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Pinchas Allouche

Five Things The Rebbe Wants Us To Quit Doing Now

Today, Jews worldwide are commemorating the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of righteous memory, one of Jewish history’s most influential leaders.

Much ink has been spilled on the Rebbe and on his unparalleled influence. While most leaders only focus on their own constituents, the Rebbe was a leader of the world and all of humanity. With his transcendent persona, with his abundant wellspring of wisdom, his unconditional love for each and all, and above all, the creation of his unparalleled network of Jewish communities around the globe, even in the most remote places — the Rebbe successfully resuscitated a post-holocaust generation with a spiritual awakening that has seldom been seen before in history.

To encapsulate the Rebbe’s transcendent persona, unparalleled leadership, and world-embracing influence, is impossible. Nonetheless, here is a glimpse into five ideas that the Rebbe embodied:

  1. Quit Thinking Small – Embrace Your Greatness

A few years ago, shortly after our congregation in Scottsdale, Arizona purchased land to build a synagogue, Rabbi Shalom Lipsker shared with me an inspiring message. When he began building his synagogue, The Shul, in Bal Harbor, Florida, the Rebbe instructed him to “build it larger than you could ever imagine!”

Similarly, my mentor, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, once told me about one of his last communications with the Rebbe. At that time, Rabbi Steinsaltz was overwhelmed with three full-time responsibilities: scholarly writing, outreach in Russia, and managing schools in Israel. He asked the Rebbe if he should slow down. The Rebbe’s reply was clear: “Continue to do all these things, and do more, and work even harder.”

Time and time again, the Rebbe echoed the teachings of our Sages, that “every person must say, ‘the whole world was created for me’” (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4:5). The Rebbe encouraged us to think big and transform the entire world, not just our personal lives and own corners. So why think small and limit ourselves? Let us unleash our endless potential, achieve the greatness that the Rebbe saw in each of us, and leave an indelible mark on our world in ways more profound than we could ever imagine.

  1. Quit Apologizing for Being Jewish – Be Proud and Stand Tall

“This is not how we walk in the street!” the Rebbe proclaimed to a group of Hasidic Jews in 1941 as they prepared to march to a local park for the traditional “tashlich” prayer of Rosh Hashanah. “We need to walk in rows of two, and we should be singing!”

Rabbi Zalman Posner, just 13 at the time, recalled feeling embarrassed. “I was so uncomfortable at the thought of parading in front of people while singing in the street…” A year later, while assisting an elderly man and walking behind the crowd, they were stopped by a finely dressed gentleman who grabbed young Zalman’s elbow and declared, “You should know that deep down inside me, I have a spark. When I heard you people singing in the streets, I said to myself, ‘Hurray, I’m a Jew; hurray, I’m a Jew,’ and that spark burst into a flame!”

In a world rife with antisemitism, The Rebbe’s approach was unique. While many chose to hide their Judaism or to fight back, the Rebbe proposed a revolutionary path. Instead of calling for protests, he encouraged us to walk the streets with Jewish pride, spreading joy, goodness, and kindness.

“Do not be humiliated by people who mock you!” the Rebbe often quoted from the Code of Jewish Law. With these words, the Rebbe breathed new life, hope, and confidence into a nation broken by the Holocaust, instilling an unparalleled sense of pride in who we are and what we stand for. From public Menorah lightings to Tefillin booths in marketplaces, to massive Lag BaOmer parades in the busy streets, the Rebbe taught us that, despite the mockers, a little bit of exuberant and unreserved light – one mitzvah at a time, one soul at a time – can expel much darkness.

  1. Quit Wasting Time – Make Every Moment Count

The Rebbe was once informed that his community’s morning prayers would begin slightly later than usual, at 9:10 or 9:15 a.m. His response was poignant: “Which one? 9:10 or 9:15? In five minutes, one can change the world!”

Likewise, the Rebbe would have tea with his wife every day at exactly 4 p.m. If he was delayed even by two minutes, he would insist on calling her to inform her. Such was his immense respect for both his wife and time.

To the Rebbe, every moment was a precious gift and a unique opportunity to make a difference. His meticulous attention to time was not just personal discipline but a reflection of his belief in the power of every minute.

In the Hayom Yom, one of the very first books published by the Rebbe with daily aphorisms and teachings, the Rebbe emphasized this message many times. “Our hours must be ‘counted hours,’ then the days will be ‘counted days,’” the aphorism for Iyar 2 stated. “When a day passes one should know what he has accomplished and what remains yet to be done. In general, one should always see to it that tomorrow should be much better than today.”

