Weekly Chasidic Story #843 (s5774-21 / 19 Shevat 5774)
Two is Better Than One
“You have to choose between me and the synagogue. If you go to the synagogue tonight, don’t come back home!”
Connection: Seasonal–26th yahrzeit of the Rebbetzin Chaya-Musya
Mr. Amichai Liani is a wealthy New York business man. As such, he often helps to sponsor worthwhile Torah & Mitzvot projects. Once, a few years ago, he was invited to the Chabad Center for Russian Jewry in Queens, NY, to receive the high honor of being the sandek (the one who holds the baby on his lap) at a brit mila circumcision event. Twin boys had been born to a Jewish couple from Russia after many years of childlessness. The Chabad rabbi was designated to be sandek for the “older” baby, and since it is written in Jewish Law * that being a sandek is such a great honor and merit, no father should offer it twice to the same person, the rabbi recommended to the happy parents that Mr Liani be invited to be sandek for the “younger.”
After both ceremonies were completed, one right after the other, all the guests took seats around the laden table to participate in the celebratory meal. After everyone had eaten a bit, the father of the twins jumped up and started to speak excitedly…in rapid Russian. As he was the only non Russian speaker present, Mr Liani decided that he could leave without being considered rude. He discretely presented the rabbi with a check to cover the expenses of the meal in gratitude for the special merit of being sandek, and made his way quietly to the exit.
Before he could leave, however, the mother of the twins ran over to intercept him. She thanked him and asked him in good English to please delay a bit longer; she would like to tell him a story.
He agreed and she began.
“My husband and I married while we still lived in Russia. Soon thereafter we emigrated to the USA. We decided that we would not have children until we had saved enough money. After we both worked hard for ten years, developed a steady good income and acquired a nice home here in Queens, we agreed that it was time to start a family. But, I didn’t get pregnant. We went to a variety of doctors, but none of them were able to help us.
“As we grew up in the Soviet Union under Communism, we had no exposure to Judaism whatsoever. A year or so ago my husband developed an interest and began sporadically attending events and Shabbat services at this Chabad House for Russian-speaking Jews, which is near where we live. When he started to participate on a regular basis I became upset. As Russians and as modern, educated people this is not part of our culture, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I complained about this to my husband many times but he didn’t stop. If anything, he increased. Finally, one night I delivered an ultimatum: ‘You have to choose between the synagogue and me. If you go again tonight, then don’t come back!’
“He stayed home.
“That night I had a dream. A petite elderly woman spoke to me. ‘I know that you are suffering because you very much desire to have children. If you let your husband continue to go to synagogue, I promise you that you will have a child. And…if you will go with him, I promise you two!’
“I was astonished. I said to her in my dream, ‘How will I let you know what I decide?’
“She smiled and responded, ‘Let me show you,’ and all of a sudden we were driving through the streets of Queens. The car stopped at a house that bordered on the Springfield Cemetery.
“She told me that when I go into the house, ‘Immediately on the left you will see a video playing. Go out the door on the other side of the room, down a few stairs and through another door, and you will be in a large room with many hot water machines for coffee and tea on the left side. Exit through the door on the far left into the cemetery and walk on the path till you arrive at a small building. That’s where my husband is, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I am outside, opposite the entrance.’
“I woke up. I remembered everything in the dream clearly and it all seemed so real. Despite my “modern” perspective, I found myself believing it. The next day I told my husband that the following Shabbat he could start going to the shulagain. He was surprised, and happy too, of course. Then I told him that I would go with him, and his eyes bulged almost out of his head.
“Next I called the Rabbi of the Chabad Russian center. He knew well my husband’s problems with me over his increasing level of observance, yet we had never met, so he was delighted to hear from me. I told him I wanted to go to the cemetery where the Lubavitcher Rebbe is. He couldn’t hold back his excitement. ‘Whenever you want to go, day or night, I will be happy to take you.’ Imagine his surprise when I said. ‘You don’t have to take me; I already know the place. I just need to clarify the driving directions.”
I went there, and everything was exactly as described in my dream. Opposite the entrance to the Rebbe’s ‘Ohel,’ as they call it, I saw the tombstone indicating his wife’s resting place. That’s when I realized that it was the late Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka who had appeared to me in my dream.
“I approached as close as I could, and whispered, ‘I want two. I agree to go to the synagogue with my husband.’
The next Shabbat I accompanied my husband, and it wasn’t so bad. There were other Russian women in their thirties there with backgrounds similar to mine and I enjoyed meeting them. I went back the second week and the third week, and found myself looking forward to the next time.
“A month after I started going I found out that I was pregnant. With twins! And this story that I just told you is what my husband is now telling everyone in Russian.”
Source: As told to Yerachmiel Tilles by R. Gil Hirsch on a Saturday night at Ascent, who heard it in private conversation from Mr. Liani himself.
Amichai Liani is the owner of Café K, a chain of four restaurants-two in Brooklyn and two newer ones in Manhattan. He lives in Brooklyn.
Connection: Seasonal-the 26th yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chya Mushka Schneerson on 22 Shvat (this year: Jan. 23).
Rebbetzin Chaya “Moussia” Schneerson (25 Adar 5661- 22 Shvat 5748 / March 1901- Feb. 1988 C.E.) was the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn. On 14 Kislev 5689 (Dec. 1928 C.E.), She married the next-Rebbe-to-be, her distant cousin, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Warsaw, in a wedding attended by many Chasidic rebbes and leading Torah scholars of the generation. She devoted herself totally to supporting her husband in his role as a leader of world Jewry, and was known in her own right for her modesty, eruditeness and plethora of good deeds.
* Editor’s note: this is the Ashkenazic custom. See the commentaries on Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Deah, 265:11 for fuller explanation.
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.
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