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"When the Rebbe's face appeared on the screen, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I called the TV station and asked them where this person lived."

The Hippie with the Magnificent Etrog

The Hippie with the Magnificent Etrog

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The Hippie with the Magnificent Etrog
"When the Rebbe's face appeared on the screen, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I called the TV station and asked them where this person lived."

It is a glorious good deed to share one's lulav-etrog set during the Sukkot festival. On the first day of the holiday in 1971, two students from the main Lubavitcher Yeshiva in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn walked to the nearby neighborhood of Park Slope and knocked on doors, offering people make the blessing on their "Four Species." At one apartment they were immediately let in by a young man with long blond hair and blue jeans. He declined their offer, saying that he already possessed a set! They were quite surprised to hear it, and much more so when he proceeded to take out and show them the most beautiful etrog they had ever seen.

...he proceeded to take out and show them the most beautiful etrog they had ever seen.

The "hippie" asked the two wide-eyed students if they would like to know the story of how he got this magnificent etrog.

"I had suddenly taken ill and my condition deteriorated rapidly. I was hospitalized and fell into a coma. I heard afterwards that the doctors had given up on my chances for survival.

"While lying in a coma I saw a sort of courtroom, and the mood of the judges was frighteningly somber. Then, an old man stood up. He had a large, squarish white beard and piercing blue eyes, yet his face was welcoming and somehow reassuring. He announced to the court that he would assume responsibility for me.

"Turning to me, he told me that I would not die at this time, but in return I would have to get more involved with my Judaism.

"A short while later I regained consciousness. The doctors were surprised. After a slow recuperation and rehabilitation, I was released and sent home. Several months passed and life resumed its normal status quo. I had almost forgotten my strange dream.

"One day I was watching the evening news. The report concerned the seventieth birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. When the Rebbe's face appeared on the screen, I nearly jumped out of my skin. There was the face I had seen in my coma. I called the TV station and asked them where this person lived.

"Traveling by subway, I arrived at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch World Headquarters. People were running back and forth. I stopped a young man and told him I wanted to see the Rebbe. He brought me to a certain spot and told me to stand there, that the Rebbe would soon be passing by on his way to his office.

'So much for comatose hallucinations,' I thought.

"When I saw the Rebbe, a great awe overcame me. I managed to step in front of his path and said, 'Rebbe, I need to speak to you.' The Rebbe walked past me as though I was not there. I felt like I had just been thrown away. 'So much for comatose hallucinations,' I thought.

"Just then, a different office door opened. A man who introduced himself as the Rebbe's secretary told me that the Rebbe wanted to see me now. I was led into his office and the secretary closed the door.

"I told the Rebbe about seeing him during my coma and what he has said to me. The Rebbe smiled and said, 'if so, what have you done about it?' I shook my head sheepishly.

"The Rebbe asked me various personal details. Finally he opened a desk draw and removed what he told me was a pair of tefillin. Handing them to me, he said that I should go into the adjoining study hall and ask one of the students to show me how to use them.

"Each month, he continued, he would send some other mitzvah for me to do. This month, just a few days ago, I received this etrog, along with a lulav and the little branches of two kinds of greens. I have instructions how to use them but I don't quite understand them. Since you are here, please show me how to do it."

Adapted from the rendition in "Torah e-Parsha" from Shliachp@aol.com (Sukkot 5761) and from two different oral versions (in truth, the differences are all in non-essential details).]

Adapted from Hebron.org.il, by Yrachmiel Tilles. Rabbi Tilles is co-founder of ASCENT OF SAFED, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the Ascent and Kabbalah Online websites
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