Mivtzoim Report: CBD

Thursday, 5 December, 2013 - 7:11 pm

With Yisroel Leib Lester

Mivtzoin MelbourneOn the day before Chanukah, Levi Gross and I headed to the city, for Mivtzoim. We were just arriving at the street corner closest to our final destination, and we immediately encountered a young Jewish man! He was on his way to meet another Jewish friend of his, so we gave him a Menorah for his friend as well.  After talking a little about Chanukah and the miracles of old, we went on to explain that Hashem cares about the Torah and Mitzvos that we currently do. We asked him if he would like to put on Tefillin. He was happy to oblige, especially as it had been a while since he had last put on Tefillin. He was so excited that he snapped a picture of himself wearing Tefillin.

After wishing him happy Chanukah and parting ways, we continued down the street, telling passers-by about the holiday of Chanukah and asking if they might be Jewish. After several hours, we had still not met another Jew, so we headed back to Federation Square with the rest of our Menorahs. We were glad that we had the opportunity to help at least one Jew with Chanukah and Tefillin.

Arriving at the Square, we observed some of the other Bochurim trickling in from their respective Mivtzoim adventures. “Let’s dance,” someone suggested. An enthusiastic rendition of “Lehodos Ulehalel” ensued, and we began dancing in a circle. As the song came to an end, one of the Shluchim presented a short Chanukah message to all of the people seated on the wide stairs at the Square, and he invited all Jews to come and get their own Menorah. One person had been videoing us throughout our dance, and he was eagerly taking in the sight.

As we neared the top of the stairs, a woman came over to us and asked, “Can I speak to you for a moment?” She told us that she was Jewish and had come to Australia just three months ago from Israel, and had been looking for a synagogue to attend. She had heard that there was a Chabad House in Melbourne, but she couldn’t locate it. We provided her with the rabbi’s number and asked her if she had a Menorah. Since she did not, we gave her a Menorah and wished her a happy Chanukah. The hand of divine providence was clearly evident – imagine had we not danced and sung?

Next, we noticed that the person who had been videoing us was still intently looking at us. We walked over to him and asked if he was Jewish. He didn’t seem to understand, and mumbled a few words in Russian. So we switched over to Russian: “Ti Ivrei (are you Jewish)?” He responded with a rush of Russian words which I did not understand – “Ti Ivrei” is just about the only Russian phrase that I know! He realized that we didn’t understand what he was saying, so he proceeded to tell us in broken English that he is Jewish, and that he had eaten Matzah before. He added that he was nevertheless having trouble with accepting the idea of Hashem, due to the atheist education he received in communist Russia.

After speaking with him for several more minutes, we concluded by singing “Nyet Nyet Nikavoh” – a song with Russian lyrics proclaiming that there is nothing aside Hashem. Based on our discussions, we felt this song was most appropriate. He laughed with pleasure as we sang it, and asked us if he could video us singing it to show his mother upon his return back to Russia.

On Chanukah, our job is to light the Menorah. We hope that our efforts, with Hashem’s help and the Rebbe’s inspiration, will fan the flame of the souls of the Jews that we had the privilege of meeting this Chanukah.

 With Akiva Vallins

We would pass the tall building on Queens Street every week on the way to our destination. Until Chanukah, it never crossed our minds to go inside and seek out fellow Jews. If only we had known how many Jews worked there, we would have paid a visit ages ago.

Chanukah is one of the best times for seeking out and establishing new contacts. Each night as we light the Menorah, we add one candle more than the previous night. This symbolizes that we must always grow, adding to our Yiddishkeit bit by bit. One can and should always seize the present moment and put on Tefillin – even if he hasn’t so much as seen a pair of Tefillin in ages. The same applies to lighting Shabbos candles, saying goodbye to the week that was, and indulging in the peaceful atmosphere that is Shabbos. 

With seven Menorahs in our bag, we entered the building on Queens Street. Looking at the directory of businesses situated at each level, I truly doubted we would find any fellow Jews here. There were no obvious candidates with give-away names such as Goldstein’s Jewellery or Freedman’s Accounting.

As it turned out, we met five Jews in the building. We started on the fourteenth floor, and gradually made our way down. We didn’t meet much success at the top five floors. On one of these floors, we entered a large office with about thirty workers sitting at computers. We really didn’t want to disturb, so we quietly asked the lady closest to us if anyone in the office was Jewish. We explained that it was a Jewish holiday and we had packages for any Jews we would meet. She immediately stood up and shouted at the top of her lungs, “HEY! IS ANYONE HERE JEWISH?” Not exactly the reaction we were expecting. No one identified themselves as Jewish.

We eventually arrived at the sixth floor, and we went to every door, only to receive the same response, “sorry – no one here is Jewish.” We entered the very last door of the sixth floor, and asked the sole occupant if he was Jewish. He looked at us curiously and asked us why. We informed him that it was the Jewish Holiday of Chanukah, whereupon he told us that he wasn’t Jewish, but his mother was.

Immediately, we told him excitedly that this meant he was Jewish as well. He invited us to take a seat and tell him more. As it turned out, he had quite a few Jewish friends, and he was going that very night to a Chanukah party. He had never had a Bar Mitzvah, so we showed him a pair of Tefillin and told him that we could have a Bar Mitzvah right there and then.

Enthusiastically, he put the Tefillin on, and we read the Shema together out loud. We also gave him a Menorah and Chanukah guide, explaining to him how it was all done. He was so happy that he started calling his Jewish friends to inform them of the great news that, for the first time in his life, he had put on Tefillin. 

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