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From doing business in Miami malls bathed in sunlight, to a Chassidic wedding on the beach, being arrested by immigration authorities and forced to return to Eretz Yisroel with a two-week-old baby, it was all just to end up on shlichus on a Shomron mountaintop yishuv. * Mrs. Sivan Peretz shares her challenging life’s story full of adventures and dramatic moments that turned out to be a chain of divine providence that led her to the goal: being a soldier in the Rebbe’s shlichus.

By Esti Lenchner

Something in the clear air of the Shomron mountains expands the heart and sharpens ones thinking. Amid the endless green, one almost automatically exclaims, “How manifold are Your Works, Hashem.” Here, at Yishuv Tzofim, is where the shluchim, Shai and Sivan Peretz have settled.


“I was young when I flew to the United States with Shai, who would later become my husband,” begins Sivan, taking us 18 years back.

“Our original plan was to stay there for four months and then tour Sri Lanka. We arrived in Miami and opened a business selling products from pushcarts in malls. We did very well and had people working for us. As time passed and we became even more successful, we could see ourselves settling there.

“We knew about the existence of the Chabad House in the area but we felt very distant from Torah and mitzvos and felt no need to go there. A friend of mine, who was familiar with the Chabad House, urged us to join her for an evening in Rabbi Motti Anati’s sukka.

“That evening awoke something within us. We realized there were aspects to life that we were unfamiliar with. It was a period in my life in which I began to search for meaning. I felt tremendous emptiness despite our business success and suddenly found something I hadn’t known of before.

“We slowly got involved and even decided to keep Shabbos, something which led to serious tests. At first, we tried selling the business to a non-Jew for Shabbos, but that did not work out. We tried closing the pushcarts on Shabbos, but the mall demanded that the pushcarts be open all week. So we were forced to close our business entirely, thus losing our source of income. If that wasn’t enough, a short while later our house was broken into and a lot of money was stolen.

“On Shabbos, the Chabadnikim would come to us, walking an hour and a half! They included Yaniv Mor Yosef who is still with Rav Motti; Mendy Jerufi; Zev Sendroi who today is a dynamic shliach, and others. They would come and sit and learn sichos with us. They koshered our kitchen, put up mezuzos, and guided us with much patience and tolerance. We, who thought we knew quite well what we wanted of ourselves, asked them endless numbers of questions, one harder than the next. We expected them to stammer, to change the subject, or stop coming to us, but they would sit with us, very patiently, sometimes till the wee hours of the night, and answer us.”


“Some time passed since we began keeping Shabbos and getting more involved, but we weren’t married yet. We went to Rabbi Shai Amar, shliach of the Rebbe in Golden Beach, who asked us outright, ‘Do you want to get married?’ ‘Sure,’ we answered. ‘But we want to get married in Eretz Yisroel with the whole family, and we can’t leave the U.S. right now because we are in the process of getting citizenship.’

“The rabbi looked at us and said, ‘There are a lot of problems with you not being married. Let’s make a wedding here in Miami for the sake of heaven, and when you go back to Eretz Yisroel you’ll make another wedding with your family in attendance.’ We left his house wondering. Maybe the time had come for us to get married. Two months later we made the decision. We were getting married!

“Preparations were underway. We rented a part of a small beach in Golden Beach and the wedding took place there under a full moon over the water. The T’mimim came with their Moshiach tank, which served as the yichud room and a ready-made mechitza. The DJ saw the guests and realized this was a Lubavitcher wedding and he played Chabad songs and niggunim throughout the wedding. And that is how we married in a Chabad wedding.”


“Some months later, while in the midst of signing a contract to buy an apartment and I was already in my seventh month of pregnancy, my husband was arrested by a routine border check that showed that our documents were worthless and that we were there illegally. Apparently, our lawyer was a fraud and we were classified as having been illegally in the country for two and a half years!

“Shai was thrown into jail and I couldn’t go there because there was the danger that I would be imprisoned too. The entire community joined forces on behalf of Shai who was in jail without the basics of kosher food and tefillin.

“The court date arrived and all the T’mimim went to the court house and said T’hillim. When the grave-looking judge entered the room he said, ‘It is generally not acceptable to sit here while wearing that [a hat] but since I am Jewish, I will allow it.’

“As we hoped, the case proceeded in miraculous fashion and they sentenced him like someone who was one week late in submitting an extension of his visa, when we were two and a half years late. The sentence was that within four months we had to pack up and leave.

“Three months later, our oldest daughter was born, and our flight back was in two weeks. A few days before the flight we got cold feet and decided to stay, even without the proper papers.  When we said this to Rav Motti, he suggested we write to the Rebbe. The answer left no room for doubt. It said, ‘You need to return to the holy land; there is a shlichus to be mekarev others…’ Rav Motti looked at us and said, ‘You are packing your bags and boarding that flight. You have a shlichus to do.’”


“With kabbalas ol, we packed our stuff and went directly to Elad because we heard it is a developing religious city and we hoped to find our place there.

“We lived there for ten years and made significant inroads into Chabad. When we arrived in the city, I was wearing a kerchief and my husband had a small kippa and a trimmed beard, but when we left, we left as a Lubavitcher family. This transformation happened through a chain of miracles and divine providence that would be far too lengthy to recount here.

“Over these years, I developed professional skills through many courses, mainly through the in-depth learning with Rabbi Yitzchok Arad of Machon Daas U’Tevuna where I was certified as a CBT counselor, family and couple’s counselor and parenting counselor.

“Shortly after we arrived, I was asked to give a weekly shiur for women who were taking an interest in Judaism. I laughed at the idea but soon remembered the Rebbe’s instruction to be involved in shlichus. I said yes, despite my apprehension. By the way, that shiur, that underwent many transformations over the years, is still ongoing, eleven years later.

“In one of the shiurim that I gave, a woman by the name of Orit attended; she lived on Yishuv Tzofim. She made a commitment to kasher her kitchen and I suggested she ask someone at her local Chabad House for help. After inquiring, Orit told me there was no Chabad House there.

“At that moment, the thought came to me that we would be the shluchim there but I quickly dismissed it with the excuse that it wasn’t practical. We had businesses and stores and I had the shiurim that I gave nearly every evening and I generally felt that I was faithful to my shlichus. But Hashem had His plans. Within a short time, we lost all our businesses and were in financial difficulties.

“Friday, my husband went to a shiur and decided to write to the Rebbe about our finances. The Rebbe’s letter left us dumbfounded. The Rebbe wrote in a lengthy and forceful letter about going on shlichus even before Pesach so that a Seudas Moshiach could be made there. Our rabbi told my husband that if a Chassid gets such an answer from the Rebbe, he needs to pack up and go to one of the yishuvim on shlichus. Tzofim was the first name that came up.”


“We worked quickly and on Sunday, we were already in Tzofim to check it out. I had never been there before and as someone from Herzliya, the Shomron meant sand dunes, high mountains and caravans … I did not see myself living there but I overcame my hesitation and went there only to discover a beautiful place which convinced me to start looking for an apartment.

“While looking for an apartment, we went with the children to do some outreach activities in preparation for Purim.  Something about this event undermined my confidence in the move. Around us were men with guns and we felt we had come to the Wild West. I felt that people were looking at us askance and that we were not wanted there.

“I felt how going there made me nervous and even affected my health. I told my husband it was affecting my health and maybe we should look at other places. We decided to wait until after Purim and in the meantime be open to checking out other options.  Others around us also attempted to convince us that it wasn’t good to move somewhere where we were strangers; there were other places where we were known thanks to our previous outreach work.

“Going on shlichus to Tzofim was off the table as far as I was concerned. I sat down to write to the Rebbe before our big Purim program that was planned for the women who attended my shiurim and their families, while my husband and I were looking for another place of shlichus, but the letter I opened to torpedoed my decision to back out.

“The Rebbe wrote a letter in Yiddish (to a woman) which said, ‘I received your letter with a very agitated spirit about my suggestion that your son go on my shlichus to … and that you strongly oppose it … I became even more agitated when your son, the rav, was here with his wife to discuss it. I thought he is my soldier and I can assign him a shlichus but … it seems that before he commits, he needs to listen to what his mother and family say. Obviously, this is not the avoda of a soldier, to ask about conditions, how long, and then to ask the family what they think … And he does not need to write about how much it affects your health; obviously, I do not want to adversely affect the health of anyone …’

“The Rebbe’s letter really got me very agitated.  Despite the late hour, I managed to reach our rav.  I showed him the letter of the Rebbe, and I laid out all the obstacles for him.  The more I went over it for him, the more I lost any interest in moving to Tzofim.  Based on rational considerations, the move seemed impossible to me from every angle. 

“The rav listened silently and asked, ‘And what would a soldier do?’  The question sort of slapped me in the face with the truth, but I did not concede that quickly.  I continued my arguments, but the rav stood firm, asking again and again, ‘And what would a soldier do?’  Finally, I had no choice but to internalize the message, and I answered him with tears in my eyes, ‘Go to Tzofim.’  No, I did not want to move there.

“We got to work. We began packing without knowing when and where exactly we were going. Although we hadn’t found a suitable house, nor tenants to replace us in Elad, I began packing up the house, believing that this would make the vessel for the Rebbe’s bracha for the move.

“Days passed, the house was nearly packed up, but we had nowhere to move to. We wrote to the Rebbe and the answer gave me renewed strength. ‘Mazal tov on your move to the new house … May it be “change your location, change your mazal” for good and blessing.’ It was clear to us that we were moving to Tzofim and to a new house! Indeed, after a series of miracles, we entered our new home, which had just been built, right before Pesach.

“We arrived a few days before Pesach and did Mivtza Matza and made a Seudas Moshiach. We did one in the Chabad House and one in the main shul. The atmosphere was uplifting and at the end of the seuda, one of the people went over to my husband and told him that every year there was someone who arranged a Moshiach Seuda but that year, he was not on the yishuv. We felt how our move was blessed.”


“Shabbos afternoon, about two weeks after Pesach, while we were still acclimating to our new place, I was sitting in the living room when I saw something crash from the upper floor. I didn’t know what was going on but when I saw my children running on the steps, I realized something terrible had happened. It was my daughter who had fallen from the second floor!

“I fearfully ran outside when she suddenly got up, uninjured. Our neighbor, who works as a nurse, told us to run to the emergency room as there might be internal injuries that could be fatal. After asking a rav, we quickly drove with her to the emergency room as I kept on saying out loud, ‘Rebbe, I could not take the Igros Kodesh with me. Please find a way to give me a positive sign.’

“We arrived at the emergency room and were sent for tests; everything was fine. The stunned doctors, who heard the story of her fall, called it a miracle. I waited for the Rebbe’s answer and suddenly noticed a thin pamphlet. I opened it and saw the Rebbe’s picture with an excerpt from the Igros Kodesh where it stated that the words spoken on Pesach caused that there would be perfect health. It dawned on me that our insistence on going on shlichus before Pesach, as the Rebbe wanted, saved our daughter.”


“As the result of a bracha that I got from the Rebbe, we opened a daycare center even though it was in the middle of the year. Only two children registered. Some months went by and I wrote to the Rebbe again; I was quite despondent. I felt like I was treading water, making no progress. The Rebbe’s answer was strong and clear: ‘All Anash should unite, each with his talent, and they will see outstanding success.’

“Not even 24 hours went by and I suddenly got phone call after phone call from parents about the daycare center. I was bewildered by the sudden interest but happy about the unexpected prospects, and I invited them to come and see the daycare center for themselves. What had happened was, at one of the daycare centers there was a story of abuse on the part of the teacher, and the parents unanimously decided to remove their children and put them somewhere else together, so as not to separate them.

“That same evening, we had a parents’ meeting in our house. The parents asked questions, expressed concerns and mainly, breathed a sigh of relief when, by the end of the evening, we decided that starting tomorrow, my small daycare center with two children would get another six babies.

“Two weeks later, we had eighteen children. By the end of the year, we had over twenty. The parents thanked me and said we had saved their children. ‘Thank the Rebbe,’ I said. ‘He saved your children. I was just the conduit.’

“The daycare center was in our house for a long time; the whole house revolved around it.  We literally lived in a preschool. Now the home-based daycare has become an actual center with its own building, and our house serves only as a Beit Chabad.

“The preschool continued to develop, along with the challenges and miracles too numerous to recount.  Many times we felt we were at the edge of the abyss, and each time we saw the hand of divine providence guiding us, step by step.  We were able to see how our efforts are worthwhile and blessed, both in the form of miracles and in spot-on amazing blessings from the Rebbe.”


“Toward the end of the school year, based on a very specific directive of the Rebbe, we understood that we were now facing the next challenge, opening a gan chova (legally mandated kindergarten).  Not a simple challenge, considering the local conditions.

“Registration for kindergarten began, but we had yet to find a certified teacher.  Close to the beginning of the school year, we found a very special person in the form of Rivka Levy, who came to us directly from Rosh Pina.  Rivka, as a true shlucha, came to live on the yishuv and together with us built up the kindergarten with real mesirus nefesh.

“This kindergarten is very special.  The children live with the Rebbe and Geula, know Tanya, p’sukim, T’hillim, absorb Chassidic values, and enjoy very original programming. We proved to the parents that it is possible to establish a Chassidic kindergarten on a high level, without compromising materially nor spiritually.”


“We are currently working on another amazing project, to start an art academy, which will be called Midreshet Rivka, whose mission is to bring down G-dliness through art.  The midrasha is for Lubavitch girls who are post high school.  What is unique about this school is that the study of Chassidus and personal development that everyone needs to experience on the way to building a Jewish home, will be through the medium of art. 

“Here, the girls will learn to relate to Chassidus through drawing, song, drama, dance, Jewish meditation, and more.  Very often, we learn sichos and maamarim of the Rebbe, but it all remains ‘makif,’ without coming down into actuality.  This is more common among those who grew up in Chabad homes, and took finals on Tanya as part of their required course work for graduation, which sometimes leads to the learning being done only because it is required, as opposed to baalei teshuva who discover the light by choice.

“There will be opportunities to express on canvas or through a theater class, the point of a sicha or maamer of the Rebbe.  The impressions are filtered through the lens of experience, thus being preserved deep inside the psyche and leading to practical application.  This will allow even those who do not relate to frontal lecturing to succeed in reaching the deep places inside their soul.

“The midrasha will be guided by top rabbis and professionals, with the goal being that the girls leave not only with a wealth of Chassidic ‘baggage,’ but also a wide range of tools for life in general and marriage in particular, and that all this be through delightful experiences.  Students will be able to work in the Chabad educational programs on the yishuv as full members of the staff, with afternoon and evening hours devoted to the range of classes that will be available, as well as quality housing arrangements.

“For me, this is coming full circle from my early childhood, since from age five I went to schools for the performing arts, where I ended up studying for fourteen years of my life, and I had a secure future in the field.  Now I can understand why Hashem implanted within me the talent for acting, and why I had to develop extensive experience in this field.

“It is clear that we have only gotten this far thanks to the Rebbe; we just have to constantly remember not to get in his way.  With the help of Hashem and a forward look, we will march onward with the power of the Rebbe to future projects and the complete Geula, teikef u’miyad mamash.”

[Editor’s note: This interview took place during the past summer.  Midreshet Rivka recently opened its doors with an event held this past 22 Cheshvan/October 31.  For more information, the contact number in Eretz Yisroel is 0526-320770.]

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