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Struck Dumb

Yitzchak Meir was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, shortly after the end of World War II. When he was a year old, his parents made aliya to Israel, not long after the state was established.

Yitzchak spent his childhood in the cities of Rehovot and Jaffa. At that time Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria tried to stay together and live in the same neighborhoods.

During the Six-Day War, Yitzchak served in the Golani brigade and fought in the north, against the Syrian army. After completing his army service, as many young Israelis do, he set out in the world to make his fortune. He found himself in the African country of Nigeria, and tried to earn a living in the hotel industry.

However, a revolution in Nigeria caused most foreign businessmen to flee, including those for whom Yitzchak worked. A friend of his in Brooklyn, Yitzchak Mordechai, had recently opened a business, and invited Yitzchak to come to the United States to work with him as a partner.

Thus Yitzchak Meir found himself living, for the first time, in a religious Jewish community, in Boro Park, Brooklyn. For several years Yitzchak  lived side-by-side with the chassidim of Boro Park but never felt himself a part of their community.

At a certain point Yitzchak began to feel an inner emptiness. He gave serious thought to leaving the United States and returning to Israel, to settle down and start a family near to his parents. However, he was worried that in Israel he would be unable to earn as comfortable a livelihood as he did in the States.

One day, while walking in the street, Yitzchak was approached by four religious young men. They asked him if he was Jewish and offered him the opportunity to put on tefillin. One of them was very direct: “We can see on your face that something is bothering you. Go to the Rebbe. He can help you solve the problem.”

The young man, naturally, was referring to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His tone of absolute conviction made an impression on Yitzchak. However, it was not enough to convince him to actually visit the Rebbe. At that point he was far from any form of Jewish observance, and the thought of approaching a rabbi for moral assistance was extremely strange to him.

For several days after that encounter, Yitzchak thought matters over. He decided that if he would encounter those rabbinical students again, this would be a heavenly sign for him to accept their suggestion and go to the Rebbe. Indeed, a few weeks later he met the four of them again on the street.

This was during a period when the Rebbe would receive people in his office for a private audience (yechidut). The students brought Yitzchak to the Rebbe's secretary and helped him arrange an appointment. They told Yitzchak to write all his requests in a letter and hand it to the Rebbe when he appeared for the audience. “We'll wait for you in the hall,” they said.

The moment Yitzchak entered the Rebbe's room, he felt himself grow numb and couldn't get a word out of his mouth. The Rebbe spoke to him in Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent, which was unfamiliar to Yitzchak. He could not quite understand what the Rebbe was saying. But when he left the Rebbe's room, his rabbinical friends assured him that the Rebbe had blessed him and matters would soon become clear.

Yitzchak found himself falling under the Rebbe's spell and soon became a regular visitor at the Rebbe's shul at 770 Eastern Parkway. At one point there were never less than 2-3 days between visits. Yitzchak could not get enough of seeing the Rebbe's face. He enjoyed participating in chassidic gatherings which lasted for hours, although he did not understand a word of the Rebbe's talks, which were delivered in Yiddish.

At the same time, Yitzchak increased his observance of Torah and mitzvot. Many Chabad chassidim opened their homes to him and invited him for Shabbat and holidays. Their support and encouragement went a long way to keep Yitzchak moving along on the path to full observance.

At the age of 35, after many unsuccessful efforts to find a match, Yitzchak decided to ask the Rebbe for his blessing. It was on Sunday, when the Rebbe would distribute dollars for charity and blessings. Yitzchak stood in line with hundreds of people. When his turn came, however, just as it was by his yechidut, he found himself unable to utter a word.

The Rebbe spared him the need to ask for what he wanted. The Rebbe anticipated his request and blessed him to find his intended wife...

Three weeks later, Yitzchak was introduced to his future wife, an Israeli woman, daughter of Holocaust survivors. Four months later they celebrated a joyous wedding.

Yitzchak and his wife hoped to have children immediately, but several years passed with their dream unfulfilled. Once again Yitzchak presented himself to the Rebbe to ask a blessing. This time he managed to get the words out of his mouth.

The Rebbe gazed at Yitzchak with a fatherly look and gave him a blessing. He added that the couple should study carefully the laws of taharat hamishpachah, governing the relationship between husband and wife. Yitzchak and his wife did so, and his wife also had an additional merit: she immersed in the mikvah shortly after the Rebbe had used it.

Ten months later, their daughter was born. They named her Rivka, after Yitzchak's mother.


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