The following story is told by Rabbi Pinchas Woolstone of Sydney, Australia.
While I was in New York, I was approached by a prestigious chasidic rabbi, who told me about a family that was searching for their long-lost daughter. She had been born and raised in Boro Park and had married there. Unfortunately, the marriage ended badly, but her husband – for whatever reason – refused to give her a get (divorce). After this went on for a period of time, the wife suddenly disappeared. Her family had since learned that she had gone to Australia, but they had no idea where. Since I was from Australia, the rabbi who approached me thought that maybe I could help them bring their daughter back to her people.
I answered him, almost jokingly, “Australia is geographically the size of the United States. Looking for someone in Australia without an address, or even a city, is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
Before returning to Australia, I had an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, so I told him this whole story. He thought for a moment and then asked, “When are you going back?” I told him I was leaving this week.
He said, “Sometime after you get back, maybe the week after, you should take a trip to Brisbane.” He didn’t explain why, and I didn’t have the temerity to ask. But a short time after I returned to Australia, I got on a plane to Brisbane.
Now, Brisbane is a northerly city, about an hour’s flight from Sydney, and it has a very small Jewish community. At that time, there was no Chabad emissary in Brisbane and, Jewishly speaking, it was a desolate place.
Flying there, I found myself sitting next to a Greek Orthodox Christian woman. Seeing that I was Jewish, she began asking me theological questions concerning the Bible. Toward the end of our conversation, she asked me something peculiar: “What is the Jewish view of a person who leaves the Jewish faith? Is such a person allowed back in, or is the door bolted?”
I answered, “Nobody can ever be separated from Almighty G-d, and if, for whatever reason, someone has not honored his or her commitment to Torah and decides to come home again, the Jewish community will welcome that person with open arms.”
She nodded and then said, “I want to tell you something. I own a chain of dress shops around Australia, and, in Cairns, I have a shop that employs a Jewish girl. I know she’s Jewish because she once told me that she came from a very religious home in New York, and I can see that she’s living a very different life here from how she was brought up. She says she’s happy, but I can tell that she’s really not, and I believe that she would be better off back in her own community.”
At that moment, bells started ringing in my head. Here I am going to Brisbane on the Rebbe’s instructions without knowing why I am going there. And on the way, I meet a Christian woman who is telling me about a Jewish girl who left home.
Realizing what this could mean, I began to shake from excitement. I said to the woman, “You should know that I am going to Brisbane because a rabbi in New York told me to, after I asked him how I could find a lost Jewish girl.” The woman got so excited that she immediately offered to pay all costs involved, so that I could meet this girl – though I declined her offer.
From Brisbane, I flew to Cairns, and I walked into this dress shop. She wasn’t there at first, and I had to wait a little until she came back from her break. But the moment she walked in, I knew it was her! Her face hadn’t changed from the picture I was shown, just her outward appearance. Obviously, she was not dressed like a religious girl from Boro Park, and she was clearly surprised to see me there – a chasid visiting a women’s dress shop in a far-flung region of Australia. Trying to find the right words, I decided it was best to just tell her why I was there. She wasn’t too enthusiastic. She looked at me harshly and said, “Look, all I want – all I ever wanted – is a get! If you can help me with a get, then fine. But if not, then just leave me alone.”
I called the people back in New York, and they finally managed to arrange her get. While I was making these arrangements, I met with her again, and I said to her, “You know that getting divorced from your husband doesn’t mean you must divorce yourself from your family, from your community, from your religion, and from Hashem.” She heard me.
She came back to America and began attending Shabbos meals that were organized by a local Chabad group. Little by little, she became Torah-observant again. Today, she is married again and the mother of a beautiful family.
(adapted from www.JEmedia.org)