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  • The Promise, The Miracles, The Faith, The Victory

    Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the Rebbe’s shliach in California, racked up $18,000,000 in debt in the wake of his ambitious work, but had no way of paying it back • After the Rebbe “gave it to him over the head,” he was given a clear promise that it would all be paid up, but the realization of the promise took many years… • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, Beis Moshiach

    “I’d like to share what happened to me several decades ago” Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the Rebbe’s first Shliach to the State of California, related at a Chassidishe farbrengen in 770.  “It was my personal battle with myself when the Rebbe promised me things, but the galus-reality placed unceasing tests before me in order to get me to despair.

    “In the end, as always, the Rebbe’s promise was fulfilled, against the odds. I was galvanized by the story and its message: even when the reality seems exactly the opposite, we must cling to what the Rebbe said and believe with pure faith that not one word of his words will fall short.”

    ***

    CONQUERING CALIFORNIA

    It all began when some time after my wedding I went on shlichus to California. In those days, the entire concept of shlichus was not yet a major “thing.”

    I remember my first yechidus as a shliach and I will never forget the special things I heard from the Rebbe at that time. The main theme was that I was supposed “to conquer all of California.” I took the Rebbe literally and got to work, in a way of l’chatchile ariber. Not long after, the first Chabad House already had a few branches in California, we started schools and various organizations and the work of “Lubavitch in California” became a byword.

    The impetus to develop additional branches can be credited to the 11 Nisan farbrengen of 5732, marking the Rebbe’s seventieth birthday, when the Rebbe asked for 71 new mosdos. After that farbrengen, I wrote to the Rebbe and said I committed to ten percent, i.e. seven new mosdos.

    A year later, on 11 Nissan 5733, I went to the Rebbe with twelve new mosdos we had built during that year in a supernatural way.

    The tremendous success brought along with it huge debt which did not allow us to continue to expand. At first, we managed somehow; we rolled over monies from bank to bank and continued opening Chabad Houses and mosdos while ignoring the debt piling up. However, the sums continued to swell until we reached the point when we owed 18 million dollars to forty banks, which did not stop pressuring us to pay up as they began foreclosure proceedings on building after building.

    EVEN A MIRACLE IS NOT ENOUGH

    At the 13 Nissan farbrengen of 5743, which I attended, the Rebbe began speaking about the special quality of the day, how it was the hilula of the Tzemach Tzedek and the day that the Rebbe Maharash’s nesius began. The Rebbe Maharash is known for the motto l’chatchile ariber.

    Then the Rebbe began to say the following words that ring in my ears till this very day:

    “When speaking about l’chatchile ariber, skipping over and jumping in a way that goes beyond measure and limitation, this should not be interpreted incorrectly. There are those who latched on to this and began acting in a way that is suited to the world of tohu, i.e. ariber in a way that cannot be measured at all! For example, borrowing large sums of money for matters of kedusha. There is no way, even miraculously, that the money can be paid back. Therefore, it must be clarified that the proclamation of l’chatchile ariber needs to be done in accordance with the world of tikkun and not in a way that is apropos for the world of tohu

    “Those who behaved in a way of l’chatchile ariber completely beyond the rules of the world of tikkun, on a practical level, since he meant well, surely Hashem will help him so he can pay his debts and in a manner of increase, and he should be blessed. Nevertheless, from now on, he needs to know that the approach of l’chatchile ariber needs to be done in a way suited to the world of tikkun.”

    The Rebbe went on to say that of course this does not mean, as those who are mistaken think, that the conduct needs to be in a way of constraint; surely the avoda needs to be done in a way of skipping over and jumping in a manner that is above and beyond. However, despite this, it needs to be part of the world of tikkun because the avoda of tohu does not pertain to us and surely one should not make it into a regular approach.

    To tell you the truth, I left the farbrengen in a tumult. On the one hand, I felt guilty for not having done things properly. I didn’t know where to bury myself. What was I supposed to do now? I was upset with myself. On the other hand, the Rebbe saying “surely Hashem will help him so he can pay his debts and in a way of increase,” gave me a feeling of confidence. At least as far as the money went I did not have to worry and I would be able to pay back everything.

    I still remember those days following the farbrengen. I would get up in the morning and go outside to find the means through which I would receive the Rebbe’s bracha. I would ask the passersby if they have 18 million dollars for me … They looked at me as though I was crazy but I didn’t care. I was full of emuna and bitachon that if the Rebbe said I would repay my debts, that I would be successful.

    Some more time went by and the situation only got worse. With each passing day the banks foreclosed on more properties and additional problems plagued the Chabad House from one day to the next. It was a galus that is hard to describe.

    CHALLENGE OF FAITH

    On one of those dark days, when my confidence in what the Rebde said did not waver, not even for a moment, I heard knocking at my door. I was so tired that I had no strength to get up and see who was knocking. If the person hadn’t persisted on knocking, he would have remained outside.

    At the door was a former guest of ours who wanted to talk to me. I brought him in and he began telling me his sad life story up to the tragic deaths of his wife and only daughter.

    “I lost all desire to live,” he said bitterly. “My wife and daughter were my whole life and after their deaths I felt alone, bereft of emotion, joy, energy and the will to go on. I sat and waited passively for the next day when I would return my soul to my Maker. Then, from heaven they sent me to be a guest in your house and to hear encouraging words from you.

