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An Appreciative Student

Reb Yehuda Schwartz, a Chabad Chassid in France, was a truck driver for a meat importing firm in Paris, owned by Daniel Amram, a fellow Chabad Chassid. One day, he was driving a large truck that his boss had just bought second-hand from a well-known used car company.

Reb Yehuda sensed something was wrong as soon as he began the trip; the brakes and steering wheel seemed to be unusually stiff. He dismissed his fears, however, telling himself that it was probably because the truck had been refurbished before sale. 

Near the end of the day, he was riding on a bridge high above a river, at about 50 miles per hour. As he approached a traffic light, he began to brake, but when he pushed on the pedal it just sank limply to the floor and stayed there. He had no brakes!

There were cars in front of him. He tried downshifting, but he was going downhill too fast. In a second he would plow into the car in front of him. To the left was oncoming traffic; there was no time to lose. He had to act fast to avert a disaster.

Reb Yehuda grabbed the steering wheel, yelled “Shema Yisroel” and, at the last moment, turned the truck sharply to the right. The truck swerved crazily and shook, hit the curb and flew into the air. Yehuda’s safety belt held him down but he bounced wildly as the truck plowed through the railing and arched over the water. In a second he would plunge into the cold, murky current far below -- he could almost feel the impact.

But the truck didn't fall; it just hovered in mid-air, and remained that way until help arrived.

The next day, all the newspapers in France carried the picture of his truck, balanced like a seesaw on the edge of the bridge, halfway through the railing over the water.

It was a miracle, but an expensive one. The city of Paris presented the truck owner, Daniel Amram, with the bill. Damages to the bridge were over ten thousand dollars, the towing was another thousand and the traffic ticket another thousand -- not counting the damages to the truck.

Daniel was used to miracles and was thankful for this one too -- but now he was angry. That used-car dealer had signed and sworn that the truck was in perfect working order. Daniel took him to court.

A week later, Daniel appeared in court for the pre-trial hearing accompanied by his lawyer. It wouldn't be an easy case. He would have to prove that the brakes were faulty when they bought the truck, but he was ready for a fight.

The defendant entered the courtroom alone – an elderly, well-dressed gentile. He glanced at Amram as the charges were read. To everyone's surprise, after hearing the charges, the old man turned to the judge and announced that, because he saw the opponents were Chassidic Jews, he agreed to pay all damages, including the fine.

Daniel was amazed; he had never expected such an outcome. The judge and police were so surprised and impressed that they cancelled the fine on the spot. The case was dismissed.

As everyone was leaving the courtroom, the gentile walked over to Daniel and said that he would be willing to have the truck towed to his garage, some three hours away, and fixed at his expense as well. He even offered to pick up Yehuda the driver to return the truck after the repairs were finished.

Daniel could not believe his ears. Afraid that the fellow might change his mind, he just smiled, shook the man's hand, and said “thank you” over and over again.

Three weeks later the old man returned to Paris and picked up Yehuda. About an hour into the ride back to the garage, the car salesman turned to him and asked, “You are a follower of Lubavitch, aren't you? And so is your boss, Mr. Amram. Correct?”

Reb Yehuda answered affirmatively.

“So I thought! Well, how is your great Rabbi Schneerson? I hope he is well.

“Ahh! I see you are surprised. Well, it so happens that I know your Rabbi very well. You see, during the war things were terrible here in France. But I decided that I wouldn't succumb to the insanity and I enrolled in the Sorbonne to study mathematics.

“It was there that I got to know your Rabbi, who was in my class. He was truly a different type of human being. Besides being very polite and charming, he was incredibly intelligent. He didn't speak much, but when he spoke, everyone listened. And the most incredible thing was that he never seemed to listen in class or even look at the lecturer; he was always reading some Hebrew book that was on his lap, but he always knew the answers.

“The classes were very difficult, but in those terrible times our financial situation was worse. In fact, the only way some of us, me included, could make ends meet was by going into the country early every Monday morning and buying baskets of produce that we would sell wholesale to the vendors for market day. But it meant we had to miss the Monday lecture, which was the main lecture of the week.

“The first time your Rabbi Schneerson saw that we were missing class, he took notes for us in great detail and gave them to us when we returned. It was terribly kind and thoughtful of him. In fact, if it weren't for him none of us would have passed.

“At the end of the semester, the final test was so difficult that the professor announced that he would give us five hours to finish instead of the allotted three. We were all surprised when your Rabbi gathered all his papers after a half an hour, put them in the envelope and handed them in.

“Everyone was watching. The professor must have figured that he didn't know the answers so he pulled out the papers and had a look. When he saw they had all been filled out he scoffed aloud and said incredulously to the Rabbi before the entire class, ‘What, were you cheating or is this some sort of sorcery?’

“The Rebbe just looked at him, did not say a word and left the room.

“You can imagine how amazed everyone was when the tests were checked and it was discovered that the Rebbe had answered everything correctly.

“It was the talk of the university. The professor apologized to him and asked if he could please explain how it was humanly possible for him to finish the exam so quickly and accurately.

“I'll never forget the Rebbe's answer. He said, ‘The Jewish people have a book of wisdom called the Talmud. One who learns it properly can understand all answers to the test.’”


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