The Rebbe Is Here With Us In Madrid
The fascinating account of the shliach Rabbi Yitzchok Goldstein

Imagine yourself in Madrid, Spain, where the excited spirit of the culture is contrasted with the misery and horror of the Inquisition that began over 500 years ago… The Jewish population in Spain at its heyday was in the tens of thousands. Now it is only about 12-15,000 people. How did a born-and-bred Lubavitcher from Crown Heights, not knowing a word of Spanish, much less any Spanish history or culture, find himself in Spain on shlichus? And what are his feelings about being there?

"From the Rebbe’s teachings, we understand that everything we do is for the sake of preparing the world for Moshiach." This is the statement that characterizes the special shlichus of Rabbi Yitzchak Goldstein, who began his shlichus 24 years ago in Malaga, Spain and just recently opened a Chabad Center in Madrid.

The one who introduced Rabbi Goldstein to the opportunity to be shliach in Spain was Mr. Avrohom Yitzchok Glick, a’h, of England. Before Rabbi Goldstein was married, he was a teacher and youth director in London, where he met Mr. Glick. The two worked together on mivtzaim and other projects.

Mr. Glick was known to all as an important personality and a significant resource for the growing needs of various Jewish communities in Europe in terms of Yiddishkeit. He was nicknamed "the shliach ha’noded" (the traveling shliach). He frequently would travel throughout Europe on business. The Rebbe told him that while in the various cities he visits, he should use every available opportunity to improve the observance of Yiddishkeit in that city. Once, at a yechidus with the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked Mr. Glick if a kosher mikva existed in Malaga, Spain.

"This request shows how much the Rebbe cares about the ease and accessibility of opportunities for every Jew to do mitzvos," said Rabbi Goldstein, "because Malaga, unlike many other cities, is directly on the southern seashore of Spain, where the weather is like Florida. Anyone who would want to use a mikva any time of the year could conceivably go to the shore. But the Rebbe wanted a mikva to be available even in this city so that no one would be prevented from using a mikva out of self-consciousness or discomfort."

The following summer, while Mr. Glick was on a business trip to Barcelona, Spain, someone informed him about a Jewish hotel owner in Malaga who, wanting to promote his hotel, decided to try to open a kosher restaurant in his hotel, and asked Mr. Glick if he wanted to meet the man. Mr. Glick, unsure if the Rebbe would want to get involved in a kosher restaurant in Spain because of the complications it would entail, nonetheless, having the possibility of a mikva in mind, decided to ask. He phoned Rabbi Hodakov to ask the Rebbe if he should use this opportunity to assist with this kosher hotel, because subsequently he might be able to build a kosher mikva in that city. A half-hour later, Rabbi Hodakov called Mr. Glick back with the Rebbe’s response: "See if you can possibly take a plane tonight, so you can meet him tomorrow morning if possible. Make an effort to meet him one hour earlier, to make the mikva one hour earlier, so that a Jew can use it one hour earlier." Mr. Glick took the next flight to Malaga and met the man early in the morning to start the plans rolling for a kosher restaurant in the hotel and to plan the new mikva.

The hotel owner asked Mr. Glick to find a mashgiach for the restaurant, and Mr. Glick immediately thought of the newly married Goldsteins, who at the time were both teachers in upstate New York. When Rabbi Goldstein asked the Rebbe if he should take the position, the Rebbe answered: "If they [the hotel owners] will obey [halacha], then to be interested, and if there is a doubt, not." When it was apparent that everything would go according to halacha, Rabbi Goldstein took the position. Rabbi Hodakov told him that he wanted the restaurant to be the standard of kashrus that Rabbi Goldstein would eat. Rabbi Goldstein made sure to have everything in the restaurant with Lubavitch sh’chita, chalav Yisroel, etc., and he did, in fact, eat there.

At the outset of the shlichus, right after Pesach 5737, in yechidus, the Rebbe emphasized that they should "bring up each and every one of your children to Torah, chuppa, and maasim tovim." Rabbi Goldstein felt that the shlichus would also enhance the chinuch of his own children, as the Rebbe had blessed him also in their particular needs. (In fact, all of the Goldstein’s children have obtained their education from both of their parents at home until they were old enough to send them to out-of-town yeshivos. Shifra Goldstein, who supervised most of the home schooling when the children were young, wrote an article about her techniques and successes in an article printed in the Tishrei-Cheshvan 5761 [September 2000] issue of the N’shei Chabad Newsletter, pages 73-74.)

