Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The Others Knew, Too
I would maybe doubt the story, because of the website it was first published in, but a good pal of mine from downunder confirmed it with the Baal HaMa'aseh. I also don't intend on making "my Rebbe great," I was just taken by the point that the Bobover Rebbe, who some may think was upset at Lubavitch, also "knew" where to turn to in a time of need.
The Bobover Rebbe, Harav Shlomo Halberstam of blessed memory, was holding a Melaveh Malka in his shul in Boro Park. All the Chassidim were dressed in shtreimlach. Pinchas Woolstone, who wore the simple black hat of Chabad Chassidim, felt somewhat out of place. Reb Pinchas, of Sydney, Australia, would visit New York from time to time. On this occasion, a friend of his who is a Bobover Chassid invited him to join the Melaveh Malka. During the meal, the Bobover Rebbe turned to Reb Pinchas, who had been introduced to him as a Chabad Chassid. He said, "I wish to make you my emissary for a mitzvah.
A while back, a certain couple in our community developed problems shortly after their marriage. The wife argued that she cannot continue to live with her husband. During the next few months, her family tried everything they could to restore peace between the couple, but were not successful.” The family could not make peace with the fact that their daughter wanted to divorce. They pressured her very strongly to stay with him and try to get along. The young woman’s life became a misery. She could not contend with life with her husband, and found no support from her parents either. At a certain point, she apparently reached the end of her rope and ran away. No one knew where she had gone. Her parents, naturally, were broken and confused, and her husband, who was prepared to grant her a divorce and move on with his life, found himself in a bind. "I would be very happy," concluded the Bobover Rebbe, “to receive advice from your Rebbe on this matter. Would you help me and give him the message for me?"
Reb Pinchas was happy to agree. A few days later, he approached the Rebbe and asked for a blessing for a safe trip back to Australia. At the same time, he gave over the Bobover Rebbe's message. The Rebbe listened carefully and then answered in a brief sentence: "When you get back to Sydney, make sure to fly to Brisbane!" The Rebbe gave no further information, but this was enough for Pinchas. As a Chassid, he was prepared to carry out the Rebbe's instructions. Within a few hours after landing in Sydney, he was already on a flight to Brisbane, an Australian city about 900 kilometers north of Sydney. He did not know exactly where to go or what to do once landing in Brisbane, but was sure that the purpose of his trip would soon make itself clear to him. On the flight, a woman sitting next to him turned to him and said, "Excuse me, you look Jewish. Can I ask you something?" Reb Pinchas nodded politely. "What relationship do Jews have to Jews who have left the faith?"
Reb Pinchas examined the woman's face to see if she was perhaps referring to herself. But the woman looked decidedly like a non-Jew. "I am the manager of a women's clothing store in Brisbane," she explained. "Recently, a Jewish woman came to my store asking for work. I hired her, and after a certain period of time we became close. She confided in me that she comes from a religious family and for certain reasons she ran away from home and has distanced herself from Judaism. I am curious to know how you relate to this woman." A red light began to flash in Reb Pinchas's mind. He strongly suspected that she was speaking about the woman he had been sent to Brisbane to fine. "Look," he explained to the woman, "Judaism teaches us to respect and care for each Jew, regardless of their level of observance, and to help them return to the right path. I take it from your question," he continued, "that this woman is alone in Brisbane?" "You are correct," she answered. “She does not seem to have any friends."
"If so," he said, "perhaps I can help her. She probably could use some assistance in acclimating herself in Australia, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind connecting with some Jews. Can you give me her name and address?" The woman agreed and gave over the information. The name was not familiar, but Reb Pinchas was sure that whoever was guiding him along until now would help him reach his ultimate goal. As soon as he landed, Reb Pinchas took a cab to the address the woman had given him. His first meeting with the woman he was seeking was not easy. She became distraught at the sight of a religious man and at first refused to have any contact with him. However, Reb Pinchas did not give up. He told her that he had found her in a miraculous way, after following the Lubavitcher Rebbe's advice, and that he would not do anything against her will. Slowly, the woman thawed out. She made it clear to him that returning to Boro Park was out of the question. However, she was prepared to accept the divorce from her husband, move to Israel and begin a new chapter in her life. So it happened. Reb Pinchas helped to arrange for the divorce and she moved to Israel. There, she settled down and found her place. Evenutally, she married a Chabad Chassid, also through the help of Pinchas Wellstone.
Please note: the fact that the woman later "joined" Lubavitch is totally irrelevant, and not the point of the story at all.