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Seeing the Blind

Seeing the Blind

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As the sun was about to set, my train broke down in the middle of the Bronx and I had to walk. Heading in the general direction of Pelham Parkway, I kept asking people where the address was. I remember one helpful soul who told me, "Son, you've got a long way to go!"

Earlier that afternoon, a group of students in Brooklyn had finished baking the last of the Passover matzah. It was 1958, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe had a custom of giving hand-baked matzah to people as a spiritual gift before Passover. He would stand for hours, greeting people and handing them matzah. The Zohar says matzah is the "bread of faith," and simply eating it nourishes the soul.

The Rebbe would give matzah first to the people who had to travel far, because riding in a car or subway is not permitted on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. I was 16 and had to get home to 167th and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, which was pretty far away. When I approached the Rebbe, he handed me matzah and asked if I could deliver some to a certain family.

Ideally, I would have taken a taxi from the subway station, asked the driver to wait, delivered the matzah, and gotten home in time for our Seder. But life is seldom ideal. Eventually, I found the address, which turned out to be a housing project. I knocked on the door and out came a man with no shirt, tattoos and a potbelly.

"What is it?" he snapped. In the Bronx, it's proper etiquette to snap when greeting someone. "Excuse me, are you Mr. So-and-so?" I asked. "Yeah," he said. I noticed the loaf of rye bread sitting on the table, definitely not a traditional Seder food. I said, "The Rebbe sent me."

"The Rebbe? Oh, please come in," he said. The tiny kitchen contained only a small table, some chairs and a hot plate. I didn't understand what I was doing there, delivering matzah to a family that wasn't celebrating Passover. Then I thought, perhaps that's exactly why I was there.

I asked the man if he would like to have a Seder. He agreed and called for his I didn't understand why I was delivering matzah to a family that wasn't celebrating Passover. Then I thought, perhaps that's exactly why I was there. wife to come in. She entered, visibly pregnant, with two beautiful little girls, maybe five or six years old, trailing behind. Both girls were blind.

We cleared off the table. I put a hat on the man's head and said, "Okay, we're having a Seder!" I tried to remember the blessings in the proper order, but it was difficult without a Haggadah. We ate the matzah and used water and paper cups to recall the four cups of wine. I tried to think what the Rebbe would do if he was here. I looked at the little girls and at their mother, about to have another child, and began to tell them some things I had learned from the Rebbe.

I told them that we have to have faith. On this night, G‑d liberated our ancestors from slavery, and He liberates us, too. The husband and wife seemed to hang on every word, like they were getting nourishment just by listening. I told them that on Passover, we journey through our personal Egypt to freedom, and that G‑d doesn't put on our shoulders more than we can carry. Once you know that, and believe it, you're already liberated. We sang songs with the children and time flew.

At 1:00 a.m., the woman put the girls to bed and it was time for me to leave, but I had to ask the man how he knew the Rebbe. It turned out he was a tanner and was acquainted with a rabbi who worked at another section of the meat plant. Several months ago, his wife had become pregnant. Since they had a disease that caused their children to be born blind, their doctor recommended an abortion. The man was very depressed and didn't know what to do. So he asked this rabbi, who suggested that he write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe wrote back, saying that they should have faith in G‑d and have the child.

As I was about to leave, the man said, "You know, my wife and I weren't sure about this. How are we supposed to have faith? How are we supposed to forget what is and have hope? We didn't think it was possible. But tonight, hearing about faith and how G‑d gives us the strength to overcome our personal Egypt, well, now we understand."

Their son was born fully sighted. Over time, I lost track of this family, but years later I learned that the daughters had married and that each had several children, all sighted.

To really describe the Rebbe's love for hundreds of thousands of Jews and non-Jews all over the world would be impossible. The best I could do is to write about a poor family in the Bronx, living in a housing project for the blind. And how the Rebbe had faith hand-delivered to their door.

By Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch (Courtesy of Farbrengen Magazine)
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Anonymous Malta April 4, 2010

We are all born spiritually blind, but because of G_d's infinite Grace, Light reaches into the farthest corners. Reply

Oren NY, NY via chabadofwashingtonheights.org April 2, 2010

Exceptional I agree with Anonymous, Washington. Reply

Anonymous Washington March 26, 2010

What's wrong with being blind? As the mother of a blind daughter, I take offense to the idea that blindness is a tragedy. Everyone has a disability -- some are more obvious than others, but we all have them. Reply

Anonymous August 10, 2009

Mystery This brought to tears to my eyes. The beauty and sanctity of life and faith in G-d. Blessed with a fully sighted son and blessed with grandchildren from two beautiful blind women. It is so beautiful that the parents saw, that their eyes were opened to G-d's mystery of life.
thank you. Reply

Steve Malta April 2, 2009

Wonderful! Reply

Rabbi brauch Sherman, TX/US March 31, 2009

Dear Anonymous, from Englewood NJ The point is that most people, including myself is we can’t see that we don’t need the blessing of the Rebbi, we already have been blessed by G-D himself. The sad part from a human stand point is we forget that in adversity G-D has blessed us as well, and I believe that was the point the Rebbi was making to Rabbi Cunin that in our adversity we are also blessed.

I hope that this will shed a better light on the Rebbi and his motives for not giving you the blessing of your desire. Reply

Rabbi Brauch Sherman, TX/US March 31, 2009

Dear Anonymous, from Englewood NJ I find it very interesting what your thoughts on the Rebbi are. Please understand I am neither, taking your side, or putting you down for how you feel. Growing up in SJ I never was close enough to even have any knowledge of this Rebbi.

My point here is your expectations of what this Rebbi could do for you within the circumstance which drew you to him. I have had all those same feeling not so much were a Rebbi is concerned, but where G-D is concerned. I don’t believe that you were less worthy or that there was something wrong with you at all.

What I do think is that the Rebbi being close to G-D tried to follow the Lord’s direction in where the help and healing was to be given and to whom. Remember he is still a Man and is bound to make mistakes as we all can. Reply

Anonymous Englewood, NJ, USA March 31, 2009

about the rebbe... What touched me at first about the story was Rabbi Cunin's address in the Bronx - not far from where I grew up. However, I remain rather cynical. I went to the rebbe twice and I wrote him a letter (before I saw him). I never had a response ti my letter and seeing him was not an amazing experience for me. I've heard many incredible stories about the rebbe and I know people who claim their success and/or healing was directly related to the rebbe's blessing, However, what are we, those whom the rebbe didn't acknowledge or bless supposed to feel? Are we unworthy? Is there something wrong with us? To be honest, it feels pretty awful!

Additionally, because my father's family is buried in Montefiore Cemetery, we go to the grave every year. I'm not quite sure why we go - nothing has come from it. So - while part of me still believes that the rebbe had amazing powers, another feels hurt and rejected - as if I just don't measure up. Reply

Anonymous March 30, 2009

You have inspired me to have more love for my fellow jews. I almost broke off a painful, long lasting friendship but I will try to be patient and loving. The Rebbe still affects my life. I would love to live my life by his example. I wish to emulate his standards of kindness and selfless love. Reply

Inge Reisinger March 30, 2009

What a wonderful story reached me just before Pessach - G-d gives everyone as much as he can carry on his shoulders and he sends always one to help carring the own package. Reply

Anonymous san diego, ca, usa March 30, 2009

Once again what a wonderful story as always. I thoroughly enjoy these stories and look forward to the next one. Thank you thank you thank you. There is always so much to learn and so many reminders to be grateful for our miracles and blessings. Reply

Rabbi Baruch Sherman, TX March 30, 2009

Your own Faith Rabbi:
The one thing you haven't touched on was, not only did the Rebbi send you to bring them faith, but he sent you to see a leasson. In how others live an question their faith, because of their trials.
Sometimes in order to see the blessing G-D has offered us we need to see, how G-D has worked in someelses life. Reply

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