Weekly Chasidic Story #811 (s5773-40 / 2 Tammuz 5773)

A Lucky Partnership

The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised him to make a large purchase of a certain material that the fabrics dealer had never purchased before.

Connection: Seasonal – the 19th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


Menachem Mendel HaLevi (“Max”) Katsch, an international dealer in furs who resided in London, often visited theLubavitcher RebbeMenachem Mendel Schneerson. Although a relatively new member of the Chabad community in England, he was quite familiar with how the Rebbe’s advice and blessings had impacted many people’s lives in virtually every area of human experience.

Once, during a private audience, he put forth a tongue-in-cheek proposal for the Rebbe to partner with him in a business venture! The Rebbe’s expression became serious and said, “Fair enough. But remember that in a partnership, neither partner gets to make a move without the consent of the other. Do we have a deal?”

Mr. Katsch was of course excited about this lucky opportunity to “partner” with the tzadik. So even though at the same time he was somewhat skeptical about the Rebbe’s knowledge of the fur trade, he readily accepted the deal. The Rebbe gave him a token amount of dollars to “seal” the arrangement.

The Rebbe then advised him to make a large purchase of a rare fur that had never even been on the man’s radar screen: muskrat fur! The dealer went home and placed a large order for this unusual fabric.

When he reported back to New York, the Rebbe responded that the buy was far too conservative. A much larger quantity should have been purchased. On the Rebbe’s say-so, Katsch went out and bought astronomical quantities of the stuff — to the point of investing his entire personal fortune to pay for the shipments, and also borrowing large sums to purchase even more.

To the man’s chagrin, shortly after the acquisitions the value of this unusual fur began to plummet. Perhaps, he thought, he should hedge his investment and sell off a significant percentage of what he had purchased.

As promised, he contacted the Rebbe for his consent. To his surprise, the Rebbe did not grant consent and reminded him of their agreement with regard to unilateral moves.

The price of the fur continued to sink. And with it sank Mr. Katsch’s spirits; it seemed to him that he would certainly be ruined. Every day, he watched his fortune slipping further and further away. All pleas to the Rebbe were met with the same answer: “Don’t sell.”

Facing financial ruin, he finally began to question his entire relationship with the Rebbe and Chabad-Lubavitch. Perhaps it was all a mistake. With each day’s devaluation of his inventory, his distance from the Chabad community widened.

The bleeding continued for nearly half a year altogether. One day, the price took a slight tick back up. He again consulted the Rebbe. But the Rebbe still withheld consent. When the price rose to where he could break even, the Rebbe still would not green-light the sell-off.

The price of the fur continued to rise incrementally. At each juncture, Mr. Katsch desired to sell, and always the Rebbe advised him to wait.
Although by now his disillusionment was coated with heavy layers of bitterness, he continued to honor his agreement with the Rebbe.

Shortly thereafter, a famous fashion designer put out a line that called for extensive use of a rare material: muskrat fur! The industry was soon astonished to discover that a man in England had the market cornered. When Katsch reported this to the Rebbe, he was told that the time had come to sell.

The inventory went fast. Even after repaying the loans and subtracting his costs, he made many millions in profit. He excitedly boarded a plane to hand the Rebbe a check for his “share.” The Rebbe declined, requesting that the man give the money to charity instead.

Katsch then asked the Rebbe if they could perhaps pursue another venture together. The Rebbe smiled as he demurred: “I’m sorry… You’re a shvacher shutaf, ‘a weak partner’-‘too weak-hearted’.”

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from an article by Moshe Bryski on //Chabad.org, the rendition of Eliyahu Touger in Keeping In Touch – Vol. 2, and, from my special source in London, a relative, who supplied a number of little-known details.

Connection: The 3rd day of the Jewish month of Tammuz (2013: Tues., June 11) is the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersonthe Lubavitcher Rebbe (11 Nissan 1902 – 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn on 10 Shvat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.

Editor’s note:
Mr. Katsch received a lot of personal attention and encouragement from the Rebbe. I heard that one time in a private audience, he moaned about his smoking addiction. The doctors had warned him that he had to quit immediately or he could die soon. The Rebbe responded: “I will take care of that.” After he exited the Rebbe’s room, the first time he tried to take a cigarette out of the pack in his pocket, his hand became stiff and he couldn’t bend his finger to grasp the pack. And so it was every time thereafter. So quitting turned out to be not so difficult after all!



Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.