1A state senator from New York once asked for a private meeting with the Rebbe. After spending over an hour with the Rebbe, he came out excited. "Until now, I never realized what a great man your Rebbe is," he told Rabbi Laibel Groner, the Rebbe's secretary.
The senator explained that he had sought the Rebbe's counsel concerning certain issues involving the Jewish community. After offering advice with regard to these matters, the Rebbe asked if he could request a favor.
"'Here it comes,' I thought to myself." He told Rabbi Groner. "Just like all the others. He's looking for the payoff. But what did the Rebbe ask of me?"
"He said: 'there is a growing community in Chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard working and law-abiding - the type of citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so out-going and the Chinese are, by nature, so reserved, they are often overlooked by government programs. As a state senator from New York, I suggest that you concern yourself with their needs.'
"I was overwhelmed. The Rebbe has a community of thousands in New York, and institutions all over the state that could benefit from government support. I was in a position to help secure funding for them, but the Rebbe didn't ask about that. He was concerned with Chinatown. I don't think he has ever been there, and I'm certain that most people there don't know who he is, but he cares about them. Now that's a true leader!"
The Journalist's Hand
2Curiosity, more than anything else, brought an Israeli journalist to a private audience with the Rebbe in 1971. He had been visiting the US, and some of his American acquaintances said that they could arrange an encounter between him and the Rebbe.
Though he lacked the reverence of the Rebbe's followers, he appreciated the opportunity to meet such a great man. When the arranged date came, he entered the Rebbe's study and handed him a note with his questions and requests, as he had been advised.
The Rebbe gazed intently at the piece of paper. "I recognize this handwriting. You have written to me in the past," he said.
The journalist was taken aback by this unexpected comment. "With all due respect," he replied, "I have never written you a letter."
The Rebbe sat in deep thought for a few moments. "There is no doubt that you have written to me in the past," the Rebbe maintained. As he spoke, he opened the drawer of his desk, took out a piece of paper and handed it to the journalist.
The journalist stared at the paper, stunned. Here it was, a letter to the Rebbe written in his own handwriting. But what is this at the bottom? Someone else had signed the letter.
Then he remembered. A few years earlier, during the Six-Day War, one of his buddies had injured his hand. After the war, the friend had wanted to send a letter to the Rebbe. Unfortunately, because of his injury, he was unable to write. The journalist wrote as his friend dictated, and the injured man managed to sign his name.
The journalist's attitude changed abruptly. The meeting became far more than a curiosity, and he departed far less indifferent than when he had entered.
In the three years between the writing of that letter and that meeting, the Rebbe had responded to several hundred thousand other letters. Yet the Rebbe had this letter at hand.
Found and lost
3It was a pleasant Sunday morning in July of1988. She should have felt as content and relaxed as any other mother of a six-week old, beautiful baby girl. Yet she was tense and worried.
"The results of my postpartum examination had shattered my hopes and plans for a family of four lovely children." ‘A cancerous illness,' the doctors concluded. As I sat there with numbing fear, I could hear them say something about an urgent operation because of the critical stage of the illness. I couldn't believe they were talking about me.
"That sunny Sunday morning appeared to me as a ray of hope. Before consulting the doctors again, I decided to pay a visit to "770" and speak to the Rebbe as he distributes dollars to be given to charity.
”I asked a neighbor to accompany me.” “I’m nervous, I feel weak, and I don't even speak Yiddish," I told her. She readily agreed to come.
"As we approached the Rebbe, my neighbor related my desperate condition: 'The doctors say they have found cancer.'
"'So they will lose it!' the Rebbe responded, his face breaking into a broad smile.
"We were stunned. The Rebbe's matter-of-fact answer had caught us both off guard and in our confusion; we thought we had not heard correctly.
"What?" we both burst out.
"The Rebbe was still smiling. ‘You told me what they found. Nu, So whatever they found, they will lose.'
"By this time, I had grasped the Rebbe's words and was overcome with emotion.” I have a six-week-old baby," I blurted tearfully.
"The Rebbe looked at me warmly and said: 'you will merit to raise her to Torah, marriage, and good deeds. ",
Shortly afterwards, the doctors indeed told the woman about a dramatic and completely positive change to their original diagnosis – a complete “loss” of their original conclusion.
