B"H. Beis Moshiach Magazine is powered by:




“No Time For Visions, Just A Lot Of Work To Be Done”
By Menachem Ziegelboim

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky is a prominent speaker and lecturer in Eretz Yisroel and the United States. In addition to officiating as rav of Rechovot, he is a member of the Beis Din Rabbanei Chabad of the Holy Land. * In part 1 of this exclusive interview with Beis Moshiach, Rabbi Gluckowsky reflects on his almost 20 years in the rabbinate and discusses the unique function of Chabad rabbanim in our times. 

“I first arrived in Eretz Yisroel as part of the group of shluchim the Rebbe sent to Eretz Yisroel in 5736-38 [1976-78],” Rabbi Gluckowsky begins. “Most of the shluchim were already married; I was still single. In 5739 I got married and went to live in Kfar Chabad, where I began to learn in kollel.

“As some of your readers know, the Rebbe wrote a letter to the shluchim on Rosh Chodesh Sh’vat 5739 with specific instructions as to what they were to accomplish in Eretz Yisroel. One of these directives was to give precedence to entering the rabbinate, which was something I was inclined to do anyway, though with certain reservations. I asked the mashpiim Reb Mendel Futerfas and Reb Zusha Wilamovsky for their advice, and they told me, ‘Safeik d’oraisa l’chumra – one should always be stringent whenever there’s a doubt.’ In other words, I should go ahead and enter the rabbinate, despite my reservations.

“At that time the former Lubavitcher Rav of Lod, Rabbi Elimelech Kaplan, had recently passed away, and they were looking for someone to take his place. When the Vaad that had been formed to find a successor heard that I was looking for a position in the rabbinate, they offered it to me. Reb Mendel Futerfas was actually the one who told me about it, as the Vaad had already consulted him. ‘They’re going to ask you to become rav in Lod,’ he told me. ‘Es iz a gutte zach [it’s a good thing], and you should go there.’ In those days the Lubavitcher community of Lod was a lot smaller than it is today, but the infrastructure was already there. They had already built a yeshiva and two schools for boys and girls. I thought to myself, ‘How can a young person like myself take on the rabbinate in such an established place?’ To me, it was a tremendous undertaking.

“One day the phone rang – it was them! They wanted to come see me and check me out. I ran straight to Reb Zusha der Partisan. I was very close with him. To me, Reb Zusha was head and shoulders above everyone else, and I respected his opinion greatly. He had no use for politics. Whatever the Rebbe said went, pure and simple. When I explained to him how nervous I was about taking on such a big responsibility, he replied, ‘At least listen to what they have to say. You can’t just rule it out. Write to the Rebbe and tell him your fears. But something like this cannot be decided alone.’

“A few days later a delegation from Shikun Chabad Lod arrived at my door. They made their offer, and I wrote to the Rebbe. Immediately, the rumor spread that I was taking the job.

“The rumor reached the ears of the mashpia Reb Arye Levi of Rechovot. Six months earlier I had been offered the rabbinate in Rechovot, but I had declined. When they heard that I was willing to go to Lod but not to Rechovot, they offered me the position again. So actually, when I wrote to the Rebbe, I mentioned that I had been offered two positions, one in Lod and one in Rechovot, and added that I was reluctant to accept the one in Lod because it was too heavy a burden. I also wrote that I felt I would be more at ease in Rechovot, as it was a new community and just beginning to develop. The Rebbe circled where I wrote about my feelings and answered, ‘You should do it, in a good and auspicious time.’

“The election to choose the new rav of Rechovot was held on 3 Menachem Av 5741. I arrived there a few months later, in Cheshvan 5742.”

Did you get a letter of congratulations from the Rebbe?

“Yes, but not right away. After I was offered the position, the Beis Din Rabbanei Chabad decided that there had to be an election, which was scheduled for after sundown on 2 Menachem Av 5741. I took this as an auspicious sign, as it was my grandfather’s yahrtzeit. My grandfather was a very esteemed rabbi, descended from a long line of rabbanim going all the back to Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa. I also remembered that the second of Av was the day on which the Rebbe Rayatz had visited Rechovot. In his diary, the Rebbe Rayatz describes how he observed the city after getting off the train. So to me, it was a yom segula.

“That Chol HaMoed Sukkos I arrived in shul and noticed an envelope in an old dusty mailbox that nobody used anymore. I was surprised that the mailman had even found it. When I opened the envelope I saw it was a letter from the Rebbe addressed to ‘the Chabad Synagogue of Rechovot and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky.’ The Rebbe had written: ‘With blessing for organizing everything well, and for success in the rabbinate and in your holy work.’

‘So that’s how it all began. Before I actually moved to Rechovot at the end of Cheshvan, I spent every Shabbos there in the homes of different families. That way I got to know everyone, and everyone got to know me.”

Early Days in the Rabbinate

“When I first arrived in Rechovot, the Chabad community consisted of only 18 families, most of whom were relatively young. It didn’t even have its own shul; that was still under construction when I got there. The only other Lubavitcher mosad was a preschool with three classes. That was it.”