    “You should know that only thanks to the encouragement I heard from you then, am I alive today. As an expression of my appreciation, I want to make a large donation. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it with your banks and you continue working with calm and peace of mind,” he said in a confident tone.

    I recalled what the Rebbe said. Here, finally, was the miracle! I was thrilled and immediately called the Rebbe’s office to tell the Rebbe about it.

    You probably think the story is over but it is just beginning. That man really wanted to help me but he didn’t have the money and all his promises were no more than wishful thinking.

    Despite the unpleasantness involved, this did not erode my trust in what the Rebbe said. The next morning, I got up, as usual, full of emuna and bitachon in the Rebbe’s bracha that I would pay off my debts. As I did at that time, I put on  tallis and tefillin, closed my eyes, and began joyfully singing, “Sheyibaneh Beis Ha’Mikdash” and “Napoleon’s March” before shacharis.

    The phones did not stop ringing. They were all pressuring me, I was facing terrible hardships but I was not fazed. I stood and sang “Napoleon’s March” with absolute trust. I felt that the Rebbe was giving me supernatural kochos to stand strong and believe in him.

    IS IT A MIRAGE OR A MIRACLE?

    Months went by and years did too. In the meantime, the situation only got worse. Creditors hounded me, the banks foreclosed on properties and I maintained absolute trust that the Rebbe’s bracha would be fulfilled.

    At that time, I would call the secretaries every day to report on the situation. The days that I didn’t call for some reason, Rabbi Chodakov would call and say: The Rebbe asks why you didn’t call today.

    That period of time was exceedingly difficult. Days passed and things just got worse. The debts ballooned and the faith and confidence of the first period (after the sicha) took on a whole new significance. The yetzer ha’ra tried to overcome me with thoughts of sadness and depression and I fought with all my might not to give in. I would sit in the office and wait for that golden pipeline that would be the conduit for the Rebbe’s bracha.

    One day, as I pondered the situation, someone came into the office and introduced himself as top executive in one of the most important banks in the United States.

    “I support educational institutions around the world,” said the banker. “I heard about your tough situation and I want to help you get out of debt.”

    This time, I wasn’t as quick to believe and I asked him for identifying details in order to check that this wasn’t an illusion (or delusion). I thoroughly checked him out and verified what he told me. This Jewish man was, in fact, a senior executive in that bank and he had what to offer.

    Would the miracle occur this time? I didn’t know.

    We sat down to talk and I told him the chain of events and the 18 million dollars I owed. He listened and then said, “R’ Shlomo, you have nothing to worry about! From now on, I am responsible for the material side of your work and you for the spiritual side.”

    I was skeptical whether he really wanted to help me. Maybe only his intentions were good. I had been burned and I was cautious but after a few days passed, I saw that he was serious.

    He brought a team of people who came and went, investigated, took documents, lists, notes, and every piece of information related to the matter. It looked as though finally, we were at the end and the miracle was going to happen. Of course, I was very happy and in my heart I already thanked Hashem for the miracle that was about to happen.

    I went with this banker to the Rebbe’s Purim farbrengen to thank him for the big miracle. I usually did not sit on the farbrengen platform but this time, when I came with this distinguished person, I had to sit behind the Rebbe and be on the row of dignitaries. I had never dared to consider approaching the Rebbe in the middle of a farbrengen but this was another story. This was “the Rebbe’s business” and this was no place for me to insert my personal feelings.

    In the middle of the farbrengen, between sichos, I went over to the Rebbe with this man and said, “L’Chaim Rebbe, this is the big miracle you promised!”

    The Rebbe smiled, looked at the man and blessed him, “May you have a tranquil life.”

    I was stunned. I thought, is this the bracha one gives someone about to donate 18 million dollars? I realized something was amiss.

    The next day, I called this banker to ascertain whether everything was all right. He wasn’t in his office and his secretary was on the line.

    “Hello, this is Shlomo Cunin. I wanted to find out what’s happening with the donation of 18 million dollars.”

    Silence.

    “Hello? This is Shlomo Cunin. What is happening with the donation?”

    Then I heard the secretary say, “Donation? It’s a loan! With guarantors and everything that goes with that.”

    I dropped the phone and felt dizzy.

    I could picture my creditors pressing me to pay, the banks threatening properties and in my heart I cried out, “Rebbe! I have no more strength! I believe and trust in you but how much can I take?”

    That banker apparently did not know about my conversation with his secretary and the next day he came, as usual, to my office. I was ready for him and made it clear to him that the Rebbe had promised me a miracle and I had thought he was that miracle, but it seemed that Hashem wanted to test me further to see whether I believed in Him.

    He was a bit taken aback to hear my fantasies and tried to explain that he only meant for my good but I wasn’t interested. I told him, “Thank you very much for your good intentions but I’ve already taken loans and no benefit will come to me from speaking to you, so goodbye.”

    THE REBBE ON THE LINE

    The next morning, I got up for shacharis, wrapped myself in tallis and tefillin and tried to sing, “Sheyibaneh” with the same joy that I had until then but I felt that I couldn’t do it. I began to say the words and my tears flowed. I sang and cried, I davened and cried. I knew that the Rebbe is with me but I couldn’t go on.