Listening at the Door
4Rabbi Moshe Stern, Rabbi of the Shaarei Tefillah congregation in Toronto, Canada, related the following story. "One of my first rabbinic posts was in Birmingham, Alabama. While living there my curious two-year-old daughter managed to reach the container of cotton swabs and inserted one deeply into her ear. We were devastated when the doctors informed us that she had apparently suffered permanent loss of hearing. She underwent two complicated, but unsuccessful operations to repair the damage. 'There is nothing more we can offer,' the specialists said.
"We asked the Rebbe for a blessing. Surprisingly, he suggested that we check our mezuzos, especially the one in the child's room. Only a few weeks earlier I had purchased excellent new mezuzos for nearly every room in our house.
"I removed the mezuzah, but there was no need to have it checked professionally. The very first word, Shma – translated as 'hear' - was defectively written."
"The Rebbe also advised us to search for a doctor in a different city to continue the treatment. We discovered a doctor of international renown in Memphis, Tennessee.
"After the 'hearing' of the mezuzah on my daughter's door was repaired, the doctor performed an operation that enabled her own hearing to improve."
5'The young bearded man in the dark suit hardly resembled the regular customers of the large clothing store in the New York inner city neighborhood. But Tony, the black security guard, was not surprised to see this "regular." Every week, he would come to visit Tony's boss, the owner of the store. "We talk about our religion," the boss had told Tony when he asked about the visitor. "He also tells me all kinds of miracle stories about this holy Rabbi of his who lives in Brooklyn and helps sick people. He has a lot of admirers, this Rabbi. I heard that even the President sends him a card on his birthday. Impressive, no?”
But Tony wasn't thinking about the president. He thought about his own four-year-old little son, Michael, who was suffering from a developmental disorder. He did not talk, walk, or feed himself, and the doctors had been unable to help.
"It's a far out idea," Tony thought hesitantly. "But maybe.... " Still, he could never bring himself to approach the bearded man.
One hot summer afternoon, Tony was standing listlessly at his post when the young man walked through the door. Maybe the intense heat gave Tony a sense of urgency. "It's now or never! I've got to ask the man to get his Rabbi to bless my son."
After waiting nervously for the man to end his meeting with the boss, Tony called out, "Hey sir, got a minute?"
The young man turned to the guard. "What can I do for you?" he answered politely.
With a what-do-I-have-to-lose shrug, Tony blurted out his request. He could see the man listening attentively and thinking as he spoke, and then he offered to help. "But there's one small condition," the man said. Tony instinctively reached for his wallet.
"No, no," the young man said, waving his hand. "That's not what I meant." Tony was surprised. Now it was his turn to listen. The man told him about the Rebbe's campaign to begin each day with a moment of silence, meditating upon the Creator of the World and His expectations of man. He explained the Seven Universal Laws commanded to Noah and his descendants and which all Gentiles are obliged to observe.
"I'll write the letter about Michael to the Rebbe," the young man concluded, "but I'd like to tell him that you're trying to earn the blessing. Do the things that we spoke about for a week and then we'll see."
"It's a deal," responded Tony enthusiastically. "I'll do my thing and you do yours. I'll think about G-d every morning and try to act right. I swear my wife will be in on this too. Next week, we write this letter to the Rabbi and you give it to him, O.K.?"
The next time they met, Tony vowed that he had kept his part of the deal. "It ain't bad, thinking about G-d and all that every morning..."
The letter was written, but Tony's boss left for vacation, and it was several months before the two saw each other again. When they met again, Tony greeted the young man with a flashing smile. "Unbelievable! The kid suddenly started living! He's walkin' and talkin' and he's gonna go to school this September! Listen, would you help me write a thank-you card to the Rabbi?"
Tony promised to tell all his friends about the miracle. He tried to convince them to start their day with a moment of silence and to keep those seven laws.
* * *
Professor Yirmiyahu (Herman) Branover has achieved worldwide renown as an authority on magneto-hydrodynamics. Research in this area of alternative energy technology is carried out by a very limited number of highly trained professionals. Raised in the former Soviet Union, Professor Branover's published research had won him an international reputation in this field in the 1960's.
