Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Co-Director of Chabad Jewish Center of Doral, Florida
I’m just on my way back from a most amazing experience, namely spending Shabbos Gimmel Tammuz at the Rebbe’s Ohel in New York together with two of my sons and so many thousands of Chassidim.
My reflections on my experience boil down to a few questions. One is a question, the other is more philosophical.
First the question. Why was I so pleasantly disappointed? On the way to New York, I explained to my sons that even if the gashmiyus ends up being terrible, it is no big deal and that it’ll only be one night. Motzoei Shabbos we will head right back to Bubby’s house, I assured them.
Besides, I explained, I can still vividly remember all those hundreds of Chassidim who came every year for Tishrei; not one night, not two, but for an entire month. For too many of them, that meant extreme discomfort, to say the least. Some didn’t even get beds while other lucky ones who did, received a cot in some damp basement with very little access to homely food throughout their entire stay.
I tried to impress upon them the importance of “Rayben Zich Tzuvishen Chassidim” even when it’s a little uncomfortable. Remember “the Good Ole Days” in 770? It wasn’t exactly paradise, in the physical, material sense. The pushing, the heat, the noise and all the filth on the floor… But who noticed? M’iz Geshtanen Hecher. (As The Rebbe explains the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 5:5, “V’lo Amar Adam Tzar Li Hamakom She’alun Birushalayim”. See Biurim L’pirkei Avos).
As soon as we arrived at the enormous, well-arrange sleeping quarters, my “disappointment” began. You see, I was certain, thus mentally prepared for less than adequate, poorly organized accommodations. Here, to my great “disappointment,” everything was amazingly organized; the signage directing you where to go, the posted list with the exact location of YOUR bed, YOUR name on YOUR own bed, Neggel Vasser equipment and more. All in a most professional and organized manner in a well air-conditioned environment.
I am certain that just from this alone, the Rebbe would have tremendous nachas. I make this assertion based on what we have heard from the Rebbe on certain occasions regarding the cleanliness and seder in 770 and the situation with the air conditioning.
My first break was in the davening and learning tents closer to the actual Ohel. As the big crowd became larger and larger, I felt the heat rising (ah! What a reminder of the real days in 770!). The disaster (in lack of planning) I had mentally prepared myself for, was finally materializing. The poor AC units just didn’t know what they were in for. They were no match for the extremely large crowd and heat outside. But no. Those guys (are AC units he’s or she’s?) really stepped up to the plate… By the time we were singing L’cha Dodi the place was nice and cold (at least in the tent I was in) while, all the time, the crowd kept growing larger and larger.
Nu, another “disappointment”. But I still had the meal to “enjoy some disaster”. I have to confess that this was the greatest “disappointment” to hit me. The amazing setup, the efficiency, the beautiful Seder and the obvious attention to every detail is truly noteworthy. Not to mention the amazing menu – the food was really good and plentiful. Simply wow!
I can go on and on but I want to get to my philosophical question.
Is all this appropriate? Is it right that spending Shabbos at the Rebbe’s Ohel should be so comfortable? Is it correct that Chassidishe Youngeliet should spend countless hours and funds on providing such Gashmiyusdike comfort when it should all be about the Ruchniyus?!
Perhaps something I recently studied with my young son – b’Hashgacha Pratis – can provide some insight. The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah 2:5 relates how there was a “large courtyard where the Eidim (witnesses) of the Chodesh would assemble… And great feasts were held there… So they shall continue to come.”
So the Sanhedrin, no less, were in the catering business?! Was it that necessary for these great Rabbis to ensure that the witnesses are well fed? Is it befitting their stature to provide hot cholent for even the simple Jews who may happen to show up on Shabbos?!
The answer is YES! Yes! It’s even recorded as a Mishna, so it counts as Halacha. It was done “in order to encourage them to want to come back”. Just like it’s the duty of the great Rabbis to teach the people Torah and Mitzvos, so to and maybe even more, it is incumbent on them to see to it that a Yid is comfortable in doing so, thus having the desire for more (without any interference from the Yetzer Hora).
To Reb Abba Refson and the dedicated crew, and to all those who generously contributed for fund this Shabbos, I say: thank you, thank you! Keep up the great work. And no worries, very soon there are going to be hundreds of thousands waiting to see the Rebbe in Yerushalayim and there will be an absolute need for the very best Mesadrim. You are most certainly the best candidates! So you will be very busy L’hovie Limos HaMoshiach!