During the months before the restaurant was ready, Rabbi Goldstein gathered and taught the children, ages 2-10, of three Jewish families. Shifra also taught these children for two hours a week. In this way, they influenced eight children in Yiddishkeit.

Shifra is a personality unto herself. One of the Goldstein’s mekuravim, Shoshana Traxler, now a shlucha in Houston, Texas, recalls the first time she met Shifra. Shoshana went to the Goldstein’s apartment which they had just moved into. Shoshana related, "The Goldsteins had just moved to Malaga to be the shluchim there. Shifra was a lively person whose love for the Rebbe just radiated from her. She had a real exuberance for Yiddishkeit. As soon as I showed up at her door, she proudly showed me the number of their new apartment they had just moved into - 77E - and asked me if I knew what it signified. I really didn’t have any idea, so she exclaimed, ‘770! 770! Do you know what that is?’ And when I replied that I didn’t, she indicated that 770 was the address of the Rebbe’s main headquarters in New York. She was so excited that she took my hand and started dancing and singing. She is a real live-wire! She taught me a lot about Yiddishkeit and because of her influence, by the time I left Spain to return home I had decided to keep Shabbos and eat only kosher food."

The effect that the Goldsteins had on this very small community (located in the vicinity of the hotel, a half-hour drive from the larger Jewish community and shul in Malaga) became quite apparent in the answer of the Rebbe to his request to come to 770 for Tishrei (because he was afraid there was not going to be a minyan in his area for Tishrei that year): "Totally out of the question. This will put into danger all he has achieved until now in Yiddishkeit. Azkir al ha’tzion." Rabbi Goldstein was pleasantly surprised to find that, including the hotel guests, there was a minyan for all of Tishrei.

"From this answer we can see how deeply the Rebbe cared for those few children, and felt it would be a disaster to abandon them, even just for a few weeks," remarked Rabbi Goldstein.

That year, Rabbi Goldstein had a contract with the hotel to work for just a half-year trial as mashgiach in the hotel restaurant, which unfortunately folded because of insufficient advertising. After the hotel closed, Rabbi Goldstein asked the Rebbe what he should do. The Rebbe wanted the Goldsteins to continue their shlichus in Spain. Mr. Glick arranged, through the Rebbe, the funding for Rabbi Goldstein to continue as the shliach in Malaga, and every month the Rebbe sent checks to the Goldsteins from September of 1977, and also asked Rabbi Goldstein to search for new funds.

Rabbi Goldstein subsequently taught in a Talmud Torah, but that was not a regularly paid job. That August, he received a telegram from Mr. Glick advising him to meet two brothers in Madrid, Yehuda and Dovid Toledano, who wanted to speak to him concerning teaching their own children. Rabbi Goldstein took that offer after the Rebbe gave his haskama (agreement) and bracha to move to Madrid.

For Tishrei of that year the Goldsteins finally had the Rebbe’s blessings to come in for the Yomim Tovim. Their oldest son, Schneur Zalman, had his third birthday while still in America. The upsherenish took place in 770. To the Goldstein’s great surprise, the Rebbe personally performed the upsherenish in their presence and gave an extraordinary bracha for them to have Chassidishe nachas from Schneur Zalman and the other children. The Rebbe gave Tanyas to Rabbi Goldstein, Schneur Zalman, and the baby, Menachem Mendel, and gave siddurim to his wife and one-year-old daughter, Menucha Rochel - each of which had the personal signature of the Rebbe.

Rabbi Goldstein’s shlichus included teaching private classes to all four of the Toledano children, ages 4-8, every day for half a day. Before he began, he told Mr. Toledano that he would teach the children according to the philosophy of Lubavitch and that he would teach them Tanya. The Toledanos, Sephardim who had been educated in the Ponevizh yeshiva in Bnei Brak, responded that they have no choice, as they knew that non-Lubavitchers would probably not come as far as Spain to teach their children.

Once, Rabbi Goldstein brought the Toledano children to 770. The Rebbe gave the children nickels for tzedaka and gave a nickel to Rabbi Goldstein, as well. Rabbi Goldstein was taken aback that he got a nickel like the children, but did not say anything. The Rebbe must have read his mind, because he said, "You are also from Madrid."

