The widow of Jacques Lifschitz, the renowned sculptor, came for a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe shortly after her husband’s sudden passing. In the course of her meeting with the Rebbe, she mentioned that when her husband died, he was nearing completion of a massive abstract sculpture of a phoenix (a mythical bird that is said to have “risen from the ashes”), a work commissioned by the Hadassah Women’s Organization for the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, in Jerusalem.

As an artist and sculptor in her own right, she said that she would have liked to complete her husband’s work, but, she told the Rebbe, she had been advised by Jewish leaders that the phoenix is a non-Jewish symbol. How could she complete it and allow it to be placed in Jerusalem, no less?!

One of the Rebbe’s secretaries was standing near the door to the Rebbe’s office that night when the Rebbe called for him and asked that he bring him the book of Job from his bookshelf, which he did.

The Rebbe turned to chapter 29, verse 18, which reads: “I will live as long as the chol (phoenix).”

The Rebbe then proceeded to explain to Mrs. Lifschitz the Midrashic commentary on this verse which describes the chol as a bird that lives for a thousand years, dies, and is later resurrected from its ashes.

Clearly, the phoenix is a Jewish symbol.

Mrs. Lifschitz was absolutely delighted and the project was completed soon thereafter. How fitting was this beautiful metaphor of life returning from the ashes. In his own Divinely inspired way, the Rebbe had brought new hope to this broken widow, much as he has done for the spirit of the Jewish people, raising them from the ashes of the Holocaust to new, invigorated life.

To Know and To Care, vol. 2, p. 139