    I won’t forget the “Sheyibaneh” of that morning, with mixed feelings of despair and bitterness as well as hope and bitachon.

    After shacharis, I called R’ Chodakov and said, “I am generally a believer, I generally operate with simcha and bitachon. I generally know that when the Rebbe promises, he delivers. But …” And I began to cry like a child. I poured out my heart and said to him that as hard as it was for me, I knew that the Rebbe could bring about what he promised and I could not remain silent. I was asking and pleading, from the depths of my heart, that the Rebbe have mercy on me and help me.

    The conversation ended. A minute went by that felt like an eternity. Then the phone rang. R’ Chodakov was on the line.

    “I was just by the Rebbe and since you cried and screamed so much, the Rebbe said to ask what you want.”

    I realized that the Rebbe was also on the line and when I heard this phrase, I knew it was an auspicious time and I could not squander it on side things like debt. I said that I wanted the Rebbe to take us out of galus.

    I suddenly heard the Rebbe’s voice, “Aha, and what else do you want?”

    This was the only time that I was able to hear the Rebbe’s voice on the phone.

    I was dumbstruck for a moment, but from the tone I understood that this was an auspicious time so I said I wanted the Rebbe and Rebbetzin to be healthy.

    Then R’ Chodakov asked me by instruction of the Rebbe whether I knew the story of Elisha and the empty vessels. I said I did.

    “What empty vessels do you have?” asked the Rebbe.

    I suggested some fundraising possibilities but the Rebbe wasn’t satisfied. I finally said, “I have two feet and I walk with them with simcha and bitachon that the Rebbe will fulfill his promise. As for me, I will do all I can to find the miracle.”

    The end of that phone conversation actually took place a while later when I was at the Rebbe and asked that the empty vessels be filled and “and pay your creditors” would be fulfilled.

    The Rebbe added the rest of the verse, “and you and your children will live on the rest [of the money].”

    PLEASE DON’T TEST ME ANY MORE

    I did as I told the Rebbe and went about on my two feet with emuna and bitachon that the Rebbe would fulfill his promise. I went from house to house and spoke to people and asked them to help me. I had many stories, lots of divine providence, but was unable to raise the large sums that I needed.

    One time, I entered one of the finest houses in the neighborhood. The lady of the house, who knew me from before, asked me to sit down. She began telling me her tzaros and said she no longer wanted to live and was about to commit suicide. I tried lifting her spirits and to dissuade her from her plan. I spoke to her for hours and hoped I was successful.

    A long time passed and I had forgotten the story and continued seeking the miracle that the Rebbe promised me. In the meantime, the debts grew and the situation was worse than ever.

    At that time, my daughter became engaged and was about to be married. It was the Thursday night before the aufruf which took place in 770. I was getting ready to make the trip to New York when I got a phone call from one of the shluchim in California.

    “Rabbi Cunin, if you don’t want your creditors to throw rocks at your daughter’s chuppa, do yourself a favor and make the wedding outside of California.”

    I was surprised by his lack of emuna. I exclaimed, “Where is your emuna? How can a shliach talk like that? You, just like me, heard the Rebbe’s promise at the farbrengen!”

    I ended the conversation and felt that I was alone in battle. I was afraid that if things went on like this, I would also start talking like him. Who knew whether, in a situation so dire, my emuna would prevail? How long could I bear this terrible suffering?

    My head felt heavy and collapsed onto my two hands and I began to cry without restraint. Deep in my heart I uttered a silent prayer to Hashem: Please, do not test me any more. My strength is dwindling. How much longer can I take this? How much longer can I believe and trust?

    MASSIVE POSTHUMOUS ENDOWMENT?

    My son-in-law came in the next day and told me that there was someone who was following the developments with that woman I had visited a few months earlier. He said that the woman had died and left a third of her wealth to Chabad.

    I looked tiredly at my son-in-law and said in an annoyed tone, “Do me a favor … I don’t have the strength to hear any more about inheritances. I had enough in the past dealing with people’s fantasies. Let me continue what I was doing.”

    My son-in-law understood my emotional state and said, “Shver, years have passed since the Rebbe’s promise. Nearly all of us have lost faith and you are the only one who has been encouraging us. You breathed life into our emuna. For such a long time you spoke with bitachon and simcha that the Rebbe’s words would come to pass. And now, when the miracle is about to happen, you give up?!”

    He got through to me and I felt that maybe this time it was something serious. My thoughts went to the shliach who had spoken with a lack of faith, as well as to the Rebbe’s promise that “and you and your children will live on the rest.”

    My daughter’s wedding passed uneventfully and right after the wedding I went to work on the woman’s inheritance. I went to her husband to find out how I could go about converting the properties that the woman left into cash, but he looked at me as though I was crazy.

    “Are you nuts? You think you’re going to get something from the inheritance? My wife wrote the will a few hours before she committed suicide and legally, her words have no standing. You cannot get anything!”

    I explained the tough situation we were in and about the Rebbe’s blessing but he insisted I wouldn’t get a nickel. I tried to get through to him and he finally agreed to get rid of me for a million dollars.

