Every year, thousands of guests
crowd their way into the court of the Rebbe MH"M who lives in Lubavitch – Crown
Heights. * They have several opportunities to experience the neighborhood of the
king – family hospitality, shopping, visits at the various Chabad institutions.
* Thousands more of our fellow Jews come from far and wide at simchas beis
HaShoeiva at the corner of Montgomery and Kingston. * It is appropriate in
connection with the upcoming community elections to stop and take a look at the
special quality of this community as brought in the Rebbe’s teachings. *
Excerpts from a soon-to-be published book on Crown Heights by Rabbi Yosef Reizes
A TRUE EXAMPLE OF A COMMUNITY
Crown Heights is not just a special neighborhood; it is a
neighborhood that possesses qualities of a general nature. Thus, the best
possible services should be provided specifically to residents of Crown Heights.
This community must be an example for all other communities throughout the
For example, the educational institutions in this community
should be the best in the world – from kindergarten to yeshiva and
seminary. The stores should provide a variety of products at good prices, with
convenient services. The synagogues in the community should be a source of
grandeur and splendor – "This is my G-d and I will glorify Him" – both
materially (clean and organized) and spiritually (offering daily prayer
services, Torah classes, farbrengens, etc.) The mikvaos in the
community should be the finest. The appearance of the streets and houses should
be exemplary. Public services such as the Community Council, the
Representatives’ Organization, Hatzoloh, the Rabbinical Court, and the various
free loan funds, etc., should be second to none.
In the summer of 5745, the Rebbe mentioned that the Agudas
Chassidei Chabad Library should include books of all types in order to bring
honor to Lubavitch. This principle – that the community should have the best of
everything in order to bring honor to its name – applies to all other resources
that should be available to the community, as well.
In the past few years we have seen improvements in building
and construction in the community. Large, attractive educational institutions
(such as Oholei Torah, the Chomesh Campus, the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva
dormitory, Tzivos Hashem, etc.), newly renovated synagogues and residential
buildings throughout the neighborhood have sprouted in a fashion most fitting
for the king’s community. We hope that this phenomenon will continue and
increase, just as any matter of holiness should proceed from strength to
strength, from good to better, etc.
This is what the concept of b’ofen ha’miskabel (in an
acceptable manner) means. In order for a Jew to receive the entire message of
chassidus, Moshiach, etc., he must see the king’s palace in its proper
glory. If a visitor were to see a place unfitting to carry the Rebbe’s name, it
would simply prevent him from accepting any explanations about the Rebbe and
Chabad. This is the idea of b’ofen ha’miskabel – a path through which one
can properly receive the message we want to convey.
"IF THEY ARE CONNECTED TO ME" – THEY BELONG TO THE AUTHORITY
OF THE RAV OF CROWN HEIGHTS
The words of the Rebbe convey an astounding message about his
relationship towards this community:
The Crown Heights community has a primary significance not
just due to the qualities and merits mentioned above, but because it has a special
energy which cannot be found in any other community in the world. A discussion
in the sicha of Shabbos Parshas VaYishlach 5740 (Sichos Kodesh
5740, Vol. 1, p. 536 – "Yechi HaMelech," p. 24) concerns the establishing
of a public fast over the length of the exile. This is how the Rebbe worded his
decision to go along with the fast even though fasting is not emphasized in
"Concerning the length of the exile of so many
years…particularly, throughout the generations there were many Jews who
literally sacrificed their lives in sanctification of G-d’s name out of love and
gladness of heart…and even so, the exile continues. We are in a frightening and
threatening situation, where the darkness of the exile is doubled and redoubled,
both materially and spiritually.
"It’s been said [sicha from Motzaei Shabbos Parshas
Chayei Sara] that although according to chassidus there is no need for
fasting, etc…if the rabbanim decide to declare a part-day fast due to the
gravity of the situation, we would join it.
"This is neither an order nor a command, and I am not sending
representatives to the rabbanim to decide this. As was said then, I do
not want to cause pain to any Jew, even the pain of missing one meal.
"But since there are rabbanim who have decreed a
part-day fast, we therefore join it with all that accompanies it.
"Regarding residents of this community, it is understood that
this applies to them, because the mara d’asra of this community has
decided this way… And concerning those who reside elsewhere, whether on a
mission from G-d or by Divine providence, who are thus not subject to the
rabbinical decrees of the mara d’asra of this community – yet, since they
are connected to me, and this is my conduct, and since I am subject to the
authority of the mara d’asra, then this matter applies to them, as well.
