Joseph Chaki’s frustration was intense. Once again he had tried his luck with a sizable business investment, and the money went down the drain. “Why me?” The question plagued Joseph endlessly.
Joseph’s friends in the Jewish community of Mexico were already familiar with his bad luck. Since childhood, it had been Joseph Chaki’s dream to be a successful businessman. However, for some reason, whenever he came close to achieving his dreams, his investments would go bad and the success he craved would slip through his fingers.
This all took place thirty years ago. During this period of repeated failures and frustrations, Joseph heard about a group trip being planned to New York, to spend time with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Joseph heard stories about the power of the Rebbe’s blessings, and decided to join the group.
A week later, Joseph and some of his friends from Mexico were in the main synagogue of the Rebbe, at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. They arrived late at night, and waited their turn to enter the Rebbe’s office for a private audience.
At , Joseph’s turn arrived. Trembling with emotion, Joseph entered the Rebbe’s room and was overwhelmed by the Rebbe’s luminous appearance. Yet, Joseph did not become flustered. He knew exactly what he wanted to ask the Rebbe, and got straight to the point. “Rebbe, I want to be wealthy! My business is not successful and I want the Rebbe’s blessing to be rich. I want to be a multi-millionaire,” he declared.
The Rebbe’s face grew serious. After a few minutes of thought, he said to Joseph: “Begin wearing the tefillin written according to the tradition of Rabbeinu Tam, in addition to the regular tefillin, written according to the tradition of Rashi.” (The parchments of tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam are inscribed with the same Torah excerpts as that of Rashi, but are inserted in a different order. According to Kabbalah, they have a higher degree of holiness than “ordinary” tefillin.”)
Joseph had no idea to what the Rebbe was referring. He had never heard of Rabbeinu Tam or his tefillin. Nevertheless, he nodded his head in agreement and left the Rebbe’s room.
Outside, Joseph stopped the first Chassid he saw and inquired about the meaning of the Rebbe’s advice. He was prepared to put on an extra pair of tefillin each day, but a new set would cost hundreds of dollars, something he could not afford at that moment.
Joseph returned to Mexico without a new pair of tefillin. He was sure that he would find friends who would lend him the required sum. To his surprise, when he told his friends why he needed the money, they were not overly enthusiastic. To them, the request sounded odd, overly “religious” for their community in Mexico.
Joseph was not deterred. Somehow he managed to gather the money and ordered a set of Rabbeinu Tam tefillin from New York.
Sure enough, after laying the tefillin for some time his luck began to improve. Several of his investments began to turn around and show a profit. He also came across some excellent opportunities that proved to be a lot more lucrative than anything he had tried up to that point. The Rebbe’s blessing began to bear fruit.
Joseph began to make strides in spiritual matters as well. He gave large sums of money to Torah institutions and charitable organizations. He committed himself to praying with a minyan three times a day, and to attend a daily session of Torah study.
One fine day, Joseph was sitting in his office going over his accounts. With a feeling of satisfaction, he realized that he had finally achieved his goals! He looked into the large mirror on the opposite wall and said to himself: “There goes a millionaire!” Suddenly the thought rose in his mind: “The credit does not go to G-d, to the Lubavitcher Rebbe or to Rabbeinu Tam! The credit goes to me, Joseph Chaki. I worked hard, I took risks and invested in the right places. My business skills produced this success!”
As if possessed, Joseph called his rabbi and told him that he would no longer be attending the daily study session. He also stopped attending synagogue, and the Rabbeinu Tam tefillin were set aside in a drawer, forgotten.
Joseph’s come-uppance was not long in coming. Just a few days later, he made a slight error in calculations which led to a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When he realized his mistake, it was too late to fix. This mistake proved to be the first in a flood of errors, misjudgment and plain bad luck that brought a reversal of his previous good fortune.
The reversal was so sharp and sudden that only a fool would not connect the dots. Joseph realized that this time, he was indeed responsible for the turn of his fortunes…
Joseph resumed attending synagogue and laying Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin. However, he had undergone an inner change. No longer was he doing these things for financial gain, but out of a sincere desire to connect with G-d. This time, his return to wealth was slow but steady. Joseph realized to whom he owed the thanks for his good fortune: To the Almighty and his emissary, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.