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Recognizing The Chosen People
...In Japan

Each year, Israelis flocked to the Lee family in Saytama, Japan, for a celebration called Leil HaSeider, although there wasn’t even one seider item present * This year they contacted Rabbi Binyamin Edery, director of the Chabad House in Japan, and four Tmimim went to kasher the kitchen, change all the kitchen utensils, and prepare a proper Pesach for two hundred tourists * It’s hard to believe – the Lee family are Japanese gentiles – who understand that we are the Chosen Nation and their role is to assist us in fulfilling Torah and mitzvos * From the diary of one of the Tmimim


Exactly half a year passed since Rabbi Binyamin Edery and his wife arrived and opened the Chabad House in Japan, land of the rising sun. In this brief span of time, Rabbi Edery has managed to accomplish much with the local community, and to forge close ties with all the community leaders and Jewish organizations.


Rabbi Edery dedicates most of his time to Torah classes and the Rebbe’s mivtzaim among the local Jews and Israeli tourists who visit Tokyo. From time to time, Rabbi Edery travels to nearby cities to organize mivtzaim there, as well.

This past Pesach, Rabbi Edery organized three public sedarim with hundreds of people: in Tokyo, there were 120 participants; in Saytama, 200; and in Osaka, 40. There was another seider in Kobe with a few dozen people.

As a preparation for Pesach, there was a Yud-Alef Nissan farbrengen in which the participants resolved to help the work of the Chabad House. Pesach ended with Seudas Moshiach in the home of a friend of Chabad, Mr. Mordechai Luria.



When the Air Japan Boeing jet left the runway and headed towards New York, I thought to myself that the paradoxes of this place, Japan, were endless and beyond description, and they certainly could not be understood by someone who wasn’t there. In general, the experiences we had in the past few days did not take place in the exile world we are used to, but in a world which has progressed towards the fulfillment of the prophecies of Redemption.

We landed at Narita, Japan’s international airport, a few days before Pesach. From there we traveled by limousine bus, a tourist bus which brought us to the Chabad House in Tokyo. After a hearty meeting with Rabbi Binyamin Edery, the Rebbe MH”M’s shaliach to Japan, who instructed us briefly about the upcoming days, we went to rest from our long trip.

The following evening, the son and son-in-law of Mr. Wabung Lee came to take us to the family estate in the Saytama district, a two-hour drive from greater Tokyo. We immediately noticed how they treated us with the utmost respect. They insisted on loading into the car all the paraphernalia necessary for the seider by themselves. They didn’t even let us carry our own suitcases. The long trip to Saytama was an excellent opportunity to speak to them face to face, directly and without a go-between, and try to understand why they were so enthusiastic about helping Jews.

“About ten years ago,” began Mr. Kan, Mr. Lee’s oldest son-in-law, “an Israeli tourist who worked in Saytama got entangled with the law and went to prison. My father-in-law, who knew the Israeli, managed to convince the court to lessen the punishment and to free him from jail after a brief time. After he was released, the Israeli and my father-in-law became close friends and he became a regular guest of the family. That’s when my father-in-law first heard about Jews and Jewish holidays.

“My father-in-law is intelligent and he loves to get to the bottom of things. He began reading books about Jews and discovered that they are the Chosen People, and that G-d chose them to illuminate the world. He read in the Bible that in the perfect world after the Redemption everyone will recognize the Jewish nation, so he decided to help the process along. He’s dedicated his life for the betterment of the Jewish nation.

“A year later, my father-in-law decided to celebrate the anniversary of his friend’s release from prison. Since it was close to Chanuka, my father-in-law asked him to bring other Israeli friends to celebrate. The party was successful and my father-in-law decided to make a party for Pesach. We’ve been having these celebrations for ten years.”

Rabbi Binyamin Edery arrived in Japan last Chanuka and opened the local Chabad House. In conversations with Israeli tourists he met in Tokyo, he learned about the unusual Chanuka and Pesach celebrations. He became good friends of the family. Rabbi Edery and his wife had long discussions with the Lee’s and told them, among other things, that the Rebbe MH”M stated ten years ago that gentiles would begin to understand their role and would assist Jews in fulfilling Torah and mitzvos.

When the Lee’s were asked about the kashrus of the food they served the Israelis, it turned out they hardly knew anything about the subject and most of the food was definitely not kosher. For example, they knew that matzos were eaten on Pesach, and they even managed to get matzos each year, but the matzos as well as the other foods were served and cooked in their pots in which not only chametz was cooked, but non-kosher food as well.

At a meeting held a month before Pesach, Rabbi Edery brought up the topic and explained to them that despite their good intentions, they were not permitted to serve the Israelis food cooked in non-kosher utensils. “If you truly want to help the Jewish people, you must make sure that the food you serve is kosher and permissible on Pesach,” he said.

The family expressed interest in learning the details of kashrus. The result of this meeting was an agreement that the Rebbe’s shluchim would arrange the seider, kasher the kitchen and supervise the kashrus of the food. The Japanese family accepted all this quite seriously, and wrote the Rebbe a letter informing him of their decision and asking for a bracha.

Tmimim Dov Segal and Dovid Kopf, who are studying for smicha in Milano, arrived in Japan a week and a half before Pesach. They purchased the equipment they needed to kasher the kitchen and went to the Lee’s home. The two boys worked all day, cleaning and scouring the kitchen and dining room. They kashered the counters, faucets, and sinks and covered everything with heavy- duty silver foil.

