Story Time: The Suitcase Full of Kosher Sandwiches



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    Story Time: The Suitcase Full of Kosher Sandwiches

    It was the last hour of Yom Kippur. Neilah would start in just a few minutes. The gates of Shomayim were wide open to let everyone’s tefillos straight to Hashem. Then, the shofar would blow, and the gates would close once more. In California, Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon’s Chabad house was full of all types of Yidden. Some were frum, while others barely kept kosher – but they all had at least one thing in common: They knew it was only right to spend Yom Kippur in shul • By Beis Moshiach magazine • Full Article

    It was the last hour of Yom Kippur. Neilah would start in just a few minutes.

    The gates of Shomayim were wide open to let everyone’s tefillos straight to Hashem. Then, the shofar would blow, and the gates would close once more.

    In California, Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon’s Chabad house was full of all types of Yidden. Some were frum, while others barely kept kosher – but they all had at least one thing in common: They knew it was only right to spend Yom Kippur in shul.

    Before Neilah started, Rabbi Gordon got up to speak.

    “Yidden!” he cried out, “Welcome to the holiest moments of the holiest day of the year. The Lubavitcher Rebbe has asked us all to try and do more mitzvos. Now is the perfect time to try out one more mitzva! If we take the Rebbe’s advice, we’ll surely be given the zechus of a wonderful new year!”

    Usually, by the time Neilah rolls around, everyone in shul is sleepy and bored. They just spent the whole day fasting and davening; they’re running out of energy. But Rabbi Gordon’s words woke them up, and they all tried to pick a new mitzva to do.

    Rabbi Gordon finished his speech and then turned to the bima. “Ashrei…”

    Neilah had begun. Everyone joined in, pouring their hearts out to Hashem and davening for a good year.



    The loud blast of the shofar filled the shul. “L’shana Haba’ah, B’Yerushlayim!”

    They sang and clapped, certain their tefillos had gone straight to Hashem. Yom Kippur was officially over.

    Rabbi Gordon went home to have a meal with his family. He could never have guessed the effects his little speech would have.

    ***

    Rabbi Dovid Borenstein, the shliach in Bologna, Italy, pulled a heavy suitcase behind him. It was stuffed to the brim with kosher sandwiches for any Yid who might be hungry.

    That day was the yearly Cosmetics Fair. “Cosmetics” are basically anything someone uses to make themselves look and feel prettier, like makeup and skincare. Cosmetics companies from all over the world come to Italy just to visit this fair. They meet other sellers, buy, and compare their products. Not too many of these people were Jewish, but there were always a few Yidden in the crowd.

    As the shliach to Bologna, Rabbi Borenstein wanted to make sure they had kosher food to eat. He walked around the fair, schlepping his suitcase and looking out for Yidden.

    Right then, a Jewish couple from California passed by and noticed the Rabbi. “He looks a little lost,” the man commented to his wife. “He’s been showing up all over the place, like he’s looking for something. Maybe we can help him!”

    They hurried to catch up with Rabbi Borenstein.

    “Hey – excuse us, but, um, can we help you, Rabbi?” the man called out.

    Rabbi Borenstein turned to the man with a twinkle in his eye. “Oh! No thanks,” he replied. “I’m actually here to help you!”

    “Huh?” the man asked. “What do you mean?”

    “Well,” Rabbi Borenstein said, “I thought you might be hungry for something kosher. Am I right?”



    The man looked at his wife in shock. “I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed. “Yes! We’re starving!”

    Rabbi Borenstein nodded, a big smile on his face. “Alright! Kosher sandwiches, coming right up!” He bent down and unzipped his suitcase. “What would you like? Salami? Tuna? Egg? I’ve got plenty! Here, take a bunch!”

    But instead of taking the sandwiches, the man and his wife just stared. “Rabbi, you have no idea what this means to us!” the man exclaimed, finally finding his voice. He ran over to Rabbi Borenstein to shake his hand, and then he gave him a big hug!

    “You showed up like Eliyahu HaNavi!” the man continued. “You came to us at the perfect time! Who are you, and why are you here?”

    Rabbi Borenstein was very surprised. No one had ever been this emotional before – all he’d done was offer them a sandwich. “I’m the shliach to Bologna,” he explained. “I’m at the Cosmetics Fair to take care of any Yidden here. Me and my wife made sandwiches to help people who might be hungry.  Who are you?”

    “I’m Shlomo Mansano,” the man replied, “and this is my wife, Shoshana. We’re makeup artists from California.”

    “California, you say? Do you know my friend Rabbi Gordon?”

    “Sure! He’s our Rabbi!”

    “Then please send him my regards,” Rabbi Borenstein said, warmly. “We’re good friends.”

    Shlomo and wife thanked the Rabbi again and went on their way. Rabbi Borenstein zipped up his suitcase and went back to wandering around the fair. Why’d they been so excited about the sandwiches? He had no idea, but he was glad he’d been there.

    ***

    When the fair was over, the couple returned to California. The whole time, they kept talking about the Rabbi who’d given them those kosher sandwiches. It was clearly a very big deal for them.

    As soon as they arrived, Shlomo went straight to Rabbi Gordon.

    “Rabbi, do you remember the speech you made on Yom Kippur? The one about the Rebbe asking everyone to try and do more mitzvos?”

    “Of course!” Rabbi Gordon replied. “Why do you ask?”

    “Well, the mitzva my wife and I chose was to keep kosher. We already kept kosher at home, but we traveled a lot, and it can be really hard to find kosher food in other countries. Since we’d never been to those places before, we didn’t know where to look. But, after your speech on Yom Kippur, Shoshana and I decided that, no matter how hard it would be, we’d keep kosher, even while we were traveling.”



    Rabbi Gordon was very moved. “What an incredible mitzva!” he exclaimed. “So tell me, how did it go?”

    “Well, it was going alright – until we visited the Cosmetics Fair in Italy,” Shlomo admitted. “We checked into our hotel and figured we’d find some basic, kosher food. But we were wrong! We were surrounded by nice restaurants, and their food smelled amazing, but it was all treif! We couldn’t even find a single kosher bagel!

    “By lunchtime, we were starving. All we’d had all day was soda. The non-kosher food around us looked so good, and we started doubting ourselves. How bad could it be if we ate just one treif hot dog? Hashem would understand. We needed to eat!”

    Rabbi Gordon held his breath. Did they give in to their hunger, or did they stay strong?

    “Don’t worry, Rabbi Gordon,” Shlomo continued. “Right then, just as we were about to buy a non-kosher lunch, Hashem showed us that our mitzvos do matter after all! A Rabbi appeared out of nowhere, pulling a big suitcase full of kosher sandwiches! His name was Rabbi Borenstein.”

    “Ah, I know him! We’re good friends!” Rabbi Gordon exclaimed.

    “Yep! He mentioned that! And, thanks to him, we were able to keep kosher! He gave us so many sandwiches, we had enough food for our entire stay in Italy!

    “Do you realize what a miracle that was?” Shlomo wrapped up his story. “Because you encouraged us to take the Rebbe’s advice, we decided to keep kosher, even when we were far from home – and right when we were feeling like we couldn’t keep our promise, the Rebbe’s shliach appeared and saved the day!”

    Rabbi Gordon smiled warmly. “Yes, Shlomo. That’s exactly what tzaddikim do. They care about every Yid, no matter where they are. When we connect to our tzaddikim, they help us serve Hashem in the best possible way.”

    *After being a shliach for 40 years and inspiring thousands of Yidden with his Torah shiurim, Rabbi Gordon passed away in 2016. May his memory be a blessing.

    From the TzaddikStory.org collection

    ***

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