#110 ((s5760-10/ 8 Kislev))
BUSINESS ON SHABBAT
Although I live in Shklov, it is not so easy to find me there. My business affairs often take me out of the region, and sometimes out of Russia altogether. Whenever my journeys would take me in the same direction as Liozna or Liadi, I would detour to there in order to try to see our holy Rebbe [R. Shnuer Zalman] and to receive his blessing. I would do the same on my return trip too.
Once, when I stopped there on my way home and was able to go in to speak with the Rebbe, he said something that took me by surprise. He asked me where I had been. I told him, whereupon he said, "Alexander Sender, why don't you ever do business in the town of such-and-such?"
The Rebbe doesn't waste words. I understood this to be a hint that I should go to that place. I decided to do so as soon as possible, and invited my business associates who often travelled with me to come along.
The town the Rebbe had mentioned was in distant Galicia, in a region I had never been to before. I had business leads, but I had no idea where I and my associates could find appropriate lodgings and food at the degree of kashrus that we required..
We made inquiries. I found out about one place that seemed suitable. It was an inn run by the young married daughter of the late rabbi of the town. The rabbi had been held in esteem for his piety and Torah scholarship, and his orphaned daughter, it was said, was similarly G-dfearing and intelligent. When she became of age, the community leaders arranged for her to marry an outstanding Torah scholar. I was told I could reliably assume that she maintained the same impeccable standard of kashrus as had been in her father's home.
It certainly sounded right. I sent a message to her asking that we stay there. She replied that it was impossible because her husband was out of town so it would not be proper. When I then informed her that we were nearly a minyan, she agreed to accept us.
I clarified all the details and made the necessary arrangements. Everyone was happy. We had a fine Jewish place to stay with reliable kosher food, and she was able to make a profit even with her husband away.
Shabbos came. We sat down to a splendidly prepared table. Even though we were separated from our families, we celebrated the holy Shabbos meal joyously. My associates were all followers of the Rebbe too, and we sang with gusto our favorite chassidic songs and tunes.
In the midst of this pure Shabbos joy, I thought I heard someone crying. I excused myself from the table and followed the sound to the next room. It was the young mistress of the house.
I asked her why she was crying. She was a bit embarrassed, but she explained that she hadn't experienced such a Shabbos table since her father of blessed memory had passed away. The exuberant singing had stimulated strong memories of her father whom she still missed him very much, and she was unable to contain herself.
I chatted with her a bit about religious life in the area. She revealed to me her grave concern. She had a seven year old son who should be studying in cheder, but in Galicia at that time it was obligatory to attend the government schools.
"What about in Russia?" she asked. "Do they have the same type of restrictions there?"
"No," I told her. "In Russia we can educate our children as we like. There are cheders and yeshivas everywhere."
Her face became serious as she seemed to retreat into herself. Then, coming to a resolution, she implored me, "Reb Alexander Sender, please! Take my Elchonan with you to Russia and arrange for him the best Torah education you can."
She caught me by surprise. I admired her resolve, but still I hesitated. "What about your husband?" I probed. "He is not even here. Are you so sure he would agree to send his first son so far away?"
She promptly assured me that it was absolutely certain he would. Nothing was more important to them than that their son should be able to go to a proper yeshiva. That is when I realized why the Rebbe had prodded me to come to this particular place. I agreed to do it, of course.
Before we had to leave, I had it written on my passport that Elchanon was my son. He went back to Russia with us, and there I arranged for his schooling. He did very well all the way through yeshiva, and grew up to be a fine, G-dfearing, chassidic young man. Although it was heart-wrenching for his parents to not see him for so many years, I know they were very happy with their brave decision.
ADDENDUM: Elchonan became the progenitor of a noble and learned chassidic family line, one that is still thriving today, the multi-branched Chein family
[Translated-adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Shemuos v'Sipurim by Rafoel Nachman Cohen (vol.1, p.32-33), where he also mentions that the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe cited this story during the Purim farbrengen of 5686 (1926) as an inspiring example of of a Jewish mother's self-sacrifice to provide her children with a solid Torah education].
Alexander Sender of Shklov was an outstanding chassid of the First Chabad Rebbe, a generous businessman of exemplary piety. When he passed away, the Alter Rebbe paid a condolence call to his father and testified that he had seen his soul "in exceptionally bright, shining garments" (Beis Rebbe). His grandson, Aharon, was the father of the fourth Rebbe's wife, Rivka.
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.