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A Fruitful Trip

Rabbi Dov Ber Levy, founder of O.K. Kashrus Laboratories, traveled throughout the world to help the international food industries maintain the laws of kashrus. During the course of these travels, he was charged by the Rebbe with various missions.

Rabbi Levy was invited to Russia during the pre-perestroika era to arrange kosher supervision for certain products the Russians desired to export. While involved in these activities, he also devoted himself to providing "soul food" for Russian Jewry.

The underground Lubavitch activity in Russia had produced a large number of Russian chassidim who felt close to the Rebbe, despite the fact that they were 6,000 miles away and had never met him in person. Rabbi Levy took a video camera with him and filmed these Russian Jews in what could be described as a private yechidus with the Rebbe. The Russian Jews would each face the camera and address the Rebbe as if they were speaking to him in person. On his return to New York, Rabbi Levy would play back the video recording for the Rebbe.

On other travels, Rabbi Levy carried out various missions for the Rebbe. While some of the goals were explicit, Rabbi Levy sometimes felt that he was serving as a catalyst to fulfill an unspecified purpose.

Once, he had scheduled a trip to the Philippines to inspect a factory which produced food products for the international market. After planning his itinerary, he told the Rebbe about his upcoming trip and asked for a blessing.

The Rebbe replied with blessings for success, supplementing his good wishes with several dollars for shaliach mitzvah gelt.

[It is customary to give a traveler some money to give to charity in the course of his journey. This designates him as a shaliach ("emissary") charged with a mitzvah. Our Sages declare: "A person who is on a mission to perform a mitzvah will not be harmed." Thus, even if he encounters a dangerous situation on the journey, the person will merit protection.]

This time, the Rebbe added an instruction to the money which he included with his blessing -- to visit and address the Philippine Jewish community, and to give them a donation of one hundred and eighty dollars on his behalf.

As it turned out, the owner of the plant which Rabbi Levy had to inspect was Jewish, and his uncle was the president of the local Jewish community. When he told them of the Rebbe's instructions, they were happy to arrange for him to speak at the shul. His delight at the convenient outcome of events turned to dismay, however, as he entered the shul. The shul's balcony was not used, and the men and the women sat together downstairs without a mechitzah to separate between the men's and women's sections of the shul.

Rabbi Levy would not join them in their service. After the prayers were concluded, he addressed the congregants and explained to them that a synagogue is G-d's house of prayer and should be designed in the manner which He Himself desires. "My fellow Jews," he concluded, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe has sent a contribution to your shul. Why not use it to erect a mechitzah."

The community leaders told Rabbi Levy that they were considering constructing a new shul in a different neighborhood. Rabbi Levy convinced them to erect a mechitzah and also to build a mikveh in the shul. He had the plans for the mikveh prepared and sent a Rabbi to supervise the construction.

Some time later, Rabbi Levy received a letter from the Jewish community in the Philippines. "Enclosed," it read, "is a picture of our new shul." The women's section was attractive and the mikveh was both halachically acceptable and architecturally pleasing. "We thought you'd like to know," the letter continued, "that we wrote to the Rebbe before beginning the construction of the new shul and the mikveh, and his words of encouragement were an inspiration."

This was not the only result of Rabbi Levy's trip. A Jewish student was attending medical school in the Philippines. Although he came from a religious home, he had strayed from Jewish practice and had entered into a relationship with a Philippine woman. He had not attended the synagogue in the Philippines for years, but he was attracted by the news of a lecture from a visiting Rabbi from New York.

The Jewish student waited for Rabbi Levy after the lecture, and they spent an hour talking as they walked back to his hotel. Rabbi Levy could not convince him to give up the Philippine woman immediately, but he maintained contact, and several months later the youth terminated his relationship with the woman.

On another occasion, before Rabbi Levy journeyed to Copenhagen, the Rebbe added a specific directive to his blessings: to check whether the local mikveh was halachically acceptable.

As it turned out, Rabbi Levy was able to stay in Copenhagen for only one day, and did not have the opportunity to check the mikveh. A year later, before a second trip to Copenhagen, he again sought the Rebbe's blessing for this journey and received exactly the same reply. This time he altered his schedule to make sure that he would be able to check the mikveh. With much difficulty, he gained access to the mikveh and indeed discovered a halachic flaw.

He asked which Rabbinic authority had certified the mikveh, and was directed to a leading specialist on mikvaos, Rabbi Posen of London.

Rabbi Posen told Rabbi Levy, "I remember the problem with the mikveh in Copenhagen. I noticed that flaw and gave them precise instructions how to correct it."

Rabbi Posen promised to deal with the matter promptly. Before concluding their conversation, Rabbi Levy had, however, one more question, "Pardon me for asking, Rabbi Posen. I just wanted to know if you had ever mentioned this matter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe?"

"No," he answered, surprised why Rabbi Levy had thought that he might have done so.


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