And probably they will let them know about this.
"…and all this is particularly relevant to Jews living in
In this sicha, the idea that the community of Crown
Heights has general relevance is expressed clearly; everything that happens here
is related to everyone who is connected to the leader of the generation, who
lives in this community.
The Rebbe emphasizes that the decision to fast is also
relevant to those on shlichus in other locations, particularly those [far away]
in Eretz HaKodesh.
One rav made the decision to fast – the rav of
the community – and he was not publicly elected. The Rebbe’s communication about
the fast was expressed to the entire community in a most extraordinary manner –
"I am subject to the authority of the mara d’asra." The community should,
therefore, respond to the decrees of the present rabbanim, who were
elected by the entire community. The Rebbe shlita emphasized the force
this possesses in his holy sichos on numerous occasions.
In another sicha (Shabbos Parshas MiKeitz 5731), the
Rebbe emphasizes that the merit and obligation to assist in the strengthening of
the community applies even to someone who does not live here, even if he lives
overseas. To a certain extent, such people have an even greater responsibility
than do the actual residents. Residents strengthen the community by living here,
even without taking any special action. A non-resident can contribute only
through actual deeds intended to help strengthen the neighborhood.
"TO BEHOLD THE PLEASANTNESS OF HASHEM AND TO VISIT IN HIS
The roles of the residents of Crown Heights and the
"emissaries of the king" are distinct: The residents of Crown Heights have
merited the great and wonderful privilege to visit the king’s courtyard often,
as it is written, "to dwell in the House of G-d all the days of my life to
behold the pleasantness of G-d and to visit in His Sanctuary." Shluchim,
on the other hand, display the greatest self-sacrifice by giving up this
privilege ("zich avekgerisn fuhn 770"), traveling long distances in order
to publicize the exalted name of the king – "And he called there in the name of
Hashem, G-d of the world." The Sages interpret, "Don’t say ‘va’yikra’ (he
called), but ‘va’yakri’ (he caused others to call), which teaches that he
caused all Creation to recognize Hashem."
But both roles are complementary. When each side fulfills its
obligation fully and faithfully, each has a part in building the kingdom of
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to see what the
Rebbe wrote: "I’m excited about Crown Heights...despite the terrible icy
coldness of Anash regarding this."
So when they work in matters of the community and remove the
"terrible ice," the saying of our Sages comes to pass – "I have given no
greatness except for the sake of Israel."
TO MELT THE "TERRIBLE ICE"
Rabbi Yosef Reizes discusses his upcoming book about Crown
Rabbi Reizes, what can you tell us about the book you are
about to publish about the neighborhood? What does the book contribute to
readers’ understanding about Crown Heights?
Rabbi Reizes: Many people have complained about the
neighborhood because of a lack of knowledge, and this book fills that gap. The
book reveals two things: a) specifics heard directly from the Rebbe MH"M via
answers, instructions, and special sayings and expressions that testify to his
love and adoration of the neighborhood; and b) various discussions about
community leadership. The book discusses aspects of neighborhood concern,
including such topics as giving honor to the rabbanim and fulfilling the
relevant sections of Shulchan Aruch.
A shliach who is looking to show the Rebbe’s
neighborhood to his supporters or one who is waiting at any moment for the
Rebbe’s hisgalus, or even someone who hopes that the neighborhood will be
able to satisfy his physical needs.
How does the book fulfill the need that you indicated?
The book provides a large quantity of information on this
topic. It encourages people to get out from the "terrible ice" in their
relationship to the neighborhood, as the Rebbe expressed it.
You are, essentially, the chairman of the Netzigim
Representatives Organization. I get the impression that this book gives serious
consideration to this organization. Why is this organization so important?
This organization was created specifically to publicize the
expressions of the will of the Rebbe concerning community matters since 5746.
The Rebbe made it quite clear how to properly deal with the pressing needs of
the community. The Rebbe explained that the elections are a vehicle for the
community to express its opinion on how certain matters must be conducted, and
encouraged the election process from start to finish. The book clarifies how
this organization is based on Torah and brings the Rebbe’s will into force by
revealing the necessity and importance of the matter.