Along with his work on hydrodynamics, Professor Branover has a dynamic Jewish heart. He applied for an emigration visa to Israel, knowing that this would precipitate the end of his professional career in the Soviet Union. He was dismissed from his post at the Academy of Sciences in Riga and prevented from continuing his research.
Several years earlier, members of the Lubavitch movement, who, at that time, had to operate secretly because of systematic religious persecution, exposed him to the Torah and Jewish lifestyle. When he was finally allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel, in 1972, he was already fully observant.
Since then, Professor Branover has been in constant demand as a lecturer, but not only in his profession. He is frequently invited to lecture on the relationship between science and Torah. Campus audiences around the globe are extremely interested to hear an internationally renowned scientist reconcile his belief in the Torah with the supposed conflicts emerging from modern science.
Mysterious Guidance Yields Magnificent Results
"In the winter of 1973," relates Professor Branover, "I was on my first lecture tour in the United States, soon after I was finally released from the former Soviet Union. Towards the end of the two-month tour, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, then one of the Rebbe's leading emissaries, requested that I add the University of Pennsylvania to my itinerary. My wife and I were both weary from the constant travel, but our commitment to spread Torah motivated us to agree.
"Shortly before the scheduled date, I was privileged to visit the Rebbe at a private meeting. Among other matters, I mentioned the trip to Philadelphia. The Rebbe inquired about the details of the program and commented: 'During your stay in Philadelphia, do not forget to introduce yourself to a local professor who has an interest in your field.'
"The Rebbe's statement baffled me. I was well acquainted with the names of the American scientists involved in magneto-hydrodynamics and I knew the universities with which they were associated. I was certain that no Philadelphian was familiar with my field. This was very confusing and I was racking my brains to figure out what the Rebbe was getting at.
"I made the trip to Philadelphia following the busy schedule of lectures. On the morning of my arrival, when Rabbi Shemtov met me at the train station, I spoke about my encounter with the Rebbe. I mentioned the Rebbe's strange remark and added that I could not assume that this was an error.
"'The Rebbe does not make mistakes,' Rabbi Shemtov agreed emphatically. 'Allow me to assist you in locating the scientist.'
"Rabbi Shemtov convinced me to visit TempleUniversity and the University of Pennsylvania and to check the faculties of these institutions. After many hours of searching, we were introduced to Professor Hsuan Yeh. It was a refreshing change of pace to engage in a sophisticated discussion with a person who was clearly knowledgeable in magneto-hydrodynamics.
"As we concluded our conversation, Professor Yeh said: 'In six weeks there will be an annual Magneto-Hydrodynamic Energy Symposium at StanfordUniversity in California. Although the program is already finalized, I will insist that your name be added to the list of lecturers. A colleague who has arrived so recently from Russia should be given the opportunity to present his results and thoughts.'
"I looked at him with surprise. 'Didn't you just say that the program was finalized?'
"Professor Yeh added with a smile, 'You see, I am on the program committee.'
"I appreciated the Professor's offer, and yet I graciously declined, explaining that both my wife and I were anxious to return to our new home in Israel. The trip had already been extended more than we would have liked.
"I returned to New York and we prepared to return home the next day. Just before leaving, I wrote the Rebbe a report of our trip to Philadelphia, mentioning my encounter with Professor Yeh and his suggestion regarding the symposium in California. I got a written response from the Rebbe immediately. Once again, the Rebbe made an unexpected statement. He advised me to reschedule my plans and to accept the invitation, for the convention presented an important opportunity.
"My wife and I were taken by surprise by the Rebbe's response. Despite the need to rearrange our plans, we were acquainted enough with the Rebbe to value his advice. I called Professor Yeh, who was happy to arrange for me to deliver a lecture.
"The significance of my participation at the symposium became clear very rapidly. I met two representatives of the Office of Naval Research in Virginia who came specifically to talk to me. They told me that they had read about my work, and were prepared to finance further research. They added, 'We understand that you want to establish your laboratory in Israel, and we are willing to provide you with funds for your work there.'
