By Yosef Kaminsky
incredible story of Isser Pakilchek, a Holocaust survivor from Kovna,
who received a total of three checks from the Rebbe MH"M and used
them to help people. Shortly after requesting a fourth check, and not
receiving a response, Isser passed away.
you merited to see an angel from Heaven, you will be able to help
Jews." This is what the Rebbe wrote Isser Pakilchek, a war survivor
from Rishon L’Tzion, over forty years ago. The Rebbe enclosed a check
for five dollars.
was Isser Pakilchek, what was his connection to the Rebbe, and what did
he do with the check? Dozens of stories circulated about this man who
became a legend in his lifetime, to the point that people from near and
far came to him and they called him "Isser Baal HaNeis."
was the sole survivor from his town. He went to Eretz Yisroel at the end
of the war, alone and broken. His entire family had perished. After his
request for reparations was rejected due to lack of proof, he met the rav
of Rechovot, Rabbi Elimelech Bar Shaul, z’l, on a bus, who
advised him to write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
was a simple Jew who wasn’t particularly mitzva observant, yet
he took the advice and wrote the Rebbe about his life. Within two weeks,
Isser received a letter from the Rebbe which said that since he had seen
an angel from Heaven and was saved, from now on Hashem would help him,
and he should help Jews as much as he could. Concerning the reparations,
the Rebbe wrote that he would get ten times more than the amount for
which he had asked. The Rebbe enclosed a check for five dollars.
didn’t know what to do with the check. Some say he went to the bank to
cash it, where somebody advised him to go to the Lubavitcher Chassidim,
who would give him more than the amount stated on it. Others say that he
met the rav of Rechovot again, who told him that if the Rebbe
wrote about helping Jews, there was a connection between that and the
check, so he should keep it. Whatever actually happened, he decided to
help Jews by means of the Rebbe’s check.
not clear when and how Isser used the check for the first time.
According to one account, he was called to Germany to testify in the
court case of two Nazi war criminals, who were found guilty based on his
testimony. It turned out that the judge was the one who had refused to
award him reparations. Impressed by his testimony, the judge
reconsidered his case and awarded Isser huge reparations, as the Rebbe
had told him would happen.
version says that in the Kovno ghetto, he had seen with his own eyes how
the Nazis murdered his family, and that he traveled to Germany, located
the murderer and beat him up. He was brought to trial, where the accused
actually became the accuser, and the murderer was found guilty, and
Isser was awarded huge reparations.
there he went to Stuttgart, Germany. He heard about a baby suffering
from hemophilia who couldn’t be circumcised. Isser told the family to
prepare for the bris, and he put the Rebbe’s check under the
baby’s head. The next day the bris was made and the baby was
baby had an older sister who saw a paper under the baby’s pillow. She
took it and tore it into pieces! Isser was not upset. He took the pieces
and sent a letter to the Rebbe in which he explained what happened and
asked for a new check! Within two weeks Isser had a new check for five
went back to Eretz Yisroel to help Jews. Word of the wonder check got
around and people came to him for assistance. It’s interesting that
throughout all these years, Isser had no connection with Chabad
Chassidim; nobody in Kfar Chabad knew him. Lubavitchers only got to know
Isser Baal HaNeis after they read about him in that article. After they
read about him, the Lubavitchers found out his address, visited him and
brought him to Kfar Chabad a few times.
are countless stories about Isser and his check from the Rebbe. His
daughter’s friend had an eight-year-old child suffering from eye
trouble, about to undergo an operation. Isser went to the child’s home
and told his parents that he had a segula that would heal the
child’s eye without an operation. "They looked at me as though I
was insane," related Isser, "but I didn’t care. I gave the
child the check so that he could sleep on it until the next morning. On
the day of the operation, while undergoing the final examination, the
surgeon cried out: ‘It’s a miracle! A miracle happened here! The
child sees fine and doesn’t need an operation!’"
girl who studied in Beis Rivka in Kfar Chabad was gravely ill. When the
doctors despaired, the family consulted Isser. Since the family lived in
the north and Isser wouldn’t part with his check, he told the sister
of the sick girl to hold the check and concentrate on helping her
sister. Within a few days, the sick girl left the hospital in perfect
teacher in the vocational school of Kfar Chabad wanted to marry but had
no money. The man, who lived in Rishon L’Tzion, was referred to Isser
by a neighbor. Isser let him hold the check and then told him to buy a
lottery ticket. On Friday of that week, the teacher met Isser and hugged
and kissed him. He showed Isser that his ticket had won first prize,
30,000 liros, a huge amount in those days! Not long afterwards, the
teacher got married.
