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Finding Love in the Classifieds

Friday, 26 January, 2018 - 10:04 am

In the 1940s many Jews lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville, among them a young Chabad yeshiva student named Mendel Baumgarten. In his Shul there was a man that never lost an opportunity to make snide remarks about Chabad and the recently arrived Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, who established himself in the next neighborhood, Crown Heights in 1940. One day the man came into Shul and announced that he wanted to publicly apologize for the derogatory manner in which he had spoken of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Baumgarten, who was always bothered by the man’s attitude, approached him to find out what changed. The man explained that due to a recent illness his assets depleted, leaving him in a distressed financial situation. He had nowhere to turn for help, so out of desperation, he placed an ad in the classified section of the Yiddish daily paper called the Morgen Journal stating, “A Jew needs help” along with his phone number. A few days later he got a call from a man identifying himself as the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s secretary saying, “The Rebbe saw the ad and requested that I inquire as to what kind of help was needed.” He described his situation and the Rebbe sent him the funds to cover his debts.   

Today, the 10th of Shevat, is the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Yahrtzeit. Upon his passing in 1950 he was succeeded by his son-in-law, our Rebbe. The Previous Rebbe’s legacy was one of love and caring for each individual and this legacy was continued and expanded by the Rebbe. There are some leaders who are great visionaries and are very good in providing leadership in the macro picture, but they have a hard time relating to the micro – the individual. Others are exceptional on the micro level, but lack the capacity to lead on the macro level. The Rebbe and his father-in-law possessed the rare combination of being able to care for both “Klal Yisrael” as well as “Reb Yisrael.” While overseeing global operations, including the Jewish underground in the Soviet Union, they were able to focus and concern themselves with the needs of the “little guy.” Ahavat Yisrael, the love and care for each Jew, is what defined their leadership, and every interaction was shaped by the principle of caring for all. This is a lesson from which we can all derive inspiration.

Have a good Shabbos
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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