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Blessing for Aliya

Michael Shimani* was a successful businessman from Tunis.  He was an integral part of the Tunisian Jewish community, led by the Rebbe's emissary, Rabbi Nissan Pinson.  Michael was an active supporter of the various activities and organizations run by Rabbi Pinson.

One day,” Michael relates, “Something happened to cool my relationship with Chabad and the Rebbe.  I heard a rumor that a Jew from my town asked the Rebbe if he should move to Israel, and the Rebbe answered negatively.  I interpreted this in a very critical way, that the Rebbe was anti-Israel and opposed to Jews making aliya.  This bothered me very much, to the extent that I cut off my support of Rabbi Pinson's activities.”

Rabbi Pinson could not understand what caused Michael's sudden change of heart. “He called me," said Michael, "And I explained to him my reservations about Chabad.  I told him that I was unable to support an organization that I fundamentally disagreed with in principle.”

Rabbi Pinson tried to explain to Michael that the Rebbe was the last person to be characterized as anti-Israel.  However, Rabbi Pinson's words fell on deaf ears.  Michael insisted that if the Rebbe loved Israel so much, he would not oppose people making aliya.

Rabbi Pinson saw that he was not effective in persuading Michael, and suggested that he meet the Rebbe personally. “Travel to the Rebbe yourself, meet with him in a private audience [yechidut], and ask the Rebbe for an explanation directly.”

Michael was happy to agree to Rabbi Pinson's suggestion.  “I came to New York and went to the Rebbe's secretaries, as Rabbi Pinson had instructed.  They made an appointment for me for a yechidut.  I went in ready for an argument.  I myself had plans to make aliya, and I was sure that the Rebbe would be opposed.  Why would the Rebbe advise me any differently than he had advised my friend, who had been refused?

“In fact, when I entered the Rebbe's room I was in for a complete surprise.  In yechidut, the Rebbe told me that if I wanted to make aliya I had his full blessings!

“These were the last words that I was expecting.  Suddenly I understood that I had completely misinterpreted the Rebbe's position on Israel.

“After giving me his blessing, the Rebbe asked about my future - what I planned to do once I moved to Israel.  I shared my plans to enter into a business partnership, and to build hotels.

“Regarding the first proposition, the Rebbe told me not to enter into partnership.  He did not offer any further explanation.  Regarding the second idea of mine, the Rebbe advised me to go into the hotel business, but not to build new hotels.  I should only buy existing hotels and manage them, but not start a new one of my own.

“I left the Rebbe's office with mixed feelings.  On the one hand I was satisfied - I learned that the Rebbe was not opposed to aliya, and he had also given me his blessing.

“However, I was not happy with the business advice I received.  What did the Rebbe know about business, after all?  The Rebbe, I thought to myself, should express his opinion only on spiritual matters.  But business was not his field.  I was no novice in business, and had more confidence in my personal opinion in this area than in the Rebbe's.  I decided to ignore the Rebbe's advice and follow the course that made most sense to me.”

Not long afterward, Michael made aliya.  He met with two prospective business partners and decided to enter into a contract with them.  All the details were worked out, and all he needed was to sign the contract. 

“We were sitting around the table with all the documents.  Suddenly I overheard one of my soon-to-be partners say something to one of his assistants.  It sounded suspicious to me, and I asked him to clarify what he meant.  He became flustered and tried to cover up.  It was enough for me.  I decided to withdraw from this partnership.  It became apparent that perhaps, the Rebbe knows more about business than I do...

“Regarding the hotels,” Michael admitted, “I also was not compliant.  I didn't listen to the Rebbe, and I regret it.  I built several hotels, and lost money on all of them.  I also took over several existing hotels, and all of them were successful.

“However, I am positive that even though I didn't listen to him, the Rebbe cares about me.  The profits that I made off the hotels I bought, more than covered the losses from the hotels I built.”

*A psuedonym



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