As the Jewish community, and the world at large, struggles to recuperate from the effects of COVID-19 and other challenges of the past two years – I participated in a meeting with nine Shluchim (Chabad emissaries) from across the US. After the high holidays, we convened to plan a course of action to lift the spirit of the Jewish community worldwide.
In conjunction with the Rebbe’s, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, obm, 120th birthday, we launched a campaign calling to establish 1,200 new Jewish institutions throughout the entire world.
Since the campaign’s announcement, the Rebbe’s Shluchim around the world have already undertaken to establish 700 new institutions and programs. There are Hebrew schools, day schools, Cteen lounges, libraries, and Chabad houses. As part of this plan, Lubavitch of Wisconsin will be unveiling its initiatives in the coming weeks and months.
The question is often asked: What is the secret of Lubavitch, causing it to blossom instead of decline during COVID-19? What are the inexhaustible, personal resources that keep them going?
If you ask any Chabad Shliach, man or woman, what motivates them, they will tell you; the Rebbe’s continuing inspiration and guidance. Even young people who never met the Rebbe, who passed away 27 years ago, are inspired by his teachings and the power of his message.
Of the countless teachings of the Rebbe, three, of which the Rebbe himself set the example for, come quickly to mind.
The Rebbe was a consummate and selfless giver with no expectation of anything in return. He penned hundreds of thousands of responses of advice to anyone who turned to him for counsel. For Jew and non-Jew, requests and questions personal and communal. At the age of eighty, the Rebbe initiated his well-known practice of standing for hours, receiving tens of thousands of people from all walks of life. They would pass by him every Sunday and other occasions, receiving counsel and blessing, accompanied by a dollar to distribute to charity. The Rebbe taught and expected his students; to go out to wherever there are Jews and freely offer them services, spiritual and when needed material.
Giving freely was unique to the Rebbe, for it is contrary to the universally accepted norm. In fact, many found the offering of free services objectionable, even reprehensible and suspicious.
A second quality so characteristic of the Rebbe, was his absolute, limitless love of every Jew. No matter who they are and where they were, he cared for each and every one of them as his very own son or daughter.
What wouldn’t a father or mother do for their child? Are there any limits? The Rebbe taught of the incalculable preciousness of every Jew, and how we, the entire Jewish nation, are like one body.
The Rebbe expected his Shluchim and Chassidim to wholeheartedly care about every other Jew, regardless of their personal condition, observance, affiliation, or background.
And then there is the Rebbe’s view on Judaism, Torah, and mitzvot as life itself. He often quoted the description of Torah being “Toras Chaim,” a Torah of life. Torah and mitzvot are inseparable from the Jew. As such, no effort is too great to afford a Jew the ability to study Torah and observe a mitzvah.
Just as there is no limit to what one would do to save one’s own life, so should there be no limit to what one should do to help a fellow Jew stay connected to Torah and Judaism.
The Rebbe, with his ever-optimistic view, seeing the positive and good in every situation, would never allow for despair. Do everything practical within your abilities to take care of the problem you face, but never, ever despair.
When one is responsible for life, one finds a way to keep going. Every Shliach personally and constantly experiences the responsibility for Jewish life. They put their personal interests aside and strive to offer services precisely when they are most needed.
Hence, our response to the struggles of today is to create ever more institutions and programs, to serve the community.