Avrohom Rainitz, Beis Moshiach
We are days before Gimmel Tammuz and around this time of year questions arise. Some religious groups do not favorably regard questions on emuna and they are vehemently opposed to addressing questions on sensitive topics. In Chabad, the approach is different and there is definitely room for questions. Is the floor open to all questions or in Chabad are there also topics that are untouchable?
The story is told about a gadol who was at a festive meal and each of the participants was asked to say a d’var Torah. There were big rabbanim present and each one had a turn. At some point, a simple Jew had his turn and he said his d’var Torah, “Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.” The gadol said that as far as the divrei Torah that the rest of them had said, you could come up with a refutation, but on this one there was no possible refutation.
The town shochet replied jokingly that nowadays even on a d’var Torah like this you could find a question. This remark was taken very seriously and the shochet was fired from his position. Why? Because there are principles that are not to be trifled with, not even as a joke. When it comes to principles of faith, there are no jokes.
Look at what happens in Parshas Korach. The Jewish people believed in Hashem and His servant Moshe, perfect faith that was based on what they saw and heard how Hashem appointed Moshe to be the intermediary who connected Hashem with the nation. Korach came, and one night he raised some heretical questions and made some disparaging remarks about a tallis that was completely blue and a room full of sefarim. Within a few hours, the entire foundation of faith had been undermined.
What was so terrible about what Korach did? He just asked…
The problem was that he did not ask in order to understand but in order to challenge Moshe. That’s the point. In Chabad we don’t avoid questions, but the questions have to be asked in order to understand, not to challenge the Rebbe. You can ask everything, but you need to know that there is a foundation, certain principles which are givens.
What is considered “Shma Yisroel” and what is up for discussion?
By Chassidim, everything the Rebbe said is holy of holies, from which we cannot budge an iota. When it says something explicitly in a sicha, that is Shma.
Any hergesh (Chassidic sensitivity) that a Chassid has that is not explicitly stated in a sicha, even if based on similar points in sichos, is like any Torah pilpul which can be respected, but it can be refuted as well.
Even if he is a Chassid, a gadol b’Torah, a yerei Shamayim, etc. – it is important to set a clear distinction between what the Rebbe said and what a Chassid feels. A Chassid cannot establish things without a clear source in the Rebbe’s sichos.
Rashi allowed himself to say “my heart tells me” in his commentary on Chumash, but we understand that only gedolei Yisroel can say that. When an elementary school teacher reads the Rashi which says, “my heart tells me,” even young children understand that Rashi can say that. If their teacher would say what “his heart tells him,” then even if he were to be a big Chassid, he would be failing his students.
We need to repeatedly stress that just as it is out of the question for someone to express opinions about kashrus without sources in Torah, so too, it should be out of the question to express opinions and make declarations about inyanei Moshiach and Geula without a basis in the Torah literature, particularly in the Rebbe’s teachings.
There are many topics and sub-topics that are debated. Can we find clarity on all these topics in the Rebbe’s teachings?
Definitely. In the Rebbe’s teachings he deals decisively with most of the topics that are discussed and debated. When you look around and see what the debates are about, it’s very surprising. Why don’t they open the Rebbe’s sichos? At least 95% of the topics are discussed there. The Rebbe’s sichos, especially from the latter years, are our Shulchan Aruch for the present time. Just like someone cannot express opinions in the laws of kashrus without first learning these laws in Shulchan Aruch, so too, a person cannot express opinions about Moshiach before learning Toras HaGeula.
For some reason, the topic of Geula is seen as one that is open for discussion, where everyone can say an opinion. This is absurd and has been the sorry situation ever since Mivtza Moshiach began.
Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Those who learn are the ones who are active in inyanei Moshiach and Geula; those who are not active, and might even disparage those who are, don’t learn. It is not possible for someone to learn all the Rebbe’s sichos on inyanei Moshiach and Geula and not start doing something to spread the Besuras HaGeula. There is no reason to feel ashamed by those who mock.
MAKE A CHESHBON HA’NEFESH AND BOLSTER THE “V’NIFLINU”
How do you explain the weakness that we see many times when it comes to Mivtza Moshiach? Is it just a matter of not having learned the Rebbe’s sichos or is there more to it?
