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“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. * Part 2 of an exclusive interview with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky, Mara D’Asra of Rechovot and a member of the Beis Din Rabbanei Chabad of Eretz Yisroel.

(Click here for Part 1)

When Should Rabbanim Speak Up?

There are some people who criticize the rabbanim for not protesting enough against the Israeli Government about shleimus ha’Aretz. In your opinion, do you think such criticism is justified?

“First of all, it just isn’t true. The rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel are protesting against giving back land, as mandated by the Shulchan Aruch and in accordance with the Rebbe’s wishes. Who is to say that being more strident would achieve better results? Besides, everyone knows where Chabad stands on the issue.

“The rabbanim aren’t sitting back with their hands folded. We are constantly keeping tabs on what’s going on. You have to know when taking action can help and when it can hurt. It’s a delicate situation.

“One thing I’ve wanted to do for a long time is implement a full-fledged media campaign to spread awareness of the Rebbe’s statements on shleimus ha’Aretz. It would be wonderful if we could find someone willing to sponsor such a campaign, and the rabbanim would help. I myself have approached several people, but I haven’t found the right individual or individuals yet. People have to know what the Rebbe said if public opinion is going to change.”

Given that we aren’t getting answers from the Rebbe in the usual manner these days, are the rabbanim having to answer more shaalos than before?

“I would say that the answer is yes. There are more shaalos today than before. Not long ago I got a phone call at two o’clock in the morning from a woman whose father was in the emergency room. The doctors wanted to perform an operation, and she wouldn’t give her permission unless she had a clear psak din. There are also many problems with shidduchim.

“The rabbanim try to render decisions according to the Shulchan Aruch and the Rebbe’s directives, and we pray for siyata di’Shmaya.”

Do you ever stay up at night worrying about a psak din you’ve issued?

“Sometimes. Some shaalos are worthy of staying up all night over because they’re so critical. There are many crucial issues that must be decided nowadays.”

Answers Through the Igros Kodesh: When and How

Many people are confused about the whole issue of consulting the Rebbe MH”M through the Igros Kodesh. When should they ask? What kinds of questions are proper? When is an answer an answer, and when is it not an answer?

“There’s a certain sense of unease about writing to the Rebbe though the Igros Kodesh. In general, I would say that people’s hesitations fall into several main categories. The first is whether or not it’s allowed according to the Shulchan Aruch. Whenever someone raises this question, I explain that the concept itself is one hundred percent sanctioned by both halacha and Jewish custom. It just isn’t true to say that it’s contrary to Jewish law. Throughout our history the biggest gedolim have described such practices. I don’t want to get into all the involved halachos, but suffice it to say that there’s a definite source for it.

“Then there’s a faction that claims it’s a new phenomenon that was never done with previous Rebbeim. To them I say that they’re not entirely correct. Lots of Chassidim used to ask the Rebbe questions by opening a Tanya and looking at the right hand side of the page for the answer. This was especially common when people were geographically separated from the Rebbe.”

But some Chassidim still insist that the only way to make decisions is by going according to the Rebbe’s explicit statements, asking a rav or mashpia, or consulting with a “doctor who is a friend.”

“In a very early letter, the Rebbe answers an elder Chassid who had asked why the Rebbe gives brachos to people who accept upon themselves the observance of a particular mitzva, such as tefillin or mezuza. (In fact, back then this was a very new, radical thing to do!) The Rebbe basically answered him, ‘Why not? Especially as it leads to practical results, and many Jews are strengthened in Torah and mitzvos.’ Then the Rebbe asked him, ‘And how many Jews have you brought closer to Yiddishkeit? And how many have you connected to the Rebbe?’

“In my opinion, the same thing holds true with the Igros Kodesh. Even though we aren’t receiving answers from the Rebbe in the conventional manner, we see how the Rebbe finds many ways to stay connected with his Chassidim, of which the Igros Kodesh is only one. This is especially true when we see how many hundreds and thousands of Jews it strengthens in Torah and mitzvos. How many people have begun to put on tefillin, keep kosher, have their mezuzos checked and started learning Chassidus, all because of answers they received through the Igros?

