I learned that with the Rebbe at the wheel, I’d reach my destination. But who knew that my friends could also come along for the ride?
As told to Rivka Streicher
Hy father has a connection with a rebbe in Brooklyn, a luminary of a person, albeit a small following. The Rebbe’s not one for kavod, he does his own thing — but even his humility can’t hide his light.
I wasn’t really part of it. Growing up, we didn’t daven with this rebbe or go over to him to vintsh a gut yom tov. It was a relationship my father developed later on.
Until the Rebbe drew me in.
It happened one evening, when the Rebbe came over to my father at Maariv.
“How’s Esther doing?” he asked.
“Esther?” My father wasn’t sure whom the Rebbe was referring to.
“Yossi’s Esther,” he answered simply, referring to my little daughter.
My father was bemused. “I think she’s okay,” he said, “but I’ll check in with Yossi.”
“What’s her mother’s name,” the Rebbe pressed. “I want to daven for her.”
Turns out the Rebbe knew something we didn’t. Our baby daughter had a serious infection, and just about then, when the Rebbe asked after her, it flared up. Shortly afterward we had to take our little baby, burning and sweating from fever, into the hospital.
While we were at the hospital, I got a call from an unfamiliar number. It was the Rebbe, calling to find out how Esther was faring. I jumped.
He’d known. Somehow, he’d known something was up even before we did. What moved me even more was the genuine care in his voice as he reassured me. His deep concern, his broad pleitzes… I became a chassid then and there.
The relationship has brought many blessings to my life. But perhaps foremost is that I’ve been able to connect others to my rebbe, and thereby help them as well. So it’s a story of a shidduch or two, but it’s also a story of commitment to Torah learning.
I’ve been doing the daf since the Siyum HaShas of 2020. I imagine everyone who participated had their moment; the dancing, or the songs, or the “Amen yehei shemei rabbas.” For me it was Rabbi Frand’s speech, and his rallying cry: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.”
He was speaking straight to me.
I never thought I could take on Shas. I’m in business, long since left the yeshivah world. Though I try to find some time to learn each day, I’m also a hopeless perfectionist. How could I properly cover the daf in the limited time I have?
But those words hit me in the gut. I knew it was what I needed to hear, and so the next day, I joined an online shiur and just got started.
I knew I really needed a chavrusa if I wanted to seriously get into it. But I didn’t have any obvious ideas and I literally didn’t have the time to look for someone. Business was extremely demanding, I was in the office long hours, then home with my wife and kids. Life was full to bursting.
Still, I kept up my commitment to do the daf, trying to ride on the enthusiasm from the great siyum, on the words I heard from the Rav. I knew that following an online shiur was better than not doing it at all. But I wished I could do more.
A while later, I went to a siyum a cousin made on a masechta. I heard him and his chavrusa speak about their learning, and I was inspired. Reinspired.
I spoke to the Rebbe about it. These days I was speaking to him more and more. “I really need a chavrusa,” I told him.
“You’ll find someone, and soon,” he replied.
And I did.
One evening after a crazy workday, I went back to the office. My secretary, a local girl, was still there trying to keep on top of her own workload. By the time she was done it was late, and her older brother came by to pick her up.
I went over to him. “Nice to meet you. Your sister’s doing great here.”
He was a jovial guy and we chatted a little. He was learning in Eretz Yisrael but had come home early for a wedding, and would be around until after Pesach.
“How are you keeping yourself busy here?” I asked.
“Shul, learning, y’know…” he said.
I figured I’d try my luck. “I’m looking for a chavrusa to do the daf. How about we learn together?”
We started the next day. Motti was a decade my junior, but we connected deeply. We became serious learning partners, and also friends.
As time went on, I learned more about Motti. He was a top guy but already older by chassidish standards, and was struggling with shidduchim. He’d been in Eretz Yisrael for years and most of his friends had families of their own already.
We learned every day for a month, and then he headed back to yeshivah (after another fruitless bein hazmanim on the shidduch scene). Still, we were determined to continue our learning, even over the phone, and despite the different time zones and the sometimes staticky connection, we kept at it.
A few months later, my wife and I were planning a trip to Eretz Yisrael. I was looking forward to the vacation, to being in the Holy Land, and also to meeting my chavrusa again.
