A Taste Of Moshiach In The Land Of The Rising Sun
(Part 2 of 2 - click here for Part 1)
By Avrohom Jacobson


(Continued from last week.)

How did you overcome the kashrus difficulties?

At first it was really hard. We didn’t know what was permissible and what wasn’t. We subsisted almost entirely on the canned food we had brought with us from Eretz Yisroel. When that was used up, we had vegetables and fruit and lots of rice. One of our supporters donated a bread maker, and we had to find kosher flour. In other countries it’s not difficult to obtain flour, but in Japan even the flour is mixed with ingredients of dubious kashrus. Only after consulting with the O.K. Labs were we able to find flour with no halachic problems and we began baking kosher bread.

We also had a problem with fish. You can get all kinds of fish in Japan, but we couldn’t buy fish that had been cut with a knife that had been used to prepare non-kosher seafood. We went to big fish stores but couldn’t find what we were looking for. In the end we finally discovered a fish market and a fisherman who agreed to keep whole fish for us. So every Friday at 4:00 a.m. I go to the fish market and bring a kosher knife which the fisherman uses to cut our fish. That’s how we have fish for Shabbos.

Can’t you import kosher food?

The first time we tried to import large quantities of kosher food was before Pesach. As was reported in Beis Moshiach [issue 276], we brought six bachurim to help us arrange sedarim in Tokyo and Saitama. Since each passenger is entitled to bring two suitcases, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and to bring large quantities of kosher food for Pesach. My in-laws, Yaakov and Esther Reich, bought a huge quantity of food and sent it with the bachurim.

Since we had no experience importing large quantities of food, we weren’t aware of the strict Japanese laws which basically reject all food products unless they come with special documentation signed by the Ministry of Health. When the bachurim passed through customs at the airport, the authorities confiscated most of the food they had brought. It was a miracle that they allowed them to bring in the packages of matzos (they told them it was a Japanese cracker) and that they didn’t even notice the packages of maror and nuts for the charoses.

After the intervention of the representative of the airline the boys had flown, the customs officials agreed to store the food in a freezer on condition that we got the special permits from the Ministry of Health. Due to technical problems the permits were delayed until after Lag B’Omer, and a week before Shavuos we received all the food items, which were in excellent condition.

Having learnt the import laws the hard way, we began importing large quantities of food with the help of my in-laws, who go all out when it comes to these shipments. Lately we’ve been importing a large quantity of kosher food products every two week – pasta, wine, oil, preserves, and spices. We even get meat with Lubavitch sh’chita and milk products under the supervision of the beis din of Crown Heights. Recently we began organizing an additional shipment from Australia of all the Osem products.

Now that importing food became routine, we could intensify Mivtza Kashrus. We began by offering kosher catering. We came to an agreement with a number of large Tokyo hotels that when a Jew asked for kosher food, they would refer him to us and we would provide the kosher food. There are also Jewish families who order all their Shabbos food, and now we can supply them with ready-made food for Shabbos, including the traditional foods.

Despite the enormous success importing kosher food, our goal is to produce kosher food locally, and we really hope that we will soon conclude negotiations that will enable us to provide kosher food here.

Which food items do you plan to produce in Japan?

We’ll start with kosher milk, since we cannot import fresh milk and because it’s relatively easy to kosher a dairy. One of the friends of the Chabad House, a Japanese gentile, has relatives who own a large dairy in Okeido in northern Japan, about a three-hour flight from Tokyo. They are interested in helping us out with kosher milk.

Last month I flew there twice to oversee the production. From there I was in touch with rabbanim who are experts in kashrus, and got detailed instructions from them as to how to kasher the dairy. Now we await the final approval and it looks like, b’ezras Hashem, we will have chalav Yisroel very shortly in Japan.

The next item is fresh baked goods. We are in the midst of negotiating with a Japanese gentile who built a bakery, which has not opened yet for technical reasons. In principle, he’s willing to rent the bakery to someone who’s willing to invest in it, and we are in touch with a number of potential investors who will agree to run the bakery and produce only kosher products.

* * *

Rabbi Edery’s work leapt forward after he succeeded in acquiring the spacious villa in one of Tokyo’s exclusive neighborhoods. After moving into the two-story villa, the first floor was dedicated to the Chabad House, including a shul and a giant dining room. His private quarters are on the second floor, in addition to rooms he can use for guests.

