Not only the Rebbe’s love for his fellow Jews run deep, but his involvement in the land of Israel. To what extent did the Rebbe support Jewish settlements? And how did he view mass migration – fruitless endeavor or Final Redemption?
The Avner Institute presents two newly released documents from the archives of Dr. Nissan Mindel, longtime secretary of the current and previous Rebbes: one, an early “mission statement” of Chabad’s goals and activities in the U.S.; the other, a 1969 letter highlighting the Rebbe’s insistence on Torah observance which must precede Aliyah, and Israel not only as the Chosen Land but a state of mind – a global awareness each Jew must bring wherever he or she lives. With special thanks to Rabbi Sholom Ber Schapiro.
“To Set the Record Straight”
By the Grace of G-d
19 Elul, 5729
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11236
Greeting and Blessing:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. Although the time is not very opportune for lengthy correspondence on the subject matter of your letter, I will take the time out to reply to it inasmuch as it has to do with matters of Torah and mitzvoth.
Before directly replying to your three questions, I must make several prefatory remarks.
Points to Consider
First of all, I want to set the record straight in regard to the question of Chabad settlements in Eretz Yisroel. I have in mind not individual Lubavitcher settlers there over the years, but rather the settlements in the past twenty years. Let it be noted that during this time, in addition to the well-known Kfar Chabad as well as Shikun Chabad in Jerusalem, we are now completing the Shikun Chabad in Lod, where already some one hundred families are settled; also Nachalat Har Chabad, where some forty families have already settled; and the groundbreaking for a second Kfar Chabad has taken place.
A second point. In the case of a good friend or of friends, whether as individuals or groups, or a very large group, when one sees something which requires improvement or rectification, there can be two approaches. One approach is that of “love covers up all sins.” In other words, since it concerns a very good friend, one may close one’s eyes to his defects or faults, in which case not only is no effort made to correct the fault, but it is minimized or completely ignored, as if the friend can do no wrong and all is well and good.
On the other hand, there is a second approach where, because it concerns a good friend, the fault is felt more deeply than if the same occurs with other people. Consequently, if in the case of others a feeble attempt, if at all, might be made to have the matter rectified (mainly in order to appease one’s sense of duty), it is quite different in the case of a friend when, as above, the fault is felt more deeply. Hence, an energetic effort would be made to have the fault corrected and certainly it would not be overlooked, let alone “justified.” On the contrary, no effort would be spared to bring about complete, or at any rate partial, correction – “even up to a hundred times,” to quote our Sages: אפילו מאה פעמים.
A third point, which is also relevant to our discussion, is the misconception that usually follows when words are taken out of context. In most, if not all, cases it is necessary to consider the words in their proper setting, with those that preceded them and those that followed them, in order to get a complete picture. Here again we may quote our Sages: חצי שיעור אסור. Since “half a thing” has to be negated, it is clear that it is also something, for otherwise the statement is superfluous. But the idea is that where the whole thing is important, half a thing will not do, even if it is also something.
Now to turn to your questions, which refer to certain texts in Likutei Sichos, parshas Re’eh. Your question number one apparently refers to page eight, paragraph two. You ask: in what way is it more dangerous for a Jew to go to Eretz Yisroel than to remain in Brooklyn, in view of the problems facing the Jewish community in America, such as anti-Semitism, racial antagonism, intermarriage and so on?
Parenthetically, I wish to commend you for using the name “Eretz Yisroel.” I have for many years protested that there was no basis or justification to change the name of Eretz Yisroel in any way and I am always careful to use only this designation.
The point I have in mind, and it is really surprising that it is not generally recognized, is that the holder of the keys and purse strings in the matter of immigration and settlement of new immigrants in Eretz Yisroel, especially those who are in direct need of economic assistance, are unfortunately not only not religious, but anti-religious and a substantial part of them exploit this power in coercion against religion, with complete disregard for the religious background and traditions of the immigrants. Suffice it to mention the unfortunate chapter of the Teheran children, which caused the first storm of protest and it was hoped that such a situation would not be repeated.
