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Do a mitzvah

Following my blog from last week, I got feedback from many readers who commented on Leibel’s generosity to his sister. I thank you all for your kindness, but there is something that I think needs to be said:

Leibel, like the rest of our children, thank G-d, is a normal child. He sometimes argues with his siblings and even gets into fights; he is not always a "tzadik" who gives in and forgives...

In fact, this incident is a lesson that could be applied to every child, which I'd like to share, especially with those of us who are educating young children.

We sometimes believe that the only way to get a young child to be nice is for his or her own benefit. We may ask the child to give something to a friend or a sibling so they will get some reward in the future. We may explain to them that if they are rude to others, people will be rude to them, and if they are nice, they'll get the same treatment from others.

But there is another way of getting them to make the right choices - do a mitzvah! You may not get any benefit out of it, but you’ll have done a good deed that will make your creator proud of you. You'll be surprised how readily small children accept that. By explaining this concept to them, you will have taught them a great lesson for life - it's not all about you. We are not here merely to serve ourselves; we are here to serve a higher calling.

"Because it's a mitzvah"

As some of you may know, Chani left on Wednesday to take part in the International Chabad Women’s Convention. Each one of these visits raises my appreciation of the amount of responsibility Chani carries with so much patience and devotion... Before she left, she made challah for Shabbat...

Leibel was very excited to see Mommy making challah on Tuesday evening and asked to shape some dough as well. Leibel worked for a while, shaping the six-strand braided challah he learned from his mother. When it was done, his satisfaction was evident.

The Challahs are about to go in to the oven and Rivky dashes into the kitchen. "I didn't know you were making challah tonight! I always like to make challah myself. It's not fair..."

Chani explained that the dough was all shaped already and she'll have the opportunity again next week. Rivky clearly wasn't happy.

At that moment, I watched Leibel trotting quietly to the table. He lifted his beautiful Challah from the pan and handed it to Rivky. "Just squish it and make your own," he said.

There are no greater moments of nachas than seeing your children giving of themselves to another and feeling the pain of their sibling.

"Why did you do it?" I asked Leibel. - "Because it's a mitzvah" he answered with the brightest smile.

Mission of Love

Mendel Oberlander, 20, son of my Colleague, Chabad rabbi of Hungary, passed away this morning after fighting leukemia for more than half of his life.

Mendel was loved dearly by everyone who knew him. While going through great suffering and the most difficult times, he never lost his faith and smile.

Mendel loved the Mitzvah of Tefillin. Not only was he putting them on himself every day, but there was also another very special thing he used to do with them at every opportunity. In the short video clip below you can see Mendel in action. The film was taken in a camp of “Chai Lifeline” in the summer of 2010.

May the inspiration from this video be for his memory, and may his family not know any more sorrow.



A precious moment of my life

This week I mark 20 years since one of the greatest times of my life, which I hope and believe I'll never forget. 

It was just two months before my Bar Mitzvah, when my father told me that I would be joining him to Brooklyn, New York, to get the blessing of our beloved Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, OBM, and be inspired in his presence before this milestone in my life.

The Rebbe was a leader of the Jewish world, who influenced my life growing up, more than any other spiritual leader in the past or present. My parents renewed the Chabad community in Tzfat by his direct mission, consulted with him and were inspired by his teachings with every step in their lives. He showed us the way to serve our creator and inspired us to follow the mitzvot and to bring the light and warmth of Judaism anywhere we can reach.

The thought of going to see the Rebbe brought a special energy that is difficult to describe. I remember having a hard time falling asleep many nights before our trip.

Every moment with the Rebbe was special, but there is one memory that I'd like to share with you, a moment that made a deep impression on me as a child, and which I hope will guide me for the rest of my life.

A long line of thousands of men and women wove around tables in the great synagogue and outside to the famous Eastern Parkway waiting to see the Rebbe. The Rebbe, who was just about to turn 90, would stand every Sunday morning next to his office to see every person who wanted to get his blessing or advice, and would give them a dollar to give to charity. He would go for 6-7 hours or more with no break. The young men and women who stood in the long line, as well as the secretaries who stood beside him, would get tired and anxious, but the Rebbe accepted each person with a grace and a smile, giving them the time they needed and making them feel like there was nothing greater than seeing them.

After these long hours, when it seemed like the line had finally ended, you would see some people running in through the doorway to catch the last moments before it would be too late... Finally, when it seemed like there were no more people, I remember very vividly the following scene:

While his staff were packing up and ready to finally go, hoping to give the Rebbe - who hadn’t eaten anything since the morning - a few moments of rest, before someone else would jump in, the Rebbe didn’t seem rushed at all; he turned his head time and again to the doorway leading to his room to see if perhaps there was somebody else there—maybe someone would still come in. This head-turning after standing for many hours, searching for yet another person, was shocking to me. After all this time, the line was over, why couldn't he just get on his way? But this was the Rebbe; there was nothing that was more precious to him than seeing another Jewish man or woman who was seeking his blessing and advice.

At that visit, I had the great honour of attending a special meeting for all Bar-Mitzvah boys and Bat Mitzvah girls with the Rebbe, getting his blessing for our great day. That day, twenty years ago from this week, was the last time the gathering took place. One month later, the Rebbe suffered a stroke, and two years later - in June of 1994 - he left his Chassidim orphans and the Jewish world mourning with his sad passing.

 Last month my brother gave me a special gift. He found a picture from that gathering where you can see the Rebbe speaking to us. On the left you can see me at one of the most precious moments of my life. 

the rebbe and me - with circle.jpg

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