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Alone in Paris

It was afternoon at the Chabad House in Venice. Tourists from all over the world walked through the unique city streets, among the beautiful homes and alongside the canals. One of the tourists noticed the Chabad House sign and decided to enter. There he met Rabbi Rachamim Benin, the Rebbe's emissary in Venice.

“My name is Daniel,” said the man with an air of self-confidence, as he began his story. “Although I may not appear to be religious, I grew up in the United States keeping Kosher and Shabbos. Let me tell you my story...”

* * *

It was 1941. Margaret, a teenaged girl, walked alone through the busy Paris streets. Somehow, she had managed to elude the Nazis, but now she wandered about not knowing what to do next. Her entire family had been sent to Auschwitz, and now, at the height of the war, Margaret was alone in the world without a penny in her pocket.

Margaret’s dream was to get to America where she hoped she could begin life anew. Without money, her longing remained just a fantasy, distant and unattainable.

One day, while meandering brokenheartedly along one of the main streets of Paris, Margaret noticed an obviously Jewish person, characteristic of the “older” generation. He had refined Jewish features, wise eyes, a black beard, and although he wore modern garb, one could see he was a religious Jew.

Impetuously Margaret approached him. Having no other recourse, she didn’t hesitate to speak to him and to reveal her innermost thoughts. Something about him captivated her.

Margaret introduced herself, briefly told him about her life and lamented her present unfortunate situation. “I want to flee Europe as quickly as possible, but I don’t know what to do,” she said sadly.

The man listened to her quietly, letting her unburden her soul, and then said, “The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. You have witnessed many miracles until now, and it wasn’t for naught that you remained alive.”

The man spent time bolstering Margaret’s faith, and then suggested that she come with him to the port to see what could be done. The girl agreed and the two of them walked to the port. The man immediately began inquiring about a ship sailing to America. It turned out that that very evening a large ship was departing for the United States. He began efforts to obtain Margaret a ticket, which seemed to be impossible since there were so many refugees desperate to leave Europe. Nevertheless, a few hours of work bore fruit, and the ticket was in his hands, though not before paying a fortune for the privilege.

Then the two of them headed for the ship, with the man taking care of last minute arrangements before Margaret had to board. It was evening, and the passengers were taking leave of their loved ones with hugs and tears. The anonymous man turned to the girl and told her it was time to board.

Tears came to Margaret’s eyes. She hadn’t dreamed that her salvation would come so quickly. With her little bundle in hand, she turned towards the ramp. Then she stopped, and in a tear-choked voice she said, “You’ve helped me so much and taken care of all my needs, and I don’t even know your name. How can I repay you?”

The man listened quietly and then said in a serious and thoughtful tone, “You may repay me by keeping Shabbos and Kosher.”

Margaret nodded her head silently and boarded the ship. The man didn’t leave just yet. He waited for hours until the sailors untied the ropes and the ship sailed away. The man knew that the refugees’ lives were worth nothing to people, and that they wouldn’t hesitate to send the helpless girl off the boat at the last moment.

* * *

“Margaret was my mother, of blessed memory!” concluded Daniel emotionally. “The man was your Rebbe, who was in France at the time.

“I always remember my mother being particular about Shabbos and Kosher. She would tell her story repeatedly and voice the debt of gratitude she owed the Rebbe.

“Many years after meeting the Rebbe she came across a picture of the Rebbe from around that period, and that is how she identified the man who had helped her. She inquired and discovered that it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who lived in Brooklyn. She actually went to see him, to thank him personally for rescuing her.”

 

 


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