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Wednesday, May 25, 2022 - 24 Iyyar 5782
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Your True Place

Danny Chein grew up in Israel, but in the early 1970's he moved to the United States for better employment opportunities, and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. After several successful years, though, the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Danny revealed his patriotism by returning to Israel to serve in the army reserves. When the war ended, Danny went back to Cleveland to earn his fortune -- this time in a different line of work. Through a friend, he learned the craft of photography, and soon developed a reputation as an excellent photographer.

In the summer of 1974, Danny took a break from his intensive work schedule and flew to visit friends in New York. For two weeks, he toured with his friends and had a great time. Towards the end of his stay, one of his friends suggested that they go to Brooklyn, to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Danny was quite surprised by the suggestion. In some sense, he was surprised that the idea came not from him but from one of his friends. As a child, Danny had studied in a Chabad school in Kfar Saba, and when he was 12 years old, in 1963, he had even traveled to the Rebbe himself.

That trip had been arranged by the school staff, and Danny had no easy time convincing his parents to let him go on an overseas trip at that young age. In the end, though, Danny received permission from his parents to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

One of the most amazing moments of that drip was during a farbrengen, a chassidic gathering, conducted by the Rebbe with thousands of chassidim. Danny stood in the crowd together with the group of students from his school, and the Rebbe instructed the group to start singing a Chabad melody. For a moment, Danny's voice caught and he could not emit a sound. The Rebbe looked directly at him and waved his arms at him in encouragement. Suddenly Danny found his strength and joined the chorus in singing.

Now, more than 10 years later, Danny had almost no semblance left of those years. He had completely abandoned Jewish tradition and lived a religion-free life in every respect. For this reason, the suggestion to visit the Rebbe surprised him very much.

Danny accepted the suggestion and he and his friends went to Crown Heights. At a certain point, Danny was standing very close to the Rebbe and the Rebbe looked straight at him. Danny felt like he was traveling back in time, to his first trip to New York. The Rebbe looked at him for just one moment, no longer, and then said to him in Hebrew: "Your place is not here. You must return to Israel!"

Danny was confused by what the Rebbe meant. Why should I return to Israel? He protested inwardly. I am happy here, successful, earning a good income, living in comfort. What am I lacking here? He dismissed the Rebbe's words from his mind and returned to Cleveland, back to his usual routine.

A year passed. One night, Danny was sitting and reviewing his life. His income during the past year had been quite high. He had just concluded a huge business deal and his schedule was packed. However, he realized that his actual profit at the end of the year was quite small. He realized that most of his income went to pay off various debts that incurred for one reason or another.

Danny decided to take some time off to clear his head, and just as he had done the year before, he flew to his friends in New York. Again, like the year before, his friends convinced him to join them on a visit to the Rebbe.

It was the night following the holiday, a time when the Rebbe distributed the traditional "kos shel brachah," pouring from his cup of wine into the cups of all the assembled. Danny and his friends stood in line, and as they moved forward Danny started to sweat. He remembered the Rebbe's words to him the year before, and suddenly he realized that the Rebbe had known what he was talking about. The Rebbe knew where Danny needed to be for his own good fortune.

Danny found himself extending his cup to the Rebbe, with his thoughts all in a jumble. As the Rebbe poured wine into his cup, he lifted his eyes to Danny and said, "I already told you: your place is not here, but in Israel!"

The Rebbe had struck while the iron was hot. It became very clear to Danny that the Rebbe recognized him and remembered him well. Danny did not need more. That evening he returned to Cleveland and began to pack up his possessions.

When his friends found out, they thought he had lost his mind. They saw him as an American success story and could not understand why he would suddenly give it all up. However, he would not allow anyone to dissuade him. Within two days he was on a flight to Israel. 

In Israel, Danny met his wife and they set up a home in Kfar Saba. He opened a photography studio and was soon very successful -- more than he had been in Cleveland. He raised a fine family of sons and daughters, all of whom still work in the family business.



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