"As a result, I set up a laboratory in Beer Sheva, Israel, which has gained worldwide recognition for its magneto-hydrodynamics research. Since the original grant, my contract with the Office of Naval Research has been renewed many times, with a very substantial budget granted by the US Government for further research and development of this novel technology.
Outsmarting the Experts
The Rebbe frequently asked Professor Branover about his various research projects. Usually the Rebbe requested a full technical report, which was given orally. In one report, Branover presented a very sophisticated study built upon extensive computer modeling. As he reviewed the details, the Rebbe remarked: "Two numbers here are inconsistent."
Professor Branover was stunned. "But all the calculations were done by computer and the program used is based on our most advanced theory."
The Rebbe smiled. "With all due respect to the experts, you will see that there is an error."
In the preparation of the calculations, an incongruity indeed had appeared. It took Professor Branover's research team two years to locate it.
Once before Professor Branover was scheduled to address a conference of Jewish scientists, the Rebbe told him: "You have an important message to communicate. Tell your colleagues that as a scholar of solar energy, you encourage every Jew to emulate the sun.
"Why is this star of such great importance? There are larger heavenly bodies, indeed, many which dwarf the sun in size. What is special about the sun? It provides light and generates heat.
"There are other heavenly phenomena called black holes. These are also powerful sources of energy, but in this instance, the energy is directed inward. The black holes pull everything, even the energy they emit, to themselves.
"The sun, by contrast, generously gives of itself to the entire planetary system. So, too, a Jew must radiate ahavas yisrael- love for a fellow Jew. After all, if the sun was only capable of heating its own mass, who would have paid any attention to it?"
Professor Branover is also active in developing religious education and professional training for Jews in the former Soviet Union and for Russian immigrants to the Land of Israel. In the course of these activities, he has been chosen by the Rebbe for several missions.
What Gorbachev Didn't Know
"In the spring of 1985, I received word from the Rebbe's office that the Rebbe requested to speak to me," relates Professor Branover. "Of course, I arrived at '770' as soon as I could. The Rebbe greeted me and informed me of his desire that I relay his forthcoming message to various persons in Russia. Not in my wildest dreams was I prepared for the content of the message.
"The Rebbe unraveled before me the unbelievable change that was going to take place in Russia. A new era of freedom would begin in just a few years, the Rebbe prophesied. Waves of Russian Jews would immigrate to the Land of Israel.
"To say that I was stunned is quite an understatement. If I had heard these words from anyone but the Rebbe, I' would have dismissed them as fantasy. As such, I was neither surprised nor offended when various people in Russia whom I contacted by phone were skeptical. 'Are you sure this is exactly what the Rebbe said?' they asked again and again. And, may I add, these people were not unfamiliar with the Rebbe. Quite the contrary, these were his own people who were directing the Lubavitch underground activities in Russia. It was simply that the Rebbe's prediction seemed so far-fetched.
"The same day the Rebbe spoke to me about all this, in the spring of 1985, newspapers such as the New York Times and the New York Post had published front-page articles predicting that the new Gorbachev government would follow a an even harder Communist hard line. People who were living in the then Soviet Union felt this even more powerfully.
"When I related the response from Russia to the Rebbe, he requested that I contact them once again, assuring them that these changes indeed already began to take place, but they are not yet seen.
"The realization of the Rebbe's words is now history. In 1992, when Mikhail Gorbachev visited Israel, I was introduced to him and told him and his wife Rayisa what the Rebbe had said seven years earlier. You should have seen Gorbachev's face. He simply could not digest it. 'When I assumed power, I myself did not have any plan for the future. Moreover, a year or two later, I did develop a plan but I never intended to bring Communism to an end. As it turned out, events developed differently. I would like to meet this man who knew so much about the direction which my country would follow.'''
President by Seven Percent
6The car accident had been serious enough to worry Eliezer Shemtov, and so the rabbi hastened to visit his friend in the hospital. There he would find his friend ready to mend, and for that the Lubavitcher emissary in Montevideo, Uruguay, thanked G-d.
"You have no idea how much you scared me," said Shemtov. "As soon as I heard what happened to you, I rushed here, praying to G-d you'd be all right."
"I am, praise G-d. And I've learned one thing after this."
