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Three Decades, Two Dreams

Czernovitz, Ukraine, 1969. The silence of death enwrapped the Jewish cemetery at the edge of town, where Hershel Shor made his way one evening. Before him stretched thousands of graves, a silent testimony to the impressive Jewish community that had once lived in Czernovitz, which was now no more. With decisive steps he passed between the gravestones until he came to the fresh grave of his mother.

His emotions were stormy. His mother was only 44 when she died. Why had G-d taken her at such a young age? Hershel was left alone in this world, with no family except for his grandmother.

The bitterness in his heart overwhelmed him and turned into rage. He took out of his pocket a small scissors and impulsively removed his sidelocks, letting his hair fall onto his mother’s grave. Alongside his peyot he left his bag of tefillin which he had brought with him. In his sorrow and anger he turned to his mother’s grave and said, “Mother, I am done with it! I no longer have any use for these!”

Several moments later, he left the cemetery with a firm decision: he would no longer observe Torah or mitzvoth. He felt as if he had buried his past life, as Hershel the religious Jew. Instead he emerged as a different person, who went by the name of Grigory.

Shortly afterwards Grigory Shore received his exit visa from the USSR, and went to settle in Israel.

In 1977, Grigory was on a trip to the United States and was staying in the home of his friend, by the name of Farkash. During this visit, his friend and host suggested that he go meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Grigory was opposed to the idea. He had cut off any connection that he had with G-d, or with His representatives on earth!

But Farkash did not give up. He argued that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a unique personality, and people from all over the world would come to him to seek his advice. Finally Grigory agreed, as a “favor” to his friend, to go and see the Rebbe.

Farkash got in touch with his Chabad friend, and with his help he scheduled an appointment for a “yechidut,” a private audience with the Rebbe.

At the designated time, Grigory arrived in the company of his friend. He entered the Rebbe’s room alone, with hesitant steps. The Rebbe greeted him warmly, showed him a seat and opened a conversation with him in Yiddish.

The Rebbe expressed interest in his field of work. Grigory was an air conditioning technician, and the  Rebbe engaged him in a professional conversation. Grigory was surprised to find that the Rebbe’s knowledge extended to a domain as mundane as air conditioning. The Rebbe’s friendliness melted the walls of defense that he had put up before going to see the Rebbe. When the Rebbe started to ask Grigory about his mother, those walls had come down completely.

Suddenly the Rebbe stopped the conversation and asked Grigory an unexpected question: “How do you have the right to decide matters connected with the Almighty? You are indeed an intelligent person, but you’re not wiser than G-d…”

Gregory was struck dumb. How did the Rebbe know what had happened there, in the cemetery in Czernovitz?

“Herschel,” the Rebbe addressed him by his Jewish name. “Give G-d one minute of your time every morning. No more.”

Herschel didn’t get it. “What can I do in one minute a day?”

“Lay tefillin; with this you will connect to G-d.”

Herschel refused. He had no wish to return to Judaism, in any manner. The Rebbe spent many long minutes trying to convince him, and finally concluded: “There will come a day when someone close to you will pass on… and then you will do teshuvah.”

Many years passed. On the 15th of Adar, March 3, 2010, his grandmother, Chaya Fierberg, passed away at the advanced age of 112 (!). His grandmother’s passing left Herschel completely shattered. He felt that the most precious treasure in his life had been taken from him.

After the week of Shivah had ended, Herschel felt a sudden, strong desire to do something for his grandmother. He decided that he would return somewhat to the “good old days” of his childhood in Czernovitz. Several days later, he was walking in the street and passed a Chabad booth for people to lay tefillin. He stopped and engaged in a conversation with the Chabad chassid manning the booth. This was a first step for Herschel in his path to teshuvah. He began to study Torah regularly, to keep Shabbat, to eat only kosher food… his return to Judaism was well underway.

“The Rebbe’s prophecy was fulfilled after 30 years,” says Herschel in awe.

After a year, his grandmother appeared to him in a dream. “Herschelle,” she said, “you have erected for me a beautiful stone, and thank G-d you have also strengthened your observance of Judaism. But what of my daughter—your mother—who is buried in Czernovitz? For many years her soul is not at rest. I am asking you, this year, say Kaddish for her, and also arrange a memorial service.”

Herschel awoke from his dream bathed in sweat. To his memory, his mother had passed away on August 7, 1968. He checked and found that it corresponded to the Hebrew date of 13 Av.

Several days later, Herschel dreamt another dream – this time of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “Herschel, you made a mistake with the date of your mother’s death! Check carefully on her death certificate!”

Herschel woke up and ran to look through all his important documents, until he found his mother’s death certificate. Indeed, the Rebbe was right. The date on the death certificate was August 1, 1969, which corresponded to the Hebrew date of 17 Av…

 

 


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