The source of the problem is that the “v’niflinu” (pride in being different) is lacking. We were trained to be soldiers of the Rebbe, soldiers who follow the Rebbe with eyes closed, through fire and water, without looking sideways to see how people are looking at us. To be proud of the fact that we are Chassidei Chabad and to feel the need to tell the world about how fortunate we are that we are Chassidei Chabad, and the even greater good fortune that we have a Rebbe, and everyone needs to know what he has to say.
When the Rebbe announced Mivtza Tefillin, for example, it was obvious to us all that when we met a Jew on the street, we would tell him that the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked that he put on tefillin. One could ask, why is it so important to say that this is coming from the Rebbe? Isn’t the main thing that a Jew put on tefillin? We didn’t have that question. It was obvious to us all that everything we do needs to be presented as being done because the Rebbe said so.
By the way, R’ Dovid Raskin would say in his farbrengens with the bachurim that when you come to a Jew and say do such and such because the Rebbe said to do it, these words have a greater effect than anything else and they are accepted. The Rebbe himself writes a similar thing to R’ Eliezer Karasik, that going to government offices and telling them firmly that Lubavitch wants such and such, has the ability to grant success.
The goal of every Chassid was always for the Rebbe to conquer the world and that all Jews become Chassidim of the Rebbe. That is the fuel that pushes us onward. Every Jew we were mekarev was immediately acquainted with the Rebbe, so that another Jew would become a soldier of the Rebbe.
This approach is not an invention of the Chassidim. It is the approach that the Rebbe taught us in dozens, and even hundreds of sichos. The Rebbe repeatedly emphasized that we need to bring things in the name of Lubavitch and Lubavitch must conquer the world. The Rebbe said explicitly that every shliach has to know that his goal is to transform the place into Lubavitch.
To ensure that this be understood correctly I need to clarify: there is no question that when a Jew learns Chassidus, that is a great thing, even if he is not mekushar to the Rebbe. There are even letters from the Rebbe to people who were afraid to learn Chassidus because they did not want to become Lubavitchers, and the Rebbe wrote them that they can learn Chassidus without becoming Lubavitcher Chassidim, the main thing being to learn Chassidus. The learning itself is a great thing, but we cannot forget the goal.
This topic is brought numerous times in the Rebbe’s teachings and is also found in sichos edited by the Rebb himself, like in Likkutei Sichos, volume 11, in the third sicha on Parshas Pekudei, where the Rebbe says, “There needs to be an involvement and work of each and every person in Torah and mitzvos with his own abilities. Yet, he needs to know that this is only by way of preparation, and he needs to bring all his work to Moshe (within each person and through this, to the extension of Moshe in every generation), the sages of the generation, the ‘eyes of the congregation,’ because ‘Moshe’ of the generation has the ability to raise the Mishkan of the soul of every single person.”
When we want to build a Mishkan, and that is the task of the seventh generation, we must bring it all to Moshe. That is the only way to erect the Mishkan. If we want to bring the world to its perfection, to draw G-dliness down to the world, we must bring the world to Moshe-the Rebbe.
That is the Rebbe’s chiddush (innovation), something we did not see in previous generations. Since the Rebbe took over the Chabad leadership, he emphasized that the goal is to bring Jews to the Rebbe, to connect them to the Nasi Ha’dor. Why? Because the role of the seventh generation cannot be done without Moshe Rabbeinu. We must connect everything to Moshe and bring all Jews to Moshe.
This is why we need to see to it that the Rebbe’s name is publicized in every possible place, whether it’s a flyer or a monthly newsletter, it should include the Rebbe’s picture or articles about the Rebbe and his work, or special gatherings in honor of the Rebbe. It was always a given to every Chassid and shliach involved in hafatza that in every event he does, and with all material he produces, the Rebbe’s picture must appear prominently.
But the Rebbe said on occasion that in those places where you cannot quote me directly, just say it without mentioning my name, the main thing being that the message get out?
First of all, the Rebbe said that only about specific things. In most cases the Rebbe emphasized that it should be said in the name of Lubavitch. But even in those specific instances, pay attention to what the Rebbe said: only in those places where they won’t accept it if it is said in his name, can it be said without his name. From the negative you derive the positive, that in places where it will be accepted in the Rebbe’s name, it is important to the Rebbe that it be said in his name.
