A story about a yid named ‘Jeff’.
I know him and was involved with his journey coming back to his roots through my son Yosef Yitzchok. Thanks to Rabbi Shais Taub for writing it up and allowing me to publish it.
Good Shabbos – Rabbi Shimon Raichik
Our setting is now the present day—well, actually a few months ago—in the town of West Boynton, FL.
A local Jew became more observant when he met the shliach, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Raichik, a year and a half earlier. There’s a whole story behind that which was that when the man's father passed away and the only rabbi the family knew couldn't make it, they found Rabbi Raichik who officiated instead. But that’s not the story I’m telling you now.
The story I’m telling you now started a few months ago when this fellow—Jeff is his name—started sending Rabbi Raichik links he found on ebay for auctions of dollars that were given out by the Rebbe. Jeff wanted to know if there’s a way to verify that the dollars were really given out by the Rebbe during “Sunday dollars.” Rabbi Raichik told Jeff that he wouldn't know how to verify such a thing and told Jeff he couldn't really help him, but Jeff kept sending more links and asking more questions. Jeff told Rabbi Raichik that although he had only just met Chabad and become observant a year and a half earlier, he had a deep yearning in his soul to receive a dollar from the Rebbe. Finally, Rabbi Raichik told him, “If you really have such a deep yearning, stop looking on ebay. Somehow we will find you a real dollar from the Rebbe. But be patient.”
About a month later, there was a farbrengen on the first night of Slichos. The farbrengen took place nearby at the Chabad House of R’ Yoelish Gancz. There, Jeff made Rabbi Raichik an offer. If he could find someone locally that would give him a dollar, he would make a nice donation to the shul. Rabbi Raichik told him that he didn't know of anyone but that he would keep his eyes and ears open. In attendance at this same farbrengen was R' Aharon Eliezer Ceitlin a”h who was in the area for medical treatment. (Rabbi Ceitlin, unfortunately, passed away a few weeks later.) Those in attendance at the farbrengen took up a collection for Rabbi Ceitlin’s medical expenses and Rabbi Raichik and Jeff both made significant donations which, in hindsight, Rabbi Raichik thinks was instrumental in what happened next.
On Rosh Hashana day, after services, a woman came over to Rabbi Raichik. He recognized her as someone who only comes to shul once a year. She appeared very serious and said, “Rabbi, I don’t have a lot of money right now but I want to do something to help the shul. I have several dollars that I personally received from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and I would be willing to donate them so that you could use them to raise funds for the shul.”
At first, Rabbi Raichik didn’t even know what to make of it. He wasn’t even sure it was legitimate. But the woman explained that she used to live in Crown Heights and that somehow for a couple of years she was one of the people who helped manage the dollar line for the women. In this capacity she was able to regularly procure extra dollars. Rabbi Raichik hollered across the shul, “Jeff, come here!” When he asked the woman to repeat what she had just said, Jeff nearly fainted. Rabbi Raichik asked the woman to come back after yom tov, they would make havdallah and then she could bring the dollars.
Later, they looked through some of the JEM photos of Sunday dollars and, sure enough, they saw this same woman standing there assisting with the line. There was no longer any question. The dollars were legitimate. Jeff made a major donation to the shul and picked his dollar to keep.
When they were going through the dollars and Jeff was trying to figure out which one was “his,” they actually found one with Jeff’s Hebrew birthday written on it! (It had been given out by the Rebbe on that day and someone wrote the date on the bill, as is customary.) Now, you should know that this year was the first year that Jeff even knew about, let alone celebrated, his Hebrew birthday. The date? Pesach Sheini, the holiday of second chances—the day that teaches us that if you really want something and your soul yearns intensely for it, then it’s never too late to get it.