Tova and Danny Ben-Gavriel were a young couple making their first steps towards Jewish observance. Early in the process, Tova’s cousin Nechama Navon put them in touch with the Chabad emissaries in their area.
Nechama herself had just recently resumed her own Jewish observance and had married a Chabad chassid. With much excitement, Nechama and her husband shared their passion for Chassidic teachings and in particular, their impressions of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
“You must go to New York to meet the Rebbe,” Nechama told her cousin, during one of their visits.
The truth is that Danny already had plans to travel to the United States, to attend a conference on self-discovery, a field that was just developing at the time. At the same time, Nechama and her husband were going to travel to New York to spend some time in the Rebbe’s synagogue. “Let’s start our trip to New York together, with the Rebbe,” suggested Nechama. “After that you can resume your original schedule, however you please.”
Danny and Tova exchanged glances. “Fine,” agreed Danny. This would be an opportunity to meet the personality they had heard so much about, as well as a chance to spend some quality time with one of their closest friends and relatives.
This was in 1985. When Tova repeats the details of her trip, she finds it hard to put her finger on any particular highlight. “There were so many highlights. The moments that we stood in front of the Rebbe and merited to receive his blessing or a dollar for charity; the gatherings that the Rebbe would conduct with thousands of Chassidim; praying together with him, and so much more.”
Regarding the rest of their plan – to attend the workshops on self-discovery – Danny and Tova were now uncertain whether the course material was in keeping with a Jewish outlook.
After consulting with friends, Danny and Tova decided to present their question to the Rebbe, whether or not it would be appropriate to attend the conference. They also used the opportunity to mention that Danny was planning on enrolling in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study occupational therapy, and they wanted the Rebbe’s opinion on the matter.
In response, the Rebbe encouraged Danny on the general subject of training for an occupation, but on the condition that it be done with the guidance and advice of a rabbi and spiritual advisor. The Rebbe recommended that the Ben-Gavriels turn to a local rabbi, Rabbi Nissan Mangel, and follow his advice.
Rabbi Mangel strongly negated the idea of attending the conference, but was supportive of Danny’s plan to study in university. “In any case,” he told Danny, “You need to find a rabbi, as the Rebbe advised, who can guide you through every step of life and to whom you can turn with any doubt or struggle.”
Danny indeed enrolled in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study occupational therapy. He credits his success in the field to the Rebbe’s blessings, which have accompanied him and his family for the past 25 years. However, out of all the blessings, there is one that stands out in Danny’s and Tova’s mind. That was the blessing to which Danny owes his life.
It was 20 years ago, shortly after the birth of the Ben-Gavriel’s second child. The baby was born with some health problems that required surgery. Tova quickly sent a fax to the Rebbe requesting a blessing for the baby and herself.
However, for some reason the Rebbe’s answer was delayed. Days passed, then weeks, then months, without an answer from the Rebbe. Danny and Tova had already learned that the Rebbe does not always answer in a tangible form, but his blessing will nevertheless reach them in one way or another. Therefore, they went ahead with surgery as the doctors had advised, assured that the Rebbe’s blessing would surely accompany them.
A full seven months later, they received a reply to their original request. The letter of the Rebbe was addressed to “Danny Ben-Gavriel” and read, “Blessing and success for complete health. I will mention it at the gravesite” (referring to the burial place of his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson).
On the day the letter came, Danny was not at home. He was serving in the Israeli Army reserves in the Gaza Strip. This was during the first Intifada, and Danny was sent to Gaza to attempt to control the unruly mobs.
Tova wanted to share the contents of the letter with her husband. In truth she was a bit surprised that the letter was addressed to her husband and not to her; after all, she had written the original letter.
The next day, Danny surprised Tova by showing up at the door. He had been granted leave from reserve duty. “I had a miracle!” He explained to his wife. “Yesterday, during one of our patrols in Gaza, a brick was thrown at me and missed my head by millimeters. The brick hit me hard in the back, and because of that I was given leave. My life was given to me as a gift!”
Finally Tova put the pieces together. “Danny, I know what saved you,” she cried, showing him the letter of the Rebbe that had just arrived. “You see,” she explained, “the Rebbe sent his blessing just at the moment you needed it.”