November 2, 2016
Beis Moshiach in #1042, Interview, Life on Shlichus

Forty years have passed since the first group of shluchim was sent by the Rebbe to Eretz Yisroel, so we spoke with Rabbi Shmuel Greisman who was in that group. * He describes that unique shlichus and their influence on the residents of Eretz Yisroel. * He told us about being appointed director of the committee to write a Torah scroll for Jewish children and calls upon every Chassid to join the efforts to complete the sixth such Torah. * He spoke about hiskashrus and warns against the phenomenon of disconnecting the wellspring from its source, i.e., spreading Chassidus without a Rebbe, and urged preparing the world to greet Moshiach whose identity is known – the Rebbe, Nasi Doreinu.

Interview by M. Fried


It is forty years since the Rebbe sent the first group of shluchim to Eretz Yisroel. How were you chosen to be part of this group?

At the 19 Kislev 5736 farbrengen, the Rebbe first spoke about his plans to send shluchim to Eretz Yisroel. In the days that followed, names were submitted of families who volunteered to join the group of shluchim. The Rebbe chose eleven shluchim from those names who were sent to Yerushalayim, and eleven who were sent to Tzfas, which included me.

(Apropos the concept of shlichus, it bears noting, that when the Rebbe read one of my late wife’s articles about shlichus, which was written in English, he added the word “voluntary” to the description of shlichus.)

I got the good news that I was chosen by the Rebbe on Hei Teves. By the end of that week (Parshas VaYigash) the rest of the shluchim who were chosen were given the news. At the farbrengen on Shabbos, the Rebbe spoke about this and announced that the “Tzeischem L’Shalom” before we left would take place at the Yud Shvat farbrengen.

In the period before we left, we heard the Rebbe say amazing things about the shlichus, such as what the Rebbe said at the farbrengen on Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz, that he takes full responsibility for this shlichus. At another farbrengen the Rebbe said that this shlichus was a preparation for Moshiach’s coming and the fulfillment of the promise, “and you, the Jewish people, will be gathered one by one.”

Testimony about what was going on in 770 at that time can be found in a diary from that period: “A few days before Yud Shvat, we learned that the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Mordechai Mentlick, would be traveling too, to help the shluchim who were traveling to Eretz Yisroel, and that he would be there for ten days. During that time he would visit the Chabad mosdos Torah there. This was very encouraging, especially for the shluchim.

“… A ‘Tzeischem L’Shalom’ was arranged by Tzeirei Agudas Chabad and it was attended by the hanhala of the yeshiva and many guests. Each of the shluchim reviewed a sicha and part of the maamer, “Basi L’Gani 5700” … At the farbrengen of Shabbos, Parshas Bo, the Rebbe gave mashke to R’ Mentlick to distribute during the farbrengen for the shluchim and to say l’chaim, and at the end of the farbrengen he gave mezonos to R’ Mentlick to distribute to the women and children shluchim.

“On 11 Shvat, all the new shluchim waited in Gan Eden HaTachton (the hallway outside the Rebbe’s room). R’ Mentlick was in yechidus for half an hour and then the Rebbe stood in the doorway of his room and gave each shliach volume 11 of Likkutei Sichos and 150 Israeli liros and ten dollars for expenses and for tz’daka and to build up the land. The Rebbe gave a siddur and pocket Tanya to the women and children. Then the Rebbe went out to escort the shluchim.

“Hundreds of Anash went to the airport and the bachurim immediately began singing and dancing. This was broadcast live on television. There were also interviews on television with some of the passengers. The ones who spoke were: R’ Mentlick, R’ Shmuel Greisman (on behalf of the shluchim to Tzfas), Sholom Duchman (on behalf of the shluchim to Yerushalayim), R’ Moshe Pinchas Katz (on behalf of Anash), Consul Tzvi Levin (on behalf of the consulate), and others.”

What goals did the Rebbe set for your shlichus?

In the early years we did not receive detailed instructions from the Rebbe regarding the shlichus; just the general instruction to travel to and settle in Eretz Yisroel, some of us in Yerushalayim and some of us in Tzfas. It was like Avrohom’s “Lech lecha – to the land I will show you,” and we did it with kabbalas ol.

We landed at Ben Gurion airport on 12 Shvat and we went directly to Tzfas from there. In the years that followed we learned in the kollel there and we were involved in mivtzaim and hafatzas ha’maayanos.

