Sunday, March 29, 2015

Where there is a Need

People, Jews, who travel the world and go to unusual places know that where they have a need – for kosher food, for a place to spend the Sabbath, anything…they can call the local Chabad house and ask for assistance. While we were in India, we got a phone call and my husband went downstairs to see if he could help.

Two Israelis had arrived in India and somehow managed to get in the country without the appropriate visa. The visa had been issued but not given to them and so without certain forms, they were in limbo. Without hesitation, they went straight to the local Chabad.

The form they needed had to be signed by a hotel – and so, because the Chabad house has formed a special connection with the hotels nearby and often send them guests, the hotel where we were staying rushed to help the two Israeli travelers (even though they weren't even staying in the hotel).

We needed a place to eat on the Sabbath – without hesitation, this was provided. We needed to understand what things should cost – without hesitation, every phone call was answered and advice given. We needed a driver – they gave us numbers of people we could trust. We needed food – they gave us. Our British Airways flight from Bangalore to London, a nine hour flight, came with no option for Kosher food – Chabad packed sandwiches and salads for us.

Wherever there is a need – Chabad steps in. This is so well known, I don't really have to write about it. What isn't know, however, is that Chabad has needs too. A few days before we left Israel, a friend asked me if I had asked Chabad in Bangalore if they needed anything. And to my great shame, I had to answer that it never occurred to me to ask.

These are people who live where kosher food is not readily available. The comforts of having anything and everything are far off. Even getting milk is a story for them. Vegetables and eggs are plentiful, but kosher cheese has to be made; kosher bread has to be baked.

We had to be at the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning. Only on Thursday, did I get around to asking if they needed anything and within minutes it became clear they did…in a big way! The Chabad rabbi immediately said he did need us to bring something and asked how much space we had.

When I mentioned that we could each bring another full suitcase – he immediately offered to pay for it. Late Saturday night, a Chabad rabbi in Israel brought us 50 kilos of matzah and four bottles of wine.

While we were in India, the Bangalore Chabad rabbi kept telling us where "our" matzah was going – to other Chabad houses all over India! And what I learned from this is that just as we need Chabad, they need us. They live there with almost no kosher food readily available - even products that we know are kosher in the US, Israel or England cannot be trusted as kosher in India because many companies save money by "repackaging" or manufacturing their products in India. Much of Rabbi Rivkin's work involves kashrut supervision but without his knowledge, it's almost impossible to eat there. And with small children - our great treat was a simple bag of soup nuts thrown in to the suitcase for the Rivkin family at the last minute.

So, if you're ever going somewhere and you call Chabad to ask for help…ask them if you can help them, if you can bring them something. Take chocolates to their wives, bamba and the like for their children.

Not only can you have the honor of helping so many others and take a small part in the amazing work that Chabad does, you might even personally make a small Jewish child smile at the gift of something special that they can't get there.

According to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, these families have built lives and homes in distant places, just waiting for Jewish travelers to ask for when you can join a bit in the amazing mitzvah they do.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. You have a lovely blog. Hugs.

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