My wife and I became Chabad emissaries to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1994.

After spending two years in an apartment, we purchased a house with an extended garage, which we converted into a synagogue and Chabad center. The plan was to move the Chabad center to a bigger, better and more permanent location within a few years. But it was not to be. We stayed in that same house for close to 12 years.

Much money and effort was invested in various projects and properties, but every time we got close to closing on something, the deals would not materialize, for reasons beyond our control. In short, we suffered 10 years of disappointments and lost opportunities.

Finally, in 2007, after eight attempted projects, a new prospect arose. There was a six-acre property for sale, with a large building and a parking lot, and it seemed to suit our needs perfectly. The building belonged to a non-Jewish religious establishment that had run into major financial difficulties. They were desperate to sell the property to pay off their debts, and that meant that we would be offered a very good price.

The only issue with it was the location. Every Jewish center or institution in the city is situated either on the main street or just north of it. This property was a full mile south of the main road. My supporters were split, and of course, I was torn as well. Everything about it—the property, the building and the price—was perfect, all except for location.

In the middle of all this, I traveled to New York for the international conference of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, and as I usually do, I planned to take a taxi straight from the airport to the Ohel, the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Since the flight would take a few hours, I decided to write my letter to the Rebbe on the plane.

The new Chabad center.
The new Chabad center.

In the letter, I included everything that was weighing me down, and I poured my heart into the letter in a way quite uncharacteristic of me. I began, “It will soon be 13 years (בקרוב יתמלאו י"ג שנה) since our arrival in Memphis, and we still have not found a permanent location suitable for our needs.” I described everything that had transpired in the previous 12 years, especially the latest developments with all its pros and cons.

I was willing to invest all the time, effort and money that was necessary for this project, but I first needed to be certain that this was the right course of action. Too often I had chased after what seemed like a great opportunity, spending large amounts of money and effort on projects that eventually fell through. I did not want to repeat that process. I asked for a blessing that whatever happens, it should be with success, and then I concluded the letter in a very unusual fashion. In the past, whenever I had written to the Rebbe about such matters, I had always requested a blessing. But now, for the first time, I finished the letter by asking the Rebbe to show me “a sign” as to whether we should go ahead with this project or not. I ended the letter with a question: "Is this the correct thing?” (באם נכון להנ"ל)

After visiting the Ohel, I made my way to Crown Heights. I was in my parents' home that evening when my father, Rabbi Binyomin Klein of blessed memory, long-time aide of the Rebbe, suddenly remembered something. He had a paper with a handwritten reply from the Rebbe that he wanted to give me. I was surprised because although my father had served as the Rebbe's personal aide, it was highly unusual for him to give me something from the Rebbe, even something that pertained to me. I waited as he went upstairs. After a minute, he came down with the note and proceeded to tell me the story behind it.

The Rebbe's responses are on the right side margin of the note.
The Rebbe's responses are on the right side margin of the note.

I was born on 13 Tammuz, the anniversary of the day when the Previous Rebbe left his Soviet-imposed exile, which the Rebbe marked every year with a farbrengen. The farbrengen usually took place on the night in between 12 and 13 Tammuz. My bar-mitzvah took place in 1980, and that year 13 Tammuz fell out on Friday, which meant that the Rebbe was going to hold a farbrengen on Thursday night. Although the Rebbe always encouraged people to make the bar-mitzvah celebration as close to the actual birthday as possible, my parents decided that because of the farbrengen, my celebration would be postponed to Sunday.

My father wrote a note to the Rebbe asking if we should go ahead as planned, ending with the words: “We are asking if this is the correct thing.” (ושאלים אם הנ"ל נכון)

The Rebbe's handwritten answer was on the very same note. The Rebbe wrote, “May it take place in a good and auspicious time. I will mention it at the resting place [of the Previous Rebbe]” ( ויהא כל הנ"ל בשעה טובה ומוצלחת, אזכיר על הציון ). My father handed me the note and told me to keep it.

With a pounding heart, I looked closer at the note. It immediately struck me that the wording in the beginning and end of the note was practically identical to the letter I had written to the Rebbe earlier that day.

The opening words: “My son, Levi Yitzchok, will soon complete 13 years” (יתמלאו לבני לוי יצחק שי' הלוי בן לאה י"ג שנים), and closing with those questioning words, asking if “this is the correct thing” (אם הנ"ל נכון).

I was stunned. It became instantly clear to me that the slip of paper in my hand was an answer to the question I had written the Rebbe earlier that day. I now felt ready to go ahead with the purchase, and I was confident that the process would be smooth and successful. When I returned home after the conference we began negotiations with the sellers, and everything fell into place. The building was successfully bought and renovated. We have been in the building for nine years to date, and all the concerns regarding the location were unfounded. As the city is expanding to the suburbs, this location is better than we could ever have expected.

Rabbi Levi Klein speaks at the grand opening of the new Chabad center. His father is directly to his left.
Rabbi Levi Klein speaks at the grand opening of the new Chabad center. His father is directly to his left.