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In the Merit of Guests
by Aharon Maimon

My wife Rina and I recently celebrated the birth of our firstborn son, after 23 years of marriage. Our story actually begins even before I was married, back in Tishrei 5748 (1987). During that year, I was among several yeshivah students who were asked to help Rabbi Moshe Yaruslavski, of blessed memory, with the extensive hospitality services that he organized for guests coming from all over the world to spend the High Holiday season in New York, in the Rebbe’s court. We had come from the yeshiva in Tzfas, and we worked each day from five in the morning until midnight, sometimes longer.

Towards the end of the month of Tishrei, Rabbi Yaruslavski gathered all those who had helped him and brought us before the Rebbe to receive dollars. The Rebbe’s countenance filled me with great awe and fear. When our turn came, and we were all standing in the presence of the Rebbe, I found a corner where the Rebbe would not look at me.

I was startled when the Rebbe turned around to where I was standing, looked at me with his penetrating eyes and said, “Thank you for representing me at Hachnosas Orchim [hospitality to guests], since I was unable to greet the guests personally. A groiser Yasher Ko’ach [a big thank you]!” The Rebbe gave me a dollar for a blessing and success, and somehow I got outside.

When I regained my composure, I realized that it wasn’t by accident that the Rebbe chose to address me personally. Yet, as much as I racked my brains, I simply didn’t know what the Rebbe had meant. Perhaps my mission in life was through the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim? Would this be the source of the blessing for me?

***

Before people suggested a match between my wife Rina and me, I wrote a letter to the Rebbe. The Rebbe, who was in the year of mourning for his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, responded to fewer correspondences that year, limiting answers primarily to urgent matters, such as shidduchim. I brought the letter to the secretary, Rabbi Binyomin Klein, and he placed it on a huge pile of letters. It was only after leaving the office that I remembered that I hadn’t written specifically that I was asking for a blessing for a match. I felt deep regret in my heart, as I resigned myself to a lengthy wait for a response.

Yet, just a few hours later, Rabbi Klein called to tell me to say that I had received a positive answer from the Rebbe.

I felt that this match had come with the Rebbe’s stamp of approval. Therefore, it was quite difficult when, after our marriage, months and years passed without our meriting children. What didn’t we do? We visited the most expert doctors in the field, but none of them had any good news for us.

They all said that there was no medical reason preventing us from having children... My wife constantly pressured me to go and ask for a blessing from the Rebbe, but I was embarrassed. I would pass the Rebbe at dollars distribution, promising myself that this time I would get up the courage to ask for a blessing. But every time when my turn came, I wasn’t able to say a thing.

One Sunday, I tried without success to mumble something to the Rebbe, but soon found myself being led out, frustrated and anguished by the fact that I failed once again to ask for the blessing we so desperately needed. But the Rebbe felt my pain. I suddenly heard Rabbi Groner calling me back. The Rebbe gave me another dollar and said, “Livnei mazal” (literally, for children of fortune). I was elated. I redeemed the dollar outside by giving a different one to charity, and I wrote the Rebbe’s blessing on the one he actually gave me, including the time and date, for a keepsake.

The followed days passed in an aura of hope and faith, visiting fertility experts, but nothing happened.

Then one Sunday during the early 90’s, she passed the Rebbe and said in very unambiguous terms that she wanted to be blessed with a son. The Rebbe smiled broadly and said, “Ben zachar? B’nei z’charim!” (A son? Sons!) After such a clear blessing from the Rebbe, we didn’t understand how so many more years passed without children…

Once I was honored to be sandek at a bris mila, and one of those asking me to bless him after the bris was a soldier in the Golani Brigade, who told me that he was going out on a mission over the Israeli border. Though he was a courageous and fearless combatant, this time he feared that he wouldn’t be coming back. I understood what he felt in his heart, and I told him, “Look, I have in my bag a dollar received from the hand of the Rebbe. This dollar is very important to me, but I’ll give it to you on the condition that you promise to return it.”

He promised to give it back, and I handed him the dollar with which the Rebbe blessed me, “Livnei mazal.” In the end the soldier returned from his mission, safe and sound, but he had become attached to that dollar, and has refused to give it back to this day.

Eight years ago, we moved to the United States. I shared with my wife my concern that perhaps we no longer had the Rebbe’s blessing, since I didn’t have the dollar. My wife continuously urged me, “Aharon, there must be something that we have to do in order to become proper vessels for receiving the Rebbe’s blessing.”

Once we were sitting together and I told my wife about what I had experienced during Tishrei 5748, including the blessing the Rebbe gave me as I stood on the side out of fear and shame.

My wife responded, “Listen, and go now to the grocery store to buy eggs and cheese. Get rolls from the bakery and the freshest vegetables from the produce store. From now on, we’re going to be involved in the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim. The Rebbe didn’t bless you then regarding Hachnosas Orchim for nothing. This is the vessel through which the blessing will come…”

Who else could find such a woman of valor? I returned from the stores, and she prepared fifteen nourishing sandwiches. We then went out to the shopping centers in search of young Israelis looking for good kosher food. I also used the opportunity to put on t’fillin with them. We soon began to invite them to our home for Shabbos meals fit for a king – meat, fish, and a variety of delicacies.

If the Rebbe would host them, what would he give them? The very best that there is! This is exactly what we did. Without even planning to do so, we opened a Chabad House in every respect. They would come to us seeking advice for all their problems, and we would write to the Rebbe on any question, while giving them full and nourishing meals. Every time that we wrote a report to the Rebbe, we added a request for a blessing for children.

Then, one fine day, in the midst of all this activity, I received the good news. Words simply cannot describe the feeling of sheer joy that enveloped my wife and me at that moment. When our son was born on Yud Shvat, our home shone with a special light.

 

 


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