One cloudy night during the first years after the Rebbe assumed his position, a group of people stood outside of “770” for Kiddush Levanah, the sanctification of the moon. These prayers may be recited only when it is possible to see the moon clearly during the first half of the Jewish month.1

On this wintry night in Brooklyn, it was the fourteenth night of the month and the Rebbe and a group of his chassidim were watching a cloud-covered sky. As they were waiting, the Rebbe began telling a story about a similar situation which occurred with a Rebbe and his European chassidim almost two hundred years before.

Reb Meir of Premishlan and his followers, the Rebbe related, had faced a similar situation. It was the last night in which the moon could be sanctified, but it was covered with clouds. Reb Meir turned to his followers. “How did the Jews recite Kiddush Levanah prayers in the desert?” he asked. “Their camp was covered by the Clouds of Glory.”

His followers sensed that his question was rhetorical and remained silent.

Reb Meir soon continued. “Moshe Rabbeinu took a handkerchief, waved it at the position in the sky where the moon would be located, and the clouds parted.” And Reb Meir took out his own handkerchief, waved it at the clouds, and they too moved apart, revealing the full moon.

“Perhaps it can happen again,” the Rebbe asked his own followers. “Can somebody here can do the same thing?”

While the others remained silent, one elder chassid boldly suggested that the Rebbe do it.

The Rebbe quietly went inside to his office. Seconds later, the clouds parted to reveal the bright moon. As the Rebbe emerged to recite the prayers, the chassidim whispered to each other that the Rebbe must have waved a handkerchief at the clouds from the solitude of his room.

The story continues forty years later, and thousands of miles away, in the beautiful southern British sea resort of Bournemouth. The Rebbe had announced a campaign to spread the practice of Kiddush Levanah ,2 so the town’s shluchim, Rabbi and Mrs. Alperovitz, decided to introduce this ritual by performing it during a late-night boat cruise.

At first, interest in the cruise was small and Rabbi Alperovitz thought of canceling the event. As they prepared to do so, they received a message of encouragement from the Rebbe. With dedication and enthusiasm, they increased their efforts. On the night the cruise was scheduled, forty people came to the harbor, despite forecasts of heavy clouds and thunderstorms.

The program was impressive and the storms held back, but the sky remained covered with clouds and the Kiddush Levanah prayers could not be recited. As the boat was about to head back to the pier, Rabbi Alperovitz told the handkerchief story, and everyone looked heavenward expectantly. Someone must have waved a handkerchief, because the clouds began to part, revealing a beautiful, clear moon.