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Sunday, December 10, 2023 - 27 Kislev 5784
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A Direct Approach
Rami, a businessman from California, was building a house for his family and the work was nearing completion. One of the final tasks he needed to oversee was hiring a painter. Not just anyone was suitable for the role. He was looking for a reliable worker who would not leave the job incomplete, who could be trusted to do exemplary work. Rami made extensive inquiries and finally hired Itzik, an Israeli in his 50’s who came highly recommended.

As the painting was being done, Rami would visit daily to ensure that everything was proceeding smoothly and to oversee all the myriad details that still remained. During these visits he would engage in conversation with Itzik.

Itzik’s story was the classic Israeli yored – who had transplanted to America in search of better opportunity. He came from a traditional Jewish family and had received some Jewish education in his youth, but during the 20 years he spent in America he had had very little to do with Judaism.

Nevertheless, he really enjoyed reading classic Jewish texts. From time to time he would regale Rami with tales of the Midrash or Talmud, some that he had recently read and some that he remembered from childhood.

When the work was nearing completion, Rami informed Itzik that he would be gone for several days. He was flying to New York to visit the Rebbe. Itzik was curious as to the purpose of this trip, and Rami explained that he was a chassid, going to meet with the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn.

“That sounds interesting,” said Itzik. “Take me with you!” And so, Itzik booked his own flight to New York, together with Rami.

They flew in for a weekend and were hosted by a family that Rami knew in the neighborhood. After settling in they hurried to the Rebbe’s synagogue, known by its address, 770 Eastern Parkway. The sight of the Rebbe made a profound impact on Itzik, and immediately after Shabbat he purchased a set of tallit and tefillin for himself to use for daily prayers, something he had not done in 20 years.

The evening before their return flight, Itzik sat next to Rami in 770 with a serious look on his face. “Rami, I want to write a letter to the Rebbe, but how do I do it?”

Rami told him to write to the Rebbe simply and directly, in his natural voice. Itzik took pen and paper and wrote:

“My name Is Itzik Bar Sela. It doesn’t matter to me that I lost all my money, and it doesn’t matter to me that I got divorced. The only thing that really bothers me is that my ex-wife disappeared and won’t let me see my children.”

Itzik wrote this brief letter from the depth of his heart and concluded, “I need the Rebbe’s blessing for salvation.”

The two returned to Los Angeles and returned to their regular routine. Several days passed, and suddenly Itzik showed up in Rami’s home, his face lit up with a huge smile. Rami invited him inside.

“You won’t believe this,” said Itzik with excitement, not sure where to begin. “My ex-wife just called and said that the children want to see me. They miss me.” His voice choked up and he broke down in tears.

After he composed himself, Itzik continued, “This is after two years without any contact, two years in which I didn’t even know on which continent they were living.

“My ex-wife sounded very matter-of-fact about it all. ‘Listen, Itzik,’ she told me. ‘Buy them tickets. They want to come to see you.’ I told her I’d get back to her in a half-hour.”

Itzik’s face became serious as he confided to Rami, “The problem is that I don’t have the money for tickets.” The cost for airline tickets for both his children was more than $1000, a sum that Itzk simply could not afford. But how could he let this opportunity go by?

Rami’s faith was unshaken. “We were just by the Rebbe and this miracle that just took place is due to his blessing. I’m sure of it. Don’t worry, the Rebbe will not forsake you.”

A few days later, Itzik called Rami on the phone and told him about a diamond ring that he had in his possession. For several years he had attempted to sell it for $800 but there were no buyers. People would call and inquire, but nobody was prepared to pay his asking price. “Yesterday,” he said, “someone called and said he was interested in buying the diamond. I don’t know why, but I asked for $1800, and he agreed!”

Although Itzik did not receive a written answer from the Rebbe, he received the best answer of all – his children came to visit and they renewed their relationship. It goes without saying that in the aftermath of this incident Itzik strengthened his observance of Torah and mitzvot and now considers himself a proud chossid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.



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