My Two Rebbe Stories

I was vacationing in Nassau in the Bahamas.

I toured the casinos, pirate museum and open air market and then decided to take a busman’s holiday (I am an attorney) and visit the nearby courthouse.

It was a run-down mildew streaked structure, a remnant, I thought of Great Britain’s colonial past. I wandered around the high-ceilinged hallways and peeked through the glass window of a weathered oak door. A man in a black robe sat on a raised platform behind a large desk. I entered and sat in the furthest rear bench available and watched the proceedings.

Lawyers from the United Kingdom were arguing a motion in a bank fraud case. I was familiar with the matter. It had had world-wide implications in the financial industry.

The hearing ended.

I looked up to see a woman approaching me.

“The judge would like to see you in his chambers,” she said.

I was both curious and apprehensive. Had I broken a rule?

The judge was standing as I entered.

We exchanged pleasantries and then he asked me why I had attended the hearing.

“I’m a practicing lawyer in West Palm Beach and I wanted to see how it was done here,” I replied.

He said that he was from Australia and was sent to try the case.

He had black framed glasses and brushed back, thinning gray hair.

We continued to chat.

Finally, he said something about his community in Australia and I realized that he was a Jew.

Silently, I opened my purse and removed a plastic encased dollar bill given to me by the Rebbe.

And we were off, talking about the great contributions that the Rebbe had made to world Jewry and the world at large. Though we had just met, a man from halfway across the globe and I had a bond. That, itself, I concluded, was part of the Rebbe’s legacy.

The second story took place several years later.

I was at the Bayside, Queens, NY home of one my maternal cousins. We shared many memories of growing up together as the children of Holocaust survivors.

“I want to visit the Rebbe’s Ohel,” I announced. “It’s a short ride. It will only take a few minutes.”  She was reluctant. I was determined. Somehow, I convinced her to accompany me.

We agreed that we would first her parents’ graves a few miles away and then drive to the Ohel.

While at her parents’ cemetery I tripped on uneven stones and fell, badly scraping my shoulder. It stung all the way to the Ohel.

The Ohel was located near exterior fence enclosing the cemetery. In order to reach the graves of the Rebbe and his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, it was necessary to walk through a small building.

To my surprise, the interior of the structure was warm and welcoming. Visitors were invited to light candles placed on shelves in the corridor. (I did.)  Events in the Rebbe’s life were broadcast on a monitor suspended from the ceiling. Coffee, tea and cookies were available. Paper and pens were stacked on tables.

Men and women stood alongside a low wall surrounding the two graves. I saw tee-shirted young men who looked like they had been out dancing all night, reading prayers. I watched an angelic little girl look up at a bearded man and say “Tatteh, es iz zeyeh sheyn”.

I released my note and watched it float to the banks of the white paper messages of those who had come before me.  My cousin and I left the cemetery.

“You’re not going to believe this!” I told her as we approached our car. “My shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore!”

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her books,, FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, THE CHINESE JEW. THE TRUST and PALMBEACHTOWN are available on Amazon and Kindle.
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