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Tuesday
May122015

THE TIME FOR ACTION IS RIGHT NOW

The keynote address in Hebrew at this years Kinus HaShluchim was delivered by the tireless shliach, Rabbi Dudi Caplin, Chabad Shliach to Cozumel, Mexico and founder of six Chabad Houses for Israeli Tourists in Central America.

 CLEAR INSTRUCTION REGARDING MEXICO

On my year on K’vutza, I had a special alarm clock which woke me every morning. It woke me with the Rebbe’s voice shouting, “Ker a velt haint!” (turn the world over today). Getting up every morning to that call to action made me think about this demand of the Rebbe: Chassidim, wake up! We’ve accomplished a lot, boruch Hashem, but there is a lot left to do. We need to turn the world over!

Then the question arose, how are we to do this? How do we turn over the world?

Six years ago, my friend Shlomi Peleg, shliach to Cozumel, Mexico, sat here at the farbrengen platform and discussed the Rebbe’s demand to turn over the world. We had heard from a businessman about an island in Mexico called Cozumel. The island has about a hundred local Jews and tens of thousands of tourists, and it still did not have a Chabad House.

We spoke with the shliach in Mexico City, R’ Y. Y. Meizlich and he immediately said to go ahead and he would help us. We wrote to the Rebbe and received his bracha in the Igros Kodesh to go and check out the place. On 15 Shevat 5770 we arrived in Cozumel and we were immediately tremendously successful in all our outreach efforts. We rented a small place, hung up a Moshiach flag, and got to work preparing the island for the Geula.

At the first meeting with the community, everyone was pessimistic about success. They told us it’s a small place and it will be hard for you, but after Mivtza Purim, a successful Seder, preparing kosher food for people, and teaching Judaism to children, everything looked promising.

Then the swine flu epidemic broke out and all over the world they began saying it would reach Mexico. After a few days, tourists stopped coming to the island. Everyone stayed indoors and the few out on the street wore masks. Most stores were closed. The Chabad House was open, of course, but people didn’t come, neither tourists nor locals. We thought it would be over quickly but it lasted over a month. Our kosher food was used up and the atmosphere wasn’t particularly upbeat.

We didn’t know what to do next. We decided to write to the Rebbe and asked whether we should return to 770 and look for a couple to come back to the island at a later point, or stay.

We sat around the table and opened the one volume of Igros Kodesh that we had. The Rebbe’s answer was astounding. The letter was written to R’ Avrohom Mordechai Hirschberg who was the Chief Rabbi of Mexico at that time, and the Rebbe asked him not to leave his place of shlichus.

Since then, five years have gone by and today there are seven Chabad Houses in Central America – in Mexico: Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Isla, Chiapas. And also in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. In these Chabad Houses there are mikvaos, restaurants, preschools, and many activities to spread Judaism and Chassidus and awareness about Moshiach. Over 50,000 Jewish tourists pass through the Chabad houses in Central America every year!

This year, we opened a phone center in Eretz Yisroel which coordinates keeping in touch with tourists who returned home. The center contacts tourists and connects them to activities at Chabad Houses in Eretz Yisroel, and has a daily shiur in Judaism for them, every day in a different city. Before last Tishrei, we had a Shabbaton in Kfar Chabad for tourists which was attended by over 200 people.

INSPIRATION FROM IRAN

A few months ago, we hosted an Israeli businessman at our Chabad House. He asked us, “How are you able to turn the world over? What’s the source of your energy?” I told him a story that provided me with inspiration and an answer to his question.

I first read to him the letter we opened to from the Rebbe which was written to R’ Hirschberg. R’ Hirschberg did not look like a Lubavitcher but he was a Chassid and mekushar to the Rebbe.

R’ Hirschberg had many connections in the Arab world and he undertook many secret assignments for the Rebbe. The most famous of them was saving Jewish children in Iran. The following story took place in 1979, soon after the Iranian Revolution.

At that time, the world was in an uproar following the takeover of the American embassy in Iran with the embassy employees taken hostages. The Americans failed in their rescue attempt and lost some helicopters. After many efforts on the part of the United Nations, the Iranians agreed to allow a visit to the hostages by a small number of religious people. The Rebbe used his influence so that R’ Hirschberg would be included in the delegation.

Many warned R’ Hirschberg against going there. He might easily enter Iran but who said he’d be able to leave? Contrary to all those who were apprehensive, the Rebbe told him to go and asked him to light a Chanuka menorah with the Jews there.

He did not know what the Rebbe was talking about since Chanuka was a few months away. What actually happened was, there were many delays and the trip was postponed until two days before Chanuka. When he arrived in Iran and asked permission to bring a menorah into the building, to his surprise, his request was granted.

When he spoke with the hostages, he discovered six American Jews. He told them about the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his special request, made months before, to light the menorah with them.

The sight was a moving one; in the embassy building which had become a prison with fifty-two hostages, surrounded by armed men, stood a group of Jews who danced and sang around the menorah as though all was well.

Later on, the Iranians asked the religious delegates to attend a mass prayer in the main square of Teheran, with Khomeini himself. About a million people were in attendance. The members of the delegation, including R’ Hirschberg, stood near Khomeini on the dais. Suddenly, everyone bowed including the priests and the other members of their group. R’ Hirschberg was horrified to find himself the only one standing. Despite the great danger, he felt he could not bow with the Moslems.

At the end of the prayer, some policemen came and told him that Khomeini wanted to speak to him. He was terrified, but he remembered that he was on the Rebbe’s shlichus and he believed that all would be well.

When Khomeini asked him why he did not bow as everyone else had, R’ Hirschberg said he did not know to whom they were bowing, and he did not want to bow when he did not know to whom. Khomeini said he was satisfied by his courage and faith and dismissed him. R’ Hirschberg took the opportunity to ask for an official meeting with Khomeini and he agreed.

At the meeting the next day, R’ Hirschberg asked Khomeini to protect the Jews of Iran and enable them to observe their faith. Khomeini gave his promise and actually carried it out.

R’ Hirschberg’s Jewish pride, which was publicized in all the newspapers, made a tremendous impression on the Jewish community there and served to connect them to the Rebbe.

From this story we learn that when you connect to the Rebbe, who is the balabus over nature, there is unlimited success in shlichus in a way of “a king breaks through fences [to create a path],” and not only does the world not interfere, it helps.

When I finished telling the story, the businessman, who had listened in amazement, said: If that’s the case, then you are invincible.

LET’S GET SERIOUS

The Rebbe told us in 5751-5752 that Moshiach is already here and we are on the threshold of Geula and every Jew today can “live with the time” of Yemos HaMoshiach with every mitzva and activity.

Over twenty years have passed since then. On the one hand, we need to look back and see the tremendous upheaval, a Geula upheaval, that the Rebbe wrought and continues to do; on the other hand, we need to make a spiritual accounting about how we are continuing and progressing toward the goal. How are we turning over the world and bringing the true and complete Geula?

Once, a tourist named Tomer came to our Chabad House. He spent several weeks at the Chabad House and became very involved in Judaism. On the day of his flight back to Eretz Yisroel I asked him: Tomer, what did you take from here? He innocently said in surprise, “I promise you rabbi, I didn’t take anything and didn’t touch anything …”

My fellow shluchim, we came here from all over the world to draw strength from the meshaleiach and to become fortified with the one remaining shlichus – kabbalas p’nei Moshiach Tzidkeinu. Let us make a resolution that we will wake up and not become complacent. Together we will “squander the treasures” and use the most powerful weapons and turn the world over. Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu, Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!

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