    I told him, “I’m not willing to compromise on at least 18 million plus a few more million (to fulfill what the Rebbe said ‘and your children will live on the rest’).”

    When he saw that I was serious, he got angry about my big demands and began screaming at me until he threw me out of the house. From that day, he began to wage a real war against all of Lubavitch in California. We decided to sue him in court, and a date was set for the case in the near future.

    THE REBBE SENDS ME BACK TO COURT

    It was the winter of 5748. I was busy with the sefarim that were located in Russia. I was in Russia at the time and we decided we weren’t leaving without the sefarim and manuscripts that were held captive there.

    While I was working on the sefarim, I got a phone call from the lawyer in California who urgently insisted that I come back home.

    “The case is about to begin and it cannot move forward without your being here.”

    I told him, “With all respect and appreciation for the case, I will not leave Russia without the sefarim.”

    He began screaming at me that I was neglecting the entire issue and it was only to my detriment but nothing he said helped. I stuck to my guns. I told him that as far as I was concerned he could handle the case alone.

    A few minutes after that conversation, I got a phone call from the secretaries. It was R’ Groner on the line.

    “I have an important notice for you. The Rebbe said to return immediately for the court case.”

    I realized there was no way out and said I would go home right after Shabbos.

    THE REBBE SALUTED

    When I arrived Sunday morning at JFK, I immediately called the secretaries to announce that I was in New York. They told me that the Rebbe had not yet come down to daven. I grabbed the first taxi I saw and headed for 770.

    After I entered 770, the Rebbe came down and it was apparent that he was unusually happy. I spent many moments with the Rebbe but I had never seen such simcha in 770. The Rebbe walked down the long path toward his place and strongly encouraged the singing. Everyone felt it was an auspicious time. When the Rebbe came close to me he stopped, stood tall, looked at me and saluted while smiling broadly.

    Even when the Rebbe got to his place, he continued to encourage the singing for a long time and 770 was “on wheels.” I was in mourning for my mother and I went over to lead the davening with a Yom Tov tune.

    After the davening, I had yechidus which was a yechidus of Simchas Torah.

    FAITH REALIZED

    Right after the yechidus, I traveled to California for the opening of the case. The entire case proceeded in a totally miraculous fashion, and the Rebbe was involved throughout. Outside, a mitzva tank printed hundreds of Tanyas. It is no wonder that a long series of miracles accompanied us every step of the case.

    According to the natural order of things, we should have sustained a big loss since, legally, what the husband told me was correct. The woman wrote the will within the time that she was not of sound mind, but we saw open miracles. He brought various witnesses and, incredibly, they were all found to be unqualified to testify.

    Nobody could understand what was happening. When the case reached its conclusion, the judge asked me how much we were supposed to get, I told him the whole story and he wanted to issue a ruling for 20 million. We immediately called the Rebbe’s house, for the Rebbe was sitting shiva for Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and the Rebbe said we should not suffice with 20 million.

    In the end, we left the courthouse with 21 million dollars: 18 million to pay off debts and another three million to fulfill what was promised “and you and your children will live with the rest.”

    IF WE WILL BELIEVE, WE WILL SEE

    These days, when on the one hand, the Rebbe’s words “hinei, hinei Moshiach ba” ring in our ears but, on the other hand, the darkness increases, this story teaches us an important lesson in emuna. Even when another day goes by and another day and it seems like nothing is happening, and sometimes the tzaros just increase so that the darkness of galus conceals our father, our shepherd, we need to know that not one word of the Rebbe will fall short.

    If the Rebbe’s promises to individuals are completely fulfilled, all the more so when the Rebbe promised the world in a clear prophecy that the events will come to pass and he will redeem us. However, it takes time. We can hasten the Geula while, at the same time, believe that what the Rebbe said will come true.

    Now, in these final moments of galus, we need to lift ourselves up a bit, to believe and trust in every word of the Rebbe, with the main thing being to do everything in our power to bring the message of Geula to the entire world, even to the most far-flung corner of the world.

    Let’s not stint on “empty vessels,” and very soon we will merit not only to pay the debts, but “and you and your children will live on the rest.”■

    me several decades ago” Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the Rebbe’s first Shliach to the State of California, related at a Chassidishe farbrengen in 770.  “It was my personal battle with myself when the Rebbe promised me things, but the galus-reality placed unceasing tests before me in order to get me to despair.

    “In the end, as always, the Rebbe’s promise was fulfilled, against the odds. I was galvanized by the story and its message: even when the reality seems exactly the opposite, we must cling to what the Rebbe said and believe with pure faith that not one word of his words will fall short.”

    ***

    CONQUERING CALIFORNIA

    It all began when some time after my wedding I went on shlichus to California. In those days, the entire concept of shlichus was not yet a major “thing.”

    I remember my first yechidus as a shliach and I will never forget the special things I heard from the Rebbe at that time. The main theme was that I was supposed “to conquer all of California.” I took the Rebbe literally and got to work, in a way of l’chatchile ariber. Not long after, the first Chabad House already had a few branches in California, we started schools and various organizations and the work of “Lubavitch in California” became a byword.

    The impetus to develop additional branches can be credited to the 11 Nisan farbrengen of 5732, marking the Rebbe’s seventieth birthday, when the Rebbe asked for 71 new mosdos. After that farbrengen, I wrote to the Rebbe and said I committed to ten percent, i.e. seven new mosdos.

