Monday, August 13, 2007

Thank you Habad

My mother-in-law, Hayya Basha bat Menahem Manis, passed away Thursday afternoon. The levaya was Friday morning at Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, where the Lubavitcher Rebbe זצ''ל is buried. Since few people were expected, and in accord with my wife's family's modest tastes, a simple graveside service was planned. It was raining heavily. I was expecting difficulty getting a minyan. Since we do not have a car, the funeral director sent a limousine to transport us from our home to the cemetery. I asked the limo driver to stop at the ohel, the small building housing a beit midrash, that one passes through to see the Rebbe's grave, to see if we could scrounge up enough men to make a minyan. He agreed, but not enough people were there; the place is usually packed. I returned to the waiting limo, almost giving up hope of having a minyan for my father-in-law to say Kaddish, when an Israeli hasid came running up with his cell phone, gave me the number and asked me to call when we got to the graveside. Then the limo driver informed us that he would not be able to transport the hasidim from the ohel to the grave, as company policy allowed him to go only from home to grave and back. The Hasidim, doing us a favor, would have to arrange their own transportation. We stopped at the cemetery office to fill out the necessary paperwork, and the funeral director informed us we would not be able to wait for additional people once we got to the grave. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I called the hasid's cell phone from the office and told him we would be at the graveside (Block 80, they would have to get a map in the office to figure out where that was) in a few minutes. When we arrived, the non-Jewish cemetery workers wheeled the casket from the hearse to the grave and lowered it down. This caused me much mental anguish (click here) but we only had four men, including the officiating rabbi and my elderly father-in-law. I and my son began to shovel earth into the grave. Suddenly six hasidim materialized. They had walked from the ohel to the cemetery office to the grave. Not only did they complete the minyan (along with my shul's interim rabbi who went out of his way to be there), they actually took shovels in their hands and helped us fill in the grave! They, along with me and my son, did not stop until the tzurrat ha-kever was completed. Neither the cemetery workers nor their bulldozers had any part. My father-in-law said Kaddish, and only then did the hasidim leave the scene, on foot in a pouring rain.
The hashkafa problems we have with Habad are well known and need not be belabored here. But when you need them, they are there. The Rebbe's name was Menahem; כשמו כן הוא . The name fits. The Rebbe comforted me before my Bar Mitzvah (click here) and his hasidim comforted me, as they comfort countless others, last Friday. Tizku l'mitzvot - what you do will hasten the arrival of Mashiach, whoever he is.


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