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How to win the elite

Thursday, 21 July, 2016 - 8:19 pm

Earlier this week I attended a farbrengen, a Chassidic gathering, in honor of 12 Tammuz. During the farbrengen, Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, regional director of Chabad in Maryland, told over a story about Rebbitzin Pinson of Tunis. In a private audience with the Rebbe, Rebbetzin Pinson was discussing the difficulties of living in Tunis. The Rebbe said that if he could, he would send all of the residents of Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Shlichus - as emissaries to inspire Jews to engage in their heritage through Torah and Mitzvot. Rebbetzin Pinson responded: “We are the Rebbe’s soldiers”. Rabbi Kaplan concluded by saying that the Rebbe smiled and replied “But happy soldiers!” 

At times, we meet people who believe that their opinion is so important that it must be followed regardless of protocol or rules that are in place. Whether said literally or not, they are in essence saying "Do you know who I am?" They may be saying that the rules do not apply to them as ‘I am different’ or ‘I am a member of the family’.

In this week’s Torah portion we discuss Balaam who was hired to curse the Jews. Another enemy of the Jews was Amalek. Balaam was a grandchild of Laban (the father of Rachel and Leah) and Amalek was a grandchild of Esau. Both are so interconnected that when you line up their names you can read them both like this 


According to kabbalah, Balaam and Amalek thought that because they were related to the Jews, they can influence them to veer off course and not remain true to Torah. 

To combat this, and the feeling from any elitist person, we need to look at another two words that line up: Yirah and Ahava - Awe and Love.


When we are told that to perpetuate Jewish life, we need to act contrary to Torah and mitzvot, we need to first ensure that we are not rejecting their view based on a bias, but from a place of humility where we are in awe of G-d. Once that is confirmed, we can analyze whether the proposal is contrary to Torah-true Judaism or not. If yes, we know it is not worthwhile to pursue it, as it will not perpetuate the Jewish mission in the world.

Similarly, when shown another’s elite credentials, we first need to ensure that it is not an ego battle between us and them. Only then can we go to the next step, that of Ahava, love, where we can objectively evaluate if their viewpoint is in line with our mission. We may need to be firm, like a soldier on a mission, but, it needs to be as the Rebbe told Rebbetzin Pinson – happy soldiers!  With love and a smile.  Mix a little awe of G-d and love of G-d together and you have the perfect potion for the strength, fortitude and peace that comes with doing the right thing.

Have a great shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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