    A year later, on 11 Nissan 5733, I went to the Rebbe with twelve new mosdos we had built during that year in a supernatural way.

    The tremendous success brought along with it huge debt which did not allow us to continue to expand. At first, we managed somehow; we rolled over monies from bank to bank and continued opening Chabad Houses and mosdos while ignoring the debt piling up. However, the sums continued to swell until we reached the point when we owed 18 million dollars to forty banks, which did not stop pressuring us to pay up as they began foreclosure proceedings on building after building.

    EVEN A MIRACLE IS NOT ENOUGH

    At the 13 Nissan farbrengen of 5743, which I attended, the Rebbe began speaking about the special quality of the day, how it was the hilula of the Tzemach Tzedek and the day that the Rebbe Maharash’s nesius began. The Rebbe Maharash is known for the motto l’chatchile ariber.

    Then the Rebbe began to say the following words that ring in my ears till this very day:

    “When speaking about l’chatchile ariber, skipping over and jumping in a way that goes beyond measure and limitation, this should not be interpreted incorrectly. There are those who latched on to this and began acting in a way that is suited to the world of tohu, i.e. ariber in a way that cannot be measured at all! For example, borrowing large sums of money for matters of kedusha. There is no way, even miraculously, that the money can be paid back. Therefore, it must be clarified that the proclamation of l’chatchile ariber needs to be done in accordance with the world of tikkun and not in a way that is apropos for the world of tohu

    “Those who behaved in a way of l’chatchile ariber completely beyond the rules of the world of tikkun, on a practical level, since he meant well, surely Hashem will help him so he can pay his debts and in a manner of increase, and he should be blessed. Nevertheless, from now on, he needs to know that the approach of l’chatchile ariber needs to be done in a way suited to the world of tikkun.”

    The Rebbe went on to say that of course this does not mean, as those who are mistaken think, that the conduct needs to be in a way of constraint; surely the avoda needs to be done in a way of skipping over and jumping in a manner that is above and beyond. However, despite this, it needs to be part of the world of tikkun because the avoda of tohu does not pertain to us and surely one should not make it into a regular approach.

    To tell you the truth, I left the farbrengen in a tumult. On the one hand, I felt guilty for not having done things properly. I didn’t know where to bury myself. What was I supposed to do now? I was upset with myself. On the other hand, the Rebbe saying “surely Hashem will help him so he can pay his debts and in a way of increase,” gave me a feeling of confidence. At least as far as the money went I did not have to worry and I would be able to pay back everything.

    I still remember those days following the farbrengen. I would get up in the morning and go outside to find the means through which I would receive the Rebbe’s bracha. I would ask the passersby if they have 18 million dollars for me … They looked at me as though I was crazy but I didn’t care. I was full of emuna and bitachon that if the Rebbe said I would repay my debts, that I would be successful.

    Some more time went by and the situation only got worse. With each passing day the banks foreclosed on more properties and additional problems plagued the Chabad House from one day to the next. It was a galus that is hard to describe.

    CHALLENGE OF FAITH

    On one of those dark days, when my confidence in what the Rebde said did not waver, not even for a moment, I heard knocking at my door. I was so tired that I had no strength to get up and see who was knocking. If the person hadn’t persisted on knocking, he would have remained outside.

    At the door was a former guest of ours who wanted to talk to me. I brought him in and he began telling me his sad life story up to the tragic deaths of his wife and only daughter.

    “I lost all desire to live,” he said bitterly. “My wife and daughter were my whole life and after their deaths I felt alone, bereft of emotion, joy, energy and the will to go on. I sat and waited passively for the next day when I would return my soul to my Maker. Then, from heaven they sent me to be a guest in your house and to hear encouraging words from you.

    “You should know that only thanks to the encouragement I heard from you then, am I alive today. As an expression of my appreciation, I want to make a large donation. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it with your banks and you continue working with calm and peace of mind,” he said in a confident tone.

    I recalled what the Rebbe said. Here, finally, was the miracle! I was thrilled and immediately called the Rebbe’s office to tell the Rebbe about it.

    You probably think the story is over but it is just beginning. That man really wanted to help me but he didn’t have the money and all his promises were no more than wishful thinking.

    Despite the unpleasantness involved, this did not erode my trust in what the Rebbe said. The next morning, I got up, as usual, full of emuna and bitachon in the Rebbe’s bracha that I would pay off my debts. As I did at that time, I put on  tallis and tefillin, closed my eyes, and began joyfully singing, “Sheyibaneh Beis Ha’Mikdash” and “Napoleon’s March” before shacharis.

    The phones did not stop ringing. They were all pressuring me, I was facing terrible hardships but I was not fazed. I stood and sang “Napoleon’s March” with absolute trust. I felt that the Rebbe was giving me supernatural kochos to stand strong and believe in him.

    IS IT A MIRAGE OR A MIRACLE?

    Months went by and years did too. In the meantime, the situation only got worse. Creditors hounded me, the banks foreclosed on properties and I maintained absolute trust that the Rebbe’s bracha would be fulfilled.

    At that time, I would call the secretaries every day to report on the situation. The days that I didn’t call for some reason, Rabbi Chodakov would call and say: The Rebbe asks why you didn’t call today.

