Fogelman Sings Rebbe Story
By Menachem Zigelbaum
Translated by Mendel Metzger
Around forty three years have passed since the following Heavenly story happened. Apparently it is never been told until now.
One day during the winter of 5735, the beloved and unique personality, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner appeared in 770. He had arrived for a visit, to be in the shelter of the “holy wings”, and to draw new energy to continue his work as a Shliach, in distant Australia. This was his yearly custom, as it is the custom of every Chassid and Shliach.
At the conclusion of his visit, he entered into into the Rebbe’s holy chamber for Yechidus, where he requested the Rebbe’s blessing prior to returning to Australia. In response, the Rebbe directed him to travel home through “the country of India”, meaning that he should arrange his journey home to include a stopover in India.
As a faithful Chassid, Rabbi Groner did not ask any questions. He called the travel agent and requested that he arrange a new plane ticket.
Immmediately afterwards he entered the offices of the Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos, where the esteemed director Rabbi Zalman Chanin was sitting at the time.
Rabbi Groner addressed the man sitting behind the table, “R. Zalman, do you perhaps have some english tranlations of Sichos for me ? Then Rabbi Groner opened up, and told his friend that he had just received a directive from the Rebbe to make a stopover in India. “I have no idea as to what and why, but it is clear to me that if I am there, I must do something for the good of the Jews. Do you have any copies of Sichos in english, so I can leave them there”?
Without giving it much thought, R. Zalman pulled out from behind the boxes, the pamphlet,
“A Thought for the Week”. “Have these Rabbi Groner”, and he handed him a nice quantity of pamphlets. “Take a large amount of pamphlets. It is impossible to know what the Rebbe’s mission is, and who you will meet on the way. You will at least have enough material in english to give to whoever needs it.
Rabbi Groner organized the bundle of pamphlets, and before he left, he mumbled, either to himself or to R. Zalman, “ go know the Rebbe’s agenda. What do I have to do in India? I know this because I have been there many times on may way to Australia. But if the Rebbe says, one must implement. (If he only knew that a time would come that there would be around twenty active and bustling Chabad Houses, scattered across the breadth of India).
When he arrived in India, he requested the taxi driver to take him to the local Shul in Bombay, where he met many Jews who were part of the local Jewish community. A shliach like Rabbi Groner would not waste his time, so he a delivered a speech to the small group of Jews, and he encouraged them to study Torah and fulfill the Mitzvos.
Before leaving, he left the english “A Thought for the Week” pamphlets in the Shul.
A few months passed, and a letter was dropped in the mailbox of the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos. The letter was written by a Jewish woman from Arizona in the United States. “Please, would it be possible to receive from you the address of any Chabad Chassid who resides in India” ?
Rabbi Chanin, who received the letter, wondered about the meaning of the request. He knew that in the entire Indian subcontinent there was not even one Chabad Shliach. Furthermore he wondered, why would a woman from Arizona in the United States, need the address of a Chabad chassid that lives in distant India?
His sense of responsibility as a Chabad Chassid, did not allow him to discard the letter. He called the phone number given in the letter, to find out why the woman needs the address of a Chabad Chassid in India. If she is need of Spiritual assistance, perhaps he could help her in another way.
It was easy to hear the emotional tone in the woman’s voice. She was happy that the letter reached it’s destination, as well as for the attempt to help her.
In response to Rabbi Chanin’s question, the unidentified woman opened up, and related that her son had abandoned home in a state of anger. His youthful age began to show it’s signs, and apparently he desired to become independent. The conflicts and fighting between him and his parents, led him to the decision to abandon home. It had already been a long period of time that she did not know where he was. She only knew that he had traveled to a distant place. She related in a trembling voice, “since he left home more than a year ago, he did not contact us even once. He did not even write letters, his footsteps simply vanished”.
As is known, in those days there were no cell phones, and all the advanced methods of communication did not even exist in the imagination. A person that did not have a landline phone, was simply cut off from the world. “Suddenly, I received a letter from him” the mother continued to relate with emotion. “In his letter he related that a few days before, he went with his friends to the sea to have a good time. After spending some time in the water, he ascended to the shore to rest a bit. However, the sun came out and began to blind him. He instinctively stretched his arm out to find something to cover his face, and he found a paper with print on it, and he placed it on his eyes. He hoped to close his eyes for a while, when suddenly the thought flickered in his mind that the pamphlet he had just found was printed in english.