To our great regret and pain, we have seen that the sorry chapter has not only been repeated but even on a greater scale in regard to the immigration from Yemen and the immigrants from Morocco, etc. these immigrants were almost exclusively shomrei [observant of] Torah and mitzvoth, but soon after arriving in the Holy Land, in the course of no more than several months, the youth were thoroughly brainwashed and completely alienated from the Torah way.
It is also self-evident that a young boy or girl who now decides to settle in Eretz Yisroel, even though they may not be in need of economic assistance, are sure to be exposed to the bad influence of the young generation there and are more likely to be influenced by it than by the older generation.
If one asks, why isn’t a storm raised again as in the case of the Teheran children? This is a separate painful chapter. Perhaps the blame rests more on the Jews living outside Eretz Yisroel than those in Eretz Yisroel. But, obviously, to argue that this is a matter only for the rabbonim [rabbinic authorities] of Eretz Yisroel to deal with, is in conflict with the view of the Torah which considers the whole Jewish people as one and all Jews are responsible for one another. Indeed, experience has shown that in the matter of the Teheran children, much more has been accomplished by pressure from outside than from within.
Ideal vs. Real
At any rate, I cannot go into this matter in this letter. Especially at this time of the year, when we should particularly avoid finding faults with fellow Jews, but on the contrary, should be only good advocates. Moreover, we have the assurance (which is also a psak din [ruling] in the Rambam, Hilchot Gerushin, chapter 2), that inwardly and essentially every Jew wishes to do the Will of G-d, but is only overwhelmed by his yetzer hora. However, unfortunately, those who fall under their influence have to do not with the p’nimius [internal aspect] of those people but rather with external aspects.
As for the argument, let the frum Jews come en masse to settle in Eretz Yisroel and make up a majority, this is not a realistic argument. First of all, we have to deal also with the existing situation, until such a majority would be accomplished. Secondly, even if mass immigration of religious Jews were feasible, it is certain that those who are at the helm of things in Eretz Yisroel will not easily relinquish their power or position. Be it as it may, this is not anything to be considered feasible in the near future.
Likewise, it is unrealistic to hope that tomorrow or the day after, the policy will change, unless by a miracle. As things now stand and in the natural order of things, the situation in regard to the above is growing worse. Suffice it to mention several instances such as the matter of military conscription for girls, post-mortems, the recent television issue in regard to Shabbos, etc.
A word of explanation should be added here that what has been said above is not subjective and surely Lubavitch cannot be accused of subjectivity in this matter, since insofar as Chabad affairs in Eretz Yisroel are concerned, there is no interference in the spiritual affairs of Chabad and in fact, there is even a certain cooperation in this sphere. However, we are not talking about Chabad immigration but about immigration in general and indeed the bulk of the immigration.
The above can be considerably amplified. However, there is no need to speak disparagingly of Eretz Yisroel, nor of those living in Eretz Yisroel, unless such criticism can be constructive. But I cannot see what more I can do to improve the situation in my way and, with all due respect to you, I cannot see what you can do in this matter. Therefore, this part of the letter must be considered confidential, having been written to you only to clarify the question you ask from the viewpoint of Torah. It is not intended for general currency simply in order to carry on a fight with other Jews or certain groups of Jews.
Darkness & Light
Your question number two seems to refer to page ten of the said sicha. You ask – surely there is no difference in regard to the validity of mitzvoth whether one was written earlier or later, especially also in the light of the mishna which you quote about the need to be careful in the observance of a light mitzvah as of a stringent one, and so forth?
Here too the answer can be found in the above quoted saying of our Sages in regard to “half a thing.” Therefore I will quote here the full text which appears on that page and which is relevant to this question:
(עס זיינען פאראן מצוות) קלות שבקלות, קלות, חמורות, חמורות שבחמורות. איז בשעת אז די אלע מצוות לייגט מען אוועק אן א זייט, און מען כאפט זיך אן אין מצות ישוב ארץ ישראל, וואס ערשטנס איז א פלוגתא צי עם איז במניין המצוות בכלל, צווייטנס איז א פלוגתא צי דאס איז א מצווה פאר אלעמען, אז אלע מוזן דאס מקיים זיין כנ”ל, איז בשעת אז אלץ לייגט מען אוועק אן א זייט און מען כאפט זיך אן אין דעם, איז א סימן אז עפעס איז דא ניט גלאטיק. ובפרט אז מען זעט, אז דאס איז גאר ביי אנדערע מחליש קיום המצוות, איז דאס א סימן אז עס קומט פון דער אנדערע זייט.