It was only three years later, after sending another two groups of shluchim, on Rosh Chodesh Shvat 5739, that the Rebbe sent the famous letter in which he went into detail about the goals and jobs of the shluchim in Tzfas, Yerushalayim, and around Eretz Yisroel. Then came the stage of the individual settling in of the shluchim, each one in his position with his work.

At the beginning of that letter the Rebbe writes, “It was said at the beginning of the shlichus that there are several goals and benefits in their trip and their shlichus, in addition to the main intention – stabilizing the situation in Eretz Yisroel, not only through ordinary speech and action along with material and spiritual help in general, but as shluchim, and a person’s emissary is like himself, to be a role model for others so they see and act accordingly.”


In retrospect, what was the shluchim’s main impact on the people of Eretz Yisroel and the Chabad communities?

Until the arrival of the shluchim, among Anash and Chabad communities there was not much of an emphasis placed on hiskashrus to the Rebbe as something central and significant in daily life. There were outstanding mekusharim in Eretz Yisroel, like the Chassidim R’ Avrohom Pariz and R’ Zushe the Partisan, but the atmosphere was not one of hiskashrus.

When the shluchim arrived, they created a huge change in hiskashrus to the Rebbe, the results of which we see till today. With chayus and Chassidishe enthusiasm, they instilled the concepts of living with the Rebbe, writing and reporting to the Rebbe, traveling to the Rebbe, learning the new sicha each week that we heard from the Rebbe, and celebrating the Rebbe’s birthday on 11 Nissan. These became self-understood concepts for every Chassid.

In his time, the mashpia, R’ Mendel Futerfas, said that the shluchim brought 770 to Eretz Yisroel. The shluchim instilled a “koch” and new chayus in all the Rebbe’s inyanim, in carrying out the mivtzaim, hafatzas ha’maayanos, and learning and spreading the Rebbe’s teachings throughout the country. In this too, the shluchim were pioneers.

Along with the shluchim, the Rebbe sent a special “tank” to leverage and ramp up the activities. What can you tell us about that?

During the period before we went on shlichus, five Lubavitchers bought a “Mitzva Tank” together for the purpose of sending it to Eretz Yisroel, but it was held up because there was no one responsible to operate and cover the expenses of the tank.

During the 10 Shvat farbrengen, the five donors went up and gave the Rebbe the keys to the tank. The Rebbe told them to send the tank along with the group of shluchim going to Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe said the key he was given would remain with him and asked that a different key be given to the shluchim.

The tank was sent with us and went around in Tzfas and Yerushalayim to help in the work of hafatza and mivtzaim.

How would you define the essence of a shliach?

In the sicha of Shabbos Parshas VaYeitzei, 11 Kislev, 5743, the Rebbe says:

“By Chassidim, the form and image of the Rebbe’s face always stands and is etched before their eyes. This is because Chazal say that when a person repeats something he heard from the teacher he ought to consider it as though the ‘master of the teaching’ is standing in front of him. It is understood that when the Rebbe’s teachings are constantly engraved then the Rebbe’s image is constantly before their eyes!

“And since the Rebbe himself stands before them, how can they call someone else by a certain title (Reb Dovid Hirsch, and similar titles) [referring to the great Chassid, R’ Dovid Tzvi Chein], when the Rebbe himself is standing there?! Therefore, they would refer to him by the name Dovid Herschel.”

It would seem that the lesson is that the Rebbe needs to be engraved in a Chassid’s mind to the point that when he calls out to his friend, he cannot refer to him with a certain title. It makes no difference what the spiritual level of his fellow Chassid is since the Rebbe himself is standing here and one shouldn’t be giving a Chassid titles in the presence of the Rebbe.

However, it’s possible that on a deeper level, the meaning of the sicha is that it is out of the question to use titles for a great Chassid because a great Chassid is more connected to the Rebbe and more battul. This idea, that when you look at a Chassid you see the Rebbe, is more apparent.

This is the significance of the concept “great” Chassid, that his smallness and bittul toward the Rebbe make him great. Back to your question, when looking at a shliach, we need to see in him the Rebbe who sent him to that degree, i.e., that what is apparent is that the Rebbe’s image is before him and he is absolutely battul to the Rebbe.


In 5741, you were given the added job of running the committee for writing a Torah scroll for Jewish children. How did this come about?

At the 11 Nissan farbrengen 5741, the Rebbe announced the campaign of a letter in a Torah scroll for Jewish children. The Rebbe said that on that very day they should start working on it. In the days that followed, the Rebbe led special farbrengens in which he added details and instructions about this new campaign. Then I was asked by Chabad rabbanim to run the committee and I was happy to oblige.

