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The Dollar Finds Its Home

In 1989, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union, a Jewish revolution was already underway in the Communist-ruled countries. After decades of underground work to keep the embers of Judaism alive, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries experienced a lightening of the Russian attitude. For the first time that year, the Russian-Jewish aid organization Ezras Achim of New York sent rabbinical students to large cities in Russia and Ukraine, where they carried out their activities publicly among the Jews of the city.

One of those students was Rabbi Velvel Butman, who today serves as the Rebbe's emissary in Westchester County, New York. Velvel is a descendant of the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe. His father, Rabbi Shmuel, is the head of the Lubavitch Youth Organization of New York and also directs an organization for descendants of the Alter Rebbe. During a phone call, Rabbi Butman mentioned to Velvel that in just a few days would be the 24th of Tevet, the day of the passing of the Alter Rebbe. "It would be appropriate to find a way to travel to the gravesite of your ancestor in Haditch and pray there."

Velvel, naturally, was happy to carry out his father's suggestion. He explained that the best day for him would be the upcoming Thursday, the 21st of Tevet, three days before the yahrtzeit. "On Saturday night, the eve of the 24th of Tevet, I will call you to let you know how it went."

That Saturday night, Rabbi Butman was planning his annual gathering for descendants of the Alter Rebbe. Rabbi Butman thought that the next day, the 24th of Tevet, he would pass the Rebbe, who used to distribute dollars for charity and blessings every Sunday morning. He would report to the Rebbe about the annual gathering and also about his son's trip to the Alter Rebbe's resting place.

When Rabbi Butman returned home after the annual gathering, it was already very late. He waited by the phone for a little while, but his son did not call, and finally he fell into a deep sleep. The next morning, Rabbi Butman heard from his family members that Velvel had indeed called and told them that he had been to the Alter Rebbe's gravesite, had prayed there and also made a siyum, completion, of the book of Tanya, authored by the Alter Rebbe.

As planned, the next morning Rabbi Butman stood before the Rebbe to receive a dollar. When his turn came, he told the Rebbe about the gathering, as well as his son's visit to Haditch and the siyum he had arranged there.

As if he didn't hear the last remark, the Rebbe replied, "It's a shame. He could have made a siyum there!" The Rebbe then added, "Nu, surely he will do it another time."

That evening, the Rebbe's cryptic words became clear. Velvel called his parents again, and Rabbi Butman asked him to relate again what happened when he visited Haditch. Velvel said that he had learned the first few lines of Tanya, not the last ones also, as his family had mistakenly assumed.

Since the Rebbe had said that Velvel would certainly arrange a siyum some other time, Rabbi Butman told his son to go back to Haditch on the upcoming Thursday, and to learn the first and last chapter of Tanya.

That Sunday, Rabbi Butman went before the Rebbe again and told him that the siyum had been arranged as the Rebbe instructed. The Rebbe said, "Thank you," and gave Rabbi Butman an extra dollar for his son. As Rabbi Butman was leaving, the Rebbe called him back. "Surely your son traveled with someone else," he said, and gave an extra dollar for him, too.

As it turned out, Velvel had traveled to Haditch with a friend, Ruby New, who today serves as the Rebbe's emissary in Florida.

Rabbi Butman took the two dollars and put them into a drawer in his office, intending to give them to Velvel and his friend as soon as they got back from Russia. For some reason, however, the transfer never took place. The dollars remained in the drawer for 11 years.

In June of 2000, Rabbi Butman was looking for something in his office and opened that drawer. Suddenly, he found the two dollars from the Rebbe, which had lain there for so long. He decided that it was time to give the dollars to their intended recipients. He called his son Velvel, who was in the next room, and gave him the two dollars. "One of these is for Ruby," he reminded his son.

Two days later, on the 3rd of Tamuz, Ruby New arrived from Florida to New York in honor of the Rebbe. Velvel met him and reminded him of their trip to Russia 11 years earlier. "Do you remember that the Rebbe gave my father two dollars for us? Well, the time has come for you to receive yours," he said with a smile, handing Ruby the dollar.

Rabbi New's face paled. "I can't believe it," he whispered. "I just prayed that the Rebbe should give me a sign that he is with me in Florida, in my mission to disseminate Judaism. Suddenly, you 'land' in front of me to hand me this dollar..."

 

 


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