But the Goldsteins did more than just teach. They also planned activities from their apartment and in the shul. One such activity was a daily dvar Torah and coffee session after Shacharis in shul, which is an ongoing activity even now. During one of these sessions 18 years ago, a man named Moshe Bengio had just finished reading a book of the Rebbe’s writings in French. At the end, it said that we should proclaim "We Want Moshiach Now."

"’This statement means so much that we should proclaim it in Spain also. Let everyone hear it. I want to hear you proclaim this in public now!’ Moshe exclaimed to me in front of everyone. I said this loudly in front of everyone, and he exclaimed, ‘Now - immediately! We need him now!’ This was 18 years ago. I run into him every so often, and each time I do, he looks at me, comes over to me and says, ‘We want Moshiach now!’"

Other activities include teaching other shiurim, making Chanuka candles, hosting many guests for Shabbos and Yom Tov, and preparing holiday journals for distribution. The Rebbe received all of the mailings the Goldsteins made, in which the whole family, including all of the Goldstein children, always participate by collating the journals and stuffing and addressing the envelopes. The Rebbe responded to one such mailing with a letter acknowledging the children’s role in helping to prepare these journals.

Rabbi Goldstein has approximately 50 letters from the Rebbe with the Rebbe’s signature. He received one letter approximately every three months. At the end of each letter, the Rebbe added a bracha for something that the Goldsteins needed at that particular time. Sometimes there was a bracha for success, sometimes a bracha for joy, and time and again there was a bracha to do their activities "b’darchei noam u’b’darchei shalom."

From these answers, it was apparent to the Goldsteins that they should make every effort not do anything to cause the people of the city to become displeased in any way. That is why Rabbi Goldstein did not feel it would be appropriate to open his own shul or Chabad House. He did not want anything he did to be considered competition to the local shul.

The Goldsteins daven in the local shul. Each week tourists show up at the shul for Shabbos. These are people who may not even go to shul back home, but in Spain, in such non-Jewish surroundings, they feel that on Shabbos they need a break, so they go to shul. Each week Rabbi Goldstein invites between 5-10 tourists to his home to enjoy a heimish traditional Shabbos meal.

"I’d say that by the end of the year, I might have met about 1,000 new faces just of tourists I meet during the week and on Shabbos! In 24 years, that would be about 24,000 Jews! As far as contributions go, since it’s Shabbos we can’t ask for donations. However, some of them say that they are so glad that Lubavitch is as far away as Spain. They tell me that when they get home, they’ll contribute to Lubavitch (of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Australia, etc.), assuming that we are all one big family and that the donation will get to us one way or another."

After 24 years of doing activities in the city in collaboration with the local Jews and the JCC, the Goldstein’s felt confident that opening their own Chabad House would not be considered competition any more. It had become increasingly difficult to continue operating all of their Chabad activities from their apartment. People sometimes felt they were infringing on the family’s space and felt uncomfortable. That’s why, when Rabbi Goldstein saw an apartment for rent near the shul and near their own apartment, they rented it and began holding their Chabad activities there. When they notified people that they were renting an apartment in order to conduct additional activities that would not conflict with the work the community was doing, they received positive responses, though the community has not yet responded to help finance the activities.

Their first activity in the new premises was a farbrengen held on Chai Elul. Rabbi Moshe Ben Dahan, the rabbi of the shul in Madrid, attended the farbrengen and spoke about the significance of the day.

Every Shabbos, Rabbi Goldstein offers classes in Tanya before Mincha to students who come into the Chabad House. On Motzaei Yom Kippur, the Goldsteins provided Havdala, honey cake, and orange juice to those who attend the local shul for services. For Sukkos, they made a huge sukka on the patio adjacent to the Chabad House, inviting the people from the shul to the sukka during Chol HaMoed for cake and coffee. This was an innovation for the members of the community, because some thought that only Kiddush takes place in a sukka, and not many realized that having a simple coffee in the sukka during Chol HaMoed is important. In an act that expresses the good will between the two, Rabbi Ben Dahan gave a dvar Torah each day on this occasion, as well.

