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A surprise in prison

Friday, 2 April, 2010 - 1:40 pm

Dear Friends,  

Last week I was contacted by the secretary at the Lubavitch in Vancouver saying that "Victor, a Jewish inmate who moved lately to a prison in your area would like to have a visit of a Rabbi before Pesach." I thought to myself, what a nice gesture it would be to bring a bit of the festival of freedom to a Jew behind the bars! So, I immediately scheduled a visit for Sunday this week. However, when I arrived at the jail just five minutes later than scheduled, I learned that there is no such thing as "Jewish time" in a maximum security jail...

Thus the next morning, which was Erev Pesach, I was on the phone convincing the supervisor of visits to allow me to come that same day, even though they normally require 24 hours advanced notice.  Finally, I was told to be there for 2:20. In fact I was there by 2:00, just in case... Being that Pesach is the busiest day in the Jewish calendar, I was planning on spending just a few minutes there. I would leave him some Matza with good wishes, and rush back to set up the Seder.  However my plans were once again foiled. When I met the guards I was informed that it was against the rules to leave food for Victor, that I would meet him on the phone through a glass window, and that I must be there for no less than one hour, since they don't let people out in the middle of a visit...

So here I am on Erev Pesach, hours before we host a large Seder for 80 people, spending two hours on this unexpected visit. But it was worth it. He knew all about Erev Pesach, and he was much appreciative of the fact that on such a busy day I took the time to visit...

He was very excited to tell me that he knows many Chabad Chassidim all over the world. "Let me tell you about my first meeting with Chassidim which I will never forget,” he says.  

“It was in 1991, right after I immigrated to Israel. Sadam Hussein threatened to fire nuclear weapons at Israel. We were horrified, is this why we came to Israel?”  He continued, saying: “It was the first day of the war, I was in my uncle’s home, helping him to tape the windows for the 'sealed room,' when we heard singing from outside. I saw a group of Chassidim singing and dancing on the street with optimistic faces. Seeing how shocked we were, they explained to us that 'the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that we don't have to worry, there will be miracles, and tonight is Shabbat, which is a day of joy etc...' it warmed our hearts, it gave us happiness and hope when we were desperate for it."

"Where was this in Israel?" I asked. “It was in Tzfat, we lived then in a neighbourhood called 'Kna'an," Victor said.

I got chills when he said that. "Victor," I said. "I was there. I was just 11 years old at the time, a fax came to my father from the Rebbe's office, instructing us to bring the joy of Shabbat to the residents of Israel, and we did exactly as you described, especially in the neighbourhood where there were new immigrants."

Victor seemed to take it very naturally, I was overwhelmed by the divine providence. 

Comments on: A surprise in prison

Shulamit Rothenberg wrote...

Todah Raba for such a heartwarming story. It reminds me, once again, how much there is to each of our souls' universes within. And to never take any interaction for granted. This interaction made an angel, I am sure.
Blessings and Light, Shulamit Rothenberg