From My Corner Of The World

The New York winter has finally begun to settle in, and with the blustering wind come an endless stream of thoughts. There is an out pour of emotion and transition brimming over in my mind, and as I watch my thoughts spill over from the sides of my head onto this page (figuratively speaking, of course), I feel a mixture of both joy and sadness at the sight of their leave from my mind. Having just completed my morning prayers, I sit now at my desk, working as I should, while I listed to the inauguration on the radio in the faint distance. I find it incredibly powerful that today holds a heavy weight for the world at large, for the American nation, but, most importantly, for the Chabad Lubavitch movement. I have been caught up in the rush of life, and have made very little time for myself or my thoughts. I have decided, quite inappropriately, for make time for them now, of all times, when there is much work to be done and hardly enough time to commit to both the tasks I have, as a 9-5 office bee and the tasks I hold so dear, those of writing, of giving life to myself and my passion. Both are responsibilities, though one is imposed by a commitment to the working force of America, and the other a responsibility imposed by myself, the perfectionist and over obsess-or that I am. But those are not responsibilities that I wish to discuss today. The responsibility I hold most dear to me, the one that is under constant construction without ever seeming to reach perfection, is that of my responsibility to myself, and the world, first and foremost, as a Jew and a Chosid of the Rebbe.

Today, many of you are celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama. However, for many of us, today is not a day when we celebrate the new term of our President, as important as it is. Today is the day that the Chabad movement around the world celebrate the day that our leader, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, took the helm, and made our world everything it is today. How powerful a message it is to watch my two worlds celebrate parallel celebrations, that at the same time could not be more different from each other. As an American, I take pride in watching our nation join together to celebrate what I hope will be a successful new term for our President. As a Chosid of the Rebbe, this day takes on a different meaning all together, a stronger, holier meaning. Such inner conflict I feel, as I watch the inauguration, with a photo copy of Basi Le’gani in my purse for study later on in the day. What a head trip. This is not a question of faith, it is a moment of awe; it’s a head scratch, a bit in disbelief.

Today is Yud Shevat (The 10th of the month of Shevat, the 5th month in the Jewish calendar), the Hililo (anniversary) of the Frediker Rebbe’s (The Previous Rebbe) passing. It also marks the day that our Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, took hold of the reigns, and became the leader of the Lubavitch movement. The way we lead our lives today is due to the passion and ultimate commitment that the Rebbe took on, to guide our nation in it’s rightful path. The Rebbe was a trail blazer, initiating Mitzvah campaigns and orders the likes of which no other had ever done before him. The Rebbe took the world around him and literally transformed it, and by doing so, made room for people like you and I to transform the world around us as well. The Rebbe was a trend setter. When looking at a list of everything the Rebbe accomplished (and continues to accomplish) during this time are astonding. It is incredibly important to take into account what this day is and what it means not just for the Chabad community but the world at large,

This past weekend, I spent Shabbat with the Shluchim at Chabad of Port Washington. I have taught Hebrew School there every Sunday for the past three years, and my love for that community and my students grows every day. It is such a pleasure to give back to a community similar to the one that I was raised in. A fellow teacher and I volunteered to spend the weekend in Port Washington in order to run a children’s program on Saturday afternoon during services. Many a deep and intertwining conversations were brought up over the course of twenty-four hours, from art and the impending release of Shattered Illusions (why is that every time someone congratulates me on this major milestone, I cringe on the inside?), to matters of Chassidus and preparations for Yud Shevat.

I was raised on Shluchus. That is not to say that my parents ran a Chabad house, because officially, they did not. My parents, Ba’al Teshuvas from Israel, were very closely connected with the Chabad Rabbi of San Francisco and his family. It was through them that my family became closer to religion, and eventually made a commitment to devote our lives to the life of Orthodox Jews. When I say that I was raised on Shluchus, I mean that our home became an extension of the Langer’s Chabad house. Rabbi Langer and his family literally gave new meaning to my life, by opening my eyes and my heart to their world at the young age of six. Though it took many years and many trials before I considered myself Orthodox, there was never, even for a moment, a doubt that my life was meant to be lived an other way. I watched as they literally dedicated their lives for the betterment of others, from Torah classes to large Friday night dinners that accommodated hundreds of people like myself and my family, they did everything in their power to bring light into the world. I never once saw them flinch at the thought of helping another. Here was a family that literally ran to do a good deed. And, my parents, the very definition of selfless, giving people, were a further example, if the most important ones, of such a lifestyle. My parents, strong, self made people, are both humble and extremely giving individuals. It was from the guide of the Rebbe’s emissaries and the strong, loving foundation with which my parents built our home, that my devotion to such a lifestyle was truly born.

The strongest memories of my childhood took place in the Chabad house on Anza, the grand blue house with millions of hiding places, hundreds of smiles and a foundation of love. From Shabbat dinners to day camp, everything there was done with so much joy and gratitude. A life without such a foundation would have lead me to a very different place, one that I am not sure I would appreciate or love as much as the life I lead now.  Our home, as mentioned, became an extension of the Chabad house. We were a tight-knit community, relying on each other for support, comfort and strength. The task of devoting your life for the sake of others can prove to be challenging at times, but the joy becomes all the greater when there you are surrounded by people with a similar mindset. My childhood gave me a clear understanding of what I was to do with my life. I was to become an emissary. Shluchus can take many forms. For me, it took the form of a traveling Shlucha, a nomad of sorts. Everywhere I go, and everything I have done with my life until now has been done with the underlying factor of shluchus, of bringing light to the lives of others. Writing, my greatest love, has been the greatest extension of this life mission. Teaching, my ‘Sunday job’ has become the highlight of my week. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching my students grow in their understanding, both as young adults, bracing themselves for their next step into the world, and as Jews, discovering, many for the first time, what it means to be Jewish. There is no greater reward.

This is what my Rebbe taught me. Be a lamplighter. However you do it, whatever path you choose to take, live your life with a light in your hands, both to guide you in your task and to aid those around you to reach their potential. Be a walking, talking example of what humanity should strive to be.

On Yud Shevat, when the Rebbe took the helm of our nation into his hands, he was in fact teaching us all the greatest lesson of all. A life devoted to others is a life devoted to G-d. A life devoted to G-d is a life worth living. This is a life I am glad to say I am living.