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Wednesday
Jul122017

TWO FLIGHTS, TWO LESSONS

As Chassidim, we are taught to write to the Rebbe about every special plan and to ask for his bracha. When we ask the Rebbe for a bracha in a certain matter, of course we need to be prepared to accept whatever the Rebbe says, even if the answer is not in line with our plans. At the same time, it is very important not to draw conclusions on ones own, but to consult with your mashpia, with the belief that the Rebbe conveys the right guidance through him.

This is the story of two flights, one that was nearly canceled because of a mistaken understanding of the Rebbe’s answer, and one that was actually canceled.

Since we live in Crown Heights, and our extended family lives in Eretz Yisroel, we occasionally fly there, whether to attend a wedding of a sibling or to do the mitzva of kibud av v’eim. We write to the Rebbe each time and ask for a bracha for the trip.

We usually get the Rebbe’s bracha through the Igros Kodesh. Sometimes it’s a letter with an explicit bracha “for your trip to Eretz Yisroel,” and the like. Sometimes it’s a general bracha. But there were exceptions.

THANKS TO CONSULTING WITH A MASHPIA

The first exception happened many years ago, maybe a decade ago. I don’t remember the exact answer we opened to, but I remember the contents. That year, our family in Eretz Yisroel was making two consecutive celebrations and we planned on flying and joining them.

After the requisite preparations and making a good hachlata, I wrote our plan to the Rebbe and asked for a bracha. I put the letter into a volume of Igros Kodesh. When I opened it, my first thought was, this time we have to cancel our plans.

As I said, I don’t remember the exact answer, but it was written to a Chassid who asked the Rebbe for a bracha for a trip and the Rebbe scolds him about how he could consider going now when he was about to buy an apartment. He had to understand, wrote the Rebbe, that this was a serious matter that could not be left to others to handle, and he had to stay in order to take responsibility for the entire purchase process. At the end of the letter the Rebbe wrote that after successfully completing the purchase of the apartment, he can travel, and the Rebbe included a bracha for a good trip.

I decided to cancel our trip, but since the Rebbe says to consult with a mashpia, and especially since it is even more important to consult with a mashpia about answers in the Igros Kodesh, I asked his opinion. When I called him, I was sure he would say to cancel our plans and I called just to be 100% sure that I was doing the right thing.

My mashpia listened to all the details and then, after examining the letter, he asked me, “Do you have plans of buying an apartment in the near future?”

I said no, since I had no thoughts of buying a house or apartment.

“Then, not only is there no reason not to go, but you have a bracha for the trip,” said the mashpia. He explained: “Since you have no plans for buying an apartment, the first part of the letter does not apply to your question. The second part of the letter, where the Rebbe writes that after everything is settled you should have a successful trip, is the answer to your question.”

For me, this was a lesson in how important it is to ask a mashpia, even when you are sure you understand the Rebbe’s answer.

A BRACHA FROM THE REBBE AT SHACHARIS

Two weeks later I saw the Rebbe’s bracha for our trip fulfilled. Even before we had decided to go, I had sent in the forms to make a passport for my son who was born shortly before. At that time, the process took three weeks, and since I had sent the forms in before Pesach, and the trip was planned for the yemei hagbala, I was relaxed.

It was only when more than a month passed and the passport had not yet arrived that I began to worry. I called to find out what was going on and was told that a new law had just been passed which required passengers to Canada to show a passport. Until then, American citizens could cross the border into Canada with just a driver’s license or other government issued picture ID. Because of this new law, the passport office was overly busy, which extended the waiting time by months!

Since our departure date was rapidly approaching, I had to go to a special office in Manhattan that deals with urgent situations. The people I spoke to on the phone told me that all my information was already in the computer and all I had to do was go to that office, fill out some forms, and I would get the passport the next day.