By the end of the day, the kitchen was kosher la’mehadrin, similar to a Lubavitcher’s home. They didn’t have to kasher the pots, because the family decided to buy new pots and pans for Pesach. Before returning to Tokyo, the boys gave the Mrs. Lee a list of products she could buy.

Two days later we arrived from New York – Avrohom Veiner, Avrohom Reinetz, and Boaz Sharon – and we brought fish and meat, matzos and wine, a total of a few hundred kilograms.

We arrived at Saytama late at night. The sky was clear and by the light of the nearly full moon I saw and was impressed by the large three-story house. Surrounding the porches I noticed wooden fences, which were made in the shape of menoros, one connected to the next, and I noticed the giant Magen Dovid on the roof. Later, I heard from Mr. Lee that he had built the house just at the time he had met the Jews. In his enthusiasm, he built dozens of Jewish symbols into his home. The menoros and magen Dovid are only some of the symbols. There are also dozens of Jewish pictures which adorn the walls, and even an illuminated sign that says “Boruch HaBa Melech HaMoshiach.”

In the entranceway of the house we were asked to follow the usual Japanese custom of removing our shoes and replacing them with slippers. We were graciously brought to the guest suite, where two beautiful bedrooms awaited us. Along the way, we managed to catch a glimpse of the many tables which filled the two large dining rooms, all of them covered  exactly according to the instructions we had left them.

It was only the following morning when we went to burn the chametz in the nearby forest that I was able to take in the enormity of the house, and the spacious grounds upon which it was located. The transition from Tokyo, a bustling city in which over twenty million people are squeezed into tiny apartments, to Saytama, which is built in a picturesque village setting where each family has a spacious piece of land alongside lakes and forests, gave us a good feeling of expansiveness, which was fitting for the festival of freedom.

We spent Erev Pesach in the kitchen carefully supervising the cooking and frying and the preparations for the seider. One of the bachurim went outside to grate the maror in the fresh air, while Mr. Lee sat down beside him, wanting to learn more about the holiday and its mitzvos, and about the special foods we prepare.

Every few hours we were reminded of the great esteem in which the family held us, and the tremendous efforts they made to accommodate us and to ensure that the seider would be done properly. When we asked them to get us some washing cups for netilas yadayim, and we explained how we would be washing our hands twice during the evening, they sent a family member on the errand. He returned after half an hour with thirty washing cups and basins so that everybody would be able to wash at the table. Later that evening, they sent around bottles of water to refill the empty cups.

About an hour before Yom Tov, we noticed Mr. Lee connecting amplifiers and microphones to a sophisticated sound system, and preparing tapes of Israeli music. Although we had discussed kashrus extensively, we hadn’t explained that this would be prohibited. We told him it wasn’t allowed, and within five minutes it all disappeared.

Night was almost upon us by the time we finished our final preparations. The tables were set, and dozens of Israelis began to show up. The family told us that in previous years they had nearly one hundred guests, but this year they expected a few more. The few more grew from minute to minute, and when we began the seider, there were nearly 200 people! Even the gentiles agreed with us that the secret to success had to do with the fact that this time it was a real seider, kosher v’sameiach.

It wasn’t the first time I was running a public seider, but this year it was really quite moving. Two hundred Israelis, who in previous years had spent the evening eating non-kosher food with no real seider, participated this year in a real seider with matzos, seider plates and wine, and open Hagadas.

There were all sorts of Jews from all sorts of backgrounds. There were many tourists, but there were also Israelis who had been living in Japan for years. There was a sailor from the U.S. Navy whose base was nearby, and there was an elderly couple who had come to visit their son who lived in Japan. There were businessmen stuck in Japan for Pesach, and even four entire families with children who had come touring and had decided there was nothing better than a seider with Chabad.

We read the Hagada together, paragraph by paragraph, with each guest given the honor of reading aloud. I explained everything as we went. When we got up to “Ma Nishtana,” I called upon one of the children, the six-year-old son of Israelis living in Rome who had come on vacation to Japan.

When we got up to the paragraph that says, “We screamed to Hashem, the G-d of our fathers,” we asked all present to use this auspicious time to scream and beg Hashem to bring the Redemption immediately. I was greatly moved by their cries of “Ad masai!” and “We Want Moshiach Now!” A flame of emuna and bitachon flickered strongly as we continued with the next paragraph, “and Hashem heard our voices.”

It was inevitable that the night in which we celebrate our redemption from Mitzrayim would be dedicated to strengthening our emuna in the imminent revelation of Moshiach with the final Redemption. Indeed, most of the songs we sang during the meal were about Redemption and Moshiach. We were additionally inspired by the fact that it was a Japanese gentile family who had organized the seider for us, a literal fulfillment of the prophets: “And kings will be your nursemaids,” and “Gentiles will go in your light.” The seider ended close to midnight with songs of Hallel and Redemption.

Sunday morning just before we left, Mrs. Lee approached us, bowed, and said, “On behalf of the entire family, I want to thank you for giving us the privilege of making the seider as G-d wants. We know that you, the sons of Abraham, are the light of the world; you are the chosen people and G-d gave you the key to guard the world and to bring redemption to the world.”

When we got into the taxis, which waited for us in front of the house, our hosts saw us off. Parents and children followed us silently, as though their future and the future of the entire world depended on us.




In the yard with some of the Lee’s children


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