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Wednesday
Feb292012

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT

It was Friday afternoon, again, and Zev tried to get out of the Yeshiva building without being seen. It wasn’t the teachers, Rebbeim, or staff members that he was trying to avoid. No, they wouldn’t comment if they saw him going home at lunchtime on Friday. The official learning was finished for the day; everyone was allowed to go home. The problem was that although that is what they were allowed to do, most boys didn’t. Instead of going straight home, most of the students went to pick up their t’fillin and their mivtzaim bags and headed with their partners to their mivtzaim route.

Zev tried very hard every Friday to sneak home without any of his friends seeing him. He knew that no one would make fun of him, but he dreaded their innocent invitations to join them. They just wouldn’t understand what was holding him back. Actually, Zev didn’t quite understand it himself. It wasn’t shyness; Zev was always the first one to introduce himself to newcomers and made friends easily. Yet, for some reason he did not feel comfortable going on Mivtzaim.

“Hi Ma, I’m home,” Zev called out, as he closed the door behind him.

“Hello Zev,” answered his mother, “we have a special guest staying with us this Shabbos.”

Zev hurried into the kitchen where his mother was busy taking trays of fresh challa out of the oven. His eyes opened wide when he saw who was sitting at the table sampling a piece of hot kugel.

“Uncle Dovid!” Zev cried out, delightedly. Dovid, his mother’s brother, was on shlichus in a city that had only one other shul.

“How’s my favorite young Chassid? What are you learning these days? Tell me an inspiring word or two!”

Zev dutifully complied by telling over some of what he had recently learned. When he finished, his mother commented: “See Dovid how well Zev learns! And he’s helpful, as well. Every Friday he peels potatoes and carrots for the cholent.” With this she put the abovementioned vegetables down on the table. Zev started peeling.

“If you’ll find me another peeler, I’ll help, too,” offered Dovid. “In our Chabad House peeling potatoes is considered a ‘gehoibeneh avoida’ – a lofty service,” he explained, his eyes twinkling. “So Zev, you know how to learn, you know how to help, you even know how to peel potatoes! You are going to make a great shliach!”

Zev put down the peeler and mumbling an apology, rushed out of the room. Dovid stared after him, astonished. He turned to his sister. “Did I say something wrong?”

Zev’s mother sighed. “It’s not your fault; you couldn’t have known that this is a sensitive point. I myself have no idea what’s bothering Zev, but he never wants to go on mivtzaim on Friday afternoon or on Yom Tov. We’ve tried talking to him about it, but we had no success. Now we just don’t say anything when he comes home early every Friday.”

“Do you mind if I try bringing it up to Zev? I’ll tread carefully, and only talk to him if he’s willing.”

“Okay, you can try. I know that he really looks up to you.”

A few minutes later, Zev came back into the room, and began peeling the last potato without looking up at Dovid. Dovid started talking, as if nothing unusual had happened, telling all kinds of interesting stories from his shlichus. Zev said nothing, but after a particularly funny anecdote, Dovid spied a glimmer of a smile. When he felt that Zev was more comfortable, Dovid asked his nephew to come with him down the street, to buy some flowers for his sister, Zev’s mother. “I try to buy my wife flowers every week to put on the Shabbos table. She knows how much I appreciate all the effort she puts in to make our shlichus successful, but I want our Shabbos guests to know it too. This weekend I’m not home, but your mother also deserves something, for hosting me.”

“And what about your wife? Won’t she have any flowers this Shabbos?”

“Ahh, no! But…I’m bringing back a special present for Tanta Esty. If not for her, I don’t know if I’d be worthy of being a shliach,” Dovid joked.

“But that’s exactly what I’m worried about!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I think,” Zev’s voice dropped to a whisper, “I really am worried that I’m not worthy of being a shliach or even doing mivtzaim… like I know all of the things I’ve done wrong and all of the Mitzvos I have neglected… How can I tell others to do mitzvos?”

“Zev, do you know what? I’m going to tell you something that I’ve only told to a handful of people. I felt very much like you, and when I was privileged as a bachur to be chosen for shlichus, I thought there was a mistake. At that time less than twenty boys would be chosen out of the whole yeshiva for a two year shlichus. I had previously written to the Rebbe about my failings, so I was shocked that I was among those chosen. A few months after the shlichus started, I had a private Yechidus with the Rebbe. He told me that fulfilling the shlichus in the best possible way is a tikkun for every failing, including those I had written about. The Rebbe’s words changed my whole perspective.”

“So you don’t have to first perfect yourself?”

“Of course, one should always work on himself; a Chassid is always finding ways to improve. However, if everyone would wait until they were perfect, who would do the shlichus? There’s a sicha on Parshas Tetzaveh that explains it like this: Moshe Rabbeinu was told by HaKadosh Boruch Hu to bring Aharon and his sons close and to make them Kohanim for Hashem Yisborach. Rashi says that this command is to be fulfilled after the building of the Mishkan. The Rebbe explains that the holiness of the completed Mishkan made it possible for the Kohanim to be brought close to Moshe’s level. Receiving the Kehuna at that later point also meant that although Aharon had built a mizbeiach for the golden calf (with good intentions) this would not disqualify him.

“The Rebbe connects this to our times. Those who are students of the leader of our generation are like the Kohanim of those times. They are brought ‘close’ and given extra strength to do the service of the Mishkan. They are given no other choice. If they feel unworthy, well, they must realize that the holiness is already there – Moshe Rabbeinu has completed the Mishkan, and they just have to reveal it.”

“So I can be a shliach even if I’m not perfect?”

“That’s all the more reason to be one!”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 6 pp. 170-178. The shliach’s yechidus is a true story; the rest is fiction.

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