By Yosef Schtroks and Yaakov Kotlarsky
Yosef Schtroks and Yaakov Kotlarsky are on Merkos Shlichus in Surrey BC, Canada, and have spent the last few days reaching out to Jewish people all around the Surrey/White Rock/ Delta/ Langley areas.
Among a series of interesting encounters was this incredible story:
We had hoped to facilitate an early start for our day, by picking up the car last night. Turns out that we couldnt get the car untill this morning. However even after that we hoped to have a semi-normal day, but for some reason one problem after another kept on coming up and we had some car trouble as well, and until we got on the road it was already late afternoon. However we were determined to at least accomplish something today. Rabbi Yaakov said that we cannot go our first day with out finding at least one Jew to put tefillin on with. So we headed to the local shopping mall.
We were quite dissapointed to see as we walked in that the mall was very close to closing, except for a few of the larger stores. So we headed over to the first one called Zellers and started inquiring if any of the people were Jewish etc. Then just in front of the door we noticed a man sitting in a scooter, visibly quite sick. He didn’t look too Jewish but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and then we would be on our way.
We asked him and turned to go expecting a no, but to our surprise we heard a meek “yes of course”! We quickly turned around and began shmoozing with him, and it turned out that his name was “Yankel Goldstien” and he hadn’t had much connection to Jewish people for quite a few years, especially due to the fact that he was homebound most of the time which increased his loneliness manyfold.
He spoke to us in great detail about his recent bout with cancer r”l and the recent passing of his adoptive mother, who had rasied him almost since birth, and how he had barely ten people at the levaya etc. He had requested of the temple that his adoptive mother was a member of to find someone to say kaddish for her, however they rarely kept their promise, so he was quite dissapointed in them.
We promised we would contact the closest shliach right away and ask him to find someone to say kaddish, we also said we would try to make at least one minyan and have him transported there to give him the opportunity to say kaddish. After shmoozing with him for close to half an hour, we mentioned that its such Divine providence that we walked in just that moment when he was coming out of the store, because we had entirely different plans for the day. He then told us that, interestingly enough, he too had not planned on leaving his house today, and for some reason he felt this unexplainable urge to take care of a little shopping which he could’ve left for a different day. He didn’t even plan on coming to this store, and had planned only on being in a store at the other end of the mall, and he only randomly decided to come to this store because he “suddenly” remembered that the particular item he needed was cheaper there.
Right away we told him that this is no accident and obviously G-d really wants us to meet each other and if two Jews meet each other it is definitely to bring to a mitzvah. “So how would you like to put on tefillin?” we asked. He responded, “well, I have not done it since the day of my bar mitzvah!”
We replied that now is the best time to ‘chap arain’ and have a second Bar Mitzvah! So right then and there, smack in middle of the shopping mall, he put on tefillin, proudly showing his Judaism. Suddenly his eyes closed and he sat emotionally for a few moments, when he told us that today was his birth mother’s (who he had only met 11 years ago) Yartzeit. We explained to him how this must have been Divinely orchestrated in order for him to do a mitzvah in honor of his mother’s yartzeit, and what a great thing he just did for her. He sat there quite surprised at this amazing turn of events.
We both exchanged business cards and promised that we would coming to visit him again soon.
Obviously G-d planned our day, and made sure that this amazing event transpired.