Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Short Story of the Previous Rebbe

Aviv Keller, 93, a life-long resident of Rosh Pina, tells a story as if it happened yesterday. Despite his advanced age, Keller thinks clearly, articulates well, and remembers every detail of what happened 83 years ago. It was during the summer of 1929. The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, made then a rare visit to Israel.

The official aim of the visit was to pray at the graves of the righteous. Among other things, the Rebbe visited Tsfat, Meiron, Tiveria, Chevron, Bnei Brak, Petach Tikva, and more. The visit to the Cave of Machpelah in Chevron preceded the Arab pogrom by a few days.

Keller's story is a revelation, for never had it been logged into any official Chabad document.

On his trip to Tsfat, on the Yahrtzeit of the Arizal, the Rebbe's car broke down, forcing the driver to stop over at Rosh Pina. The place was next to Keller's uncle. "We had a family custom of gathering at my uncle's to have tea together," recalls Keller. "One day, when we sat and spoke calmly, a large car stopped here, a model that we never saw. One of the wheels had a problem, and they started to deal with it."

Keller continues: "Meanwhile, a respectable rabbi gets out of the car, and with him are about ten chassidim. We did not know him, but my grandfather, who merited to study in yeshiva as a youngster, said confidently, 'That's the Rebbe of Lubavitch', even though he never laid eyes on him before, but he did read the newspaper that reported the Rebbe's visit to Israel. I was 10 years old, but I remember every detail. This was an unusual incident."

The Rebbe introduced himself and asked if this was a Jewish family. "My grandfather ran to the doorway and pointed to the mezuzah, saying: 'Of course we are Jews'. He invited the Rebbe to enter the house. The Rebbe asked to pray Minchah, the afternoon prayer, and we joined him. After the prayer, my uncle gave the Rabbi a cup of tea. The Rebbe wore a long coat, made of special fabric.

"I remember as a kid I tried to touch the Rebbe, and he looked at me with a smile. Before leaving the house, he blessed grandfather with longevity, and turned too to look at each family member. The words of his blessing were, 'Live long lives and you should be healthy.'The blessing came true and still holds true", Keller says with a smile. "My uncle died at the age 96; grandfather died at 92; Grandmother outlived grandfather, and I, bli ayin hara, should live as long as God Almighty provides for me".

A Short Story of the Rebbe

Rabbi Nathan Vogel, an English jeweler, was a chassid of Chabad. In anticipation of the Rebbe's 70th birthday, the chassidim worked hard to establish many new institutions, as a birthday gift to the Rebbe. Accordingly, Rabbi Vogel himself decided to set up an institution.

He then started up a school for orthodox Jewish young men, one that teaches the art of setting diamonds. Among his students were also young men of Satmar persuasion. Rabbi Vogel then entertained thoughts it might be better to turn the school into a Chabad institution.

He traveled to the Rebbe and presented the Rebbe with his idea. The Rebbe emphatically rejected the suggestion, saying, "If this will be an institution that carries the name Chabad, it's possible a chassid of Satmar may not want to learn there. I do not want to take it upon myself that because of me a Jew would be prevented from acquiring a livelihood!"

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