We had planned to get a head start on our first day, but things came up.

We had attempted to pick up our car the night before, but it was not ready. Once we got the car, we had some trouble getting it to run properly. Things kept on coming up, and by the time we got on the road, it was already late afternoon. But we were determined to accomplish at least something. Yaakov suggested that we head to the local shopping mall to see if we could at least meet one Jewish person.

Upon entering, we were quite disappointed to see that the mall was very close to closing and only the department stores were still open. So we headed over to one called Zellers to try our luck.

Right in front of the door we noticed a man riding in an electric scooter. It was clear that he had some health problems. We struck up a conversation. When we asked him if he was Jewish, we heard a gentle, "Yes of course!" It turns out that his name is Yankel Goldstein—you can't get much more Jewish than that.

Yankel hadn't had much connection to Jewish people for quite a few years. The fact that he was homebound most of the time increased his feeling of isolation. He spoke to us in great detail about his recent bout with cancer and the passing of his adopted mother, who had raised him from very soon after he was born. He had requested of the congregation where she had been a member to find someone to say Kaddish for her, but nothing had come of it.

We promised we would contact the closest Chabad center and try to find someone to arrange transportation for him so that he would have the opportunity to say Kaddish for his mother at least once.

After schmoozing some more, we observed how incredible it was that we walked in just that moment when he was coming out of the store, because we had entirely different plans for the day. He responded that he had not even planned on leaving his house today, but for some reason he felt an urge to take care of a little shopping. He had not planned on coming to this store, but only decided to come to this store because he suddenly remembered that the item that he needed was cheaper at Zellers.

We told him that this is no accident. We were taught that if G‑d caused us to meet each other it is surely in order to do a mitzvah.

We offered him the opportunity to put on tefillin. He responded that he had not done since the day of his bar mitzvah but would be happy to do it again. So right then and there, smack in middle of the shopping mall, he put on tefillin, proudly displaying his Jewish identity.

Suddenly his eyes closed and he sat emotionally for a few moments. He then opened his eyes and told us that today was his birth mother's yahrtzeit!

None of us had planned on meeting that day, but someone on high had other plans.

Regards from Surrey,

Rabbis Yosef Schtroks and Yaakov Kotlarsky