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Love is irresistible. Shabbat shalom from New York

Friday, 18 November, 2022 - 1:17 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It was Chanuka in the 1970’s during a tense security period in Israel. The Rebbe’s message to his followers in Israel was clear. Visit every Israeli army base to strengthen the spirit and gladden the hearts of the young chayalim (soldiers).

Rabbi Yisrael led a group of yeshiva students to visit a large army base in Israel. They interacted with the soldiers, offering them a chance to lay tefillin as well as distributing sufganiyot (donuts) in honor of Chanuka.

R’ Yisrael overheard a conversation between two commanding officers.

One officer, while not religious, was a traditional Jew and comfortable with doing mitzvot when given the chance. He had just finished putting on tefillin and was now happily enjoying a sufganiya. He was conversing with his colleague who was adamant that he didn’t want to put on tefillin, neither did he want a sufganiya.

The traditional officer asked his friend, ‘What do you have against the warm sweet sufganiya, that you refuse to partake of it?  I am not asking you about why you are resistant to putting on Tefilin, but what do you have against an innocuous donut’?

To which the unyielding officer responded:

‘Don’t you see how inside that sufganiya there is the ‘neshama’ (soul) of the Rebbe of Lubavitch? The moment I eat that sufganiya I will start thinking differently and eventually behaving differently’

Rabbi Yisrael overheard this exchange in the 70’s. I heard it from his son, who runs a Chabad House in London, just a few hours ago.

Where did I hear it?  

In New York.

Once a year, the Rebbe would invite all of his Shluchim (emissaries) to convene a conference.

Yes, the conference of Shluchim is being held this weekend with 6,500 rabbis and Jewish lay leaders participating. It is expected to be the biggest conference ever held yet please G-d. It is the year of ‘Hakhel’ gathering after all.

A journalist asked me to sum up in an ‘elevator pitch’, my feelings about the importance of coming to the Kinus (gathering) of Shluchim.

Here is what I shared with him.

When I come to the Kinus in the Rebbe's 'court' I remind myself why I went out to Thailand, rededicate myself to those values and that core mission, imbibe wisdom and experience from peers, and get energized and reared up from the camaraderie and energy of the thousands of my like-minded and focused brothers and colleagues

There will be serious introspective moments. When we all gather at the Rebbe’s holy resting place – the Ohel – we pledge to try to do better that we have done till know, and we pray for ourselves, our families and our respective community – you – to have all the gifts of health and blessings needed for carrying out our respective roles.

There will be many uplifting moments. Meeting old friends. Eating Shabbat meals together. Having comradely Farbrengens with each other.

In our family’s case, my parents will get to have their sons at their Friday night Shabbat table. This is unique, as my parents rarely if ever get their kids at their Shabbat table as thank G-d my parents are blessed to have all of their children living ‘out of town’. Each of their children were appointed as Shluchim of the Rebbe in various parts of the USA and world.

The overriding agenda is always about making this world a better, G-dlier, more moral, and more peaceful place. i.e. about bringing Mashiach.

The intended outcome of this weekend is first of all, a massive reenergizing of the existing family of thousands of Shluchim. If the motivational levels increase within each of us, the results in terms of output and yield will grow commensurately.

This conference and its adrenaline, will inspire additional couples to go out on Shlichus. This will generate exponential growth in the Jewish world.

There will be new ideas generated for community programming, from toddlers through seniors. For teens and for college campuses. For special needs children and for young professionals. For every niche and segment within the Jewish community, there is a group of Shluchim who are servicing that demographic and are developing programing and sharing ideas.

And then there is something else that this weekend will imbue.

Upon hearing the story of the Israeli army base, I realized that the sufganiya-resisting officer in the 1970’s picked up on something that is subtle yet so real.

The sufganiyot were not just donuts.

The Rebbe was not teaching his Chassidim to give out donuts.

He was guiding them on how to transmit his best wishes and unlimited love for the fellow Jews they were visiting.

The officer felt that love shining through the sufganiya.

It is that love that the officer was wary of.

Love is irresistible.

As King Solomon taught in Mishlei 27:19 ‘As water reflects the face so one's heart reflects the feelings of the other's heart’.

The officers only mistake was that he shied away from that love. His life would have only been enhanced by having embraced that love.

If you dig deeper, what lies behind the incessant requests the Rebbe made of us to offer fellow Jews opportunities to perform individual mitzvahs whenever and wherever possible?

Love.

If I love you, I want to try and get you to do the most amazing thing you can do for your soul (and body). Perform a mitzvah.

And by the same token, because I love you, I want to send you a sweet donut on Chanuka.

The motivation to send your students and chassidim to all corners of the glove to offer a fellow Jew the opportunity to lay Tefilin, is the same motivation for sending a sweet sufganiya to a solider in a tense army base.

Its all about Ahavat Yisrael. It is about seeing the ‘neshama’ in a fellow Jew. And treating it with the love it deserves.

LOVE.

This is at the core.

The sufganiya is merely the expression of that love.

If you like bagels and lox, then that love can be expressed through that.

The most powerful gift one Jew can give another Jew will always be the opportunity to share a mitzvah. The greatest sum of money or most indescribably exquisite gift is infinitely smaller than the ‘smallest’ mitzvah. This is why Chabadniks can sometimes even come across as ‘nagging’ when offering a fellow Jew to share a mitzvah. It is simply such an incredible opportunity for the recipient that we don’t want to give up on easily.

The conference is an opportunity to reconnect to that spirit of Ahavat Yisrael, the inspiration that the Rebbe imbued us with and make sure that it remains at the core of our mission.

This great love that the Rebbe, a true Jewish leader, had and has for each and every Jew, is expressed in the Tefilin we lay with fellow Jews, in the Shabbat candles we inspire Jewish women to light, and also in the warm chicken soup and sweet sufganiyot, among all the other forms of material assistance that Chabad Shluchim administer.

Act of love by act of love.

Mitzvah by mitzvah.

The world will thus be transformed into a world ready for Mashiach.

You too can join the revolution by carrying the torch forward, by doing more mitzvahs and by finding ways to transmit the true love and Ahavat Yisrael that is at the very foundation of the entire Torah.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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