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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Light and Joy

It was Shabbat, Parshas Balak 5751 (1990). The main Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn was packed with chassidim during the Rebbe’s farbrengen (gathering). Suddenly, in the middle of the singing, the Rebbe smiled broadly at a young businessman, Ami Pykovski, sitting in a corner and talking to a chassid. Ami noticed the Rebbe looking at him and returned the smile. The Rebbe raised his hand in an encouraging motion and Ami began clapping enthusiastically. This went on for some time. Ami clapped vigorously and the Rebbe continued to watch him with a smile, all the while raising his hands in joyous motions, indicating to Ami to continue what he was doing.

To this day, Ami gets all excited when he remembers those moments.

“Suddenly, I found myself among thousands of chassidim, clapping my hands enthusiastically like a child, and smiling all the while.”

Ami got an even bigger surprise that Sunday. As was then the custom, Ami passed by the Rebbe and received a dollar to give to charity, and the Rebbe said to him, “The songs during the farbrengen should accompany you in all matters. Be happy, especially at work.” Then the Rebbe said a line that left him stunned, “Thank you for helping me yesterday with the dancing. This dollar is for the dancing on Shabbos.” The Rebbe had encouraged him with joy and then gave him a dollar for helping him!

This particular interaction is just one example of the exceptional relationship that Ami Pykovski, who later became a Lubavitcher Chassid, had with the Rebbe.

Ami’s connection with Chabad began through occasional meetings with Rabbi Binyomin Lisbon of Los Angeles, who knew Ami over thirty years ago. Every so often, he was in touch with Ami as part of his work in reaching out to businessmen in Los Angeles.

At some point, Ami traveled to the Far East to meet with the manager of a jeans company.

“Until then, I was always particular not to eat pork in business meetings and I fully intended to stick to this rule of mine on this trip too. However, after signing the contract, he invited me to a restaurant where I inadvertently ate pork. Although at the time I did not understand the significance of keeping kosher, I felt I had crossed a red line. I went back to my hotel room and suddenly felt nauseated. That night I vomited and felt awful. I returned to Los Angeles and was very upset and regretful about what had happened.

“A few weeks later, I decided to fly to Israel on business. I told Rabbi Lisbon and said I wanted to meet with a serious rabbi and talk to him. Rabbi Lisbon said, ‘In New York there is a person that is the switch for the entire world – the Rebbe.’ We agreed that I would visit 770 during my stopover in New York.

“Before I flew to New York, I sat in the airport and wrote a letter to the Rebbe. I told him about myself in brief and asked for a blessing for a number of personal matters. It did not occur to me to mention the incident in the Far East, even though it was constantly on my mind.

“I arrived in 770 on Friday morning. I knocked at the office door and told the Rebbe’ secretary, Rabbi Binyomin Klein, that I had come to meet with the Rebbe. He explained that this was not possible, but he asked me to leave my letter for the Rebbe and a telephone number at my host’s home. He said he would call as soon as he had an answer from the Rebbe for me.

“When I arrived at the house, I felt exhausted. I felt very weak and collapsed on the couch and fell into a deep sleep. A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was Rabbi Klein who said, ‘An answer came out already.’ He asked me to take a pen and paper and to write down the Rebbe’s answer which was: be careful about the kashrus of food.

“I was stunned. I hadn’t written to the Rebbe about what happened and yet the Rebbe responded to precisely what had been on my mind. Rabbi Klein added: Before continuing to Eretz Yisroel, come here because the Rebbe wants to give you three dollars for you to give to charity.”

That is how Ami’s relationship with the Rebbe began.


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