“You have no idea how many Jews are writing to the Rebbe though the Igros and acting on the Rebbe’s advice about really crucial decisions in their lives. I’m not even talking about Lubavitchers. I mean from chareidim to Jews at the opposite end of the spectrum.

“In the introduction to Volume 12 of the Igros Kodesh it explains that one of the objectives in publishing the Rebbe’s letters is the same as the Alter Rebbe’s reason for writing the Tanya: Because the Alter Rebbe couldn’t receive everyone personally for yechidus, he was writing the Tanya ‘to provide counsel and solutions to all inquiries.’ The Igros Kodesh provide answers to our questions in the same way. The Rebbe was well aware of what was written in that introduction and approved it.

“When a person gets an answer through the Igros, especially an extremely exact response to a specific question, he feels the Rebbe’s love for him very openly. He can sense the Rebbe’s lack of limitations and perceives Divine providence in his life. Who would want to take such a thing away from Jews? It is the Rebbe speaking to him, not a fantasy or an illusion! Is hashgacha pratis a fantasy or illusion? Denying that the Rebbe can answer questions this way is denying the Rebbe’s own words: ‘the Rebbe will find the means through which to answer.’”

Why did this practice surface davka in the time of the Rebbe MH”M, as opposed to the other Rebbeim?

“The Rebbe explained in his very first maamer upon accepting the nesiyus that the function of our generation is to draw the Divine presence completely down to earth. The Rebbe’s approach has always been to bring things down to their most practical level. For example, the Gemara explains that the pasukAnd the peoples of the earth will see that G-d’s name is upon you, and they will fear you’ refers to the tefillin shel rosh. It was already written in the Gemara, but the Rebbe brought it down and turned it into an official mivtza that had an actual effect on the enemies of the Jewish people. Or take Mivtza Mezuza. Chazal had already told us that a mezuza ‘guards the doorways of Israel.’ But the Rebbe didn’t let their words stay on the pages of a book. Today everybody knows that if G-d forbid there’s a problem, the first thing to do is check the mezuzos. Theory isn’t enough for the Rebbe; it has to be brought down into practical action.

“The same concept applies to the Igros. By Kiddush Levana [Sanctification of the Moon] we say the pasuk, ‘David Melech Yisroel is living and enduring.’ The Rebbe brought this down into practical terms, so that everyone can see what ‘chai v’kayam’ actually means. How does this express itself? Whenever someone is confused, the Rebbe answers him in a simple, straightforward way, which makes the concept of ‘chai v’kayam’ into something tangible.

“When you, a Chassid, open an Igros and get an answer from the Rebbe, it makes you feel the Rebbe’s proximity in the literal sense. The Rebbe is listening to your thoughts and understands your difficulty. That is why it is precisely the Rebbe who is demonstrating this, and why the feeling of ‘chai v’kayam’ is much stronger now than with any of the previous Rebbeim.”

Are you supposed to ask the Rebbe every time you have a problem?

“I always say that the Rebbe relates to each of his Chassidim according to his individual needs. It states in Tehillim, ‘You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.’ G-d provides for every living creature according to its specific requirements. Take, for example, a person whose most pressing problem in life is buying a new car. If he asks the Rebbe, the Rebbe will answer him. There’s a letter in which the Rebbe advises someone not to buy the very newest model because it’s too expensive, and suggests that he purchase the previous year’s model, which is also of very good quality and a whole lot cheaper…

“The Rebbe is the biggest oheiv Yisroel in the world, and he is interested in every single Jew’s situation and concerns. So whenever a Jew feels that he needs the Rebbe’s answer to a certain question – even though someone else might consider it trivial – he shouldn’t hesitate to ask.

“On the other hand, it isn’t something to be abused. We have to remember that it’s an inyan of kedusha, and we shouldn’t rush to ask the Rebbe about every little thing. The whole idea of writing to the Rebbe now is the same as it always was.”

Let’s say a person gets an answer from the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh. Is that answer obligatory upon all Chassidim?