Rabbi Edery relates the amazing hashgacha pratis which led to obtaining the villa: "After Pesach, when I saw how difficult it was to get a decent apartment, I realized I had to act l’chatchila aribber, and that then the Rebbe would give us the brachos.

"I decided to visit the Jewish communities in the south of Japan. We went to Kobe for the Shabbos before Lag B’Omer. It was a wonderful Shabbos, in the course of which we farbrenged with the community, imparting to them the Rebbe’s besuras ha’Geula. As with every farbrengen we arrange in Japan, we emphasized that ‘action is the main thing,’ and at the end of the farbrengen each person took on an additional observance to prepare for Moshiach.

"The farbrengen began after Shacharis at the Shabbos meal and ended when Shabbos was over. This enabled the participants to write to the Rebbe right after Maariv. Many of them received very interesting answers. For example, to one of the members of the shul committee, who is a Kohen, the Rebbe responded in a letter written to the gabbai of a shul, in which he explains the special quality of Kohanim. And to a woman who is a convert and is known as a tremendously hospitable person, who asked for a bracha for shalom bayis and for strengthening of Torah and mitzva observance, the Rebbe answered in a letter dated Lag B’Omer. The letter, addressed to a woman, begins with a bracha for good news in everything she asked for in her letter. The Rebbe said that in the merit of the righteous deeds she does, Hashem should fulfill all the desires of her heart for good. At the end of the letter the Rebbe wrote that in connection to what she asked about Torah and mitzvos, the proper way is to go with strength, but step by step.

"The Rebbe’s answers generated great excitement and many people decided to connect to the Rebbe through increasing in one of the mivtzaim-mitzvos.

"The next evening, the eve of Lag B’Omer, we traveled to the Jewish community of Osaka. We had a farbrengen with about thirty people, with the theme of ‘learning the hidden Torah of the Rashbi,’ whose ideas are now incorporated into Chassidus.

"As I had figured would happen, after this trip, which was a real challenge, to say the least, the Rebbe paid us back measure for measure and sent us his blessing through the trip itself. In the course of the shlichus, which took a week, I got to know a large group of Japanese businessmen who were very excited about the new Chabad work being done, and expressed their willingness to help establish Chabad in Tokyo.

When we returned to Tokyo, we organized all these businessmen into a solid group, along with other supporters that I had gotten to know in Tokyo beforehand, led by Adam Gelman, one of the distinguished members of the Jewish community who has helped us tremendously. After forming this group, the serious financial situation that had dogged my steps in my search for a large apartment was resolved.

"We saw how the Rebbe directs everything. At the same time that we formulated the group of supporters, we organized a group of gentiles who expressed their willingness to help with all the red-tape. The group consists of lawyers, real estate agents, and experts in electronics and high tech – in short, a talented bunch of individuals who joined together to help the Chabad House.

"Within a short time, three members of this group who run a real estate office for apartments managed to find a huge villa located in an exclusive neighborhood of Tokyo at a relatively low price. When I heard the name of the neighborhood, San-No, which means "mountain of the king," I realized it was similar in meaning to the name of the Rebbe’s neighborhood, Crown Heights!

"We celebrated Shavuos in the new villa. The harchava (expansion) in gashmiyus brought a tremendous harchava in ruchniyus. Suddenly we could host dozens of guests for Shabbos and we could even provide places to sleep for those who didn’t live nearby.

"The owner of the villa came on Yom Tov to visit the new tenants and was happy to see our work. She told us that the house had been built before World War II in the style of old Japan, and out of all the houses that were burned during the war, this was the only one that wasn’t burned. All those years she thought the day would come that the house would be used for something special, and now she was very happy to see us organizing activities to bring peace and justice to the world.

"After acquiring such a large home, we decided to dedicate the living room as a shul. Shortly after Shavuos my father-in-law came with a seifer Torah, and we opened the first Chabad shul in Japan. Excitement ran high, and the mekuravim actually fought over who would bring the seifer Torah from the airport. Then we had a hachnasas seifer Torah with joy and dancing, including Hakafos and the saying of "Ata Horeisa." We turned an ordinary weekday into Simchas Torah!

