By David Bibi
Rabbi Abittan [zt”l] often marveled at the miracle of observant Jews and scholars coming from the Soviet Union. Lenin and Stalin and their cohorts tried for seventy years to eradicate Judaism and any vestige of it from the lives of Jewish Russians, yet against all odds they safeguarded their “pintele Yid”, their Jewish flame until they were given the opportunity again to let it burn brightly.
[The following is] an amazing story I heard from Rabbi Duvi BenSoussan, a Moroccan rabbi in the community whose father like Rabbi Abittan was one of the boys brought by Rabbi Kalmanowitz, Isaac Shalom and my great Uncle Dave Bibi to the Mirrer Yeshiva in America through Otzar HaTorah
The Rabbi related the tale of a Chabad Rabbi he knew in Short Hills, New Jersey. Some years back the rabbi was able to mekarev or bring back to Judaism a young man. A few years later he was able to do the same for a young girl from the same area.
The rabbi explained that these two became part of his ever-expanding and extended family. He was over whelmed with joy when the two decided to marry and assisted in arranging their wedding. He wanted it to be the most joyous wedding in Short Hills.
There were about 100 guests from the two small families; most of them with little connection to religion. The rabbi hoped that when the bride and groom would come into the hall, everyone in the room would dance with them. He went from table to table encouraging all the people and getting their commitments.
When the dancing began he felt joy that everyone in the room was dancing, but then he said he saw one elderly man sitting at a table alone. He walked over to the man, put out his hands and asked the man to join him for a dance. The man said he would love to but he was just into much pain and it was impossible for him to get up.
The rabbi asked him if he could help and the man explained that earlier that day he underwent a circumcision. The rabbi looked at him and asked if seeing the rabbi’s beard, the man was making fun of him. But the man said it all seriousness, “no, I did it this morning. There was the mohel, there was a sandak who stood behind me and it was all done kosher”.
The rabbi asked, "But how old are you?"
The man said that he was 92 years old. And the rabbi asked, “Why now?” The man explained that the groom was his grandson and a couple of months earlier his grandson had come to him with the news that he would be getting married, that he was so proud that he was getting married to a religious girl and he had become religious himself.
At the same time he apologized to his grandfather and said to him that although he would love him to be at the wedding there was one place in the wedding that his grandfather couldn’t join them and that was under the chupah, because under the canopy was the presence of Hashem and as his grandfather wasn't circumcised he didn't want his grandfather standing there.
The grandfather said, “I love my grandson more than anything in the world and so I decided in his honor I would do this. And so today I had my own Brit Milah. And I was overjoyed this evening as they carried me and helped me under the chupa where I sat and shared in the ceremony of the marriage of my grandson”. “But Rabbi," the old man continued, “I am in terrible pain and I can hardly move”. The Rabbi had never felt so moved in his life and reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. On the envelope was written, Lubavitcher Rebbe 1991. The rabbi explained that this was the last dollar he had received from the Rebbe [of Lubavitch – Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schnerson, zt”l] and with this dollar the Rebbe blessed him with health and since that day the Rabbi had never been sick. He wanted to give the dollar as a gift to the grandfather in hopes that it would help with his complete recovery.
The old man looked at the envelope held it in his two hands and started to cry. The rabbi fearing had done something wrong asked the old man if he was OK.
The grandfather told the Rabbi to sit down. Now Rabbi let me tell you a story. I came to this country 51 years ago. Because of Soviet law, I knew next to nothing about Judaism. A friend of mine told me on my second day in America that to begin life anew I should get a blessing from the Rebbe. He took me to Eastern Parkway on a cold Sunday morning where we stood in line for hours and it reminded me of the lines in Russia.
“When I finally got to meet the Rebbe , I looked at his piercing blue eyes, his long white beard and he looked at me handing me the dollar and then suddenly pulling it back. I wondered what happened. And then he asked me in Russian, Did I have a Brit Milah”?
“Embarrassed I looked at him and said no. He handed me the dollar and blessed me that I should have my Brit telling me on the day I would be circumcised he would give me another dollar.”
And as he completed the story, the old man cried even more. The Rabbi asked, “but this is really miraculous, why are you so sad still?”
And the man looked up, tears still pouring down his cheeks and said, “Holding this dollar, I realize now that had I been circumcised when the Rebbe first told me to 50 years ago how different my life would be. I am so happy to see what has become of my grandson, but sitting here now for the first time in my life I wonder what could have become of me?”