This became an even stronger point after the Rebbe’s sicha of Shoftim 5751, in which he said we should publicize to all members of the generation that there is a Navi and we need to consult with him and obey his instructions.
In any case, the Rebbe’s permission to say things not in his name are definitely for certain times and places and is not a blanket allowance to do so on principle.
Unfortunately, today we have a lot to fix in this regard. You speak with people who are not involved in inyanei Moshiach and Geula who lack the v’niflinu. There is the sense that they lack the desire to connect the entire world to the Rebbe, so that everyone knows about the Rebbe.
CONNECTING JEWS TO THE REBBE
But maybe it makes sense, as some say, to first be mekarev people to Torah and mitzvos and then to Chassidus and then to the Rebbe?
Listen, if you and I were to sit down and devise a strategy about how to lead Chabad, maybe we could come up with alternatives, but that is not what we’re doing. We want to know what the Rebbe’s opinion is. The Rebbe’s opinion on the matter is clear – as soon as you begin the kiruv process, you should connect the person to the Rebbe, to the Moshe of the generation.
In a long letter to Anash in Paris, which is printed in Igros Kodesh volume 3, page 54, the Rebbe describes the efforts of a young man who ended up in a city far from a Jewish center, who immediately began connecting Jews to the Rebbe. Suddenly, dozens of letters began coming to the Rebbe Rayatz from that city with requests for brachos. The Rebbe writes that not only should those Jews be connected to the Rebbe, they should be convinced to send Maamad money to support the Rebbe! What Chassid would have thought, on his first encounter with someone, to speak to him about hiskashrus to the Rebbe and even about sending Maamad? But the Rebbe said this is what needs to be done in the seventh generation.
In general, this topic of hiskashrus is the Rebbe’s chiddush. Hiskashrus wasn’t a central theme in Chassidic education in the past. The one who placed hiskashrus in the center of the Chassidic experience is the Rebbe.
ANSWERS IN THE IGROS KODESH ARE LIKE A LETTER COMING FROM THE REBBE’S ROOM
Some people don’t like the idea of publicizing writing to the Rebbe. They feel it demeans the sacredness of writing to the Rebbe.
I don’t think that the people who are uncomfortable with it feel that it’s disrespectful, because if that were so, how did they bring groups to the Rebbe for dollars? Doing that also cheapens the whole inyan of hiskashrus to a tzaddik. People would come with no prior preparation and stand on line and receive a dollar from the Rebbe. Shluchim would bring people for dollars who had no knowledge of the basics of Judaism. Why? Simply because they were sure that a look from the Rebbe would ignite their spark. So why not convince people to ask the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh so that the Rebbe’s answer will inspire them?
In a certain way, the attitude toward writing to the Rebbe is more serious than going for dollars. People make preparations and make a good hachlata and only then do they write. When shluchim convinced their mekuravim to go for dollars, many of them didn’t even make those minimal preparations.
At that time, nobody saw a problem with that. Just as they were sure that a look from the Rebbe would change the mekurav, I see no problem with publicizing about writing to the Rebbe. You can see how, when a person asks the Rebbe, and all the more so when he gets an answer, that this connects him to the Rebbe and makes a change in him.
It should be noted that it was the Rebbe who said the Igros Kodesh should be printed and he said this in recent years.
If the Igros Kodesh were used just for questions about spiritual matters, that would be one thing, because as you mentioned, there is a source for this in Shulchan Aruch. The problem is that many people want answers about mundane matters like business etc. Isn’t that treating the sefarim disrespectfully?
A maggid-shiur in our yeshiva published a booklet about answers through the Igros Kodesh in Torah literature. He has an interesting answer to your question. If we go back some years, we will remember that when we wanted to send a letter to the Rebbe and due to technical reasons we were unable to do so, we would put a letter in a volume of the Rebbe’s maamarim or in a Tanya. That is what Chabad Chassidim did and the Rebbe referred to this.
Interestingly, when people discovered that the Rebbe responds to letters through his holy books, Chassidim began putting their letters specifically into the volumes of Igros and not into volumes of maamarim. Not to minimize the importance and holiness of the Igros, but most of the letters are about material matters. So there is no reason to say that questions about mundane matters are a disgrace to these sefarim because that is what these sefarim are mainly about! We see how the Rebbe prepared a way for us to ask and receive answers even in material matters, through sefarim in which the kedusha permeates the material.
