This is Chabad!
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Ginsberg
year there was going to be a siyum ha’Rambam in Teveria, and I
was unsure whether I should participate in it. The main reason I was unsure was
because the talmidim of the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad would not be
going, and my job requires me to be in the yeshiva. Furthermore, the talmidim
of my class had requested a farbrengen, not to mention the two classes on
the Dvar Malchus, which would be cancelled if I went.
the other hand, I knew that there wouldn’t be any other national siyum ha’Rambam,
and the Rebbe’s words about the importance of participating in the siyum
echoed in my mind. Before making my final decision, I took R’ Mendel’s
advice: when in doubt, ask a young person, someone who "ate fewer
potatoes" and is less coarse.
asked a young man, somebody familiar with what the Rebbe had said about this,
for his opinion. He told me that he thought I should go, so I did. Despite my
doubts, I felt that I had done the right thing.
mention that in addition to the reasons I mentioned above, I was also
uncomfortable with the terms some of the speakers had used about the Rebbe shlita
at previous national siyumim. I know that some people feel this is reason
enough not to participate, but since there was no other national siyum, I
felt it was impossible to forego something the Rebbe had asked for so strongly.
most of the participants hailed from Tzfas, and the atmosphere was Moshiach’dik.
Wherever you looked there were Moshiach flags and Baruch HaBa Melech
HaMoshiach signs. One wouldn’t dream of using those inappropriate terms at
such a gathering.
not usually in a place that shturms about inyanei Moshiach and Geula,
and so this atmosphere was truly refreshing. Upon my return I described the
experience to a student of the yeshiva. He is a Chassidishe bachur, a
positive person, a Tamim in the fullest sense of the word, who sits and learns nigleh
and Chassidus diligently, tries to daven at length, and works on his midos,
a sociable boy who is always ready to lend a hand.
believes the Rebbe is Melech HaMoshiach and that he is chai v’kayam.
He regularly attends the class on the Dvar Malchus, though as of yet he
still isn’t ready to publicly proclaim "Yechi."
bachur’s reaction to my description of the signs and posters was
lukewarm. He felt that it wasn’t "Chabad" – that Chabad is the
study of Chassidus, learning the Dvar Malchus, davening at length,
avoda b’iskafia, tikkun ha’midos, and even explaining
that the Rebbe is Moshiach and is chai v’kayam – but the most
important part is the explanation. Flags, signs, announcements, and signatures
are perhaps necessary and are connected to emuna, hiskashrus etc.,
but "that’s not Chabad!"
answered him with a question. Is going on Mivtza T’fillin Chabad? Maybe
Chabad is only learning and davening, not standing on roadways with t’fillin
and traveling in tanks, activities that promote Torah and mitzvos without
was offended by the question and responded, "What do you mean? Those are
explicit directives from the Rebbe!"
replied, "And to publicize about Moshiach and to be ‘crazy’ about
Moshiach are not directives from the Rebbe?"
are you comparing? asked the bachur. "The Rebbe stressed learning inyanei
Moshiach and Geula, living with Moshiach in an internal and real way,
and explaining this to others. Perhaps signs are also necessary, but that’s
not the ikar (primary). Others may emphasize signs and flags, but that’s
two weeks have since passed, and I haven’t calmed down yet. I was quite
wounded. Although he has apologized many times, I am still aggravated. What
bothered me was not that he said what he did, but the fact that he could think
such thoughts. Unfortunately, I don’t think he is the only one.
a farbrengen in Kfar Chabad on Shabbos VaEira (with shaliach Rabbi
Shalom Dov Ber Kalmanson of Cincinnati), R’ Michel Vishedsky related the
following story about R’ Mendel, which will clarify the point:
Mendel Futerfas was a close friend of my father, the mashpia R’ Moshe, a’h.
In his youth, R’ Mendel lived in Chernowitz, and he arranged work for me there
with a local gentile. In addition, he made sure that I would have a two-hour
break when I would go to his house to eat.
