The Jewish Chronicle/Lieba_Rudolph
I’ve never actually had a conversation with an alien, but I do think I have some idea what it feels like to be one.
At our first authentic Shabbos experience, twenty-eight years ago, my husband and I landed on Planet Lubavitch, inhabited by women in wigs and men in beards. Even the planet’s name sounded strange. What kind of word was Lubavitch? My husband’s cousin had become a “Lubavitcher” several years earlier. What that meant to me was that she gave us Shabbos candlesticks for our wedding, in other words, what she wanted to give us. It seemed pretty obvious that she was trying to “convert us” which served as ample proof that this thing called Lubavitch was a cult. I even imagined these people dancing euphorically on the street, not unlike members of other cults I’d seen in action.
But somehow we had ended up on this planet, and behind the wigs and beards there were real people, and some of them came from backgrounds not all that different from my husband’s and mine. Those were the people I was most interested in, the ones who had made a conscious decision to leave the reality of their birth. I hung onto the every word of one man in particular, just because he had gone to Harvard. Why would someone like that become a Lubavitcher? Oh, I had lots of questions for him and everyone, but they had lots of answers for me, too. It was impossible to be insulting or irreverent to these interesting beings.
For reasons only G-d knows, something happened at that cosmic encounter that compelled us to change course and never look back.
I should say, never really look back. There were times of uncertainty because our change felt like a “choice,” which actually made it more difficult to acclimate; sometimes I second-guessed my “decision.” But I know now that everything was written in the stars.
I was looking for truth in this world and G-d led me to the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. Although I don’t remember anyone mentioning the Rebbe at that Shabbaton, the people there were clearly his Chassidim, his followers.
What did it take to be one of them?
When asked what it meant to be a Chassid, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber, answered, “a Chassid is a lamplighter.” The analogy continues by saying that just as a lamplighter ignites the street lights of a town, a Chassid takes responsibility for igniting his own soul in order to help those around him. He does not live for himself and instead strives to give to others whatever he has and knows.
Of course, it’s probably a good thing that nobody said any of that at the Shabbaton. I wanted to change planets because of my new understanding that G-d really did give the Torah, and that by keeping the commandments, I could help bring Moshiach and the world of truth I craved. That was good enough for me.
By the time I learned about all the lamplighter stuff, it was too late. We had taken off.
Anyone who has issues with Chabad/Lubavitch (they’re one and the same) will say straight out that they want to kindle your flame. I’m sure that more than one person looked at my husband and me and thought that Chabad got us just like they got his cousin who gave us the candlesticks.
But most people don’t get gotten, certainly not these days. It’s almost mainstream to party with Chabad and even pray with Chabad. (Okay, and give tzedaka to Chabad.) Your soul doesn’t have to get kindled by Chabad if you don’t want it to.
But once I got to Planet Lubavitch, I soon understood that getting gotten— seeing and knowing G-d in everything–is what I’m here to do. Although it would mean recreating my entire being, the Rebbe’s teachings could help me every step of the way. And they have.
The Rebbe assured everyone that a better reality is imminent, that heaven and earth are about to merge with the arrival of Moshiach. The exact details of how this will happen, I don’t know. I just know the Rebbe was right about everything else in the world, so I have no reason to doubt that he was right about this, too.