Okay, when you had just arrived in a new town. Where did you begin?

“The first thing we did was to establish the Beis Chana School for Girls. I also gave shiurim on Shabbosim and during the week. I gave classes for men and women and also started counseling people privately.”

What were your official duties as rav?

“My most important duties were to answer shaalos, give shiurim, hold farbrengens, and in general, act as a spiritual leader. To a certain extent I also became involved in the development of the community.”

You were only in your twenties, yet you were in a position where you had to tell older people what to do. Did this make you uncomfortable?

“One of the best things about Rechovot is that everyone works together, rabbanim, businessmen, etc. I wasn’t making unilateral decisions; we all decided together and implemented our resolutions as a unified whole. I really think that is the key to success.”

What was your vision as new rav in the community?

“I didn’t have any visions. There was no time for visions, just a lot of work to be done. Reb Zusha had always told me, ‘Until there are educational institutions in a community, it isn’t a community. Build schools, and young couples will flock to your city.’ So our initial focus was on establishing an educational network.

“We started with a kindergarten for girls. Four years later we took a big leap and opened a first grade for boys, even though there were only four children in the class.”

A Community Takes Shape

The tactic of concentrating on schools first proved to be successful. More and more families moved to Rechovot and joined the Chabad community. Rechovot has a big advantage in being close to Kfar Chabad, Tel Aviv, and Nachalat Har Chabad. As a result of Rabbi Gluckowsky’s peulos, many families gradually became frum and even Chassidic.

“Today we have about a thousand children enrolled in our schools, bli ayin ha’ra,” Rabbi Gluckowsky says. “There are seven kindergartens, a cheider for boys, a yeshiva ketana, and a girls’ school in Nes Tziona, which is right nearby.”

The Chabad community of Rechovot is known for its high level of achdus. How do you achieve such unity with over a thousand members of Anash?

“When I look at people I see individuals, not just a group of people. This is something we learn from the Rebbe. The Rebbe is the leader of the entire Jewish people, but every Jew is a world in his own right. The first thing to do is to recognize peoples’ individuality and help them with their personal needs.”

Do you ever feel that the job is too big for one person?

“First of all, ‘G-d only asks according to one’s abilities.’ Hashem gives a person the strength he needs. But there are certain moments when I am particularly aware of my responsibility. For example, whenever I walk into a shul and see a big crowd, I daven for siyata di’shmaya to be able to do what I’m supposed to. It’s a very big responsibility, but a shliach has to be b’simcha. As the Rebbe said many times, the gematria of shliach is the same as samei’ach. Of course, some days are easier than others.

“When you stop and think about it deeply, you realize that what we’re doing is expanding the Rebbe’s kingship, whether it’s building mosdos or helping individuals with their problems. Every Chabad outpost is a part of the Rebbe’s domain. The function of a rav is to help wherever it’s necessary, whether it’s in regard to raising children or parnasa. When you see the fruits of your labors, it gives you the strength to continue.”

The Function of Chabad Rabbanim Vis-à-Vis
Eretz Yisroel

Rabbi Gluckowsky is not only the rav of a particular Chabad community, but the assistant secretary of the Beis Din Rabbanei Chabad of the Holy Land. In that capacity he is involved in a much wider range of issues than pertain to the residents of any one kehila.

We asked him to elaborate on what it means to be a Lubavitcher rav in general, and the special concerns of our times.

The Rebbe has spoken so much about the importance of Chabad rabbanim. But what exactly are they supposed to do other than pasken shaalos and reside over dinei Torah?

“The Rebbe once said that rabbanim are close to his heart because his father [Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson] was a rav. But of course, there’s much more to it than that. You simply cannot count the number of answers the Rebbe wrote on the significance of a rav and the function of the Chabad rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel. Most of these answers were addressed to Rabbi Yaroslavsky, the secretary of the Beis Din.

“The responsibility of the rabbanim is across the board and covers a wide range of topics. One of the most important aspects is chinuch, which the Rebbe always encouraged rabbanim to become involved in. This is also something that is close to me personally, as my late father was a melamed and mechanech for 46 years, and my mother also taught for over 30 years. I grew up in a household in which chinuch was always being discussed. Aside from our own schools in Rechovot, I’m also an administrator of the Reshet Oholei Yosef Yitzchak, an educational network with thousands of students across the country.

Rabbanim also have to be peacemakers, as it states, ‘Talmidei chachomim increase peace in the world.’ This includes resolving difficulties between man and his fellow man, providing counseling in family situations, and maintaining peace between man and wife.

“But the main job of rabbanim is to act as ‘manhigei ha’eida – leaders of the community.’ Every rav, especially a Lubavitcher rav, is obligated to tend to his flock and guide it in the right direction. Over the years this has included all kinds of crucial decisions. The Rebbe would often tell people to consult with Chabad rabbanim in answer to their personal questions. In the famous sicha of 2 Adar 5748, the Rebbe said that whenever a person has questions, both personal and general, he should go to his local Chabad rabbanim or Rabbinical Court.

