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Wednesday
Mar192014

HANDS-ON SHLICHUS

Every shliach knows that in addition to his work directing the Chabad House, filling the role of respected shliach, lecturing, setting policy, putting t’fillin on people, giving shiurim, etc. there are times when the shliach himself needs to roll up his sleeves and get involved in the physical work of the Chabad House.

This week, we will read about shluchim and mekuravim who schlep boxes of food and renovate buildings, and the blessed results.

FROM THE WEDDING – STRAIGHT TO SHLICHUS

A few years ago, a newly married young man called me a week after his wedding with a request.  Since during the seven days of Sheva Brachos, he and his kalla were not allowed to do any work, and since his Sheva Brachos were ending that day, they wanted their first work to be in shlichus.  They asked if they could come to Beit Shaan and help out.

Since it was Nissan and we were in the middle of matza baking with the children of the city, we were happy to have the couple helping out.  They both got busy mixing flour and water, putting the matzos in and out of the oven and explaining things to the children.

Apparently, this was an auspicious beginning to their married life, as they continue to live a rich and blessed life infused with the spirit of shlichus in many areas.

THE JANITOR WHO BECAME THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Another incident has to do with a veteran shliach who is the director of a number of schools. He has a dynamic, talented, successful executive director working with him and raising money.  Over the years, the executive director planned and carried out the allocation of land for construction and the permits and budgets for building a huge educational enterprise.  The interesting thing about this story is that when he first started on shlichus, he was the school janitor.

Indeed, R’ Leibel Schildkraut founded and runs a network of schools and Chabad Houses in Haifa and its suburbs, known as the Krayot, with the help of many shluchim, of course.  When he founded the first school, approximately 35 years ago, R’ Boaz Kali joined the staff.  Boaz was coming from the business world and he threw himself into fundraising and getting the mosdos running.

At this point, R’ Schildkraut presented Boaz with an “enticing” offer.  Since the Haifa municipality was funding the salary for a janitor for the new school, and since there was nobody at that moment to accept the position, perhaps Boaz was willing to register as the official janitor of the school, and that way he would receive a salary.  Boaz agreed, the city paid, the schools grew, and the former janitor is today a dynamic and senior shliach who takes part in running all these beautiful mosdos.

R’ Kali sits in at all the planning sessions with the contractors, mayors, department of education functionaries and others.  At one of the meetings, R’ Kali demonstrated tremendous knowledge and professionalism before all the experts, and in one of the debates he even proved conclusively that he was right.  The mayor of Haifa at the time, Amram Mitzna, was amazed by the knowledgeable Chassid and even asked him to make a professional switch, “Come work for us in the Haifa municipality.  We need an expert like you in construction …”

But R’ Boaz remained in Chabad and continues to contribute his abilities and talents toward opening more and more Chabad schools in Haifa and the Krayot.

THE REBBE TOLD ME TO HELP THE CHABAD HOUSE

R’ Yosef Elgazi is the shliach in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Yerushalayim, and he told me the following story:

When we began our shlichus in Kiryat HaYovel 14 years ago, I met Yitzchok, a man in his forties who is a resident of the neighborhood.  Yitzchok never attained any scholastic achievements of note, but with his natural sincerity he helps all those in need. 

One day, Yitzchok went to R’ Elgazi and said, “I had a dream in which I saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe who said to me, ‘You know Yossi Elgazi? He is my shliach in Kiryat Yovel.  Help him in whatever he asks of you.’  R’ Yosef, from now on, whatever you need I will do for the Chabad House.  You can call me at two in the morning or an hour before Shabbos and whatever you ask I will do, just as the Rebbe told me.”

From that day on – and over a decade has passed – he has done innumerable jobs for the Chabad House.  He is the one who puts up all the flyers; he distributes 10,000 ads before every gathering, and the Shabbos brochures, food deliveries, shopping, and more all because the Rebbe told him.

He also attends the shiurim and farbrengens, but his main connection with the Chabad House is expressed in his devoted work, in his hands and feet, carried out with all his heart and with joy over the privilege to help a shliach of the Rebbe.  He once told Yossi, “There are many rabbis in the neighborhood who ask me for help, but you come first.  Whenever you want, give me a call and I will do whatever is needed.”

THANKS TO A FIGHT WITH “MISNAGDIM,” SHOLOM WAS MADE AMONG CHASSIDIM

The following story, in which the names have been changed, I heard from the one it happened to.  He is a shliach in Eretz Yisroel who worked in his city for a period of time and wanted to start a Chabad minyan.  He looked for a suitable building and someone told him that somewhere near the center of town was an abandoned caravan.  Maybe the mayor would approve or at least not prevent him from having a minyan in it.