"Prior to Chanuka, the school children had two weeks of winter vacation. Six families approached me and asked us to enhance their children’s religious education during those weeks. Every day, eight children came to the Chabad House, where my wife taught various halachos and showed the children the sources of these halachos in the Chumash, Mishna, Gemara, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch.

The Goldsteins also did some beautiful projects for Chanuka this year. "We made an olive press, which the children used to make oil from olives with their bare hands," Rabbi Goldstein related. "They were excited when they saw the oil actually dripping out of the olive."

"We told them that oil and water don’t mix. Oil rises and water flows downward. We told them that we can learn from this that Jews remain unaffected by any secular, gentile influences. We gave them a little flask of their oil with water to take home to remember this vital lesson. No matter how vigorously they shake that flask, they will see that the oil will rise and the water will be on the bottom."

They also built a Chanuka candle factory, in which over 250 children (almost the entire population of Jewish children in Madrid) participated in making their own candles. In shifts several weeks before and throughout Chanuka, children learned how to make their own candle by repeatedly dipping their wick into colored wax of their own choosing, and ten minutes later - presto! They had a candle they could use for Chanuka.

"This one little candle is the impetus for the head of the family, and even each individual in the family, to begin to light Chanuka candles the entire holiday and say the brachos on the lighting," said Rabbi Goldstein. "And this is repeated in 250 different families!"

"We also have Saturday night game night for children who wish to participate. Between 5-10 children come, ages 4-12, and we provide Jewish games, popcorn, and a video show. And my wife gives a shiur to women called ‘Educating children in the home and out.’

"Now we are involved in a big project for Pesach - we are creating a matza bakery in the Chabad House. The children will be able to make their own model matza, which of course will be chametzdik, but we’ll give them a piece of shmura matza that they will carefully guard until Pesach.

"My wife does not only teach shiurim. She is fully responsible for the entire operation of the mikva. She is also literally involved in all aspects of the shlichus. We plan and organize all of our projects together, and we are both equally involved in all of the aspects that each project entails."

"It’s interesting to note that one time the Rebbe wrote a letter to us in English. This was during S’fira. The Rebbe wrote that when we count the Omer, we say the day is 2 days or 3 days, showing how each day accumulates with the next - we don’t say the second day or the third day, as entities in themselves. When two people lift something together, that object is actually lighter for them than if each would lift half of it singly. This teaches that the accumulation makes us able to accomplish much more together than separately.

The lesson the Rebbe was telling us is that when people work on a project together, much more can be accomplished than if each of the two would work on it separately. We see this in our everyday shlichus life."


What are some of the difficulties involved in carrying out your shlichus?

"Frankly, we have been there so long that we are already used to the difficulties and we don’t even think of them as difficulties anymore. It’s just the way of life there. We don’t have many kosher products available to us from a grocery store. We must make almost everything ourselves. I go to a farm every week and supervise the milking of the cows, bring the milk home, and then pasteurize it in a large pot to 177º F. Then we cool it and freeze it in bottles. There are usually pieces of butter or cream floating in the milk, which we all got used to already. Meat has been very difficult to get. Sometimes my older children will bring us meat from Paris or London when they come home from yeshiva, or tourists or visitors will bring us a frozen case of meat from Crown Heights, but when we have no meat, we rely on fish for our meals. We obtain our matzos in the same ways."

"I have to say that my mother, Mrs. Chana Goldstein, a’h, is the one I owe for helping us so much, sending us so many packages. Without her help, we don’t know how we would have managed.

"But we are not here to talk about the difficulties, which are less significant. What we look at are the times we get telephone calls from students we worked with 18-20 years ago. They tell us they are shomrei Torah and mitzvos and are bringing up their children in a Jewish way.

"We don’t get these kind of phone calls as much as we would like, but these few calls indicate how much the Rebbe’s work through us in Spain bears fruits eternally. When we are lucky, we are actual witnesses to this.

"In our 24 years there, we could pinpoint 25 families that became fully Torah observant Jews in every way. Many hundreds of families, each on their own level, have improved their standard of observance through their contact with us. These people are not just Spanish residents. Most of the families who became baalei t’shuvos are curiously from other countries - America, Eretz Yisroel, and countries in Europe.


Tell us one of your success stories.

