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The Trip that Almost Wasn’t
“Please fasten your seatbelts, we are preparing for landing,” came the voice of the flight attendant. The lights in the cabin were dimmed as the plane made a smooth descent into the Sandino International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua.

Rabbi Yitzchak Nemes, a Chabad chassid and international stamp dealer, sat in the rear of the plane and stared out the window at the approaching metropolis. “What am I doing here?” he thought to himself. He reflected on the chain of events that led him to this destination.

As part of his far-flung business interests, Rabbi Nemes would travel every winter to countries in Central America—Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador—where he had close ties with local postage officials as well as international stamp collectors.

As a loyal chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Nemes made no move without asking for the Rebbe’s permission and blessing. Before every trip he would seek the Rebbe’s blessing, as he did before the current trip to Nicaragua. On this occasion, though, the Rebbe’s answer was delayed. As the date of his departure approached, Rabb Nemes urgently contacted the Rebbe’s secretary, who asked the Rebbe in person regarding Rabbi Nemes’s trip. The Rebbe in turn asked for a detailed itinerary.

This time, instead of a routine blessing, the Rebbe’s answer was, “Travel—but not now.” Rabbi Nemes was puzzled by this answer. What did it mean? And how long should he wait? Now was the time when he would purchase a large supply of stamps at a special discount as well as meet many of his important contacts in Central America. His business for the entire year was structured around this trip. Most importantly, never before had the Rebbe discouraged him from taking a trip.

However, as a chassid he did not question the Rebbe’s advice. He immediately canceled his ticket and told his family that he’d be home that week after all.

That weekend, Rabbi Nemes along with people around the world listened in horror to reports of a devastating earthquake in Managua. The very night that the earthquake struck, Rabbi Nemes was meant to be in a central hotel in the city, an area that was leveled by the earthquake with many casualties. There were many injuries and deaths, with hundreds of thousands left homeless. Aid workers from around the world converged on Nicaragua to assist the injured and displaced population. Rabbi Nemes and his family could not stop thanking G-d for His great kindness in sparing them this devastation.

After a certain interval Rabbi Nemes decided that the time had come to fulfill the other part of the Rebbe’s answer… “Travel…” Despite his family’s pleas to consider the dangers, both from the physical situation as well as the political chaos, Rabbi Nemes informed the Rebbe of his intention to make the trip. This time he received a quick answer from the Rebbe with a blessing to go.

So Rabbi Nemes found himself on an airplane approaching Nicaragua. His flight was filled mainly with aid workers or relatives of victims eager to render assistance or locate their loved ones.

With difficulty, Rabbi Nemes found a taxi driver who agreed to take him to the city center. The sights he saw on the way were frightful. Entire areas of the city were covered in rubble. He saw shattered buildings, and worst of all, the stench of dead bodies filled the air and contributed to the sense of utter despair. The broad boulevards were almost unrecognizable, with tents and temporary shelters set up on all sides to house the many homeless.

When Rabbi Nemes reached the main post office building, he rubbed his eyes in shock. The building stood in its full glory, untouched by the destruction all around it. He swiftly ascended the staircase and made his way to the office of the official with whom he usually conducted his business. As soon as he entered, the official looked up in shock and said, “What a surprise! I would never have expected to see you here!”

When Rabbi Nemes began to discuss business, the official told him, “You can see for yourself the destruction and confusion in the city right now. It will take us a long time to repair the damage and get things running normally again. Stamp dealing just isn’t one of our priorities right now. However, as a close associate for all these years, you may take all the stamps you want on credit. We will sort out the details later.”

Later Rabbi Nemes admitted that this trip was the most profitable he had ever taken…


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