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Rabbi Routs Robbers

Rabbi Routs Robbers


Five foot three, sixty five years old, bespectacled and a bit bent-over, Mr. Schwartz (fictitious name) was depressed.

It happened gradually. For the first twenty years he lived there, it had been a completely Jewish area in Brooklyn; but then gradually the Jews started leaving. The Goldmans, the Bernsteins, the Fishers; his best customers were gone and more were on the way out. Things looked bad; the crime rate was soaring; it was becoming dangerous to walk the streets. The merchandise wasn't moving off the shelves and when it did he didn't bother to renew it. He began to feel out of place in his neighborhood mini-market.

But he built it up from nothing and he didn't want to leave and begin somewhere else, and he certainly did not want to retire. On the other hand he was losing his desire to wake up in the morning.

Then one day he saw an article in the paper about a Rabbi in Brooklyn called the Lubavitcher Rebbe giving advice to people and he decided to give it a try.

He took the subway, got off at Kingston Avenue and Eastern Parkway, walked up the subway stairs to the street and then to the large red-bricked headquarters of the Lubavitcher Chassidim.

Bearded young men with pleasant eyes were bustling around in the halls and the song of Torah learning filled the air. Someone shook his hand, three people said Shalom Aleichem! and in no time he was in the office making an appointment, in three weeks he would have a private audience.

The night arrived. He was scheduled to see the Rebbe at 11:00 pm. He arrived at ten, but it wasn't until three in the morning that his turn came.

The Rebbe's room was brightly lit and unusually quiet. Bookshelves lined the walls. The Rebbe was seated behind a large, mahogany desk, stacks of letters, books and papers before him.

Mr. Schwartz handed him the letter he had prepared. The Rebbe took it, read it carefully, looked up and asked quietly. "Do you want to leave the store or not?"

Mr. Schwartz began to explain the pros and cons but when he finished the Rebbe again looked at his letter and asked: "But what do you want? Do you want to leave or not?"

"No!" Mr. Schwartz answered as emphatically as he could. "I don't want to leave. I want to stay. But I'm afraid." The Rebbe waited for him to continue.

"I'm afraid of the gangsters and I'm afraid there won't be any customers left. But I don't want to leave. That's why I'm here."

The Rebbe looked at him earnestly, smiled and said: "There is nothing to be afraid of. Don't be afraid of the people. And don't worry about making money; you can make money there also. May G‑d bless you and give you much success and good news."

Mr. Schwartz returned home a new man. He told his wife what the Rebbe had said and the next morning he went down to the store, began to order new stock and clean the place up. Sure enough, little by little people began to trickle in. There were more Jews left than he thought and some of the locals wanted to buy kosher products as well. Everything seemed to be working out. Until the robbery.

There he was, Mr. Schwartz, in the newspaper! It was a small picture of him standing with two huge policemen, one scratching his head in wonder looking at the bullet holes in the ceiling of the grocery.

The caption read 'Rabbi Routs Robbers' and underneath was an interesting story.

One evening, when Mr. Schwartz had just emptied the cash-register in his mini-market in Brooklyn and was about to come from behind the counter and close up, two huge men suddenly pushed their way in and closed the door behind them. One pulled out a gun while the other leaned over the counter and opened the cash register. When they found it empty they began pounding and kicking the counter and tried to reach over it and grab the old man. But he just took a step back, out of their reach, and emphatically declared: "Get out of here, the both of you, or I'll call the police! You aren't getting a penny!"

The other robber, to prove he meant business, pointed the gun in the air, fired two shots and began screaming, "Give the money or I'll blow your brains out! I'll kill you." But the owner didn't budge. People started gathering outside and in the distance a police siren was heard. The robbers looked at one another and fled out the door knocking a few people over as they went.

The article concluded with a quote from Mr. Schwartz explaining how he kept his cool:

"I just did what the Lubavitcher Rebbe said. He said that I shouldn't be afraid. See! He was right!"

A popular teacher, musician and storyteller, Rabbi Tuvia Bolton is co-director of Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and a senior lecturer there.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Tova Lakewood February 10, 2015

good job:) very good article:) Reply

Paula Bonnie Golladay Falls Church, VA via November 4, 2008

We all face obstacles Dear Anonymous,
We all walk 'by ourselves' many times in our lives. Or so we think. Where is G-d when I need Him? Why am I alone? We are never alone we simply do not allow ourselves the joy of seeing G-d at all times. I too have thought back in my life all of the above. But G-d is there. When is was 9 1/2 years old my beloved Taty, may he rest in peace, passed away. I can recall the night of his 3rd coronary as clear as day. I am looking back on 50 years. When I woke up at 3 AM and cried out for my father a kind policeman told me that all would be ok and that my daddy was being taken care of. Three days later at 3 AM the phone rang, I did not know that it was the hospital telling my mother that my father had just passed away. From that time on I knew that G-d was with me. We all can play the 'if only' game with our lives. If only does not work for anyone.

Keep in mind that G-d was with you when you were walking into the bank. Reply

Anonymous October 21, 2004

No obstacles One day, when I was in my late teens and needed a job, I happened to see a bank. I stood in front of it, admiring its architecture. And then I decided I was going to work there. As a teller. In my mind I already had the job as I walked into the bank. And when I was told - by one person after another - that there was no opening for a teller, nor for anything else, not in that bank nor in any of its branches, the only thing it meant to me is that I hadn't talked to the right person yet.

I started work the next day.

Mr. Schwartz also didn't recognize any obstacles. But he had more than just himself, he had something so much bigger inside him that helped him to not see the obstacles anymore. I don't know exactly how to word this - but I wish (staying with the bank example) that G-d and I had gone inside it, instead of just me. That I could remember it that way.

Perhaps one day I can. Reply

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