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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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The Wise Son
by Rabbi Dror Moshe Shaul

It was just a few minutes before Pesach when a couple with two daughters walked into my Chabad House in Dharmasala, India. They had obviously come from far away. The mother introduced her husband and children. She said they had just arrived from an organic food farm near Chennai in southern India, a distance of a week’s travel by car from Dharamsala, and it was very important to them to celebrate Pesach with other Jews. Since they had heard there was a Chabad house in the area, they had chosen to make the trip.

The couple apologized for arriving at the last minute and asked whether they could still register. They added that they were vegetarians and did not eat meat, eggs, and fish and they did not drink wine. “We will manage with matzah,” said the father.

I told them that I was a vegetarian for years. Of course I told them they were welcome to join us, and food was no problem since we had plenty and there were even vegetarian courses. And that is how we came to host this wonderful family. They ended up staying with us for the entire Yom Tov; first, because they really enjoyed our company and second, because their children became friends with my children.

Friday night, which was Chol HaMoed, the atmosphere was particularly friendly and the father decided to share a personal story he had with the Rebbe. This is what he said:

“It was 1985. I was a soldier in the IDF and serving, like many of my comrades, in Lebanon. It was very rough going and the IDF sustained losses every day.

“One day, a bomb landed on our position, and as a result of the powerful blast, one of my kidneys was severely injured. I was taken by military helicopter to Rambam hospital in Haifa where I lay unconscious. I was in critical condition and hovered between life and death. The doctors felt helpless and were afraid I had contracted a kidney infection, so they decided to gamble on a dangerous treatment in which the affected area is attacked with strong medication that destroys all the diseased cells. The great danger in this treatment is that it also destroys the good antibodies and many people die of this protocol. And yet, they had no other way to treat me.

“Since I was unconscious, they asked my parents for permission to carry out this treatment. They informed my parents that this could not be postponed and every minute was critical. If they did not give me the proper treatment, and if this was in fact an infection of the kidney, my condition would be irremediable. They wanted to begin treatment as soon as possible.

“My parents did not know what to do. Since this was a life and death matter, they continued to vacillate. It was a Thursday night. They were asked to make a final decision that same night and on Friday, the doctors prepared to begin treatment.

“A good friend of my father, Rabbi Yosef Helfinger of Yerushalayim, was staying with my parents at the time. He is a Lubavitcher Chassid, and when he saw my father’s dilemma, he suggested that he consult with the Rebbe. My father, who was not religious, did not understand why the Rebbe would know more than the doctors. He wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, but since this was a critical decision and he had nothing to lose, he agreed to ask the Rebbe. That same evening, a fax marked ‘urgent’ was sent to the Rebbe with the details of the medical situation.

“The Rebbe’s answer arrived a few hours later. It said not to give the treatment and I would recover. My father told the doctors the Rebbe’s answer. They did not understand how he could rely on some bearded rabbi living in New York.

“The unbelievable happened. After Shabbat a new CT scan showed that I was not suffering from what they had feared. My parents turned white when they found out that if they had given me the treatment on Friday, I would no longer be alive.

“In light of the new findings, I underwent a complicated operation, after which my condition continuously improved. A while later, my parents were informed that I was out of danger. It took a little while longer until I regained full consciousness. Within a few weeks I was healed of my wound and released from the hospital. You see me here, still not religious, but I had an open miracle with the Rebbe and thanks to the Rebbe I am here with you. I am full of appreciation and thanks to the Rebbe who saved my life.”

The man, a clinical psychologist, has been living with his family in India for nine years now. He and his wife run an organic farming plantation, which has thousands of volunteers passing through every year. Every Friday they hold a meal for several hundred people in which they explain the principles of ecological naturalism. They have influenced thousands of people around the world.

As we spoke, I learned that their family name is Ruzhin and that they are descendants of the Tzaddik of Ruzhin. I told the family about the close relationship between Chassidus Chabad and Chassidus Ruzhin and they were interested in hearing some stories about the Ruzhiner Rebbe.

Before the Ruzhin family left on their exhausting trip back home, we gave them a picture of the Rebbe as well as mezuzos. The father, who was very moved, said he would hang the picture in the foyer of his home and would tell everyone who came that he owes his life to this man.

After eleven years on shlichus in Dharamsala during which we have met tens of thousands of Jews, I am always amazed to see how the Rebbe touches everyone. If only we learned from this man and honestly say that it is only thanks to the Rebbe that we are alive!



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