IN SEARCH OF A SPIRITUAL MENTOR
May 1, 2016
Avremele Rainitz in #1018, Life on Shlichus

 Beis Moshiach spoke with the shliach to Rutgers University in New Jersey, RYosef Tzvi Carlebach, who runs a Chabad empire with a multi-million dollar annual budget, wanting to hear the secret of how to fundraise. * What is the best way to connect with wealthy people? * What do you do when the rich man tells his security guards to throw you out of his office? * How do wealthy donors react to the Besuras HaGeula and how should a shliach react when he is threatened that a large donation will be retracted because of publicizing the identity of Moshiach?

I recently received an email with an astonishing quote from a letter written by the Rebbe Rayatz (vol. 13, p. 343) which provides a new perspective on fundraising:

“The Alter Rebbe writes that the hand which gives tz’daka becomes a merkava (heavenly chariot), so when the collector is involved in tz’daka, his entire body is a chariot to G-dliness. And in the days of such work in the act of tz’daka with real dedication he can rectify the days and years of childhood, youth, and early marriage and redeem himself from imprisonment to the animal soul and cleanse himself from the mud of the sins of youth, and with Hashem’s help, place himself in a corner of light, and merit length of days and years …”

I repeated this to R’ Carlebach at the beginning of the interview and he responded with a story. “There was once a shliach who received a large sum of money. He wrote to the Rebbe that he no longer has to fundraise, because the money he got was enough for his salary and for all his activities.  

“The Rebbe responded by saying – this is my entire intention, that you include people in your activities through their donations and the more money you take from them, the closer they become to me, and just as you need to put t’fillin on with them, so too you need to give them the merit of the mitzva of tz’daka and get them to donate for the good work of Lubavitch.”

THE MORE RUCHNIUS, THE MORE GASHMIUS

Our Rebbeim emphasized in their letters to fundraisers that their job is “to plant ruchnius and reap gashmius.” How do you combine the spiritual work with the work of fundraising?

Some mistakenly think that in order to be successful at fundraising you need to be friends with the g’vir (wealthy man). They put a lot of effort into finding out what his hobbies are etc. and try to become close to him through his material interests.

After decades of fundraising I can tell you that this is a big mistake. If the shliach tries to imitate the g’vir in order to become friends with him, the g’vir will ignore him. He is not looking for another person with a luxury car or stylish tie. He has enough friends of his caliber. The g’vir is looking for the ruchnius of the shliach. He wants a connection with a person who is more spiritual than him, someone he can look up to and from whom he can gain spiritual strength.

(I heard that when a shliach once came up with the idea of a kosher food stand at the university where he worked, the Rebbe approved the idea but told him that he should not be the one to stand there and sell the food. From this story too we see that a shliach needs to be elevated above the mekuravim.)

The g’vir is a businessman and when he gives a donation of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, he wants something in exchange. Materially, he has plenty, but spiritually he is lacking and this is what he wants from the shliach. He wants a close relationship with a spiritual person who will call him every week with a powerful vort, who can give him advice about the spiritual aspects of his life. In short, a g’vir wants a personal rabbi!

There was a recent article in The New York Times about Jews who are multimillionaires and are not yet observant and don’t frequent synagogues, but want a personal rabbi, a spiritual figure from whom they can learn.

At our last dinner, a g’vir who donated more than a million dollars to us so far addressed the crowd and said: More than Rabbi Carlebach got from me, I got from Rabbi Carlebach! 

He wasn’t just saying it, he really feels so. Why? Because a relationship with the Rebbe’s shliach elevates him spiritually and this is worth more to him than a million dollars.

Mr. Les Turchin, one of my big g’virim who, until he died, gave more than eight million dollars to the Chabad House, would call me every day and sometimes four or five times a day. Even when he was on business trips he would call me from his yacht via satellite. If a day went by and we didn’t talk, he asked: Are we no longer friends? That is how important the relationship was to him.

So the more ruchnius you plant, the easier it will be to receive the gashmius. To me, this quote from the Rebbe Rayatz is not an instruction to carry out with kabbalas ol but the reality of daily life that I see for myself.