In the introduction to the Igros Kodesh, volume 12, to which the Rebbe gave his approval before it was printed, an entire chapter is devoted to stressing the uniqueness of the series of Igros Kodesh. It says there that the Igros is like the Tanya. When time does not allow for each person to be answered personally, a series like this is published which contains the Rebbe’s views on all areas of life and every person can find the Rebbe’s advice on all sorts of topics.
That introduction ends with “all this fits with the Rebbe’s directive mentioned before that with any question one should consult with a mashpia, ‘asei lecha rav.’ The obligation of the ‘rav’ is to advise the person based on the horaos and guidance of the Rebbe that are scattered throughout these letters.”
GIMMEL TAMMUZ – A DAY TO STRENGTHEN EMUNA
Let us go back to the topic with which we began this interview. What are the feelings that a Chassid has about Gimmel Tammuz?
If I had to define the idea of 3 Tammuz in a few words, I would say: It is the day of the Rebbe and the Chassidim.
In the HaYom Yom for 3 Tammuz, it says that the Rebbe Maharash said: “A Jewish groan which G-d forbid arises from physical misfortune is also a great teshuva; how much more so then, is a groan arising from spiritual distress a lofty and effective teshuva. The groan pulls him out of the depths of evil and places him on a firm footing in the realm of good.”
When the Rebbe said that Bnei Yisrael already did teshuva, many did not understand this. After all, we don’t see millions of baalei teshuva. The Rebbe addressed this in one of his sichos and mentioned this HaYom Yom and said that since there is no Jew who has not groaned, everyone has done teshuva, a lofty teshuva!
On 3 Tammuz 5754, whatever you want to say about it, there was a big groan on the part of Am Yisroel. Even those to whom the idea of chai v’kayam is a given, groaned. And this groan, which – by divine providence – was written in the HaYom Yom for 3 Tammuz, definitely brought us closer to the Geulah.
There is no doubt that 3 Tammuz is a day when we need to strengthen our hiskashrus to the Rebbe, so that we don’t, G-d forbid, reach a state of slacking off. We need to do all we can not to weaken in the avoda the Rebbe gave us.
We have to know that by the Rebbe there are only aliyos. It is not possible for 3 Tammuz to have been a retreat. On this day we passed another stage in the Geula process. At the same time, in order that the events of the day not weaken our emuna, on this day, more than other days, we need to strengthen our belief in what the Rebbe said and not allow any weakness to creep in to our belief in the Rebbe and what he said.
Boruch Hashem, we see how since 3 Tammuz Lubavitch continues to grow. Hundreds of new shluchim have gone out; hundreds of new mosdos were opened, and thousands of baalei teshuva have joined Lubavitch. By Anash we also see a certain awakening, whether it’s in learning inyanei Moshiach and Geula or Yemei Iyun or Shabbatons on the theme of Geula. The Chabad yeshiva world has doubled, hundreds of kovtzim were published, learning contests in yeshivos include thousands of bachurim who sit and study the Rebbe’s teachings about Geula.
The real message of 3 Tammuz is that we need to know that we must withstand the test. There is the famous mashal about the father who hides from his son to test his love. What is the purpose of the test? The father wants to see that the son won’t stop waiting for him to come back. The father wants to see that the son doesn’t make peace with the situation and merely think nostalgically of days gone by. Rather, he won’t stop hoping and waiting for his return.
What happened on 3 Tammuz is a test. There is no other explanation for a concealment like this. When we are in the “highest time,” as the Rebbe said, and the Geula process has already begun in the world, of all times, we have this concealment! It seems to be a test whose purpose is to see how much we truly believe and look forward to the complete hisgalus.
At this time, let us review the Rebbe’s sicha about the meaning of the names of the children of Yosef, Menasheh and Efraim. Menasheh was for “Hashem made me forget,” and Efraim was for “Hashem made me fruitful.” With Menasheh we see Yosef’s anguish over his exile and distance from his father. The name Efraim shows that he understood that being in galus is for a purpose, namely all his work and efforts in Egypt; that is the proper approach that we need to adopt.
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