A few days later, on 19 Nissan, my home phone rang and it was my brother-in-law, R’ Binyamin Klein, one of the Rebbe’s secretaries. He told me that the Rebbe said to him, “Call your brother-in-law. He is involved with the Torah scroll, and ask him how many children already bought a letter.” The Rebbe emphasized, “Not how many letters the scribe wrote but how many children already bought letters.”

I said I would check all the lists that we had and would provide an exact number of children who registered.

The next day, a Friday, R’ Klein called again and I gave him the number. Then R’ Klein called me back and said that when he told the Rebbe, the Rebbe was surprised and said, “That’s with a big commotion made of it?!” The Rebbe asked that I be called again the following week to get a report about how many additional children were registered. Since then and until he passed away, R’ Klein got a full report from me every Friday about how many children already bought letters in Eretz Yisroel and abroad. Today too, I continue reporting weekly to the Rebbe.

We can see how important this is to the Rebbe from R’ Klein’s story because there were several times when he entered the Rebbe’s room on Friday, that the Rebbe asked him whether the report about the number of children registered was received.

Where are we holding today?

We are in the middle of writing the sixth Torah scroll for children. We will surely merit, as the Rebbe wished at the conclusion of one of the sichos about this campaign, that Moshiach comes before the completion of this Torah, and that he will surely participate in the siyum. And what a joyous siyum it will be with Moshiach’s participation!


In one of the sichos (the first sicha for Purim in Likkutei Sichos vol. 31), the Rebbe speaks of the Chazal that says that the Jewish people of that generation deserved to be annihilated, heaven forbid, because they enjoyed the feast of that wicked man. This is surprising, for is this such a severe sin that they deserved such a fate?

The Rebbe explains: Chazal say that the Jewish people are compared to a (single) lamb among seventy wolves, but the shepherd (Hashem) is great and He saves and protects her. That means that our existence among the nations is miraculous, supernatural, like a lamb among seventy wolves which could not normally survive. But Hashem, in His kindness, protects us.

However, the Jewish people are guarded with special supervision and the seventy wolves can’t touch them when their conduct is as it should be. That is, they rely on Hashem to save them and protect them. When they oppose this protection and behave in a way that demonstrates that they think there is something to those wolves and their natural powers, they forfeit themselves, G-d forbid, from a miraculous protection and put themselves under the laws of nature.

Therefore, the fact that the Jewish people enjoyed the feast of that wicked man was a reason for such a severe decree. It wasn’t a punishment for a sin but the natural consequence of their behavior, because the fact that the Jewish people enjoyed being invited by that wicked man demonstrated that he was important to them, to the extent that they considered participating in his feast an honor. Since the Jewish people themselves ascribed importance to the “seventy wolves,” and enjoyed the honor they received from that wicked man, that itself pushed away the miraculous protection of Hashem. They put themselves under the power of the wolves.

In light of this, perhaps we can say the following. Chassidim in general, and shluchim in particular, derive their lives from the Rebbe. He is the source who channels all the divine energies that sustain our lives. Our pleasure is our chayus in fulfilling his directives, working on his projects, involvement in his teachings and carrying out his wishes. We are not continuing a legacy of the past but are living with the Rebbe today. Therefore, we do not derive any benefit from our own kochos and do not see ourselves as leaders. We are shluchim who carry out the Rebbe’s wishes. The feeling that the Rebbe is with us enables us to live like one lamb among seventy wolves.

Since this is the essence of our lives, no change can occur and no weakness is possible. We are connected to the Rebbe today just as before Gimmel Tammuz. We preserve the “pride of Chabad” without any change and with no compromises. Times haven’t changed. This is why the approach of being just another Chassidus like everybody else is out of the question. There is the awareness and feeling of being different.

What was forbidden before Gimmel Tammuz is forbidden after Gimmel Tammuz. And in the positive sense too, what was demanded before Gimmel Tammuz is demanded after Gimmel Tammuz too.

Since this is our life and our existence, we need to be wary about behavior that signifies a change and weakness in hiskashrus. We cannot allow things that were forbidden before Gimmel Tammuz, including those things that they didn’t dare ask the Rebbe about. We cannot copy the world and adapt the messages of Chassidus to the world. We cannot “enjoy the feast” of this world.

The main point is: To live with the clear awareness that the Rebbe is the Nasi Ha’dor and the Moshiach of our generation. No change has occurred in this and our conduct and our lives need to be in accordance with this awareness.

