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Wednesday
Oct242018

WHY DID G-D ORDER THE ANGEL TO BLOW DOWN THE TREE?

Five bachurim went out one Friday on “mivtzaim,” oblivious to the unpleasant surprises awaiting them. An unexpected storm brought down an old tree onto the railroad tracks, and the young Chassidim were forced to make a lengthy and exhausting journey. It would be some time before their voyage reached its final destination. An amazing and captivating story of Divine Providence.

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

Students of the Chabad yeshiva of Brunoy, France in the yeshiva courtyardThe following story has made the rounds in recent weeks among many Chabad Chassidim throughout France, and it remains just as incredible and exciting as it was when it happened.

We heard the details of this story from one of its protagonists, the mashpia of the Chabad community in Brunoy, Rabbi Berel Pachter. “We see clearly how the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, leads the generation, and everything that takes place is by amazing Divine Providence,” he says.

STORMY WEATHER

Most people know that while the rest of the Chabad yeshiva students throughout the world take a break during the ‘Bein HaZ’manim’ summer vacation, the students in the Brunoy yeshiva do not. Only those T’mimim who live in France are allowed to go home to their parents, and even then, for just one week.

The summer months in France are extremely hot, and we sometimes endure fierce hot winds, which can cause serious damage in certain circumstances. Such was the case this past summer on Erev Shabbos Nachamu. Late that morning, almost without warning, the skies were suddenly filled with thick clouds and powerful gusts of winds began to blow. The winds were so fierce that plate-glass windows shattered and huge trees collapsed. One of these trees fell on the railroad tracks between Paris and Brunoy, halting all train service along this line.

At around this same time, numerous yeshiva students were on the way to their regular weekly ‘mivtzaim’ route. As a result of the cessation of train service, many of them would be unable to get back to yeshiva before sundown.

Those bachurim with parents or other relatives living in Paris stayed there for Shabbos. However, the students from outside the region, mainly those who come from the United States to study in Brunoy, didn’t know what to do or where to go. Most of them don’t speak French, and they discovered that the train service along the Paris-Brunoy line had stopped only a short while before Shabbos, after they had finished their Tefillin Campaign activities. In fact, only a few bachurim had remained in the yeshiva that Shabbos. I had come to daven there for Shabbos, and only a few dozen students were in the ‘zal.’

After Shabbos, we received reports about T’mimim who found inadequate accommodations at the very last minute in a variety of places. There can be no doubt that this unpredictable experience caused many of them a great deal of emotional pain and anguish.

While only a day had passed since all this happened, I soon realized that I had a ‘first-hand’ story that brought home how much G-d runs the world, and how ‘a man’s steps are established by Hashem.’”

THE POWER OF PURE FAITH

Since I am a Kohen, I am often privileged to be invited by shluchim for pidyon ha’ben ceremonies at their Chabad House. On the following Sunday, I was invited to one such event at the Chabad House in the ‘Joinville’ Square, run by Rabbi Meir Muati. As I try to do wherever I’m invited, I also used this celebration to farbreng with the assembled guests, among them many people who are getting closer to Yiddishkait through Chabad.

After the moving event was over, they all sat down for a seudas mitzvah, and as always, I asked for permission to speak. I discussed the need for every Jew to strengthen his personal connection to the Creator through fulfilling mitzvos, particularly the mitzvah of tefillin. In addition, I emphasized the message that a proper connection to Alm-ghty G-d must be through a connection to the Rebbe, constituting a vital link between a Jew and his Creator on the level of ‘m’mutza ha’mechaber’ that connects and unites us with His Blessed Essence. I explained to them with great clarity why this is the best and most proper way to do so.

At the end of my talk, as I customarily do at a pidyon ha’ben celebration, I then asked each of the participants to tell a miracle story that he or his family personally experienced through the Rebbe’s bracha.

The first participant who stood up introduced himself as Shalom Korkos. I had previously noticed that he was more than just a ‘m’kurav’; he had a beard and wore a hat. During the pidyon ha’ben ceremony itself, I saw that he put on a gartel.

“I personally am a child of the Rebbe,” he proclaimed to everyone’s surprise, and he began to tell the details of his story as all those assembled listened with undisguised interest.

It was 5748. His father, Yosef Korkos, who ran a large business in Paris, suddenly found himself entangled in problems with the French income tax authorities. At the time, Yosef and his wife had one child, a girl, and they had a strong desire to increase their family size with the birth of a son.

One day, Yosef Korkos learned that the ‘Sinai’ Chabad House in Paris was organizing a group trip for local Jews from France to ‘Beis Chayeinu,’ led by its school principal, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pevzner. After briefly considering the matter, he decided to join the group.

When he was privileged to pass by the Rebbe for dollars distribution, Yosef asked for two brachos. He first told the Rebbe about the current hardships with his business, to the point that he might be compelled to close his business and eventually go to prison for tax violations. The second request was, of course, to be blessed with a son. The Rebbe gave him a dollar for a bracha and blessed him twice in French: ‘Bon mazal.’

