It was our second day in Palma de Mallorca, capital of Mallorca, one of the Spanish islands in the Mediterranean. It is a popular tourist destination, with the perfect combination of history, culture, and nature, but for us it was another stop in our whirlwind trip through Spain, with visits to the cities of Menorca, Girona, Valencia, Marbella, Seville, and Toledo. We had mapped out our itinerary together with Rabbi Dovid Libersohn, Chabad rabbi to Barcelona, and with a mere few days in each city, every waking moment was dedicated to our mission: to find the Jewish people living in these isolated places, and offer them assistance with any of their Jewish needs, as well as a listening ear and our unconditional friendship, as per the directives of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, who, in 1943, created the Rabbinical Student Visitation Program.
Our first appointment of the day was with Sara, an elderly woman whose contact information was passed along to us by students who had visited previously. The visit went well and before we left she gave us some names and phone numbers of fellow Jews in the neighborhood. Thrilled, we phoned the contacts she had given us immediately after leaving her apartment. The first person we got through to was a woman named Aliza, and after a short conversation we agreed to meet at her home later that afternoon.
Aliza and her husband David greeted us with characteristic Spanish warmth, inviting us to make ourselves comfortable and plying us with fruit and drink. We began talking about Judaism—they told us about the miniscule local Jewish community, consisting of only 15 families. There is a small synagogue which opens only on Friday nights, with services led by the president in lieu of a rabbi. Though the couple tried their utmost, they were aware that it was difficult to observe all the mitzvot in a place like Palma, and since neither of them had the benefit of a Jewish education, they were uncertain of how to proceed in their journey to greater observance.
In the middle of the conversation, Aliza picked up Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom for Every Life, by Chassidic author Laibl Wolf. She flipped to the center of the book, pointing to a picture. “Do you know who this rabbi is?”
We were shocked! There we were, sitting in the living room of a Jewish couple in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, a place almost completely bereft of Judaism, and we were asked to identify a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and the founder of the roving rabbi program!
“Aliza,” we said, “That is Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He is the reason we are here right now, visiting you and her husband!” We tried to explain the Rebbe’s impact on Chabad and Jew worldwide, stopping when we noticed tears streaming down Aliza’s face.
“As you know,” she began, her words slow and measured, “it’s quite difficult to be Jewish in Palma, and how much more so to be an observant Jew. There’s really no infrastructure or support system or rabbis or anything...it all has to come from within. About a month ago, I started feeling uninspired, lethargic, and just stuck in a spiritual rut. A week ago, I began praying to G‑d for something in my life to change. Then, early this morning, when I awoke and felt so despondent, I was drawn to this book, and specifically to the picture I just showed you. ‘Please help me, please send someone to inspire me,’ I begged the rabbi in the picture. And just a few hours later, there are followers of that great Rabbi in my home in Mallorca, to teach me more about Judaism and how to live as a Jew.”