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Honoring Parents

It was a long and arduous path for Michal Bokchen until he came "home" to a lifestyle of Torah and mitzvot. Michael grew up in Israel, in a permissive, anti-religious home. When he reached adulthood he traveled to the United States in the hopes of finding himself. There he was first exposed to Jewish teachings, and slowly he began to accept and appreciate his Jewish identity.

An important milestone in his life was his move to New York, where he attended Columbia University. He earned degrees in Organizational Psychology -- a field where he had a part in developing unique management systems now used throughout the world.

However, the more important milestone for him, also in New York, was the time he spent in 770—as the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s headquarters in Brooklyn is known. There, for the first time in his life, Michael absorbed a genuine, powerful Jewish atmosphere. He was spellbound by the Rebbe's presence and drawn in by the Rebbe's spiritual energy. From there, it took him only a short time for him to be transformed into a Chabad chassid in every respect.

One experience in the Rebbe's synagogue made a deep impression, above all others. It was during the afternoon prayers, on one of his first visits to 770. The synagogue was packed, but Michael managed to find a place only a meter away from the Rebbe.

When the prayers ended, a number of people approached Michael and asked him if he knew why the Rebbe looked at him intently for several moments during the prayers. Michael had no idea. In truth, he had not noticed the Rebbe's gaze at all, since he had been focused entirely on his prayers and did not lift his eyes from his prayerbook.

 That day, Michael wrote a letter to the Rebbe and handed it in to the Rebbe's secretariat. He requested three blessings: for livelihood, to find a proper match, and to improve his relationship with his parents, with whom he had entered into conflict after his decision to become religious.

That day, the Rebbe gave an address, the first address that Michael ever heard directly from the Rebbe. It was the week of Parshas Korach, 5742 (1982). Michael did not understand Yiddish, but he followed the talk via headphones carrying a simultaneous translation. The Rebbe spoke about an event in the parshah, that Aaron's stick flourished and grew almonds. The Rebbe explained that the miraculous flourishing of the almonds on a wooden stick represents the blessing of the tribe of Levi, to which Aaron belonged.

Michael, who is also a Levi, felt that these words were directed to him, as a blessing for livelihood, which he had requested.

The Rebbe continued and spoke about the task of a woman in the home. Michael interpreted this as a response to his second request, to find a spouse. After receiving these two blessings, Michael awaited a message of the Rebbe with regard to his third request--an improved relationship with his parents. However, he heard nothing that related to this matter. The talk ended, but Michael was sure that the Rebbe would send him a response to this matter as well, through other means.

The answer reached him only a short time later. After the Rebbe's talk, Michael returned to the dormitory of the Hadar Hatorah Yeshivah, where he studied. On the way a fellow student approached him. "Would you like to study with me?"

 Michael hesitated somewhat. In truth, he considered that particular student somewhat odd and Michael wasn't sure if he would benefit from a study session with him. "What are you interested in learning?" Michael asked.

"Maybe the laws of honoring parents," he responded.

This answer penetrated directly into Michael's heart. "G-d must have placed those words into the student's mouth," he said. "I am sure of it."

In time, the Rebbe's blessings, as Michael interpreted them, were fulfilled. Shortly thereafter, Michael returned to Israel, where he found a good job. He met his wife, married and established a Jewish home. Eventually, his relationship with his parents improved as well—surely, in large part, thanks to the laws of honoring parents that he had studied and tried to implement.


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