By A Lubavitcher
It’s the land of the free, early nineteen forties.
A flow of Chassidim begins to trickle in ever so slowly from war torn Europe. They arrive exhausted by the horrors of a world left behind for good, and are desperate to make it in the new world, to live in peace and be able to support their families respectfully.
The ship approaches the shores of New York, and its passengers blink at the sight of the statue of liberty towering above the New York skyline. As they disembark at Ellis Island, they feel small and overwhelmed, and ever so self conscious of their simple traditional garb: long jacket and casket, and shirtless.
Slowly the long jacket shrinks, and shrinks yet again. A shirt is purchased, and the Chassid even owns two shirts, one for the weekdays and one for Shabbos. The kasket is replaced with a basic fedora hat, as high quality as he can afford.
Now he feels a little safer in the big world. The towering structures of the United States seem that little bit less frightening, and his mind is somewhat more at ease.
The vastest of seas stands between him and the secular society around him. He wakes up in the morning and says Modeh Ani, before rushing off to Mikveh and Shacharis. His mind focused and bigger and better things, he takes his time Davening before reluctantly going out to do his part in eking out a basic livelihood.
He doesn’t mind blending in with modern civilization. He doesn’t think that a shirt will cause him to be influenced by the mindset and values of the streets. Indeed, an immeasurable gap separates him from those who are not aware of Hashem Echad, and his desire to be one of them is next to nil. But to go about like a Shlepper? What’s the point?
Fast forward seventy years. Mendel is a Bochur in a large Lubavitcher Yeshiva. Mendel was born in Crown Heights, and his planet extends from Gombo’s to Sushi Spot, from Kingston to Schenectady.
Mendel passes his days in Zal in a mixture of bull shoving, snacking, and some occasional learning. Mendel lives from camp to the Kinnus to summer plans to next year plans. The little screen in his pocket gives him unlimited access to secularism, so long as it is kept well out of sight of the Mashgiach’s prying eyes.
Mendel doesn’t know “Ein Od Milvado.” The sublime world of yesteryear in which sensitive people took notice of the fine nuances that separate Emes from Sheker is completely foreign to him. Mendel is Chassidish. Mendel eats free danishes at Seder Sichos. Mendel would never leave home without his trusty fedora, by now long out of style. And Mendel is the first to vehemently protest before one and all that kaskets will destroy Lubavitch.
Is it only I who is confused? Or, dear reader, are you confused too?