I saw this story just before Shabbat, and its the Shabbos before Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe’s Yartzeit, so thought fitting to share (and there’s a Parsha Korach tie-in, too). It’s from JEM’s MyEncounter Blog, from their first-person interviews of Rebbe encounters.

This was from an interview with Rabbi Levy Weinberg, originally of Brooklyn, now a Rosh Yeshiva and rabbi in South Africa for many years, this story dates back to the time when he served as a student-shliach in Melbourne Australia:

Once in Australia, I would write an Aerogram letter home every Thursday night, and I asked my parents to hold onto them so that I would have a record of everything we were doing in Australia. When I came back home, after the two-year mission was over, I was shocked to find my letters with the Rebbe’s handwriting in the margins!

That was when my father revealed to me that whenever I had written something that he thought the Rebbe would be interested in hearing, he would mark the relevant part and pass on those pages to the Rebbe. He explained to me that the Rebbe preferred to get his information from indirect sources, rather than relying on official reports that might embellish things or gloss over certain faults.

One of the stories that my father showed the Rebbe was from the first Rosh Hashanah I spent in Australia. I was only used to being in 770 with the Rebbe on Rosh Hashanah, so it was with a heavy heart that I came to pray that day in the Chabad shul in Melbourne. When they began auctioning off the opportunities to be called up to the Torah, which I had never seen before, I thought that raising money like this was out of keeping with the spirit of Rosh Hashanah and I became withdrawn.

But when it came time for one of the winning bidders to go up to the Torah, he didn’t take the aliyah for himself, and instead pointed toward the back of the shul. There sat a simple and unassuming fellow who eked out a living as a barber. In his wildest dreams, he had never imagined that he would be honored to go up to the Torah on Rosh Hashanah, and at first he was convinced that there had been a mistake. But he was who the buyer had been bidding for all along.

I included this story in my letter home, and my father decided to show it to the Rebbe. When I came home, I discovered that the Rebbe had written: “Thank you, thank you, for the nachas.”

For the Rebbe, hearing about one Jew doing a favor for another Jew – that was nachas.

The Korach Parsha connection? Korach was an ambitious guy who put himself first. He was eager for the honors, he put others down and got all the Jewish people in trouble because he felt slighted and wanted to get ahead. Of course, that’s the opposite of the aliya bidder in the above story, who felt honored by honoring others, and giving others the opportunity.