"The spectacular part of our shlichus are the baalei t’shuvos. That is a big part of our success. About 18 years ago, a few weeks before Purim, a student who wasn’t from the community came to shul. My son gave him a siddur and showed him what to daven. I invited him to our Shabbos table, but he refused the invitation. The next week, when he came to shul, I invited him again, and this time he came. He enjoyed the meal and before he left, he said, ‘You must be Lubavitch. I come from New York, and there they always find me and try to convince me to put on t’fillin, but I always manage to find a way to escape. Now, you’re here again. I will come again, but you must promise that you’ll never ask me to put on t’fillin, keep kosher or keep Shabbos.’ I said, ‘no problem, we will work it out.’ So we had a deal.

"On Purim morning he came to shul and said, ‘When I had my bar mitzva, I didn’t wear t’fillin. Could you show me how to put them on?’ I gladly did and wished him mazel tov, for at the age of 30 he did so for the first time. Well, one mitzva leads to another. He came to our Purim seuda. There, he told me why he came to shul. He was originally from the Bronx, and in his youth he had somehow fallen in with the wrong company. Although he didn’t really feel comfortable with the people he hung out with, he was influenced by them.

"After a long time, he decided to change his behavior. He thought that if he would leave America, he could leave his cloudy past behind and begin a new life. He owned a dog that had belonged to him since he had been a child, and he couldn’t part with this dog. His first choice was to go to England, as they speak English there, but they had a policy that for six months prior to departure, pets have to be in quarantine. He didn’t like that, and when he found out that Spain did not have this restriction, and since he knew a little Spanish, he came to Madrid. But again he found the wrong company to hang out with and things didn’t get any better.

"Eventually he felt that life was not worth living. He decided to make an end of it. He found a 10-story building, climbed up to the top, looked down, looked up - and just then he remembered that he still had to say goodbye to G-d. Thinking that to speak to G-d he will need to find a Synagogue. He contacted the American Embassy and asked if there is a synagogue in Madrid.’"

This shul is where he met Rabbi Goldstein. "‘Rabbi Goldstein,’ he said, ‘you saved my life!’ This man decided that now life was worth continuing, but in a different way. He returned every day and asked me to assist him to put on t’fillin. Later he wanted to make sure that he knew how to do them properly to know how to put on t’fillin on his own when he had to return to America. His return ticket was for Chol HaMoed Pesach. By Chol HaMoed he already was practicing some mitzvos, and even more significantly, he became a mentch.

"I led him to meet my parents in Crown Heights, and a year later, through their efforts and our relationship with him, he married a woman who was a baalas t’shuva. Today they have two children. The oldest, a girl of 14, and the younger child, a boy about 11 years old, both go to an Orthodox day school in New York. The children are a source of inspiration and nachas to the Rebbe, to us and to their parents."

How do you financially support your Chabad House activities?

"In the beginning, the hotel paid us for 6 months, and then the Rebbe himself supported us for one additional year in Malaga. Then the Toledanos took care of all of our financial needs while we were teaching their children, which continued for 6 ½ years. Eventually, Dovid Toledano decided to leave Spain with his family, so I was only teaching Yehuda’s children. I received only half of my previous salary. Mr. Glick told me to try to obtain local funding, but in the meantime, the Rebbe would send what I would need to make up the missing part. Two years later, Yehuda and his family decided to leave Spain, as well. Again, Mr. Glick told me to try to obtain some local funding, but the Rebbe would send what I needed. We are continuing to search for local support. We hope the day will come when we will have the financial support of the local community."

What are some of personal instructions the Rebbe has communicated to you?

"Aside from the first time the Rebbe told us that we shouldn’t come in for Tishrei, as the work in Spain was so important to the Rebbe, we had an unusual experience with an answer from the Rebbe. When the hotel owner told us that the kosher section of the hotel was closing, I had an offer from a man from Madrid to be a mashgiach in a different hotel in Malaga. Since he was also a travel agent, he gave us tickets for the family to go to New York for Yud Shvat. The travel agent had a telex machine; remember - this was before fax machines existed. I told him I first must ask the Rebbe if I can make such a visit. I prepared a note for him to telex to my parents in NY to give in a tzetel to the Rebbe. A few days later this fellow tells me (in his words) that my mother telexed back that we have an agreement to come and wishes for a safe trip. It was hard for us to conceive that we finally had the OK from the Rebbe to come!!. However before we were even offered the tickets, I had also sent a letter by mail to the Rebbe asking the same question (in case the telex would not get through).

