FINDING THE WAY BACK IN THE WILDS OF NEW ZEALAND
October 18, 2012
Nosson Avrohom in #852, Story

That was the moment that broke me. I lay down on a slab of rock and thought: this might be where I will end my life in this world… * Ron Moyal credits his rescue to a Chassidishe farbrengen that took place in his parents’ home at the precise time that he had given up hope.

Every Lubavitcher child is familiar with the aphorism: “What a Chassidishe farbrengen can accomplish, even the Angel Michoel cannot accomplish.” The Alter Rebbe explained this to mean that when a father sees his children sitting together in unity, he is inspired to fulfill all their requests, even if through normal channels (such as by way of angels interceding on his behalf) they are not worthy. Indeed, in Chassidic tradition there are many stories about people who were saved after having participated in a farbrengen and having been blessed.

At a farbrengen that took place recently, a young man by the name of Ron Moyal of the Chabad community in Afula told a story that happened on a trip he made. He was in a forest in New Zealand on a tour after his army service. He credits his rescue to a Chassidishe farbrengen that took place in his parents’ home at the precise time that he had given up hope.

In his childhood, Ron attended religious Zionist schools in Afula. He was a member of the B’nei Akiva youth group. He attended Yeshivas Shavei Chevron and continued learning in Yeshivas Har HaMor and Chomos Yerushalayim. His parents became involved with Chabad and became Chassidim at this time.

Sadly, he dropped out of religious life. After serving in an infantry unit in the Nahal Brigade, he decided to travel to the Australian continent.

Ron related:

I spent a year and a half touring New Zealand. In this charming country I became friendly with a local young man who was interested in touring together with me. He took me with him to all kinds of forests and attractions.

One night, we traveled to some relatives of his, who live in a small village far from the hustle and bustle of the city. When I woke up early in the morning, I went outside and was amazed to see a stunning landscape. The pastoral village lay at the foot of a forested mountain.

I thought it would be enjoyable to climb the mountain and I quickly put on my sneakers and set out. For some reason, the mountain did not seem particularly large and I figured that I would be back at my lodgings within two hours. Indeed, the climb did not take more than two hours. I was in good shape after the army and I didn’t leave the summit too fast. After the first peak there were more and more peaks. When I made it to the last one and I took a photo of myself, I was already tired and hungry. I decided to head back to the village.

I decided I would return via a different route than the one that had brought me there. I was dismayed though, when the route that seemed shorter turned out to be winding and longer. I suddenly no longer saw the houses of the village. At first, I thought that in a little while I would see signs of my destination, but as the hours passed, I realized I was deep in the forest, far from habitation. In my confusion, I continued going until I was standing at a field of thorns. Once again, I convinced myself that after crossing the field I would reach the village, but that was not what happened.

I ran across the field and got completely scratched up. I reasoned that the field was on a slope and it would enable me to reach the bottom of the mountain. But every time I thought I had finished with the field, I saw that I was in a small clearing and there were more acres of thorn fields beyond it.

After two hours of running, I reached a small wooded clearing. I climbed a large boulder and saw that I wasn’t in a localized field of thorns, but in the midst of thousands of acres of thorns and who knew when I would get out of there.

How did I manage to end up here, I asked myself. I began to seriously stress out.

Time passed and I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. The sun was beating down on me. I decided to try and retrace my steps, but I only got more confused. All the scenery looked the same. Soon the sun was going to set. When it becomes dark, I thought, it will only get much worse. I had been walking for hours, sometimes running, and I was beginning to wonder whether it had been decreed that I die in the forest.

The sun set and it grew dark, but I still had a faint hope of finding my way. At ten at night I was still on the mountain. The temperature went down quickly and I began to freeze.

After walking so much, I had lost sensation in my hands and feet. I rubbed them vigorously to try to restore some feeling. At a certain point, a heavy cloud cover began covering the mountain. I was walking through low lying clouds, and I knew that even if the village was a few meters away, I wouldn’t see it.

