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Thursday
Jun142018

THE HOLY DOLLAR: FROM AUSTRALIA TO MEXICO

The unbelievable story of a dollar that the Rebbe MH”M gave decades ago to a chassid from Australia and recently made its way, quite miraculously, to the vacation city of Cozumel, Mexico for the dedication of a Chassidic Talmud Torah there, accompanied by an amazingly Heaven-inspired letter in Igros Kodesh.

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

The Chabad House in Cozumel, Mexico is one of the pioneer institutions among dozens of Chabad Houses for tourists spread throughout Central and South America. Over the years of his activities, the shliach Rabbi Dovid HaKohen Caplin has encountered dozens of incredible stories of Divine Providence. However, it would seem that the following story, which began three years ago and only recently came to its final conclusion, is the most amazing one of all.

The entire story, from start to finish, is filled with exciting Divine Providence. It provides a wide variety of components: a member of one of the largest Hungarian Chassidic communities in Monsey, a young dynamic Chabad emissary in Mexico instilled with a genuine feeling of shlichus, and a middle-aged Chabad chassid from Australia – that all came together with a moving answer in ‘Igros Kodesh.’ A dollar from the Rebbe then brought the story to its remarkable crescendo.

A SINGLE BUT MOST VALUABLE DOLLAR

“A little more than three years ago, I flew to Australia for a family visit,” said Rabbi Dovid Caplin as he began his story. “During our stay ‘down under,’ I took the opportunity to raise funds for our Chabad House activities. I went around to the homes of affluent Jews and Chassidim and told them about our programs. On one occasion, I visited one of the local Chabad shuls. The people there reached into their pockets and warmly gave some very generous contributions.

“Before leaving the shul, one of the members came over to me. This chassid belonged to the Teleshevsky family, and he told me that he didn’t have any cash on him at that moment. However, since he had been deeply impressed by our activities, he was prepared to give me a dollar that his father had received directly from the hand of the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach. He suggested that I should give it to someone making an appropriate contribution to the Chabad House.

“I was quite astounded by this incredible offer, and I placed the dollar in my pocket and went on my way. I put the dollar into the safe in my home, and with the passage of time, I forgot about the whole matter.”

A SURPRISING EXPERIENCE IN THE MIDDLE OF SIMCHAS TORAH

“Several years passed. Fast forward to Simchas Torah of this year. We were waiting in the Chabad House for a minyan, unable to start because people still hadn’t arrived. This was surprising, since we had several dozen people for the first days of Yom tov. At a certain point, we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer and we would go out to the beach to look for Jews.

“Just as we were heading out, a group of Jews, just off a cruise ship, came into the Chabad House. They were eighteen in number – men, women, and children. We were very happy to see them and greeted them warmly. What suddenly amazed us was the fact that the members of this vibrant group, while appearing to be quite far from the path of Torah and mitzvos, were conversing – in Yiddish. This was a most unusual phenomenon, especially for Cozumel, and we inquired about their place of origin.

“It turned out that this was a group of Jews who had been raised in one of the largest Chassidic communities in Monsey, New York. However, with the passage of time, they had abandoned traditional Torah observance. The group leader, a man seventy years of age, told us that he had decided to expose his non-observant grandchildren to those values he had been raised with as a child, and therefore, they came to the Chabad House…

“Apparently, during the six years since completely abandoning the path of their forefathers, they had neither entered any synagogues nor observed any mitzvos. We made a ‘L’chaim’ with them, made ‘Hakafos’ together as per custom, and when we needed a baal tefilla, I suggested to the group leader that he should lead the service. At first, he refused. ‘I haven’t opened a siddur in years,’ he said, quite perplexed. Still, he wanted to test how stubborn I would be and quickly saw that I was very determined. Thus, he stood before the amud and began to sing cantorial melodies, as he recalled from his father’s house.

“Everything all went very nicely, until his cellphone started to ring in the middle of the repetition of the Shmoneh Esrei… He stopped and looked at us, waiting for a reaction that would surely cause him to leave the Chabad House. He paused in anticipation of a sharp rebuke or reprimand – but he heard none. Instead, I motioned for him to place his device on the side and continue davening. It seemed that he was rather astonished. At the conclusion of davening, he ran to his wife sitting in the women’s section, and with great excitement, he told her that he was certain that our reaction would be angry and emotional, but he was pleasantly surprised. Deeply moved, this Jew even bought ‘Chassan B’Reishis’ for a very generous amount, pledging to pay it immediately after Yom tov.

“In a conversation we had with him after davening, we learned that he was a very affluent man who ran a big and well-known furniture business in New York.

“Before they set out on their way, my wife, who had connected with the man’s wife in the shul’s women’s section, gave her a copy of ‘I Believe,’ a book we had published in the Chabad House. Only a few days earlier, the book was translated into English. She urged her to read the book and to give it to her husband to read as well. She took the seifer, and the couple, their children, and the other members of the group left the Chabad House very excited.”