By the way, the strong connection between gashmius and ruchnius works the other way around too – the more gashmius you take from the g’vir, the more receptive he is to ruchnius.

This is for anyone who wants to raise money; all the more so when speaking about the Rebbe’s shluchim. When talking about an askan, the most important thing to him is the mosad. For a shliach, the most important thing is to be mekarev Jews to Judaism and the Rebbe and to prepare the world for Moshiach. Everything else is only a means to an end.

This is why we saw many times, when the Rebbe gave out dollars to shluchim, and distinguished people like askanim or rabbanim passed by in the same line, the Rebbe asked: Are you a shliach? 

This was not meant to diminish the askan but it underscored that a shliach is another sort of entity.

ENCOUNTER ON THE HIGHWAY

Shluchim usually work hard to get names and addresses of potential donors, but sometimes, they meet wealthy people in unexpected ways, as in the following story by R’ Carlebach:

One year I was invited to attend the 11 Nissan event in the Rebbe’s honor in Washington DC. Under pressure, as it was so close to Pesach, I left the Chabad House an hour before the flight and drove quickly to the airport. On the way, I noticed a fancy car driving quickly behind me. I moved into the right lane and allowed it to pass me. As he passed, I noticed that he was waving at me. I figured he must be Jewish and I should stop to give him shmura matza for Pesach. I motioned to him to pull over and I stopped after him and immediately ran out and asked, why did you wave at me?

He said he saw on my license plate that the car belonged to the Chabad House, and since a relative of his had been saved thanks to Chabad, he wanted to say hello to Chabad.

I told him I was in a big rush but I wanted to enable him to do two mitzvos. I gave him a box of shmura matza and a form so he could sell his chametz. He happily signed the form and a minute later I was back in my car and I made my flight.

After Pesach, I got in touch with the man and he started giving very nice donations to the Chabad House, tens of thousands of dollars. At the same time, he became very involved in Jewish practice and started putting t’fillin on every morning. He even connected his entire family to us. Just last week, his son-in-law called and asked me to come and put up a mezuza at his house. It’s hard to believe it all started with an unexpected encounter for one minute on the way to the airport.

EVERY MITZVA IS PURE PROFIT

Have there been wealthy donors who became baalei t’shuva?

To me, if the result of a relationship with me means that a Jew decides not to marry a gentile, that’s major nachas for Hashem and the Rebbe. If someone decides not to work on Friday night, even if he still continues working on Shabbos morning, that’s a big thing!

In the early years of my shlichus, I would visit R’ Chadakov’s office every year for a fascinating ten minute discussion from which I learned a tremendous amount. In 5744 I was involved in a major effort to be appointed as the rabbi in a shul in my area. A so-called rabbi who was nominated for the position announced ahead of time that he would not require a mechitza in the shul if he was appointed, while I said that if I was accepted as the rabbi, it was on condition that there be a mechitza. With the Rebbe’s blessings and guidance, I was successful and I became the rabbi of the shul.

When I went to R’ Chadakov, I was pleased with my new position and I happily told him about it. He wasn’t as enthused and he immediately asked: How many families belong to this shul? When I said close to one hundred families, he asked: How many of them are shomer Shabbos?

I said that maybe three families are shomer Shabbos. He asked: How many keep kashrus and family purity? I had to admit that other than myself there were none. R’ Chadakov looked at me and saw how deflated I looked.

Then he said the following key line: At the next opportunity, when a large crowd attends shul, tell them – I know that you work on Saturday and obviously, as the rabbi, I don’t condone that. But, I want to ask you two things. Even if you go to work on Shabbos, try not to smoke, and try not to sign on deliveries that arrive on Shabbos.

I did as he said. Twenty years passed and the one who was the president of the shul at the time – someone who went after davening to man his peanut stand on the beach – said to me in a candid moment: Remember the speech you gave twenty years ago? Since that Shabbos, I have not signed on a single delivery on Shabbos!

I cannot tell you that he puts on t’fillin every day, but I can definitely say that he never signed for a delivery on Shabbos for twenty years. I am sure Hashem has much nachas from this. 

