By COLlive reporter
The excitement was palpable and the inspiration contagious as hundreds of submissions poured in to the Meaningful Life Center’s inbox hours before the deadline for the MyLife: Chassidus Applied Essay Contest, last Thursday.
Over 500 essays were submitted for the content which challenged participants to write an original essay applying an idea in Chassidus or an approach and methodology based on an idea in Chassidus, to address a contemporary life issue.
The top three essays selected by the judges will be awarded monetary prizes – sponsored by an anonymous benefactor: $10,000 first prize, $3600 second prize, and a $500 gift certificate for third prize. The winning entries will be published and publicized.
The essays are now being reviewed by the panel of judges comprised of some of the most distinguished Torah and Chassidic scholars in the world: Rabbi Leibel Altein, Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Brawer, Rabbi YY Jacobson, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar and Rabbi Eli Silberstein.
By Hashgacha Protis, right after the announcement of the contest a fascinating letter of the Rebbe (Igros Kodesh, vol. 10, pp. 238-239) was brought to light urging students to write essays in honor of Yud Shvat.
The Rebbe adds in the same letter, “We see from experience, here and in other places, that when you draw in the students so that they get involved in the work by making their own presentations, etc., this evokes far greater enthusiasm and interest among their friends.”
“Regardless of the final official winner, from my point of view all the entrants are winners,” said Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Dean of the Meaningful Life Center (MLC) and conceiver of this unique project.
“Indeed, the biggest winner is Chassidus itself and our Rebbeim who dedicated their lives to teach us Chassidus. The mere fact that hundreds of people invested their time, energy and ingenuity to study and apply these teachings is simply astonishing.”
Students, teachers and lay people from different walks of life were all inspired by the profound learning involved in writing their essays. As one shlucha notes, “This contest has touched upon so many things that have empowered me to search deeper, in so far as myself, my marriage, and my children. Thank you thank you for doing such an important job!”
Another contestant has experienced the positive effects of researching and writing her essay, “This contest was brilliant – it encouraged me to learn Chassidus in depth in a way I haven’t done for too many years”.
The practical implications of the essay contest have transformed yeshivas and seminaries worldwide. “The contest had a tremendous effect in yeshiva,” says Rabbi Mendel Blau of Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim Chovevei Torah in Crown Heights.
“Over the month I observed many bochurim searching within themselves, considering the Chassidus that they learned in pursuit to challenge themselves to use the concepts on a practical level to overcome a specific struggle,” Blau said.
Rabbi Jacobson says the contest is meant to serve as a springboard for many continuing efforts in applying Chassidus to our lives, in addition to his weekly MyLife: Chassidus Applied webcast which is aired on Sundays on COLlive.com.
The one hour live YouTube broadcast featuring Rabbi Jacobson responds to personal and psychological questions based on Chassidus. Now in its 57th week, it has been a success with over 2000 viewers each week.
“When over 500 participants commit to applying the power of Chassidus to current issues in their lives, there is no doubt that the world itself is transformed,” Rabbi Simon Jacobson said. “Such an effort in yefutzu mayonosecho chutza certainly goes a long way in achieving its goal, the coming of Moshiach, as Moshiach himself told the Baal Shem Tov.”