The Rebbe lives with us exactly as he did before Gimmel Tammuz. His nesius continues without any change. Our pleasure is in carrying out the Rebbe’s instructions as his shluchim. G-d forbid to think that the Rebbe left and only affects us from a distance and that we live with the “Rebbe’s legacy.”

Perhaps we can connect this to what is explained in Likkutei Sichos, volume 16 (VaYakhel 1) about why the letter yud is missing from the word “ha’n’siim.” The reason given is because they did not attain utter bittul. They felt that they were n’siim and that whatever the Jewish people does was thanks to them. This feeling of being leaders is what caused them to “be lazy” when it came to donating to the Mishkan, and the Mishkan was ultimately made without their contribution.

The lesson for shluchim is: A shliach cannot have the feeling that he, on his own, is the mashpia and the “nasi.” He needs to have the utmost bittul. Our “metzius” is merely secondary and a vessel and a garment for carrying out the shlichus. Thereby, we will merit that the Rebbe will be with us as the shepherd who saves and protects.

This brings us to the next important point:

When we make the Rebbe the most important thing and our existence secondary, there is no room for the opposite of Ahavas Yisroel. We are all disciples of the same master who love one another and treat one another with respect. As the Rebbe once said that the dinei Torah by his father were sometimes accompanied by shouting but they were still dinei Torah and not machlokes.

To put it simply – we are not askanim. We are shluchim! We do not get involved in building and development for the sake of building and development but for the sake of shlichus. Our enjoyment is in carrying out our shlichus, the nachas ruach for the Rebbe.


What do you think about a recent phenomenon in which Chassidus is promulgated while leaving out the topic of hiskashrus to the Rebbe as Nasi Ha’dor?

Part (maybe the main part) of the chiddush of the seventh generation is that the Chabad movement is not a provincial issue and one of the paths in Chassidus. Rather, it is the direct path for the Jewish people and we need to publicize it to all Jews. As part of this, the Chabad nasi is not only the nasi for Chabad or the nasi of Chassidus, but the Nasi Ha’dor of every Jew.

Naturally, the Satan could not remain silent about an amazing revelation of light such as this, which is a preparation for the revelation of the light of Moshiach. The Satan does all he can to fight it through all sorts of ways and all kinds of places in and out of Eretz Yisroel.

Those who are discerning, who see things the way they are, will surely concede that the war against the Chabad movement in our time, was not against the derech but against the Nasi Ha’dor. Although they gave all sorts of reasons about the derech of Chassidus, such as not sleeping in the sukka, Moshiach, mivtzaim, etc. it was obvious what they were really against.

In recent years, since the Satan does not recognize the idea of the Nasi HaDor’s eternal life, the war on this point has weakened, as has the war in general. This is because he (Satan) and his emissaries think there is no longer anyone to fear and they can even be friends of Chabad.

In other words, as far as the essential battle, the Satan and his emissaries are as strong as before. It is just that they feel that they don’t need to fight against the derech and the movement, because “there is no king in Israel,” G-d forbid. But when it comes to hiskashrus, we see that the war is as strong as ever.

Maybe this is why, in recent years, we have people becoming interested in Chassidus, i.e., the derech and the movement, and not in hiskashrus to the Nasi Ha’dor. The way it used to be was that those who became interested in Chabad gave their all to Chabad because of their bittul and hiskashrus to the Rebbe. But now, we see some who try to straddle both worlds.

Of course, I am not minimizing the importance of becoming interested in Chassidus. Obviously, learning Chassidus in general, and Chabad Chassidus in particular, is in and of itself the loftiest of things. And ultimately, the light within Chassidus will cause them to repent and draw them in, but for now, it’s a pity that they haven’t been exposed to the chiddush of the “seventh generation.”

Maybe this happens because the “goy (the clever one) within us” is working hard to raise doubts about whether there is a “king in Israel,” and whether our shlichus is to connect Jews to the Rebbe or to put t’fillin on them and teach them Chassidus as a goal onto itself, without hiskashrus to the Rebbe, G-d forbid.


Central to the special avoda of our time, preparing the world to greet Moshiach, is the subject of identifying and publicizing Moshiach, around which a heated debate has developed in recent years. What is your perspective?

I don’t know of any debate on the subject. I know only what the Rebbe says in the sicha of the Kinus HaShluchim 5752, that the shluchim already finished the shlichus. What the Rebbe says in this sicha is what’s most relevant to us!

