# #432 (s5766-21/ 1 Adar 5766)
Fresh Chinese Challah
In Beijing, China, "a regular weekend" means only fifty or sixty guests for Shabbat meals.
Fresh Chinese Challah
Settling comfortably into her couch late one Thursday night, Mrs. Dini Freundlich sighed in relief. "Thank G-d, this will be a regular weekend," she thought. "Living here as the Lubavitcher representatives is a challenge and an inspiration, but I could really use a break."
By "here" she meant Beijing, China, where she and her husband, Shimon, run the Chabad House, and "a regular weekend" means only fifty or sixty guests at their Shabbat meals.
It was two weeks after Pesach, and the past days had been especially taxing. Bi-annually, a large, two-week fair is held in Guanzhou (Canton), and Jewish businessmen from around the world attend it. Chabad of China provides kosher food, services and a spiritual respite for the participants. Mrs. Freundlich had been cooking, packaging and sending food for over two hundred people.
As she was resting, the telephone rang. Her husband took the call.
"Hello, this is Rabbi Mendel Gurewitz from Brunoy, France," said the voice at the other end. "A Chabad supporter from France, Mr. Greene, and a small group of associates are now in China on business. They are planning to spend Shabbat at the Great Wall and are wondering if you could send a few Jews to spend the day with them."
"I would like to help," responded Rabbi Freundlich, "but there really isn't anyone to send. You know, Beijing doesn't yet have a thriving Jewish community. To be honest, I'm not clear as to what 'Shabbat at the Great Wall' means; there are no hotels there. Why don't you give me Mr. Green's number and I will contact him directly to see if I can be of assistance."
Rabbi Gurewitz readily gave him the number. After inquiries, Rabbi Freundlich discovered that Mr. Greene was planning to spend Friday celebrating a recent corporate merger together with his Chinese business partners. "They should have at least some semblance of Shabbat," thought Rabbi Freundlich. Nodding encouragingly at his wife, as she would have to do all this last minute baking, he offered to bring Mr. Greene and his associates challah and wine. Mr. Greene was very touched by the gesture, and they arranged to meet early Friday morning, before the group set out for the Great Wall.
"I groaned inwardly," recalled Mrs. Freundlich, "because it meant I would have to make the batch of dough right away. At that moment, I thought I would not have had the strength to budge even if the Great Wall was to come tumbling down on top of me!"
But of course the dough was made, and the next morning twelve freshly baked, golden challot were ready. As she handed the neatly packed bags to her husband, a weary Mrs. Freundlich muttered under her breath: "No one could appreciate the true cost of these challot."
"At least one person can," her understanding husband smiled warmly as he thanked her for her efforts.
An hour later, Rabbi Freundlich called his wife from the hotel.
"Mr. Greene would like to know how much you think your challot are worth?" he said.
"What?" she responded, confused.
"He thinks they're worth a Torah scroll!" continued her husband excitedly.
Mrs. Freundlich could hardly believe her ears. Their Chabad House had been using a small scroll, which her parents, the Lipskars of Johannesburg, South Africa, had lent them. Chabad House of Beijing desperately needed its own scroll.
Later, Rabbi Freundlich related what had happened.
"Mr. Greene was very moved by our efforts to provide him with challot and wine. They were still warm from the oven and the aroma permeated the hotel lobby. He asked about our activities in Beijing, and how we managed to sustain and spread Judaism here. He inquired about our Chabad House - do we have a minyan, a Torah scroll and so on. I told him about our need, and he informed me that he had had two Torah scrolls written recently, and was planning to donate one to a worthwhile institution."
Mrs. Freundlich adds: "The mantle for the Torah scroll has two challot embroidered on it. This is a reminder to me and others that, when we meet a challenge, others often appreciate it, and our efforts are blessed by G-d."
[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Excuse me, are you
Jewish?" - a new collection of outreach emissary stories by
Malka Touger (Emet Publications).]
is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent
Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds
of published stories to his credit.
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