It happened in the summer of 1961, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was a young yeshivah student, and had just returned to 770 Eastern Parkway, Chabad headquarters, from my summer mission—the Jewish outreach program by rabbinical students. As it was about 2:00 AM and I didn’t want to wake anyone up at that hour, I went into the study hall, found a table, and put my head down for a bit.

I had just fallen asleep when I felt somebody tapping me on the shoulder. Totally exhausted, I decided not to pay attention. Again I felt somebody tapping me. I still ignored him, thinking, “If this happens once more, I’m going to let him have it . . .” And, sure enough, it happened again.

I whipped around and was startled to see Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov, the Rebbe’s chief secretary.

Reb Zalman?” he asked—I was only a student, but he was very proper, calling me “Reb” Zalman. “When did you come back?” “I came in tonight,” I replied.

“Do you want to do something?” Even though I was half asleep, I knew that when Rabbi Hodakov asked if you wanted to do something, it was probably coming from the Rebbe. I quickly woke up. “Sure,” I said, and followed him to his office, where he began to explain to me what he wanted me to do:

“I will give you a pair of tefillin, and you’ll take them to Long Beach, New York. There’s a man there by the name of Mr. Louis Shelder. You should bring him the tefillin and show him how to put them on. Make sure not to come before 6:00 AM, because you might wake him up. But don’t come after six, because you might miss him!” Now fully awake, I responded, “Fine.”

I washed up, and by then it was 3:30 in the morning. Wanting to follow the instructions to the letter, I departed for my destination with plenty of time to spare. By 5:30 AM, I was waiting at Mr. Shelder’s front door.

At exactly 6:00 AM, I knocked, and sure enough, a man opened the door. I smiled and said, “My name is Zalman Lipsker. The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me here to put on tefillin with you. Are you Mr. Shelder?” He replied, “Yes, come in.”

We made some small talk, and then I did exactly as Rabbi Hodakov requested. As I was showing Mr. Shelder how to put on the tefillin for the first time, I distinctly remember there was a little girl sitting quietly in the room.

Then he asked, “Where are you going?”

“Back to Crown Heights,” I replied.

“And I’m going to Manhattan,” he said. “Let’s go together.” I agreed.

On the way he said to me, “Your Rebbe is something.” And then he told me what had transpired:

“Last night at around 11:00, I had an audience with the Rebbe. In the middle of the conversation, the Rebbe asked me whether I put on tefillin every day. I said I didn’t, and we continued to talk about other matters. A bit later, the Rebbe asked me, ‘If you had tefillin, would you put them on?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know how,’ and we continued to talk about something else. Then he again came back to the subject of tefillin: ‘If you had tefillin, and someone showed you how to put them on, would you?’ I had no choice but to say yes.

“During the conversation, the Rebbe made sure to find out exactly what my morning schedule was—when I get up in the morning, when I leave the house, everything. And here you are, only a few hours later! He sent you with the tefillin. This is simply amazing.”

Upon my return to 770, I reported to Rabbi Hodakov. But that was not the end of the story.

Many, many years later, I got a call from a woman in Israel, asking about this story. Apparently I had told it to someone, and it had been published in a magazine. This woman read it and decided to find me. Why?

Emotionally, she told me that she was the little girl who was in the room that morning, as I lay tefillin on Mr. Louis Shelder—her father.

She told me that the family eventually became fully observant. She now lives in Israel with her husband, and her son is learning in yeshivah. After reading the story, she had to call and let me know the happy ending to this remarkable story.