I now know the limits of a Yaris! We were in Boquete, one of the retirement capitals of the world, driving up a steep, winding, picturesque mountain to visit an 81-year-old Panamanian Jew. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think our Yaris would make it to our destination—not because it’s a bad car, but because the road was so wild. But we did make it to the top of no man’s land, where we were welcomed by a giant reddish fence shaped like a Star of David and a flock of flapping chickens and peacocks!

If I thought the road up to this man’s property was rough, it was nothing compared to the steep winding driveway to his actual house atop this scenic mountain. As we drove to his house, we slowly became more and more aware that we had no way of turning our car around, nor would I possibly be able to back our way out of this crazy driveway.

At the door of the house, a man with greeted us warmly and invited us in. As we sat down, he vividly described to us his religious journey. “Before my bar mitzvah,” he related, “my father, of blessed memory, wanted me to learn Hebrew. But I had a bad experience with my Hebrew teacher. I was so angry, I didn’t have my bar mitzvah until I was eighteen. Even then, I just parroted the words without any meaning.”

Then he pulled out his siddur (prayerbook) and tefillin, showing us with great pride that he could now read any prayer or psalm with ease. “When my father passed away, I took it upon myself to learn the things that would have made him proud. Rabbi Laine (the Chabad rabbi in Panama City) has always been warm and receptive to me and my struggle. I have a lot of admiration for him, and all my kids love him. I am happy that they got a better Jewish education then I did.”

Lipa, who always has wise things to say, shared an appropriate Torah thought, connected to the weekly Torah portion, on the great importance of initiative.

He then showed us pictures around his house of his 29 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. “A lot of them will be rabbis,” he told us.

As much as we wanted to continue this fascinating visit, our phone rang, and it was time to meet our next person. Walking us to the door, this 81-year-old man volunteered to back our car out down the winding path. He got into the driver’s seat, and with great ease backed the car out. He joked that that we should see what he can do with a car during the day, moving forward!