    That period of time was exceedingly difficult. Days passed and things just got worse. The debts ballooned and the faith and confidence of the first period (after the sicha) took on a whole new significance. The yetzer ha’ra tried to overcome me with thoughts of sadness and depression and I fought with all my might not to give in. I would sit in the office and wait for that golden pipeline that would be the conduit for the Rebbe’s bracha.

    One day, as I pondered the situation, someone came into the office and introduced himself as top executive in one of the most important banks in the United States.

    “I support educational institutions around the world,” said the banker. “I heard about your tough situation and I want to help you get out of debt.”

    This time, I wasn’t as quick to believe and I asked him for identifying details in order to check that this wasn’t an illusion (or delusion). I thoroughly checked him out and verified what he told me. This Jewish man was, in fact, a senior executive in that bank and he had what to offer.

    Would the miracle occur this time? I didn’t know.

    We sat down to talk and I told him the chain of events and the 18 million dollars I owed. He listened and then said, “R’ Shlomo, you have nothing to worry about! From now on, I am responsible for the material side of your work and you for the spiritual side.”

    I was skeptical whether he really wanted to help me. Maybe only his intentions were good. I had been burned and I was cautious but after a few days passed, I saw that he was serious.

    He brought a team of people who came and went, investigated, took documents, lists, notes, and every piece of information related to the matter. It looked as though finally, we were at the end and the miracle was going to happen. Of course, I was very happy and in my heart I already thanked Hashem for the miracle that was about to happen.

    I went with this banker to the Rebbe’s Purim farbrengen to thank him for the big miracle. I usually did not sit on the farbrengen platform but this time, when I came with this distinguished person, I had to sit behind the Rebbe and be on the row of dignitaries. I had never dared to consider approaching the Rebbe in the middle of a farbrengen but this was another story. This was “the Rebbe’s business” and this was no place for me to insert my personal feelings.

    In the middle of the farbrengen, between sichos, I went over to the Rebbe with this man and said, “L’Chaim Rebbe, this is the big miracle you promised!”

    The Rebbe smiled, looked at the man and blessed him, “May you have a tranquil life.”

    I was stunned. I thought, is this the bracha one gives someone about to donate 18 million dollars? I realized something was amiss.

    The next day, I called this banker to ascertain whether everything was all right. He wasn’t in his office and his secretary was on the line.

    “Hello, this is Shlomo Cunin. I wanted to find out what’s happening with the donation of 18 million dollars.”

    Silence.

    “Hello? This is Shlomo Cunin. What is happening with the donation?”

    Then I heard the secretary say, “Donation? It’s a loan! With guarantors and everything that goes with that.”

    I dropped the phone and felt dizzy.

    I could picture my creditors pressing me to pay, the banks threatening properties and in my heart I cried out, “Rebbe! I have no more strength! I believe and trust in you but how much can I take?”

    That banker apparently did not know about my conversation with his secretary and the next day he came, as usual, to my office. I was ready for him and made it clear to him that the Rebbe had promised me a miracle and I had thought he was that miracle, but it seemed that Hashem wanted to test me further to see whether I believed in Him.

    He was a bit taken aback to hear my fantasies and tried to explain that he only meant for my good but I wasn’t interested. I told him, “Thank you very much for your good intentions but I’ve already taken loans and no benefit will come to me from speaking to you, so goodbye.”

    THE REBBE ON THE LINE

    The next morning, I got up for shacharis, wrapped myself in tallis and tefillin and tried to sing, “Sheyibaneh” with the same joy that I had until then but I felt that I couldn’t do it. I began to say the words and my tears flowed. I sang and cried, I davened and cried. I knew that the Rebbe is with me but I couldn’t go on.

    I won’t forget the “Sheyibaneh” of that morning, with mixed feelings of despair and bitterness as well as hope and bitachon.

    After shacharis, I called R’ Chodakov and said, “I am generally a believer, I generally operate with simcha and bitachon. I generally know that when the Rebbe promises, he delivers. But …” And I began to cry like a child. I poured out my heart and said to him that as hard as it was for me, I knew that the Rebbe could bring about what he promised and I could not remain silent. I was asking and pleading, from the depths of my heart, that the Rebbe have mercy on me and help me.

    The conversation ended. A minute went by that felt like an eternity. Then the phone rang. R’ Chodakov was on the line.

    “I was just by the Rebbe and since you cried and screamed so much, the Rebbe said to ask what you want.”

    I realized that the Rebbe was also on the line and when I heard this phrase, I knew it was an auspicious time and I could not squander it on side things like debt. I said that I wanted the Rebbe to take us out of galus.

    I suddenly heard the Rebbe’s voice, “Aha, and what else do you want?”

    This was the only time that I was able to hear the Rebbe’s voice on the phone.

    I was dumbstruck for a moment, but from the tone I understood that this was an auspicious time so I said I wanted the Rebbe and Rebbetzin to be healthy.

    Then R’ Chodakov asked me by instruction of the Rebbe whether I knew the story of Elisha and the empty vessels. I said I did.

    “What empty vessels do you have?” asked the Rebbe.