In our fast-paced world, it is easy to fall into the trap of wasting time on trivial pursuits. We often find ourselves caught in distractions that squander our time and render our days valueless. But time is a gift, and how we use it will define our lives. As the Rebbe demonstrates, by cherishing every moment and filling it with meaning and purpose, we can make the most of our lives and leave an indelible mark on our planet.

  1. Quit Being Loose with Your Speech – Speak Positively with Intention and Kindness

My dear friend, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, spent five years researching the Rebbe’s life to write his bestselling book, The Rebbe. Astonishingly, Rabbi Telushkin found that the Rebbe examined 40 years of public lectures and went to great lengths to avoid negative words. He never criticized people by name, even when questioning their behavior. He also never used the term “beit cholim” (hospital), preferring “beit refuah” (house of healing) to encourage the sick and better represent the institution’s goal of complete healing.

Shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a delegation of IDF “Disabled Veterans” visited the Rebbe. In this extraordinary meeting, the Rebbe challenged these wounded veterans to see themselves not as “disabled” but as “exceptional.”

With visible gentleness and love, the Rebbe explained, “If a person has been deprived of a limb or a faculty, this itself indicates that G‑d has given him special powers to overcome the limitations and surpass the achievements of ordinary people. You are not ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’ but exceptional and unique, possessing potentials that others do not.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, when terms like moron, retard, and idiot were widely used to describe the mentally disabled, the Rebbe used the word “special” decades before it became common parlance. He preferred to say “hefech ha-tov” (the opposite of good) instead of evil and used “due date” rather than deadline, referencing birth instead of death.

This positivity might be hard for the more cynical among us to stomach. But the Rebbe teaches us that words have the power to uplift and inspire or to wound and demean. They can create new worlds and destroy entire ones. By choosing positive and constructive language, we can create a more compassionate and understanding world. Let us all strive to speak with intention and kindness, elevating our conversations and interactions, and in doing so, make a meaningful difference in our lives and the lives of those around us.

  1. Quit Thinking Judaism is Just for Jews – Share It with the World

Ask anyone familiar with the Rebbe’s teachings to highlight one of his most memorable talks, and they will likely mention the Rebbe’s emotional address on July 12, 1984. In it, the Rebbe passionately invoked the Talmudic statement: “Any generation that the Temple was not rebuilt in its days, it is considered as if they had destroyed it.”

“Imagine the scene,” the Rebbe challenged us. “The Holy Temple is burning. Even a normally emotionless Jew would witness the destruction with horror and do everything possible to prevent it.”

“And so,” the Rebbe concluded, “the Torah, the Torah of Truth, the Torah that guides our lives, commands us to overturn the world TODAY!”

The theme of “overturning the world” was set from the Rebbe’s first day as the leader of the Chabad movement in 1951. Throughout his leadership, the Rebbe emphasized it is our goal to usher in an era of redemption and to achieve this, Judaism’s message cannot only be reserved for Jews alone.

In 1983, for example, the Rebbe exerted many efforts to expand his outreach campaign and embrace all of mankind. He instructed us to introduce the world to the Torah’s universal guide to life, explaining that the Torah law includes seven Noahide principles for all humanity that establish a moral code based on the belief in G‑d. The Rebbe further declared that now is the time to revitalize the long-dormant role of being “lights unto the nations.”

Let us unleash our “inner Rebbe” and seek to change the world by bringing Judaism’s light and teachings to every moment, to every place, and to every person. By doing so, we will undoubtedly bring our world closer to its final redemption and usher in the messianic era of peace and redemption. May it happen speedily. Amen.

About the Author
Rabbi Pinchas Allouche is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he resides with his wife, Esther, and nine children. He is a respected rabbinic figure, a renowned lecturer, and a prominent author of many essays on the Jewish faith, mysticism, and social-criticism. Besides his academic pedigree, Rabbi Allouche is richly-cultural, having lived in France, where he was born, South Africa and Israel. He is also fluent in English, Hebrew, French and Italian. Rabbi Allouche is a member of AIPAC's National Council, and a member of the Vaad Harabanim, the Orthodox Rabbinic Council of Arizona. Rabbi Allouche's wise, profound, and sensitive perspective on the world and its people, on life and living, is highly regarded and sought-after by communities and individuals of all backgrounds. Rabbi Allouche is also tremendously involved in the Jewish community of Greater Phoenix, and he teaches middle-school Judaics at the local Jewish Day School. Rabbi Allouche is also a blogger for many online publications including the Huffington Post, and The Times of Israel. Rabbi Allouche was listed in the Jewish Daily Forward as one of America's 36 Most Inspiring Rabbis, who are "shaping 21st Century Judaism." Rabbi Allouche can be reached at: Rabbi@BethTefillahAZ.org
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