As i walked down Clarastrasse

Friday, 20 May, 2022 - 3:15 am

It was one of those hot days. I was walking down Clarastrasse in Basel, dressed in a suit and hat, my white Tzitzit showing, while underneath I was being roasted by its woolen material. “People are probably sure that I’ve gone crazy,” I thought.

Three girls were walking towards me, laughing. I understand them: dressing this way on such a hot day is indeed ludicrous. But then, one of them suddenly approached me and said in English: “I’m Jewish too. Look – I even have a ‘Chai’ necklace. I hid it under my clothes because I was embarrassed to show it. But when I see you walking like this – walking proudly as a Jew – I also want to be that way.’ And as she was talking she pulled out the hidden “Chai” pendant and walked on, head up.

The Tzitzit was still roasting me, but the heat I felt was that of Jewish pride.

This week’s Parasha (outside of Eretz Yisrael) is “Behar” – “at the mountain.” I haven’t yet gone on a trip to Mount Sinai, but during a visit to Pilatus near Luzern, and to Brunni in Engelberg, I saw the power that a mountain projects. A mountain symbolizes pride, power, firmness and height.

“The soul did not go into exile, and it was not enslaved by the nations,” so said the Rebbe in his talks about Parashat Behar. The soul is a tall, firm, powerful mountain. The message the Rebbe gets from the name of the Parasha is firm and powerful as well: a Jew should be proud of his Jewishness; he shouldn’t hide it, neither from the backward nor from the enlightened. One shouldn’t hide a “Chai” from anti-Semites, nor remove a yarmulke in face of patronizing looks.

The motto of “Jewish pride” is a central point in all of the Rebbe’s activities, starting from when he was a boy. Activities such as menorahs in city centers, Tefillin in central bus stations, Mitzvah Tanks and Lag Ba’Omer parades are meant to show firmness and power as well, to be a mountain.


So, next time you walk down the street, remember: You are a “mountain”!


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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