Written by Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati, Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
This Shabbos (Korach) is Gimmel Tammuz. Those two words bring out a lot of mixed emotions by Chassidim. Whatever your Hashkafa or thoughts are, everyone agrees that it is a day of Cheshbon Ha’nefesh about our Hiskashrus to the Rebbe.
Every Chassid knows that the Alter Rebbe teaches us to “Live with the times” in relation to the current Parsha. As this Shabbos is Parshas Korach, I would like to share some thoughts related to Gimmel Tammuz based on this week’s Parsha.
Parshas Korach is a very drama-filled Parsha. In the center of the drama is the conversation between the articulate and suave Korach and the stammering Moshe Rabbeinu. Perhaps the most spectacular public speech ever given bemoaning nepotism and encouraging egalitarianism is given by Korach. He challenges Moshe and Aharon, his very own cousins, with his famous words “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
We all know the end of the story: Hashem opens the ground and Korach, his henchmen, and entire family are swallowed alive. They go into the ground screaming the words “Moshe is true and his Torah is true.” It is clear to all that Moshe is chosen by Hashem to be the undisputed leader of Klal Yisroel.
Throughout the history of Chassidus and the history of Chabad, especially in our generation, the seventh generation, there have been many people that have come to stand up to Chassidus and our Rebbeim. They come with various arguments and complaints, but when analyzed correctly, it is clear that these well-spoken and eloquently explained complaints are all rooted in the words of the most articulate person in the Torah: Korach.
The “non-chassidic” Korach says: The Torah was given to all of us equally on Har Sinai. We all were taught by Moshe Rabbeinu. We have been serving Hashem for hundreds of years before the Baal Shem Tov. Why do you feel that you need to learn Chassidus to serve Hashem? Why do even simple Chassidim take upon themselves “Chumros” (mikva, beard, chalav Yisroel and Rabbeinu Tam t’fillin, to name a few) that are reserved for elite Roshei Yeshiva? “So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
The “chassidic Korach”: Chabad Chassidim do not feel equal to all other Chassidim. They feel that it is not enough to learn Chassidus, it is important that you learn Chassidus Chabad. We learn the history of our chassidus as well as others. We have “Agudas Admurim” that discuss policies for chassidim. Chabad Chassidim are totally ignorant of the names and history of other Chassidiyos and the Rebbe does not consult and discuss his agenda with other Admurim. “So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
The “Chabad Korach”: For many years, the Rebbe was called “Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu – “Our Rebbe.” The Rebbe “belonged” to Chassidei Chabad. Since the “hisgalus of Moshiach” (VaYeira 5752), Chassidim have started calling the Rebbe with his title “Melech HaMoshiach – King Moshiach.” This title “elevates” the Rebbe – and seemingly distances him – from the Chassidim and “shares” the Rebbe with the whole world. “So why do you raise yourselves” – why do Chassidim call the Rebbe by his title Melech HaMoshiach, which makes him – “above the Lord’s assembly?”
Dear fellow Chassidim:
We must remain very strong in our Emuna that “Moshe is true and his Torah is true!” It is our obligation – and privilege – to remain firm in our commitment to the Shlichus “that the Rebbe gave over to us” (28 Nissan 5751) which is “Lekabel P’nei Moshiach Tzidkeinu b’poel mamash (Chayei Sara 5752) through learning and teaching others about Moshiach (Tazria Metzora 5751) and to spread the prophecy that Hinei Zeh Melech HaMoshiach Ba (Shoftim 5751).
We merited that our generation is the generation of the Geula. Our Rebbe was anointed by Hashem as Melech HaMoshiach (Mishpatim 5751). The Rebbe has told us that success of his mission is dependent on the acceptance of Moshiach by the people (Chayei Sara 5752). The acceptance of Moshiach – and the life of Moshiach – is accomplished through the nation declaring “Yechi HaMelech” (2 Nissan 5748).
This of course must be done “B’ofen Ha’miskabel – in a way that is accepted by the people,” but it must be done.
On Gimmel Tammuz 5710 (the first Gimmel Tammuz of the seventh generation) the Rebbe defined the way we are supposed to view a Rebbe. He wrote the following letter, a letter that sheds light on the entire discussion:
Many people seek to pinpoint and characterize the virtues and pre-eminence of each of the Rebbeim of Chabad, and in particular of the Nasi of our generation – in various terms: the paradigm of self-sacrifice, a gaon, a man of exemplary character traits, a tzaddik, an individual endowed with divine inspiration, an individual accustomed to [performing] miracles, and so on…
Nevertheless, the essential point is missing here. Apart from this being the essence per se, it is especially important because of the vital effect it has [in general], and in particular upon us, the community of those who are his Chassidim and who are bound to him. That essential point is the fact that he is the Nasi, and the Nasi of Chabad.
For a Nasi by definition is referred to as the head of the multitudes of Israel; in relation to them he is the “head” and “brain”; their nurture and life-force reach them through him; and by cleaving to him they are bound and united with their Source in the Supernal worlds.
There are various categories of N’siim: some N’siim convey their influence in an internalized manner; others diffuse their influence in an indirect and encompassing manner. These differences may be further subdivided: some N’siim endow their recipients with insights into the revealed plane of the Torah (Nigleh); some endow their recipients with insights into the mystical plane of the Torah, and some do both together; some instruct their followers in the paths of avoda and Chassidus; some direct material benefits to their followers; and so on.
And there are N’siim who comprise several of these attributes, or even all of them.
This [essential] quality [of a Nasi] has characterized the leadership of the N’siim of Chabad from the very beginning, from the Alter Rebbe up to and including my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe. They incorporated all the above attributes: they radiated both inward and encompassing influence – in Torah, in avoda, and in the practice of good deeds; [and they conveyed blessings both] spiritual and material. Consequently, [the N’siim of Chabad] have been bound with all 613 organs of the soul and body of those who were connected with them.
Every single one of us must know – i.e., must think deeply and fix his thought on this – that the Rebbe is indeed the Nasi and the head; from him and through him are directed all material and spiritual benefactions; and by being bound to him (in his letters he has taught us how this is accomplished) we are bound and united with the spiritual root, with the ultimate Supernal spiritual root.