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  Sunday, December 15, 2019 - 17 Kislev 5780
 
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The Rebbe’s Advice

The meeting was completely unexpected. One day in 1962, Abraham Kraft was traveling on the subway in New York City when he suddenly saw a familiar face. It was his classmate from elementary school, many years back.

“Shalom,” Abraham called out. He noticed that his friend was wearing a kippah, which surprised Abraham. “Is today some Jewish holiday that I don't know about?”

The friend smiled. “I go with a kippah all the time now. I have returned to Judaism.”

Abraham, who had grown up in a Reform Jewish household, had only the most minimal knowledge of Jewish tradition. His bar mitzvah was held in a temple, and most of the participants had been non-Jewish. The concept of “returning” to Judaism was foreign to him.

His friend smiled and explained what returning to Judaism entailed. Years earlier, at age 17, Abraham had begun to ponder the meaning of life and sought answers in religious books. However, the only books he could find were from either a Christian or Muslim perspective, which didn't speak to him.

Now the ideas that his friend shared with him interested him greatly. The friend got off the train and left Abraham with the name and address of his rabbi. “It would be a good idea for you to have a talk with him. He will introduce you to a new world...”

His friend's rabbi was the head of Yeshivah Torah Vadaat. Abraham called the rabbi, who invited him to spend Shabbat in his home. “We'll be able to talk in a relaxed atmosphere, and you'll be able to see for yourself what Judaism is like, up close.”

Abraham will never forget the impression he had of that first Shabbat: the atmosphere, the singing, the warm family life. It all captivated him, and that's when he decided that he wanted to bring this meaning and purpose into his own life.

Within a few months Abraham himself became a student in Torah Vadaat and became a natural part of the yeshivah. After a while, though, Abraham came to a certain crisis. He had seen behavior in his companions that he didn't consider suitable for a yeshivah student. There were also those who weren't accepting, who didn't treat him in a friendly fashion. Abraham was a bit confused about his direction in life.

A friend whom he had met along his journey suggested to Abraham that he join Chabad. “They will accept you with open arms, more than any other community.”

In 1962 Abraham met the Lubavitcher Rebbe for the first time – and was captivated. The chassidim also “adopted” him and guided him in the process of becoming a full-fledged Orthodox Jew and chassid.

In the first letter that Abraham wrote to the Rebbe, he unfolded the story of his life and the chain of events that led him to the doorstep of Chabad. He confided in the Rebbe that at this juncture he felt somewhat lost and confused, not sure what life held for him, how he would support himself and when he would marry.

Within a few days Abraham received the Rebbe's letter, advising him to enter the field of education. The truth is that in the past summer Abraham had worked in a summer camp and enjoyed it very much. He had not written about this to the Rebbe, mainly because he didn't see it as his life goal. But now the Rebbe had pointed him in that direction...

Abraham, who was not yet a chassid in the fullest sense, decided to “test” the Rebbe. On the night after one of the holidays, when the Rebbe used to pour wine for a blessing to all the assembled, Abraham went by the Rebbe and without introducing himself, asked the Rebbe what path he should take in life. Without missing a beat the Rebbe responded, “I already told you that you should work in childhood education...”

As amazed and impressed as Abraham was at the Rebbe's vision, he still felt that education was not for him. He tried various lines of work, but every time he found a new job, something else would happen and he would either quit or be laid off.

During this stage in his life, Abraham woke up one day with terrible abdominal pain. His doctor examined him and then sent him for more in-depth tests at a hospital. During the exam the doctor asked, “I see that you are a religious Jew. Have you ever heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?”

Somewhat abashed, Abraham said that he had once asked the Rebbe's advice what to do with his life, but he had not yet done what the Rebbe told him.

The doctor nodded his head. “If I were you, I would first listen to the Rebbe and then come back for a physical exam...”

Overcome with guilt, Abraham returned to the Rebbe's synagogue and waited outside the building. Just as the Rebbe arrived, Abraham felt those terrible pains again. The Rebbe turned towards Abraham and smiled broadly, with understanding. At that moment, the pains disappeared and never returned.

Abraham understood very well what he had to do. He applied for teaching jobs and was accepted at the job of his choice. His success in this field, to this day, was phenomenal. “It was all in merit of the Rebbe,” he says.

   
 

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