“Are you available to officiate at the levayah of a woman who had passed away in Maryland and the burial would be in New York?” the caller asked. The woman was not observant but her two sons were interested in having a rabbi present. It would be at 11 on Friday, at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.

I thought about the traffic in New York on “Erev Fourth of July weekend,” nevertheless, a Jew needs to be buried... 

On Friday morning, I headed off. 

When I arrived, I went straight to the most famous grave in that cemetery, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s ztz”l. 

I davened and walked back to the building that serves as combination welcoming center, beis medrash, and library. There, I overheard one man say to his wife in Hebrew, “Do you think there’s anyone here from Bat Yam?” 

My ears perked up as my father, who was born in Yerushalayim, grew up in Bat Yam. 

I smiled and said, “I’m from Bat Yam!” 

We schmoozed for a few minutes and then I went to meet the funeral procession. I arrived at the gravesite, but there was no deceased mother, and no two sons. 

After a flurry of calls, the mystery was cleared up. 

The sons (including the nifteres) hadn’t come to the Old Montefiore Cemetery, rather, they’d mistakenly gone to the New Montefiore Cemetery, about 25 miles east and a one-hour drive away. 

I decided to head back to the Rebbe’s ohel, telling my contact to call me in 15 minutes. 

Back at the ohel, I bumped into Mr. Bat Yam. 

“Hey rabbi, you’re back, what happened?” 

“I came to say good bye.”

 The man became serious and said, “Tell me a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” 

“I’m not a chassid,” I said, “and I really have no stories. But there are plenty of people here who can relate great stories about him.” 

“I want you to tell me a story.” 

I figured I had to wait the required 15 minutes anyway so I decided to tell him the one story of my family’s connection with the Rebbe. 

“About 40 years ago,” I began, “my father ztz”l was unsure if he should have heart surgery. My parents consulted with the Rebbe, who said: ‘I want you to listen to the advice of a doctor who is a friend.’ And with those cryptic words, the Rebbe stopped talking. 

The next week, my father’s doctor spoke to my father in a way he’d never spoken to him in all the years they’d know each other. ‘Moshe,’ the doctor said, ‘I’m talking to you today as a friend. Please have the surgery, it can save your life.’ 

Suffice it to say that my father had the surgery and lived another 20 years.” 

And with that Mr. Bat Yam started to cry. 

“Why are you crying?!” 

“Rabbi, I came here to America to seek a second opinion for a medical condition. I’m not religious but my wife insisted I speak to the Chabad Rabbi in Bat Yam before I left. He said we should go to the Rebbe’s ohel. He said, ‘When you get to the ohel ask a non-Chabad person for a story about the Rebbe. In that story you’ll get the answer to your question about your medical treatment.’ 

“This morning,” the man continued, “I had my consultation with my doctor. When the examination was finished, he said, ‘I know you’re from Israel and we’ve never met before, but I feel strangely close to you. Listen to me, and know that I am saying this as a friend… this is what you must do!’” 

We stared at each other. 

I no longer wondered why Hashem had brought me to the Old Montefiore Cemetery that morning.