"What's that?" asked Sherntov.
"Not to drive so fast," his friend said, with a pained smile.
"Well and good," said Shemtov, "for now I have something to talk to you about as we both get older, many years from now."
Just then another man joined the two at bedside. Shemtov's friend was overjoyed to see him. "Ali," he said in Spanish, "Now I've brought my two favorite friends together."
Both Shemtov and the stranger looked up at each other and smiled, not knowing what their bedridden friend had in mind.
He introduced them to one another. "He is Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, of Lubavitch. And he," nodding to the other visitor, "is Senator Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera."
"You know," said Lacalle, "I am fluent in Spanish, English and French, and I have a fair knowledge of Italian, but Hebrew ... "Here he put out his palms is if to say, "Gee, but I wish I did know that language."
"We can speak in Spanish or English, if you like," Shemtov said.
Lacalle nodded; then said in English: "I believe I too come from Jewish origins."
Shemtov wanted to know more. Was the senator just kidding? The man in bed knew better. It was left for Shemtov to find that out, too.
"It's a long story," Lacalle began; "according to my great-grandmother, my family may have started out with Jewish ancestors."
Genuinely, Shemtov seemed surprised.
"How do you know for sure that your family was once Jewish?" Shemtov asked.
"I don't know for certain," Lacalle said. "You have to remember, being a Jew in the sixteenth century was a difficult choice. Then, Jews trying to hide from the Inquisition arrived here, in the Rio de la Plata river area, first as refugees from Spain, later from the Netherlands. They promptly announced they were Conversos."
"Are you a descendant of Conversos.?" Shemtov asked Lacalle.
Lacalle hunched his shoulders. "All I do know," said Lacalle, "is that my mother went to the market on Friday evenings to visit an old Spanish woman who covered her head with her hands and lit candles because, she claimed, it was an ancient tradition. I don't know if my mother also covered her head and lit candles, but I certainly readily identify with Jews. For years now, I frequently call the Sephardic synagogue here in Montevideo 'home'."
Shemtov smiled warmly at Lacalle. Here was a man he could warm up to. After they bade their friend in the hospital bed basta luego for now, the rabbi invited the senator for lunch at the Chabad House in Montevideo, and the senator said he was eager to come because he had some important business to discuss with the rabbi.
The year was 1989, and the inexperienced, twenty-seven-old Shemtov, from Brooklyn, New York, was relatively new in Montevideo, certainly to its politics. From Lacalle, Shemtov Got a nutshell-view of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, whose physical size can be compared to the size of North Dakota, and is set between the Argentine and Brazilian giants of South America. Uruguay, because of its tolerance, heterogeneity and pluralism, has often been dubbed "South America's Switzerland."
Also from the senator, Shemtov got a good picture of Jewish life in the country. "The official records show that the Jewish community dates from 1890," Lacalle said.
"Isn't that inconsistent with what you said about your past?" Shemtov said.
Lacalle shook his head. "No, these people, mainly Sephardic Jews, were different from earlier Jews in Uruguay. From Syria, Cyprus, Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, France and the Balkans, these new Jews had familiarity with the Spanish language and unlike the Ashkenazim of Europe, lacked a ghetto outlook, which allowed them to integrate quickly. They did not have to hide their Jewish identities."
Rabbi Shemtov was intrigued. "By 1916, however," Lacalle went on, "enough Ashkenazic Jews - mainly from Lithuania, Poland and Russia, had arrived to form Montevideo's first Jewish burial society, and by 1917, founded the city's first synagogue. But the bulk of the Jews came to Uruguay during the 1920s and early 1930s, basically because of the United States' immigration restrictions at the time.
"You should also know, Rabbi, that Uruguay has long maintained an affinity towards the Jewish state. In fact, it expressed its support for Jewish aspirations in Palestine and the Balfour Declaration as early as the San Remo Conference in 1920. In the years immediately preceding World War II, Uruguay, although not entirely immune to Fascist influence, kept its doors open to Jews longer than most other countries. In fact, later on, when the United Nations Special Committee on Partition was formed following World War II, Uruguay was among the twelve member countries. Its representative, Enrico Rodriguez Fabrigant, cast one of the deciding votes for Israel's establishment. And," here Lacalle seemed to take great pride in his words, "Uruguay was the first Latin American country to recognize the new state. Reciprocally a forest in the Judean Hills honors Uruguay's national hero, Jose Gervasio Artigas."
