It was a sunny summer’s day in Miami Beach, back in the ‘70s, when my husband and his good friend, Chaim*, were hanging out at my husband’s home. As my mother-in-law was a very talented cook and could have taught Martha Stewart a thing or two, Chaim was looking forward to a hot and tasty dinner. But it was Mincha time, so the boys figured they would daven first and then come back and enjoy a savory meal. My husband knew that those days, the Ribnitzer Rebbe had been davening down the street and was having some difficulty making a minyan.
A bit of background: The Ribnitzer Rebbe, born at the turn of the 20th century, was known to be a miracle worker. Unintimidated by the powers that be while living in communist Russia under Stalin rule, he served the Jewish community as a mohel and shochet, and lived an unapologetically religious life. He fasted often and immersed himself in the mikvah several times a day, even in Russia, when that meant cracking through the ice of a river that had frozen over. Eventually, he left Russia and moved to Israel, and subsequently to the United States. People from all walks of life came to seek the Rebbe’s counsel and receive his very powerful brachot until he died in Monsey in 1995. My husband asked Chaim if he would be willing to daven at that shul so that the Rebbe would have enough men to form a minyan. Chaim agreed to this request, and he and my husband were indeed numbers nine and ten at that minyan.
Chaim ignored his grumbling stomach and walked into shul expecting to participate in a quick Mincha, but the davening took way longer than expected. After about forty-five minutes of hunger-filled tefilah, Chaim had had enough. After saying Amen to the final Kadish, the two boys bolted like lightening right out the door. Chaim could practically smell the aroma of the delicious meal that he imagined awaited him.
The next day, my husband bumped into some of the Ribnitzer chassidim who had davened at the minyan the previous day. They told him that the Rebbe had been disappointed. He had been looking for “those nice young boys” after davening because he had wanted to give them a brachah. Too bad, thought Chaim, when my husband filled him in on the discussion. A potent brachah from the Ribnitzer Rebbe was not something to dismissively pass up. Had he known, Chaim would certainly have waited a few more minutes before leaving the shul.
Almost forty-five years later, Chaim’s daughter, Chani *, was eagerly waiting to meet her bashert. Someone had suggested to her the segulah of reciting Nishmas for forty consecutive days. It sounded like a worthwhile pursuit, but Chani was meticulous in her Avodas Hashem. Before she would take such an endeavor upon herself, she wanted to make sure it was the appropriate thing to do. She wanted to be absolutely certain that it is permissible to say a tefilah usually recited on Shabbos, during the week as well. She called a local halachah hotline and discussed it with the rav who answered the phone. He explained that while he himself is not one to run after segulos, it is certainly allowed and she shouldn’t hesitate to take it upon herself if it would be meaningful to her. He added, however, that she should keep in mind that while Hashem is always listening to her tefilos, it is Hashem Who is in control of everything and she is merely an eved Hashem. Whatever success she will hopefully see from the segulah will have been due to what Hashem did for her, not from what she did herself. The caring Rav asked Chani a bit about herself, took down her name, and told her that he too will daven that she should meet her bashert.
Chani’s conversation with the rav gave her a lot of much needed chizuk and she felt strengthened when she hung up the phone. Not two hours had passed when the same rav called Chani back. He reiterated that truthfully, segulos are not really his thing, but if she herself is drawn to such things, he had one to suggest. He explained that some time back his family found itself in the midst of a most difficult crisis. An acquaintance of his suggested that he daven at the kever of the Ribnitzer Rebbe, and that as a result, he would hopefully see a yeshuah. The Rav did as he was told and went to daven at the kever of the Rebbe. It didn’t take long before his family’s crisis was positively resolved. It was nothing short of a miracle. That was all Chani had to hear. Not one to waste a moment of time, she was fervently davening at the kever of the Ribnitzer Rebbe the very next day. Dedicated to doing the most hishtadlus that she possibly could, she continued to visit the kever every now and then. Chani poured her heart and soul into her tefilah and beseeched Hashem to help her end her waiting and find her shidduch.
One year after Chani spoke with the rav on the hotline, almost to the day, she was introduced to the boy who eventually became her husband. She told the boy all that had happened and how she had felt that the Ribnitzer Rebbe had had a hand in their shidduch. They talked about it often and, inspired by what he had heard, the boy went to daven at the Rebbe’s kever as well. The positive influence of the Rebbe was woven into the tapestry of their relationship. It seemed perfectly natural that a short time later, the boy chose the kever of the Ribnitzer Rebbe to be the place where he asked Chani to marry him.
Chaim thought that by ducking out of the minyan with the Ribnitzer Rebbe, he had forfeited a brachah from him. But it seems that the impact of the heartfelt wishes of a tzadik is able to transcend time and place.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.