There are certain events that remain etched in a person’s memory for many years to come. One of the days for me, personally, was the day I arrived – with my Chavrei Kevutza – on Shlichus to Yeshivas Lubavitch in Toronto. It was a Friday morning, and we had travelled on a bus the entire night, and I was very excited: I was returning to the Yeshiva where I had spent a few years as a Talmid and was looking forward to giving back as much as I could.
As an alumni of the Yeshiva, I also felt responsible that my fellow Shluchim were happy and that they should feel cared for. How disappointed I was, when we came to Yeshiva and found out that the Yeshiva’s gashmius department was not prepared for our arrival. I went over to one of the Chavrei Hanhalla and told him that I do not feel that this is “starting off on the right foot”. HIs answer rings in my head until today (quoted in chassidus): “Bein Yesh l’Yesh Tzarich Lehiyos Ayin B’Emtza – between two existences – to have a new growth – there needs to be a period of a void” .
We are all “creatures of habit”. When we are in a pattern, it is hard to think that things can be different or done differently. Sometimes, we need to take a break- and a step back – and reflect on the direction that we are heading and begin to think “out of the box” and come up with creative ways to reach our objectives. Those moments of reflection, while to an outsider may look like a step backwards,really propel us to greater heights.
It is hard to think that this year – externally due to Covid-19 – there is basically “No Kinnus Hashluchim”. There have been so many surprises in the last few months, but can it really be that the Rebbe’s Shluchim will not be able to come to the Rebbe for their annual recharge that is so needed to succeed in their Shlichus? How does this fit with the fact that the Rebbe told us that we are in “the highest time” to bring Moshiach”? Are we going backwards?
I would like to share with you a cute story that I heard from my uncle, Rabbi Moshe Nachman Hakohein Borenstein: “When I – Rabbi Borenstein – was a young Bachur, I came to 770 for Tishrei. I was standing near the chazzan, Rabbi Zalman Duchman, and he mistakenly skipped a part of the Davening and – even when people started screaming – he did not go back, but continued. After Davening, I heard him explain to another Chassid that “Bai Dem Rebben geit men nisht tzurik – by the Rebbe we don’t go backwards!”
As Chassidim, we are trained that everything is B’Hashgacha Pratis and that we are always on the journey forward. Thus, we must look at this “Hefsek – break” as an opportunity to really grow by all of us reflecting on a very important and sensitive issue (which could be the reason why there is no Kinnus):
Is it possible that there can truly be one unified Kinnus for all the Rebbe’s Shluchim?
In order to answer that, and to really implement practical change, we need to address three vital questions: 1) Is it important that there is one Kinnus? 2) What was the reason why the Kinnus “split”? 3) What can be done to bring things back together? 4) What can I – as an individual – do about it? Let us analyze and try to answer each question, one at a time.
1) Is it important that there is one Kinnus?
There really is no question that the Rebbe wants one Kinnus! There is nothing that makes a father more happy then when his children -with all their differences and unique personality – get along. There is also nothing more painful to a father than when his children are separated and especially when the separation is officially because each child is trying to give honor to the father! True Achdus only brings Brachos and stability to all. Shlluchim and Shluchos always need extra Brachos and Siyata D’ishmaya, The vessel for those Brachos comes from the Achdus of the Shluchim around the world.
Let us reflect on the recent Shalom between the Rabbanim of Crown Heights. Each side had strong opinions, complaints and shitos. People thought that shalom between the Rabbanim is impossible. Yet, it happened so quickly – almost overnight – and the Mossad of the Badatz “won”. the community of crown Heights “won” and are happier and the entire Adas Hachassidim won and are happier. The only ones that feel that they “lost” are those on each side that enjoy Machlokes and felt empowered as long as the machlokes continued.
2) What were the reasons that the Kinnus “split”?
In the time right after “Gimmel Tammuz ”, there were a few dramatic changes that the Hanhalla of the Kinnus decided. 1) The Rabbanim of Crown Heights were not invited. This is after the Rebbe had publicly said a few years earlier that he would not attend the Kinnus Hashluchim until the Rabbanim were invited. 2) The Kinnus would be outside Crown Heights 3)Certain Shluchim – especially those that continued to speak about Moshiach after Gimmel Tammuz, as they did before Gimmel Tammuz – were suddenly informed that they are no longer invited to the Kinnus as they were no longer considered shluchim. These included people that were sent by the Rebbe himself to their places of Shlichus! 4) Moshiach was removed from the main agenda.
