It was a seven-day voyage from Tunisia to Montreal, and I was fifteen years old. For seven days all we saw was the sea, yet the boat traveled in a fixed direction the entire time. That’s how it is in life: Without a goal, you can go in all kinds of ways, and end up lost at sea. You’ve got to have a destination. With this thought in mind, I came to Montreal in 1957, looking for some direction.
Before long, I found what I was looking for. I began attending a class delivered by a young Lubavitch yeshivah student, and then learning Tanya with another. At the suggestion of the yeshivah boys, I began writing to the Rebbe in French. I wrote about my studies and my situation, including some difficulties I was having, and I asked for his blessings.
I was overjoyed when I received the Rebbe’s reply, which was written in English. The very thought that the Rebbe had sent me a letter was unbelievable to me.
He told me not to be discouraged by the ups and downs I felt from my “inner battle with the yetzer” – my evil inclination – and advised me to study the Tanya’s “very illuminating and useful guidance” on this subject. The good things I was doing, he reassured me, would lead to more good and would not be wasted, “for all that is holy is eternal.” I had mentioned that I was studying science in school, so he added, “you know that nothing in the physical world is lost, and this is especially so in matters of the spirit.”
Being Chanukah, the Rebbe wrote that “If ‘a little light dispels a lot of darkness,’ how much more so a growing light, which… is cumulative in its effect, and which is also symbolized in the lights of Chanukah which are increasing in number every night.”
As an immigrant to Canada, I had to live there for five years before I could become a citizen and travel outside the country. But with Hashem’s help, I found a way to go to New York and meet the Rebbe in person just three or four years after my arrival. (more…)