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Inventor's Friendship with the Rebbe

Inventor's Friendship with the Rebbe

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David Bezborodko (circa 1941)
David Bezborodko (circa 1941)

The Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva in Miami Beach received a routine call in the days before Purim of 1993. An elderly man phoned that he couldn't go to synagogue to hear the reading of the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) and requested someone to come to his residence to read the scroll for him.

Chaim Schapiro, a student at the school, was sent. He found David Bezborodko, an elderly wheelchair-bound man with a flowing white beard. Schapiro dutifully read the megillah, and as he was getting ready to leave, Mr. Bezborodko asked him if he was a Chabad chassid. When Chaim nodded in affirmation, the elderly man relayed that he knew the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, from when they had spent time together in France.

The following year, Chaim moved to study in New York. "I had long forgotten about the events," Rabbi Chaim Schapiro relates. "After the Rebbe passed away in 1994, some of us started digging up information about his early years. One day, I came across a letter the Rebbe had written to Mr. Bezborodko in the early 1950s. I then remembered the entire story and decided that I had to find him again to document the events that he had related to me."

He wrote a paper about an invention he made. "I gave him the copy," he relates. "And the next day we met, he gave me two remarks."

Chaim tracked down the man, and spoke with him about his friendship with the Rebbe. It quickly became clear that Mr. Bezborodko's story was unique in that it came from someone who had actually attended scientific lectures with the Rebbe.

A self-described mitnaged, or opponent of Chasidism, he met the Rebbe in 1937. Though normally measured with his words, he spoke of the Rebbe's genius, religious adherence and refinement in superlative terms. Shortly after giving his account to rabbinical student Eliezer Zaklikovsky and a film crew in 1998, he passed away.

Comments on Glass Invention

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory (circa late 1920s)
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory (circa late 1920s)
Born in 1901, by his mid-30s, Mr. Bezborodko was a prominent inventor in the area of advanced glass-making. Hailing from Russia, his family controlled a series of glass factories throughout Eastern Europe, while he acted as a salesman and traveled far and wide for the family business.

In the late 30s, the Rebbe was living in Paris, studying advanced mathematics and mechanical engineering at the École Spéciale des Travaux Publics and the Sorbonne, all while immersed in Torah study. He also worked for his father-in-law, the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, and handling financial affairs for the underground network of Jewish institutions in Russia.

As members of a local scientific club, the Rebbe and Mr. Bezborodko consulted on a variety of issues.

When World War II began, Mr. Bezborodko and his wife fled with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson to Vichy and then Nice.

As members of a local scientific club, the Rebbe and Mr. Bezborodko consulted on a variety of issues. "I was working on procedures for polishing glass," says Mr. Bezborodko in a heavy French accent. "After 20 years of working, I reduced a job of four hours to 15 minutes. I had finished writing up my work shortly before the war broke out."

The glass specialist, who in 1942 invented an automatic mirror making machine and later founded the Mechanical Mirror Works in New York, told the Rebbe about his paper. The Rebbe requested a copy of his multi-volume work.

"I gave him the copy," relates Mr. Bezborodko. "And the next day we met, he gave me two remarks. One was regarding an issue that I was thinking much about and could not find an answer for."

The Rebbe solved the problem, allowing Mr. Bezborodko to put his theory into practice.

Says Mr. Bezborodko: "I saw that the man had a special type of brain."

Beyond Adhering to Jewish Law

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory (circa 1928)
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory (circa 1928)
Once before, Mr. Bezborodko went to Switzerland on a business trip and, at the request of the Rebbetzin, brought back 21 special hand-baked shmura matzahs from the Schmerling family.

The Rebbetzin told the man, "veil di matzos vos m'bakt [the matzahs that they bake] in Nice, he will not eat."

At that moment, Mr. Bezborodko appreciated that the Rebbe's strictures in observing Jewish practice, even in unusual circumstances, went way beyond the letter of the law. During the winter he had seen the Rebbe peeling nuts for use over Passover.

"He's preparing for Passover," the Rebbetzin told Mr. Bezborodko, pointing to the nuts. "This, he will eat."

Also in the interview, Mr. Bezborodko speaks about how the Rebbetzin went out of her way to practice the laws significantly beyond their basic requirements.

But it was another of Mr. Bezborodko's scientific encounters that remained ingrained in his memory.

"[There is] one episode that I can never forget," he says. "We were members in Club du Faubourg, a club for scientists. "How can a scientist from the 20th century say that the world exists for only 5,000 years?"And [the Rebbe] wrote a paper with the date [in French and with] the Hebrew year, 5698 de la creation du monde," which translates to "from the birth of the world."

Members of the club sent a letter to the Rebbe, asking him, "How can a scientist from the 20th century say that the world exists for only 5,000 years?" relates Mr. Bezborodko. The members demanded that the Rebbe explain his position in writing or at the next meeting.

At the next meeting, the Rebbe showed up. "The Rebbe's lecture went on for two hours," says Mr. Bezberodko. "I remember [that] at the end, everybody applauded him."

To view a clip of David Bezborodko's interview, posted on TheRebbe.org, click here.

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Discussion (3)
August 30, 2010
Oncle David
was my great uncle. If only as a child I had taken the opportunity to know him better!
Dina Shulem
Maale Adumim, Israel
June 22, 2009
The Rebbe and the Scientist
A very beautiful and moving story about the Rebbe. A sentence in the article caught my eye. "Shortly after giving his account to rabbinical student Eliezer Zaklikovsky and a film crew in 1998, he passed away." This same rabbinical student is now a Chabad Rabbi in Monroe Township, NJ and leads a growing and devoted group of senior citizens.
Art Finkel
Monroe Township, NJ
chabadonwheels.com
July 1, 2008
Shalom.

its a wonderful story.

i just wish to hear about the the whole story of the lecture that the Rebbe told to the members of the club.
florin
pristina, Kosovo
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