    I suggested some fundraising possibilities but the Rebbe wasn’t satisfied. I finally said, “I have two feet and I walk with them with simcha and bitachon that the Rebbe will fulfill his promise. As for me, I will do all I can to find the miracle.”

    The end of that phone conversation actually took place a while later when I was at the Rebbe and asked that the empty vessels be filled and “and pay your creditors” would be fulfilled.

    The Rebbe added the rest of the verse, “and you and your children will live on the rest [of the money].”

    PLEASE DON’T TEST ME ANY MORE

    I did as I told the Rebbe and went about on my two feet with emuna and bitachon that the Rebbe would fulfill his promise. I went from house to house and spoke to people and asked them to help me. I had many stories, lots of divine providence, but was unable to raise the large sums that I needed.

    One time, I entered one of the finest houses in the neighborhood. The lady of the house, who knew me from before, asked me to sit down. She began telling me her tzaros and said she no longer wanted to live and was about to commit suicide. I tried lifting her spirits and to dissuade her from her plan. I spoke to her for hours and hoped I was successful.

    A long time passed and I had forgotten the story and continued seeking the miracle that the Rebbe promised me. In the meantime, the debts grew and the situation was worse than ever.

    At that time, my daughter became engaged and was about to be married. It was the Thursday night before the aufruf which took place in 770. I was getting ready to make the trip to New York when I got a phone call from one of the shluchim in California.

    “Rabbi Cunin, if you don’t want your creditors to throw rocks at your daughter’s chuppa, do yourself a favor and make the wedding outside of California.”

    I was surprised by his lack of emuna. I exclaimed, “Where is your emuna? How can a shliach talk like that? You, just like me, heard the Rebbe’s promise at the farbrengen!”

    I ended the conversation and felt that I was alone in battle. I was afraid that if things went on like this, I would also start talking like him. Who knew whether, in a situation so dire, my emuna would prevail? How long could I bear this terrible suffering?

    My head felt heavy and collapsed onto my two hands and I began to cry without restraint. Deep in my heart I uttered a silent prayer to Hashem: Please, do not test me any more. My strength is dwindling. How much longer can I take this? How much longer can I believe and trust?

    MASSIVE POSTHUMOUS ENDOWMENT?

    My son-in-law came in the next day and told me that there was someone who was following the developments with that woman I had visited a few months earlier. He said that the woman had died and left a third of her wealth to Chabad.

    I looked tiredly at my son-in-law and said in an annoyed tone, “Do me a favor … I don’t have the strength to hear any more about inheritances. I had enough in the past dealing with people’s fantasies. Let me continue what I was doing.”

    My son-in-law understood my emotional state and said, “Shver, years have passed since the Rebbe’s promise. Nearly all of us have lost faith and you are the only one who has been encouraging us. You breathed life into our emuna. For such a long time you spoke with bitachon and simcha that the Rebbe’s words would come to pass. And now, when the miracle is about to happen, you give up?!”

    He got through to me and I felt that maybe this time it was something serious. My thoughts went to the shliach who had spoken with a lack of faith, as well as to the Rebbe’s promise that “and you and your children will live on the rest.”

    My daughter’s wedding passed uneventfully and right after the wedding I went to work on the woman’s inheritance. I went to her husband to find out how I could go about converting the properties that the woman left into cash, but he looked at me as though I was crazy.

    “Are you nuts? You think you’re going to get something from the inheritance? My wife wrote the will a few hours before she committed suicide and legally, her words have no standing. You cannot get anything!”

    I explained the tough situation we were in and about the Rebbe’s blessing but he insisted I wouldn’t get a nickel. I tried to get through to him and he finally agreed to get rid of me for a million dollars.

    I told him, “I’m not willing to compromise on at least 18 million plus a few more million (to fulfill what the Rebbe said ‘and your children will live on the rest’).”

    When he saw that I was serious, he got angry about my big demands and began screaming at me until he threw me out of the house. From that day, he began to wage a real war against all of Lubavitch in California. We decided to sue him in court, and a date was set for the case in the near future.

    THE REBBE SENDS ME BACK TO COURT

    It was the winter of 5748. I was busy with the sefarim that were located in Russia. I was in Russia at the time and we decided we weren’t leaving without the sefarim and manuscripts that were held captive there.

    While I was working on the sefarim, I got a phone call from the lawyer in California who urgently insisted that I come back home.

    “The case is about to begin and it cannot move forward without your being here.”

    I told him, “With all respect and appreciation for the case, I will not leave Russia without the sefarim.”

    He began screaming at me that I was neglecting the entire issue and it was only to my detriment but nothing he said helped. I stuck to my guns. I told him that as far as I was concerned he could handle the case alone.

    A few minutes after that conversation, I got a phone call from the secretaries. It was R’ Groner on the line.

    “I have an important notice for you. The Rebbe said to return immediately for the court case.”

    I realized there was no way out and said I would go home right after Shabbos.

    THE REBBE SALUTED

    When I arrived Sunday morning at JFK, I immediately called the secretaries to announce that I was in New York. They told me that the Rebbe had not yet come down to daven. I grabbed the first taxi I saw and headed for 770.