Since this was two days before our flight, I took no chances and went to the office at eight in the morning when it opened. Outside the building was a long line of people who had come to the emergency office because the office that handled regular applications was too busy. It took a long time until it was my turn. To my dismay, the clerk said that our information did not appear on her computer and she couldn’t do anything.

I called the main office where they checked again and again and said they don’t understand what the problem is, because all the information was there. I went back on line and was disappointed yet again when the clerk said she had no idea why they told me on the phone that everything is okay, because it wasn’t okay. I suggested that she call them herself, but she refused, saying it wasn’t her job.

The situation was really pressing. It was two days before our flight and the baby did not have a passport. Despite all my attempts at resolving this, bureaucratic red tape was getting in the way.

I went back to the public phone to try and get someone at the main office again; maybe they would be able to figure it out. As I waited on the line, I opened my Chitas and began reading the HaYom Yom for 29 Iyar. The Rebbe writes, “The ascent of the soul occurs three times daily, during the three times of davening. This is particularly true of the souls of tzaddikim who ‘go from strength to strength.’ It is certain that at all times and in every sacred place they may be, they offer invocation and prayer on behalf of those who are bound to them and to their instructions, and who observe their instructions. They offer prayer in particular for their disciples and disciples’ disciples, that G‑d be their aid, materially and spiritually.”

I looked at my watch and was stunned to see that it was 10:00, the time Shacharis starts in the Rebbe’s minyan. That meant that at that very moment, the Rebbe was thinking about all his Chassidim, “to be their aid, materially and spiritually.” Being that this was the case, I told my wife that it was an auspicious time and we had to ask the Rebbe for a bracha to be able to quickly arrange the passport.

A few minutes later, my wife drew my attention to a religious Jew who walked into the office building. From his manner of walking and talking with the clerks, he looked at home … I went over to him and asked whether he could help me. It turned out that he was the manager of a Jewish place that facilitated expedited passports. He had good connections with senior people in the building. He promised to take care of it and a few minutes later he came back to me and happily announced that it was all arranged.

The next day I got the new passport and I saw how the Rebbe’s bracha worked speedily, like the blink of an eye.

THE CANCELED TRIP

The second story happened last Cheshvan. My nephew was celebrating his bar mitzva in his place of shlichus in Guangzhou, China and I wanted to attend and rejoice with my brother-in-law and sister, R’ M. M. and Yehudis Dworkin. When I asked the Rebbe for a bracha for the trip, I opened to a bracha for a trip with instructions to use the trip to spread the wellsprings there.

I first considered traveling alone, but when I heard about cheap tickets, literally half-price, I ordered three tickets, for myself, my wife and our 6-month-old baby. We arranged with a relative that she would stay in our house and watch the other children while we were away. Everything was prepared and arranged for the trip.

We were going to leave on a Tuesday morning, on a direct flight from New York to Guangzhou. Monday night, less than 24 hours before our flight, my wife wrote to the Rebbe about the trip and asked for his bracha. She opened to a letter from 19 Sivan 5716 which said:

Bracha v’Shalom,

In response to your letter of 11 Sivan in which you write about visiting Eretz Yisroel along with your children, it’s somewhat surprising because I think that the doctors opine that until a baby is one-year old, he should not be taken out of the country and to a place where the air and water are different etc. Especially when the city you are in now is, so I heard, one with a good climate without major changes from one week to the next or from season to season, which is not always the case in … especially in the fall and winter.

I immediately called my mashpia and read him the Rebbe’s answer. He said that my wife and baby’s tickets should be canceled. As for me, since I had received the Rebbe’s bracha, I should go.

Our children, who went to sleep thinking we were leaving for China in the morning, were surprised when they woke up to see my wife and baby at home.

When I arrived in Guangzhou and saw the smog which constantly hovers over the city and makes it hard to breathe, I realized how precise the Rebbe’s answer was about changes in climate, and I also noticed that although the letter was written in Sivan, the Rebbe referred to a flight in the fall and winter season, precisely the time we planned on traveling to China.

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