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Vision for his People

Aryeh Ehrlich

Who could have imagined that the Kalover Rebbe — the spiritual shepherd who’s touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews over four decades of traveling the world — would lie paralyzed, unable to move, speak, or breathe on his own, communicating only with his eyes? Yet the ALS that has ravaged his body hasn’t

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

It’s 2 a.m. on Lee Avenue at the corner of Hewes Street in Williamsburg. It’s the beginning of spring, but the chill goes through my bones as I walk toward the house where I’m about to witness a bittersweet miracle, a fusion of pain and inspiration. The home of the Kalover Rebbe. The tens of thousands of people whose lives the Rebbe has touched over the past 40 years of his international travel are still the subject of his prayers, but now they’re davening for him as well. In the past year the Rebbe’s body has been ravaged by the dreaded disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling muscle movement. Yet although nearly all of his physical functions have shut down, the Rebbe is as alive as ever. The shock of this illness is all the more painful for those who remember the Rebbe just two or three years ago as a worldwide spiritual leader with boundless energy — boarding and disembarking from planes, traveling to remote countries to shower Yidden around the world with warmth and encouragement in order to strengthen their observance. Now the Rebbe can no longer move. He’s surrounded by caregivers and hooked up to machines; only his eyes, his mind, and his huge heart still work — and he uses those to the maximum.

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