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Island Lights

It was a winter Shabbat in 1973, during a Chassidic gathering in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway. Suddenly, in one of the breaks between talks, the Rebbe began to call, “Glick! Rabbi Glick!” The Rebbe seemed to be looking for Rabbi Glick.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Glick of blessed memory served for many years as the Rebbes “roving emissary” in Europe. The Rebbe sent him on various missions throughout the borders of Europe – in the years before the fall of the Soviet Union. Some of these missions were publicly known, while others were undertaken in secret. In one location he’d open a Jewish school; elsewhere, a kosher restaurant or a mikvah. Sometimes he would provide a community with Jewish books, matzos for Passover, or arrange for a rabbi or mohel to visit. He had connections with political and business leaders across the continent, and used his influence to benefit Jewish communities and Judaism.

The fact that the Rebbe was seeking Rabbi Glick during the gathering was curious, since he was not even in the United States on that particular Shabbat. Later on, however, Rabbi Glick shared this story, which shed light on why the Rebbe had mentioned his name during that gathering:

“A few days before that gathering, my wife and I were in Barcelona, Spain. Our plan was to continue on to Madrid and then to Lisbon, Portugal, to carry out several missions on behalf of the Jewish community. However, we suddenly received a telephone call from the Rebbe’s secretary, instructing us to fly to the Mediterranean island of Majorca, a half-hour flight from Barcelona. I had never visited there before, and the Rebbe’s message did not include an address or purpose for our trip. ‘Fly to Majorca’ was the terse instruction we received.

“When we arrived at the airport in Barcelona, we found out that all flights to Madrid had been suddenly canceled. ‘Certainly this is G-d’s hand,’ I said to my wife. ‘If we received an instruction from the Rebbe to fly to Majorca, we need to put our other plans on hold and go there immediately.’ We took the first flight out to Majorca.

“We had a terrible flight. The plane was tossed about by severe turbulence, such as I had never before experienced. ‘We are traveling on a mission of the Rebbe and we have nothing to fear,’ my wife said with admirable calmness.

“The plane landed safely in Majorca, and we started to inquire where we might find Jews in Majorca. We found out that there was a large group of Jewish tourists staying in Hotel De Mar. We also found out that terrorists had threatened to assassinate the president of Spain, which was why all flights to Madrid had been cancelled. All approaches to the city had been cut off.

“The city that we had planned to visit was now inaccessible, and the island to which the Rebbe had directed us had a large group of Jews waiting...

“We got ourselves settled in Majorca, and then we received another call from the Rebbe’s secretariat. It was a few days before Chanukah, and the secretary told us that the Rebbe had sent out two letters for the holiday, one addressed to ‘All Jewish sons and daughters wherever they can be found,’ and the other addressed to children under the age of bar or bat mitzvah.

“In accordance with the Rebbe’s instructions, the secretary sent me the English translation of the Rebbe’s letters, and told me to have them translated into Spanish as well, to distribute them to the Jews on the island. I found a translator and the next day I made copies of the translation. Every Jewish tourist that we met received a copy of the Rebbe’s letter, in either English or Spanish.

“We also managed to locate some local Majorcan Jews and forged a relationship with them which lasted for years. We told them of the Rebbe’s instruction to fly to Majorca and about the letters that the Rebbe directed me to distribute – both of which facts generated much interest in our activities.

“I remember in particular a very wealthy man named Benny, who agreed to meet me in my hotel. During his visit I played a tape of the Rebbe singing a powerful Chassidic melody, ‘Tzomah lecha nafshi.’ When he heard the Rebbe’s voice he burst into tears, and explained that the song reminded him of his childhood.

“When he calmed down he said that he felt a strong need to do something to show his Jewish identity. After some thought he said that  he wanted to install a menorah on the roof of his home, which overlooked the entire island. Indeed, we managed to erect an improvised menorah, which towered majestically above the island, shedding the light of Chanukah far and wide.

“The menorah attracted a great deal of attention, particularly among the Jews. By the time we left the island, Benny had accepted upon himself several other mitzvot that he planned to perform.

“When I erected the menorah, I remembered something that the Rebbe had once told me, during a period when I earned my living as a manufacturer of menorahs. The Rebbe said, ‘A Jewish soul is like a menorah. Just as a menorah can remain extinguished for a long time until someone lights it, so, too, there are many Jewish souls dispersed and in darkness, until someone will come along and light the flame.’

“This is most likely the reason that the Rebbe mentioned my name at that gathering. The Rebbe knew exactly where I was and what I was involved in. Nevertheless, the Rebbe mentioned my name, in order to bring blessing upon me and give me the spiritual strength I needed to succeed in my mission – to light up Jewish souls.”
 

 


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