“I know of several cases where someone received an answer, then went to the head of a mosad and expected him to comply with it. But you simply can’t do this! The Rebbe wrote many times that what he answers one person does not necessarily apply to another.

“Unfortunately, there are some people who take the answers they get and use them as justification for whatever they already wanted to do before writing to the Rebbe. But I’m sorry to say that twisting the Rebbe’s words out of context or trying to fit them into one’s own agenda is nothing new…”

What about the argument that consulting the Rebbe through the Igros goes against the directive to “make for yourself a Rav”?

“The Rebbe said that everyone should have his own rav and mashpia. This is an explicit horaah that should be followed without question. If people are unwilling to do this, they’re not doing what the Rebbe wants.

“At the same time, if a person is having a problem, there’s no contradiction in asking the Rebbe for an answer through the Igros Kodesh. One of the main functions of any rav or mashpia is to strengthen the connection between Chassid and Rebbe, and help the person understand what the Rebbe wants from him.”

When can a Chassid rely on an answer through the Igros, and when does he have to go to rav? Or maybe he should go to a rav every time he gets an answer…

“It’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer to your question. In general, there are two ways of doing things. One way is to go first to the mashpia and then, if he determines that more clarification is needed, write to the Rebbe. But sometimes it works the other way. A person will get an answer from the Rebbe, then show it to his mashpia to help him understand what it means.

“It isn’t written in stone. I would hesitate to tell anyone that it has to be done in a certain way. If a person wants to consult his friends or his mashpia rather than write to the Rebbe, that’s fine. Isn’t that what the Rebbe always advised, to ‘consult with friends who are knowledgeable’? Then there are people who insist on getting a ‘direct’ answer from the Rebbe, which they feel is only available through the Igros. But, of course, you can’t then turn around and try to manipulate the answer you got after the fact.

“Reb Zushe der Partizan once said that some people think that the Rebbe sits a whole day in 770, but that it isn’t true. The Rebbe is in 770 only when he comes down to daven; when he’s in his room he could be in Australia, in Eretz Yisroel, or in South America. The Rebbe is in whatever place a Chassid needs him to be.

“You can’t limit the Rebbe by giving him an address. A Jew who wants to feel the Rebbe’s closeness by writing to him through the Igros should do so. Another Jew, who thinks that the Rebbe’s answer will come through his mashpia, should ask his mashpia. And someone else, who thinks that the Rebbe’s answer will come through ‘two expert doctors,’ should consult with two expert doctors. The Rebbe will send his answer no matter how it is asked.”

What about really critical issues like whether or not to undergo surgery? Should a person rely solely on the Igros Kodesh?

“I myself would refrain from it, as the Rebbe always told people to consult with ‘a friend who is a doctor’ or ‘two expert doctors’ when it came to health issues. Especially when you consider that people often engage in very elaborate exegesis after receiving an answer, till there’s very little resemblance to the Rebbe’s actual letter. Others consult the doctors first, and if they determine that an operation is necessary, they then write to the Rebbe for a bracha. Many people have gotten explicit answers like ‘may your operation be a success’ or ‘a blessing for your medical treatment.’”

The Origin of Connecting with the Rebbe MH”M
Through the Igros Kodesh

“I had the z’chus to be the first person to come up with the idea of getting answers from the Rebbe through the Igros,” says Rabbi Gluckowsky. “It was right after Chaf-Zayin Adar, and people were very confused. I had just made a hachlata to study five Igros of the Rebbe every day, and discovered that I was finding answers to questions that were then very pertinent in my life. It often happened that someone would ask me a shaala, and that same day I would see the answer, or realize that I had come across it the day before.

“The first few times I thought it was a coincidence. But when it started happening more frequently, I realized that there was something unusual going on. I remember that at the time, one of my family members had to be hospitalized. I opened the Igros to a letter the Rebbe had written to someone who was going into the hospital, where he explained that the reason he had to be hospitalized was to have the opportunity to be mekarev Jews there, and that everything would be fine.