The shliach went to the mayor, and after a brief discussion in the course of which the mayor expressed his admiration for Chabad, he gave the shliach the keys to the caravan.  He also asked him not to publicize that he had given him the keys.

The Chabad minyan was up and running. In addition to t’fillos in the caravan, there were also farbrengens, Mesibos Shabbos, and shiurim for men and women.  Within a few months the place was too small for all the participants who visited throughout the day (and night).

The energetic shliach had a contractor come with his team and expand the space.  They expanded it to three times the size and the cost of the renovations was 100,000 shekels.  Although the Chabad House coffers did not have even a small part of that sum, since the shliach operated L’chat’chilla Aribber, he gave them all postdated checks in the hopes that by the time the date arrived, Hashem would have sent donors to cover the checks.

The shliach and all the mekuravim got involved with the work.  They all worked day and night with the contractor and his workers in order to quickly finish the renovations and expansion before someone would make trouble and the construction would be halted.

The work was finished within a week and they were thrilled.  Now, all that remained was to see where the money would come from to cover the checks whose pay date was approaching.

Among the mekuravim who helped in the labor was someone who was close with the Litvishe elements in town.  He suggested to the shliach that he ask for financial aid from a certain well-known Litvishe enterprise without telling them that it was a Chabad endeavor.  The man claimed that with his connections, he assumed they would get 5000 shekels from them. 

The shliach, of course, refused to get involved in such a circumspect manner and opted instead to submit a request on Chabad House stationery.  He wrote that the costs of the renovations were (as he thought then) 70,000 shekels.  Just one day later, he was called by the secretary of the enterprise in question and was informed that they would be donating 70,000 shekels toward the renovations of the Chabad House.

Just when it looked as though all was well, the debts were covered and numerous people were attending the Chabad House t’fillos and shiurim, problems cropped up.  The Litvishe mekurav said that since he had been instrumental in obtaining the large donation, he should also be allowed to decide on the nusach ha’t’filla, the times of the t’fillos, and even who would give shiurim in the Chabad House!

The shliach made it clear to the Litvishe mekurav that yes, he had brought in a generous donation but it was a donation and not an acquisition of the Chabad House.  The man was not pleased by his lack of control and he brought in friends to disrupt things at the Chabad House.  He and his friends came every day, made a commotion, broke windows, and created mayhem.  It was an intolerable state of affairs.

The troubles reached a crescendo on Simchas Torah of that year when the hooligans used fists on the shliach who refrained from responding in kind.  He even told his faithful flock, as the Alter Rebbe did in his letter Katonti, not to respond with fists but to continue davening and dancing without being drawn into the fight.

When the Misnagdim saw that physical force was getting them nowhere, they tattled to the municipality (as in the time of the Alter Rebbe).  Chabad received a summons to appear at the municipality to clarify who were the owners of the Chabad House.  The situation was very sensitive.  On the one hand, the place was deemed a flash point for violence; on the other hand, there was no official permit giving the place to Chabad.  Additionally, the Litvishe crowd had political influence among the members of the town council.

The mayor opened the discussion and asked some pointed questions about the running of the place when suddenly someone in the crowd directed the discussion elsewhere.  It was a member of the opposition, a representative of the Leftist Meretz party. He interrupted by asking point blank, “Why do you ask all these superfluous questions? Just tell us, to whom did you give the keys to the caravan? Was it to the shliach?”

The moment the mayor nodded in the affirmative, the Meretz member said, “Then all is clear.  Chabad, and only Chabad, will run the place. Whoever doesn’t like it should not come and disturb.”

These simple words were accepted by all members of the committee and were written into the protocol as the final decision.

One of the Chassidim who were present at the Chabad House during the disturbances on Simchas Torah decided that he needed to strengthen the Chabad House in his own way.  Since he was a terrific speaker, he volunteered to come every week and give a shiur in Chassidus.  Guess who was among the regular attendees … the Meretz representative and his wife!

Within a year, the shiurim had their effect and the enlightened couple made some changes in their lifestyle (not just their party) like davening three times a day, changing their style of dress, sending their children to religious schools, moving to a city with a more religious atmosphere, joining a religious community and serving it in administrative capacities with great success.

THE REAL TURNABOUT

Now is the time to reveal to our readers that the shliach himself, witness to this story, was of like mind with the Misnagdim when it came to publicizing the identity of Moshiach and proclaiming Yechi.  He was easily drawn into arguments among Chassidim about this.

The traumatic period he went through with the Misnagdim made him think about increasing his Ahavas Yisroel.  The next time he met a Chassid with whom he had argued many times in the past, he suggested that they learn a chapter together from the Kuntres Heichaltzu on the subject of Ahavas Yisroel. 

“Today,” says the shliach, “I no longer need to debate the topic of Moshiach with any Chassid.  My own children come home from school and proclaim Yechi in the Chabad House.”

 

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