By Mendel Danow and Levi Loewenthal
It was Wednesday afternoon and we had just finished meeting with several Jews in the city of Aarhus.
Previously we had been driving around the cities of Denmark, visiting places without any Jewish presence. We strengthened their weak or non-existent connection with Judaism, put on tefillin with them, put Mezuzos up on their doors and spoke to them about yiddishkeit.
That Wednesday we felt that we had met all the Jews in reach and had completed what we had set out to do. We contemplated whether or not to return to Copenhagen, the capital city, and help the Shliach Rabbi Yitzi Lowenthal.
As we were driving through the streets, unsure of how to continue, we looked through the list of Jews that we had and we noticed that there was one name that we hadn’t yet contacted, someone who lived two hours away. We weren’t sure if we should call him since he lived so far. However, every Jew counts and so we dialed the number.
His name was Chanan and he lives in Aalborg.
“We’re from Chabad,” we told him. “Would you like us to come over and we can discuss Judaism for a bit?
“Chabad?” he asked with a pause and then said, “Please, come over.” He sounded excited.
We drove up north and arrived at Chanan’s house just as he was eating supper. He felt very bad that he couldn’t offer us anything to eat, aside from fruit. We assured him that it was OK and sat down with him.
As we were talking he started to open up to us, saying, “I was married to a non-Jewish woman and we have two girls. Recently, I divorced her.” He sighed heavily, pained. “Unfortunately, she has custody of the girls. I’m not allowed to have any contact with my own daughters.”
“This morning,” he continued, “I was at work and feeling particularly low and upset by my state. So I spoke to G-d. I told Him how hard this is for me, how lonely I feel, and I asked Him to please show me His presence, to show me that He is here, that He cares.”
He stopped and looked at us. “And then I see an unknown number calling,” he told us in wonder. “Someone called ‘Mendel’ is on the phone. He is calling from Chabad and he wants to come over and say hello. There was no clearer sign for me. This was G-d’s way of reaching out to me, of telling me He is here with me in this struggle.”
We spoke with him at length, strengthening him, comforting him. We encouraged him to be more joyous, to focus on the positive, to try and see all the good and beauty that G-d has given him in his life. Then we offered to put tefillin on him.
“I haven’t put tefillin on in years,” he said. He became very emotional when we helped him put them on and started crying.
After putting on tefillin we explained the purpose of our visit in Denmark, and how there are hundreds of Chabad students around the world visiting thousands of Jews in all corners of the globe.
We told his Merkos Shlichus was initiated by the Rebbe many years earlier and is continuing ever so strongly today. We spoke about the Rebbe’s care and love for every Jew, no matter where he may be or his affiliation to Judaism. We encouraged him to write a letter to the Rebbe and send it to the Ohel to get a blessing and help in his troubles. Gladly, he took the email address from us to send his letter.
We stayed for a while longer, discussing belief and trust in G-d, as well how G-d watches over everyone, connecting it to the Mitzvah of Mezuzah. He then told us he wants to put up a mezuzah on his door.
Before we left he told us that he has a Jewish Danish friend called Casper who is a philosopher and he had a feeling that he would be very interested in meeting us. Chanan called him to invite him over but he couldn’t make it. Instead, we made up to meet him the next day.
When we arrived at Casper’s apartment in the city center. He started off by telling us a bit about his background and that his grandfather had been very involved in the Jewish community in Copenhagen and even started the Jewish school there.
Casper said he had no affiliation with Judaism, although he was very interested in Kabbalah and the like, since he is a philosopher. We then started speaking to him about different topics in Judaism and he was very attentive.
One of the topics which came up, of course, was tefillin, which he had never heard about before. When he heard what tefillin signifies, the power it holds and what a special mitzvah it is, he was more than happy to put them on.
So we put tefillin on Casper for the first time in his life.
“Casper, this is your Bar Mitzvah!” we exclaimed.
He was so overjoyed that he started dancing with us right there in the middle of his apartment. We made a heartfelt l’chaim for his bar mitzvah at the age of 47 on a regular Thursday morning.
We spoke to him about the importance of a mezuzah and he immediately wanted to put one up on his door, so we did. He very much enjoyed our visit, and after we left, he sent us a warm email expressing his thanks, as well as an inquiry as to where he could purchase a pair of tefillin. We are right now in the middle of buying him a pair in New York and sending them over to Denmark.
Later that day he posted on social media, “Today I became Bar Mitzvah – an adult Jew.”
From there, we continued on the Rebbe’s Shlichus throughout Denmark, touched by the inner spark that lies within the depths of every Jew, and the special connections we had formed with our fellow Jews in such forsaken places.