Of course there were those who became completely involved and even to a shocking and amazing degree. For example, one of the mekuravim who over the years donated $200,000 to us, eventually became a Lubavitcher and in certain respects I was really amazed by him.

Unfortunately, he died a few years ago. At the event to mark his Shloshim, a rabbi from a shul in the area got up and said he had to ask forgiveness from the deceased man. Why? This mekurav would daven for unusually long periods of time. Shacharis on a weekday took four hours and even Mincha and Maariv took at least a full hour.

He once went to daven Maariv at this rabbi’s shul and a long time after the davening was over and the people had left, he was still in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei. At a certain point, the gabbai lost patience and he shut the light, closed the shul, and went home. The mekurav, who did not know the davening by heart, remained stuck in his place. He could not finish Shmoneh Esrei from a Siddur because it was dark, and he couldn’t walk away. He remained standing there, hoping for a miracle or the light of morning, whichever came first.

In the meantime, his wife was waiting at home and when the hours passed and he did not return, she went out with her daughter to look for him. She saw his car parked near the shul and she woke the rabbi up and asked him to open the shul to check if her husband was there. When they turned on the light and saw him still standing Shmoneh Esrei, the rabbi couldn’t get over it.

NEVER DESPAIR

What happens when people refuse to see you – what do you do?

Unfortunately, it happens sometimes and each time, it’s not easy, of course. But over the years I learned not to give up on anyone. I’ll tell you two stories about this:

The first story happened many years ago with a businessman who, when I went into his office for the first time, threw me out with a volley of curses. It was so insulting that I really wanted to put him in his place, but I thought – if you answer him, you might feel a bit better but it won’t change him. I just left in silence.

Thirty years later, in which the man had his ups and downs, he moved into a house which was opposite a Chabad House. His pintele Yid woke up and he came to the Chabad House and said to the shliach that thirty years earlier he had a connection with a shliach of the Rebbe, R’ Carlebach, and now he wanted to renew the connection. 

The shliach, who happened to be my son-in-law, did not know that this special “relationship” he had with me consisted of his throwing me out of his office, but apparently, thanks to my not telling him off at the time, that encounter was remembered by him as a connection with Chabad. Due to this renewed connection with Chabad, he started coming every day to davening and he eventually became the gabbai at the Chabad House. He even puts on Rabbeinu Tam t’fillin and wears a gartel when davening. Whenever I meet him, I thank G-d for giving me the strength to restrain myself and not slam the door behind me.

PUBLICIZING THE IDENTITY OF MOSHIACH DOES NOT INTERFERE WITH FUNDRAISING!

The second story was a lot worse at first. I arranged to meet a millionaire and wanted to get him interested in Chabad’s work in the area. After he heard my reason for coming, he called his security people who quickly showed me the door. That’s how the first meeting ended.

I did not give up and asked a mutual friend to ask the g’vir for a donation to the Chabad House. The g’vir agreed to give, out of respect for the friend, “$5000 – $1000 a year, for five years, on condition that during those five years I will not see his face in my office.”

I agreed to this condition and received $1000 every year. After two years, when we started building the Chabad House, I asked the mutual friend to ask the g’vir for a donation toward the building. The g’vir still refused to meet with me but raised his donation to $25,000 over a five year period.

This time, I decided not to give in and I asked the mutual friend to arrange a meeting for me with the g’vir, no matter the cost. The g’vir agreed to meet me on one condition – that the meeting would be in lieu of the $25,000. Despite my apprehension, I decided to meet with him in the hopes that in a face to face conversation I would be able to convince him to up his donation.

The meeting was scheduled for one of the days of the Kinus HaShluchim 5753. After asking the Rebbe for a bracha for the meeting, I rushed to New Jersey.

The meeting, which began tensely, changed within minutes. After about twenty minutes, the g’vir said that since he liked me so much, despite his previous declaration, he wanted to give me the promised $25,000!

My solemn face let him know I wasn’t satisfied. When the g’vir asked me what I wanted, I said, “I want you to come to our dinner in two months. Only if you agree to attend the dinner will I agree to take your money.”