English? How did this english pamphlet reach the coast of India? He wondered to himself. He sat up alertly, and he began to leaf through the pamphlet. Indeed, it is a pamphlet in english. “How did an english pamphlet get here”, he mumbled to himself in disbelief, “who here even understands the language”?
He began to read the pamphlet, and opposite his stunned eyes, he read a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, regarding a Jewish holiday called Pesach Sheni- Second Passover. The Rebbe, who he did not know, explained the central theme of the holiday- there is no situation that is lost. For every situation, every person, and every way, there is hope. Even for a person whose conduct was inappropiate, the Jewish holiday Pesach Sheni-Second Passover teaches, that it is not lost, and it is possible to rectify the wrong.
“The Rebbe’s words entered into my son’s heart”, the mother continued to relate to Rabbi Chanin on the phone.“They caused tremendous emotion within him. He felt that something was moving within him. He suddenly had feelings of longing for home, after being disconnected for over a year”. Here the mother even quoted a segment of his letter to them. “You are American born, where do you think you are going?! You are a Jew, you do not truly belong to India, you belong to where you’re parents belong”.
The emotional mother continued to talk:
“I have no idea how this pamphlet reached India. I cannot succeed in understanding how it came about that it reached the coast where my son was lying. Deep in my heart I feel that this is a message from heaven, that reached him specifically, so that he would return to himself, and to his family. This is what caused him to write to us.
In his letter he included the address of the publisher of the pamphlet, and he requested that I contact you and ask how you knew to send pamphlet with the message specifically to him. He also added that the Rebbe’s words do not let him rest, and he would very much like to speak to a Rabbi in India regarding how he should conduct himself until the time he leaves India for home.
I quickly did as my son requested, and I decided to send you my letter, in an attempt to connect my son with a Chabad Chassid that lives in India, in order that this will influence him to return to good, to his home, and to his people”.
The mother’s voice on the phone, was breaking from emotion. “I beg you”, she urged Rabbi Chanin, “help me save my son, to take him out of there, and to return him to the family”!
As mentioned, the Chabad Houses that are scattered all over India, did not exist during those years. Rabbi Chanin gave her the phone numbers and addresses of the Shluchim in countries near India, because perhaps they would be able to help the son who decided that “it is never lost”, and who knows the secret of the ways of G-d.
Two long months passed, and the phone rang again in the offices of the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos. The woman from Arizona was on the phone, “am I speaking with Rabbi Chanin” she asked with caution.
“You have no idea how much you helped me with the addresses, and mainly what you’re pamphlet that reached all the way to India accomplished. It literally saved my son, and brought him back into the heart of the family”. Rabbi Chanin immediately identified the situation, and he listened very intently.
The woman continued to relate that she is obliged to express her gratitude for the help that he provided. In a good and auspicious time, her son returned home, and he has begun to take interest in Judaism. In the brief time that has passed, he has changed his lifestyle from one extreme to the other. At present he is in contact with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s representatives in Arizona, and he frequently visits the Chabad center. “The main thing is that I got my son back”, she said, and it was impossible to miss her emotional tone of voice.
Since then there was no contact between the family and Rabbi Chanin, and he does not know what happened to the young man after that. What he did know, was sufficient to be eternally aware, that a regular person cannot understand the things that the Rebbe sees across great distances.
The next year, when Rabbi Groner arrived in 770, Rabbi Chanin approached him, and told him the full story. A radiance of delight came over his face. “I will say it to you again” he told Rabbi Chanin. “Go know the things that the Rebbe accomplishes. What do I have to do in India, but if the Rebbe sends to there- one must fulfill without questions. By fulfilling the Rebbe’s directive, we succeeded in awakening another Jewish soul in a place that ‘no man has dwelled there’ ”.
(The writer expresses his gratitude to Rabbi Zalman Chanin who shared this story).