"The number of classes has grown since our move into the large Chabad House. In the past we held classes in the homes of mekuravim, but this hindered our growth. Now we have a schedule of classes with a different topic offered every day. One of the classes is given by my wife on the topic of taharas ha’mishpacha, which is attended by many women who have begun observing this mitzva.

You mentioned your ties with Japanese gentiles. What is their connection with your work?

In our first weeks in Japan we noticed that Japan is ripe for the Seven Noachide Laws. 87% of Japanese are Buddhists. Since we are the Rebbe MH"M’s representatives in Japan, and the Rebbe told us to disseminate the Seven Noachide Laws among the nations of the world, we feel responsible to teach the belief in one G-d to the hundred million Japanese who don’t believe in G-d at all.

We tell the gentiles we work with that G-d told us to teach them the Seven Noachide Laws, and incredibly, they accept it. Since we began our work among the non-Jews, we have seen tremendous success, with dozens of them joining the weekly class on the Seven Noachide Laws. The new kits with the Sheva Mitzvos and the Rebbe’s mikva water sell very well here.

In Japan we see how the world is ready for Geula. When a Japanese gentile, who until today did not believe in any spiritual power other than limited powers of nature, begins to believe in the existence of one G-d, the Creator of the world and the One who runs the world, this is Yemos HaMoshiach!

These gentiles are helping us develop the work we do, and we see the beginning of the fulfillment of Yeshayahu’s prophecy: "And kings will be your servants and princesses will be your nursemaids."

A few months ago we were visited by the Chassidic philanthropist, Professor Shlomo Kalisch, whom I had gotten to know when I worked for Matteh Moshiach in Yeshivas Toras Emes in Yerushalayim. He helps the Chabad House a great deal, and while in Japan he met with some of the senior hi-tech manufacturers in Japan. He put together a special group who support the work of the Chabad House. When you see these people, who by today’s standard are like princes and kings, sitting together and discussing ways of expanding the Chabad House’s work, you can’t help but remember what the Rebbe said about our seeing the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in our day.

One of these gentiles gave me the keys to a car. When I asked him what that was about, he explained that a Toyota was parked in my yard, and that from now on this car (worth nearly $20,000) belonged to the Chabad House. "If I need the car in an emergency, I’m sure you’ll lend it to me," said the Japanese man, while promising to transfer ownership of the car to me officially in the near future.

Although I’ve almost become accustomed to the miracles that the Rebbe has been showering us with in Tokyo, I must say I never anticipated a donation like this. Whoever wanted to talk to me that day had to listen to a speech I gave about the role of non-Jews in Yemos HaMoshiach!

In the last class I gave on Sheva Mitzvos before leaving for this visit to New York, one of the gentiles who attended the class got up and took a picture of 770 out of his pocket and told his friends, "Rabbi Edery plans on constructing a building like this here in Japan in the Ginza district [the most exclusive area of Tokyo]. If we all help him, he will succeed!"

* * *

Rabbi Edery was expecting four Tmimim from 770 to join him in Japan to help him over the Yomim Tovim. "From past experience I’ve seen how even a small group of bachurim can make a huge difference within a very short time, both in bolstering Yiddishkeit among the Jews in general, and in helping the work of the Chabad House in particular. Just the sight of four Tmimim walking the streets of Tokyo with their Chassidic clothing awakens the Jewish spark and ignites it into a great flame.

"In addition, with the help of the Tmimim, we will add new classes, so that in addition to two classes every day, the Tmimim will be available to learn privately with those who are interested.

"Our goal, of course, is to prepare Japan to greet Moshiach, both the Jews and the non-Jews. That is our mission."


A farbrengen in Tokyo

The new “Mitzva Tank,” i.e., car which was donated to the Chabad House. On the right, the donor
Dancing at the hachnasas seifer Torah




When I heard the name of the neighborhood, San-No, which means "mountain of the king," I realized it was similar in meaning to the name of the Rebbe’s neighborhood, Crown Heights!




I never anticipated a donation like this. Whoever wanted to talk to me that day had to listen to a speech I gave about the role of non-Jews in Yemos HaMoshiach!


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