Back in the early 1960s, Rabbi Moshe Feller was the shaliach, the emissary, who the Rebbe sent to Minnesota. His job was to bring Jews closer to Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Feller had heard about me and wanted to meet with me face to face. At the time, I was doing research for NASA, as well as for the Army Biological Laboratory. I worked in a very, very secure laboratory. There was no access for anybody without high clearance.

He tried to call and make an appointment, but I told him it was impossible. When I first got a call from him, I knew, a guy with a black hat comes to Minneapolis—how many guys with black hats are there in Minneapolis? So I knew he’s a meshulach, he’s a representative; he’s coming to get money.

So I told him on the phone, “You don’t have to come. I’ll send a check.” And he said, “I don’t need a check.” That’s the first time he said that, and the last time he said it, “I don’t need a check, I want to see you.” I said, “Rabbi, I’ll give you twice as much.” I thought, ah, I’m going to give him $36 instead of $18. He said, “I must speak to you, it’s a matter of extreme importance.”

Believe it or not, I arranged for him to come.

He came into my office. This is a little Jew with a black hat, a beard, two big guards on both sides of him with guns. I saw that and my heart just, you know—I was sympathetic to him, even though I knew he was there for money or something else, whatever gig he had.

So I asked him to sit down and we talked. I said, “You’re a nice guy, I’m gonna tell you how to be successful. The first thing you got to do is trim the beard a little bit. Look like a mensch. Get out of that black suit, you look like an undertaker.” I was giving him good advice. He was listening.

And then he looked out the window—this is important—he looked out the window, and he looked at me. He said, “Excuse me, I’ve got to do something.” I said, “Well, the bathroom is over there.” No. He got up, he took a cord from his pocket, he tied it around his waist, and he started to shake like this.

What is he doing? It’s not Rosh Hashanah, and it’s not Yom Kippur. Is he praying? It’s the middle of the afternoon and there is no one telling him what page to be on. After all, this was my job as a Reform rabbi [although not ordained, Greene was appointed rabbi of a 60-family congregation] to tell you what page you’re on. There was no one telling him what page to be on. And most of all, I was no longer in control. He’s in my office, he asked for an appointment, and he’s ignoring me. He’s facing the window and he’s shaking.

When he was finished, he sat down again. I said, “Rabbi Feller, the interview is over; you’ve insulted me. You came for an appointment with me, and all of a sudden you’re doing some mumbo-jumbo.” And then he said the key words. He said, “What I came for was very, very important, but what I had to do now was even more important.”

If you want to know what changed, if you want to talk about the word epiphany, that happened there. Now I know he was davening Minchah, the afternoon prayer, and he had to do it before the sun went down—and that was more important than even what he came for.

Now that is dedication, and that impressed me.