June 1, 2017
Nosson Avrohom in #1070, Miracle Story, Mivtza Tefilin

This is the story of two young men who became acquainted in a ‘Mitzvah Tank’ – a Lubavitcher chassid and a Jew who knew little about his Judaism. While initially the connection between them grew stronger, they eventually lost contact with one another as each of them followed his own path in life on different sides of the globe. Then, due to an error in a wedding invitation, they were shown evidence of the amazing ruach ha’kodesh of the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach.

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

Twice a week, a ‘Mitzvah Tank’ from Crown Heights would come to one of the neighborhood streets in the borough of Brooklyn. The local Jewish children would come inside the tank and participate in Tzivos Hashem activities, while the adults would put on t’fillin and listen to words of Torah to strengthen their Jewish roots. Among the Jewish families living on this street were the Hoffmans, members of the local Conservative synagogue. Their lives were somewhat compromising, e.g., eating matzos on Pesach and observing strict kashrus at home, while adhering to more liberal standards outside of the home.

One of the young people who regularly visited our ‘mitzvah tank’ was Yisroel Hoffman. He had a strong connection with the T’mimim who ran the activities, particularly HaTamim Aryeh Laskey. The bond between them became extremely close. Every time the tank came to the neighborhood, Yisroel would come inside, put on t’fillin, and enjoy speaking with Aryeh. Their friendship eventually became so warm that even on those occasions when there were no neighborhood outreach activities, the two would call one another and have a chat.

It is here that we begin our story – at its inception many years ago until its conclusion just last year.

“After I completed my high school studies, I went to college to study atomic engineering,” recalled R’ Yisroel, today a Breslover chassid living in the Holy City of Tzfas. “I was strongly connected to the practical aspect of the learning material, and I encountered much success in the early stages of my collegiate studies. At a certain point, as part of the study program, the lecturers wanted to expose us to various historic world cultures, giving us the choice to live for a whole year in a foreign country with a lot of history. I chose Israel.

“I spent that year at Kibbutz Gal-On, affiliated with HaShomer HaTzair, located near Kiryat Gat. Most of the students who came with me were religious Gentiles. They knew a thing or two about the history of the Jewish People and were constantly ridiculing me for my ignorance in such matters. The truth is that my knowledge was rather limited: I came from an average Jewish family in the seventies. My father was a taxi driver; my mother worked in an attorney’s office. There were three children in our family whose only desire was to have success in the business world, making money in the Big Apple, while observing minimal Jewish traditions – but no more than that. I never understood the true meaning of being a Jew.

“From the young Chabad yeshiva students, primarily Aryeh Laskey, I heard a great deal about the importance of mitzvah observance. He would put on t’fillin with me and I saw how much it meant to him, but I never really delved into a proper understanding of the whole concept. Yet, on a kibbutz, of all places, about as far away as one can get from being a religious Jew, alongside all my Christian friends, thoughts about my people and my life’s mission in this world began to evolve within me.

“We had plenty of free time between work and other activities. Thus, your mind is free to think a lot, and when I was thinking, questions often arose that my environment failed to answer to my satisfaction. I remember that I once asked a question to one of the kibbutz members and he replied, ‘Young man, don’t trouble yourself with such depressing thoughts.’

“One fine day, the entire group traveled to Yerushalayim; my Gentile friends went to their respective places of worship while I (l’havdil) naturally made my way to the Western Wall, the remnant of our Beis Mikdash. I remember that when I was standing before the holy stones of the Kosel, tears were streaming down my face as all the anguish and unease of the previous months suddenly erupted in a torrent of emotion. I made a plea before the Heavenly court: ‘If Jewish tradition is the truth, and if there is a Creator, then give me a sign so I will know. Give me answers to the questions that have been troubling me on the essence of life.’ After a deeply heartfelt prayer, I made my way out of the plaza.

“The plan was that I would meet up with my friends and return together with them to the kibbutz. However, I got lost somehow walking through the Old City, as all the streets looked the same. There were no mobile phones in those days, and as nightfall came, I realized that my friends had probably gotten on a bus and were heading back down south. With no alternative, I decided to look for a place where I could spend the night. The Hand of Divine Providence led me to a large and spacious building where I met numerous young men. This was clearly not a private home.

