I am a resident of Passaic, New Jersey, but my parents live in Riverdale.
This year, Pesach happened in the middle of a modern “plague” in a nowadays Egypt with stay-at-home orders and other restrictions that made our preparations for the holiday more complicated “than ever before,” as our president likes to say.
Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but not by much.
We needed to limit our shopping trips to buy food and other items for Pesach. We couldn’t get rid of chometz by burning, and most of all, we must stay home alone — no guests, even close relatives, could join our Seders.
With all restrictions on going out for shopping, it became challenging for them to get ready for Pesach.
They are from the generations of Holocaust survivors — who needed to flee from Nazis coming into their homes with their parents deep in the Soviet Union, to Siberia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and try to survive in a new place with nothing to feed the kids — left most stuff back and had no place to live. That taught them to be self-sufficient, and try not to ask anyone for help. Even their children.
In their early- to mid-80s, they found themselves in a high-risk category, which means better really not to go to stores and other places where people are congregating.
Even for me, the situation was pretty unusual. And I didn’t realize how serious it was, probably, until my friend caught the virus and suddenly passed away. It was a shock!
So when my mom told me that my father is planning to go shopping for Seder, I started to become uneasy with this idea. As it wasn’t clear before that it was going to happen.
So I started to think what to do, and if I should bring them what’s needed. I asked our Chabad shaliach in Passaic, Rabbi Michoel Fishman, if he knew Chabad people in Riverdale. He gave me the phone number of Rabbi Levi Chemtov of Chabad of Riverdale.
So I called, being a little skeptical as it was just two to three days before the holiday, all are busy, and most places are overwhelmed with orders and deliveries this year. I got a call back right away with locals’ numbers to call to order Pesach delivery.
Well, places were not receiving orders anymore. Rabbi Shemtov suggested to try again in the morning. No luck, either.
I decided I’ll go erev Pesach (the day before) myself. Why bother other people? And so I texted him that. “Wait!” Rabbi Shemtov texted right back. And then called.
“I am going to go to the Riverdale Market myself. Tell me what to get for them.” And I “placed an order by phone” this way — the rabbi in the store, and on a call, with me telling what’s needed and asking how many to get.
And he then delivered it himself to my parents.
My mom was amazed to see all the food coming to their door in the middle of a pandemic. All she could say is, “Wow! We never had such a Seder yet! It is a Pesach miracle!”
Of course, she thanked the rabbi.
When she called me, I was relieved to see all worked out beautifully.
I would like to express their and my heartfelt thank you to Rabbi Shemtov of Chabad of Riverdale. He proved his name right!
I recall a story about another rabbi who went by the same name, and who stopped the Yom Kippur prayer and went out of shul to cut wood to deliver to a poor woman who lived on the other side of the town, and had nobody to help her. Maybe you’d say it is not exactly the same, but to us, it feels like it.
Thank you, Rabbi Shemtov! Let Hashem bless you, and help in all that you do.