Yossi Ehrentrau looked different, somehow. As much as people tried to figure out
what had changed, they remained unsuccessful. After all, it
was the same Yossi – short of stature with smiling eyes, a red beard and
shabby hat – yet there was no doubt about it, Yossi shone with
a special light…
was born in Eretz Yisroel. Like every other Lubavitcher bachur who yearns
to live in close proximity to the Rebbe, I traveled to 770 in order to learn
there. That was in 5749. In addition to learning in yeshiva, every Friday
we went on mivtzaim, to help Jews do the mitzva of t’fillin
and to speak to them about Yiddishkeit. In addition, I would join Rabbi
Levi Baumgarten (see Beis Moshiach #293) on his mivtzaim
tank and travel with him to Manhattan on Wednesdays.
parked the tank in a different place each time, and then we stopped passersby
and asked them the usual question: "Are you Jewish?" If they said Yes,
we invited them into the tank to put on t’fillin. We did this for
hours, putting on t’fillin with close to a hundred Jews – among them
were those who were doing this mitzva for the very first time.
we made the rounds of local stores and businesses, where we also asked who was
Jewish. We put t’fillin on with them, spoke about kashrus, mezuza,
and other topics the Rebbe has told us to discuss. For the most part, a good
relationship would develop between the Lubavitcher bachurim and the Jews
they encountered – but not always…
paused a moment. "There was an elegant office in a skyscraper in the heart
of Manhattan. When I would ring the bell at the outside door, holding my t’fillin
bag and my siddur, the Jewish owner would stick his head out of his
office and tell the secretary, ‘No, don’t let him in! I know just why he’s
here!’ and then the door would be slammed in my face."
went by like this, and months, and I still hadn’t managed to put t’fillin
on with him even one time."
was late at night. Our friend Yossi went to sleep and suddenly, in his dream,
the Rebbe was facing him. The Rebbe looked majestic, and looking at Yossi he
said in Yiddish, "Wear a tie, and it will help you in spreading the
woke up. The fact that the Rebbe had appeared to him in a dream was
exhilarating. Yet the message he had received about wearing a tie was certainly
next day Yossi got up earlier than usual, went to his Chassidus class, and told
no one about his dream. During Shacharis it seemed to him that the Rebbe
was looking at him in a meaningful way, but maybe he was just imagining it.
his t’fillin bag, Yossi made his way through the many peddlers who
displayed their wares on Fifth Avenue.
want to buy something?"
was an older man with a wrinkled face and sparse, gray hair, who was wearing an
odd-looking cap. With sunken, pleading eyes he gazed at Yossi.
glanced at the merchandise and was unimpressed. He had very little money on him,
as the bachurim don’t mix mivtzaim and shopping.
Yossi said decisively, "I don’t need anything."
peddler didn’t give up. "I have ties," he said.
I don’t need anything, and anyway I don’t have money," insisted Yossi
as he hurried towards the first building on his route. Behind him he heard
somebody huffing and puffing. He turned around to find the old peddler behind
was holding an open suitcase and yelling, "Stop! Bist a sheina Yid
(you’re a nice Jewish person). Maybe you’ll buy a tie?"
stood thunderstruck as he remembered his dream in which the Rebbe told him to
wear a tie to help him in hafatzas ha’maayanos. Could this peddler be
the Rebbe’s emissary?
didn’t know much about ties. He looked them over and felt a bit dizzy. The
colors, the patterns – dots, stripes, zigzags – what did a Chassidishe
bachur have to do with ties? He began to feel uncertain about it all. He
remembered that he had next to no money with him, and he opened his wallet to
prove to the peddler that he was wasting his time because he lacked the funds to
buy any of his merchandise. That’s when he noticed the two dollars in his
wallet. Where had that come from? He had no idea.
the meantime, the peddler had begun explaining the merits of each of his ties.
Yossi noticed a simple, black tie with no design that reminded him of the Rebbe’s
much is that one" he asked as he pointed, hoping it wasn’t more than two
terrific choice, a classic. You have good taste," rejoiced the peddler, as
he turned the tie over to see the tag. "It costs – for you – only
recoiled. "What?! Can a tie cost that much?" He was sorry he wouldn’t
be able to do as the Rebbe had asked him.
look at the workmanship! See what a handsome tie it is! You’ll get a lot of
use out of it – hey, where are you going?"
had walked on. What could he do? He wasn’t going to pay one hundred and fifty
dollars for a piece of material which he didn’t even know how to properly tie
around his neck.
him again he heard some heavy breathing as the peddler caught up with him.
how much money do you have? I can reduce the price to $120, but that’s just
I have is two dollars!" Yossi nearly screamed. "Will you sell it to me
for two dollars?"
peddler smiled and in a flash all his wrinkles seemed to have disappeared. He
looked twenty years younger.
