Yes, This is Chabad!
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Ginsberg

This 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.

On 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.

I 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.

I’ll 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.

Fortunately, 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.

I’m 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.

He 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."

The 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!"

I 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 explaining why.

He was offended by the question and responded, "What do you mean? Those are explicit directives from the Rebbe!"

I replied, "And to publicize about Moshiach and to be ‘crazy’ about Moshiach are not directives from the Rebbe?"

"What 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 not Chabad."

Over 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.

At 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:

R’ 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.

When 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.

Of 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.

In 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.

"I 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.

"The 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.

"I 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.’"

* * *

This 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."

A 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.

On 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 drinks tea.

Now 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?

This 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.

Scholars 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.

It 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 all this.

The 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.

What’s 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.

The 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."

Of 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!

The 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 raised.

As 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.

Our 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 prophecies.

We 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.

By 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 complete Redemption.

Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!


The bachur felt that flags, signs, announcements, and signatures are perhaps necessary and are connected to emuna, hiskashrus, etc., but "that’s not Chabad!" ...





He was busy all day. 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...





Our 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.


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