I would go to R’ Mendel’s house, the food was already on the table. I would
wash my hands and R’ Mendel would sit near me and read interesting selections
from sichos, letters, and notes of the Rebbe Rayatz.
course, at that time in Russia, nobody dreamed about printing this material.
These were handwritten copies, and unfortunately, since they could not be
printed, many precious treasures were lost.
one of these notes, the Rebbe Rayatz wrote that his father, the Rebbe Rashab,
once told him the following: "Today two Chassidim came for yechidus.
One gave me much aggravation, while the other gave me great nachas. The
first was a great rav, a lamdan and Chassid, a maskil and oveid
Hashem, who davened at length, was G-d fearing, etc. This rav told
me his daily schedule, which was replete with Torah and avodas Hashem. He
rose at three in the morning, learned Chassidus for hours and then davened for
hours. He barely ate anything before people began coming to him with questions
in halacha and problems he had to solve. He was busy all day and had no
time to rest. In addition, he had shiurim in nigleh and Chassidus.
It was only at 12:00 a.m. that he was able to relax, drink a cup of tea, and
rest a bit.
was very pained by what this Chassid told me. This Jew worked so hard on his avodas
Hashem throughout the entire day, in learning, davening, in
fulfilling mitzvos, in helping others, etc., but what did he yearn for?
Those few minutes of peace and quiet, that cup of tea and a little rest.
second Chassid who described his day to the Rebbe Rashab was a simple man. He
also got up at 3:00 a.m., but he didn’t go to shul to learn Torah. He
went out to work among the gentiles who lived in the surrounding villages. He
bought and sold from one gentile and then went to the next one. Sometime during
the day he found a place in some gentile’s house to daven Shacharis,
and you can well imagine what kind of davening it was. He went from one
non-Jew to the next all day until it grew dark. Exhausted, he returned home
where he was busy with his children, so that he didn’t have a moment’s rest.
Only at 12:00 a.m. did he find a few minutes to open a Tanya and try to
read or learn a little, with his last strength. ‘I reach the words "and
the second soul in Israel is a veritable portion of G-d above," and I
remember that I too have a soul which is a "veritable part of G-d
above," but where am I and where is my neshama?’ and he burst into
tears in the middle of the yechidus.
couldn’t refrain from crying along with him, said the Rebbe Rashab, but from
that Chassid I had great nachas. Here was a Jew who was busy all day and
had no time for Torah or t’filla, but what does he yearn for? Those few
moments in which he thinks about the G-dly soul which is a ‘veritable portion
of G-d Above.’"
story, like many we have related in this column, expresses one of the principles
of Chassidus. Action is the main thing, and Chassidus emphasizes this
tremendously. But the true connection a Jew has with Hashem is not based on how
much Torah he learned and how many mitzvos he did or how many
transgressions he did. As the Rambam writes: "This is not based on the
number of merits and sins, but on their relative value. There is a merit which
balances many sins...and there’s a sin which balances many merits...only
Hashem can weigh it; He knows how to measure merits and sins."
Jew might be very simple and busy with lowly matters of this world. His
connection to spirituality might be tenuous, but his connection to Hashem might
be far deeper and real than that of a Torah scholar who serves Hashem his entire
life. Externally, hein worse shape, but where is he really? He is in those few
minutes of Tanya he reads with difficulty.
the other hand, a Jew can be a scholar and serve Hashem his entire life; his
connection with supernal realms of G-dliness and holiness is great, but who
knows how truly connected to G-d he is? Externally he seems most elevated, but
where is he really? He is in those few minutes during which he relaxes and
you might ask, what’s so terrible about drinking tea and resting after a hard
day’s work in avodas Hashem? The answer is that obviously there is
nothing wrong with a cup of tea and resting after exerting such effort. The
question is not whether he drinks tea or not, but where he’s really at. Is his
true place those moments during which he engages in avodas Hashem to the
best of his ability? Perhaps his real place is in those moments of physical
pleasure after all that avoda?