AROUSAL AND CHANGE

“Several weeks later, it came time for the International Shluchim Conference. This Jew had not gotten in touch with us as promised, nor did he pay for Chassan B’Reishis. I was certain that this was just another statistical case of someone who experienced a momentary exhilaration that quickly dissipated.

“As I went into 770, I saw that there was a message waiting for me from this man’s wife; she wanted to tell me about a dramatic transformation that her husband had undergone since reading the book. She said that until then, he would eat the most treif food around and regularly desecrated Shabbos and Yom tov to ‘enrage G-d.’ However, since reading the book, something had changed inside him. He had stopped eating all non-kosher food and he was engulfed by a storm of intense emotions.

“I called her and said that I was in New York. Since he was standing near her and heard what I had said, he quickly invited me to see him in Monsey. ‘I grew up as an ultra-Orthodox Jew throughout my childhood years,’ he told me by telephone. ‘However, since my bar-mitzvah, I’ve lost all feelings for fulfilling mitzvos, and therefore, I abandoned everything. The things that I read in your book connected me to my inner Jewish existence.’ He honored his pledge from Simchas Torah and urged me to come and stay with them because he wanted to farbreng with me.

“I told him that I couldn’t come as I was on my way to Philadelphia, but when he steadfastly replied that he would come to Philadelphia himself, I realized how serious he was about meeting with me. As a result, I changed my plans and went to his house in Monsey. Naturally, I couldn’t eat there, and so they ordered food for me from a kosher l’mehadrin restaurant. We sat and talked until five in the morning. He told me his whole life’s story, and he had his fair share of questions on faith and the Creator. When I explained to him the manner of thinking according to the teachings of Chassidus, many of these questions were put to rest. I was astonished by the vast ignorance of someone raised and educated in an ultra-Orthodox community, yet didn’t learn Chassidus.

“Since the hour was very late, or early to be more precise, I remained in their home to sleep briefly for three hours. The amazing thing was when I awoke at eight in the morning and saw my host still sitting at the table, leaning over the book I had given him. It was clear that he was experiencing a spiritual tsunami. Before leaving the house, we spoke a little while longer. From his standpoint, he was prepared, then and there, to return fully to a life of Torah and mitzvos.

“Since I was concerned that his feeling of spiritual arousal could be snuffed just as quickly as it came to life, I suggested that he make three good resolutions for the immediate future. He chose kashrus, Shabbos, and learning Chassidus with me via telephone once every two weeks. In fact, he has called me since then every two weeks, and we learn concepts in Chassidus for an hour or more. During each conversation, I was pleased to hear from him about more and more levels of Torah observance that he had accepted upon himself along his journey of service to Alm-ghty G-d.

“At a certain point, he decided to fly to Cozumel each month to learn a full day with me and see our activities. In fact, he regularly came to the Chabad House and thirstily drank from the wellsprings. With the passage of time, he developed a strong and loving connection to the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach.”

THE REBBE SENDS A SURPRISING LETTER

“One day, he surprised me by saying that he and his wife had decided to take a sabbatical break from their business. Monsey has many spiritual obstacles and roadblocks, and they were planning to move near us in Cozumel for a year.

“This occurred after the Purim holiday, and I naturally suggested that he should write a letter to the Rebbe and ask for his bracha. He did, and he received a positive answer for the proposed move. The plan was for them to complete the year in Monsey, and during the following summer, they would come to live in Cozumel.

“This proposed move awoke an old dream within me. Since they had two children, this raised the question of where they would learn. There were another ten Jewish children on the island (at least those of whom we knew), but sadly they all studied in Christian schools.

“I suggested to him the opening of a Talmud Torah program, and we would bring an appropriate ‘melamed’ especially for that purpose. He was quite excited by the proposal and prepared to move it forward, even promising to make a sizable contribution. I was very pleased and we even found a suitable building to house the school; all preparations went into high gear. In my mind, I could already see this old dream materializing.

“However, as with all matters of holiness, a cooling off process started to kick in. One day, he called me and said that he had thought about it, made inquiries, and came to the conclusion that establishing an educational program of this type would be a most complex task. ‘Perhaps we could settle for a “home school” framework?’ he suggested.

“I tried to convince him to proceed in a manner of ‘L’chat’chilla Aribber’ without any concerns. However, this was no simple undertaking: Someone had apparently placed doubts in his mind and had reduced his level of enthusiasm for the project.

“Suddenly, I remembered about that dollar I had received three years ago in faraway Australia from a member of the Teleshevsky family and I decided that the time had come to put it to use. It was for this very purpose that the dollar had come into my possession.

