Earlier this week, during a prison chaplaincy visit, a discussion ensued about various methods for people to teach and influence. One of the Jewish inmates was trying to persuade the others to adopt a principled stand with regards to the standard of Passover foods being furnished by the prison. He was employing an approach of pointing out what he felt was the right thing to do by highlighting how inappropriate or even hypocritical the lack of principle would be.
As I was observing the dialogue and upon having my opinion sought, I suggested a different method. I shared with them that my daughter, Chana was celebrating her Bas Mitzvah later in the week and used that as a springboard to present the alternative approach.
Let me break for a moment to wish Chana Mazel Tov. Her celebration was last night and it was absolutely beautiful. (I will share photos when they become available.) In her usual fashion, my wife, Malkie, produced an amazing presentation that included food, décor, singing, dancing and teaching from many angles. Chana represented herself very in an elegant manner and we are very proud of her.
Back to my point. At the Bas Mitzvah, we read a letter that the Rebbe sent Malkie upon the occasion of her Bas Mitzvah. This letter was read at each of our daughters’ Bas Mitzvahs. IN addition to blessing the Bas Mitzvah girl, the Rebbe also encourages her to influence her friends in a positive way and points out that first and foremost that influence comes by showing a personal example.
This is a simple yet profound lesson. The loudest preaching and the deepest lecture is not as effective as “walking the walk.”
When Reb Bunim of Peshischa, a 19th century Chassidic master, was a child, his father hosted a group of Torah scholars for a visit. They heard about the child’s prodigious Torah learning and they asked him to share a thought on the topic he was learning at the time, the Mitzvah of welcoming guests. He went into the other room, ostensibly to prepare his remarks. When he returned he asked them to join him the other room. Instead of a lecture, the boy had prepared a room of with a bed and wash basin for each of them. Actions speak louder than words.
I hope that my words were taken to heart and that peace will reign in the miniscule Jewish community of the Federal Prison that I visit. In any case this is true across the board. Passover is a time when a lot of people are more strict about their standards than they may be the rest of the year. We need to make sure that we influence not just by preaching but also by example.
Our monthly Lunch N Learn takes place this Monday, April 3 at 12 noon – NY Camera – 705 Canal St. Topic: Not Yo Mama’s Four Sons – A new take on the four sons of the Seder.
To sell your chametz online: www.chabadneworleans.com/271377.
To make Seder arrangements contact Chabad Metairie – 504-454-2910.
Wishing you a wonderful season of freedom and liberation!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin