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Rabbi Zalmanov's Blog

This Blog constitutes primarily of articles written by Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov in various publications.

You are welcome to join in the conversation.

Anonymous Rabbis

 Dear Friends,

Several years ago I wrote an article for the website Chabad.org, responding to an “ask the rabbi” question about the personality of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, who was sent to find a wife for his master’s son, bIsaac. The title of the article was “Why is Eliezer anonymous?” because in fact, Eliezer’s name is not mentioned in the story at all.

A few years after the article was published it was again featured on the Chabad.org homepage as well as in the weekly e-magazine, coinciding with the Torah portion in which the story is read. It happened to be the week of the international conference of Chabad rabbis, held every fall in Brooklyn.

 

Over that weekend, I was ribbed more than once by colleagues and friends from around the world about Eliezer being anonymous. It was not lost on me, and obviously my friends, the irony that the subject of the article shared a name with the author.

Although the comments were made mostly in jest, there was still something thought provoking about them. It reminded me that despite each of us being leaders in our respective communities, in the bigger picture we are actually “anonymous.” This may not be evident at all times, but when we come together, some 3,000 rabbis from the furthest reaches of the globe, I recognized that we are all but one piece of a much greater endeavor. Greater than each of us as individuals, and greater than anything we can accomplish on our own.

When the Rebbe sent his first emissaries in the 1950s, no one in his wildest imagination (except for the Rebbe himself) envisioned Chabad being where it’s at today. But despite the tremendous growth spanning six decades, the mission always remained the same; bring Judaism with a smile to every single Jew. And to that end, there is no difference between a Chabad rabbi in Cape Town, Istanbul, Liverpool, Santa Fe, and even Munster. We are “anonymous” because we are not it for ourselves, but to fulfil the mission entrusted to us by the Rebbe. It is not about the individual rabbi, instead we focus on bringing the whole Jewish world together, regardless of geographic distances.

And this weekend, as we once again convene for the annual conference, these 3,000 anonymous rabbis, who all look and dress the same, will be reminded of this charge. We are here to serve all Jews regardless of background, affiliation, and even whom they voted for. At Chabad, every single Jew fits right in, because at the core, we are all the same.

Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov

 

Cubs Win!

Dear Friends,

Although I’m a Yankees fan, I found no small measure of satisfaction in watching the Chicago Cubs win a nail biter of a World Series Game 7 last night. And although I originally intended to only include a personal note in the E-Torah once a month, I think this calls for an exception.

As a rabbi it is my job to connect current events to Torah and Jewish life. So here are two thoughts about the Cubs’ victory that can apply to everyone.

We keep hearing about how the last time the Cubs won it all was 108 years ago. But it doesn’t take a genius to realize that almost nothing about the ball club today is the same as it was back then. Not the players or the coaches, nor the owners or the fans. Not to mention the billy goat. Nevertheless, “we have been waiting for this for 108 years” is still a relevant emotion, because, well, it’s true.

A similar sentiment is often used to describe the Jewish people’s relationship to the Torah. Yes, none of us were actually present at Mt. Sinai when the Jewish people became a nation and we weren’t the ones to hear G-d’s voice giving the Ten Commandments, but still we were all there. Our souls, together with the souls of Jews from all times, were there and accepted the Torah. And this intrinsic connection that we have with G-d and to one another has kept the Jewish spark alive for more than three thousand years, almost like Cubs fans throughout the last century.

My second thought is about the wait. For 108 years Cubs fans and baseball enthusiasts have been waiting for this title, which finally came. On a larger scale, the Jewish people have been waiting for the coming of Moshiach with the ultimate redemption and return to Israel for two millennia. And we too still believe and will never give up hope.

But that’s where the similarities end: Unlike watching a baseball game—whether from the stands or on the couch—where the fan can do nothing but hope and bite his nails, there actually IS something we can do bring Moshiach. Every time a Jew does a mitzvah and performs an act of kindness, he or she truly does accomplish something to this end. With each mitzvah we bring Moshiach closer, ending the wait and ushering in the long overdue redemption.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to comment on my blog.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov

Hit the Road

Dear Friends,

At a recent Shabbat service I announced that starting this week, once a month I will write my own thoughts in the E-Torah, rather than simply copying and pasting from various sources. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this.

So, here goes...

Nearly one month ago we celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and we kicked off the busy High Holiday season. Earlier this week we celebrated Simchat Torah (and what a Simchat Torah is was!), and with that we concluded the holiday season. So, after the busiest month on the Jewish calendar, especially at Chabad with people coming and going all month—for services, meals, parties, and so on—it's finally back to our everyday routine, normal life.

There is an old Chassidic saying, borrowed from a verse in the Torah which says, that after this month of holidays, "Yaakov halach ledarko"—Jacob went on his way. Or to paraphrase the song, "Jack hit the road."

After being surrounded by the holiday atmosphere, both the solemnness and the joy, it is now time to hit the road, to go back to the daily grind of our regular lives.

As you can imagine, this can sometimes be a downer. It's like a crash landing after a month of inspiration and excitement. It can be depressing

But, it doesn't have to be viewed that way. There is another perspective, which I think is really the purpose of all the holidays being packed into one month anyway.

The reason we have all these holidays right at the beginning of year is so it can have an impact on the entire year that follows. It isn't just a month of holidays; it is a month with the potential to set the tone for the entire year to come. Everything we do during that month has the potential to play a role in how our year turns out.

When we "hit the road" after the holidays, we should feel empowered by the inspiration of theholidays to live an uplifting and more spiritual life in the months that follow. So we don't leave the holidays behind, rather we take them along with us on the road, on our journey through life. We celebrate our Jewishness—which has been on full display during the past month—throughout the entire year.

As I always say, don't leave Judaism to the rabbis and the synagogues. It belongs to each everyone of you; make it your own every day of the year, and hit the road! 

Wishing you all a Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov 

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