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The fact that we employed probably the most awkward daisy-chain of translators since the days Lewis and Clark didn’t help either. But after we Americans were done speaking in English to a French college student, who then discussed with his fellow expat in French how to best translate our words to Italian for the guard, and then they finally translated, we were told to drive around the corner and wait.
An assistant finally approached us, accepted our Shabbos gifts, and thanked us for our interest. We went back to Venice to help the rabbi and his wife prepare for the expected 300 guests that Friday night.
Several summers later, after being ordained a rabbi, I went on a similar challah and wine adventure. My friend Mendel and I were serving as roving rabbis as part of Chabad’s Merkos Summer Visitation Program. We were told that Henry Kissinger lived not too far from our base in Northwestern Connecticut.
Plugging the address into our GPS, we wound our way through a small country road and thick forests to the former Secretary of State’s estate. Suddenly, arriving at the crest of a small hill, we cleared the trees and were able to see the property itself.
The immaculate grounds, dotted with trees, ponds and rolling green hills, spread out before us like a painting. It occurred to me that despite the size of estate, what seemed to be the actual house of the former Secretary of State was in fact surprisingly small.
As we drove down the crest of the hill to the house, a silver Audi parked in the driveway began to drive towards us. Inside sat a dignified lady sporting large sunglasses and teased hair.
We pulled up next to her. She rolled down her window and motioned for us to do the same.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
What do you say when to someone when you look as if you were just plucked from the set of ‘Fiddler On the Roof?’ The obvious of course.