Moshe Shlomo, Beis Moshiach
We often hear about a young shliach who, together with his wife Mushky and baby Mendy go somewhere very far away, both in the physical and spiritual sense. This entails great mesirus nefesh, to forgo being able to go down the street to the grocery store and enjoy the variety of kosher products there, not to mention kosher milk; or the option of going to parents for Shabbos and many more things such as schooling and a Chassidishe environment.
This story, about R’ Tal Ramot and his family, is quite different. Their story shows us, Chabad Chassidim around the world, that there is no lost cause. There is no such thing as “that is not appropriate now” when it comes to shlichus or that the family situation does not allow for it. One can always do what the meshalei’ach wants and leave all the rest “on my shoulders,” i.e. the Rebbe will take care of everything.
R’ Tal, of Beer Sheva, became interested in Chabad Chassidus along with his wife in the 80s. He sent his children to Chabad schools. They moved from place to place, from neighborhood to neighborhood, until they found their place in Nachalat Har Chabad.
R’ Tal and his wife’s desire to be part of the Rebbe’s revolution in the world was there from when they first entered the Chabad family. They saw from the outside what the Rebbe did through the work of the shluchim and they wanted to be a part of it.
It began with an animated film. Tal is artistic and he used his talent, along with his imagination, to draw Chassidic comics for children that portrayed Chassidic and educational stories for the young. When he was called upon by those involved in building a palace for the Rebbe, he did not hesitate but began creating an animated film showing the building of a palace for the Rebbe in Kfar Chabad.
The last project Tal worked on was a three-dimensional educational game for children. In the game, children need to try and accomplish all types of mitzvos which create stones that build the third Beis HaMikdash.
When he finished the project at age 50, he asked the Rebbe for advice and a bracha for his family. In the letter he opened to in the Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe told him to return to the country where his father-in-law used to live. “It would be proper to move to the home country of his father-in-law.”
Tal’s father-in-law had moved to Eretz Yisrael from India in 5732. He was part of the community of emigrants from Baghdad who went to India and settled there for business purposes. This was a surprise for Tal and he began to look into what he had to do in order to go on shlichus to India.
It turned out to be very expensive and involved sums that he had never dealt with in his life, but Tal persisted and continued trying to get to India. Since his wife’s papers were in order as she had been born in India, he only had to get papers for himself and his two youngest children. It seemed impossible but miraculously, he was able to accomplish it and arrive in Cochin to replace the local shliach for Purim and Pesach.
Thus, at age 50, R’ Tal and his wife and two children, a 13 year old girl and a ten year old boy, went to a distant place and left behind the rest of their children who are already married.
After a short period of shlichus in Cochin and another three seasons in Dharamsala, R’ Tal and his children moved to Kasar Devi in eastern India, to open a Chabad House.
Kasar Devi is a city with a character and lifestyle that is a little different than other provinces and cities in India. It is a sort of rest stop in the midst of all the noise and commotion which is India. The tourists who go to Nepal generally pass through Kasar Devi to rest up a bit from their exhausting travels.
Usually, says R’ Tal, the tourists stop with us for two or three weeks and we take the opportunity to introduce them to Chassidus.
“When a tourist enters the Chabad House in Kasar Devi, he immediately feels the warm, loving embrace. The love that he gets from us is what gives him the desire to put on tefillin, to keep Shabbos or eat kosher. We had several instances in which a tourist had already spent time in a few cities with a Chabad House but chose not to enter for reasons of animosity. We broke the ice and have even reached tourists who opted not to enter a Chabad House in other countries.
“Another phenomenon that happens often is that religious people stop off with us to enjoy the kosher food or the daily minyan. They present questions about the Chabad worldview. They do not understand how we, as G-d-fearing people, forgo all sorts of necessary things in a religious lifestyle and choose to live here without a minyan and community.
“This gives us the chance to tell them what the Alter Rebbe teaches us. ‘What is a Chassid? One who forgoes his own good in order to do a favor for someone else.’ A Chassid forgoes his spiritual welfare, a daily minyan or hearing the Torah read during the week, so as to be able to do a favor for another Jew, so he has a hot, fresh, kosher meal.”
As mentioned, what R’ Tal and his wife are doing is not the norm. R’ Tal has an entire family in Eretz Yisrael. One of the greatest hardships of the shlichus is missing the children back home as well as the grandchildren. There were times that R’ Tal and his wife did not see their children for a year and a half straight!
