Thursday, December 1, 2016

One Dollar Reunion

Rav Tuvia Bolton 

The Garbovskis, Igor, Vladimir and their parents lived in Kiev in a modest home. They were typical Ukrainian Jews: proud they were Jews, as ignorant about Judaism as a Jew can be and had a strong desire immigrate to Israel.

But they had differing ideas about how to do it.

Vladimir, always the idealist, wanted to leave immediately. He figured that with his degree in engineering he would surely succeed in the land of the Jews. But Igor and his parents wanted to wait until they became more proficient in Hebrew and gathered sufficient funds, then they would all move together.

But Vladimir wouldn't hear of it. One day he announced that he had purchased his ticket, packed his bags, made arrangements and would go alone and before they knew it he was gone.

At first Vladimir phoned home once a week and was full of good news: He became a citizen and was living temporarily in one of the immigration centers. He was learning Hebrew and he had been promised a job as an engineer as soon as a position was available.

But a half a year later he didn't sound so enthusiastic: The engineering job never materialized, he was working 'temporarily' as a gardener, he had moved out of the Immigration Center and due to low funds was renting a dingy apartment in the city of Ramle.

His parents suggested that he return home and Igor not only seconded the idea but began pressuring him; come home and in a year or so we will all move together and help each other.

But Vladimir would have no part of it. In fact, it made him angry; bad enough that the Israeli Government wasn't helping him, now his family was against him?!

He began calling home less frequently and his conversations were tense and often ended in quarrels. Until he stopped calling altogether.

Igor tried to call him back, but with no luck; at first he didn’t answer but eventually he was told that Vladimir’s phone had been disconnected. In desperation he contacted the Israeli police and the immigration service but they were of no help.

He felt guilty; perhaps it was his fault; maybe he had been to forceful, to negative? Perhaps if he had been more friendly etc. etc. until finally he decided there was no other way to calm his conscience and his parents’ worries than to travel to Israel and locate Vladimir himself. With a heavy heart his parents agreed and he was off.

Igor, unlike his brother already knew Hebrew fairly well and in no time he settled in. He immediately found himself an apartment in Tel Aviv got a job as an apartment broker to Russian immigrants and just days after he arrived in Israel began looking for Vladimir.

But he discovered it wasn't so simple.

First he went to the immigration center but they had lost contact with him. Then he located the apartment in Romle only to discover that Vladimir had moved out several months ago and all the landlord and neighbors could say was that he looked depressed.
He went to the company for which his brother had worked as a gardener and they told him that he had been a good worker for the first month or so but then he began complaining and refused to work. He said it wasn't fair that an engineer should do such menial, low paying work so they had to fire him and since then, three months ago, they hadn't seen him.

Igor contacted the police again, got on the radio, spoke on the Russian stations, put ads in the Russian newspapers with his brother's picture and even printed advertisements and put them on telephone poles in the streets. But nothing worked. And he began to suspect the worst.

After a year of fruitless searching in Israel suddenly an idea popped into his mind, maybe his brother moved to America. After all a lot of Russians that didn't make it in Israel went there. And, although Igor realized the irrationality of his thinking; if he couldn't find Vladimir in little Israel he certainly wouldn't succeed in the U.S.A., nevertheless he bought tickets and flew to Los Angeles.  A lot of Russians live there.  
But as expected, despite a month of praiseworthy efforts he came up with nothing. So he decided to try in New York for a week or two and then if nothing turned up he would return to Israel.

But in New York he fared no better. He put ads in the Russian papers, even got his plea announced on a few Russian radio stations but with no results.

Then on Friday, three days before his return flight on Sunday night, he happened to strike up a conversation with some Russian speaker in the hotel lobby where he was staying and when he mentioned his missing brother his acquaintance replied,

"You can’t find your brother? Why, if I was you I would go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask for a blessing."

Igor had no idea what the man was talking about. "Rebbe? Lubavitch?" he replied, "No, I'm sure that my brother would never go any Rebbe."

But his acquaintance explained how this Lubavitcher Rebbe was known to help people in the most miraculous ways, told a few stories to make his point and finished by saying the Rebbe gives out one dollar bills, blessings and advice every Sunday from his headquarters in Brooklyn and that he should go there.

Igor couldn't believe that this fellow was telling the truth. He had heard stories of Chassidic Rebbes doing miracles but he was sure they were just fables or fairy tales.

But then he thought to himself that he really had nothing to lose and was free Sunday morning. Not only that but according to his fellow the Rebbe was very friendly and spoke Russian.

So that Sunday morning Igor found himself standing in a huge line of several thousand people that wound around a large red brick building in Brooklyn and an hour later he was face to face with the Rebbe.

Just as the man in the hotel said; the Rebbe was very impressive but also seemed very warm and friendly. So Igor said in Russian, "I'm looking for my brother who has been lost for a year. Can you help me?"

The Rebbe smiled, gave him two dollars and said, "One is for you and the second give to charity and you will find your brother."

Igor took the dollars, said thank you and moments later was in the subway back to his hotel trying to understand what happened. He concluded that the dollars were probably some sort of good-luck magic charm and although he did not believe in such things he put them in his wallet, returned to his room, packed his bags, rested for a few hours, went to the airport and forgot the whole thing.

When he arrived in Israel he took directly from the airport a cab to Jerusalem where he already had a few meetings planned

Then, once in Jerusalem he got out of the cab and immediately at least five poor people surrounded him and asked for donations. Usually he would simply ignore them, but this time he suddenly remembered the Rebbe's words, dug his hand into his pocket and begrudgingly gave the Rebbe's dollar to one of them thinking to himself, 'At least I'll see if that Rebbe's blessing was real'.

But he didn't have to wait long. Although the bum that he gave the dollar to tried to avert his gaze there was something familiar about him. “Vladimir?” Igor asked in disbelief. The disheveled beggar lifted his head and their eyes met. He took a good look. It was none other than his brother!

Vladimir took his brother back, called his parents and when they were finally united and fully realized what a miracle they had experienced they all decided to learn more about and be more connected to Judaism

Reprinted from the Parshas Chaya Sarah 5777 email of Yeshivat Ohr Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel.