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Telling It The Way It Is

At the Kinus HaShluchim of 5752 the Rebbe MH”M said that shlichus today consists of “preparing the world to greet Moshiach” * Shlomo Even-Rokeiach spoke with Rabbi Aryeh Dudovitz of Munster, Indiana and learned how he is preparing his city to greet Moshiach

The young rabbi stood before his audience and lectured. Then he paused for a moment to enable them to digest what he was saying. Somebody broke the silence and said, “If we understood you correctly, if all the criteria you quoted are precise, then — it seems that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is a prophet!”

Rabbi Aryeh Dudovitz couldn’t help smiling. Apparently they had understood him well and had figured things out for themselves. It was a breakthrough.


Rabbi Aryeh Dudovitz and his wife began their shlichus in Munster, Indiana six years ago at the end of Sivan 5754, after receiving a bracha from the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach. They discovered a warm Jewish community, but one with almost no Yiddishkeit at all.

They were kindly received by the community, including the Conservative rabbi, who collaborated with them from the very start. “I am not an aggressive type of person,” says R’ Aryeh, “and I have no idea how I would have managed if we had to battle the preexisting organizations. Baruch Hashem, I didn’t have to deal with that. Everybody helped us and they continue to help us today.”

“Being able to work within the existing community is a definite advantage. Many of the activities taking place here are run by the Federation and other organizations. In addition, the connection between the majority of the community and the synagogues is very strong. Many of them are the third generation living here. Their grandfathers davened here, as did their fathers, and now they do. They feel a sense of loyalty. So if I had come here to do battle, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

“The fact that the Conservative rabbi participates in our events gives people the sense that they can approach the world of Judaism without feeling they are fighting their family principles.”

Despite the openness with which the new shluchim were greeted by the community, when it came to action, it was different altogether. Nobody tried to interfere with their work, but then again, there was not much interest shown.

Rabbi Dudovitz recalls, “I had to face incredible apathy. In the past, whenever I got involved in outreach, I knew I would have to deal with opposition from some group or another, but I never encountered such apathy before. People simply gave me a look as if to say, ‘Leave me alone.’ I realized that advertisements got me nowhere, and that I would have to work one-on-one with people to see any results.

“Before Succos of that year I was invited to speak at a gathering at the Federation. I was supposed to talk about the holiday and its symbols according to Jewish tradition. I brought along a lulav and esrog and focused on the idea of unity behind the mitzva of the Arba Minim. I spoke about Succos and Judaism in general and felt that people were beginning to show an interest.

“The gathering took place in the home of a local couple, and it led to a deep connection with them. The couple showed a strong interest in Judaism and we invited them to spend Succos with us. It turned out that they had almost no connection whatsoever to Judaism. The husband had been an atheist up until that point, and his wife, who had taken an interest in Judaism, had gone through a Conservative ‘conversion’ before she married him.

“One day the woman asked whether she could discuss something important with me. She wanted to know whether her Conservative conversion was legitimate according to Jewish law. It seemed she had been trying to find out her status for quite some time. The Conservatives insisted she was Jewish, but religious Jews she met avoided answering her.

“I knew I had to tell her the truth, and I prepared myself for the demise of my relationship with them. To my great surprise, the exact opposite happened. As soon as I explained the laws of conversion to her and the fact that according to Jewish law she was not Jewish, she seemed relieved and happy. There is no joy like that of resolving doubt.

“She decided to undergo conversion once again, this time according to halacha. The couple remarried according to halacha and continued to grow in their Judaism. Today, they and their children are part of the Chabad community of Chicago.

“This story teaches us that when we speak the truth — and only the truth — in the clearest way possible, we benefit!”

That was the first family and R’ Aryeh’s first success. Another family became interested in Judaism, though in this case it came about through their children. The parents weren’t interested in Judaism. They kept kosher and did a few other mitzvos, but that was it. Rabbi Dudovitz remembers that the mother once said, “I’m happy where I am.”

The turning point came when their oldest son began attending classes. He wore tzitzis and began doing other mitzvos, all of which influenced his family. Thanks to his enthusiasm, the rest of the family got involved and today they are members of the Chabad community in Chicago.

* Isn’t it hard for you when families you were mekarev leave the nest and move on to bigger Chabad communities?

Our goal is the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M shlita.

* That is really the point of this interview. How do you incorporate this goal into your daily activities?

In the simplest way: At every program, farbrengen or lecture, we talk about this most essential point — the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M. If it’s Mivtza Shofar we talk about the shofar of Moshiach and go on from there to related Moshiach concepts. If it’s Chanuka, we talk about lighting up the darkness of exile, and the same goes for every project we do. You don’t have to search to find the connection, because they are in nearly every one of the Rebbe’s sichos.

The most powerful way of reaching people is when the ideas come from them, like in the speech (described in the opening of this article) I gave. It was one in a series of talks which I give twice a year under the auspices of one of the community organizations.

Before every lecture, I am asked to submit a list of possible topics out of which they choose one. Although I tried to suggest the topic of Moshiach from different angles, they never chose it. I guess they were afraid to select something directly connected to Moshiach. That left me always indirectly connecting Moshiach to whatever topic I was given.

This time I decided to tackle it differently. I suggested the topic of prophecy and they accepted it. Now I had no problem. During the course of the lecture, I tried to emphasize the main criteria which are necessary for a person to be a prophet. Whoever heard of the Rebbe immediately made the connection.

So after someone announced, “the Lubavitcher Rebbe is a prophet,” I was asked, “Is he Moshiach?” Obviously from that point on the topic was the besuras ha’Geula. So without any direct intervention on my part, the audience put two and two together by themselves, which made it all the more effective, of course.

* Do people accept the idea of the Rebbe being Moshiach?

It depends on who we are talking about. Generally speaking, there are three categories. The first group — and thank G-d there are many of them — simply accepts it. Of course you have to explain it to them. But once you do they have no problem with it.

Those in the second category understand us. They still find it hard to think of the Rebbe as Moshiach, but they definitely understand why we believe this, and what the basis for this is in Torah.

The third category finds it all difficult. These are mostly people with some religious background. Those who are educated for many years with a certain approach find it hard to change. You have to know how to work with them, too. There is one incident I can remember:

At the end of our davening, I conclude with a request in Hebrew and English: “Please join me in a proclamation that expresses accepting the kingship of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach.” Then we say “Yechi” in Hebrew and English.

Among the mekuravim at the Chabad House there is a Jew who comes from a Misnagdishe background. He comes every so often to join our minyan and say Kaddish. At one of these tefillos, I concluded as usual with the request and proclamation, noticing that this person wasn’t too happy about it. In the days that followed, he began finding other people who thought as he did. Then he tried to organize a meeting with us to discuss the issue.

For some reason the meeting was pushed off a few times, and the time came when this person joined the minyan again. I didn’t want to upset him, so I thought about what might have bothered him so much about “Yechi.” From what he had told me, I concluded that his main problem was that he felt coerced to join in. So after the davening I changed my usual line to “I ask all those who would like to join in proclaiming...” When the man heard this, he relaxed and hasn’t said another word on the subject.

The point is that you have to know how to work with people. In most cases, you can transmit what you want to say without leaving anything out and without going to war. You have to give people a way to save face.


One of the most difficult aspects of R’ Aryeh’s shlichus is his work with young adults. With all the success he has enjoyed in the past six years, with programs growing from day to day he has yet to feel that he has successfully approached the lawyers, doctors, and other professionals in their thirties. Despite all his efforts, Rabbi Dudovitz felt that he wasn’t able to break the wall of apathy among this age group.

As this article was being written, it looked as though a class he recently gave may prove to be uniquely effective in inspiring these men and women to increase their involvement in learning about Judaism. This class was the inspiration of a young Jew who arrived in town from Chicago a year and a half ago, where he had taken some steps towards the world of Judaism. In Indiana he wanted to continue his journey in Judaism and he got in touch with Rabbi Dudovitz.

As soon as he got involved at the Chabad House, he put his finger on the problem. “You have to start a Jewish history class from a Jewish perspective,” he said. “It’s the only thing that interests people my age.”

He not only made the suggestion, but he made the contacts. After great effort, they scheduled their first class (which took place two days after this interview). R’ Aryeh could not contain his excitement. “This is the first breakthrough!” he says.

I couldn’t take the suspense, so before this article was printed, I called him to find out what happened. R’ Aryeh did not disappoint me. History is history, but he knew how to connect the topic of Geula to this subject as well. After all, the yearning for Moshiach is part of our history, and it is the thread which winds its way through the years since the beginning of creation.

In a fascinating class which he gave to fifteen people, all professionals interested in Jewish history, Rabbi Dudovitz explained the significance of the story of the first man, his sin and free will. He told them that if not for the sin, that Shabbos would have been (surprise!) Yemos HaMoshiach.

From there, it was only a short leap of nearly six thousand years to the present generation, and a discussion of our obligation to correct that sin in order to bring about the immediate revelation of Moshiach. Rabbi Dudovitz explained that we must use this seeming spiritual descent in order to refine and elevate the physicality of the world, in order to prepare for Moshiach’s coming.

The audience loved it and at the end of the class they decided to follow up that class with another one.

* You began your shlichus after the sicha of “do all that you can...to bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu.” How do you implement this in your daily life?

First and foremost, as I mentioned earlier: by incorporating inyanei Moshiach in every activity, every speech and every farbrengen. We see that there is great difficulty, particularly among the shluchim, in publicizing inyanei Moshiach properly. Some find the topic difficult to speak about. There are those who find it difficult dealing with Moshiach’s identity, and some encounter other difficulties.

We often have new mekuravim coming to our shul who aren’t used to our ways, and the yetzer immediately shows up and whispers, “Maybe this time it pays to wait a while until they get comfortable,” and various other excuses.

The truth is that if the yetzer fights it, it must be important — “I have become wise from my enemies.” Yet, it’s still difficult. But when we think of the Rebbe’s words, “Do all that you can,” we just can’t ignore it.

In conclusion…

An interesting incident happened to me recently. A Jewish couple living in a suburb of Indiana has a son who has made serious strides in Yiddishkeit. The son managed to schlep his father along to one of the tefillos and I got to know the parents. I called them in order to see what they might be ready for, and it turned out they were interested in a class. They said they would think of what topic they were interested in covering.

From my past experience, I learned how to bring Chassidus and Moshiach into any Torah class, since most of the mekuravim like to start out with Chumash. This time, surprisingly, when I called to find out what topic they had chosen, the wife said that since she had learned some Tanya in the past, now she wanted to learn the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was. I immediately said, “I suggest we start with the most recent talks of the Rebbe, the sichos of 5751-5752.” She agreed and we set a time for our class.

I couldn’t decide which sicha to start with. There was a bachur staying at the Chabad House at the time who was there to help me in my work. He suggested that I write to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh. The answer I received didn’t seem to offer a clue as to which sicha to learn, but the bachur pointed to the date on the letter and said I should learn a Chanuka sicha.

The couple arrived and we sat down to learn a sicha about the goal of the Greeks and the point they couldn’t concede — that Torah is above intellect. It is hard for me to describe the amazement of the husband and wife as we learned this sicha. It turned out that the husband, who was a professor in a university, had been working these past years on a research project which examined the difference between the Latin culture and Jewish culture. I couldn’t have picked a better sicha! They enjoyed it thoroughly. Naturally they came again and again, and today they are quiet knowledgeable in the sichos of 5751-5752.

So if you want a conclusion, here it is: When you let the Rebbe MH”M shlita run the show, you see how it all works out. You just have to act according to his directives, and with G-d’s help we will see the results right now with the immediate hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M.


Rabbi Aryeh Dudovitz
When we speak the truth — and only the truth — in the clearest way possible, we benefit!

Young shluchim are enlisted to work with the children of Tzivos Hashem


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