For Vadim, staying in Regina, SK just wasn't an option anymore.
The industry he works in was very slow and close to nothing back in Saskatchewan, and Vadim was looking towards B.C. where he would hopefully be able to find much better work.
I remember the first time we met.
There was a real sense of joy knowing that we'll be getting another Jewish family to join our community in Kelowna.
We welcomed him like one welcomes family of their own.
He was touched by our spirit, and deeply appreciative of our generosity and helping hand throughout various different developments.
He always gives back to the community as well, and we are extremely grateful for that.
One of the many wonderful interactions that we merited to have (so far), just happened this morning!
From the first time that we wrapped Tefillin together here in Kelowna, he wouldn't want to miss it ever again. Whenever we would meet, he asked to do a short prayer.
Eventually, after using my pair often, on January 28, Vadim purchased a brand new pair of his own. Business was tough then, but he still wouldn't settle for the cheapest pair of Tefillin. "For G-d, we need to get a little bit better quality" he made clear to me.
This morning he called me about an unrelated issue, and in conversation he said to me: "by the way, you should just know that I've been putting on my Tefillin every day since then. Besides for Shabbat of course".
"Yitzchok, that's really special!" I exclaimed, using his Hebrew name, which means and beams with joy as he does.
Now it was my turn to be touched.
It was so uplifting to know that we had a part in his new found habit of connecting with HaShem and to all our people, through a committed and set scheduled appointment, for 5-10 minutes daily.
On the phone I took the liberty to ask him:
"What's your inspiration to do this every day? What keeps you motivated?"
He didn't understand the question.
I asked again, this time in Hebrew, which he understands better.
He still didn't understand.
Finally, I said it slowly and carefully, and he listened to every word intently, until he finally said:
"What do you mean "what makes me motivated"?!?
"I'm a Jewish man!" He exclaimed.
"This is what Jewish men do every day, because that's what G-d asked us a favour to do for Him"
"Of course I will do it" He continued.
"That's it?" I asked, kind of excitedly, but a bit caught off guard as well.
"What do you mean "that's it?" came the rhetoric reply.
"THAT IS IT!!!" he concluded, with a firm and glad voice of faith and conviction!
We laughed and continued to schmooze for a bit.
Vadim was born in the former Soviet Union where he lived for most of his formative and young adult years.
He wasn't afforded the freedom to behave openly as a Jew, and to celebrate our cherished way of life as gifted to us in the Torah. Life cycle events from circumcision to wedding and everything Jewish in between simply were not possible, if he didn't want to get killed.
The sacrifices that Yitzchok made to fill his life with Torah and Mitzvohs upon his arrival in Israel, are absolutely astounding. All he continues to want is to serve his purpose by doing the will of his Maker. To make G-d's breath of life into him a successful investment, every day.
Tomorrow when I wrap my Tefillin, G-d willing, it will be with a fresh and deep humility.
With recognition of the ultimate reason to fulfill a Mitzvah; simply because that's His will.
"Rebbi said: ..... And from my students I learned more than from them all". (Talmud, Makot, 10a).
Vadim is not religious and neither am I.
He's a Jewish man, just like me, each of us bringing Divine light and purpose to the world, through our unique Jewish formula, on whatever level we can.