Baila Brikman, Beis Moshiach
My name is Atarah Shidler, and I’m so excited to tell you one of my father’s incredible stories.
My tatty is a photographer. About four year ago, he had an amazing idea! Right away, he called Mendel, a photographer who worked with him.
“Hey Mendel, have you ever been to Ukraine?”
“Huh? Ukraine?” Mendel didn’t know what Tatty wanted from him!
“You heard me right!” Tatty said. “There are so many kivrei tzaddikim there! Since it’s so far away, barely anyone travels there to daven.” He paused to catch his breath. “Let’s go to Ukraine and daven by these kevarim. Then, we’ll take pictures and videos and share them with other people. Maybe we’ll inspire more Yidden to go!”
Mendel loved the idea. Tatty booked two tickets to Ukraine, and soon enough, they were on their way.
The flight across the Atlantic Ocean was very long, with a few stops along the way! When they finally landed in Ukraine, Tatty couldn’t wait to begin. They traveled to many kivrei tzaddikim, including the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
The second to last stop of their trip was to the Mitteler Rebbe in Niezhin, a two hour drive from Kiev, the capitol of Ukraine. As they drove, the sky grew very dark and they were greeted by a heavy downpour. Powerful thunder boomed overhead and lightning streaked across the sky. It was quite a storm!
Rain pounded on the windshield and mud splattered their tires as they drove to the kever.
A few miles out of the city, the car skidded to a stop. Right before them, in the middle of a soggy, remote field, stood the Mitteler Rebbe’s kever!
They left the car and walked towards it, the muddy earth squelching beneath their feet.
Mendel stayed outside to take videos with his drone, and Tatty walked inside. The room was cold and dark, besides for the glow of a single candle. It must have lost power because of the storm, Tatty realized.
Tatty poured out his heart to the Mitteler Rebbe. After half an hour, he paused. “With the Rebbe’s permission, I would like to bring in my camera,” he said. Then, he went to get his photography equipment from the car.
Uh oh! When he got there, he realized that he had left all his lighting gear behind! How would he take pictures and videos in the dark?
Hoping for the best, Tatty took his camera and went back inside. He fiddled with the settings to try getting some good shots, but the pictures and videos just weren’t coming out! Tatty was so frustrated. They had traveled so far! Why did this have to happen now?
The storm outside picked up speed. Rain came down in heavy sheets, and gusts of wind made the candle flicker. Tatty shivered. Maybe I shouldn’t be here, he felt uneasily. Maybe I shouldn’t be filming in the holy kever of the Mitteler Rebbe.
Tatty closed his eyes and began to speak to the Mittler Rebbe. “Rebbe, I am not doing this for myself,” he said emotionally. “I am doing this for Yidden around the world, for them to see the tziyon of the Rebbe. Please, would the Rebbe allow me to do this for just a few minutes?”
When Tatty opened his eyes, he couldn’t believe what he saw. That very moment, the electricity had turned on! The storm raged on, but the room was brightly lit!
Stunned, Tatty grabbed his camera and got to work. Five minutes later, he had all the pictures and videos he needed. Boruch Hashem, he was finished! He turned to leave…
What?! Tatty stared in shock. The electricity had turned off! Once again, the room was plunged into total darkness, except for the candle’s pale glow.
It was as if the lights had never turned on!
For another hour, Tatty and his friend continued davening and were in the area until it was time to leave. The lights remained off the entire time, except for those five minutes.
Tatty left the kever on a high. The Mitteler Rebbe had helped them succeed in their shlichus! Immediately, Tatty sent a whatsapp to all his friends about what just happened. “You see,” he finished off. “When you do things for the right reasons, you get special brachos!”
After their last stop at the Alter Rebbe, Tatty and Mendel boarded their flight back to America. Tatty was sad that their time in Ukraine was up, but he knew that he’d come back soon. Sure enough, a few years later, he once again found himself traveling across the Atlantic Ocean.
When Tatty arrived in Ukraine, he hired a non-Jewish driver named Vova to take him around. As they drove, Tatty told Vova what had happened by the Mitteler Rebbe’s kever, as well as other miracles he’d experienced from being at the kevarim.
What happened next shocked him.
“You know,” Vova said casually. “I pray by these holy places, too.”
Tatty stared at Vova in surprise. A non-Jew, davening by the kivrei tzaddikim? “Why do you go?”
“I’ve been driving people around Ukraine for the last twenty years,” Vova explained. “Each time I drive Jewish people to the holy resting sites of their Rabbis, they tell me amazing stories.”
Vova laughed. “At first, I didn’t believe such miracles could happen. But then, I decided to try it out. My wife and I didn’t have children for three years, and we really wanted a child.”
“We live in Uman,” Vova continued, “and my wife is the doctor there. She helps all the Jews that need medical treatment when they come, but we needed a ‘doctor’ of our own! We went to the resting site of the holy Baal Shem Tov and asked for a blessing. A few months later, after years of waiting, my wife became pregnant with our son!”
Tatty was stunned. “How old is he now?” Tatty asked.
“Wow! Have you ever gone again?”
“Sure!” Vova said proudly. “When my son was born, I went to thank the holy rabbi! These days, I go whenever I have a problem. Recently, I had an issue with my leg. It was getting worse, so I went to ask for a blessing.”
“And?” Tatty leaned forward.
“It stopped getting worse!”
“The Baal Shem Tov gave me my child and my health,” Vova said emotionally. “Each time I go, all my desires and wishes come true. That is the power of the Rebbe!”
Tatty thanked Vova warmly for sharing his story. He was blown away that a non-Jewish Ukrainian felt such a strong bond with the Baal Shem Tov! When Vova dropped him off at the airport, their farewell was bittersweet.
I learned so much from my father’s trip. Now I know that when I daven at a tzaddik’s kever, the tzaddik is right there with me, listening to every word I say!
The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh taught us (in Parshas Chayei Sarah) that tzaddikim never pass away, not even their bodies. Even though we can’t see them, they are with us now more than ever, showering us with brachos and bringing us closer to Hashem. Whenever I face a challenge, I turn to our Rebbeim. They always find a way to help me!
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