man from Kfar Chabad suffered from convulsions and was in serious
condition. Isser brought his check and the man recovered.
the years, the check wore out, so Isser wrote to the Rebbe again and
received yet a third check. Isser’s secretary printed hundreds of
copies of the Rebbe’s address in English, and wherever he went, Isser
gave out the address to those in need, advising them to write to the
a month before Rosh HaShana 5742, Isser discovered that his third check
was falling apart. He wrote to the Rebbe yet again, asking for a new
check, but this time he did not receive an answer. He was very upset and
worried, and went to the post office every two days in order to see
whether anything had arrived from the U.S., but he received no response.
after Rosh HaShana, people heard that Isser was in the hospital. A
Lubavitcher couple from Lud visited the hospital on Fridays to do mivtzaim.
They said they met an old Jew who came over to them and introduced
himself as Isser Pakilchek and showed them the check. He had suffered a
terrible stroke and the prognosis looked grim. Isser, however, recovered
and left the hospital after a few days, baruch Hashem.
decided to stop driving because of the stroke.
was brought to Kfar Chabad one more time, where he sat with the
Chassidim and told amazing stories about the check. This is one of the
stories he told:
a veteran Likudnik from birth, and on election day for the tenth
Knesset, Prime Minister Begin came to visit the voting booths in Rishon
L’Tzion. As I exited the voting booth, I met Begin. I said, ‘Mr.
Begin, do you want to be prime minister again? I have a check from the
Rebbe. Touch it and you will be prime minister!’
took the check and read it: ‘Isser Pikelchek, five dollars…’ I
told him, ‘Now you will definitely be the next prime minister."
finished his story triumphantly: "Begin is the prime
Rosh HaShana 5742, the editorial staff of B’Reshet Chabad
decided to interview Isser for their paper. His connection with Chabad
and Anash of Kfar Chabad had grown stronger, and late in life he
began putting on t’fillin. A meeting was scheduled to take
place on Tzom Gedalia.
Erev Rosh HaShana, somebody from Kfar Chabad went on mivtzaim to
Rishon L’Tzion and decided to visit Isser and wish him a good year. He
went to the house, only to discover that Isser Baal HaNeis had died and
the funeral had taken place that day.
they discussed who would say Kaddish for him, a Chabad activist
suffering from heart trouble came to the house. He had gone for tests
and it wasn’t clear whether he would be permitted to travel to the
Rebbe for Tishrei. He had heard about Isser and his check and had come…
they informed the Rebbe about Isser’s death and reported about saying Kaddish
for him, a note of thanks was sent, in which the Rebbe underlined
"etc." after the word "Kaddish," indicating
that they should also say Mishnayos l’ilui nishmaso.
was divided among the residents of Kfar Chabad.
Chassidim would relate the amazing story of Isser and his check, people
would ask what the Rebbe meant by "the angel from Heaven" that
Isser had seen. One Chassid related what Isser had told him:
the war, Isser lived in a little village near Kovna. Shortly before the
outbreak of war, an eccentric Jew called Zeide’le was seen walking
about town. He approached everyone, from the rav to the last Jew
in town, shouting: "Tomorrow you will be killed, tomorrow you will
who was a goodhearted fellow, took the Jew into his home and fed and
clothed him for some time. Once, towards evening, the man said to him:
"You should know, Isser, that great suffering will descend upon the
Jews. Tomorrow the Germans will enter and everybody will be killed. You
will be saved and remain alive. Whenever you are in trouble remember me
and think about me."
next day the old man disappeared. The town didn’t even have a train
station, and Isser had no idea where he could have gone.
the Germans entered and the Jews were confined to the ghetto, the old
man suddenly appeared to Isser and told him that the next day the
Germans would kill the Jews of the ghetto. He suggested that Isser come
with him and escape. Isser refused, saying he had a wife and children,
but the old man importuned him and finally dragged him to the attic and
they hid there.
next day the Germans took out many Jews from the ghetto and killed them.
Isser watched from his hiding place. Many Jews, including his family,
hid. The Germans brought a car with a loudspeaker and announced in
Yiddish: "Jews, come out. We are your brothers."
Jews were fooled and went out; among them, Isser’s wife and children.
Isser saw them being murdered by the Nazis.
he wrote his life story to the Rebbe, he received the letter that said
that since he had seen an angel from Heaven and had been saved, he was
obligated to help Jews.
happened to the third and last check Isser received from the Rebbe?
Fearing that some unscrupulous people might take it from them, one of
his sons (who cannot be located) has it in his possession. The family
keeps it safeguarded as a segula – as indeed it has been for
countless people who were fortunate to meet the man who used it as a bracha
from the Rebbe to help them overcome their problems.