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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Just in Time

Twelve years earlier, Roman and Irena Greenberg had made aliyah from Ukraine to Israel. Now they decided that it was time for them to make a return visit.

In preparation for their trip, they arranged visas for all their family members. Roman took a leave of absence from work, and everything seemed to be all set. The Greenberg family, as well as their relatives in Kiev, where they planned to stay during their visit, were all very excited.

The day of the flight arrived. In the airport, they were greeted by friendly security personnel, who took everyone’s passports and visas to ensure that everything was in order. The Greenbergs waited patiently for the formalities to end so they could receive their boarding passes and board the plane. Suddenly the security agent turned to Roman and said, “Are you aware that the visas for your children don’t go into effect until tomorrow?”

Roman did not understand what she meant. When he bought the tickets he made sure that all the dates matched up. He asked the agent to hand him back the passports. After a quick glance, he said, “Everything is in order! We are not scheduled to land in Kiev until 9 p.m., and by the time we leave the airport it will already be past 12 midnight – which is when our visas go into effect.”

However, the agent explained to him that it was impossible for him to board the plane with a wrongly dated visa. “Ukrainian law forbids us to allow passengers to board a plane if they do not have visas effective from the moment of boarding.”

“What can I do now?” asked Roman desperately. It had taken so much effort to plan this trip to every last detail. Now, in one moment, all their plans were in jeopardy.

“Simple, just push off your flight for one day,” suggested the agent.

“But I bought these tickets at a special discount rate! There is no way to exchange them!” Roman protested.

“I’m sorry,” the agent replied in an indifferent tone. “There is nothing I can do for you.”

Roman felt his carefully laid plans collapsing all around him. His children were so excited for this trip, as were his relatives in Kiev. Would his carelessness in dating the children’s visas cause all those plans to go to naught?

Irena, his wife, was much less agitated. She had begun to study Chassidic teachings and had developed a strong faith which tided her over during many of life’s challenges. “Roman, let us pray. You’ll see that everything will work out.”

Roman’s disheveled look perfectly matched his inner consternation. He did not understand how Irena was not similarly affected. Irena picked up her cell phone and dialed her personal Rabbi, Rabbi Yaakov Reinitz from Lod. She told him the details and asked him to open a volume of Igrot Kodesh, the Rebbe’s collected published letters, to seek the Rebbe’s blessing.

While Irena was on the phone with Rabbi Reinitz, Roman returned to the counter to gather up their belongings. He had already made peace with the fact that they were returning home. Near the counter, he noticed a tall man dressed in a jacket and tie. Next to him was a woman, probably his wife, and one other person. It seemed they were preparing to board the flight that the Greenbergs were about to miss.

Suddenly the man was approached by one of the security agents, who began to speak to him. Roman noticed them glance his way, and it became clear that their tardy visas was the topic of discussion. Without knowing who he was, Roman decided that he would approach the man himself and plead his case. “Please, do me a favor. We’re only talking about a 2-3 hour difference. Think about how disappointed the children will be if we cancel this trip.”

The man looked at Roman and his family thoughtfully, and then whispered something to the man at his side. It turned out that this man was none other than the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel. He instructed his assistant to return immediately to the consulate and have the staff prepare the correct visas and bring them back to the airport with the necessary signatures. “Hurry!” he said. “The flight leaves in less than two hours!”

Roman blinked in shock and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. While they awaited the return of the consul, Rabbi Reinitz got back on the line with Irena and said, “The Rebbe blessed you that everything would turn around. I am certain you will board the plane.” Quoting the Igrot Kodesh, he said, “Even if matters don’t appear to be good in a revealed way, the days of this month have the power to transform them to days of joy and holidays, revealed to the eyes of flesh.”

The Greenberg family boarded the plane and enjoyed their long-awaited vacation, just as planned. The singular change that came about as a result of this trip was Roman’s religious awakening. “There is no doubt in my mind that the extraordinary encounter in the airport with the ambassador, who was able to arrange the visas just in the nick of time, was nothing short of a miracle.”


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