the secret of our profession

Friday, 17 November, 2017 - 5:04 am

Several years ago, the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism in the United States said that the reform movement should “learn important lessons from Chabad.” In the assembly of the Zionist Movement recently, minister Naftali Bennet told of how his family had grown in their observance thanks to Chabad shluchim, and summed up his speech with, “Learn the Chabad system; it works.” The two of them, as well as other leaders, point to the love and warmth that the shluchim bring to their work; others note the Chabadniks’ special devotion. But there is something else special, too, a central part of the shluchim’s work that they do not mention.

So, in honor of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries that is taking place these days, I hereby reveal the secret of our profession.

The Torah in this week’s parasha describes a special relationship between Yitzchak and his son Esav, starting from Yitzchak’s love for Esav, when Rivka loved only Yaakov, and up until his willingness to give him the fateful blessings, those that would determine who would reign over whom. In spite of the fact that Yitzchak and Esav were father and son, this relationship is surprising. Yitzchak, in the very fact of his birth and existence, embodied the dream and the promise of the continued existence of the Jewish People. And it was clear that the continuation of this promise would be via Yaakov, not Esav. He is the one who was destined to produce twelve tribes from which the entire nation would develop. So we can live with the fact that Yitzchak loved Esav, but how could he have thought to give such fateful blessings to Esav and not to Yaakov? Rivka, Esav’s mother, understood immediately that she must do everything to make sure that the blessings be given to Yaakov, and was willing to pay any price for it. But what was Yitzchak thinking?

Yitzchak’s secret, as explained by the Rebbe, is the secret of the Chabad shluchim the world over:

If we read the story of Yitzchak’s life, we will see that he engaged in well-digging. A well-digger is not just a man of vision, and not only a person who is devoted to the goal of seeing the water well up. A well-digger is one who is mainly a believing person with inner strength; he knows to look at a mixture of dirt and stones and say, There’s water here! The dirt and rocks are just a cover for the water underneath. If we dig deep enough, we will reach that water.

A well-digger is a person who sees Esav and says to himself: There’s water here! If I dig deep enough, I will find the inner good in this person and it will come forth out of the ground. I know a great many of my colleagues, the shluchim, personally, and know many others indirectly, and I can say that I know this clearly: they are all well-diggers. They know how to look at dirt and stones and say, There’s water here! Everyone has such a story: “Everybody told me that I wouldn’t succeed with this person,” or “I was told that in this city there’s no chance of accomplishing anything,” or, “You know, this type of activity won’t work here.” But the shaliach always knew to look forward and say, There’s water here!

And, indeed, there was.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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