As he left 770, he told Rabbi Pevzner about the Rebbe’s bracha. When he heard what the Rebbe had said to him, Rabbi Pevzner replied that he can relax. If the Rebbe had blessed him twice with ‘Mazel tov’, there will be good news on both fronts.

His son Shalom described his father’s tremendous faith to his listeners, to the point that shortly after receiving the Rebbe’s brachos, he called his wife in France to hear whether there was any good news yet. Naturally, she said that there wasn’t…

After several more days of spiritual inspiration in ‘Beis Chayeinu,’ Yosef Korkos returned to France with the rest of the group. Shortly after taking off, he began a pleasant conversation with the passenger seated next to him. By Divine Providence, it turned out he was one of France’s most prominent lawyers, specializing in tax law…

Yosef Korkos proceeded to tell his story to this man, who responded by giving him his calling card. They agreed to meet about one week later.

At this point, Yosef started to feel that the Rebbe’s bracha was beginning to be realized. When he arrived home, he found out with even greater clarity how right he was. Upon hearing from Yosef about the Rebbe’s bracha, his wife quickly went to the doctor for a pregnancy test and was overwhelmed to discover that she was, in fact, expecting. When she told this to her husband, he was overjoyed beyond words.

A few days later, a meeting was held with the attorney, and he began to dig deeply into the file and its relevant documents. After several weeks of intense work, he revealed numerous contradictions within the findings of the income tax auditors. In an instance of tremendous Divine Providence, the case was never brought before the court and the income tax authorities closed the matter due to lack of evidential proof.

And if that wasn’t enough, just nine months later, the Korkos family was blessed with the birth of a son, and his parents gave him the name Shalom. ‘That Shalom is none other than me, standing before you,’ said Shalom Korkos as he concluded his story with deep emotion.

Those participating in the pidyon ha’ben ceremony were extremely moved to hear this story.”

LOSING THEIR WAY

Shalom Korkos did not sit down at the conclusion of his story. After the momentary tumult and excitement had subsided, he waved his hand and asked for everyone’s attention.

“While this is a most amazing and Heavenly-inspired story, it’s not the story I wanted to tell you,” he said, as everyone quickly grew silent to hear the rest. He began to tell another story of Divine Providence, “hot off the presses,” as he put it, one that he heard only a few hours earlier.

“As you all remember, there was a fierce windstorm this past Friday in Paris and the surrounding area. This storm caused considerable damage, including the fall of a large tree with thick roots and branches onto the railroad tracks between Paris and Brunoy. Many bachurim who had left the yeshiva to give Jews the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin were stuck in Paris. This created a situation where each of them had to fend for himself in making arrangements for Shabbos.

“There was a group of five American bachurim who had come to the railroad station, where one of the clerks came up with the bright idea that they should board a train for Alfortville. From there, they would be able to get a train headed for Brunoy.

“They boarded a train in the hope that they could reach their destination as early as possible. However, problems developed, and half an hour before Shabbos, they found themselves standing at the Alfortville railroad station in a state of total confusion. They soon learned from the railroad workers that no train would be headed for Brunoy while they toiled to clear the remains of the tree and properly restore the line. Now they understood that they would be unable to get back to yeshiva before sundown and they only had a short amount of time to organize themselves for Shabbos.

“Outside the train station, they encountered a group of local teenagers and asked them where in town they could find a synagogue. These youngsters were very obliging, and one of them drove the bachurim in the car to the local synagogue. When they got there, they were saddened to discover that the synagogue was closed and locked with not a soul inside.

“During this time of year, Shabbos in Europe comes in at a very late hour, around nine p.m. In many communities, they accept Shabbos earlier and daven Maariv early. It turned out that in this community, they did the very same thing. Thus, the bachurim realized that the shul members had finished their prayers some time ago and were now at home sitting around their Shabbos table. One of the bachurim climbed over the shul’s entrance gate, put their tefillin in a safe place, and from there they started walking through the streets, silently praying, ‘From where will their help come?’

“With no alternative, they stopped the first Gentile they met and asked him which city is closer – Brunoy or Paris?

“It was their intention either to walk back to the yeshiva or to the large Chabad center in Paris, which could accommodate them. This Gentile claimed that he had never heard of Brunoy before, while Paris was an hour away by foot, and he proceeded to point them in the right direction.

“Unfortunately, the directions given weren’t very helpful, and the bachurim soon found that they had lost their way. They were not sufficiently fluent in French and so they just kept moving. By this time, they were all exhausted and sweaty, walking without knowing where they were going.

“Then, at around eleven o’clock at night, a car bearing a couple who identified themselves as Jews stopped near the bachurim.

“‘You look as if you’re lost,’ the driver said, and he offered his assistance.

“The bachurim told him about the suspended train service, which left them having to look for a place to stay. They were now on their way to Paris.

“‘Come and get in the car,’ the couple said, but the bachurim naturally replied that it was Shabbos and traveling in an automobile would be a desecration of the holy day of rest. The compassion of the Jewish couple for these yeshiva students was great, and they accompanied them in their car at a slow and measured pace.