“I told him about the dollar and said that I would frame it nicely for him, sending it to Monsey as a token of appreciation for his contribution. He was deeply moved, and it appeared that this allayed his concerns.

“I had already begun to hope that we were now on the right path, but the sitra achra started working overtime again, as it always does when confronting what is pure and holy. He sent me another message that he was still confused and perplexed over whether this is the correct thing to do.

“Realizing his confusion, I suggested that he write another letter to the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach. There were several volumes of ‘Igros Kodesh’ in his home, and we agreed that we would act in accordance with the Rebbe’s answer.

“He agreed, and he sat down to write the letter. He already knew all the usual preparations for writing to the Rebbe, just like an expert. The answer he received left him speechless (Vol. 6, pg. 222):

Greetings and Blessing!

I have received greetings from him in its appropriate time via the pious, venerable, and benevolent chassid, Rabbi Mordechai Dov Teleshevsky, sh’yichyeh, and also through his relatives who have visited with me. I now write in connection to his son, the pious and vigorous chassid… sh’yichyeh, whom he surely knows was in Mexico over a period of time, involved there in matters of education, and thank G-d, he had success, and afterwards, due to different reasons, he traveled from there.

According to the information I have now received from there, the situation there on the matter of education is critical. There are, kein ayin ha’ra, many children who want to learn as is fitting, but there is no one appropriate who can administer this so that it will be properly organized.

When I spoke with his son when he was with me, he told me, also among other reasons, that he doesn’t know how his parents, sh’yichyu, will relate to this, as in their opinion, he stills needs to learn a while for himself.

There is surely no need to elaborate about the obligation of Torah study for every Jew in general and youngsters in particular. However, when we’re talking about hundreds of children who have to be rescued, that they should remain Jews, each one must have self-sacrifice, push aside his own personal matters of rising higher in Torah and other desires, and at least for a certain period of time, they must devote themselves to saving Jewish boys and girls from the danger of ch”v completely forgetting their Judaism, and now is exactly the time that his son can take action in this. This can be done successfully, and we have the promise of our Sages, of blessed memory, that when G-d Alm-ghty sees that we do charity with His children and help them to be proper Jews, He – G-d Alm-ghty – helps to make the person’s mind and heart a thousand times more refined, and within a short period of time he succeeds in a way that would require far more time, were it not for the avoda of tz’daka that he does.

It seems to me that it would be unnecessary to elaborate on this, and what has been said will be sufficient for him to contemplate on his approach in this matter. I hope and am certain that he will use his influence upon his son that he will give his time for this, and even when it seems to him that this is self-sacrifice that the Jewish children will remain Jews, this is also appropriate, and G-d Alm-ghty will pay him and you a thousand times over in all matters required for each and every one of you.

In a lengthy, detailed, and comprehensive letter, the Rebbe writes about the imperative to go out on an educational shlichus to Mexico! The Rebbe notes that there are many Jewish children who want to receive a Jewish education, and therefore, there is a necessity to push aside all hindrances, obstacles, and personal matters and to start taking action for educational matters in Mexico with self-sacrifice in order to save Jewish boys and girls from ch”v forgetting the Torah of Israel. The Rebbe continues by quoting the promise of our Sages that when G-d sees that they act with charity towards His children and help them to become proper Jews, He makes the mind and heart of the person acting in this manner one thousand times more refined, and within a short period of time he manages to learn things that without the charity he did would have taken him much longer.

“I read the Rebbe’s letter again and again, and I felt as excited as a small child. As part of my shlichus in the Chabad House, I have been privileged to see many clear answers from the Rebbe, experiencing miracles and wonders from all directions. However, who could have ever imagined an answer as clear as this one? I felt that the Rebbe had written a letter many years ago that was meant just for us.

“After reading the letter three or four times, something suddenly started ‘pecking away’ at my brain, although I didn’t know why. I then noticed the name of the person to whom the letter had been addressed. Then it hit me.

“The letter was written to R’ Mordechai Dov Teleshevsky from Australia. I ran to the safe and removed the dollar that I had received in Australia and already promised to give to this Jew from Monsey. I looked at the envelope and saw that the dollar given to me was in memory of the chassid, HaRav R’ Mordechai Dov Teleshevsky.

“If I had already been moved before this, as soon as I discovered to whom the letter had been addressed, I began to shed tears of happiness and joy, realizing how the Rebbe brought this about in such a miraculous fashion. It took me several minutes before I managed to calm down from the incredible Divine Providence that had just taken place before my very eyes.

“After I had regained my senses a bit, I wrote to this Jew telling him the whole story, and he was as shocked and stunned as I was.

“After such a fascinating chain of Divine Providence, it was clear to us that all the doubts and obstacles were no matter for concern, and with G-d’s help, the Cozumel Jewish day school will be dedicated and ready to begin classes at the start of the new year.”

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