(During the past decade, Lubavitch has established a wide range of programs, including a trilingual school in Pocitos. Playing an important part in this continuing growth, Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, inspired by the Rebbe continues to spread Yiddishkeit, as best as he can, to the thirty thousand or so Jews in Montevideo, who, while maintaining their identity through Zionism and Jewish cultural activities, are mainly secular.)
Finally, the senator said to Shemtov, "If I can be of help to you, don't hesitate to phone me, write me, or even visit me,"
Shemtov was pleased to hear that, and offered his services to Lacalle.
"I'm glad you offered, Rabbi, because you can help me." "I'm at your service, Senator."
"I want to help Jews more."
Shemtov asked how he proposed to do that,
"As president of Uruguay," Lacalle said simply.
"Did I hear you say 'president?'" Shemtov asked.
"Yes, I'm a senator now and I want to win the presidency in the upcoming elections. This is where you come in,"
"Me?" Shemtov was genuinely surprise. "What can I do?"
"I've heard so much about your Rebbe, I'd like to meet him."
"That can be arranged," said Shemtov.
Then Shemtov pointed out how the Rebbe always wanted to meet world leaders so he could enlist their help in making the Seven Noahide Laws (prohibitions against idolatry, bloodshed, sexual sins, theft, eating from a living animal, blasphemy, and the obligation to establish a legal system) the guiding principles behind the laws of their land.
"If you were willing to do that, senator, with that intention in mind, your visit with the Rebbe will surely be worthwhile."
Without hesitation, the senator, a very religious man, agreed.
Before Lacalle left the Chabad House that day, Shemtov gave the senator a sheaf of material on the Seven Noahide Laws and a book called The Path of the Righteous Gentile.
"I promise to read every word you gave me." The senator couldn't thank the Rabbi enough. The lunch over, Senator Lacalle left the Chabad House to prepare for the trip to CrownHeights, which Shemtov had promised to arrange.
There was no time to lose. Two months before the presidential election in Uruguay, Lacalle traveled to New York City for the purpose of seeing the Rebbe on the Sunday dollars line. Already in place were arrangements made by Shemtov. Another shliach in New York would pick up the senator at his hotel about , Sunday morning, and drive him to CrownHeights. But, by the time the shliach arrived at , the senator was nowhere to be found. Where was Senator Lacalle? At eleven on the dot, he had left his hotel room and hailed a yellow cab. "Take me to CrownHeightspronto," he told the cabbie.
"Si, si, 770 Eastern Parkway," Lacalle said excitedly. "The Rebbe, the Rebbe."
"Ah, the Rebbe! Yes, I know about him."
Lacalle was in luck. His driver said he would lose no time getting him there.
But the ride was not so good. Down one street, bumper to bumper on another street, up another, next, cut across to the East Side, and through it all, the taxi seemed to be crawling. This would never do: the senator had a date with destiny. It got better on the BrooklynBridge, over which the car seemed to fly.
Only to get stuck in bumper to bumper again on Flatbush Avenue. To this day the president isn't certain whether, in front of his cab, there was a parade or a massive demonstration. All he knew was that he was sitting there far too long in the cab watching it, and he continued to sit, and sit, and sit. And when he couldn't take it any longer, he paid the cabbie, asked directions to 770, and left the cab. To everyone who might have seen him, Lacalle looked like a typical jogger in New York, as he jogged up Flatbush Avenue, around GrandArmyPlaza, and up Eastern Parkway. Faster than a crawling cab, slower than a speeding subway (which he had no idea how to use), he reached 770, with enough time to cool down.
Once there he joined the dollars line outside "770". It so happened that he met a bochur (student)- on the line who once was in Uruguay. Having heard that the senator was sent by Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, he excused himself and found Eliezer Shemtov's father-in-law, Rabbi Hirsch Chitrik, who, alerted by Eliezer Shemtov, was also waiting at "770" for Lacalle.