"We made our preparations to come, and we had a farbrengen in Malaga before our departure. We explained the significance of Yud Shvat to the participants, and we collected about 200 names of people who wanted to request a bracha from the Rebbe. In those days, most flights were connecting flights, and our flight from Malaga was to Madrid, from where we would catch another plane to America. While we were waiting in the airport in Madrid for our flight, I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker calling my name. It was a telephone call for me from the travel agent. He said, ‘Your parents are frantic, they are trying to reach you urgently! They told to me to tell you that the Rebbe just gave an answer to my tzetel, that "The trip now is not worthwhile."

"I was bewildered, and I explained to him that the Rebbe does not change his mind once he decides something. But my parents were telling me that the Rebbe said that regarding my question, the journey now is not worth taking. So of course we didn’t go, and I explained to the travel agent that if the Rebbe says not to go, we don’t go, though I was at the moment totally confused.

"The mystery was eventually solved. There was apparently a lack of communication between the telex office and my parents. My parents had misunderstood my original communication to them, understanding it to mean that we already had permission from the Rebbe to come and that we intended to do so. It was my letter that I had written prior to that telex that brought us the Rebbe’s answer ‘not to come now.’

"Rabbi Groner told us that since the Rebbe keeps on refusing that we visit, we should postpone asking for a while and perhaps ask for Pesach. That is what we did. Mr. Glick came to Malaga for Purim, and we arranged a hook-up of the farbrengen in Mr. Glick’s hotel room. During the farbrengen, someone running the hookup said that if Rabbi Goldstein is listening, he has an answer from the Rebbe that my father just got from the office, and gave it over to him just before the Purim farbrengen regarding the question whether he should come in for Pesach: ‘It is not worthwhile to come for Pesach, and they will succeed in the Pesach campaign in great measure. Azkir al ha’tzion.’ At that time we stopped asking to come, because we understood that the Rebbe wanted us to stay for an uninterrupted length of time.

"We had another answer from the Rebbe concerning my wife’s third pregnancy, which would be our first baby to be born in Spain. A certain doctor, Avrohom Davila, once noticed that my wife was expecting. He asked me where we planned to have the baby. When I answered that we planned to have the baby in Spain, he warned us that the doctors in Spain were primitive, and told us to go to America to have the baby. I asked the Rebbe if we should come to New York based on this Dr’s opinion, and the Rebbe answered, "Investigate if this is true." I contacted a woman named Mrs. Bibas, who was active in the Jewish community in Malaga, and she told me that babies are born healthy in Malaga. Our baby was subsequently born, happy and healthy, in Malaga, and we named him Menachem Mendel.

"The Rebbe told us that, regarding our work, he especially cherishes when visitors report to him about their enjoyable experience of Shabbos in Madrid, and about our dvar Torah and coffee session that we organize in shul after Shacharis.

"Once I came to Crown Heights for Rosh HaShana. I wrote to the Rebbe, ‘I am enclosing copies of some letters I get from people who came to our Shabbos table, thanking me.’ The Rebbe wrote back, ‘I do also.’ The Rebbe was telling me that he also received letters from people who we hosted at our Shabbos table and enjoys hearing this from them.

"One year, after we had not seen the Rebbe for 2-3 years, we particularly yearned to spend Tishrei with the Rebbe. But we had some difficulties - one of which was that we didn’t have the money to pay for the tickets, and we also needed permission from Mr. Glick and Rabbi Hodakov before we would ask the Rebbe to come. Turning to the Rebbe as a child turning to his father, I wrote a Pa’N. I wrote about my problems: ‘We feel we need a strengthening, to see the Rebbe, but we don’t have money to buy tickets. Since the Torah recognizes the significance of financial needs, how much more so is the significance of the needs of the soul. We want the Rebbe to bless us to be able to come for Tishrei.’

"We received a few answers to this letter. Answering the problem about funds, the Rebbe wrote: ‘So there’s your sign.’ In response to the soul feeling a need to come, the Rebbe asked, ‘Since when do you know where it’s better for a soul to be? You’ll succeed in the campaign in Elul when the "king is in the field" and following that, in the month of Tishrei.’

