I immigrated to Israel from Tashkent, Uzbekistan in the early seventies. In 1981, I was a yeshivah student studying in the central Lubavitch Yeshivah at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. One night, I had left the study hall and was heading to the synagogue when I saw someone very familiar coming towards me. I recognized him as someone who had also lived in Tashkent and had immigrated to Israel the same time I had. I was surprised to see him in that neighborhood as I did not know that he had a connection with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
He told me that he was visiting New York and very badly wanted to meet the Rebbe for a private audience, yechidus. He asked if I could help him. I spoke with the secretaries and was successful in arranging an appointment for him.
On the day of his yechidus, he came to Crown Heights again, and spent the day in fasting and prayer, as is customary before going to see the Rebbe. When his turn came, he went in for a short audience, while I waited for him outside. When he emerged I could see tears streaming down his face. However, at the time he did not wish to confide in me what had happened.
I took him back to my room and prepared a bed for him to stay overnight. During the night, I was startled awake by someone shaking me. I saw that it was my friend, and he told me that he wanted to share with me what had happened during his yechidus.
He told me that while in the Soviet Union, he had been a member of the Communist party. As a result, he was able to run a large food store and amass a small fortune. During the seventies, there was a period when the Iron Curtain was open to Jews to emigrate to Israel, and many took the opportunity. My friend’s father was among those who applied for an exit visa. However, he was not satisfied to leave alone. He wanted his entire family to leave with him. He convinced his son to bribe the same officials he had bribed to become a member of the Communist party, to grant him and his family an exit visa.
My friend was successful in procuring the necessary papers, and left Russia with half a million rubles in cash, a tremendous sum of money. He decided to invest the money in the diamond market in Israel. At first, his investments reaped a considerable profit, doubling and even tripling their original value. However, the wheel of fortune began to turn, and after a period of success and prosperity, the business hit a serious dry spell. He lost all his money and capital.
He was beside himself. He went to the Bank Igud and borrowed $350,000. As a member of the stock exchange, he had access to a huge line of credit. He hoped that with this sum he would be able to turn his business affairs around. However, this huge sum went down the drain as well in a failed business deal. The bank went to court to prevent him from leaving the country until his debts were paid.
He pleaded with the bank manager to allow him to go abroad for a limited period of time to raise funds. The bank manager eventually relented and agreed to rescind the travel ban. He wrote this entire story in his letter to the Rebbe, which he submitted before he went in for yechidus, as is customary. When he entered, the Rebbe read his letter and then said to him, “When you left Russia, you promised to give ten percent of all your profits to G-d, and you didn’t do that. When you will fulfill your obligations, your financial situation will become good again.” That was the end of the audience.
He left the room completely stunned and told me that he felt his legs buckling from the flood of emotions. He recalled that as he was leaving the Soviet Union, he had made a promise in his heart that he would give a tenth of his earnings, maaser, to charity, if he would have success in his business, and here the Rebbe was reminding him of that promise. It took him several hours to recover from the fact that the Rebbe looked at him and knew his entire past and future, as if it were written in front of him.
Of course, he promised that from then on he would be stringent about giving maaser. He returned to Israel and slowly reentered the diamond business, where he kept his promise. Today he is a successful diamond merchant, back on his feet with even greater capital. His sons have entered the business and he runs a worldwide diamond network from his offices in Israel, New York and Hong Kong.