In our community we are all familiar with the activities of the Mitzvah Man. We are aware that people in Brooklyn and New Jersey know that the Mitzvah Man organization of volunteers is always ready to help those in need of help. The volunteers are there if someone is homebound and needs visits, or is hospitalized and needs visitations. They can be found helping to make a minyan at a mourner’s home, cooking for a family with an ill parent, or arranging rides to doctor appointments.
However, nothing prepared Mitzvah Man for a letter in the mail that was received one day from a state prison in California. The letter read as follows:
We are four Jewish prisoners in a prison in California and we happened to see a copy of Community Magazine with your ad stating that the Mitzvah Man is available for all your hesed needs.
The first thing that came to the Mitzvah Man’s mind was – how did a Community Magazineend up in a California state prison? What are the chances???
The Mitzvah Man read on. We don’t know if you can help us. We are in prison for armed robbery. However, we want to make teshuva. We need the following items. Please send used items and just send one of each. We will share.
The items requested were: one pair of tefillin, one siddur, one tallit, one kippah, one book of Tehillim, and one Hebrew and English Humash.
They ended the letter with the names and phone numbers of the warden and the Jewish chaplain for verification. Still taken aback from the request, the Mitzvah Man immediately called the phone numbers included in the letter and found out that these men were indeed Jewish and were in this California State Prison.
Then Mitzvah Man got to work writing a public post on the Mitzvah Man website describing the situation. Four Jewish men want to make teshuva. They are in a California State Prison and listed was their request. Within a very short time, responses started pouring in. However, whoever responded insisted everything should be new, and each man should have one for himself.
This meant that Mitzvah Man was able to provide four new pairs of tefillin, four new tallitotwith kurachas, four new siddurim, four new kippot, four books of Tehillim, and thirty Hebrew/English Humashim.
Within an hour Mitzvah Man had to remove the post, praising Hashem for this special community that was so happy to give whatever it would take to help other Jews, and help them with dignity.
Mitzvah Man was very pleased, and thought that now he would call the rabbi whose number he was given, ask him where to send the packages, and that would be the end of the story.
The rabbi very patiently answered Mitzvah Man’s call, and told him that he knows these men, but he is no longer the Chaplain at that prison. It is very common for packages to get lost in the vast prison. However, he will see what he is able to do. Mitzvah Man should send him the packages and he will try his best, but if he cannot do it, now that he is a rabbi in a shul, he requested that he give everything away to needy Jews.
What could the Mitzvah Man say? He agreed to the rabbi’s terms, praying that these men, imprisoned for armed robbery, would be able to do teshuva and use all the items bought for them.
Two weeks later Mitzvah Man gets a phone call from the rabbi. “I have great news. All four men are making teshuva, praying with tefillin, and learning Torah. They are changing their lives.”
Before Mitzvah Man could say anything, the rabbi told him that two days after the Mitzvah Man’s call the rabbi was transferred back to the prison where these men were prisoners. What are the chances???
The emotions felt by this rabbi were overwhelming. The rabbi was able to deliver the merchandise personally, and help these men to make teshuva.
“See how Hashem doesn’t let down the Jew who wants to do teshuva?” Mitzvah Man answered the rabbi. “We can’t put a price tag on it. Hashem saw our will and their will, and paved the way for success.”