bittul, putting oneself aside, is sometimes more readily found in simple
people than in scholars or even maskilim and ovdim. It is the
simple Jew who understands and feels how far he is from the G-dly truth, how
little he is worth, how he doesn’t understand anything, how he doesn’t have
genuine feelings for Hashem. He thinks he is not on the level of experiencing
anything real. This is why he yearns for that G-dly truth and holds fast to the
"doorknob" of the Rebbe MH"M by writing to the Rebbe, traveling
to the Rebbe, listening to a tape of the Rebbe, watching a video or seeing a
picture of the Rebbe, and thinking about the Rebbe at every opportunity. He
knows: "While I think about the Rebbe and look at his picture, the Rebbe is
looking at me." Obviously he does whatever he can, even in a simple,
superficial way, to fulfill the Rebbe’s directives, and to behave the way the
Rebbe wants us to behave. He certainly doesn’t mix his ideas into what the
Rebbe said, weighing what’s more important and what’s less important.
slake their thirst for G-dliness by studying Torah and davening, and
their thirst and yearning for the G-dly truth is not that great. It’s possible
that everything they learn and do in their avodas Hashem only enlarges
their metziyus and their yeshus (ego), the feeling that they are
truly worth something. Every page of Gemara learned, all the working on midos,
etc. – instead of drawing them closer to Hashem (which is only accomplished
through bittul), can serve as tools of the evil inclination to give them
the feeling of how great they are.
is not for naught that the evil inclination is called ‘the clever one.’ The
inclination is right there, even for somebody in the world of Chassidus. It
yells out: I learned Chassidus together with you. I traveled with you to the
Rebbe. I go along with you on shlichus. I work along with you to fix your
midos, on bittul, and hiskashrus. I am a full partner in
Rebbe explains that the inclination doesn’t come to prevent a person from
doing mitzvos. On the contrary, he tells him to do mitzvos! I
agree that you should do mitzvos; it’s wonderful.
the problem with this? The problem is that the inclination is involved and has
an opinion! When the inclination decides the time has come to carry out his
plan, he already has a foothold.
inclination says, "What? This is not Chabad. It’s true that this is ‘also’
a directive of the Rebbe, and we saw the Rebbe have mesirus nefesh
to encourage us to sing "Yechi" for over a year. It’s true
that the Rebbe repeated how important it is to ‘announce and proclaim,’ and
not just to explain. It’s true that the Rebbe ‘also’ encouraged signs,
flags, advertisements, but that’s not Chabad. Why do I think so? Because I
think, I understand and I feel, and I really live with the Rebbe, and these
things seem less important to me."
course, we are asked to learn and explain inyanei Moshiach and Geula,
especially the Dvar Malchus, and we are asked to "live with
Moshiach" with a pnimiyus. But our attitude should not be (nebach)
that this is "also" necessary, but that it’s just as important. Our
attitude should be that I do it not because I understand and I decided to do it,
but because the Rebbe said so! It’s the Rebbe and only the Rebbe who decides
what Chabad is or is not!
only thing that immunizes us from all the impurities of the world is the
"jug of oil sealed with the seal of the High Priest" – hiskashrus
and utter bittul – knowing that I don’t understand anything and
don’t feel anything, which is why I must hold fast to the
"doorknob," even when it doesn’t quite fit into the way I was
in the story, a person can learn and daven and fulfill all other aspects
of avodas Hashem. If he doesn’t "go with the Rebbe," then
when his previous conceptions don’t fit in with everything he’s learned and
absorbed until now, he can be much farther from the truth than a simple Jew who
wholeheartedly goes with the Rebbe, even if the latter thinks he’s very far.
mission at this time, when the entire world cries out for true leadership, is to
bring the light of Moshiach to the world, for only Moshiach can take us out of
our present situation. Our job is to bring the world to Moshiach so that they
accept his malchus, follow his directives and advice and believe in his
also have to reach out to gentiles and teach them the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei
Noach, and to inspire them to ask for the Geula, too. Although
crowning the king pertains to Jewish souls, this quality is best expressed when
they teach it to the rest of the world.
resolving to put ourselves aside and to be utterly devoted to the Rebbe, we will
merit to "zehn zich mit’n Rebbe’n" with the true and
Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!