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Before You Call, I Answer

“Shalom,” Rabbi David Masinter warmly greeted Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky, a prominent rabbi from Rechovot, Israel. The two had met three months earlier in South Africa, where Rabbi Gluckowsky had been invited to deliver a lecture in Rabbi Masinter’s Chabad House. Now the two had met again in New York, at the annual convention of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s emissaries.

“Rabbi Gluckowsky, what do you say to returning to South Africa for another lecture tour in six months?” Rabbi Masinter invited.

“I can’t make plans so far in advance,” teased Rabbi Gluckowsky. “By then certainly Moshiach will be here.” However, Rabbi Masinter would not be deterred. Rabbi Gluckowsky asked him to be in touch in another month.

A month later, Rabbi Masinter called, but Rabbi Gluckowsky put off the decision for another month. The next time, Rabbi Masinter began to apply pressure. “We are about to print our schedule of programs for the upcoming months. I need to know the date that will be best for you to speak for us in South Africa.” He made it clear that he was fully confident that Rabbi Gluckowsky would accept the invitation, and the only challenge was settling on a suitable date.

“Very well,” sighed Rabbi Gluckowsky. “Tomorrow I’ll give you a definite answer.”

Rabbi Gluckowsky has a custom to sit down every night and read five of the Rebbe’s published letters. That night was the eve of the 15th of Shvat, the New Year of Trees, and one letter he opened was addressed to the scribe Rabbi Simcha Raz:

“I received your letter around the New Year of the Trees, and I will mention you and your family at the gravesite [of his father-in-law, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe].

“N.B. Although you did not ask me, and one does not offer advice unsolicited, due to the importance of the matter I want to tell you my opinion. The suggestion to travel again to South Africa is appropriate, since it will be of benefit to many people.”

Rabbi Gluckowsky read and re-read the letter in astonishment. The date was precise, and the content of the letter was exactly relevant to his situation. On the spot he dialed South Africa: “Rabbi Masinter, choose the date you want me to come. I’m at your service!”

The months flew by quickly and on the designated date Rabbi Gluckowsky flew to South Africa. Among his things he packed a volume of letters of the Rebbe. Since he was traveling to an English-speaking country, he packed a volume of letters in English.

After settling in to his lodgings, Rabbi Gluckowsky took out the volume of letters to read his daily five letters. The first letter was addressed to someone living in Johannesburg, South Africa! This person, apparently, had written to the Rebbe whether it would be appropriate for him to study meditation. The Rebbe’s answer was that one must be very cautious since some forms of meditation actually include idol-worship. The Rebbe advised him to approach Rabbi Lipskar, his emissary in South Africa, to learn a Chassidic form of meditation to be practiced before prayer.

Once again Rabbi Gluckowsky saw how the Rebbe was guiding his steps. The next link in the story happened that evening, when Rabbi Gluckowsky sat down for a Chassidic gathering with the students of the local Chabad yeshiva. He told them, among other things, about the letter of the Rebbe he had read that morning. After the gathering, one student approached him and introduced himself as the son of the recipient of that letter. “I must tell my father what you told me,” he said. “He will definitely be even more affected than I was.”

The father of the student was moved to be reminded of the letter, which was still in his wallet. He rushed over to Rabbi Gluckowsky to thank him.

As it turned out, this letter was the first of dozens of letters that this man had received from the Rebbe. It was also the only letter whose advice the man had not carried out. He had never approached Rabbi Lipskar for advice about meditation before prayer. “I must thank you,” he said to Rabbi Gluckowsky. “You have inspired me to carry out the Rebbe’s instructions. Better late than never!”

 

 


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