I cried over my lot. That was the moment that broke me. I lay down on a slab of rock and thought: this might be where I will end my life in this world. All the experiences in my life, including the smallest ones, passed through my mind as in a slide show. I decided not to continue searching for a possible escape. I just lay there, freezing and exhausted. All I was wearing was an undershirt and shorts, and my entire body was full of scratches. I was trembling and felt the cold penetrating my bones. I knew I would not survive the cold of that night.

At this point, I promised G-d that if I were to be saved, I would put t’fillin on for seven days. A few minutes later, something incredible happened. I simply got up and began running without a direction or goal. I just ran. I had this crazy idea of running until I would find habitation or until I would collapse.

At some point, I encountered a section of forest that had bushes two meters high and more. I cut through them in a full out run without considering the danger. To my delight, I finally heard the sound of water. I figured that the bushes grew near a stream. I ran until I found it. I stopped and slaked my thirst.

I sat down to rest a little and began thinking logically. If all streams flow downward, and the village is at the foot of the mountain, then that’s the direction I should go in. I got up and continued running near the stream as I listened out for the water.

At about two in the morning I reached what I saw clearly, despite the darkness, to be a paved path. Now I didn’t know which way to go, right or left. At first I went left, but after twenty minutes of running without seeing anything on the horizon, I went back and turned right. After an hour and a half of marathon running, I saw a large farm and some wooden shacks within the thick of the forest. Having no alternative, I broke a window in one of the shacks and went in. On the table were some open sweets and dry pieces of bread which I ate.

I did not care that it was all moldy and covered with spider webs; I ate it all. There was some open jam and the sugar in it revived me. Then I left and continued running. After another hour of running, I saw two lights. I realized they were a car’s headlights. My greatest fear was that they wouldn’t see me so I stood in the center of the path. It was impossible to miss me. The car stopped, and out came a friendly villager who looked at me in wonder. He had not thought he would see a young man in a shredded undershirt and shorts at that hour of the night in the heart of the forest, with his face and entire body a mass of wounds and scratches. He quickly took me into his car.

He heard what village I had come from and was astonished. I was in the completely opposite direction. He was a nice fellow and he was willing to take me back to the village. When we arrived, I went to my lodgings and collapsed, utterly spent, physically and emotionally. It could have ended differently, I knew. My friends were totally shocked. A search team had gone out to look for me accompanied by a helicopter. The friend who had accompanied me said he was about to call my parents in Eretz Yisroel to report my having gone missing.

After I ate and rested a little, I looked for the local police station. The detectives told me that I had to thank G-d and that I had experienced a miracle. Just the week before, two tourists had gone into the forest and lost their way; in the end, their bodies were found.

I called home the following day. Of course, my parents knew nothing about my adventure. I decided to tell them what happened only after I returned home. When I spoke to my mother that day, she told me that the night before they had had a birthday farbrengen for my brother Tal, and everyone had blessed me saying that just as I had left Eretz Yisroel in peace, I should return in peace. When my mother said this line, I choked up with tears. I contained myself so she wouldn’t hear me crying.

I made a simple calculation and figured out that the farbrengen, according to New Zealand time, had taken place at the critical moment when I got up from the rock, shook off my despair, and found new strength I did not know I had, after hours of running without food and water. This realization hit me like a thunderbolt.

Before traveling I had not wanted to take my t’fillin with me and my mother had hidden them in my backpack. I discovered them when I was abroad. As I had promised G-d, I put on the t’fillin; not for seven days but for eight, which I knew represented that which is above nature. That was the turning point that got me to thinking things through.

As soon as I returned to Eretz Yisroel, I began the internal process, together with my wife, of returning to my religious roots.

***

Today, the Moyal family lives in Afula and Ron is one of the people who run the new Chabad center. He talks excitedly about the tremendous work being done at this center with youth, men, and women. He said that minutes before I called he had come back from the weekly shiur that he gives to young men, which is entirely in the Chabad spirit of Geula and Moshiach.

 

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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