End of Exile?
Your question number three apparently refers to page eleven, paragraph seven, where I state that since it is written “u’mipnei chato’einu golinu me’artzeinu” [and because of our sins You have exiled us from our land] the only way to get out of golus [exile] is to rectify the “u’mipnei chato’einu [because of our sins].” In this connection you ask: In what way is this different from other gezeiros [decrees], where all sorts of efforts are made to have them rescinded and nullified? And you further cite the saying of our Sages:
(שלשה צועקין ואינן נענים… מאן דביש לי’ בהא מתא ולא אזיל למתא אחריתא).
A general reply to your question is simply this, that in the case of a person who finds things bad for him in one place, it is quite possible that he may find things better in another place, inasmuch as he does not know the actual causes of why things did not seem to work out this way. However, in the case of the golus [exile], we do know the cause, for it has been explicitly stated as above, consequently we know how the cause is to be illuminated. Here again the point about a whole thing and not a half a thing is relevant, as is evident also from the entire paragraph in the said source and has been discussed even at greater length elsewhere.
For we are not speaking about an individual wishing to go from one place to another, or to settle in the Holy Land. But we are speaking about the whole idea and concept of eliminating the golus, where emigration to Eretz Yisroel is erroneously considered as part of, or preliminary to, the geula shleimo [final redemption], despite efforts to find in the Torah support for this view. As for the need of lighting up the golus by means of איין ליכטעלע און נאך א ליכטעלע [one light and another light] as expressed at the end of the said paragraph – there are several whole sections in Vayikra [Leviticus], where the conditions of Jews living in Eretz Yisroel are clearly spelled out, as succinctly expressed by the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah [Men of the Great Assembly] in the four words – ומפני חטאינו גלינו מארצנו [and because of our sins we are exiled].
Here again there is room for much lengthier elaboration. However, I trust that for you the above will suffice, especially, as already emphasized, that since this is a matter that does not bring credit to Jews, the less said the better in a case where it cannot be constructive insofar as others are concerned and which I hope adequately clears up these matters insofar as you are concerned.
To conclude on a practical note, and on the basis of the thought expressed by my father-in-law of saintly memory, that when two Jews meet, some good must result for the two of them and an effort should be made to bring some good also to a third. I trust that my letter will encourage you in an area in which I hope you are in any case active. I have in mind what is written at the end of paragraph seven about the need for all Jews, wherever they are, including also of course, the members of your congregation, to create a piece of Eretz Yisroel in their immediate surroundings, or as quoted there in the name of the Tzemach Tzedek:
מאך דא ארץ ישראל!
והרי ידוע דרשת רז”ל למה נקראה שמה ארץ, שרצתה לעשות רצון קונה (ב”ר, פ”ה), ובנוגע ישראל מקרא מלא דבר הכתוב שרית עם אלקים ואנשים ותוכל.
[Make your home Eretz Yisrael! And it is known from our Sages why it is called eretz. Because one runs (ratzta) to do the will of His creator, etc.]
With blessings to be inscribed and sealed for good and a good and sweet year,
Chabad denotes the system of Jewish religious philosophy and way of life, the founder of which was the great and outstanding 18th century Jewish philosopher, Talmudist and codifier, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the father of the renowned rabbinic and Chassidic dynasty of chief rabbis. The movement, which was purely religious, swept the masses of Eastern European Jewry, then constituting the bulk of the world Jewish population. The followers, often comprising entire Jewish communities, formed closely knit congregations under local Chabad rabbis, recognizing the Chabad Head as their spiritual leader and supreme religious authority.
Lubavitch, a town in White Russia, was for several generations the seat of the Chabad Chief Rabbi. Hence the Head of Chabad is known also as the “Lubavitcher Rabbi.”