“I went inside and asked if I could possibly stay for one night. There were several young English speakers there and they welcomed me warmly, happily offering their hospitality. I soon discovered that this was not a hotel or a youth hostel; this was the ‘Aish HaTorah’ yeshiva for baalei t’shuva.

“I was overcome and felt that I had received a clear sign from Heaven. While I had initially thought that I would stay there for just one day, the magnetic atmosphere had a powerful effect upon me. After a few days there, I decided to enroll as a full-time yeshiva student. Subsequently, I informed the kibbutz and the university that I was leaving the program.

“After three years of intensive studies at ‘Aish HaTorah,’ transforming me into a full-fledged baal t’shuva in every respect, I was sent to learn at the Litvishe ‘Marbeh Torah’ yeshiva in B’nei Brak.

“Not long afterward, I reached marriageable age and became engaged to my future wife. My friend Rabbi Laskey had been in constant touch with my parents over the years and managed to contact me on several occasions. As a result, he also heard about my engagement and even received an invitation to the wedding.

“As a devoted chassid of the Rebbe, Rabbi Laskey took the invitation he had received from my parents and submitted it to the Rebbe’s office in request of a bracha for us. After waiting a lengthy period of time without receiving a reply, he called the office to ask why there was a delay. While the secretary said that he didn’t know, he did tell him something quite interesting: The letter was on the Rebbe’s desk, and whenever the Rebbe saw it, he placed it on the side. Only several weeks later did the Rebbe respond to the invitation with the traditional letter blessing the chassan and kalla. Yet, for some reason, Rabbi Laskey simply forgot to send us the letter.

“When we spoke recently, I realized why he had forgotten to send the letter – after all, a chassid doesn’t neglect to carry out the Rebbe’s instructions. It turned out that Rabbi Laskey had become a chassan around the same time, and due to his preoccupation with his own wedding preparations, he didn’t remember to go to the post office and send the letter off or to give it to my parents, who came to Eretz Yisroel for the wedding celebration.

“Many years passed, and each of us was quite busy with his own affairs. I had joined the path of Chassidus, moving from Yerushalayim to Tzfas. At first, I was a Boyaner chassid and today I am a member of the Breslover Chassidic community. For his part, Rabbi Laskey moved to Los Angeles and we eventually lost contact with one another.

“Then, last year, the connection was amazingly renewed. Rabbi Laskey’s children had organized the documents in his home and they discovered the letter. When they asked who I was, he suddenly remembered the chain of events from those days and was embarrassed that he hadn’t sent me this important letter. He recalled the busy times leading up to his wedding resulting in his failure to complete his shlichus, and he saw this as an amazing sign that the time had come to carry out the Rebbe’s instructions and deliver the letter. After making several phone calls, he eventually tracked me down. During a nostalgic transatlantic conversation, the two of us fondly recalled the early days of our friendship. It was very moving to re-establish the connection.

“During this same time, someone collecting funds for the Chabad yeshiva in Tzfas arrived in Los Angeles, and Rabbi Laskey asked him to give me the letter when he came back to Eretz Yisroel.

“Incredibly, even after the letter arrived in Tzfas, it still went through several more twists and turns until it finally reached our house. It came on the very night of our eldest son’s engagement, and that in itself was a tremendous case of Divine Providence. However, the most interesting thing was that during my phone conversation with Rabbi Laskey, he shared with me the whole story of what happened back then to the Rebbe’s letter. He told me how he had submitted my wedding invitation with a request for the Rebbe’s bracha, yet there was an inexplicable delay in receiving the reply. It appears that the Rebbe kept the reply for a while until he decided for reasons known only to him to send the letter. When Rabbi Laskey told me this, I was positively astounded. I saw this as a clear demonstration of the Rebbe’s ruach ha’kodesh.

“Why? Because the first invitations my parents had were with the wrong date for the wedding. After we had already set the wedding date and the invitations had been printed, we sent a portion of them to my parents in New York to give out to their friends and acquaintances. Among those who received this first batch was Rabbi Laskey, who then submitted the invitation to the Rebbe. Later, it became necessary to postpone the wedding for six weeks, and as a result, we printed another set of new invitations. Thus, the date of the wedding written in the letter placed on the Rebbe’s desk was incorrect. Therefore, the Rebbe did not respond immediately, as is customary, waiting instead until we set a new date.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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