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Chapter Eleven


Special Connections


    During our first Pesach in Crown Heights some close friends of ours who lived in Monsey came for a visit. We had first met them in Boston and we continued our friendship through each of our moves to different places. My friend Judith was a single mother trying her very best and succeeding to raise her son and daughter to be fine and upstanding Torah observant Jews. She had left her husband in Israel and had come back to the states to make a life for herself and her children. While they were living in Boston, Judith met a woman from Monsey who convinced her to come and visit here for the summer. After seeing Monsey, Judith decided that she and her children would be better off there, where there was a much larger Orthodox community and a wider selection of yeshivas.

     We hadn't seen them in a few years and we were very excited when they came to Crown Heights. I had always admired Judith because she was so unusually positive about life, even during the difficult times. Dovid often referred to her as "Little Mary Sunshine." We had a wonderful time when they came. At first we all sat around the dining room table talking and catching up on each other's lives. Then we took a walk up Kingston Avenue so they could see what Crown Heights was like.

     When we got to 770 we went inside so Uriah, Judith's son, could daven. Later Judith mentioned to me that Uriah told her he had been worried that 770 would be some sort of fancy and overly decorated shul. But it turned out that Uriah was relieved and greatly impressed actually by the simplicity of 770. I found Uriah's observation exceptionally perceptive, especially since years earlier when I first visited 770 my impression was completely opposite from Uriah's. I had felt completely underwhelmed by the simplicity, and for years I felt so badly that I felt that way. It was not until much later, when I began to understand that something that was truly powerful spiritually often appeared quite simple when you looked at it only from a physical point of view. The truth is that 770 is a reflection of the Rebbe, who is overwhelmingly powerful and yet he never once had the need for fancy clothing or jewels to help make him appear powerful. All of the power emanating from the Rebbe was handed to him directly from G-d, and of course there is no power stronger or brighter than the power given by G-d. This power unique to the Lubavitcher Rebbe was continually used for the purpose of helping Jews to better understand their connection to G-d and to one another. I knew from the moment I met Judith and her children that we would always have a strong connection to each other. And that connection keeps getting more and more interesting.

     Last year Judith went to visit her delightful daughter Miriam (Mary Sunshine Junior), who attends seminary in Gateshead, England. While Judith was there she was introduced to a very nice man whose wife had passed away a few years earlier. In addition to his older children who lived in Israel, he had a daughter who Miriam coincidentally had become friends with in dance class. Well, everything worked out splendidly. When Dovid and I stood in Monsey watching our friend Judith getting married I just kept crying. I was thrilled and overjoyed for her and especially appreciative to G-d for allowing those of us who loved and adored Judith to see and enjoy His goodness to her in such an openly revealed way.

     I knew how hard things had been for Judith and many times I found myself mentioning her to other people as an example of great strength and fortitude. I have another close friend who is divorced and raising a daughter. But she feels that a woman can't live an Orthodox life unless she is married, and that just isn't true. Judith made sure her children understood clearly that the only way for a Jew to truly live was through Torah.

     Now that she and her children live in Gateshead, Uriah has become close friends with one of my neighbor's sons who learns in the same yeshiva as Uriah. My neighbor is thrilled about this because she thinks Uriah is exactly the kind of friend her son needed. I think it's so amazing how this whole wonderful story began. First Judith's daughter Miriam read a book about the women's seminary in Gateshead, which happened to be written by my neighbor's sister. After reading the book Miriam became convinced that this was the right seminary for her, so she applied and was accepted. And the rest I have already told you. But this story is only one example of the many special connections that continue to take place in each of our lives. This is the most important time in the history of Jews, because this is the time leading up to our complete and total reconnection to each other, to G-d and to the promise we made at Mount Sinai.

     One day I was walking our daughter Altie to her incredibly caring physical therapist Sorah Smith, who also happens to be absolute proof that common sense is alive and well and residing in Crown Heights. On our way to therapy we ran into Bluma Marcus (Ita's lovely daughter). At that time Bluma was living with her Bubby and Zayde here in Crown Heights so she could attend high school at Bais Rivka. Bluma offered to walk with us, and I mentioned to her that I had heard how well she played the piano. I also told her I had never heard her play, and she asked me if I would like to come to her Bubby's house and listen to her play the piano while Altie was at physical therapy. I said of course I would love to come.

     When we got to Sorah Smith's office I was about to introduce Bluma to Sorah Smith's lovely daughter Blumie, who is the receptionist there. I always enjoyed talking to Blumie and watching her adorable son running around playing. When I started to introduce Bluma Marcus to Blumie I asked Blumie what her last name was. She said it was Samuels. I paused for a moment and then asked her if she was related to Rabbi Yoseph Samuels. She said she was married to his son Mendy. You can't imagine what an incredibly beautiful feeling came over me in that instant. There I was standing with two of the sweetest young women in the world who also happened to be connected to some of the most important people in my life. It was those very people who had enabled me to be standing in that exact spot at that particular moment. I was especially happy to discover that Rabbi Samuels had been blessed with such a warm and loving daughter-in-law who was a true Bas Yisroel.

     I walked with Bluma to her Bubby and Zaydy's house, and as I sat there listening to this extremely talented person playing such beautiful music I began to cry. I knew I was crying partly because I missed hanging out with my friend Dolly Bloom and listening to her play the piano. Although I spoke with Dolly several times a week on the phone, it wasn't the same as being with her. I was also crying because I knew how lucky I was to have such good friends. And even though I couldn't always be with them, I carried their specialness around with me wherever I went. Bluma didn't notice I was crying. She was busy enjoying herself on the piano. I sat there smiling and thinking how delightful and entertaining it was to be around a person like Bluma. I felt so good for Ita that G-d had blessed her with such a special daughter. And I also felt so good for me that G-d had blessed me with so many special connections in my life. But most of all I felt good knowing that these special connections between Jews would very soon culminate in the ultimate connection, the greatest and most special one of all, our connection with Mount Sinai.