Motti came over for a Shabbos meal. We caught up a bit, and the topic of my rebbe came up. By then I’d become a steadfast chassid, and I regaled Motti with stories.
On Monday evening, the night before we were slated to leave, I got a call from America. Wouldn’t you know it, the Rebbe was on the line, calling to check in as he sporadically did.
“I’m in Eretz Yisrael,” I told him, and since Motti was on my mind, I mentioned him to the Rebbe, and told him that he needed a shidduch.
“So, you’re in Eretz Yisrael, ah. Glad I caught you. Are you able to do a toiveh? There’s an almanah in Meah Shearim who’s making a chasunah tomorrow night. Can you go into the sheva brachos on Monday night, it’s at a hall in the Beis Yisrael area, and give her $1,200? Tell her it’s for the couple’s first month’s rent. Go with your chavrusa, and b’ezras Hashem, within the month he’ll be a chassan.”
I put the phone down and turned to my wife. “Change of dinner plans. Don’t ask what the Rebbe said. He wants me to do hachnassas kallah, and he said Motti’s going to be a chassan within the month.”
My wife was excited. Ever the optimist, she urged me to call Motti. “C’mon,” she said, “forget dinner, great things are going to happen.”
I called Motti, and he was a little weirded out. “Okay, I guess I’ll come with you, why not?” It was doubly interesting because Motti’s family has an open home, and they take care of almanos.
On Monday evening, the day before our flight back, we got into a taxi, my wife and I and Motti, stopped at an ATM in Geula, and got the cash. We had the hall’s address, but the taxi driver couldn’t find it, and we roamed around the tiny back alleys, maneuvering between the dusty cars and the walls plastered with levayah notices until we found it.
A sheva brachos was in full swing. There was music, food, kids running around, and you wouldn’t know at first glance that the chassan had been recently orphaned. Someone was helping them get the simchah moving, they’d managed a wedding and a nice-looking sheva brachos, and now we were coming along with money for the couple’s rent.
We went over to give the chassan mazel tov, and when his older brother came over to us, we told him we’d brought money on the Rebbe’s behest and wanted to give it to his mother.
He ushered us to the mechitzah and called his mother. I gave the envelope to Motti, and she was visibly emotional when he handed it over.
“I got a call before Shabbos that someone would be bringing money. I had no idea who. Shkoyach, shkoyach aich, and shkoyach Ribbono shel Olam.”
I could feel her emotion. Her husband had passed away not two months prior, and she was so acutely aware of her dependence on the Ribbono shel Olam, on Him alone. It was a moment of clarity, amid frolicking children and clattering cutlery: All we have is His and I was just passing it on to the right person.
Then I shook myself. Motti. The Rebbe’s brachah.
“This is my friend,” I said to the woman. “He’s Mordechai ben Golda and he needs a shidduch.”
“So I’ll give him a brachah,” she said. Eyes closed, throat still thick with emotion, she proceeded to bentsh him.
We left and they watched us go, mother and son, staring after us in wonder as if we were angels. The whole thing was so improbable. We were there on a short visit from America, and we’d never heard of them before. But Hashem was looking after her, and that night I felt like we were messengers straight from Heaven.
We landed in New York and were just getting into our car in the airport when the Rebbe called. “Welcome home, I heard you did the shlichus. Thank you,” he said.
And then it was back to routine; work and learning with Motti every day.
A week passed and then another.
When we’d come back, my wife wanted to tell the older kids about the sheva brachos and the Rebbe’s brachah. I was hesitant. What if it didn’t pan out? But my wife was resolute: If the Rebbe said, the Rebbe said. We’d done the chesed, and Motti had been part of it. Against my better judgment, she told the kids.
Three weeks passed.
I wasn’t holding my breath anymore. Motti was “older,” and shidduchim weren’t easy for him.
Then, at the end of the third week, a shidduch was redt. The information sounded good. Motti flew home and met the girl. One date, two dates, three. Chassidish dating, no shlepping. After four times he was ready.
Now the parents, hailing from different communities, had to meet and settle the technicalities, the finances, etc.
Motti’s mother is a teacher and she had PTA that night. She wanted to leave the discussion for the next day. But his father, who’s as practical and sensible as they come, insisted on meeting that very night.
