A Promise Made, A Promise Kept
By Menachem Ziegelboim

It was evening and the port was teeming with passengers parting from loved ones with hugs and tears. The anonymous young man turned to the girl and said, “The time has come to board the ship.” Tears came to her eyes. She didn’t dream salvation would come so quickly. With a little bundle in her arms she walked towards the ramp. Then she stopped and in a tear-choked voice said, “You helped me so much, and I don’t even know your name. How can I repay you?” * An amazing story of the Rebbe MH”M in the early years in Paris.




It was afternoon at the Chabad House in Venice. Tourists from all over the world walked through the unique city streets, among the beautiful homes and alongside the canals. One of the tourists noticed the Chabad House sign and decided to enter. He met Rabbi Rachamim Benin, shliach in Venice, and Rabbi Meir Holtzberg, a young man spending time in Venice with the students of the local yeshiva.


“My name is Daniel,” said the man with an air of self-confidence, as he began his story.


“Although I may not appear to be religious, I grew up in the United States with kashrus and Shabbos. Let me tell you my story...”




Margaret walked alone through the busy Paris streets. She was a young survivor of the war, which had left her bereft of everything. Somehow she had managed to elude the Nazis, but now, in 5701 (1941), she wandered about not knowing what to do next.


Margaret’s entire family had been sent to Auschwitz, and at the height of the war she roamed about in the big world with no relative or acquaintance to help her. She was a refugee with not a penny in her pocket. Somehow she managed to survive from day to day.


Margaret’s dream was to get to America where she hoped she could begin life anew. Without money, her longing remained just a fantasy, distant and unattainable.


One day, while meandering brokenheartedly along one of the main streets of Paris, Margaret noticed an obviously Jewish person, characteristic of the “older” generation. He had refined Jewish features, wise eyes, a black beard, and although he wore modern garb, one could see he was a religious Jew.


Impetuously Margaret approached him. For having no other recourse, she didn’t hesitate to speak to him and to reveal her innermost thoughts. Something about him captivated her heart.


Margaret introduced herself, briefly told him about her life and lamented her present unfortunate situation. “I want to flee Europe as fast as possible, but I don’t know what to do,” she said sadly.


The man listened to her quietly, letting her unburden her soul, and then said, “Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. You have witnessed many miracles until now, and it wasn’t for naught that you remained alive.”


The man spent time bolstering Margaret’s faith, and then he suggested that she come with him to the port to see what could be done. The girl agreed and the two of them walked to the port. The man immediately began inquiring about a ship sailing to America. It turned out that that very evening a large ship was departing for that very destination. He began making efforts towards obtaining a ticket, which seemed to be an impossibility since there were so many refugees desperate to leave Europe, especially when there remained so little time until the ship would be leaving. Nevertheless, a few hours work bore fruit, and the ticket was in his hands, though not before paying a fortune for the privilege.


Then the two of them headed for the ship, with the man taking care of last minute arrangements before Margaret had to board. It was evening, and the passengers were taking leave of their loved ones with hugs and tears. The anonymous man turned to the girl and told her it was time to board.


Tears came to Margaret’s eyes. She hadn’t dreamed that her salvation would come that quickly. With her little bundle in hand, she turned towards the ramp. Then she stopped, and in a tear-choked voice she said, “You’ve helped me so much and taken care of all my needs, and I don’t even know your name. How can I repay you?”


The young man listened quietly and then said in a serious and thoughtful tone, “You may repay me by keeping Shabbos and kashrus.”


Margaret nodded her head silently and boarded the ship. The man didn’t leave just yet. He waited for hours until the sailors untied the ropes and the ship sailed away. The man knew that the refugees’ lives were worth nothing to people, and that they wouldn’t hesitate to send the helpless girl off the boat at the last moment. So he waited until the ship departed.




“Margaret was my mother, a’h!” concluded Daniel emotionally. “The man was your Rebbe, who was in France at the time.


“I always remember my mother being particular about Shabbos and kashrus. She would tell her story again and again and voice the debt of gratitude she owed the Rebbe.


“Many years after meeting the Rebbe she came across a picture of the Rebbe from around that period of time, and that is how she identified the man who had helped her. She inquired and discovered that it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who lived in Brooklyn. She actually went to see him, to thank him personally for rescuing her.”




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