How a Visit to the Ohel Led to a Gift of a Sefer Torah

The young children of Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov of Nanaimo, Canada wished for their Chabad House to have a Sefer Torah of its own, so they decided to ask the Rebbe for a bracha. A series of events led to new Sifrei Torah for 2 shluchim.

By A Chassidisher Derher, as told by Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov of Nanaimo, BC, Canada, and Rabbi Mendy Goldshmid of Bainbridge Island, WA

Rabbi Shemtov: When we moved out on shlichus to Nanaimo, the second-largest city on Vancouver Island, BC, in Cheshvan of 5776 we did not imagine having a minyan for a very long time. Three months later I was contacted by a local Jew who had just had a baby girl and was seeking a baby naming, so we borrowed a sefer Torah from a nearby shliach and arranged a minyan for this simcha. Seeing the interest in regular services we decided to start a monthly Shabbos minyan which baruch Hashem became quite popular.

After several months we could not continue borrowing the nearby sefer Torah and we were fortunate enough to receive a sefer Torah on loan from the Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach, which helps many shluchim around the world until they can procure a sefer Torah of their own.

My children very much wished for our Chabad House to own Sefer Torah, and when we traveled to New York for Gimmel Tammuz 5779 my children decided that they are going to ask the Rebbe for a bracha that we should have a sefer Torah of our own.

They were so excited about the idea and confident that the Rebbe’s bracha would materialize, that they immediately started soliciting donations for the new sefer Torah from family members in New York and managed to raise an impressive $80. Back home they built a dedicated pushka for the new Torah Fund and started giving tzedakah into that pushka daily.

Several months later when my wife went to the Kinus Hashluchos on Chof-Beis Shevat 5780, she wrote in her letter to the Rebbe a specific request, that a certain local family we had known for years and had attended our Hebrew School in the past should start participating in our peulos more regularly.

Amazingly, a week later the mother of this family reached out to my wife and asked her to start preparing their daughter for her bas mitzvah and decided to once again send their children to our Hebrew School. Needless to say, we were heartened to experience the Rebbe’s bracha materialize so quickly.

This woman’s father had recently passed away and she wished to do something special in his memory. On Yom Kippur 5780 she asked my wife what it would take to sponsor a sefer Torah for the Chabad House, but then she dropped the subject. After her daughter started learning for bas mitzvah and they rejoined our Hebrew School several months later, she broached the idea several more times.

Three days before Gimmel Tammuz 5780 she emailed me asking what it would cost to donate a new sefer Torah for the Chabad House. I responded by inviting her for a meeting to discuss the options.

The next day we spoke for close to a half-hour and she made a commitment to sponsor a new sefer Torah in memory of her father, almost a year to the day that my children asked the Rebbe for a bracha that our Chabad House have its own Sefer Torah!

Aside from our excitement with the realization of the Rebbe’s bracha for a new sefer Torah for our Chabad House, this development was very special to us in a personal way. That year we were unable to travel to New York to be at the Ohel for Gimmel Tammuz due to Covid-19, and we were understandably upset about that. And here the Rebbe sent us the message that what our children requested last year Gimmel Tammuz at the Ohel was coming to fruition within the year, illustrating the Rebbe’s assurance of “Ich for mit eich—I am with you in your shlichus,” even when we were unable to be at the Ohel b’gashmiyus for Gimmel Tammuz.

Several months later, on Zayin Cheshvan 5781, five years after we moved on shlichus to Nanaimo, we hosted a grand event for the haschalas sefer Torah, with many people participating in accordance with social distancing precautions, and it was an enormous milestone for our community and a tremendous kiddush Hashem.

My brother-in-law, Rabbi Meir Kaplan, the shliach in nearby Victoria posted photos of the event on his Facebook page to share the news with his community. The next day a woman reached out to him and said that she was so inspired by the photos and she wants to sponsor a new sefer Torah for a community that does not yet own one.

Rabbi Goldshmid: We moved out on shlichus to Bainbridge Island, WA, in the summer of 5779 and immediately started various classes and peulos, connecting with the local Yidden. After a busy and successful month of Tishrei 5781, I wondered what our next main project would be. It was already six months into Covid-19 and although we were doing a lot of Zoom classes and events, I felt slightly anxious at the fact that we were entering a period of time that we would not have much opportunity to attract people to our peulos.

I wrote a letter to the Rebbe describing the peulos of Sukkos and Simchas Torah and asked the Rebbe for direction in how to proceed in the coming weeks. Out of the blue, Rabbi Meir Kaplan called me saying a woman he knows wants to donate a sefer Torah to a brand new community. Would we be willing to take it?

We had never hosted a minyan before, and the idea of launching a sefer Torah campaign so soon after moving to Bainbridge Island had not entered my wildest imaginations. But we quickly realized that the Rebbe was sending us a clear message of how to move forward and accepted the generous donation and challenge to bring a brand new sefer Torah to Bainbridge Island.

From the popular “Der Rebbe Vet Gefinen A Veg” column in the Derher Magazine.

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