By Rabbi Eli Friedman – Shliach in Calabasas, California
There are two kinds of Shluchim: Nachas Shluchim and Shvitz Shluchim.
Nachas Shluchim weren’t always Nachas Shluchim; most everyone starts off as Shvitz Shluchim.
But for reasons known only to Hashem, some places are more fertile and the Shlichus drifts naturally into Nachas-land while other places put up more resistance and the Shlichus keeps the Shluchim Shvitzing.
(Not the Shvitz of hard work that is expected of everyone; that’s not the topic here. “Shivtz Shluchim” refers to the sweat of not knowing where your next dollar or your next Nachas will come from.)
A Shliach arrives in a town and sets up shop. Next stop: Schedule your first event and start Shvitzing. Will people show up? Will no one show up? (Or worse – will just one person show up?) Will the people who show up like it? Will the people who like it be Jewish? Will I be able to call my friend and tell him proudly that it was a great success?
There are two possibilities:
Sooner or later, the Nachas starts trickling in. Someone tells you how long they’ve been waiting for Chabad to open locally.
Someone else asks you how you plan on paying for your activities and seems to actually care. Someone writes you a note: “I feel closer to my Judaism today than I have in thirty years. Thank you.” You schedule another event, and half the people from the first event return, each with two friends in tow. You’re breathing easier now; you feel like a budding success. Your Yiddishkeit is attracting people. This actually works! Boruch Hashem. You can’t wait to call you friend. In six months you’ll buy your first Torah. In a year you’ll rent a nicer office. In ten years you’ll build a Chabad House. Sofrim will know you by first name from all the Mezuzos and Tefillin you keep ordering. You’re working it, you’re laboring, and the fruits of your labor are downright delicious. You are a Nachas Shliach.
It’s been twenty-one years. You still don’t get a Minyan (of Jews) for every Tefilla of Yom Kippur. You’ve lost the lease on several offices. You’ve been sorely disappointed by several attempts to solve your inexplicable fundraising quandary. No matter what you do, the city doesn’t budge. Individuals love you. You’ve met many people, endeared yourself to many hearts, deeply changed many lives; entire Erliche Mishpoches exist today because of your Shlichus. But the overflowing crowds never materialize, and the finances never sort themselves out. You’ve made enough of an impact to know that this is your Shlichus and where you belong; but the aggravation of straining to make ends meet after more than two decades is wearing you down. And frankly, you’re tired of hearing from people about the glittering programs of other Shluchim and the endless suggestions on how to be more like “my other rabbi.” You are a Shvitzer Shliach.
You’re a believer. You cherish quality over quantity and you know your own successes. You know the Rebbe is proud of you, even as you secretly wish you could look like more of a success story to outsiders. Your wife is a rock of faith. Your brothers and sisters are in awe of you. Your closest friends secretly consider you their role model, but it doesn’t add up to financial stability, and so you bounce around from rental to rental. You pound the pavement, you meet with people, you listen to their heartbreaks, you counsel them as best you can, you share a Sicha, a warm message, and they promise to keep in touch. You move on to your next Mitzvah.
Then one day, a miracle. Shivtzer Shluchim don’t often see miracles, so this is big. A house, big enough for you and your activities, comes on the market in just the right spot, for half the market value. It’s a bank sale, a stripped-down house that needs a lot of work to come back to life, but it’s such an unbelievable bargain, you think you might actually be able to swing it.
And would such an opportunity ever come around again? Unlikely. The thought of buying it is tantalizing, almost too good to be true. If you do, it’ll mean financial stability and local visibility for the first time in a very long time. A bit of nachas maybe? Tatte Zeeseh.
Incredibly, a kind man, in town on business, agrees to buy it and hold it for you while you spend a year renovating and fundraising, and then sell it you. You jump for it. He buys the house, you make a big L’Chaim! Two days later, to your horror, coronavirus shuts down the world. You are a Shivtzer Shliach.
Only now you’re shvitzing like you’ve never shvitzed before.
But you know you gotta do what you gotta do. You call the experts, you bravely agree to their plan, you take a deep breath and you start making calls. To your pleasant surprise, it starts looking like this might actually work. After 20 years, your community is roaring to life in middle of a pandemic, and thousands of dollars are being pledged over Zoom fundraising meetings. You blink in disbelief. You need $700,000 to swing this, and you top out at 450,000. Then a matcher puts $120,000 on the table, and you launch a matching campaign, hoping against hope that the miracles continue, and you’ll have your $240,000. (And you’ll figure out the last ten.) You launch the campaign, and you Daven. That night you dream that someone completely out of the blue sees your campaign and calls to pledge the entire $120,000. Then you wake up, chuckle at yourself, and hit the phones.
You’re hungry for Nachas and it’s no time for dreaming.
My friends, my brother Rabbi Yochanan Friedman and his wife Baily are Shvitzer Shluchim. My respect for them knows no bounds. They have put out so much over their two decades in their Shlichus, relentless in their determination to stick it out and make it work.
This is their story. This is their matching campaign for Chabad by the Sea in S. Cruz, California
They own a small fortune in shvitz-equity. They could fill a row of Mikvehs with their shvitz of 20 years. Let’s fill their coffers with Nachas and give them some long-overdue Menuchas Hanefesh and Menuchas Haguf.
I know you don’t owe them anything, but if you give, know you’re giving Nachas to Shluchim who deserve all the Nachas they can get.