The g’vir, who was taken aback by the direction the conversation had gone, with my dictating the conditions, agreed.

From the meeting until the dinner a transformation occurred in the life of the g’vir. As a result of the relationship that had developed between us, he began taking an interest in Judaism and even started putting on t’fillin every weekday. Upon the recommendation of R’ Leibel Groner, I bought him a pair of t’fillin as a gift and I gave his wife a pair of silver candlesticks. So the financial donation blended with progress in the observance of Torah and mitzvos.

The g’vir was the guest of honor at the dinner and he threw himself into making the dinner a success. With his many connections he was able to bring 750 people to the dinner, many of the attendees being from the wealthiest in the area. This was in addition to distinguished public figures, led by the governor of the state of New Jersey, who also came thanks to the g’vir’s invitation.

As the date for the dinner approached, the g’vir got more involved with the work of Chabad and raised the amount of his donation until he gaily informed me that he planned on giving $750,000 toward the building fund at the dinner.

The g’vir’s interest in Chabad drew some of his close friends, as the following story illustrates:

About two weeks before the dinner, we had a meeting at the g’vir’s home to discuss details of the event. During the meeting, the g’vir’s personal lawyer was present, a very prominent and respected individual in the community. 

At one point in the meeting the lawyer suddenly burst into heartbreaking sobs. After he calmed down, he told us that he was very moved by Chabad’s work at the university. “I attended the university and my father is also an alumnus of the university, but in my time I felt that I was alone. Nobody supported me and my immediate family could not help me. Now, with the opening of the Chabad House, there is a place for every student to turn to.”

He then announced he was donating $10,000 to the Chabad House.

The g’vir, who was riveted by what his lawyer had to say, asked him to speak at the dinner but the lawyer was taken aback by the unexpected request and refused. The g’vir insisted and even said that if he agreed to speak he would raise his donation to the sum of a million dollars. The surprised lawyer said he would seriously consider the matter.

Hearing this, I rushed to ask for the Rebbe’s bracha which I received. The next day I got a phone call from the lawyer who said he was willing to speak at the dinner.

The story did not end with that. A few days before the dinner, the organizing committee met for a final tying up of all the details. The lawyer suddenly barged into the room and with a face red with anger he asked me, “Are you connected to the people with the Messiah?”

I was taken aback by his inappropriate behavior and asked him to calm down and explain to me what had upset him.

When he had calmed down a bit, he said, “On my way to the meeting I was listening to the radio. I heard a commercial about the Lubavitcher Rebbe being the Messiah! I want to know whether you belong to the people who are behind this broadcast?”

I told him that I don’t know what commercial he was talking about, but if he wanted to know whether I believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach, the answer is yes.

The lawyer told me that if I mentioned a single word about the Rebbe or Moshiach at the dinner, he would get up and leave.

That same evening I reported to the Rebbe about what happened and wrote that since at the dinner I would be fulfilling my function to speak about the Rebbe and Moshiach, I requested that this not interfere with the lawyer’s ability to inspire the guests to contribute toward the Chabad House.

Indeed, in my speech at the dinner I mentioned the Rebbe many times as well as the Besuras HaGeula and noted that only thanks to the Rebbe’s blessings had we made it until then.

As soon as I finished my speech the lawyer and his wife got up and came over to me and said, “We want to speak to you on the side now!”

I went over to the side and braced myself. “We heard everything you said about the Rebbe and I decided, along with my wife, to write a letter to the Rebbe and ask for a blessing for our daughter who is married for six years and has no children yet.”

We immediately sat down to write a letter to the Rebbe and in less than a year since receiving the Rebbe’s bracha, the lawyer had a little grandson.

In my experience, publicizing about Moshiach does not turn anyone off from Chabad. What can turn people off is only lack of explanation and that applies not only to inyanei Moshiach but to other things in which Chabad goes against the current like shleimus ha’aretz and Mihu Yehudi. When people ask questions and the shliach does not know how to respond, they can arrive at erroneous conclusions and be distanced from Chabad, but when the shliach knows the sources and can show how everything is based on the Gemara and poskim, how can Jews be turned off when they know this is authentic Judaism?

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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