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A Debt Repaid

It was Thursday afternoon, February 1, 2008. Mrs. Yehudis Engel had just removed the fish from the freezer in preparation for cooking for Shabbat. Suddenly, the phone rang. The man on the other end of the line introduced himself as David L., and began to relate his story.

Approximately eight years before, in the year 2000, David was returning from a business trip in New York to his home in Ottawa, Canada. His flight was delayed, and it soon became apparent that he would not arrive home in time for Shabbat. As an observant Jew, it was unthinkable for David to travel on Shabbat. David called his wife and told her of his predicament. He asked her to try to make some kind of arrangements for him.

David's wife contacted Rabbi Botnick, the Chabad shaliach (emissary) in Ottawa, who told David to get in touch Rabbi Eliyohu Engel, a"h, who, at the time, was serving as an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Jersey City. Rabbi Engel welcomed David most graciously and made sure he felt at home and comfortable the entire Shabbat.

David never forgot the warm welcome and wonderful Shabbat hospitality he had received at the Engel home. Ever since that Shabbat, David had intended to contact Rabbi Engel to express just how much that Shabbat had meant to him, and how much he appreciated the Torah talks and the warm welcome on such short notice. However, he never found the right opportunity.

Years passed, and finally, in January of 2008, he decided once and for all to make the call to Rabbi Engel. To his dismay, he was unable to locate him. Determined to accomplish his mission, he once again turned to Rabbi Botnick for assistance.

Rabbi Botnick made several calls and was informed that, unfortunately, Rabbi Engel had passed away eight months earlier. Rabbi Botnick gave David Rabbi Engel’s home number. That Thursday, David called and spoke to Rabbi Engel’s widow, Mrs. Yehudis Engel. He told her how much that Shabbos had meant to him, and how sorry he was not to have had the opportunity to thank Rabbi Engel directly.  

In appreciation, he had decided to order and send fully prepared meals to the Engel home for an entire Shabbat. At this point in the conversation, Mrs. Engel heard a loud crash coming from the living room. A moment later, her daughter appeared, frantically looking for the number to Hatzolah, the local volunteer ambulance service. Her husband had suddenly passed out and fallen to the floor. The EMTs soon arrived and hurriedly transported him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed as suffering from dehydration.  

Mrs. Engel’s daughter remained with her husband in the hospital until midnight. They left their five young children were left in care of their grandmother, Mrs. Engel. Caring for the children took up all her time and energy, and there was no way for her to continue her Shabbat preparations. But all her needs were taken care of after all. Their erstwhile guest David had followed through on his promise. All the Shabbat meals were provided, fully prepared.

Mrs. Engel was awestruck at the amazing turn of events. A number of years earlier, her husband had provided hospitality to David when he was in a dire predicament. Now, this former guest was providing the Engel family with Shabbos meals when they were in a dire predicament. His phone call, delayed by eight years, had finally been made just the week that it was most needed. A shaliach sows the seeds, unaware of the fruits they will bear.

(This story by Mrs. Yehudis Engel was originally was published in the Jewish Press.)



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