It is no secret that there are complaints against the
organization. People want to know who elected you and who decided which person
serves as spokesman.
The book explains this point at considerable length. If I
could summarize it in a few words, the book defines how our organization has the
most legitimate mandate possible. It represents the community and speaks for its
residents in a number of ways.
Since 5746, there have been four Community Council elections.
Nevertheless, some claim, perhaps justifiably, that we have not seen any drastic
improvements in the community. If so, what was the point of having these
elections every few years?
The book suggests a solution to this difficulty, which in my
opinion will solve the root of the problem. In addition, you must remember that
it is impossible to solve problems magically overnight. Everything is a process
that takes time. With the help of the community and the boundless prayers of the
Rebbe MH"M, we can achieve amazing results.
I’m sure that many among Anash have the following
question: What essentially is the connection between a Chabad chassid and
the community in which he lives? To put it simply, why should all the internal
concerns and problems of the city where I live matter to me?
You’ve touched upon a basic and important point. The fact
that you have visited here at least five times in the last ten years while I
have never visited your city at all demonstrates clearly that this is a general
neighborhood and you have a part in it. You came here to see the Rebbe – and
this just shows how much this neighborhood belongs to every chassid.
The entire aspiration of a shliach is eventually to
bring his friends and supporters to this neighborhood. He hopes that not only
will his guests not, ch’v, be embarrassed by the neighborhood, but on the
contrary – that he will be positively impressed.
But that can’t happen by itself. It requires tremendous
investment. Anyone privileged to be called a chassid has a part in the
great responsibility of strengthening the neighborhood.
This is besides his obligation as a chassid to be
involved in whatever the Rebbe involves himself. So when the Rebbe writes, "I am
excited about Crown Heights," the chassid will automatically be excited,
as well. The same principle applies regarding Yerushalayim. No Jew would think
of saying, "What do I care about Yerushalayim? I live in London." Everyone who
observes Torah and fulfills mitzvos prays facing Yerushalayim and
mentions Yerushalayim in every prayer. We see how much this is relevant to Crown
Heights, our Yerushalayim.
The Rebbe stated clearly that whoever lives in the
neighborhood has, to a certain extent, an even greater responsibility to it. By
living here, the resident strengthens the neighborhood. Whoever does not live
here strengthens it only with special activities on special occasions.
New Community Council elections are upcoming. One of the main
jobs of the Representatives’ Organization is to supervise the elections. What
can we expect from the new elections?
With G-d’s help, we will sanctify Hashem’s name, the name of
Lubavitch, the Rebbe, and the neighborhood. In the sicha of 15 Tammuz
5745, the Rebbe used the term "kiddush shem ha’sh’chuna." May we elect
strong candidates for the Community Council and for the management of the
Central Lubavitch Synagogue – 770. There is an answer from the Rebbe mentioning
the privilege of serving on the Vaad HaKahal. I don’t think there’s a
need to explain the tremendous merit and honor of being one of the gabbaim
of 770. The Rebbe always emphasized that "gabbai" stands for "Ana
B’Ko’ach Gedulas Yemincha" (Please, with the strength and greatness of Your
My personal opinion is that this merit applies not just to
those who are elected; even being a candidate is a great privilege. Anyone who
is a candidate makes the election process possible. The Rebbe said about the
elections: "I am turning away from my pursuits..."
Will there be any unique surprises in the upcoming elections?
The Representatives Organization is discussing possible
changes in the election format. Right now there are no surprises in store, but
the community would be informed about any changes.
Rabbi Reizes, the coming of Moshiach and the Redemption is
about to happen any moment. Why should we koch in it if it will all be
null and void soon anyway?
Matters of holiness will never be nullified. Even though it
seems to be a secular matter, the Rebbe explains in the sicha of Parshas
Acharei-K’doshim 5751 that secular business will not be nullified. Thus,
certainly holy and halachic matters will not be nullified. The book
explains how every representative institution is based upon clear halachos,
especially those in which the Rebbe involved himself unceasingly.
In conclusion, I want to thank everyone who has participated
in our organization, especially the deputy chairman, Rabbi Bentzion (Benny)
Raskin; Rabbi Moshe Heber, secretary; Rabbi Tzvi Russell, treasurer; Rabbi
Mendel Goldstein, in charge of taking of the minutes at organizational meetings.
May their full salaries come straight from Heaven.