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Young Like an Eagle
by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Falk

My maternal grandfather was Rabbi Meilech (Elimelech) Fried. After his immigration to Israel, he established his residence in the city of B’nei Brak. My grandfather was a very gentle and sensitive man who devoted his entire life to Torah study and scrupulously made certain not to cause the slightest anguish to any of his fellow Jews.

In 5750 (1990), nearly a quarter of a century ago, my grandfather had to accompany his wife on a flight from Israel to New York City for some complex medical treatment. By this time, my grandfather was already in his nineties.

Upon their arrival in New York, my grandparents went to the home of their daughter and son-in-law, Satmar Chassidim living in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. After my grandmother successfully completed her urgent medical treatment, they still had a few days left to spend in New York. Suddenly, I was surprised to receive a phone call from my grandfather.

After he asked about me and the children, he made a gentle request – as was his nature – for my assistance. He wanted to take advantage of his presence in New York to arrange a meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

I was happy to help my grandfather and wasted no time. I called my brother-in-law, and he quickly got in touch with my grandfather to set a time to pick him up and take him to Crown Heights.

My brother-in-law explained to my grandfather that if he wanted to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe, there was one day during the week when this was possible – Sunday at dollars distribution. Accordingly, when Sunday morning came, he brought him to the Rebbe’ shul at 770 Eastern Parkway, and after a long wait in line (considering his advanced years), he found himself standing before the Rebbe.

As he stood before the Rebbe and received a dollar, his first request was for a blessing to merit a long life. The Rebbe smiled and quoted from the last verse in Chapter 91 of Psalms: “I will satisfy him with long life, and show him My deliverance.”

My grandfather stood there positively dumbfounded. As is customary among many Chassidim, he would recite his personal chapter of Psalms each morning. Since he was in the ninety-first year of his life, my grandfather read Chapter 91, and the Rebbe had just quoted a verse from that Psalm. He told me that he felt that the Rebbe knew exactly how old he was, although he hadn’t made any mention of his age or even alluded to the matter.

After this incredible blessing, my grandfather decided to ask for another one. While longevity is a tremendous blessing, it often happens that people become infirm with old age. My grandfather requested a blessing for a good, peaceful, and fulfilling life.

The Rebbe again replied with a quote from Psalms. This time, the Rebbe quoted a verse from Chapter 92: “They shall be fruitful even in old age; they shall be full of sap and freshness.” It was as if he was saying, “You have nothing to worry about. You will continue to live and say more Psalms. Before my grandfather parted from the Rebbe, he heard one more verse from Chapter 103: “Your youth shall renew itself like an eagle.”

My grandfather lived for another twelve years after that encounter, and as the Rebbe had blessed him, they were good years and he lived them like a young man. Until his very last day on this earth, he conducted himself with tremendous vigor, fit for a man far younger than his years. He would go out each day to shul, recalled things in great detail, knew all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was a literal fulfillment of the Rebbe’s blessing: “Your youth shall renew itself like an eagle.”

This past summer, twelve years after his passing, I was sitting at the holy gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and reading Psalms. When I came to Chapter 103 and read the pasuk “Your youth shall renew itself like an eagle,” I suddenly remembered that this was the verse that my grandfather had heard from the Lubavitcher Rebbe when they met at Sunday dollars.

Chapter 103 is the last chapter that my grandfather recited in this world on a daily basis, when he reached the ripe old age of 102. In other words, there could be no explanation except that the Lubavitcher Rebbe not only knew when my grandfather was born, he also prophesized the age when he would pass away.

 

 


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