By Yitzi Zilber
Camps are starting next week. The Rebbe’s yahrtzeit is just a few days later.
A shame? Who’s to blame?
Growing up, I would always hear the mashpiyim describe the loyalty of Binyamin, Yaakov avinu’s youngest son.
But to be honest, it seems that unfortunately, Chabad has been mimicking Binyomin just a little too much.
Let’s be honest, Binyomin does seem like the devoted brother, a chossid par excellence, one whom we should all follow.
As Yosef’s younger brother, Binyomin took Yosef’s absence extremely painfully. Not having a part in the sale, he grew up without his dear brother, but little Binyamin never stopped longing to be back together and reunited with Yosef.
When they were finally reunited, Yosef inquired as to Binyomin’s family.
Binyomin went off to list his children, as each one of his ten sons were named after Yosef, a telling tale of the intense longing Binyomin experienced.
“Achi” – “my older brother”. “Chupim” – “he did not attend my chupah and I did not attend his.”
Binyamin went on to enumerate the names of each of his sons. As Yosef listened to his brother speak, his emotions overcame him and became hard to conceal. “Nichmeru Rachamov,” the passuk tells us, Yosef’s emotions burst forth, causing him to retreat to his room where he broke down in tears. The strong connection expressed by his brother had melted him to pieces.
Hard it is, to find a Lubavitcher family today without the names “Menachem Mendel” and “Chaya Mushka” belonging to the children.
These names are staples of every Chabad home, and inspiring it is that 25 years after Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe is so much a part of us and is the name of so many of our children. Many families go on to name their other children after the Rebbe’s family members as well, a strong, passionate expression of just how much the Rebbe is part of our conscience.
Last week, in Parshas Nasso, we learned about the korbanos that the nesi’im brought. The Midrash teaches that these korbanos were an atonement for the sale of their brother Yosef.
But why did Binyomin bring a korbon? He was no traitor… he wasn’t part of the sale, he wasn’t even there when it took place! He was an exemplary brother.. the one who longed for and missed Yosef so much… the one who named each one of his ten children after Yosef.. the one that while standing at his chupa couldn’t stop thinking about his brother…?!
The question is an obvious one. The answer is a painful one.
And it seems to me that history might be repeating itself.
“Perhaps the answer is,” says the Rebbe to the above question, “that he did not search for his brother.”
Yup, you got it. Binyomin – the devoted brother that didn’t stop thinking about Yosef, somehow managed to sit comfortably for a full twenty-two years (!), without even once searching for this dear brother he so missed. And for that, says the Rebbe, his descendants would bring a korbon as an atonement.
That sounds so crazy. It doesn’t seem to register. Didn’t Binyomin miss Yosef so much? Didn’t he name all his sons after Yosef? For Heaven’s sake, even at his own chupah, his mind was on his brother, and yet, somehow, he couldn’t get himself to go on a little search for this dear brother of his who was sitting a mere two hundred miles away…
Crazy it is. But current nonetheless.
It seems like history has repeated itself.
We can name all of our children after the Rebbe, and at the same time not have ‘searched’ for him even once.
We can talk and say we miss the Rebbe, and at the same time rest comfortably in the Catskills on Shabbos Gimmel Tammuz…
We can print albums featuring our children who bear the Rebbe’s name, and yet at the same time sleep comfortably while our brother is in Egypt..
Yes, we’ve been emulating Binyomin just a little too much.
Let’s learn from his mistakes. Let’s not be guilty of sitting for twenty-five years, sitting comfortably on the couch, while the Rebbe is still not with us physically.
Binyomin was a tzaddik, and I feel rather wrong writing about him in this manner.
But if one more person will make the trip from the Catskills to the Ohel this Gimmel Tammuz, or if one more bungalow colony will arrange a farbrengen, then I’m sure Binyomin will forgive me.