By Rabbi Shais Taub
I once heard R’ Sholom Ber Gordon a”h say at a farbrengen how R’ Yisroel Jacobson a”h invented the television.
Back in the 1930s there was a tiny handful of Lubavitchers in America. One night, they were farbrenging in Yisroel Jacobson’s house in Brownsville and lamenting how the Frierdiker Rebbe was in Otwock while they were thousands of miles across the sea in New York. They literally never dreamed of the concept of the Frierdiker Rebbe actually moving to America as happened in 1940. But what they did dream of—or at least what Rabbi Jacobson dreamt at that farbrengen with his great yearning and “ga’aguim” for the Rebbe—was a little bit of what we might call, b’lashon hamedinah, a “sci-fi fantasy” at the time. Rabbi Jacobson said, “Someone should invent a device with which we can be here in America and see and hear the Rebbe farbrenging in Poland.”
Of course, at that time nobody at that farbrengen had even heard of a television. To them, it was just a chasid’s dream, an expression of yearning for his Rebbe. But a couple decades later when TV became commercially available, those who were at the farbrengen joked that Rabbi Jacobson had come up with the idea first! As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and a chossid needs to be connected to his Rebbe, so if he needs to, a chossid “invents” television!
After the histalkus of the Frierdiker Rebbe, the Rebbe spoke about how chassidim remain connected to their Rebbe even across borders. Thus, when the Frierdiker Rebbe left Russia, the chassidim who remained behind in Russia were still connected to him even if they could not see him, hear him, or contact him. The Rebbe explained that histalkus is also sort of a “crossing of borders” and there are ways that chassidim can transcend those borders even afterwards.
It does not need to be explained that we face a helem v’hester like never before. And yet, at the same time, there is an opportunity today that never existed before. The “fantasy” of being able to be in “Brownsville,” so to speak, and see and hear the Rebbe in “Otwock” is a reality. Indeed, we even take such technology for granted. Yes, no doubt, the concealment is unprecedented, yet the opportunity to connect with the Rebbe “across borders” is also unprecedented.
In previous generations, the closest comparison to such an idea would be preserving the tzadik’s writings. But what we have today that never existed before in history is the ability to connect not only with the Torah of the tzadik as it is written, but with the “living Torah” of the Rebbe himself—the Anochi of ano nafshi ksovis yehovis.
The Rebbe often emphasized that everything Hashem makes available to us through technology must be capitalized on to further Hashem’s plan in the world. Indeed, that is the real reason this technology was invented. So today, a concealment that nobody could have imagined is accompanied by a technology that not long ago nobody could have imagined. Obviously, one is not a substitute for the other. We ask Hashem to have mercy and reunite us immediately with the Rebbe without the use of any technology. But until then, we will hasten the coming of that moment by increasing our connection with the Rebbe in every way possible, including and perhaps especially, through seeing and hearing the Rebbe by means of technology.
There are many tzedokos and many important causes to support. However, preserving the ability to hear and see the Rebbe is a unique cause. It is unique in the historical sense and it is, in many ways, the call of our generation. We must remember that it is by hashgocho protis that we find ourselves in this unparalleled time in history and that although we were given unprecedented challenges, we were given unprecedented tools for overcoming those challenges, too.
The team at JEM works tirelessly to make it possible for us, as a generation, to connect to the tzadik hador in way that for better or worse nobody could have fathomed at any other time in history. Hashem has placed us in this situation and it is incumbent on each one of us to be counted as part of something that no other generation at no other time was able to do.
Help them continue to inspire and uplift at ourJEM.com.