In The Direction You Want To Go
Ben-Tzion Schwartz, head administrator of the Chabad yeshiva in
Ramat Aviv, relates:
Chabad yeshiva in Ramat Aviv (see Beis Moshiach #273-274) is
geared towards young men who are searching for meaning in life and want to learn
about Judaism and Chassidus. About a year ago, a French boy called Jo came to
the yeshiva to learn about Yiddishkeit. One day he told us how he
became interested in Judaism.
was in his twenties when he decided to leave France and tour the world. His
goals were to learn, to experience things firsthand, and mostly to have
adventures. Jo was not raised in a religious home, though it was somewhat
traditional. Before leaving home, his mother asked him to take his t’fillin
with him and put them on every day. She wanted to ensure that wherever he would
be, he wouldn’t forget his Judaism.
agreed and packed his t’fillin. Seeing his willingness to go along with
her request, his mother gave him a tallis, too (in the Sephardic
tradition, single men wear a tallis), but that he refused. "The t’fillin
are enough," he said. "I don’t want to be unduly
restricted." Another attempt or two on her part proved useless.
started his tour in Madagascar. From there Jo was planning to visit dozens of
other countries. As he promised his mother, he put on his t’fillin each
morning and said Shma.
day Jo came to a tiny, forsaken village where the people lived in huts and
walked barefoot. Here and there a donkey or a horse pulling a cart could be seen
struggling through the sand. The village seemed utterly removed from the rest of
the world. Jo decided to spend the night.
the morning, he put his t’fillin on as usual and began saying Shma.
When he got to the words, "Speak to the Jewish people and say to them, and
they shall make tzitzis," he began to think, "I don’t have tzitzis."
Then he remembered his mother asking him to take his tallis with him,
which he had refused to do. "How can I stand here before G-d and say that I
need to wear tzitzis when not only don’t I do so, but I actually
refused to take them?"
felt sad about the opportunity he had lost. He knew he wouldn’t be able to
obtain tzitzis in that part of Africa. Each day, when he reached the
words, "and they shall make tzitzis," he felt distressed. One
day he felt he couldn’t take it any more, and he begged Hashem to help him.
next day, he walked down the dirt path leading out of the village, with his
heavy backpack on his shoulders. He encountered an African village woman,
holding bundles in her hands. He glanced at her and something caught his
attention. When he took another look he noticed that she was wearing a shawl
that looked just like a tallis. Jo approached her to ask to see her
shawl. The woman agreed to the tourist’s request and handed him the shawl. He
examined it closely and saw that it was indeed a tallis, a woolen tallis
with the bracha embroidered in gold letters on a silken strip along the
just couldn’t get over it! He asked whether he could buy the shawl, using his
hands to explain what he wanted. However, the woman thought he was accusing her
of having stolen it from him. Visibly aggravated, the women tried to communicate
that she had, in fact, paid for it. After great effort Jo managed to explain to
her that he wanted to buy the shawl from her, and even pointed out the Hebrew
letters on it. Eventually she agreed to the purchase.
that he had miraculously acquired a tallis, Jo was sure to put it on
every day followed by his t’fillin.
the first opportunity he had to speak with his parents, Jo told his mother about
what had happened. As you would expect, his mother was astonished and very
pleased by the news.
Jo arrived in India, he met the Chabad shaliach in New Delhi, Rabbi
Nachman Nachmanson. Jo became interested in Judaism and got more involved. Rabbi
Nachmanson sent him to the new yeshiva in Ramat Aviv.
did the tallis end up in a little village in Madagascar? Not long before,
food parcels and American aid had arrived in the area. Among the packages that
American citizens had sent, there was a tallis. Evidently it had been
sent – by Divine providence – for the purpose of reaching Jo, the wandering