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To See Again

The Koppells were a traditional Jewish family living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Although the family was not halachically observant, they had a strong Jewish identity and had deep respect for their Jewish faith.

The head of the family, Mr. Eli Koppell, was functionally blind. He had been experiencing pain in his eyes, and eventually ended up in surgery, from which he awoke without any vision at all.

If this were not enough, the family soon experienced another crisis: One of their daughters had become involved with Christian missionaries in college. She had begun to study their teachings, identified with them and had made up her mind to convert, G-d forbid.

The Koppells were at a loss, not knowing where to turn. One day, a newsletter arrived in the mail, the "Chabad Times," a lively paper filled with stories and articles about Judaism. They contacted the publisher of the paper, Rabbi Sholom Ber Kalmanson, emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Cincinnati. Before long, Rabbi Kalmanson invited the family to his home for a Shabbat meal, which they accepted. Even their missionizing daughter agreed to attend, hoping to persuade the Rabbi of the truth of her chosen path.

During that first Shabbat meal, Rabbi Kalmanson engaged their daughter in conversation. She immediately began to extol the virtues of Christianity, and brought forth her most solid arguments to convince him of the veracity of that path. Rabbi Kalmanson heard her out patiently, not attempting to rebut her in any way.

After the Shabbat meal was over, Rabbi Kalmanson invited them to come again. The daughter, who was certain that she had made real inroads with the Rabbi, eagerly accepted. For four weeks she visited him, and each time she shared with him some of the truth and beauty she thought she had found in Christianity. He allowed her to speak each time, until, on the fourth week, after she had spent her entire arsenal of religious polemic, Rabbi Kalmanson began to point out to her the weaknesses in each of her arguments. Slowly and patiently, he tore down the edifice that she had erected in her mind, and instead began to teach her the beauty and eternal truth of the Torah.

Rabbi Kalmanson's careful approach bore fruit, and soon the daughter and her parents began to make real strides in Judaism. The daughter, having been so deeply committed to Christianity, made the most progress: She returned to Judaism and became a proudly Orthodox Jew. Today she is raising a beautiful Chassidic family in Florida.

Several months after the Koppell family's first encounter with Rabbi Kalmanson, their daughter, at the Rabbi's suggestion, sat down to write a letter to the Rebbe. She asked the Rebbe to bless them that in the merit of her return to teshuvah, her father should be healed of his blindness.

Several days later she received an answer from the Rebbe, which included three instructions: 1) The family should place mezuzot on all the doors of their home. 2) The father should begin to lay tefillin every weekday, and 3) he should consult with a doctor who is a friend.

That same day, Rabbi Kalmanson went to the home of the Koppells and put up beautiful mezuzot on all the doors. After putting on tefillin with Eli, he asked him if he knew a doctor that he considered as a friend. Eli replied that yes, he does have a friend that is a doctor, but he has no expertise in vision.

"So what?" answered Rabbi Kalmanson. "Go and consult him. I have no doubt he will have some advice for you. The Rebbe did not suggest that you go to a friend who is a doctor for no reason."

At first, Mr. Koppell's friend indeed did not understand why he was being consulted about his friend's blindness. However, a few months later he called Eli and read him an article that he had recently read in a medical journal, about an ophthalmologist in New York who had developed a new method of treating Eli's condition.

Eli decided that he had nothing to lose. He contacted the doctor mentioned in the article and told his story. The doctor was excited--he explained to Eli that he had developed a new surgical technique. If it was successful, then four weeks later he would implant artificial lenses in his eyes, which would restore 25% of his vision.

Well, 25% is certainly better than nothing. Mr. Koppell saw that he was dealing with a trustworthy doctor, and agreed to the surgery.

The surgery was scheduled to take four hours. On the day of the surgery, Eli's wife waited anxiously outside the operating room. After only twenty minutes, the door burst open, and the doctor ran into his office. Eli's wife wondered anxiously if something had gone wrong. The doctor emerged from his office and went back into surgery.

A short time passed, and the doctor came out of the operating room full of smiles. "It was a phenomenal success! Within twenty minutes we finished a procedure that was supposed to take four hours. Since everything was going so well, there was no need to wait four weeks to implant the artificial lenses. We could do that right away! That's why I went into my office--to get the lenses.bI expected to restore 25% of his vision. In reality, he now has 80% of his vision back. I do not know how to explain this, except that someone from above was holding my hand and carrying out this procedure for me."

That evening, Mr. Eli Koppell celebrated the return of his vision. He did so in the Chabad House, together with the emissary who had brought such blessing to his life--Rabbi Sholom Ber Kalmanson, whom Mr. Koppell was seeing for the first time in his life.


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