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Tanya in Japan
Ephraim Steinmetz, a businessman, was preparing to fly from Venezuela, where he lived, to Japan, with a stopover in New York. Whenever he flew to New York he would try to arrange a private meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. So he stood with the phone in his hand speaking with the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Chodakov, to schedule an appointment.

But this time Rabbi Chodakov told Steinmetz he may have to forgo the opportunity. “The schedule is very crowded and there is a long line of people ahead of you.”

To Steinmetz the message was quite clear, but still it was important to him to receive the Rebbe’s blessing. “I am traveling in a week to Japan and I’d like the Rebbe’s blessing for the trip.”

Rabbi Chodakov said he would give over the request to the Rebbe, and Ephraim breathed easier. An experienced traveler, he packed his bags and left for the airport. In those days before cell phones, it was not easy to reach someone who had left home. But even then there was always a solution. As soon as he entered the airport he heard an announcement over the public address system: “Mr. Ephraim Steinmetz, Mr. Ephraim Steinmetz, there is a telephone call for you at the information desk.”

Mr. Steinmetz hurried to receive the call, wondering who could be trying to reach him so urgently. And how had they managed to call before he went through security? When he picked up the phone he was not surprised to hear the voice of Rabbi Chodakov. Only the Rebbe could have pulled off such a feat.

 “The Rebbe told you to call me at the airport?” he asked.

 “No, the Rebbe left it up to me to track you down,” explained Rabbi Chodakov, and proceeded to describe the series of phone calls he made until finally locating him in the airport. Mr. Steinmetz was amazed at the ingenuity of Rabbi Chodakov, who indeed succeeded in reaching him shortly before he had to board his flight.

 “I need the address where you’ll be in Japan,” Rabbi Chodakov said, with no further niceties.

Mr. Steinmetz did not understand the urgency.

 “The Rebbe wants to send you a package,” Rabbi Chodakov explained.

This answer only intensified Mr. Steinmetz’s curiosity. What could the Rebbe be sending him? Was it intended for him personally or did the Rebbe want him to be a messenger to pass it on to someone else? He gave the address where he would be staying in Kobe, Japan, swallowed all his other questions and sufficed with the Rebbe’s blessing for a successful trip.

When he reached his hotel in Kobe, he was not surprised to see that the Rebbe’s package had gotten there before him. The package contained the book of Tanya, the fundamental work of Chabad Chassidism. Mr. Steinmetz figured that the book was not intended for him. He already owned a copy of Tanya. He looked through the package from all sides, trying to find some note indicating the intended recipient. Soon a paper fell out of the package, which read, “Give this to someone who needs it.”

Mr. Steinmetz, the businessman-turned-messenger of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, headed to the local synagogue, carrying the copy of Tanya. He was curious to see how events would play out.

As soon as he entered the synagogue he was hailed with friendly greetings from all sides. He was already a familiar face to the worshippers, which included some local residents as well as traveling businessmen like him.

One of his friends that he met in the synagogue was Mr. Ben David, a diamond merchant who would periodically travel to Japan to refresh his inventory. “What is that in your hand?” Mr. Ben David asked curiously.

 “Oh, this? It’s an interesting story,” and Mr. Steinmetz began to tell the story of the mysterious package he had received from the Rebbe.

To his surprise, Ben David became very emotional. “For many years I have been learning a daily portion of Tanya. I am now here for six weeks but I forgot my Tanya in Venezuela. I am certain the Rebbe sent this Tanya for me!”

Steinmetz, amazed, told Ben David how hard the Rebbe’s secretary had worked to reach him. “It’s amazing how important it is to the Rebbe that you return to your regular daily shiur…”
 

 


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