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We bear the yoke – assuming responsibility

Friday, 29 April, 2022 - 6:14 am

I was 14 years old on that confusing motzai Shabbos at the end of Nissan, 5751 (1991). On the Thursday before that, the 27th of Nissan, in the evening, after Ma’ariv, the Rebbe spoke, saying things that were surprising, awe-inspiring and scary in their severity and tone of speech. In the records, they wrote about this that it was “a strong and big voice, and the sight was threatened, alarming and scary.” In a short speech (11 minutes in all) the Rebbe passed on the responsibility to his chassidim and said, with pain in his voice: “I did all I can, and from now on I am passing it all on to you. Do everything you can to bring the Mashiach immediately, really, causing that there should be lights of tohu, but in vessels of tikkun.” The following motzai Shabbos, those who were then the leaders of the chassidim in Israel got up and spoke, one after the other. It is said that people don’t remember what you said to them, but they remember what you made them feel. So, I don’t remember what exactly they said, but I do remember what I felt. I felt that they were confused, helpless, and they radiated this. They transmitted their anxiety and confusion to others, and I remember this in my entire body; when I remember it now, I feel a shiver, accompanied by a certain kind of anxiety. I assume that at this stage, anyone who is not a Chabadnik will just leave off reading and get on with life. Perhaps that is good; I don’t know. That’s the way it is – I have no way to explain the essence of the connection between a Rebbe and a chassid to someone who is not a chassid. I read and hear texts and lectures on the subject and always, always come out with the feeling that the speaker or the writer just touched on some rather superficial aspect when it comes to this connection between a chassid and his Rebbe. I only ask that you believe me when I say that it is not only I, but all my friends and all Chabad chassidim who remember those minutes that way. It was a moment when even someone who did not consider himself so “connected” (which is more or less everybody), knew in his body that he is really connected and tied to the Rebbe in every way. This shiver reminds him of that fact to this day. It’s as simple as that. Today, I think we understand already that the Rebbe asked his chassidim to assume responsibility, to grow up a bit. The world is moving forward, and the further it goes, the more Hashem makes sure that the Jewish world will be less centrally managed and exhibit more decentralization. One of the first shluchim of Chabad, one the famous ones, would ask the Rebbe about every step he took. This went on for about ten years, starting from when his shlichut started. He would ask and receive an answer regarding every single act of his. But then, at one moment, when he was at a yechidut (private audience) with the Rebbe, the Rebbe said to him: “Until when will I carry you like a babe in arms? Think Chabad (acronym for chochma, bina and da’at – wisdom, understanding and knowledge) and you’ll know what to do.” Since then, the man stopped asking about every little thing. He began to use his own chochma, bina and da’at and took personal responsibility for his decisions. That is where the world is going. I think that already today there is no Jewish community that has a leader who takes full responsibility. The great leaders of all the sectors have passed away and have left their disciples the task of growing up and taking responsibility for their decisions. Yes, spiritually they have not stopped helping, and I, for one, know and live this every day, every hour. But in material matters, in the end all of us have taken upon ourselves the yoke for the sake of Judaism. “All of us” means every living man, woman and child. Each and every one has a role and a goal, a destiny and a mission. Not everyone knows this; and we are not always willing to assume this responsibility; but that doesn’t change the simple fact that we have a role, a goal, a mission and a destiny to bring light into the world for man, materially and spiritually. It is clear to me why this was so frightening and confusing on the 28th of Nissan, 5751: Taking responsibility is what we fear most. Especially when everyone knows himself well and says to himself: If it is given to me to move the world a step forward, then we will go backward; what a pity. But that is not the truth. The truth is that we can, and not only can we, we also do it every day, all the time, baby step by baby step, but we move forward. Dear friends, the 28th of Nissan is the day when this call renews itself. It is the day on which we are requested once again to grow up, by one year, to continue to bear the yoke and to do so with joy, faith and trust that we are going to be witnessing the coming of the Mashiach very soon. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Zalman Wishedski
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