Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
Contact Us
Visit us on Facebook
 E-mail
Blog

Quaint and uniquly Irish, Balbriggan lies just outside the hustle and bustle of Dublin.
Quaint and uniquly Irish, Balbriggan lies just outside the hustle and bustle of Dublin.

At night, he tears along the Irish coast, his fiery goatee flashing against the dark leathers. During the day, he loses himself in the mists of the timeless Shema.

He is the biker from Balbriggan.

The bike was propped up outside the house, a rugged piece with a bumper sticker proclaiming "There is only ONE G‑d. Stop applying for His position." Inside we met its owner, Eddie, also a rugged piece, but in looks only. Beneath the biker persona lies a proud Jew, but one who still has much to learn about what it means to be one.

So we sat down together, the yeshiva students and the Irishman. We walked carefully through the Shema, mining its lessons of monotheism, tefillin, mezuzahs, and reward-and-punishment, which Eddie poetically summed up as "and if ye doo t' wrong thing, yer flubbed."

Reading the Shema together.
Reading the Shema together.

We meandered happily about the landscape of Judaism, munching on kosher biscuits as we stopped to admire its sheer beauty.

We joined hands and skipped along as we shared our stories, two very different paths that crashed into each other in Balbriggan one fine June day.

And then, as the sun made an appearance through the bay windows, Eddie rolled up his sleeve and put on tefillin for the first time in his life. He stood motionless, head bowed, his thoughts a mystery to us, humbled rabbinical students.

After years of riding, of countless miles along endless roads, Eddie had come home.

We pose with the now-famous Bike of Balbriggan.
We pose with the now-famous Bike of Balbriggan.

Enjoying the California weather this past Friday. (Note the bag of fresh challah we brought for Shabbat.)
Enjoying the California weather this past Friday. (Note the bag of fresh challah we brought for Shabbat.)

We were visiting one of the very involved members of the Jewish community here in S. Luis Obispo, CA (whom we later learned was actually a former officer at the local temple). As we were about to leave, he suggested that we go down the street to visit another Jewish family that he knows. Thanking him for his time and the tip, we ambled off down the road.

As we approached the house, we were jovially greeted by a gentleman named Scott and his family. After inviting us into their home, Scott told us that he does not believe in G‑d but he "identifies very strongly with Judaism." We spent a long time in earnest conversation, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Subjects ranged from anti-Semitism to the core of Jewish identity. Other highlights included seeing some old family photos. Some of the pictures bore the images of deeply religious Jews wearing traditional clothing and the men sporting full beards.

During the course of our conversation we learned that Scott had never had a bar mitzvah. To the delight of the entire family, we whipped out our tefillin and held an impromptu belated bar mitzvah right then and there.

Scott at his bar mitzvah.
Scott at his bar mitzvah.

Alan, in tefillin, in his living room.
Alan, in tefillin, in his living room.

Way up in the highest reaches of Michigan, where dry land, water, US and Canada all meet in a beautiful wild mixture of blues and greens, lies the town of Rogers City, MI. Half an hour past Rogers City, through woodlands, dirt roads and swaths of nothing, lies Alan's house.

As far from civilization as you can possibly get, we rolled up his driveway and knocked on the door. Alan greeted us warmly. We sat down and talked about this, that and the other. Then we offered Alan the opportunity to put on tefillin. Alan graciously agreed with one condition. In his word, "First we pray then we play."

Ummm…okay.

So, after putting on tefillin and reciting Shema, Alan lead us out back where he showed us how to shoot a gun. And shoot we did.

Jeff recites Shema, while wering tefillin for the first time, as his mother watches on.
Jeff recites Shema, while wering tefillin for the first time, as his mother watches on.

The other day, we knocked on a door. We did not know the people who live there, but it turns out that they were expecting us. How did it happen?

The Jewish family that lives in that house is associated with the local temple. In fact, the father, Glenn, is a guitarist there.

