of the Revolution.’

(Emotional): “That closed a circle that began many years earlier. The name of the first Bolshevik newspaper that was published in Lenin’s times was called Spark. This paper was printed in Liadi. 80 years later, the Tanya was printed at a print house called Spark of the Revolution. I don’t understand heavenly matters, but the great emigration from Russia began while the Tanya was being printed.”

THE REAL REWARD: NACHAS RUACH FOR THE REBBE

In the midst of printing, R’ Alexander received permission to emigrate after being refused for 13 years. He and his wife and two daughters and son went to Eretz Yisroel. Two weeks later, they went to the Rebbe. Their escorts had them stand near Gan Eden HaTachton (the hallway outside the Rebbe’s room). When the Rebbe came out for Shacharis, they saw the Rebbe for the first time. The Rebbe stared at them and nodded his head in greeting.

While at the Rebbe, R’ Alexander called Russia often to find out how the printing of the Tanya was going. When the printing was finished, a suitcase full of Tanyas was sent to him but it disappeared on the way. After much effort and aggravation, more copies were sent and on the Rebbe’s birthday, 11 Nissan 5749, R’ Alexander passed by for dollars and gave the Rebbe a copy of a Tanya printed in Moscow. “I saw the joy on his face,” said R’ Alexander emotionally.

DON’T FORGET MY PARTNERS

It was late at night when I left the home of the Lokatzky couple. I felt myself simultaneously detaching from the dozens of guests lying crowded together sleeping on the floor of the Lokatzky apartment in Moscow, from the long arm of the KGB agents always tracking and watching every move made by the Lokatzkys, and returning to the cold air of Gush Etzion.

I got into my car and prepared to head home, when R’ Alexander suddenly rushed up to me and said, “Do not forget to write that everything that I did, I did not do alone. There were always good and loyal friends, who helped devotedly every step of the way, putting themselves in great danger. Together with all of us, there was also the Rebbe, who knew what was happening with us every single second. I know that for a fact.”

A little over a month ago, the Chassid R’ Alexander Lokatzky departed from this world. It is hard to write those words about him, since R’ Alexander embodied what it truly meant to be alive, as a man of many achievements, who was always front and center when it came to any matter of holiness.

At times, during periods of hardship and suffering, people can reveal deep spirit and strength, and bring to actualization powers of mesirus nefesh in order to overcome those forces that attempt to obstruct matters of holiness. And yet, it is no less the true measure of a man, during times of calm and tranquility, when life flows on peaceful waters, to what extent he then reveals his soul powers and utilizes them to productive ends.

R’ Alexander was one of the mesirus nefesh Jews in Russia. Without fear, he accomplished tremendous things for Moscow Jewry during those difficult years when every observant Jew was hounded by the communists. However, his greatness came to the fore no less when he immigrated with his family to Eretz Yisroel and they moved to the pastoral yishuv of Neve Daniel, not far from Yerushalayim. It was there, after having seemingly come to some well-earned peace and tranquility, that he felt not quite right. He felt that he was not fully utilizing his abilities.

Very quickly, he set about getting to work for the public good, and he began working on building the Chabad shul on the yishuv, and afterward in establishing two beautiful mikvaos. And that still was not enough for him. He always looked for ways to contribute, to do, to build and accomplish. That is the kind of person that he was.

With his passing, the Chabad family has lost a model of mesirus nefesh, a soldier in the battle of the Rebbe to hasten the Geula, who did not act for honor or prestige, but only to further the goals which he knew and believed that the Rebbe wanted.

This article, the first of two, offers us a glimpse into the years of his mesirus nefesh in Soviet Russia, and hopefully will serve as an inspiration for all the rest of us, including the younger generation.

 

PROVIDENTIAL HITCH

R’ Alexander recounted:

In the year 5746/1986, the Chassid R’ Yona Pruss arrived for a visit to Moscow. Among other things, he brought a video of the Rebbe. Obviously everyone wanted to see the Rebbe, especially as this was a first time opportunity for some of us. It quickly became clear that none of us owned a video machine, except for Michoel Greenberg, who lived in a dacha outside of the city.

Thus it was decided that we would all go to his house to see the video. We were about twenty-five people, it was late at night, and it was difficult to get there with public transportation. In the end, I said that if we were to see the Rebbe tonight, then Hashem would make a miracle.

I went out to the street with absolute bitachon. I raised my hand in order to try to hitch a few rides, and the first vehicle to stop for me was a bus. In exchange for a suitable sum, the driver agreed to transport us and wait for us there to bring us back.

Everyone saw the video with great excitement on that very night, but the lasting result of that night was that already the next day, the driver came back to Marina Roscha and put on tefillin…

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