Faith & Counsel
Why did people come to the Rebbe for advice? How did the Rebbe’s guidance help in personal, as well as religious matters? The Avner Institute presents three stories shared by Rabbi Yoseph Janowski, of Toronto, showing the Rebbe’s enormous insight into every individual and his or her situation – a very sick man, a bridegroom’s father, an expectant mother.
In loving memory of Hadassah bas Shneur Zalman
It was Simchas Torah 5735/1974. At the tail end of Hakafos, my friend Dov Parshan was clapping gaily around the Ark in celebration.
Suddenly he stopped. Turning pale, he clutched his chest and collapsed. In horror the other congregants managed to carry him to a neighbor’s house, while an ambulance was summoned.
During this time, at 770, the Rebbe seemed to hurry through the last hakafa. He made a hasty exit and, on his way home, stopped outside the house where Mr. Parshan was staying.
Around him many Chassidim gathered, including myself. Amid anxious murmurs the Rebbe stood there for nearly forty-five minutes, talking to Mrs. Parshan and one of the congregants, apparently a doctor, while in the background a city ambulance waited.
“He must go to the hospital,” the doctor insisted, “even if he doesn’t want to.”
“But the ride will be bumpy and very uncomfortable,” the Rebbe argued. “How knows how long he’ll be stuck there in the emergency room before anyone sees him? He’ll be lying there, clothing taken off, wheeled from one place to the next. All this might cause another heart attack, G-d forbid.”
The Rebbe pointed to 770. “There’s a good doctor here.”
Mrs. Parshan suddenly spoke. “My husband doesn’t like hospitals.”
The Rebbe shrugged. “Nu . . .” meaning, if that’s the case he shouldn’t go.
Mrs. Parshan and the doctor returned inside the house and continued arguing. Eventually the doctor stepped outside.
“Look, your husband is having another attack. At this point, I can no longer assume responsibility.”
The Rebbe stepped forward. “According to the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], one must listen to the doctor’s advice. If you, the doctor, insist, then he should go.”
The Rebbe then asked, “To which hospital is the ambulance going?” When told the name, he said, “I don’t recommend that place. I suggest that you call another ambulance instead.”
So the wife and doctor sent the city ambulance away, and another soon arrived. As the sick man was lifted inside, accompanied by his father, Reb Avrohom Parshan, peace be with him, the Rebbe said to Mrs. Parshan, “You were once a nurse. You should go with them.”
The Rebbe then turned to the doctor, who was dressed in his holiday finery. “Take your ID with you, so the hospital will know you’re a doctor.” Someone hurried to the doctor’s house and brought it over.
Thank G-d Mr. Parshan eventually recovered, and we should continue to hear good news.
Another acquaintance Yitzchok Chartyan, who now lives in Winnipeg, once had a private audience with the Rebbe, accompanied by his bride-to-be and their parents.
The Rebbe chatted amicably with everyone, wishing the young couple much success. He then said to Yitzchok, “You should learn in kollel.”
“But Rebbe,” Yitzchok’s father suddenly said, “where will Yitzchok earn a livelihood? How will he provide?”
The Rebbe answered, “How did you get a livelihood? There was a time when you did earn money and a time before that when you didn’t. The same thing with him.”
“But when I didn’t earn, my father was able to support me.” Meaning, of course, the father’s sad financial state.
The Rebbe motioned to the son. “He also has a father.”
“And his father is already older,” Yitzchok’s father answered, anxiously. “How long can I support him?”
The Rebbe took a deep breath. Suddenly he thundered, “He has our Father in Heaven!”
A Wife’s Honor
Once in a private audience, Reb Avrohom Rappaport told the Rebbe about a tentative trip to Israel.
“Unfortunately my wife won’t be traveling with me this time,” he explained, “since we’re expecting a baby soon.”
The Rebbe smiled. “May it be at a good time.”
He then suggested that Reb Avrohom buy an airline ticket with an open date. “Give this to your wife, so that after she gives birth, with G-d’s help, she’ll have the option to go to Israel whenever she wants.”
Reb Avrohom chuckled. “Oh, believe me, my wife would trust me to buy her a ticket when the time is necessary and she decides to go.”
The Rebbe gazed at him seriously. “One has to understand the mentality of a woman.”
Reb Avrohom realized the Rebbe’s point: his wife would be stuck at home alone in a difficult condition. Being promised a ticket would not have the same effect than actually presenting her with an open ticket, which not only honored her but allowed her physical freedom and peace of mind.
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