    After I entered 770, the Rebbe came down and it was apparent that he was unusually happy. I spent many moments with the Rebbe but I had never seen such simcha in 770. The Rebbe walked down the long path toward his place and strongly encouraged the singing. Everyone felt it was an auspicious time. When the Rebbe came close to me he stopped, stood tall, looked at me and saluted while smiling broadly.

    Even when the Rebbe got to his place, he continued to encourage the singing for a long time and 770 was “on wheels.” I was in mourning for my mother and I went over to lead the davening with a Yom Tov tune.

    After the davening, I had yechidus which was a yechidus of Simchas Torah.

    FAITH REALIZED

    Right after the yechidus, I traveled to California for the opening of the case. The entire case proceeded in a totally miraculous fashion, and the Rebbe was involved throughout. Outside, a mitzva tank printed hundreds of Tanyas. It is no wonder that a long series of miracles accompanied us every step of the case.

    According to the natural order of things, we should have sustained a big loss since, legally, what the husband told me was correct. The woman wrote the will within the time that she was not of sound mind, but we saw open miracles. He brought various witnesses and, incredibly, they were all found to be unqualified to testify.

    Nobody could understand what was happening. When the case reached its conclusion, the judge asked me how much we were supposed to get, I told him the whole story and he wanted to issue a ruling for 20 million. We immediately called the Rebbe’s house, for the Rebbe was sitting shiva for Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and the Rebbe said we should not suffice with 20 million.

    In the end, we left the courthouse with 21 million dollars: 18 million to pay off debts and another three million to fulfill what was promised “and you and your children will live with the rest.”

    IF WE WILL BELIEVE, WE WILL SEE

    These days, when on the one hand, the Rebbe’s words “hinei, hinei Moshiach ba” ring in our ears but, on the other hand, the darkness increases, this story teaches us an important lesson in emuna. Even when another day goes by and another day and it seems like nothing is happening, and sometimes the tzaros just increase so that the darkness of galus conceals our father, our shepherd, we need to know that not one word of the Rebbe will fall short.

    If the Rebbe’s promises to individuals are completely fulfilled, all the more so when the Rebbe promised the world in a clear prophecy that the events will come to pass and he will redeem us. However, it takes time. We can hasten the Geula while, at the same time, believe that what the Rebbe said will come true.

    Now, in these final moments of galus, we need to lift ourselves up a bit, to believe and trust in every word of the Rebbe, with the main thing being to do everything in our power to bring the message of Geula to the entire world, even to the most far-flung corner of the world.

    Let’s not stint on “empty vessels,” and very soon we will merit not only to pay the debts, but “and you and your children will live on the rest.”

    *

    The magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org

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  • Event Calendar

  • Tuesday, Oct 27th, Wedding – Shlome Wolvovsky – CH & Rochel Leah Matusof – Madison, WI @ Oholei Torah
  • Thursday Oct 29th Wedding: Devorah Bennish – Detroit & Mordechai Rubin – London @ Royalty House, MI
  • Sunday, Oct 25th, Sholli Miller – Chicago, IL & Batya Korf – Miami Beach, FL @ Bais Rivka 310 Crown Street
  • Thursday, Oct 22 Wedding: Chaim Boruch Bar-Chaim – CH & Shoshana Pimentelli – CH/TX @ Oholei Torah
  • Thursday, Oct 22 L’Chaim: Sruli Finck – CH & Chaya Mangel – Dayton, OH @ Chovevei Torah 885 Eastern Parkway
  • Tuesday, Oct 20th Wedding: Dovid Kaminetzky – Melbourne, AU & Chaya Okunov – Crown Heights @ Oholei Torah
  • Monday Oct 19 L’Chaim: Ari (Aaron) Levertov – Crown Heights & Debby Rabinowicz – Sao Paulo, Brazil @ Choivevey Torah
  • Monday, Oct 19 2015 Wedding: Mendy Zippel – Salt Lake City, UT & Fraidy Shagalov – Crown Heights @ Oholei Torah
  • Sunday 18th Oct. L’Chaim: Chananya Niassoff – CH & Tzirl Brennan – CH @ Bais Rivkah Crown St
  • Sunday Oct 18th – Wedding: Mendy Edelman – Crown Heights & Sara Lozenik – Miami, FL @ Oholei Torah
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  • Lost and Found

  • Lost Men’s Heavy Black Winter Jacket Size Large in 770
  • Lost in 770 before Pesach, a black Bradley Jons long coat size 38R. No lining and no belt. Almost brand new! Please call zalman at 347-788-0749
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  • LOST: in 770 a black Lenovo Intel core i5 laptop in a dark grey laptop bad together with a WD hard drive, if found please call Zalmy 347-788-0749
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  • Lost: Box with Mini Shas from YSP
  • Lost: Rose Gold Bangle/Bracelet
  • Classifieds

  • Cook position for a local Mosad
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  • Administrator for a local Mosad Experience a must, and preferbiligual a bonus poconosmountains@gmail.com
  • Looking for a cook/kitchen manager Experience a must. poconosmountains@gmail.com
  • ‘Beis Mosiach’s’ to give away for free
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  • Looking for Work? Opportunity available, for a quick & efficient typist in Williamsburg. For more info: 201-800-1774
  • Lost in 770 Last Week: Transparant Bag of Tefillin, Rashi, R”T, Chitas – in black/grey 770 pouches