While watching TV, Glenn came across a televangelist talking about tefillin. The image triggered something within him. Deep down in the recesses of his childhood memory, he remembered seeing his grandfather wearing those same black boxes on his head and arm.

Intrigued, he called his rabbi to learn more about them. But the conversation did not yield much information. Nor did it lead him to actually wearing—or even seeing—a pair of tefillin. So Glenn filed away the incident and promised himself that he would learn more about tefillin, should the opportunity arise.

And, just two days later, there we landed on his doorstep, tefillin in hand. They greeted us warmly and we soon began chatting like old friends.

We helped Glenn and his son, Jeff, put on tefillin for the very first time. It was an emotional moment for all of us. Glenn was so moved by all that had transpired that he is planning to purchase a pair of tefillin of his own, so that he can wear them each and every day.

After all, who would believe that Glenn's wonderings (sparked by a non-Jewish preacher, no less) would end in us landing on his doorstep!? But G‑d works in mysterious ways.

Incidentally, we came to their house just before the sun was about to set. As tefillin are not worn at night, and we are pretty much on the northwestern tip of the United States, it is not at all inconceivable that these two Jews, who put on tefillin for the first time, were the last in the entire world to do so that day!

Rovers-to-be are put on the spot as they find answers to questions that they themselves may be asked in the not-too-distant future.
Rovers-to-be are put on the spot as they find answers to questions that they themselves may be asked in the not-too-distant future.

Hi Everybody,

It has been a long time since I have written anything. Though last summer feels like just yesterday, it's already been a full year! I am proud to tell you that, with G‑d's help, the Roving Rabbis program has become a year better, a year smarter and a year more dedicated.

I write to you from my desk in the Chabad.org offices after having just attended a conference of Roving Rabbis. A room full of young men, bursting with positive energy and inspiration. Some of these guys will live off matzah, sardines and canned soup for close to a month. Others will spend their days searching for long-lost Jews in jungle towns of South America. Yet others will inspire Jews in suburban Miami.

But wherever they will be, their message is the same: Every Jew is special, and every Jew deserves to be the best Jew that he can be.

So with tefillin in hand and mezuzahs in their suitcases, they are ready to hit the road.

But before that, let me tell you about the conference.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, and director of the Roving Rabbis program, shares personal experiences and advice with the Rovers.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, and director of the Roving Rabbis program, shares personal experiences and advice with the Rovers.

As the young men filed into the Jewish Children's Museum in Brooklyn, they were directed to two separate conference rooms. While the young men who are about to travel to posts within the United States heard words of inspiration from Rabbi Chaim Bruk, the funny and learned Chabad representative to Montana, those who are planning to go to other countries got to hear from yours truly, Rooted Rabbi.

After telling them the things I thought they needed to know, we had a special game show where the rabbis were called up to the front to answer questions that I had prepared as well as questions from their friends. For example, one group was asked to focus on how to build relationships in a town where no Rovers had been before, and there were no contacts in the database. Another group debated whether it would be more effective to invite people to a barbeque where some Torah thoughts would be shared or a formal Torah class.

What a fun way to pool together collective experiences!

Later, the Rovers joined in the main conference room to hear from Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and director of the Roving Rabbis program. Rabbi Kotlarsky's unique blend of paternal caring, genuine concern, and wisdom culled from years of experience made his talk both entertaining and educational.

After hearing from Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, Chief Rabbi of Thailand and director of its legendary Chabad center, the Rovers were urged to greet everyone with a smile by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzki, Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine.

Another special highlight of this year's conference was a special session with Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe, scholar-in-residence at Chabad at Harvard University, whose encyclopedic knowledge of all things—especially Torah—made for a thoroughly enjoyable and informative time.

Much more to write, but dinner awaits…

Look forward to sharing with you in the future!

Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzki, Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, addresses the young men, as Rabbis Moshe and Mendel Kotlarsky and Yosef C. Kantor look on.
Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzki, Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, addresses the young men, as Rabbis Moshe and Mendel Kotlarsky and Yosef C. Kantor look on.

Related