It's All About Love

Friday, 8 June, 2018 - 12:31 pm

I am sure you think that this message with that headline will be about my daughter’s upcoming marriage. I certainly wish Mushka and Yossi Mazel Tov along with a marriage and life full of love for each other, Hashem, the Torah and other people. However my message today is about a different angle of love. I refer to the love that drives our relationship with Hashem and with each other. I refer to the love the fuels the relationship of a Rebbe and his Chassidim.

The Zohar says that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai considered love to be the primary force of the connection between Hashem and the Jewish people. He cites the verse, “I love you, says Hashem.” The Talmud explains this verse as Hashem saying, “either way (whether they keep the Torah or not) they are my children.”

Tanya teaches that the ultimate motivation for a Jew to observe the Torah is out of a love for Hashem. Then it’s not about fear of consequence or anticipation of reward. When you love someone you are devoted to what they want.

Next week is the 3rd of Tammuz, the day 24 years ago that the Rebbe was taken from us in a physical sense. Yet the intensity of the relationship between the Rebbe and the Chassidim is very profound. Someone once asked the Rebbe if he thought that the Chassidim’s devotion to him was a little over the top. The Rebbe replied, “It is merely a reflection of the love I have for them.”

In that spirit I would like to share a story about the Previous Rebbe. In 1945, upon hearing reports from Holocaust survivors about the experiences of the war, he experienced a major medical event, which further impacted his already compromised capacity to move and speak. One afternoon in 1946 the nurse observed that he was moving his lips and making jerking movements. She quickly summoned members of the family out of concern for his health and well-being. His son-in-law (our Rebbe) came and bent over to hear what he was saying. He stood up and said that everything was fine and they can leave him alone. He related that he heard his father-in-law whispering the words of Az Yashir, the song the Jews sang after crossing the Red Sea while moving his feet as if he were traveling.

Some time later, word came to New York that the first group of Russian Jews had managed to escape Russia using forged Polish passports, allowing them to take advantage of the tiny window of escape from the USSR after WWII. This was very risky and anyone that was caught suffered greatly as a result. The time that their train crossed the border was the very moment that the Previous Rebbe was whispering and walking in place. Sitting across the Atlantic, paralyzed and ill, the Previous Rebbe sensed that his Chassidim were undergoing something perilous. He was praying for them and vicariously “traveling with them” from afar.

This is the love that the Rebbe referred to and this is the love that is reciprocated by the Chassidim. This is a powerful energy. I wish that we should all be able to experience it and, more importantly, capitalize on it to accomplish wonderful things for ourselves and the world.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of Phyllis Kaufmann. She and her husband Ray, OBM, were respected members of the New Orleans Jewish community. We got to know them through their sons, David (Dr. Kaufmann OBM) and Avram (may he live and be well). In addition to being a wonderful Bubby and community member, Mrs. Kaufmann possessed a measure of wisdom that enabled her to advise people in many areas. She was a great proponent of education and a staunch supporter of Torah Academy. Her warmth and insight will be missed. May her family take comfort in the positive impact she had on so many.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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