Religious movement. The Chabad movement is a non-political, purely religious movement, with emphasis on humility, piety, brotherhood, and the service of G-d and man with selflessness and joy. It furthers the cause of religion, religious institutions and particularly religious education.
In the United States. With Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe to America, numerous Chabad-Lubavitch congregations were founded in all parts of the United States. About 35 years ago, the Agudas Chasidei Chabad (Union of Chabad Followers) of the USA and Canada were organized. At present there are in America some 200 Chabad-Lubavitch congregations, and about 150,000 Chabad followers, many of whom are prominent in public life.
The late Lubavitcher Rabbi, Chief Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, of sainted memory, because especially renowned for his relentless fight for religious freedom under the Soviet regime – a unique saga of martyrology in modern times. He came to America in 1940, making the headquarters of the Chabad hierarchy at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York. He became an American citizen.
Chabad Institutions. The Chabad activities – religious, educational, social, philanthropic and refugee rehabilitation – are conducted through a well-organized system of institutions and organizations in America and overseas. The Lubavitcher Rabbi is the President of each and all of them. These institutions include yeshivoth (Talmudical academies), day schools, vocational schools, free loan and other charitable societies, refugee aid, etc. The Chabad Research Center in Brooklyn publishes prolific rabbinic literature; educational textbooks and literature are published in Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, and Spanish.
Central regional offices in London, Paris, Casablanca, Tel Aviv and Melbourne, direct operations, under the guidance of the Lubavitcher Rabbi, of the Chabad institutions in England, France, North Africa, Israel, Australia, etc.
The Chabad Village in Israel, scene of the recent massacre of children at prayer, the students of its agricultural school, by Arab suicide infiltrators (“Fedayeen”), is wholly comprised of Lubavitcher refugees from Soviet Russia, many of whom had spent years in various Soviet prisons and labor camps for their tenacious religious activity. The Village has also carpentry and printing schools. These along with other religious, educational and charitable institutions in Israel, are largely subsidized from American funds, channeled through the Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. They are held in particular esteem by virtue of their sacred character, location in the Holy Land, and comprising refugees and victims of religious persecution.
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, Chief Rabbi and President of American Chabad and of the world Chabad movement, succeeded his father-in-law, the late Lubavitcher Rabbi, in 1950. He is an American citizen. In addition to his exceptional erudition in the entire field of rabbinic and Chabad literature, he is a linguist (in Semitic, Romance and Slavonic languages) and scientist, having received his higher academic learning in Leningrad, Berlin, and Paris (the Sorbonne). The Lubavitcher Rabbi, by reason of his ecclesiastical position, large following, non-political affiliations, exceptional scholarship, and benign personality, enjoys unique preeminence and influence in American and world Jewish life.
There enters also an additional factor of human nature. As is explained in Chabad, man is a physical being of flesh and blood, with two souls, the Divine soul and the Animal soul, and is inevitably subject to inner temptation and even conflict. When he succumbs to temptation and transgresses a point of Torah and mitzvoth, he may experience one of two kinds of reactions:
If he is honest and courageous, he will recognize his act for what it is, a failure and contravention of G-d’s command, as well as a breach of his own true will and conscience. Recognizing his failure as a sign of weakness, he will seek to overcome it and to do better next time, and “G-d has compassion with, and forgives, him who concedes his mistake and resolves to correct it.”
The coward, however, who is afraid to face the truth, will, in the case of a failure, begin to find excuses for himself and to justify his negative action. Moreover, as our Sages said that “one transgression brings another in its train,” the need for self-justification will become ever more persistent and pressing, both in order to pacify his own injured pride and troubling conscience, as well as to square himself in the eyes of others. “Love covers up all offenses,” particularly self-love, and “bribery blindeth the eyes of (even) the wise,” especially the self-bribery that goes with vanity. He will thus become biased in his own favor, and in his befuddled thinking will “devise” a “personal philosophy,” or even a Weltanschauung, to fit his conduct, which will not only “justify” it, but even turn vice into virtue.
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