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The Rebbe Answers
by Rabbi David Zizuv

The following story happened in 1980, shortly after my wedding. I wanted to spend at least two years studying Torah. We lived in Jerusalem and I studied in the Tzemach Tzedek Kollel in the Old City, while my wife completed her degree in education. Our plan was that after two years, we’d move to a town in Israel to work in Jewish outreach.

A few months after our wedding, my parents mentioned to me that our rent payments were very high, and they suggested that we purchase our own apartment. Instead of paying rent, we could be using the money to pay down our mortgage.

We began our search for an apartment to buy in Jerusalem. However, with all our efforts we could not find a suitable apartment at a price we could afford. We decided to expand our search to other cities in Israel. We began our search in Beersheba, the city where I grew up, where housing prices were lower. Within a few days we found a beautiful apartment, and we also found tenants to rent it while we continued to live in Jerusalem.

After a year, it became clear that we could no longer afford to live that way. The rent that I received from the apartment we bought in Beersheba was much less than the rent I owed for our apartment in Jerusalem. We decided to change our original plan and move out of Jerusalem a year earlier.

During that period, I was approached by Rabbi Menachem M. Lieberman, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s emissary in Ashkelon, who asked me to help him establish a program of Torah lectures in his town. The offer was a good one, but I felt that the time was still not ripe for me to leave my studies. I decided to write up my hesitations and questions in a letter, and send it to the Rebbe for his advice.

While I was still writing the letter, I received a call from the Chabad House in Beersheba. The Rabbi there offered me a position to teach in the mornings in the local Chabad school, and to work in outreach in the afternoons. The offer captivated me, since I had always been drawn to the teaching field, not to mention that we already owned an apartment in Beersheba. Which offer should I accept? Naturally, I would let the Rebbe decide. Now I had to rewrite the letter to the Rebbe presenting my two options, and for some reason I kept pushing it off.

A few weeks passed and the lease on my apartment in Jerusalem was almost up. The landlord pressured me to let him know within a few days if we planned to renew the lease for another year. I knew I had to make a decision fast. I figured that in the short time the landlord gave me, I would not have time to wait for a response from the Rebbe regarding which position to choose. Fax machines had not yet been invented. In our home, as in many homes in Israel at the time, we did not even have a telephone.

For a day I went about in confusion, not sure which way to turn. Suddenly, I remembered a story of the famed chassid Rabbi Mendel Futerfas. While in a Communist prison, he had a strong desire to send a letter to the Rebbe, something completely impossible in his situation. What did he do? He closed his eyes and meditated for a while. He visualized himself composing the letter, and then standing in front of the Rebbe and handing him the letter.

A few days later, his wife, who had been fortunate enough to leave Russia and settle in London, received a letter from the Rebbe. In the margins, the Rebbe wrote that her husband’s letter had been received and would be read at the resting place of his father-in-law, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. Reb Mendel’s wife could not understand how her husband had managed to write a letter. Many years later, after her husband had left Russia and was reunited with his family, he found the letter and the mystery was solved.

I decided to use the same approach. I dressed in my Shabbos best, put on my gartel (prayer belt) and stood opposite a picture of the Rebbe. I read chapters of Tehillim, put several coins into the charity box, and asked the Rebbe to please send me an answer to my dilemma…

Today, when we do not see the Rebbe and all our communication with him is through “spiritual” means, this story might not seem so unusual. At the time, though, what I was doing was quite unconventional.

The next morning I woke up with a strong feeling that everything would be okay. That evening, when I returned home after my day’s studies, my wife told me that Rabbi Ephraim Wolf, one of the most respected Chabad chassidim in Israel, had called her parents’ home (as we had no phone) and asked that I get in touch with him as soon as possible.

I could not imagine what he wanted from me. I went to the public phone that was nearby and called the number I had been given. As soon as he heard my name, Rabbi Wolf yelled into the phone, “Where are you? I’ve been looking for you all day!”

To my surprise, he told me that he had received a call that day from the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Binyamin Klein, who had given over to him several urgent messages from the Rebbe to various people, including me.

“I did not know how to reach you, but next to your name the Rebbe had written ‘Ashkelon.’ I therefore called Rabbi Lieberman in Ashkelon, and he gave me the number to call,” said Rabbi Wolf.

I received my answer from the Rebbe, in a most unequivocal fashion…



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