The Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Mother’s Letter he Treasured

The Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Mother’s Letter he Treasured

Feivel Shapiro, a member of the Antwerp Jewish community, lost his mother early on when she sadly passed away after an illnes when he was still a young child, only a tender 12 years old, shortly before his Bar Mitzvah. She orphaned a home full of children and he was the youngest of the family. Under these harshest of circumstances he grew up and as time passed on matured into adulthood becoming a businessman and breadwinner in his own right.

Some twenty five years after his mother’s tragic illness and passing, Feivel’s business pursuits found him in New York City. During one of those hot NYC summer nights he came to 770 Eastern Parkway, the Lubavitch World Headquarters, to pray the evening service with the Rebbe’s Minyan.

After Maariv he noticed a commotion of people going in and out of the hallway adjacent to the Rebbe’s study and it was obvious there was something going on. Asking around he found out that this is a night of “Yechidus” “Personal Audiences” with the Rebbe receiving people who have made appointments to come and hear the sage counsel of this great Jewish leader.

Feivel, a person who, perhaps by virtue of his orphaned childhood, was not afraid of anything and a lively kind of fellow, was hanging around the foyer outside of the Rebbe’s room, decides he is going to go in and see the Rebbe even though he does not have an appointment. Unassumingly he goes over to the person in the front of the line and says I need to go in before you, as I urgently need to leave soon, and the person agrees.

The door opens and the person from the previous Yechidus comes out and Feivel walks into the Rebbe’s room. The Rebbe’s secretary is shocked by his Chutzpah and follows him in, intending to shlep out this brazen intruder. The Rebbe looks up and tells Feivel to sit down. The door closes. Silence.

Not having intended to be there, he did not bring along the traditional note outlining the requests, questions or concerns one would normally hand the Rebbe – in fact he had nothing to say at all. For a few short, but very long, moments, the middle aged Belgian businessman sat, opposite the Rebbe facing him, in complete silence.

Then, as if on cue, the Rebbe goes over to a drawer and begins looking for something. The Rebbe returns to his desk with a letter and begins to read from it, which as it turns out, is an actual letter from Feivel’s mother to the Rebbe from just over 25 years earlier. In this letter she writes that she realizes that she is going to pass away but “I am not concerned about myself. Rebbe, I am only asking you to arouse Rachamim Rabim, extraordinary mercy from Hashem, on behalf of my children.” She goes on with a passionate plea that G-d should protect and bless her Kinderlach, soon to be left without a mother in this world.

Feivel is just in shock and overwhelmed. He was just a child when his mother passed away, his memories of her in his childhood were all he really had to keep her with him, and was never aware that this letter of hers to the Rebbe, on behalf of him and his siblings, even existed. Twenty five years letter, her love and concern were still alive there in the Rebbe’s room.

But the greatest revelation was yet to come. When asking the Rebbe if he could perhaps take the letter, the Rebbe gently requested otherwise. “Before I go out to Kol Nidrei” the Rebbe explained (at which point he would first stop in the little Shul and give the Yeshiva Bachurim the “children’s blessings”), “I read your mother’s letter.”

Perhaps, as the Rebbe began the prayers of Kol Nidrei, pleading with our Father in Heaven that we be inscribed and sealed for a Sweet and Good New Year, he chose to evoke the divine mercy of G-d to His children with the selfless love of this mother to her children.

As we bless our children in just a few hours, as an ill mother prayed for blessings for her precious children, as the Rebbe on high blesses and prays for all of us…

Avinu Malkeinu, yes you are our King but first and foremost you our Father; Dear G-d, Tateh in Himmel, Father in Heaven, hub rachmonus, have mercy on your children!

 

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