“They suggested to the bachurim that they spend Shabbos in their home, located a short distance away, where they could rest as much as they wanted. The bachurim didn’t have much choice, yet they hoped that they could at least find some kosher wine in their house to make Kiddush. When they got to the house, they realized that they had no wine and the kitchen was totally treif. The couple was very distressed that they could not help the bachurim, and they told them about their religious neighbors who lived nearby. The young men’s hopes flickered; maybe they would be able to make Kiddush on wine after all.

“When they came to the home of the ‘religious’ neighbors, it turned out they too were not Torah-observant. While their children did learn in Chabad institutions, that was the full extent of ‘religion’ in their home.

“‘Our children have been nudging us every Friday to buy wine and challos for Kiddush, so there’s a little wine and half a challah in the refrigerator. Maybe you can use it?’ the father told the bachurim.

“At this point, the bachurim were too overcome by exhaustion, and they split up for the night – two stayed to sleep at the friends’ home, while the other three went back to sleep at the first couple’s house.

“The following day, at seven a.m., the bachurim woke up, and with some direction from these good Jews, they made their way to the local Sephardic shul, run by Rabbi Attia. The rabbi heard their story, took them to his house, and helped them as much as possible.

“Afterwards, they davened Shacharis in the synagogue, and since they were looking for a Chabad place, Rabbi Attia directed them to the Chabad House in S. Maurice, located a short distance away.”

Among those davening in this shul was Shalom Korkos himself, and he warmly greeted the unexpected guests. After the minyan was over, the bachurim sat down to farbreng in the Chabad House. Their outward appearance and the serious look on their faces had a profound effect upon the community members who were not used to meeting Chabad yeshiva students.

During the farbrengen, the bachurim took the opportunity to tell about what they had encountered the previous night. Their words made a tremendous impression, particularly upon the mekuravim among the synagogue members, who saw the self-sacrifice the bachurim had for observing Shabbos.

Shalom Korkos was personally acquainted with the couple who had stopped to help the bachurim. Thus, on Motzaei Shabbos, he decided to travel to their home and thank them for their great sensitivity and willingness to help these young men whom they encountered along the highway without knowing who they were.

The wife greeted Shalom with deep emotion and proceeded to tell him a story that amazed him.

When she met with these five bachurim and heard how they could not desecrate the Shabbos, it awoke something deep within her memory. She recalled a story that she had heard from her mother: Many years earlier, when she was a young woman, her mother had also met five bachurim from the Chabad yeshiva in Brunoy who had missed their train back to yeshiva. That Shabbos, the bachurim spent Shabbos in her parents’ home.

The wife had said this to one of the bachurim who had visited their home on Shabbos, but since he barely understood French, he gave no reaction. To make certain that she had recalled this long-buried story correctly, she took out her mobile phone to call her mother, but the bachur pleaded with her not to violate the sanctity of Shabbos. She waited until the following morning, after the bachurim had left the house and were on their way to shul.

She was stunned to hear from her mother that the story she had experienced thirty years earlier was exactly like the one she, the daughter, experienced just the night before… The woman was overwhelmed, and she decided that this was a clear sign from Heaven…

“Throughout that Shabbos, she and her husband turned this strange Heavenly-inspired story inside and out, and they finally decided to kasher their kitchen. ‘Our kitchen won’t just be kosher; it will be kosher l’mehadrin,’ she told me. They were dismayed by how guests had come to their home, yet they couldn’t eat there. ‘The next stage will be observing Shabbos,’ she declared.”

* * *

As we have already mentioned, Shalom Korkos told this story at a festive pidyon ha’ben celebration. All of those participating, myself included, were in a state of shock and great excitement from this amazing story.

Shalom Korkos concluded by saying that he had heard that when Melech HaMoshiach comes, no Jew would be left behind in exile, and he sees in this story how this prophecy is being fulfilled.

CLOSING THE CIRCLE

A short while later, the mashpia, Rabbi Berel Pachter, made his way to the yeshiva in Brunoy. Not wasting a minute, he went into the yeshiva “zal,” which was then filled to capacity. It was the evening Chassidus seder and the T’mimim were diligently involved with their studies.

Rabbi Pachter met with the mashpia, Rabbi Yisroel HaLevi Segal. “I told him the whole story in great detail and he was deeply moved. He had only heard the first angle to the story, when he was told that these five bachurim had returned on Motzaei Shabbos glum and dejected. They couldn’t understand why it had been ‘decreed’ that they go through this exhausting experience.

“Immediately after the conclusion of the yeshiva ‘seder’, I met the five bachurim and told them the details to this story they had not known until that moment. Their faces shone with a special Chassidic light.”

* * *

“What more can I say?” said the mashpia Rabbi Pachter, as he concluded his story. “The entire world revolves around the mitzvah of one Jew. Who knows if the whole reason why a powerful wind blew that Friday morning and knocked down a tree that had been growing there for decades had been to bring that family closer to the path of Torah and mitzvah observance…”

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