you can’t take the Chabad House out of the Chabadnik

Friday, 2 October, 2015 - 7:45 am


Dear Friends,


Chol Hamoed is a time when we try to go on pleasure trips with our children. The Chabad House is always hopping with activity, and during the Yamim Noraim and at the beginning of Succot it’s even more so; but then Chol Hamoed comes – a time to relax a bit, experience a change of scenery, and leave the phone on Flight Mode for a few hours.

So we went to the SeaLife museum in Konstanz, which is on the border of Germany with Switzerland.

Of course, we took with us a Lulav and Etrog, because there was no doubt that we would meet some Jews there who might be happy to make use of the Arba Minim. You can take the Chabadnik out of the Chabad House, but you can’t take the Chabad House out of the Chabadnik…

We identified them very quickly: loud, noisy and speaking Hebrew – Israelis touring the Black Forest. I offered them the opportunity to make the blessing on the Arba Minim, and they stood in line – children and adults – happy and excited. One of them, a young father from Ramle, kissed the Etrog; there were tears in his eyes. “Listen,” he said. “I bought a set of Arba Minim. I chose a beautiful Etrog, and brought it with me from Israel. But unfortunately, I forgot it on the bus that took us from the airplane to the terminal. When I noticed that it was missing, we were already in the hotel… I was so upset and angry with myself. And you ask me why I’m so moved?”

Those moments with these Israelis and the Lulav connected me to Simchat Torah, which is coming up soon.

Here is the most wonderful, well-known and characteristic commentary of the Rebbe about the essence of the joy of Simchat Torah:

The Torah is a textbook, meant to be studied, and it would seem right that the joy and the celebration of such a treasure would be expressed by even deeper, broader study, delving into various topics included in the Torah. In other words, it would seem that it would be more suitable on Simchat Torah, instead of dancing, jumping and singing (and drinking L’chaim, of course), to sit with the open book, learn and grow wiser – perhaps to stay up all night, learning a special Tikkun for the occasion. But why dance? And why with a rolled-up Sefer Torah?

But that’s just the point. Because the Torah’s real essence is that it is the holy and pure Torah of Hashem, and it is what was given to us, to the Jewish People. The Torah is the spiritual possession of each and every Jew.

This essential fact – that the Torah of Hashem is holy and belongs to every Jew – is not at all dependent on knowledge and scholarship, or even on lack of knowledge and un-scholarship. In other words: the Torah does not belong to the scholarly Jew who sits and learns all day in the holy city of Jerusalem any more than it belongs to the Jew who lives in Birobidzhan and doesn’t even know that he is Jewish!

That is what I saw on Wednesday in Konstanz. I saw Jews who love the Torah and Mitzvos with a love that brings with it excitement and tears. Even the fact that they did not know the Bracha that is said when shaking the Lulav did not take away from their excitement.

Friends, one should learn Torah, of course. Beyond the fact that it’s one of the most important Mitzvahs that we have, and that when we learn Torah we hold in our minds G-dly wisdom, Hashem’s wisdom, it is our Torah – our operating manual in the world of falsehood that we live in. But on Simchat Torah, when we rejoice in the joy of the Torah, we are happy with the Torah’s essence – that it is holy and pure. We dance with the Torah – just dance – shoulder to shoulder, overjoyed over the very fact that we exist.

A rolled-up Sefer Torah in the arms of a Jew dancing, his face radiating joy – oy, is there a sight more beautiful than that? That is the Joy of Torah – Simchat Torah!


Moadim L’simcha, Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same’ach!


Zalmen Wishedski

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