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The Way Home

Australia was the destination of choice for Ron Moyal, a typical Israeli backpacker, touring the world after his release from active duty in the IDF. But shortly after arriving in Australia, Ron made a quick trip to New Zealand and was captivated by its picturesque beauty. He ended up spending a year and half on the island, trekking across its breadth and width. Ron befriended a local young man who served as his tour guide. He led him through various forests and tourist attractions, and Ron enjoyed every moment.

One evening, Ron and his companion arrived in a small, remote village. They took up lodgings in a local inn, and Ron woke up early the next morning. The sight that met his eyes when he stepped out of the inn took his breath away. The entire village, bathed in greenery, was nestled at the foot of a mountain.

On a whim, Ron decided that he would climb to the peak of that mountain. Something in his heart told him that a special experience awaited him and he did not want to miss out.

He was not even equipped with a bottle of water when he set out for the mountain top. He figured that it would not take more than two hours for him to reach the top and make his way back to his room. Maybe he'd make it back even before his companion woke up...

At first it seemed that his estimate was correct. Ron was in good shape and in less than two hours he was at the mountaintop. However, when he reached the peak he saw that there was a series of peaks beyond it, and he decided to scale them all. When he reached the last one, he was exhausted and hungry. It was time to turn back. Surely his traveling partner was worried by now.

Ron decided to go back by a different route, which seemed shorter than the way he came. However, that path turned out to be circuitous and difficult. Ron quickly became lost among the trees and shrubs, and at a certain point he realized that he could no longer see the village.  He tried to guess at the right direction, but as the hours passed he realized that he was completely lost. He was just wandering, circling through the forest, with no clue how to get out.

After hours of stumbling, Ron reached a huge field of brambles, and he figured that after he crossed it he would reach the village. He started on a brisk walk, not easy to do through the thicket. Soon his arms and legs were covered with cuts and bruises. To his dismay, the field turned out to be one in a series -- no sooner did he get out of one thicket than he found himself in another.

Ron had completely lost his sense of direction. He could see no sign of human settlement anywhere, in any direction, and the setting sun did nothing to lift his spirits. His stomach, too, reminded him repeatedly of how hungry and lost he was.

At ten at night Ron was still wandering in the forest. The temperature dropped precipitously and the cold penetrated his bones. Ron kept rubbing his arms and legs so as not to lose feeling. If that were not enough, a thick fog settled over the forest, plunging him into darkness.

For Ron, this was his breaking point. He threw himself on a rock, thinking that his life would surely end. He started reviewing images of his life and prepared himself for the worst.

Suddenly he jumped up filled with new energy. He cried out, "G-d, if You will save me from here, I promise to put on tefillin for seven days!" With that promise he felt as if he had given over responsibility for his own life, and like a madman, he began to run. "I will run until I find my way out of here, or until I collapse," he told himself.

It was nearly morning when Ron came to a road. The happiest moment in his life was when he saw two beams of light coming towards him -- the headlights of a car. "I am saved!" he cried hoarsely. He stood in the road and waved frantically, hoping the driver would notice him.

The driver pulled over and was shocked at the sight of the bruised, bloodied figure in front of him. When Ron told him from where he had come, the driver found it difficult to believe. "You came all this way on foot?" he asked, with bulging eyes.

The driver gave him a ride back to the village he had come from. It turned out that his travel companion gone out to search for him in a helicopter, unsuccessfully.  Only later did Ron find out in what merit he had been saved.

For several years, the Moyal family had become more religious and had become Chabad chassidim. Ron himself, though, wanted no part in the process. He distanced himself from any form of religion. At the very moment that Ron was wandering through the forest in New Zealand, his family was holding a chassidic gathering in their home. All the attendees said "L'chaim" and blessed the family that Ron should find his way back home...

Ron put on tefillin for the promised seven days, and has continued to do so to this day. He returned to Israel and decided to follow in his family's path. Today he is an active member of the Chabad community of Afula, Israel.


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