On Thursday evening, July 3, we boarded our SAS flight en route to Vilnius, via Oslo and Copenhagen. The four of us found our seats and made ourselves comfortable. We were looking forward to running a camp for Jewish children from broken homes, under the auspices of Rabbi and Mrs. Krinsky of Chabad of Vilnius, and then travelling to assorted Jewish communities throughout Lithuania to share the joy of Judaism.
Engrossed in conversation, we didn’t realize that the plane wasn’t moving until a flight attendant announced that we were delayed due to stormy weather. After three hours, we finally departed for Norway. The flight was uneventful, and upon arrival we went straight to the rescheduling office, because the delay meant we'd missed our connection.We were delayed due to stormy weather
“Sure, no problem, we can put you on a flight tonight,” we were told.
“We can’t fly tonight, it’s the Jewish Sabbath,” we explained.
The woman behind the counter deliberated for a few moments."If you don’t want to fly tonight, we can reschedule you for later, but we aren’t paying for your costs to stay in Norway for the weekend,” she decided.
We tried to contact the Chabad rabbi in Oslo, but he happened to be out of the town for Shabbat.
Then we discovered that all our suitcases had been lost in transit.
So there we were, in one of the most expensive countries in the world, with very little money, non-working credit cards, no clothing, no food, no wine or challah for Shabbat. Things weren't looking great, but we were confident G‑d would help.
We unearthed a bag of four bagels in our hand luggage, to use in lieu of challah. And a Jewish couple we met in the airport realized our predicament and handed us a bottle of wine. While we tried to figure out where to spend Shabbat, an elderly woman approached us, speaking Hebrew. Mayan wasn't Jewish but felt a special kinship with Jews and Israel.
"We need a place to stay for Shabbat," we told her.
“I would love to help you.”
Mayan was as good as her word, and after a few phone calls she found out that the Anker is the cheapest hotel in Oslo. “You’re going on a holy mission, let me help you,” she said. We were astonished when she pulled out 1000 nok--equivalent to $170. (We made sure to take down her information so we could repay her.)
After spending six hours in the airport, we finally headed to the train station to get to our hotel. We stopped the first person we saw, “Excuse me, is this the train that goes to Oslo?”
“You’re in the right place,” the bearded man replied in an American accent.
“Are you Jewish?" we asked.
“No, but my mother is Jewish.”
“You are as Jewish as Moses!”
David had never put on tefillin before. He had to travel all the way to Norway to have his bar mitzvah. After the tefillin were wrapped, we found ourselves dancing and singing “Am yisrael chai” on the platform with the surprised and delighted bar mitzvah boy.
We ended up spendingWe spent Shabbat in a small, cramped hotel room Shabbat in a small, cramped hotel room, eating some fruit, instant soup, and cookies. It may have not been the most comfortable Shabbat, but it sure was inspiring and uplifting, as we sang chassidic songs and learned Torah until the wee hours. (In the summertime, Shabbat in Norway ends well after midnight.)
On Sunday, we flew to Riga, and then to Vilnius, arriving just in time to catch the buses heading to camp.
Looking back, it wasn't a long and draining journey; it was an opportunity to experience G‑d’s involvement in every detail of our lives.