February 24, 2012
Menachem Savyon in #824, Shlichus

In Eretz Yisroel, everyone knows the mashpia Rabbi Michoel Mishulovin of Nachalat Har Chabad in Kiryat Malachi. In Moscow, on the other hand, if you say “Rabbi Michoel Mishulovin,” they will refer you to the shliach of the Chabad house Bolshaya Bronnaya, whose name is also Michoel Mishulovin. The identical names were the reason for an amusing incident that took place recently.
Some people in the community in Moscow approached the shliach and mentioned that they heard he would be farbrenging on Yud-Tes Kislev. At first, he said he hadn’t heard anything about it. Upon second thought, he laughed and explained that although the signs said that Rabbi Michoel Mishulovin would be farbrenging, it was referring to his uncle, the mashpia from Nachalat Har Chabad.
The shliach in Bolshaya Bronnaya, Rabbi Michoel Mishulovin, has some interesting shlichus stories to share with us. He began by telling me how he ended up on shlichus in Moscow, with his wife who is the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchok Kogan, chairman of Aguch in Russia and rav of the Bolshaya Bronnaya shul:
“After we married, we lived in Los Angeles. I started working in safrus and we opened a Judaica store. Then, Rabbi Berel Lazar contacted me through my father-in-law, Rabbi Kogan, and suggested that we come to Moscow in order to write a Torah. I asked him, ‘Why should we live in Moscow when I can write a Torah in Los Angeles?’ He replied, ‘For seventy years it wasn’t possible to write a Torah in the Soviet Union, and now we want this new Torah to be written here.’ We wrote to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh and understood from the answer that we should accept the offer.”
“From the outset, we had no real concerns about such an undertaking since my in-laws live in Moscow. We called Rabbi Lazar to confirm, but when he took our call he told us, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t talk now. A bomb exploded in the area of Marina Roscha.’ You can imagine how this terrorist attempt made us feel. We hadn’t taken anti-Semitism in Russia into account. We even wavered a bit in our decision to go. In the end, we regained our confidence and signed a contract.
“Since we owned a Judaica store, we couldn’t move overnight. First, we had to sell all the merchandise we had. It was worth a lot of money, and it was no easy task to close the store that quickly. We put up a sign announcing a going-out-of-business sale and within three days we sold merchandise worth $15-20,000!
“I said to my wife, ‘Maybe we should order more merchandise and arrive in Moscow as wealthy people,’ but she said, ‘Don’t you see that this is a clear sign that Moscow is our place of shlichus? Sell what you have and let’s go.’
“The same thing repeated itself when we moved to Moscow. Right before we went out to buy furniture and electrical appliances for our new apartment, the value of the ruble suddenly dropped drastically and our dollars tripled in value. The electronics stores were government owned at the time, and therefore the prices were in rubles. In this too we saw the Rebbe’s bracha.”
“At the end of two years, in the course of which I finished writing the Torah, Rabbi Lazar suggested that we open a Chabad house at Marina Roscha, the Jewish community center in Moscow. That was the winter of 5760. We agreed and got to work. Moscow is a huge city, but at that time, outreach work was still in its infancy. The city also had just begun developing its own infrastructure with stores and business centers.
“Yud Shevat was approaching and we decided to gather 51 Jewish children and make them a bar mitzva as a gift for the Rebbe for 50 years of his leadership. We started making calls and speaking to Jews whom we met. After a lot of effort, we had 51 children who had turned thirteen in the previous year. It wasn’t easy because at that time many Jews were still afraid to publicize their Jewish identity.
“The boys attended a class twice a week as a preparation for their bar mitzva. On the Shabbos prior to the event, we made a Shabbaton outside the city for the boys and their parents. We held a festive ceremony, at which we gave each of them t’fillin, tzitzis and a yarmulke with the logo of the event.
“About 500-600 people, families and children, attended the very moving bar mitzva event. We had thirteen candles and called upon thirteen distinguished guests to light a candle and bless the bar mitzva boys. Everybody had tears in their eyes. It was an unforgettable event; all those who were present felt tremendous Jewish pride.
“For Yud-Alef Nissan we wanted to give the Rebbe another present and decided to make Jewish weddings. We had five simultaneous chuppas, and we celebrated the event at the center’s shul. Each marriage was officiated by a different rabbi so that the other couples would not have to wait.
“These milestone events made quite a splash amongst the Jews of Russia and I began getting phone calls from shluchim who wanted to know how we did it. Since then, the idea has spread far and wide. In the years that followed, we continued the tradition of making bar mitzvahs and weddings in larger numbers every year.”
“After a number of years of running the Chabad house near Marina Roscha, my father-in-law enlarged the Bolshaya Bronnaya to four times its size. We moved the Chabad house there. By the way, Bolshaya Bronnaya is the name of a street, but everyone knows that when someone says ‘Bolshaya Bronnaya,’ they are referring to the shul. It is the only shul throughout Russia that is under the official leadership of the Rebbe.
“When we began working here, Russian Jews were completely unfamiliar with the concept of a Chabad house. They knew about a synagogue but ‘Chabad house’ was not in their lexicon. We were the first to open a Chabad house. We worked on getting the idea across that a shul is for davening and a Chabad house is for all Jewish activities.
“When we wanted to hang a sign outside, we were unsure what to write on it. If we wrote something like ‘For all your Jewish needs,’ then the non-Jews who help out at the Chabad house (of which there are many) would be offended. After mulling it over, we wrote ‘Your Jewish headquarters for all life matters.’ This way, we didn’t limit the Chabad house to a particular type of person. The truth is, the Rebbe wants us to work with gentiles too, preparing them for Geula through their Seven Noachide Laws.”
“A year and a half ago, we took our children on vacation to Eretz Yisroel. While I was there, I received a phone call from the secretary of the Chabad house who said that someone had come in who wanted a bris. I said, ‘What’s the problem? Tell him I’m away and refer him to a mohel.’ The secretary suggested that he go to the mohel on his own, but he wanted me to accompany him. He waited until I returned to Moscow.
“Two weeks later I returned to Moscow and met the man. I did not really know him, as he had come to shul only two or three times over the previous five years. I went with him to the mohel and he had a bris. When we spoke together afterward, I asked him, ‘Tell me, what motivated you to undergo a bris?’ We usually have to convince people to have a bris, and here he had come on his own.
“He said, ‘One of the times I went to shul on Shabbos, I davened along with everyone from a Siddur translated into Russian. I saw the words: “Nor can the uncircumcised participate in its rest [of Shabbos].” This made me feel bad about being uncircumcised. I knew I could not show up to shul like this and I decided, on the spot, to have a bris.’
“Since then, he started attending shul regularly, always to the first minyan on Shabbos and on weekdays, and has developed a very strong connection to the community.
“At some point, I suggested that he buy t’fillin. He was willing and he asked what I recommended that he buy. I had gotten to know him a little better and knew that he had the means, so I said, ‘You can buy t’fillin for $300 or for $1500; it depends on what you’re looking for. You don’t buy t’fillin every day so I recommend that you buy the nicest Chabad t’fillin.’
“He asked me, ‘Can I buy two pairs?’
“I wondered why he wanted two pairs. He said it was because he lived a plane ride away from Moscow but was in Moscow a lot on business. ‘I prefer having t’fillin at home too so I won’t need to take them with me each time.’
“From this incident I learned not to suffice with the minimum. A shliach of the Rebbe needs to go L’chat’chilla aribber, to try for the most, and then he will see that he is successful with the power of the one who sent him (i.e. the Rebbe)!”
Here is another interesting story about someone who had a bris:
“One day, a man of about forty walked into the Chabad house and asked, ‘Where can I go to have a bris?’
“‘Do you have documentation to prove that you are Jewish?’ I asked him. He said that he did.
“‘In that case, we will arrange it.’
“He said, ‘I didn’t plan on doing it right away; I just wanted to know, but I’m not ready yet.’
“I replied, ‘Fine, we will just make inquiries.’
“While he was still standing there, I called the mohel, but he didn’t answer the phone. We exchanged phone numbers and said we would be in touch.
“After he left, I decided to be persistent and continued trying to reach the mohel. After half an hour of trying, he answered the phone. I told him, ‘I have someone who wants a bris.’
“‘I’m ready,’ said the mohel. ‘Come on over.’
“I called the man who had just left the Chabad house and said, ‘I spoke with the mohel and he is waiting for us to come.’ There was utter silence on the line. I said, ‘Hello?’ but there was no response.
“After two minutes of silence, I heard him stammer, ‘Listen, I’m sorry but I just wanted the information. I didn’t think it would be this quick …’
“I knew this was an opportunity that I didn’t want to lose. So I began explaining that the mohel is very busy and he made himself available now just for him. Postponing the bris would be very awkward. After five minutes he was convinced. He said, ‘Okay, I will be there within half an hour.’ He did indeed show up and was circumcised.
“I spoke to him a few days later and asked him why he had wanted to postpone it. He said, ‘That day was March 8. In Russia it is International Women’s Day, a day on which people get together and celebrate and buy gifts for women. To a Russian, it is unheard of to remain at home on this day. So when you called and said the mohel is waiting, I didn’t know what to do. I wondered – how can I stay home today; everyone will laugh at me. It’s only because you arranged everything that I decided to go ahead with it.’
“That day, the secretary at the Chabad house did not show up because it was a Russian holiday. Even many Jews don’t work that day. That is why I was the one sitting there when he walked in, and I immediately arranged for the mohel. Otherwise, who knows how long he would have procrastinated.
“There are many Jews whom I have spent years trying to convince them to have a bris and have been unsuccessful. In this case though, the man had a bris within hours.”
“During the time that I ran the Chabad house in Marina Roscha, someone came in and asked how a bas mitzva is done. I explained it to him, and then we ended up speaking for over three hours. I was plotzing, but he kept asking questions. I did not quite understand where he was going with his questions, but I figured that I am on shlichus and I’m not the one to set the agenda.
“A few months went by and the same man came back and told me that now they were ready and he wanted to celebrate his daughter’s bas mitzva.
“‘Why didn’t you do so until now?’ I asked.
“He answered, ‘I am a very sensitive person. I came first to check out the place and to see what it was all about. After seeing that you spent several hours with me without answering telephones and without my rattling you, I was won over. And after the long time that passed, I finally decided to come and make the bas mitzva.’
“I keep in touch with him and often try to convince him to have a bris. I once sat with him in a restaurant for a long time but did not manage to convince him. Someone might ask why I invest so much time in one person, but to the Rebbe, every Jew is a diamond. Nobody would throw away a diamond in the rough.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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