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Thursday
Oct112018

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO GO ON SHLICHUS!

It’s not every day that you hear about a couple with grandchildren who goes on shlichus to some faraway place. We’ve heard about bachurim, or about young couples who just got married and even those who went on shlichus with a baby or two. Indeed, this is also mesirus nefesh and not easy, but as a senior? That’s another story. * The trip to Vata Canal in southern India entails many long flights, with stops and changing planes and then a trip for hours on a winding road, and only then do you arrive at your destination which is lacking even the most basic amenities. Even for Israeli tourists, being in these areas is sometimes a challenge of survival. * The truth is that it was always there in the dreams and ambitions of Rabbi Yaakov and Pessie Marom of Bat Yam, it’s just that for technical reasons, it could not happen. Not yet. Until Pesach Sheini which taught them that no situation is lost and you can always fix things. Their dream to go on shlichus came true because it is never too late.

By Blumi Landau

THE POWER OF GIVING

I had a fascinating conversation with Mrs. Pessie Marom after she and her husband returned to Eretz Yisroel after successfully concluding their shlichus. I was swept up in the extraordinary experience they had which, like she says, “When you are a shliach and you give it your all, and nothing remains for yourself, then you feel that power of giving; there is nothing more empowering for the giver himself. Then you feel the kochos of the Rebbe that are being channeled through you, and you are witness to the deep and powerful influence it has on people around you. There is no greater satisfaction.”

The first and obvious question is, where did this idea to leave everything – the extended family, children and grandchildren, come from?

Some of our married children are on shlichus in India so the field wasn’t new for us, nor the challenges that the place offers up. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and waited for the opportunity to take part in a shlichus like this. When the Shamir family, shluchim in Vata Canal, planned on coming to Eretz Yisroel for several months before a birth, we were excited to take their place in their absence. We knew we would miss home and there would be a price to pay, but the goal won out over the difficulties.

In our short stay there, another three grandchildren of ours were born and we missed two brissin.

So you just got up, packed and went?

We packed what we needed, some Israeli spices so Israeli tourists would want to visit and eat something homemade, a package of yellow cheese which, in retrospect, turned out to be a rare commodity since there is no obtaining chalav Yisroel milk or products there (there is only one cow in the town which does not provide milk since she is pregnant). So we made do with one slice of cheese a week. We were told that we would get meat from Delhi in a refrigerated shipment and the rest we would make ourselves.

So we arrived. The place is stunning. For good reason, it attracts masses of visitors, since it is at a very high altitude and the attraction there is to watch the sun rise from up close, to feel like if you hold out your hand you could practically touch the sun.

Geographically, it’s not easy to get to because the rocky hills leading up to it are arranged in irregular plateaus. There is a large area with guest rooms. To reach it and move from room to room you need to climb a lot and sometimes you have to climb a massive step the size of a boulder, but that was the job and we did it willingly. We visited the tourists and provided what we had to offer according to the time on the calendar. On Chanuka it was a special menorah lighting and warm sfinji (Moroccan donuts), on Purim it was the reading of the Megilla, and on 15 Shevat we invited everyone for a fruit seder at the Chabad House. We invited nearly 100 people for the Shabbos meals.

At the Chabad House there is always a chevra that feels at home, who come to hear a shiur over a cup of coffee or get kosher food. But mainly, they come to get a warm, family embrace; in our case, from Saba or Savta. Many of the tourists are searching for themselves, seeking spirituality, and our job is to help them find the truth that their souls so thirst for, Hashem.

MULTIFACETED SHLICHUS

I’m thinking of the difficult mountain climb and how, at your age, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s mesirus nefesh to reach yet another Jew who is in a boarding house so high up!

Early in the morning, the riders on sleepers would arrive. Sleepers are buses that you can sleep on, on long trips. We greeted them with a smile, of course, and you won’t believe with what else … toilet paper! That’s an item that doesn’t exist in India. Only we, at the Chabad House, had it. And a kosher restaurant. My husband was very busy with putting t’fillin on people and doing a lot of listening. Every Israeli who travels in India knows that if he has a problem, the Chabad House is the place to go.

Even the mitzva of respecting parents was part of the shlichus. There was one fellow who came to the restaurant every day, ate and cried. Every day the same thing. One day, I decided to put an end to it and I went over to him. I said, “Do you want to talk about it or continue on like this?”

Then he opened up and said how he was insulted by his parents and he insulted them back, and what a terrible situation that created in the family.

I said, “You are calling them now to apologize. Respecting parents comes before everything and despite everything!” Via phone, there was a big and emotional reconciliation and the guy was so happy that we rescued him from his personal sorrow.

I have also helped women with family purity. In addition to kids who travel, there are also married couples who come on their honeymoon. Then the woman needs mesirus nefesh to fulfill the mitzva of tahara. I was amazed to see how everywhere, even at the ends of the world, Jewish women do not forgo the obligation and z’chus, despite the difficulty involved and the absence of minimal amenities.

Tell us a special story from your stay there.

It’s hard to pick. One of the unforgettable stories is when it was Shabbos, Parshas Zachor, and we had a hard time getting a minyan. It came out on an Indian holiday and everyone went to Pushkar. My husband went to look for a tenth man and found a kibbutznik walking around who did not want to join us. He finally said, “You know what? I’ll come only because your wife welcomed us with such a smile. When we arrived exhausted in Vata Canal, she greeted us with drinks and cake, and cleared a place for us to put down our heavy bags, so I’ll come, but just for ten minutes!”

The davening took a bit longer than that and he looked like he was itching to leave. He sighed irritably throughout the Torah reading but he waited till the end. I went over to him afterward and thanked him for his consideration. Being annoyed, he shouted, “Don’t thank me!”

But I insisted, “I will thank you because you did a very big thing,” and he left with a big smile.

What was it like to return to Eretz Yisroel and what are your plans for the future?

We left feeling uplifted and tremendously satisfied, a feeling reserved for shluchim of the Rebbe who experience and see for themselves what an impact the Rebbe has on every Jew, no matter where he might be hiding. We want to go on this kind of shlichus again, and pray that Hashem gives us the opportunity as well as the strength and health to do it.

Amen! And before you even plan the next shlichus, may the Rebbe be here and the main shlichus, to welcome Moshiach, be fully realized!

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