The Rebbe says, “Something still remains to be done in order to actually bring the Geula. That is, based on the fact that ‘in every generation, someone is born who is descended from Yehuda who is fit to be Moshiach for Israel,’ ‘someone who is worthy because of his righteousness to be the redeemer, and when the time comes, Hashem will be revealed to him and send him, etc.,’ and based on what the Rebbe, my father-in-law, Nasi Doreinu, the singular shliach of our generation, the singular Moshiach of our generation, announced, that all the avoda was already completed – obviously, the ‘send, please, through the one You will send,’ has begun to be fulfilled, the shlichus of the Rebbe, my father-in-law.

“And from this, it is understood, that the only thing that now remains in the avoda of shlichus is: to actually welcome Moshiach Tzidkeinu so that he can fulfill his mission and take all of Israel out of galus.”

We see explicitly in this sicha that as a preface to laying out the new shlichus, the Rebbe devotes a segment to emphasize Moshiach’s identity in which he details, step by step, that every generation has a Moshiach and if the generation merits, he will be sent to redeem Yisroel. And in accordance with the announcement of the Rebbe Rayatz that all the avoda was finished, obviously, Moshiach of the generation, Nasi Doreinu, was already sent to redeem the Jewish people (as Moshe Rabbeinu was sent to take the nation out of Egypt).

From this approach, we see clearly that the Rebbe is emphasizing the identity of Moshiach. Not just “kabbalas p’nei Moshiach,” and we don’t know who he is, but welcoming that person descended from Dovid, Nasi Doreinu, who was already sent to redeem the Jewish people.

After clarifying this point, we can better understand the significance of the new shlichus of preparing the world to welcome Moshiach, while focusing on his identity and certainly not hiding it.


From where do we get the strength to hang on after over twenty years when we haven’t seen or heard the Rebbe?

We are in a state of concealment, of darkness, and we need to remember, “The existence and essence of the tzimtzum is contrary to the Will.” The situation is neither right nor desirable and it is contrary to the true intent which is revelation.

We cannot remain satisfied with our trust that Moshiach is coming imminently and that the Rebbe will be revealed soon, because that does not help for the (brief) present when we are in a state of concealment. Likewise, the solution is clearly not to yearn for what we once had, for that does not help us in the present either.

We need to focus on our mission: 1) While in the very state of concealment, we need to strengthen the Rebbe’s inyanim. The concealment itself inspires greater strength in the hiskashrus to the Rebbe and his inyanim (and it provides the strength to “tolerate suffering”).

2) At the same time, we need to do all we can to get rid of the concealment by the clear recognition and the firm stance that this situation of concealment is not the true reality and cannot oppose holiness. It cannot cause a change or weakness in hiskashrus and the avoda of shlichus and the daily life of a Chassid. Times haven’t changed!

We cannot make our peace with this state of concealment by finding strength in the hope for a future revelation. By not giving any credence to the concealment and bringing out the revelation contained within it, that itself does away with the “imprisonment” and frees us from it.


In conclusion?

We are all permeated with bittul and hiskashrus to the king, but this bittul does not mean we stand in place, motionless. On the contrary, bittul leads to movement, to welcoming Moshiach. It is due to the bittul and hiskashrus that we continue in the avoda of shlichus. The journeying on has a goal, which is to bring the “alef,” the revelation of Moshiach.

If we don’t move toward the goal, there is no purpose in the trip; it’s all for nothing.

Certainly, we learn Torah, Nigleh and Chassidus, we do mitzvos b’hiddur, we are involved in the avoda of t’filla, in spreading the wellsprings and mivtzaim, but all as part of “and they journeyed.”

This goal is apparent within all branches of shlichus and avoda thanks to learning inyanei Moshiach and Geula in a way of chochma, bina, daas, and all with the knowledge and awareness of the goal that the inner meaning of our work throughout galus is for every detail to be an inseparable part of “and they journeyed.”

Let us also remember that the Rebbe said that the avoda to bring Moshiach is in a way of “Lights of Tohu in Vessels of Tikkun,” in a way that people can relate to. We need to make sure that they are indeed “Lights of Tohu” and not just “Vessels of Tikkun.”

Each one of us needs to make a cheshbon ha’nefesh about whether he is journeying, and if so, whether the journey is the route that the Rebbe delineated, and whether he is devoted to continuing until reaching the destination. When each of us will pierce the curtain of concealment in his personal life, we will all together pierce and rip away the general concealment and immediately reach the end of the journey with the Rebbe leading us, and he will redeem us.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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