At the beginning there were only a few shluchim and askanim that attended the “New Kinnus”. As the years passed, the crowd kept growing and last year there were nearly 1000 shluchim at the melava malka in the Raza’G ballroom.
[ This is contrary to popular opinion, that the “770 Kinnus” began to promote Rabbi S”M Simpson A”H as the “true Merkos L’Inyanei Chinuch” or to be able to scream “Yechi” a thousand times by the Kinnus. Now is not the place to elaborate.]
3) What can be done to bring things back together?
I know that many people reading this, may be rolling their eyes or just saying “Halevai”. Let us remember how we all discussed “shalom between the Rabbanim” and most people just rolled their eyes. It happened and only the “purists” on each side felt that it was not a positive outcome.
In addition, most of the reasons for the original separation have already been rectified! 1) The Rabbanim have been invited the last few years. 2)”Moshiach” has become a central theme once again. Rabbi Mendel Kaplan (Toronto), came with a most inspiring talk last year and that was what everyone walked away with and the JLI is preparing an amazing Moshiach curriculum. 3) There is more talk about having more events in Crown Heights.
The “only” issue that remains is “Mihu Yehudi – who is considered a Shliach”. I would propose a short-term and a long term solution.
Short-term: Make ONE “open” event on Motzei shabbas (preferably in OT) – that included one “strong” moshiach speaker with one “yechi” – that would be open to “anyone that considers themself a shliach”. It would just be for Shluchim and Anash (not mekuravim etc) and thus anyone that attends is not being sanctioned as “legitimate” by the “Vaad Hakkinnus” but is welcome because it is open to anyone that considers themself a Shliach. By doing this event, nobody is “giving in” and we will begin to learn how to sit together as family again.
We all need to agree that both paths have legitimacy in the sichos of our Rebbe. It is true that to some people, even one “yechi” is too much – and a desecration of the Rebbe’s kavod – and to others it is definitely too little, but we must ignore the extreme factions on each side and focus on the greater good.
Long-term: Make an honest and impartial Vaad (from both “camps”) that review each individual situation. I personally would suggest:
1) General “Amnesty” to Shluchim that are living in cities where there are no other shluchim in the immediate area (like the shluchim in Africa did this past winter and the recent peace in Kazakhstan ). Think of Rabbi Mendy Turen in Springfield Illinois or Rabbi Mendy Blesofsky in Springfield New Jersey as examples.
2) “Reinstate” people that were just “taken off the list” because of old political calculations. Think of Rabbi S”B Kalmanson in Cincinnati, Rabbi Yossi Carlebach in Rutgers or Rabbis Borenstein from Italy or Poughkeepsie NY. They were sent by the Rebbe to their respective cities years ago and continue to do their shlichus without having machlokes in their immediate cities.
3) There are entire networks of Shluchim that are fully functional for Israeli tourists (throughout India, Asia and Mexico) that are not “competing” with anyone else and should be recognized. They already exist and are being visited by thousands each year.
In all of the above scenarios, these people have been there for years and just let them continue doing what they are doing. Nothing dramatic has to change besides official recognition of working together on both sides. Nobody is asking anyone to change their shitos or methods, just a mutual understanding of respect and coordination. There can even be a public recognition of a structure – like Rabbi Cohen in Alma-Ata recognizing Rabbi Berel Lazar and visa-versa etc – but a deep understanding that there will not be continued interference.
I would admit that it does get “sticky” in places where you have two shluchim operating in the city. It is very hard to tell one – or the other – to pick up and move. That is where a special Vaad will meet with both individuals and see what can be done. It is understood that not every situation can be solved, but genuine and real effort must be made.
4) What can I – as an individual – do about it?
Firstly, we must realize that everybody sees that in our era; each individual can bring about a revolution. The power of the individual has never been so apparent and effective. On a practical level: We need to begin the conversation between our family members, friends and acquaintances. As someone that runs a Mossad, I know that there are times that pressure works. The more people that keep bringing up the idea of achdus to the “powers to be” – and it becomes an international conversation – the bigger chance we have to make it a reality.
The Rebbe famously said (15 Iyar 5751): “Anshtut machen a Hefsek, vet me machen a Hemshech – Instead of taking a break, we should make a continuation!” We need to make sure that we do not take a break from the Kinnus, rather the best continuation: A United Kinnus in the Beis Hamikdash with the hisgalus of the Rebbe now!