At first, they went on shlichus with their two youngest children but after a short while, the older one returned to Eretz Yisrael to attend high school. She lives with her older sister. About a year after, their son became bar mitzva and he also returned to Eretz Yisrael to attend yeshiva. On off-Shabbosos when his classmates go home, he goes to his older brother. He seldom sees his parents.
We asked R’ Tal why he or his wife don’t visit Eretz Yisrael more often. His answer was: every shekel goes toward the mikva! At first, Tal would immerse in all sorts of improvised bodies of water that are not fit for drinking and not even for immersing. He knew he had to come up with a better arrangement. R’ Yoel Kaplan, an expert on building mikvaos, got involved. Constructing a mikva entails a lot of money.
It turned out that the project was beyond what R’ Tal felt he was capable of and he turned to the Rebbe for help. In the first letter he opened to from the Rebbe, in the Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe writes that there are many people who want to participate in building mikvaos and you just need to approach them and give them the opportunity to take part. Since then, every letter he opens to mentions a mikva. In one letter, the Rebbe added that the entire matter of having a mikva is “worthwhile and proper” even for one immersion.
THE STORY OF ELIYAHU
The future mikva of Kasar Devi may well be able to have a greater impact than at first seems. Here, for example, is Eliyahu’s story:
Eliyahu is from Yerushalayim. He grew up religious in the Litvishe community. From a young age he had problems concentrating. He and Gemara never clicked. As he grew older and the study of Gemara became more intensive, Eliyahu started taking an interest in the world around him.
At a certain point, he was sent to a yeshiva high school for dropouts in Teveria but there too, he did not take to the learning, neither the limudei kodesh nor the secular studies. He always looked for more; he wanted more from the outside world.
He moved to an apartment with friends who also came from religious homes but his spiritual state deteriorated. A few years later, he was drafted into the army and he completely left Torah and mitzvos.
When he completed his army service, he began a journey of searching to “find himself,” as he felt a lack of contentment and happiness in life. He decided to set out on a tour of the Far East, not only to enjoy the scenery, but also to find some meaning in his life, since he felt “empty” inside.
On his way back from Nepal, Eliyahu arrived in Kasar Devi, where he discovered the Chabad House of R’ Tal Ramot. “I walked inside and I felt that this was it. I had returned home,” is the way that Eliyahu describes his first impression with great excitement. “Although during my travels I had spent time in other Chabad Houses, I never felt such an atmosphere of ‘home sweet home.’ R’ Tal immediately approached me and embraced me in a warm and loving hug. He did not feel like a rabbi to me, but like a loving father. Kasar Devi becomes the ‘home’ of every person who has ever stayed there. At night, there were classes in Tanya. While R’ Tal would be explaining concepts in Tanya, the rebbetzin would serve hot and tasty vegetable soup. Some of the attendees understood and some not, but what they all had in common was that nobody wanted it to end.
“It was on Friday, erev Shabbos Kodesh, when the major change occurred that led to a transformation in my life. As a kid in Yerushalayim, I really liked fresh water springs. I would not go to the mikva; I would take a dip in one of the springs in and around Yerushalayim. It was about an hour before Shabbos, and R’ Tal went down to the ‘basement,’ where there was a place that he somehow managed to make into a serviceable mikva. The water was not very clean… to put it mildly. I went into the water together with R’ Tal, and something moved inside me. In that instant, I felt my Jewish spark ignited anew. I felt in my heart how the Master of the Universe is calling me to come back; to Yerushalayim, to the seats of the yeshiva, to the study of Torah. I felt like I suddenly discovered the answers to all the questions, and the feeling of inner dissatisfaction dissolved all at once.”
Eliyahu returned to the Holy Land and is now learning in yeshiva. He has regular class in Tanya and is plumbing the depths of Chassidus.
My conversation with the Rabbi and Mrs. Ramot left me with some powerful messages; the main one being that when somebody wishes to commit himself to the Rebbe, age is not a factor. At any time and in any moment, it is possible to devote oneself to the shlichus of the Rebbe to prepare the world for Moshiach.
At this time, they are hard at work on building a mikva in the distant Himalayas, and everybody is invited to participate in partnering with them in making it a success. We all wish them the greatest success!
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