To Save A Soul
by Elchonon Lesches
I remember the seventh day of Passover that year as a stormy day, an ideal day to stay indoors. But the seventh day of Passover is when Lubavitcher Chasidim the world over walk to nearby synagogues to share words of Torah and the joy of the holiday. So, despite the weather, a friend and I set off to one of the synagogues in the [North American] city where our yeshiva was located.
After a half-hour walk we reached the shul. We received a gracious welcome from the rabbi, who greeted us with a warm smile. "The Lubavitchers!" he said. "You came, just like every Yom Tov."
We sat down and as we waited for the rest of the minyan to arrive, the rabbi began to reminisce. "I knew the Rebbe even before he became Rebbe. I worked near Eastern Parkway, and sometimes I would see him on his way to the Merkos office. I noticed that the Rebbe respected everyone.
"Even after I moved here, I maintained contact with the Rebbe through letters. It was clear that he always understood the situation.
"In one particular instance, I was privileged to be part of an incredible series of events where the Rebbe brought back a soul to its heritage, almost against its very own will.
"When I first moved here, I was the rabbi in the main shul downtown. My position brought me in contact with various dignitaries and city officials.
"One day, a woman arrived on urgent business, 'something to do with the Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch,' the secretary told me. The woman sat quietly in my office for a while. Then finally she said, 'The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me to you.'
" 'Why don't you tell me what this is all about?' I encouraged her.
"She recounted the story with obvious pain and guilt. Her teenage daughter had gotten involved with a bad crowd. She and her husband had not realized the extent until she found a note from her daughter saying that she was running way from home, escaping with her 'friend,' a man who was obviously up to no good. In desperation, the parents had turned to the Rebbe, who had told them to contact me. She had boarded the first flight to my city and was now waiting for me to help her reclaim her daughter.
"I sat there stunned, wondering what the Rebbe wanted from me. True, I had connections with many powerful people, but no one who would likely have information relevant to this case. Nonetheless, I knew I must be able to help her in some way. 'Madam,' I said, 'if the Rebbe sent you to me then everything will work out well.' She gave me the name of the man who her daughter had mentioned in the note. We arranged to meet again in a couple of days.
"As soon as she left my office, I called the Chief of Police. When I mentioned the name she had given me, he recognized it instantly. 'We know him,' he said. 'He's the new mobster in town. He's definitely been involved in many recent crimes, but we have nothing concrete on him.'
"My next call was to another contact, someone who worked at a city investigative organization. He said they were watching him closely and knew he was a seasoned criminal, but there was no hard evidence to convict him. A few more calls followed and soon I was out of leads. I was getting nowhere.
"It was around this time that something else occurred to me. I am not a Lubavitcher but there are plenty of Lubavitchers in our city. Some of them even have better contacts than I do. Why had this woman been sent to me? What was it that the Rebbe had perceived with his G-dly vision, something I had that the others had no access to?
"Then it dawned on me. I was the only Jewish prison chaplain in the city. Two weeks earlier, one of the guards had taken me to a high-security zone that I had never visited. 'We got a big one,' the guard had revealed to me. 'Controls a major organized crime ring around here. Jewish too.'
"He led me to a prisoner in solitary confinement, and we spent some time talking about G-d and Judaism. This criminal must be my contact, I thought, the link that the Rebbe had known about.
"On my next visit to the jail a few days later, I met with the Jewish prisoner and brought up the name of the man I was investigating. The prisoner made a face. 'What business do you have with him?' he asked. 'And who does he think he is anyway, stepping all over our territory! We should have finished him off a while ago!' Seeing that the prisoner might be willing to help me, I explained that the man in question had abducted a Jewish girl and that I was trying to find her whereabouts. No doubt due to the Rebbe's blessing, he promised to help me. 'Don't worry, Rabbi,' he assured me, 'I'll take care of it.' I knew better than to ask how this was feasible from behind prison bars.
"A day later the police received a call that a man was being beaten on the street. They rushed to the scene to find the very same man who had run away with the girl lying unconscious on the pavement, with a bag of drugs by his side.
"The man was arrested. As he was not a U.S. citizen, he was scheduled for deportation. The girl's mother wanted me to ensure that her daughter would not follow this man out of the country. Here again the Rebbe's blessing assisted us. The judge overseeing the case was another of my 'contacts!' We spoke about what arrangements we could provide for the girl, who would be asked to testify later and might therefore be in danger. He issued an order placing the girl under the supervision of a local Orthodox family. With time, her outlook changed completely and today she is a fine woman with nice Jewish children.
"The Rebbe was concerned even about those who were not concerned about themselves!" the rabbi summed up.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter