Pesach in Shenzhen, China

Wednesday, 23 May, 2012 - 8:11 am

Tefillin at The Peak

Shenzhen is a major city in south China, situated immediately north of Hong Kong. By Chinese standards, Shenzhen is a modern city with a vibrant economy, and is extremely popular with foreign business people and visitors. It was to Shenzhen that we headed, to help the local Chabad Shliach (emissary), Rabbi Sholom Ben Chazan, conduct programs for Pesach.

Enroute from Melbourne, we stopped in Hong-Kong for several days, in order to obtain entry visas into Mainland China. We made sure that our time in Hong-Kong was not wasted. One particular highlight was meeting an Israeli at the world-class tourist attraction known locally as The Peak, a summit which offers stunning panoramic views of Hong-Kong. The Israeli quite happily put on Tefillin, marvelling that he was doing it at The Peak.

We arrived in Shenzhen shortly before Pesach, and quickly got involved in the last minute Pesach preparations. We played an important role at the Seder, because the non-English-speaking Shliach could not really communicate with the English-speaking segment of the two-hundred strong crowd. We relayed several Divrei Torah, and we tried as best as possible to personally interact with the Seder participants.

At the first Seder, an American conversing with Ephraim got to talking about how obsessed he was with playing tennis. Before long, he was challenging Ephraim to a game. The game took place after Yom-Tov, with Ephraim soundly defeating his opponent. The American was so impressed that a Yeshivah student was as skilled on the court as he is with his Jewish studies that he donated 1,000 Renminbi (the local Chinese currency) to Chabad.

On the same night, Eli spent some quality time with two people visiting from Toronto. They were so inspired that they cancelled their trip to Beijing the following day, in order to stay in Shenzhen for the second Seder.

At the second Seder, Ephraim introduced himself to a guest from Atlanta. When he heard that Ephraim was from Australia, the Atlantan remarked that he had recently visited some cousins in Perth. Although Ephraim was quite sure that he knew nobody in Perth, he nevertheless asked who the cousin was. The Atlantan responded that his own name was Simon Mattis (not his real name), and that his cousin was Shawn Mattis (also not his real name). Ephraim could not believe his ears; he had visited Shawn for several years on his weekly Friday Mivtzoyim route in Melbourne, before Shawn had moved to Perth. What Hashgocha Protis (Divine intervention)!

During Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of Pesach), we were travelling on a train when a local Chinese woman noticed us and came over. We were absolutely floored when we saw what she pulled out of her purse – a pocket Tehillim with a picture of the Rebbe on the front cover. She had received it from a friend who advised her to carry it around constantly. We tried to convince her to give us the Tehillim, in order to ensure that its sanctity be preserved in accordance with the applicable Halachos (Jewish laws). However, she firmly insisted that it remain with her; she could not imagine being without it.

As Pesach drew to a close, we conducted a Kinus Torah, delighting the audience with insights, stories and Divrei Torah.

On the day after Pesach, we visited a local park which is a popular hangout for the local Israeli families. We spoke with a number of them, and we put Tefillin on one of the men. On our way back to the Chabad House, we made a last-minute detour via the pier. Sitting in one of the coffee-shops was a family of South African tourists whom we had met at the Chabad House during Pesach. We sat down and farbrenged with them, although we were not successful in convincing them to put on Tefillin.

Eventually, we had to return to the Chabad House to ready ourselves for the return flight to Melbourne. As we were about to leave to the airport, in walked Jonas, a young teenager of French origin with whom we had become close friends. Jonas had come to say his goodbyes. He wanted our farewell to be special, so we had him wrapped in Tefillin in no time. It was the perfect way to conclude our inspiring stay on the Asian continent.

Setting up the Pesach seder in Shenzhen

The Pesach seder in Shenzhen



Chinese woman and a Tehillim


Tefillin in Shenzhen

Tefillin in Shenzhen

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