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A Truly Happy Shabbos

Today, Rabbi Binyamin Rosenstein serves as the head of the Nesivot Olam yeshivah in Bnei Brak, Israel. But 36 years ago he had a different job title – an activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Thanks to his work, he was lucky enough to get expedited treatment when scheduling a visit with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At the time it was common for people to wait weeks or months for an audience with the Rebbe, but Rabbi Rosenstein was granted an appointment within days.

During the meeting, Rabbi Rosenstein described to the Rebbe the rest of his itinerary, on his mission to help Soviet Jewry: He was scheduled to fly the following day to London, and from there to Berlin, and then to fly back to New York before Shabbos.

After Rabbi Rosenstein had finished listing his impressive travel plans, the Rebbe blessed him with a good trip. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Rebbe said, “and where are you spending Shabbos?”

Rabbi Rosenstein was surprised. Had the Rebbe not heard or understood that he planned to return to New York before Shabbos? Could it be the Rebbe had not been paying attention to what he said?

Once again Rabbi Rosenstein reviewed his itinerary with the Rebbe, concluding with his plan to fly back to New York on Thursday.

“And where will you spend Shabbos?” the Rebbe asked once again.

“In New York.”

The Rebbe answered mysteriously: “Nu, wherever you will be, may you have a good Shabbos.”

Completely confused, Rabbi Rosenstein tried once again to clarify a fact that was patently clear to him: “G-d willing, in New York!” But the Rebbe persisted, “Wherever you will be, may you have a happy Shabbos.”

When Rabbi Rosenstein left the Rebbe's room, he tried to understand the meaning of their dialogue. Maybe this is just the Rebbe's manner of speaking, he thought to himself.

The coming days went exactly according to plan. He flew to London, then to Berlin, and on Thursday he boarded a flight to Canada, from where he planned to make a connecting flight to New York. However, his flight never made it to Canada. It was winter, and the skies were very stormy. During the flight, the captain made an announcement that due to extreme turbulence, the flight was being diverted to Keflavic International Airport in Iceland.

All the passengers on that flight spent the night sleeping on the floor of the Iceland airport. In the morning they received news that the flight would resume at 2 in the afternoon. However, for Rabbi Rosenstein this was unwelcome news. A flight leaving at 2 p.m. from Iceland would land in Canada on Shabbos! He had no choice but to spend Shabbos in Iceland, and take a flight after Shabbos.

Rabbi Rosenstein passed the next few hours trying frantically to find names and addresses of Jews in Iceland, with whom he could spend Shabbos. All his efforts were in vain. Finally it dawned on him that he would be spending Shabbos in the airport, without wine for Kiddush, without challah, and maybe even without kosher food...

While roaming through the airport terminal, Rabbi Rosenstein reached an area that had a sign: “Warning: no access.” However, in his great frustration he decided to ignore the sign. What can they do to me if I enter? He thought to himself.

The sight that met his eyes was amazing. There was a bearded, religious-looking Jew, sitting and reading from a sefer (Jewish religious book). Rabbi Rosenstein rubbed his eyes in shock. What was this “apparition” doing in this restricted area of the airport? He did not seem to grasp that his own presence there was no less shocking.

It turned out that this area belonged to the United States Air Force. The rabbi he saw was a Shliach (emissary) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who had arrived there to arrange a Shabbos service for U.S. Air Force pilots, who were stationed in that location.

The Shliach of the Rebbe was equipped with wine, challah, and all other needs for Shabbos. He arranged for Rabbi Rosenstein to spend Shabbos together with him and the Jewish  pilots. It turned out that there were eight Jewish pilots, so together with the Chabad rabbi and Rabbi Rosenstein, there were enough me for a minyan. The Rebbe's blessing for a happy Shabbos was fulfilled in its entirety.

Ten years later, Rabbi Rosenstein had a second opportunity to meet the Rebbe. He passed the Rebbe one Sunday when the Rebbe would distribute dollars for charity along with blessings. With no further elaboration, he said to the Rebbe, “Thank you for the enjoyable Shabbos.”

  The Rebbe's response closed the circle and underscored the Rebbe's phenomenal memory. Handing him another dollar, the Rebbe said, “This is for your activities on behalf of Russian Jewry...”
 

 


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