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Aug012019

Contraction and Expansion

The Rebbe devotes countless hours on addressing the community and the world through his Farbrengens and “General Letters” addressed to the entire Jewish people. The Rebbe also has special gatherings, talks, and letters for specific audiences such as for women, children, senior citizens, and Israeli soldiers.

The Rebbe directs much of his teaching and inspiration to the entire Jewish nation but doesn’t neglect specific groups, recognizing their special circumstances, merits, resources, and potentials.

Likewise, the Rebbe writes letters addressed to the entire Jewish people; a letter written to many individuals with the same content and letters to individuals specifically relating to that person’s request or need.  

***

Publicly spearheading the Jewish people’s greatest movement in the twentieth century identified by the name Chabad-Lubavitch, yet also operates to spread Judaism and help people through other channels which rarely revealed the Rebbe’s involvement. Indeed, the Rebbe supported their work even if they were critical of Lubavitch.

Many stories have surfaced in recent years about the way the Rebbe helped, and in some cases saved, other organizations that were doing good work although they were “in competition,” and even critical, of Chabad.

One example is the Rebbe’s support for a children’s magazine, Olomeinu, which competed with the Chabad children’s magazine, Talks and Tales. As far as I know, the Rebbe’s crucial contribution was never even publicly acknowledged.

I read a copy of a letter of the Rebbe, which was never published, to an activist critiquing a major non-Chabad educational institution in Israel, with the intent that they correct their problems. Although, if they had heeded the Rebbe’s advice, they would have been in a better position to compete with the Rebbe’s parallel institution. At the end of the letter, the Rebbe asked that it not be publicized so as not to hurt their fund-raising capabilities!

The Rebbe worked to strengthen his competitors to strengthen Jewish education and other Jewish interests.

***

Deals with universal problems, yet has time for “small” and “petty” concerns of others.

The Rebbe deals with issues that confronted the entire Jewish world; matters of life and death.

Yet, the Rebbe demonstrates that he doesn’t take the concerns of an individual person lightly, even if they seem petty.

The following story illustrates this point:

My nephew, Rabbi Mendel Samuels, was a 15-year-old student at the Chabad Yeshiva in Morristown, NJ where my father (Rabbi Meir Greenberg OBM) served as Rosh Yeshiva. My nephew complained to him of an ingrown toenail. When he heard the doctor speak of cutting it out, he thought it was major surgery and said he would not agree to the treatment without a blessing from the Rebbe.

My father reluctantly called Rabbi Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary, to request a blessing from the Rebbe.

A few hours later, Rabbi Groner called to say that he placed the note under a pile of other letters (obviously because he too was somewhat uncomfortable to submit a request a blessing for an ingrown toenail).

However, he reported that when the Rebbe entered his office, he searched through the pile of letters to find this note and then gave his blessing…

To the Rebbe, there is no such thing as a small or petty matter. If the person feels it is important, the Rebbe treats it as such and gives his full attention, concern, and compassion to that person.

***

The Rebbe occupies a small, modest office with minimal support. Virtually no modern technologies were used by him, but runes the entire world from it. The Rebbe had but a small staff of a few dedicated secretaries, a pencil and scrap paper. His chief aide, Rabbi Chodakov, who was in charge of administering hundreds of institutions, occupied an office of about 40 square feet with a phone that was left from the 1940s. 

Yet from these small, cramped quarters came the largest expansion of Jewish identity, education, and observance to the largest number of Jews throughout the world. Chabad became the world’s fastest-growing Jewish movement reaching virtually every corner of the globe.

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