“Hello, may I speak with Reb Moshe Dombin?” came the voice over the telephone.
“I am calling from the local Chabad center. We are pleased to inform you that you have won a raffle, for a trip to New York to the Lubavitcher Rebbe!”
“What?” exclaimed Moshe in confusion. He did not remember ever entering such a raffle. He was the last person to do such a thing! However, he suspected that his wife, Susan, was the “guilty” party. Perhaps she had bought a ticket for him?
When his wife came home two hours later, Moshe confirmed that it was true. She had indeed purchased four tickets in the Chabad raffle, with the winning ticket being in her husband’s name.
It was spring 5746 (1986) in Strasbourg, France. Two years earlier, shortly after their marriage, Susan had begun to be involved in the local Chabad and had become an integral part of their organization. Moshe, for his part, did not understand his wife’s attraction to the Chassidic group. “If the Rebbe is so great, why does he live in America and not in Israel?” Moshe, an ardent Zionist, asked his wife.
The answers his wife attempted to give him did not satisfy him, and in general they both agreed to disagree on this particular topic. And now the winning ticket. What use did he have for a trip to the Lubavitcher Rebbe?
Moshe and Susan came up with a compromise: both of them would fly to New York to enjoy a vacation in the metropolis. They would make a perfunctory visit to the Rebbe’s synagogue, to justify the trip using the raffle funds. But nothing beyond that.
Moshe and Susan arrived in New York a few days before the holiday of Shavuot. They reserved a room in a Manhattan hotel, where they planned to do most of their touring. The holiday of Shavuot itself, they decided, they would spend in Brooklyn with the Rebbe. Chabad chassidim from their hometown promised to arrange a place for them to stay in the neighborhood.
Shortly before the holiday begun, Moshe came to the Rebbe’s synagogue, known colloquially as “770.” The place was still empty and he found a seat close to the Rebbe’s chair. Despite his strong Zionistic bent, he was curious to see the Rebbe up close and understand the source of his tremendous influence.
During the prayers Moshe was not able to see the Rebbe. The synagogue filled up quickly and the crowding was so great that his field of vision was blocked. With great difficulty he was able to get enough oxygen into his lungs...
The following day, on the suggestion of his host, Moshe found a place to stand where he could see the Rebbe entering the synagogue. They explained that although he would not be able to sit for the prayers, at least he would have a chance to get a glimpse of the Rebbe.
It was a prayer service that Moshe will never forget. He was transfixed by the Rebbe’s appearance, at the spiritual glow that emanated from him. He found it hard to focus on his prayers. All the questions and doubts he had about the Chabad approach to Judaism seemed to dissipate. “Susan was right to be attracted to Chabad. There’s nothing else like it in the world!”
By the time the holiday ended, Moses and Susan were both firm in their decision to give up all their touring and traveling plans. “For the rest of our trip, we’re staying here,” Moshe declared, and Susan was in full agreement.
The next day the Rebbe distributed dollars for charity along with blessings, and Moshe and Susan joined the line. When it was Moshe’s turn, he introduced himself as “Moshe son of Sarah from Strasbourg. I won a raffle to come here.”
The Rebbe gave him $30 towards a chassidic gathering when he returned to Strasbourg, and showered him with blessings. Among other things the Rebbe said, “You should be healthy.”
Moshe was surprised at this blessing. It was a riddle to Susan as well. Why did Moshe need this blessing? Chassidim explained to them that the blessing didn’t necessarily mean that Moshe had a problem. It could simply be a wish that all should continue to go well.
Exactly a year later, the day after Shavuot, Moshe understood very well what the Rebbe’s blessing meant. He and Susan had made aliyah and settled in Jerusalem. On the very day they moved, Moshe ate some spoiled food, apparently, and came down with a bad case of food poisoning. He experienced severe dizziness and abdominal distention, and felt that he was about to pass out.
He was rushed to Shaarei Tzedek hospital, but unfortunately the doctors there did not immediately identify his problem. Susan called a friend who was a doctor, whom they met during their short stay in Israel, and he was the one to recognize that it was a case of food poisoning. He arrived in the hospital and gave Moshe an injection which gave him immediate relief of his symptoms. After that his condition rapidly improved.
Moshe was sure that the Rebbe’s blessing for good health, which he had received exactly a year before, had come to his rescue this time.