On a Wednesday afternoon, a couple of weeks after our arrival in Kauai, we received a phone call from Moshe, an Israeli businessman visiting the island. We learned that he had come for an unhappy reason—to pay his respects at the grave of his older brother, whose yahrzeit was approaching. Would we be able to join him at the cemetery to recite the kaddish prayer and some chapters of mishnayot? Of course, we immediately agreed and took down the necessary information.
The next day, we met Moshe at the cemetery. He was glad to see us, but he had some bad news to share. He had just received word that another brother had passed away in Israel. He would have to sit shiva, and he would need a minyan for the kaddish. Since he hardly knew anyone in Kauai, he asked for our assistance in arranging one. Poor Moshe! We promised we would do our best to make it happen.
After a brief discussion, Aaron and I decided that we would aim to have the minyan take place on Sunday morning. We grabbed our invaluable contact list, and began making phone calls. It was slow going—we either had to leave messages, or the person had other plans, but we kept at it. Shabbat was approaching and we still didn’t have our minyan locked in. We worked the phones until close to sunset.
On Shabbat afternoon, we stopped by Moshe’s hotel room to keep him company. We reassured him that the minyan would take place, although inwardly we weren’t feeling all that confident.
The moment Shabbat ended, we continued inviting people to please join the shiva minyan, resorting to emails when the hour grew late.
Sunday morning arrived and people began to show up. We began wrapping tefillin with those who weren't familiar with the mitzvah, and helped them navigate the morning prayers. The turnout was better than we expected, but we only counted nine men. As Chassidic Jews, we are taught “think good and it we be good.” We decided to start the prayers, and G‑d willing, the tenth man would appear.
The clock ticked away as we prayed. We sang and chanted all the prayers aloud, giving the tenth man some time to arrive. Shortly before the final prayers, the door swung open, and in walked a Jewish gentleman from a nearby neighborhood! It seemed like the room resounded with a collective sigh of relief—the minyan was now complete. Moshe gave us a huge smile and stood up, grateful for the opportunity to recite the kaddish prayer to honor the memory his dear brother.
Afterwards, we enjoyed some wonderful conversations with the crowd, making sure to include some pertinent Torah thoughts.
Our efforts to help one Jew allowed us to touch 14 beautiful Jewish souls, who may otherwise not have had the opportunity to put on tefillin, and become acquainted with other Jews living on the island.
To our family and friends, many of them Chabad emissaries around the globe, this is an ordinary story, all in a day’s work. But for the friends we made that day, it was an amazing insight into our heritage, a hands-on display of the love and unity for a Jewish brother visiting Kauai.