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The Rebbe’s Carpenter

Shimon Mishali was born in Rabat, Morocco. In his childhood his family made aliyah to Israel. When he reached high school age, in the 1960's, he was sent to study in the Chabad Trade School in Kfar Chabad, Israel.

During his time in the trade school, Shimon's talents in carpentry were recognized and he was chosen to construct a lectern that the Lubavitcher Rebbe would use for prayer. The suggestion was sent to the Rebbe, who responded with encouragement and blessings. Shimon threw himself heart and soul into this project, determined to create a masterpiece worthy of its destined owner. Before putting the last piece of wood into place, Shimon carved his name in a corner. In his heart he prayed that the Rebbe's prayers should join with his own, and he should merit to build a fine Jewish family and be successful in all his endeavors.

Shimon's prayers bore fruit. His lectern, built over 50 years ago, was used by the Rebbe for many years and still stands in an honored place in the Rebbe's synagogue. In time, Shimon married and established a fine chassidic family. Today he is a proud father of five children and fifteen grandchildren. He also met with success in his work. For many years, until his retirement, he operated a carpentry shop and his reputation for fine craftsmanship spread far and wide.

Shimon merited to receive a number of letters from the Rebbe before various milestones in his life: before his wedding, before the births of his children, etc. But one letter stands out in his memory, because of the miracle associated with it.

It was in 1980, and the Mishalis were celebrating the birth of a new baby boy, whom they named Yehudah Yosef. After his birth a problem was discovered: the baby had craniosynostosis, or premature fusion of the bones of the skull. Normally these bones remain open for the first year of life to allow for proper brain development. If the bones close too early, the brain does not have enough room to grow.

The Mishalis were advised to transfer their baby to the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where doctors had more expertise in their son's condition. They quickly arranged the transfer, and the doctors at Haifa were unanimous in their advice to operate immediately on the baby's head.


Naturally, the parents were quite concerned about the risks of this surgery. Their son was a newborn, only a few days old, and this was a delicate surgery that was said to last eight hours. But there was no choice; the doctors had no other treatment to offer.

The surgery was scheduled for the next day, and Shimon went to pray at the gravesite of Maimonides, which was near his home in Tiberias. After pouring out his heart with a few chapters of Psalms, he headed to the local Chabad center, to write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe requesting his blessing.

It was clear to Shimon that there was no way his letter would reach New York in time for his son's surgery. This was in the days before email or fax. However, he had been taught in his childhood years in Chabad schools that as soon as one writes a letter to the Rebbe, it is received, even before the letter reaches the Rebbe physically.

The next day, when Shimon returned to the hospital in Haifa, he was at peace. He had full trust in G-d that the surgery would go well.

The hospital staff showed Shimon and his wife to a private waiting room near the operating room, to stay during the surgery. The parents spent the next few hours praying fervently for their son's wellbeing. The doctors said that the surgery would take about eight hours. To their surprise, after only three hours the surgeon emerged from the operating room.  

The doctor let out a sigh, and the parents ran to him in alarm. “Doctor, what happened?”

“Everything is fine, thank G-d. The operation was successful,” he smiled. Then the parents understood that the doctor's sigh was one of relief. “G-d has listened to your prayers,” said the doctor warmly.

It transpired that that morning, a premier doctor in pediatric neurosurgery had arrived in the hospital from Hadassah-Ein Kerem. When he heard they were about to operate on the infant, he recommended a different procedure that was both shorter and less risky. The doctors followed his instructions, which is how the surgery was shortened by five hours.

Yehudah Yosef's recovery was swift and uncomplicated, thank G-d. After he was released from the hospital, his parents brought him home and found a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe waiting for them. The Rebbe blessed Yehudah Yosef with a speedy recovery and said he would keep the baby in mind in his prayers.

“But we already knew that our son was blessed,” says Shimon. “We knew that our son's successful surgery and rapid recovery were in merit of the Rebbe.”



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