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Sunday, January 29, 2023 - 7 Shevat 5783
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Right Place, Right Time

Every three years, a special Olympics for firefighters is held in Australia. The most recent Olympics was in the southern Australian city of Adelaide, and Israel sent its own delegation of firefighters.

Among the Israeli group there was one who was Shabbat observant--Sammy Ohana, a senior fire investigator from Eilat. As far back as he could remember, Sammy never forfeited Shabbat prayers in a synagogue, followed by a traditional Shabbat meal with kiddush and challah. As Shabbat approached in Australia, Sammy repeatedly tried to call the head of the Jewish community of Adelaide, Mr. Mark Wexler. But nobody answered his calls.Chabad House

Sammy tried to enlist the help of the receptionist of the hotel where he was staying. "Do you know where there is a local synagogue?"

The receptionist directed Sammy to a particular address. However, when he got there he found himself facing a Christian church... Apparently, the receptionist didn't know of anything else.

Sammy returned to his hotel room frustrated and depressed. While still in this mood, the phone in his room rang. The woman at the other end of the line introduced herself as Mrs. Wexler. "I see that you have tried calling us multiple times. What can we do for you?"

Sammy explained that he was a delegate of the Israeli fire team and needed a place to pray and spend Shabbat. "Ah, yes," responded Mrs. Wexler warmly. "I heard that there was an Israeli delegation participating in the fire Olympics. We will be happy to host you for Shabbat."

Not wasting a moment, Sammy headed out to the address he was given. Shabbat was about to begin. He hired a taxi and without further difficulty, found the Wexler residence.

When he got there, Mr. Wexler had already left for the synagogue. Mrs. Wexler gave Sammy directions and he found the place easily.

In the synagogue, Sammy introduced himself to Mr. Wexler and was warmly welcomed to the community. "We are honored to have you here. We also have another guest from Israel, and we look forward to a special atmosphere at tonight's Shabbat dinner."

Mrs. Wexler turned out to be a hostess par excellence, although the level of kosher kept in her home was not up to Sammy's usual standard. Gently and with sensitivity, Mark explained to Sammy what he could or could not eat in their home. Sammy was satisfied that at least the wine and challah were kosher beyond any doubt.

When the pleasant Shabbat meal ended, Sammy was exhausted, and could barely contemplate dragging himself back to his hotel room, a 25 minute drive away. Who knew how long it would take to make the same journey on foot.

Fortunately, the Wexlers anticipated his need and invited him to spend the night in their home.

"Tomorrow morning, my wife and I need to travel to Sydney," Mr. Wexler informed Sammy. "But it will be alright. Our son Michael will escort you to synagogue tomorrow morning."

Sammy was disappointed with this news. His hosts did not even observe Shabbat? And could he rely on Michael to wake up on time to bring him to synagogue?

The next morning, the time for prayers came but Michael still had not stirred. Sammy decided to try and make his own way to the synagogue. The night before he had traversed the same route alone; why would he not succeed today?

However, finding his way turned out not to be so simple. Finally he tried to retrace his route back to the Wexler home, but got even more confused. He approached people on the street for directions, but they did not even know what a synagogue was. Sammy did not know where to turn.

In his mind he had a sudden vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In his hometown of Eilat, he frequently attended the local Chabad House, and it was natural for him to think of the Rebbe in his moment of despair. "Rebbe," he cried out in his heart, "Is it possible that in this city you do not have a single emissary? Every major city in the world has a local Chabad rabbi!"

Sammy continued his aimless trudging through the streets of Adelaide, hoping to eventually find his way back to the hotel. Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned and saw a rabbi. "We are waiting for you. You will be our tenth man for a minyan," the man said.

From his great surprise and relief, Sammy burst into tears.

The rabbi identified himself as Rabbi Engel, the Rebbe's emissary in Adelaide. He explained that every week they had exactly ten people for a minyan, but on that Shabbat one member did not come, leaving them short one man. Thanks to Sammy, they would be able to pray with a minyan.

When Shabbat ended, the community stayed for a short video of the Rebbe. In the video featured that week, the Rebbe was speaking about the mitzvah of welcoming guests who come from far, and of our obligation to wait for them and receive them warmly.

At that moment Sammy's eyes met the rabbi's. In his moment of need, the Rebbe's emissary had come to the rescue.


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