The two sets of parents met halfway between their communities late at night.
By midnight, Motti was engaged.
“Yossi,” he told me smiling a million watts through the phone, “she’s everything I wanted and more.”
I breathed and smiled, and suddenly I had to know the date.
It was Yud Ches Teves.
I looked at my calendar. When had the sheva brachos taken place? It had been a Monday, Yud Ches Kislev.
I started shaking, and with fumbling fingers, I called the Rebbe and told him the news.
“Mazel tov,” he said, and then, unwilling to take any credit, continued, “Look what a good friend can do for his friend. Can you call the almanah to tell her as well?”
I sat down, feeling a deep joy spreading out from inside me. My wife and I laughed out loud. We felt so connected to Hashem. And it wasn’t coming from krechtzing and pain, but from the wonder, the happiness, and the craziness of it all.
Then I dialed the Israeli number and spoke with the almanah.
“Mazel tov. Yishtabach Shemo,” she said, “and if the brachah was mekuyum it’s not because I’m a tzadeikes, it’s because I meant it with my whole heart.”
Motti’s story was incredible. And it spurred yet another in its wake.
Shlomo was another friend of mine, much older than Motti. He was single, even as he hit his mid-thirties and my friends and I were making bar mitzvahs. And his pool of prospects was even more limited because he’s a Kohein.
When he heard Motti’s story, he asked me to take him into the Rebbe. The Rebbe heard him out and said, “You know what, I know an alman in Eretz Yisrael who needs help.”
They struck up a relationship, Shlomo and the widower, and Shlomo would help him financially, while the widower in Eretz Yisrael was davening for him, going to kivrei tzaddikim, and calling Shlomo up to be mechazek him.
On Purim day, we went into Brooklyn with a kvittel for the Rebbe that had a string of names of near ones and dear ones, including my friend Shlomo.
When the Rebbe came to Shlomo’s name, he waved away the kvittel. “Why are you asking me about him? Ers shoin a geholfener — he’s been helped already.”
I was taken aback, but I’d learned already that the Rebbe knew things I didn’t.
That Purim morning, it so happened that Motti’s mother received an unexpected shalach manos from an old student. She called the student to thank her and they chatted; years ago, Motti’s mother had made a real impact on this student.
“Sure, I’ve been meaning to do this for a while,” the student said, “and now it so happened that I knew someone going to your neighborhood this Purim.
“Oh, and you know her,” the student added as an afterthought. “Do you remember my friend Leah? She’s still single…” she trailed off before thinking to ask hopefully. “You’ve done shidduchim, no? Maybe you can think of someone for Leah?”
Motti’s mother thought a moment and suddenly smacked her forehead. Shlomo.
She knew Shlomo through his friend (me), her son’s chavrusa and her daughter’s boss.
“I may just have an idea,” she said.
Purim night, a young woman decided to stay up late at night. She knew that it was a segulah to say the whole Tehillim on Purim, and she’d done that last year and the year before that. Undeterred, she decided to do it again. Knowing that after midnight is an auspicious time to daven, she gathered her forbearance and summoned faith, and started to recite Tehillim in the wee hours of the morning.
That woman was Leah. And a few hours later, her former teacher, Motti’s mother, would think of her for Shlomo.
And a few hours after that, the Rebbe in Brooklyn would say, “Shlomo? He’s been helped already.”
Shlomo and Leah dated for a little while, and then jubilantly, unbelievably, announced their engagement.
At their l’chayim, the shadchan, Motti’s mother, showed up. She had her own story with the Rebbe.
After Motti’s engagement she had gone to speak with him, to thank him and also to ask an eitzah. She’d done several shidduchim in the past, and was wondering if she should pursue that formally. Should she leave teaching for shadchanus?
The Rebbe said no. “Stay in teaching, and you’ll do shidduchim as well. The brachah from shidduchim doesn’t come just because you’re doing it for parnassah,” he said.
“Okay,” she’d said, a bit dubiously. She hadn’t made a shidduch in a year.
But the Rebbe was right yet again. “You know what?” she told us at Shlomo’s l’chayim, “This is my third shidduch in one month!”
The two weddings, Motti’s and Shlomo’s, will take place next week, within a day of each other. Sheyirbu semachos b’Yisrael!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 963)
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