"I had also written at the end of the letter, ‘We want to be with the Rebbe!’ In response to this statement, the Rebbe wrote, ‘The Baal Shem Tov says that when a Jew thinks of Madrid, he finds himself in Madrid.’ (The words "he finds himself in Madrid" were underlined twice!)

"In other words, the Rebbe is here with us in Madrid."

* * *

"It took four full years and unfortunately, a serious operation"
Rabbi Goldstein relates: About 15 years ago, Mr. Shmuel Haddas, the first Israeli ambassador to Spain, opened the first office of the Israeli Embassy in Madrid. Since then, there have been approximately 30 Israeli families employed on a rotational basis at the embassy at any one time. We made tight ties with them from the start. Mr. Haddas made it clear that I, as the local Chabadnik, am welcome there at all times. We’ve celebrated many holidays with the Israelis in the embassy, which is located on the 7th (top) floor of an office building. It’s been my routine to visit them at least once a week on Fridays for Mivtza T’fillin, etc. I also meet many Israelis at the airport, where I go to do mivtzaim as well, and at other offices, i.e., the El Al office, the Zim office, etc.

The Israelis in Spain feel secluded, partially because they don’t speak Spanish, but mostly because the cultural differences are so great. In Eretz Yisroel they might not put on t’fillin or observe Jewish holidays, but here in Spain they welcome the company of my family because they feel there’s more in common with us "tough" datiyim than with those from the secular world of Spain. This feeling sometimes helps make them more receptive and open.

Nevertheless, it’s not easy to convince the Israelis to put on t’fillin. Some of them often refuse or argue. Sometimes I say something that wins them over, and then they give in to what they always knew was right, and subsequently put on the t’fillin.

Some of them told me from day one: Listen, Chabadnik, I never put on t’fillin - not in Eretz Yisroel, and nowhere. I don’t mind if you visit me, and we can have a nice discussion, but forget about putting on t’fillin with me - forever! One such person did his formal denouncing against t’fillin, but was always nice about everything else. It took four full years and unfortunately, a serious appendix operation he had to go through before he came to me and said, "Rav Goldstein, please put on t’fillin with me today!" Ten years after he left his position at the embassy, I met him again, and he has become a chozer b’t’shuva!

* * *

"Can you find a better candidate for Moshiach?"
About 15 years ago, we had a public menora lighting ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Madrid, and we honored Mr. Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israeli ambassador to Spain, with the lighting. Mr. Ben-Ami was ambassador until just after the Gulf War. When Mr. Ben-Ami first took office, I greeted him and wished him success. At this first encounter he was not yet in the mood to put on t’fillin. However, I continued to visit him week after week and brought him gifts to enjoy, especially the homemade Shabbos wine and challos.

He felt warmer and more receptive and finally agreed to put on t’fillin. He told his secretary to hold all calls until he would be finished. After that he did other mitzvos with me, including lighting the Chanuka menora, putting on t’fillin, and benching lulav and esrog. One year before Rosh HaShana, the ambassador wrote a letter asking for a bracha from the Rebbe. [See the Rebbe’s reply on next page.] Then came the Gulf War, with gas masks being distributed and people getting instructions to use them if necessary. Mr. Ben-Ami and others asked me, "How can the Rebbe make vital decisions such as whether to wear gas masks or not? What does he know?" I answered, "Mr. Ben-Ami, the Rebbe is more in Eretz Yisroel than many that live there. He has his connections. Whenever the Rebbe said a statement it always turned out to be so." Mr. Ben-Ami replied, "Well, let’s wait and see how right he is."

America entered into war with Iraq, and Saddam Hussein threatened to bomb Eretz Yisroel. The next Friday, I met Mr. Ben-Ami in the embassy. "Nu? Has the Rebbe changed his mind? Saddam is about to bomb Israel, G-d forbid, with chemical weapons. We have confirmed information that this is extremely serious!" I replied, "The Rebbe says the same thing – no need for gas masks. Israel is the safest place on earth, guarded by G-d Himself."

Mr. Ben-Ami blurted out, "If the Rebbe had any children in Israel, he wouldn’t talk like that!" I told him that the Rebbe feels as if he is the father of each and every single Jew in the entire world; no one is as concerned about their well-being as the Rebbe. "Since the Rebbe knows the truth, he informed us that Israel is the safest place," I asserted. Mr. Ben-Ami said, "Well, let’s see what happens now. Saddam is a madman, and is not concerned with what the Rebbe says..."