Finally, Rabbi Chitrik brought the senator face to face with the Rebbe, and made the formal introductions. The senator showed the Rebbe the material about the Seven Noahide Laws that he brought with him.
Pleased to see that a senator from Uruguay was aware of and interested in the Seven Noahide Laws, the Rebbe said (according to Rabbi Hirsch Chitrik), "Here's a dollar for you to win the presidency, and here is another dollar that when you become president you should place a pushka (alms box) on your desk. As president you're going to have tremendous influence on the citizens of Uruguay, and the world. Because of that influence, you should teach everybody to give charity."
The weekend of November 26, 1989 was noteworthy for two reasons. The International Shluchim Conference was held in CrownHeights, and that Sunday was the presidential election in Uruguay. In attendance at the conference was Shemtov. On Sunday Shemtov received a phone call from a friend in Uruguay. The first returns showed that Senator Lacalle, in last place a mere few months prior, was winning by seven percent. By the end of the day he became President Elect of the Republic of Uruguay.
That evening, after the Rebbe returned from visiting the ohel (the burial site of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe) and handed out more dollars/blessings, Rabbi Shemtov notified the Rebbe of the astounding event in Uruguay.
The senator, who had spoken to the Rebbe about the Seven Noahide Laws, had won the election that day by an initial margin of seven percent.
The Rebbe smiled and said, "Remind the new president of the significance of the number seven." Then the Rebbe gave Shemtov an extra dollar. For what? wondered Shemtov.
Said the Rebbe: "This is your commission for bringing the President. "
In his great excitement, Shemtov phoned the new Uruguayan president-elect, who was at that very moment holding a victory party in a hotel in Uruguay. The president-elect was summoned to the phone and he greeted his friend Rabbi Shemtov.
Shemtov told him he just told the Rebbe that his initial victory was by a seven- percent margin. Shemtov then explained the deeper meaning of the number seven, according to the teachings of Chassidus.
In his own words, Shemtov explained: The seven days of the week represent the seven Divine energies, the seven Divine attributes that begin on Sunday, with love and kindness; on Monday, the second energy represents discipline and law and order; Tuesday's energy refers to compassion and beauty; Wednesday's energy relates to ambition and endurance, on Thursday, it's humility, Friday, it's bonding and foundation, and Saturday, the seventh day, represents sovereignty and majesty.
"So when we say the number seven, we always refer to this cycle of seven, which has repeated itself every Sunday, since the time of Creation. So, Mr. President, that's why in Judaism you'll find a lot of emphasis on the number seven."
(The number seven plays an important role in the Bible, too. The Israelites always eyed its mystical power: the days of Creation, the Noachide laws, the ancestors of Israel [Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Abraham, Isaac and jacob], the cows and ears of corn in Joseph’s dream, the period of priestly ordination and many other priestly functions and measurements, the seven species [barley, dates, figs, grapes, olives, pomegranates, and wheat], the Sabbatical year, the circuits around Jericho, and the seven chords of King David's harp.)
The president -elect expressed his amazement.
"It was no coincidence, Mr. President," said Shemtov. "But there is one more thing," Shemtov added.
"What?" the president -elect eagerly asked.
"Did you give the dollar the Rebbe gave you to charity?"
"Si, si, I'll see to it. Please thank the Rebbe, and I'll make certain I shall give a dollar to charity as my first act as president."
After the two hung up their phones, at the victory celebration, the president-elect turned to his top aides and asked them for an American dollar. One of them gave him a dollar, and later he was seen placing it in a pushka on his desk - his first act as president.
Sometime near the end of his term, in 1994, he was the guest of honor at the testimonial dinner, celebrating the first decade of Chabad in Uruguay, held at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. When he stood at the podium, he held up a very worn dollar bill, and said, "I know the dollar bill looks worn, but it's not due to devaluation, but because I carry it with me constantly."
As it is said and written, "Precious are the seven - and the Rebbe's seven percent solution!"
1. As heard from Rabbi Groner at a public lecture in January 1998. Also published in To Know and To Care Vol. 2, p. 233 Sichos in English. 1996. NY
2. To Know and To Care, Vol. I, p.95-6. Sichos in English, 1993