An Amen at the Right Moment

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16 Mar 2006

Everyone knew that the only weddings the late Bobover Rebbe, R. Shlomo Halberstam zt”l, ever attended were those of family members and orphaned chasanim. On those rare occasions, the Rebbe was always honored with Siddur Kiddushin, officiating at the marriage ceremony.

So, in 1980, when Beirish Weinberger, the orphaned son of the Turke Rebbe and a student in the Bobover Yeshiva became a chassan, he hurried to invite the Bobover Rebbe to participate in his simcha. Of course, he also asked him to officiate as Mesader Kiddushin. The Rebbe graciously accepted both invitations with his blessings.

Beirish had always been one of the Bobover Rebbe’s close talmidim, but after his father’s untimely passing, he looked to the Rebbe to fill his void. Whenever Beirish needed a listening ear or a guiding hand, it was to the Rebbe whom he turned. The close relationship was further reinforced when Beirish’s sister married R. Ben Zion Freshwater, the Bobover Rebbe’s nephew. Thus, the invitation was a mere formality — it was a “given” to Beirish that his Rebbe would officiate at his wedding.

But, unknown to Beirish, his widowed mother, Rebbetzin Weinberger, had already agreed that the kallah‘s father, Mr. Menczer, would honor the Pupa Rebbe with Siddur Kedushin. Mr. Menczer was known to be the Pupa Rebbe’s most devoted, hard-working and influential chassid. He was even referred to as “Mr. Pupa.” Although the Menczers were a large family, the kallah was the only daughter. The family — and everyone in their close circles — never questioned who would be Mesader Kiddushin at Mr. Pupa’s “one and only” daughter’s wedding. Of course, the Pupa Rebbe would receive this important honor!

Although it is the accepted custom that this honor is given by the chassan‘s side, Rebbetzin Weinberger had fully understood Mr. Menczer’s position and had graciously agreed to his choice. It had never occurred to her that her son Beirish would be honoring the Bobover Rebbe with the same Siddur Kiddushin.

Ten days before the wedding, the Weinbergers suddenly realized that one Siddur Kiddushin had been offered to two Rebbes!

After the initial shock, aggravation and embarrassment, Rebbetzin Weinberger declared that she was incapable of handling the very delicate situation alone. She needed the help of her married children. Calls were made immediately to her two sons-in-law; R. Ben Zion Freshwater in London and R. Yankel Rubin in Los Angeles, to leave for New York right away, rather than just before the Shabbos Aufruf as they had planned.

After much discussion, they decided that nothing should be mentioned to the kallah‘s father. It would be wiser to straighten out the misunderstanding with the Bobover Rebbe. They had a close relationship with the Rebbe, and eh would surely understand. Nevertheless, they still wanted to present the delicate matter respectfully. The family decided to offer the Rebbe a different kibud, honor, hoping that in this way they’d be able to honorably and respectfully retract the previous invitation.

It was just a week before the wedding when the chassan and his two brothers-in-law were welcomed into the Bobover Rebbe’s office. It was a relaxed, friendly visit for everyone. For Ben Zion Freshwater it was visiting a beloved uncle; for Yankel Rubin it was being close to the Rebbe he loved and trusted. Though he lived in Los Angeles, he visited the Rebbe often. Married eight years, he still had no children and would come to the Rebbe for encouragement and reassurance.

During the visit, Yankel asked the Rebbe, if unlike his usual custom, he would honor them at Beirish’s wedding by recited the sheva brachot and dancing the mitzvah-tantz. The Rebbe accepted graciously. There was a spontaneous sigh of relief from all three. But it was premature. At the door, in parting, the Rebbe turned to the chassan and asked: Beirish, zug mir, ven shtelt men di chuppah? — “Tell me, Beirish, when will the chuppah start?

“The Rebbe didn’t understand me!” Yankel said crestfallen, when the Rebbe’s door had closed behind them. “He didn’t realize what this new invitation was all about!”

Back home, the chassan was near hysteria. “The Rebbe didn’t understand, and do you know why? Because the Rebbe wants to come to my chuppah and be my Mesader Kiddushin. He’s going to come to the chuppah, and someone else will be the Mesader Kiddushin. We can’t do that — it’s the biggest chutzpah! And what about me? I have to go to my chuppah without my father, and now will I have to go without my Rebbe, too?! I just can’t!” He was devastated.

“He’ll get over it!” Rebbetzin Weinberger said, but her worried voice betrayed her uncertainty.

Finally, three days before the wedding, Yankel Rubin announced that if the other men of the family accompanied him, he’d tell the Rebbe what was going on. When they agreed, he called the Rebbe. Apologizing for any inconvenience, he asked the Rebbe if they could come speak with him. He told the Rebbe it was an emergency — the chassan was saying that he wouldn’t attend his wedding!

This time, the Rebbe took them all up into his private dining-room, where they wouldn’t be disturbed. He motioned for the chassan and Ben Zion Freshwater to sit on his right and Yankel Rubin to sit on his left. Then he took the chassan’s hand in his own and started talking to him, softly, soothingly.

“This is not the first case of a chassan getting cold feet before his wedding!” he told them all. “Most of the time, a chassan can be calmed down with reassurance, patience and sympathy…”

“But Rebbe, there’s more to it than that!” Yankel said sadly. This time, he told the Rebbe the entire story, starting from Mr. Menczer’s title of “Mr. Pupa”. He explained that the chassan was now emotionally distraught, thinking about getting married without his father to lead him to the chuppah, and without his Rebbe being Mesader Kiddushin.

When Yankel finished, the Rebbe’s face was wreathed in smiles. Placing his two hands on the dining-room table, he pointed with the index finger of one hand into the palm of the other, as though he was writing on a paper. Then he asked, “Do you really think a doctor wrote a prescription saying that the only blessing I could make under the chuppah was that of Siddue Kedushin? What about one of the other berachos? For me Sos Tosis, Vesagel HaAkarah — ‘Let the barren woman rejoice and exult, be happy and be cheered!’ — is also a blessing!”

“Amen,” Yankel Rubin shouted, jumping out of his chair.

The Rebbe looked up startled, then a joyful expression of delight covered his face. He smiled knowingly at Yankel Rubin, the chassid who had been praying to be blessed with children for eight long years.

And as Yankel later related, “The Rebbe’s look seemed to say ‘Good work, Yankele, you heard the blessing and answered with the right word at the right moment. Your shout of Amen reinforced the strength of that blessing. Yes, a barren woman will at last be filled with joy and happiness and cheer!”

Of course, Beirish was delighted that the Rebbe attended his chuppah — he was honored with a berachah and the Pupa Rebbe was Mesader Kiddushin. It turned out to be an extremely joyous event for both Pupa and Bobover chassidim.

And ten and a half months later, Yankel Rubin and his wife were blessed with a daughter, the first of many children!

This story is excerpted from “Just One Word” by Esther Stern, reprinted with permission from Feldheim Publishers.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.