why not? If that’s all you have, I’ll sell you the tie for two
paid the man and the peddler put the tie on him. The peddler pushed the knot of
the new tie up to his collar and told Yossi to tuck his shirt in. The bachur looked
quite the gentleman!
and thanks a lot," said Yossi. Then he remembered. "Are you
course! Why do you ask?" queried the peddler.
five minutes the peddler knew why. Yossi brought him to the tank, which was
parked not too far off, and politely offered to show him how to put on t’fillin,
but the peddler surprised him by saying, "I already put t’fillin on
today. I do every day, except for Shabbos, of course."
tank was decorated with pictures of the Chabad Rebbeim. The peddler looked at
the pictures and stared at the one of the Rebbe Rashab. "Who is that?"
he asked Yossi.
told him and then asked him, "Now that we have become friends, tell me the
truth. Why did you chase after me to get me to buy a tie? Do you do that with
all potential customers?"
peddler looked serious as he answered, "Not necessarily. I thought I would
keep the real reason a secret, but if you’re asking already, I’ll tell
pointed at the picture of the Rebbe Rashab and said, "Last night I dreamt
that a great Rabbi came to me. He looked a lot like the man in this picture. In
the dream he said to me: ‘Always try to help Jews. When you see a good Jew who
doesn’t have a tie, try to convince him to buy a tie from you.’ It’s
amazing how the man in the dream looks just like this person in the
was shocked. He said goodbye to his new friend and went on his way. He entered
the many-storied office building, and pressed the button for the elevator. As he
exited the elevator, the doors of the elevator across the way opened and there
stood the man who always refused to put on t’fillin.
morning," said Yossi as he continued on his way to the offices.
man looked at him in surprise. "Is that you?"
felt uncomfortable. "What do you mean?" he asked.
that new, that tie you’re wearing?"
bachur smiled sheepishly and said, "Yes, I bought it just ten
of responding, the man asked him into his office. "Please, if it isn’t a
problem, I would like you to come in and put t’fillin on with me."
the man put on t’fillin and said Sh’ma with great
concentration, Yossi handed him a card which featured the Krias Sh’ma and
the brachos for t’fillin. On the top corner of the card was a
picture of the Rebbe.
is for you," Yossi explained, "so that you’ll always know the brachos
him! I don’t believe it!" the man exclaimed. He grabbed Yossi’s sleeve
and burst into tears. It was hard to believe that this broken man was the same
individual who had dealt so tersely with Yossi in the past.
the man who appeared to me in a dream..."
he calmed down he said, "I was born to a religious family, but I left Torah
and mitzvos behind. My father and grandfather were men who greatly
respected religion and kept the mitzvos, but I was always rebellious and
did what I pleased. I gave them a lot of aggravation, but at the time I was
young and didn’t care.
I’ve been bothered by the fact that I left my heritage. Whenever you came to
me I got very angry – it was like you were coming to remind me of my roots,
and I was trying to forget about it. It was important to me to remain ‘enlightened,’
and not be like my father and grandfather from the old generation. Inside,
though, I knew I had come to a crossroads and that I would have to change
father and grandfather both died a few years ago. Lately they have been coming
to me each night in my dreams. They demand that I change for the better. They
both cry and ask me to have mercy on their souls. Last night they came
accompanied by a third man, a tzaddik, who looked like an angel. Light
radiated from his face and I bent my head before him. The tzaddik blessed
fulfilling the mitzva of t’fillin," he told me.
told him that the bachur who came to me regularly did not impress me at
all. He dressed simply, even somewhat shabbily. How could I let somebody like
that into my fancy office?
this, the tzaddik smiled broadly and asked, ‘And if he comes wearing a
tie, would you agree to put on t’fillin?’ Knowing this would never
happen I said, ‘Yes, certainly! Happily!’ Then I woke up.
looked at his new tie. The man opposite him looked at it, too. They were both
silent. Finally the man broke the silence and said, "Who is the tzaddik
who appeared to me in the dream, whose picture appears on this card? Can I meet
told him that every Sunday the Rebbe received thousands of people and gave them
dollars as shlichus mitzva money. "Do you want to come with me to
meet the Rebbe?" he asked.
man thought for a while and then said, "Let me think about it. In the
meantime, come next Wednesday to put t’fillin on with me again."
long line weaved among the benches in 770. Yossi stood next to his new friend as
both waited expectantly, hoping they wouldn’t become so rattled that they
would be unable to say what they had planned.
friend told him a secret. He planned to buy himself a pair of t’fillin
and to put them on every day. He wanted to tell this news to the Rebbe, the tzaddik
who had appeared in his dream and who had asked him to put on t’fillin.
then, there he was. The Rebbe stood there and the two friends, Yossi and his mekurav,
stood in silent awe, unable to utter a word. The Rebbe gave the man two dollars
and said, "This is to participate in your buying t’fillin."
for Yossi, the Rebbe gave him a dollar and smiled broadly, as though sharing a