By Chanie Stavsky for COLlive.com
What is the taste of chessed? Is there one?
Last September, my husband Ezzy Stavsky traveled to Italy where he had a trade show. We packed up in a rush since he left the day after our son’s Bar Mitzvah. Usually, when he travels to places with no Kosher food whatsoever, we pack a couple of shelf-stable Meal Mart meals in his hand luggage. But we were so harried and rushed, we simply put it all in his check-in piece which the airline sent to Lisbon, Portugal instead of Bologna, Italy.
That was on Sunday. By Monday, there was no promise of getting the suitcase delivered to Italy in a timely fashion. Being that he was in the remote area of Sassuolo, in the province of Modena, he was a full two hours away from Kosher food in Venice. Since he had series of meetings that were set up months in advance, he couldn’t cancel them. He subsisted on grapes and water.
By the time Tuesday came, he did what any G-d-fearing, observant Jew does when stranded in a foreign place- he called the Chabad closest to him. It wasn’t that close- almost a 45-minute drive. When Ezzy asked for the address to pick up the food, Rabbi Eli David Borenstein of Chabad of Bologna gave an adamant no. He drove later that day with homemade bread, freshly baked by his Rebbetzin Mandy Borenstein. Along with products imported from Israel and packaged deli, that food was like Manna from heaven.
Although Ezzy was able to thank them, and we gave a subsequent donation to their Chabad, I didn’t feel it was enough. How could I show appreciation to a couple that fed my husband when he was some 4,186 miles away fro home? Ezzy had taken a picture of the food and I as a teacher had shared the story with my students. Being that we are not Lubavitch, it was a beautiful Kiddush Hashem to spread this act of kindness to other circles in the community.
A few months after this incident, in late November, we were on a flight, ‘coincidentally’ on the same plane to Israel as our wonderful friends Rabbi Zalman and Toba Leah Grossbaum of Livingston, NJ, whom we knew several years earlier through their magnificent project of LifeTown. We had actually discovered that we had booked almost identical itineraries back in August.
On the plane, while heading over to talk with Zalman, Ezzy overheard someone introducing himself as Meir Borenstein who runs a Chabad in New York. Ezzy asked him if he was from Italy. His look of bewilderment proved that this was none other than Rabbi Borentstien’s son! We were able to make a short video clip thanking them and explaining the ripple effect it had.
A few meals to a stranded traveler. A desire to share the beauty of that act of kindness. One of the many incredible flavors of culinary kindness that happen every day and -thanks to Chabad- literally everywhere. I will venture to say that chesed does have a taste. And it nurtures the body as much as it nurtures the soul.