“The Rebbe did not regard rabbanim as people who only render halachic decisions, but as navigators of their communities’ spiritual life. In 5751 the Rebbe wrote to the Beis Din of Eretz Yisroel: ‘The conduct of Anash is primarily in the hands of the Agudas Chassidei Chabad, as led by the rabbanim.’”

The Jewish people are now in a time of turmoil, with many important issues that must be resolved. Is it possible that the rabbanim aren’t speaking out loudly enough? Everyone seems to be so confused.

“The answer to that is complicated. It isn’t accurate to say that the rabbanim aren’t speaking out. There have been many instances where their voice was the decisive factor.

“At the same time, there are many issues that cannot be decided unilaterally. Even within a beis din, there is difference of opinion. Resolving problems can often be a long, drawn-out process. It goes without saying that everything must be based on the Shulchan Aruch and the Rebbe’s teachings. But the Torah also advises us to ‘turn it over and over, for everything is within it.’”

On Yud Sh’vat you gave a wonderful, inspiring speech. Why aren’t other rabbanim following your lead? They could do so much to lift people’s spirits.

“The answer is that we’re still in Galus. The darkness of Galus is not just external, out there in the world at large, but also within us. In fact, it starts with us. If the head is concealed, the whole body is concealed. The reality today is that the feeling of elevation we got from the Rebbe is b’helem, at least outwardly.”

How does this express itself?

“The thing we are lacking most b’galuy is the sense of certainty the Rebbe provided when we could see him in the physical sense. Whenever a problem arose that only the Rebbe could decide, he made the decision.

“The main problem today is this lack of clarity. There are so many issues at stake: shleimus ha’aretz, problems within Anash, etc. Everyone goes around quoting the Rebbe’s sichos; everyone tries to figure out what the Rebbe has to say about this situation. But everyone is quoting different sichos! The question is, in which direction are we supposed to go? Should we be flexible or inflexible?

“Take, for example, the issue of whether or not to start an all-out campaign for shleimus ha’aretz. Some people insist that we should, as it involves pikuach nefesh and the Rebbe spoke out about it on countless occasions. Others argue that we’re supposed to take care of Jews’ ‘spiritual pikuach nefesh,’ and coming out publicly for shleimus ha’aretz might drive away people who would otherwise be attracted to Chassidus. Our main function, they insist, is spreading the wellsprings outward.

“There’s a sicha of the Rebbe Rayatz from Pesach 5703 [1943] in which he speaks about the phrase in the Hagada: ‘This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in Egypt.’ According to Chassidus, ‘our forefathers’ refers to the level of chochma. ‘In Egypt,’ when we are in Galus, our intellectual capacity is essentially flawed, rendering us unable to distinguish between good and evil. We simply cannot tell the difference between what comes from kedusha and what comes from its opposite.

“The Rebbe Rayatz spoke about the tzaddik Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl, who was once given 300 rubles by an admirer for his personal use. Rebbe Nachum’s gabbai was delighted, expecting to be able to use the money for the upkeep of the Rebbe’s household. But the tzaddik gave it all away to a certain Chassid who had come to him crying that he needed 300 rubles.

“Rebbe Nachum later revealed that he had been torn: His first impulse had been to give the whole amount to the needy Chassid. But as soon as he resolved to do so, an inner voice whispered that maybe it was better to divide the money among many poor people rather than help just one. ‘At that moment,’ Rebbe Nachum said, ‘I realized that one voice was coming from the side of holiness, and the other was coming from the other side. But I couldn’t tell which was which! I closed my door and pondered the matter for hours before coming to a conclusion: The idea to divide the money was not coming from the side the holiness. And how did I know? Because originally, when I first thought of using the money myself, it had never occurred to me that 300 rubles was too much for one person… It was only after I had decided to give it away that the idea popped into my head.’

“The Rebbe Rayatz concludes that even though Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl was a complete tzaddik, he still had to resort to the intellect to figure out the truth.

“This intellectual discrimination was provided to us by the Rebbe MH”M during all the years we merited to see him. The Rebbe made all our important decisions. But the Rebbe Rayatz also says in the same sicha that the capacity for intellectual discrimination can be attained by learning Chassidus. What we have to do is study – really, really study deeply – the Rebbe’s teachings for our generation. But it takes a lot of effort and a lot of davening to be able to discern what the Rebbe wants. Do we or don’t we go ahead with the operation? Is it a good shidduch? Should Lubavitch get involved in the Israeli elections?”

(Click here to continue.)


Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky receiving dollars from the Rebbe MH”M
“The capacity for intellectual discrimination can be attained by learning Chassidus. What we have to do is deeply study the Rebbe’s teachings.”

Revving up the crowd at the Hakafos Shniyos celebration
“In Galus, our intellectual capacity is essentially flawed, rendering us unable to distinguish between good and evil.”

“I didn’t have any visions. There was no time for visions, just a lot of work to be done.”




“When I look at people I see individuals, not just a group of people.”


Home | Contents | Archives | Contact Us | Subscriptions | Submissions | Interactive | Chat | Advertise

©Copyright. No content may be reprinted without permission.