At the age of fifteen, the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, took the position of personal assistant to his father, Rabbi Sholom DovBer, the Rebbe Rashab.

This meant that anyone—even veteran rabbis and prestigious leaders—who came to discuss communal matters with the Rebbe Rashab, would discuss them with his son as well.

Once, the chassid Rabbi Peretz Chein1 came to Lubavitch. At that time, he was the revered rabbi of Krivkavkeh, a town on the Dnieper River opposite the city of Kremenchuk. Following protocol, he gave a report and discussed certain issues with the Rebbe’s son. While he was talking, the future rebbe took out a coin and began to flip it up into the air, catching it, and re-launching it repeatedly.

Rabbi Chein was taken aback, thinking to himself, “The Rebbe’s son is disrespecting me. After all, I am the rabbi of a large community; this is how he pays attention to what I am saying?!” Out of respect, however, he continued discussing the matter at hand, making no mention of the perceived slight.

At one point, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak missed the coin and it fell to the floor. Rabbi Chein considered picking it up.

“On the one hand,” he reasoned, “it is below my dignity to bend down to pick it up for this young man. On the other hand, this is the Rebbe’s son. I must respect him, if only for his father’s sake.” So he bent down to retrieve the coin.

At that moment, a gunshot rang out and a bullet flew through the window, missing Rabbi Chein’s head by mere inches. Had he not bent down to retrieve the coin, he would have been struck directly in the back of his head!

The bullet was shot by a member of the revolutionary group, the Esseravtzer. 2 Their real target was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the future rebbe, who fearlessly combatted their antireligious campaigns. They had, however, mistaken the visitor for his host, since both wore similar hats.

When Rabbi Chein related this story, he concluded: “At that point, I realized one does not ‘play around’ with the Rebbe’s son. I was totally wrong in my misgivings about him and his actions.”

This story was shared by Rabbi Meir Avtzon, who heard it from Rabbi Peretz Chein in the Niemitzis Shul in Kremenchuk and recorded it in his book, Orot Ba'afeilah, pp. 125-126.