39 missiles hit Eretz Yisroel. No casualties! Miracles! The next Friday, I met Mr. Ben-Ami once more. He smiled at me and said, "Hey, I see that the Rebbe knows what he’ s talking about. But let’s see what will be in the next few days." The next Friday, Mr. Ben-Ami said, "The Rebbe is right again! So far so good." Then he asked, "Tell me, Rabbi Goldstein, why do you say that your Rebbe is Moshiach?" I replied (and he loved this answer and kept reminding me about it), "Can you find me a better candidate?" He looked at me and said, "I guess not."

On Purim, I brought the ambassador shalach manos and something very special: a letter from the Rebbe to him, which had just arrived! This letter, a response (unusual in itself) to the pidyon nefesh that the ambassador had written the previous Tishrei, was addressed to him (mailed to my address) and signed with the Rebbe’s holy signature. Mr. Ben-Ami then told me that he is actually leaving office in just a few days. [Mr. Ben-Ami was promoted several times until his present position as foreign security minister of Israel.] What a great coincidence that the Rebbe wrote to him while he was still in office, only days before his departure. Mr. Ben-Ami told me that he sees how great the Rebbe is, and how he organizes everything so perfectly.

* * *

Letter of the Rebbe MH"M to Mr. Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israeli ambassador to Spain (free translation):



The end of the month of Tishrei, 5752

Brooklyn, New York


Dear Mr. Shlomo Ben-Ami,
Israeli ambassador in Madrid

Greetings and blessing!

I received your pidyon nefesh on your behalf and on behalf of your family, they should live and be well, which will be read at the Ohel of my father-in-law at the appropriate time. Hashem should fulfill all the requests of your heart for good, and He will bless them among the rest of our brethren, the Jewish people, with a good and sweet year.

May you experience wondrous success in fulfilling your position of responsibility for the true good of the community, both physically and spiritually.

hashem saved his life!
About 15 years ago, a bomb exploded in the Barajas Madrid Airport. An Arab had hidden a plastic-covered bomb in his suitcase, and Nir Ran, the security guard with whom I had been previously acquainted, insisted that the Arab open his suitcase for inspection. Upon opening the suitcase, Nir suddenly saw smoke coming out. Nir, an expert in his field, quickly shouted for everyone to run for their lives, grabbed the Arab and threw him to the floor – but the bomb exploded literally in Nir’s face. His life was spared, but his face was totally burned. The airport was in chaos; fire engines arrived on the scene. Thank G-d, miraculously no one was killed, though the entire pavilion went up in flames. Only months later was the airport fully repaired and back to normal.

When I heard about the explosion and that Nir had been hospitalized, I rushed to the hospital to comfort and help him in whatever ways were necessary. It was impossible to enter the sealed room Nir was in because of the special medical treatment he was undergoing to recover his facial skin. However, I managed to talk to him on the telephone and waved to him. Nir returned the wave. The next day, Friday, my wife baked several challos to bring to the Ran family, with wishes for a good and happy Shabbos. When I discovered that the Rans were going to spend Shabbos at the hospital, I brought the challos and some wine to them there, which they greatly appreciated. Since that Friday, it became my routine to bring a few challa and wine parcels on a weekly basis and distribute them (in rotation) among the families associated with the embassy.

A few weeks passed since that horrifying incident. Nir returned to work in security. He remembered my visits and had no words with which to thank me. I told him that G-d saved his life because he has many good things to do in the world. To this he agreed, and for the first time since I had been asking him to put on t’fillin (before the incident he had had a different approach), he said, "B’vadai!" In a minute he was all wrapped up in t’fillin, and recited the Sh’ma with special devotion.

Nir recovered completely and he and his family have started along the road towards Jewish observance. His whole family would often visit us on holidays, and they have become dear friends of ours.


Rabbi Batzri, of the chief rabbinate of Yerushalayim, Rabbi Moshe Ben Dahan, rabbi of the shul in Madrid, and Rabbi Goldstein

Rabbi Goldstein with some of the participants in the Chanuka candle-making project. 
The five girls on the left side are Rabbi Goldstein’s daughters

Participant involvement in one of the classes in the Chabad House


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