#114 (s5760-14/ 29 Kislev 5760)
A REBBE'S PREPOSTEROUS ADVICE
“Ah, good advice, a miracle, even” the rebbe repeated softly, stroking his beard. "For that perhaps you should go to the new Lubavitcher Rebbe. He knows about these matters.”
REBBE'S PREPOSTEROUS ADVICE
They made the rounds of the various chassidic rebbes and great Torah scholars in their area. All were sympathetic; all offered their blessings. Nothing helped. The date for the "wedding" was fast approaching, the daughter ignored their emotional pleas and any other Jewish intervention and, as you might imagine, the poor parents were becoming extremely agitated and distressed.
They visited again the chassidic rebbe they were closest to, who again blessed them that all should work out for the best. "Rebbe," they rejoined in desperation, "we already have blessings; we need good advice. Although, it seems what we really need is a miracle!"
"Ah, good advice," the rebbe repeated softly, stroking his beard, "a miracle, even. For that perhaps you should go to the new Lubavitcher Rebbe. He knows about these matters."
To the new Lubavitch Rebbe! Could he really help? All they had heard about him since his ascension in 1950 was that he was quite young, in his forties. 'But so what?' they said to each other; 'What choice do we have,' and off they went to Crown Heights.
They were directed to the Rebbe's secretaries, and soon found themselves in a narrow office in 770 Eastern Parkway. When they told one of the rabbis that they wished an audience with the Rebbe, he politely took their names and their mothers' names and said he would be happy to give them an appointment, and that the next available date was in a few months.
After a few moments of shocked silence - whoever heard of having to wait months to see a Rabbi! - the man began to protest vigorously. The secretary tried to explain that there was a huge number of people already waiting anxiously, and the Rebbe received people in private audience only three times a week [in those years], but that only caused the distraught chassid from Williamsburg to raise his voice even louder. Finally he succeeded in convincing the secretary of the urgency of the matter, and a time slot was squeezed in on a mutually agreeable date.
At the appointed hour, they anxiously entered the Lubavitcher Rebbe's office and told their whole sad story. The Rebbe smiled. They were taken aback. All the others they had gone to had groaned in empathy, and some had shed tears. How can this one be smiling?
The Rebbe asked them for the intended wedding date. They answered, throwing in numerous 'G-d forbid's. The Rebbe continued to question them. He asked about the daughter's preparations. Had she acquired a wedding gown? What about furniture? Did she already purchase dishes and all the other things a newly married needs to set up house? They were shocked. 'Woe to the ears that hear such matters.' Why did he want to discuss such unpleasant topics? Nevertheless, there they were, so they answered briefly, saying that she had not yet purchased any of these things.
The Rebbe then expressed interest in where she was intending to obtain her set of china and other dishes. They began to feel that his questions were driving them crazy. Or was he, the Lubavitcher, crazy? Shrugging, they named a well known large department store in downtown Brooklyn, where she planned to shop for nearly all of her bridal needs.
"Good," remarked the Rebbe. ("Good?" they thought. "How can this possibly be good!" ) He smiled again. "The owner of the store is a Jew. I know him. This is what you should do. The day before her shopping expedition, you go to see him and tell him I sent you. Confide in him the whole story. Then tell him I suggest that when all her purchases are at the register, someone smuggle among them a very valuable item from the store's merchandise. Then, when all her purchases are wrapped and put in bags and boxes, and she is about to leave the store, an employee should scream out that something valuable has been stolen. The security personnel should then lock all the exits, and management should apologetically explain to the customers that a search would have to be conducted because the missing item is of such great value. When they find it among her parcels, they should confront her, ignore her protests of innocence and call the police.
"Let her be arrested! She will call you, of course. You, her parents, should go down to the police station to scream and proclaim her innocence, but nevertheless let it happen that she has to stay in detention overnight. And may the Al-mighty bless you with good news."
As might be expected, the couple absolutely could not believe the words they had just heard. They froze in their places. What was going on here? They returned home, thoroughly confused. Could it be that he is still too young?
The date quickly approached. What to do? What to do? Did they really have no alternative other than the preposterous idea of the Lubavitcher? It seemed not. In desperation, they called the store owner and made an appointment. They told him their plight, then, with reluctance and a good measure of embarrassment, they related to him the Rebbe's plan.
He too was astounded. But after a few moments of reflection, his face brightened. "We'll do it," he said, "if the Lubavitcher Rebbe said so, something good will come out of it."
After making the commitment, he became enthusiastic. He called in a number of people from his staff, and told them that tomorrow they would be doing a "drama" performance. He went over with them all the details of the plot, and said that he expected a carefully orchestrated matinee performance the next day.
Everything went as planned. Despite her horror and protestations of innocence, and despite her parents' appearance and efforts at the police station in response to her phone call, the daughter found herself in a prison cell.
The parents, who had returned home, were even more miserable than before. Their daughter was in jail! The only consolation was that now they had someone to blame for whatever happened: The Lubavitcher Rebbe. They were sitting in silence, depressed, when the doorbell rang. It was the "fianceé", the last person in the world either of them wanted to see.
He asked to see his bride-to-be. They responded that she wasn't home. Seeing their agitation, he insisted, presuming they were lying in order to keep them apart. They reiterated. He demanded. They denied. Finally he said, "Well, if she's not here, then where is she?"
"What! She? In jail? Why?"
"She has been arrested for stealing bridal goods from a department store."
"Can this be true? Are you playing with my mind?"
"Yes, it is true. Could we possibly make up something so terrible?"
"I can't believe it!" he exploded. "A thief!"
He continued shouting. "I cannot tolerate this. I'm a respectable man, a professor. I've worked hard to get to where I am. I will not be associated with a woman of such low moral standards. I'm not a ghetto person. Tell your criminal daughter I never want to see her again!" And he stormed away in righteous anger.
As soon as he was out of sight, they closed the door and burst into joyful smiles. But they soon sobered up. What if she would be able to convince him of her innocence and affect a reconciliation? They couldn't wait for the morning to be able to tell their daughter what had just happened.
Meanwhile, the daughter was sitting on a hard cot in a cold dank cell, confused and frightened. How could such a thing be happening to her? She wasn't a thief! She was so embarrassed. And her poor parents, how devastated they must be. She thought about how they had tried to help her but hadn't succeeded. She knew they would arrange her release in the morning, but would there be a trial? Would she really have to serve a prison term?
Then the thought struck her-as bright, as sharp, and as painful as a lightning bolt. Even if she were to be sentenced to jail, that would not be the ultimate embarrassment for her parents. Much worse in their eyes, much much worse, was her impending marriage. Maybe, just maybe, she should rethink her plans and priorities. Certainly she had plenty of time for contemplation in her present situation!
Before the night ended, she had acquired paper and pen, written a letter to her parents, and arranged for it to be delivered to them at the front desk as soon as they arrived in the morning. In it she poured forth her heart, apologizing for all the aggravation she had caused them, and promised she would break off her engagement and never again date a non-Jew.
Need I say more? You can imagine the tearful joyous reunion yourself. The parents quickly revealed the plot. All three were infinitely grateful to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Today, the daughter is the mother and grandmother of a respectable observant family in Boro Park, Brooklyn. All that is left is for you, dear reader, is to decide whether what the Rebbe provided them was "good advice" or a "miracle."
by Yrachmiel Tilles, based on oral and written sources. This story first surfaced
in Lubavitch circles during a Malaveh Malka in Milan, Italy. It was told by a
'Polisher' chassid from Israel visiting on a fund-raising mission, who was the
brother-in-law of the father in the story.]
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.