One of the shluchim in Belgium, Rabbi Shabsie Slavatizki, was conducting a Purim feast at the Antwerp Chabad House in 5755 (1995). This was the first Purim since the Rebbe's passing on Gimmel Tammuz, and all the participants felt that that event had diminished their ability to celebrate.
One of those present, a diamond dealer named Arnon Zak put into words what everyone was thinking. "How can we rejoice when we are living in a vacuum? After the Rebbe's passing, is it possible to feel joy?"
Reb Shabsie was touched by Arnon's words. "Questions like these," he responded, "can be faced, but can't be answered. The pain we feel because of the Rebbe's passing cannot easily be soothed, but it's not a negative thing. On the contrary, the pain reflects powerful energies that should be channeled toward bonding with the Rebbe and furthering the mission with which he charged us."
"Moreover," Reb Shabsie continued, "we should not think that the Rebbe has forsaken us. Though now in the spiritual realms, he continues to care for all those who seek his assistance."
To illustrate his point, Reb Shabsie read a story from Kfar Chabad, a weekly Lubavitch magazine, which related how, after the Rebbe's passing, a person with a difficulty had written a letter to him and placed it in a volume of Igros Kodesh (a collection of the Rebbe's letters). When the person read the letter printed on the pages between which he had placed his note, he found an answer which gave him guidance concerning the problem confronting him.
A genuine chassid, Reb Shabsie continued, does not need stories like this to prove the Rebbe's ongoing concern, but if a person feels that he does need proof, such stories can serve the purpose.
Reb Shabsie was interrupted. One of the participants, an Israeli, and from his style of dress obviously non-observant, challenged him: "Would you mind putting that statement to a test? According to what you're saying, if one of us were to write a letter to the Rebbe and place it in a volume of Igros Kodesh, he would receive a pertinent answer. Can we try that now?"
All the listeners were stunned, and waited anxiously to see how Reb Shabsie would react.
Reb Shabsie turned to his son and asked him to go to his library and bring back a volume of Igros Kodesh. He turned to the questioner and asked him to write out a question for the Rebbe.
Somewhat unnerved by Reb Shabsie's acceptance of his challenge, the skeptic took a pen and paper and wrote: "When will we return to Eretz Yisrael?" He then signed his name, Shuki ben Yehoshua.
"Place your question in the volume," Reb Shabsie told him.
Reb Shabsie's son had brought the first volume of Igros Kodesh. Reb Shabsie opened the book and reported that the questioner's letter was between pages 264 and 265. The letter on those pages is dated Purim, 5704, and begins with the greeting: "Happy Purim."
The assembled crowd felt an immediate connection. Here they were on Purim, listening to a letter written on Purim! And the Rebbe concluded that letter with a blessing:
"On that day, G-d will be one, and His name one." [May we proceed] immediately to teshuvah, and immediately to the Redemption."
There were those who considered the answer obvious proof of the effectiveness of asking the Igros. Here was a letter which seemed to provide a direct answer to the question which had been asked. Even the more skeptical had to admit the uncanny coincidence.
Reb Shabsie then asked Shuki if he would mind hearing the entire letter the Rebbe had written.
"Of course not," Shuki answered.
"Even if it reflects on your personal life?"
"Why not? I'm an open person. Let the chips fly!"
So Reb Shabsi proceeded to read the letter in its entirety. It spoke about an Israeli youth who had studied in yeshivah, but who had abandoned that lifestyle. The Rebbe asked that contact be made with him, and efforts undertaken to encourage him to identify with his roots.
Upon hearing the whole letter, Shuki became very embarrassed, and asked to be excused, for his personal history was similar to that described. For years, his parents had encouraged him to return to observance, but with no success.
Reb Shabsi refused to let him go. "Don't run away, Shuki! Look yourself in the mirror. Face who you are!"
The farbrengen continued until late in the morning, and had a profound effect on Shuki's life, inspiring him to confront his past and return to it.