“People were so dejected after Chaf-Zayin Adar. They didn’t know what to do without detailed instructions from the Rebbe. The Rebbe was only answering yes or no to questions posed by the mazkirim. It was then that I started to remind people that the Rebbe had already said that ‘the Rebbe will find ways to answer,’ and I began to share many of my personal experiences with the Igros.

“Word spread, and the idea caught on among Anash. And that is how it came to be a widespread practice.”

Spreading the Rebbe’s Message of Geula

Rabbi Gluckowsky, as a popular er, you are well known for speaking in front of all kinds of audiences. How do you communicate the subject of Moshiach and Geula to these disparate groups?

“As a general guideline the Rebbe has said that the imminent Redemption should be presented according to its sources in both the Written and Oral Torah, and as elucidated in the teachings of our Rebbeim, especially in Likkutei Sichos. Every Chassid is obligated to study these sources to the best of his ability, in order to be able to convey the Rebbe’s words to others. This is the only way to prepare the world for ‘living with Moshiach.’

“Unfortunately, there is a great deal of ignorance on the subject out there, even among frum Jews. I was once talking about the concept of ‘Moshiach in every generation’ to a well-respected av beis din, who told me that Moshiach is sitting and learning Torah on a mountaintop somewhere, waiting for G-d’s command to redeem the Jewish people! When I asked him where he had gotten such a notion and where it was written, this elderly rabbi, who was surely over 80, replied, ‘My mother and grandmother told me…’

“This is only one example of the serious lack of knowledge about Moshiach and Geula, but it emphasizes how important it is for us to be familiar with the authentic Torah sources. When we can show people the exact places in the Gemara, Midrash, etc. where these things are written, it sets a different tone.

“There are many frum Jews who are very confused about certain aspects of Moshiach and Geula. They don’t understand how Moshiach can come in our generation, when the majority of Jews aren’t observant. Other Jews are afraid for Moshiach to come because they think it means the ‘Day of Judgment.’ Then there’s the notion that we shouldn’t ‘bother’ G-d about bringing Moshiach because it’s His business when to do so, and we should just sit around waiting passively.

“Jews who aren’t frum have their own questions. What is Moshiach, and what’s he supposed to do? Are we going to lose all our gashmiyus when he arrives? What will happen to our homes and businesses?

“The Rebbe has given us a very big responsibility to educate the world and make people aware of what is about to happen. We have to be experts on the subject and know how to speak to all different kinds of audiences. The more a Chassid is prepared to answer questions, the better his words will be accepted.”

But maybe we should lower the volume a little?

“How much energy has gone into arguing over what ‘ofen ha’miskabel’ means? Some people even interpret it to mean that if you think that people won’t accept what you have to say, you don’t have to say anything at all! Other Chassidim insist that if your words come from the heart, they will enter other hearts as well.

“The Rebbe stated many times that things that used to be viewed as ‘wild’ are no longer considered outlandish, because the whole world is ‘wild’ today. Speaking about the custom of having a Moshiach’s Seuda on the last day of Pesach, the Rebbe said: ‘Some people claim that this is not for everyone…but the truth is that the situation in the world has already changed. The time has come that the “outside” can accept it; all that is needed is to eliminate the fear of bringing it to the “outside.” When people will speak about it without hesitation, by strengthening their own emuna first, their words will be accepted by others and have the desired effect.” And the same thing applies to spreading the besuras ha’Geula. The Rebbe’s words must be conveyed without any ‘coverings.’

“We have to daven to Hashem that He put the right words in our mouths, that they enter people’s hearts and minds with a pnimiyus.”

Achdus: the Call of the Hour

We recently entered the Rebbe’s 99th year. What message would you like to convey to Anash?

“Our Rebbeim have explained that the main objective of the Alter Rebbe’s imprisonment and redemption was to achieve achdus among the Chassidim.

“We are now in the yovel year of the Rebbe’s nesiyus, and we’re still floundering in the darkness of Galus. In the last sicha we merited to hear from the Rebbe for the time being, he spoke about the importance of ahavas Yisroel. I think that this is the biggest challenge and nisayon we are facing today.

