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Go out and act

Friday, 15 June, 2018 - 7:16 am

The Rabbi of St. Petersburg came into the office of the head of the community, placed his keys on the table and said, “I am resigning my position as rabbi!”

The head of the community was startled: “Rabbi, why?”

And the Rabbi answered: I am resigning because an old lady came to me yesterday and asked a question for which I had no answer. And since I see my role as being that of answering questions, I am resigning.”

The head of community, still in shock, asked some more: “Rabbi, what question could an old, simple Jewish lady ask for which the rabbi of St. Petersburg has no answer?”

“The old lady, came in,” answered the Rabbi, “banged on the table and shouted: “Rabbi, who needs you here?!?”

“And I,” continued the Rabbi, “have been walking around for two days trying unsuccessfully to figure out the answer to that question.”

In this week’s parasha, we see that Moshe Rabbeinu had to cope with the same question. But his solution was not to resign, not even to stay within the confines of his office; rather, he went out and acted.

The war of Korach and his group – headed by the troublemakers Datan and Aviram – was coming to a head. They, in their audacity, were shouting and saying to Moshe Rabbeinu: Rabbi, who needs you here? And Moshe, he sent for them; he just wanted to plead with them. Bu they refused to his request, and said, “We will not come up.” Hashem had already told Moshe to move away from them, because soon the earth will open up and swallow Korach and all of his cohorts. “Come up from around the dwelling of Korach, Datan and Aviram.” But Moshe did not give up yet. He put his own personal honor and reputation on the line and still tried to talk to them. “And Moshe got up and went to Datan and Aviram.” The faithful shepherd didn’t give up as long as there was some hope. He got up and went to them in one last attempt to return them to the fold.

Moshe Rabbeinu’s way of handling things as the leader of the nation is the essence of the shlichut – the mission – that the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught everyone. The Rebbe demanded from everyone – his shluchim, his chassidim, and really from anyone who came in contact with him, directly or through his teachings – that they be activists; that they should set aside their own honor and egoistic calculations that say, “He should come to me if he wants me.” Go out into the world, said the Rebbe. Go out to every man, woman and child, with light, love and authentic Jewish warmth. Bring the good that is within you to every place and every person.

Today is the day before the 24th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing, which will be noted tomorrow. It is only right that we should remember this message. This is the task of Moshe Rabbeinu. This is the approach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and also that of anyone who wishes to devote himself or herself to his way: to leave the warm and comfortable haven, to move beyond one’s emotional limitations – to go out there and disseminate warmth, love and joy.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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