Monday, March 30, 2015

The Stories He Could Tell

I don’t think Chabad rabbis anywhere ever tell all the amazing stories of their lives, of people who they have encountered, of deeds they have done. Hundreds pass through their doors without hearing some of what we heard. Perhaps it is because most of their visitors are either visiting on business in a rush to get home, or are young and intent on their next port of call. Most are not religious but come to feel a need for home and if home is something you can’t bring with you, the connection to another Jew is readily available here in the warmth Chabad families offer their guests.

Most come for a meal, listen, eat, perhaps join the rabbi in prayer or song, and then quickly leave. By contrast, we stayed. On a warm and humid Shabbat in Bangalore, we stayed to talk Friday night and then the Rav Zvi Rivkin and his wife, Noa, and their three young children all walked us back to the nearby hotel – even the little two year old who loved the rare opportunity to go outside and see the world.
Bangalore is a thriving city but like most cities in India, attempting to cross a street is challenging; doing it with a two year old could be terrifying. When we thought to book the hotel across the street from Chabad, the rabbi guided us to another place – a bit further away, but close enough not to have to cross any large streets.

We came back Saturday for lunch – something the other Israelis who were visiting the city did not do. We normally nap on Saturday afternoon – this time, we were enjoying the conversation so much, we stayed. We heard about life in India and in particular, two stories that live in my mind. As they were shared with me, I knew they had to be written down, shared. It is very likely stories like this could happen in many countries. They are less typical of India as they are typical of the type of dedication and devotion Chabad rabbis bring to wherever they are stationed. And yes, stationed is the correct word. They are, in a very real sense, soldiers on the forefront of a war. Their goal is to provide that connection to home. They are like a very long line and all you have to do if you feel yourself getting lost, is to reach out and grab on, and they will pull you home.

To understand why these men put themselves and their families so far from their own comfortable communities, you have to remember that what a Jew cherishes above all, is life – whether his own life or the lives of his family, his neighbors, his community, another Jew, or simply another human being.

First, I’ll tell you the story of a Jewish man who died. I won’t tell you his name because though it a person’s name always matters, in this case it is less about who he was, as what was done to bring him home.

Then, I'll tell you the story of two babies in Bangalore.

And I'll try to share other stories as well. India is an amazing many stories...stay tuned.

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