“In the Rebbe’s first maamer, “Basi L’Gani,” there is an entire portion devoted to stories about the ahavas Yisroel of our Rebbeim. This is highly unusual – stories in the middle of a maamer? But perhaps the explanation is that the Rebbe wants to emphasize that the way to fulfill our function as the ‘seventh generation’ is precisely through achdus and love for our fellow Jew, as expressed by actual deed.

“It hurts me terribly to see dissention among our ranks, especially when Chassidim fight about the Rebbe’s inyanim. Anyone who has ever looked into the Rebbe’s sichos and Igros can see that the most important thing is for Chassidim to get along with one another. How could we have allowed ourselves to deteriorate so much?

“The problem is inflexibility. People are unwilling to yield on what they think are ‘fundamentals.’ But who’s to say what the fundamentals are? In my opinion, there is nothing more fundamental than ahavas Yisroel.

“People will always have different opinions, but with enough good will they can overcome them and work together. The Rebbe once said that the definition of shalom is knowing how to compromise.

“The only thing we want is the hisgalus of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, and the way to achieve it is by practical acts of kindness. When the Rebbe first accepted the nesiyus he said, ‘Ki v’simcha seitzei’u, u’v’shalom tuvalun – For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.’ When all the Rebbe’s Chassidim will make peace with one another, we will merit to ‘go out with joy’ from this bitter Galus, with the full and complete final redemption.”

The 1st Psak Din Concerning the Revelation of Moshiach

 In 5746 the two Chief Rabbis of Eretz Yisroel, Rabbis Mordechai Eliahu and Avrohom Shapira, shlita, visited the Rebbe MH”M in New York. Suddenly, in the middle of their yechidus the Rebbe said, ‘The rabbanim are here; it is possible to issue a psak din that Moshiach must come.’ The Rebbe’s intention was that the two Chief Rabbis pasken as a beis din that the time for Moshiach’s revelation had arrived. When Rabbi Shapira was hesitant to do so, the Rebbe let it drop.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky fills us in on what happened next:

“When I heard the Rebbe’s words, that the rabbanim should issue a psak din, I resolved that something practical had to be done. In Iyar 5746, I organized a Yom Iyun in Jerusalem for the Chabad rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel. As the two Chief Rabbis were scheduled to speak at one of the sessions, I planned on taking the opportunity to ask them to sign a psak din together with all the other rabbanim.

“Unfortunately, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu was running late that night. I kept hoping that he would arrive, but the clock kept ticking away. The whole point was to have the two Chief Rabbis sign the psak din together. Eventually Rabbi Shapira said he couldn’t wait anymore and left. Literally two seconds later Rabbi Eliahu walked in, apologizing profusely for the delay. Inexplicably, his driver had gotten lost, even though he drove the same route several times a week.

“It was obvious that the Satan had intervened to prevent the two Chief Rabbis from meeting. Nevertheless, I presented Rabbi Eliahu with a text of the psak din and asked him to sign it, which he did after adding a few details. He then read it aloud before all the rabbanim. I immediately faxed it to the Rebbe, and that night Rabbi Yaroslovsky got a call from the Rebbe’s mazkirus with a horaah from the Rebbe to continue soliciting signatures from rabbanim. Another call followed with additional directives concerning the psak din, the details of which have not yet been made public.

“In any event, several similar piskei dinim have since been issued, but that was the first. It was a very emotional moment. We could feel that we were really having an effect on the world, which the Rebbe later confirmed.”


Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky broadcasting a live simulcast
of the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh translated into English

Group photo of the members of the Beis Din.
From right to left: Rabbis Yaroslavsky, Gluckowsky,
Chanzin, Halperin, Slonim, Lipsker, and Hecht.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu affixing his signature to the psak din about Moshiach

People have to know what the Rebbe said if public opinion is going to change.




Here’s the notion that we shouldn’t ‘bother’ G-d about bringing Moshiach because it’s His business when to do so, and we should just sit around waiting.


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