A first in a series: Celebrating The vision of the Rebbe, and in tribute to the beloved worldwide family Shluchim,in advance of the upcoming annual International conference.
Elijah on Mount Carmel and the Kabbalah of Sacred Audacity.
There is a fascinating discussion in Maimonides about how to gauge if a holy man is indeed a legitimate prophet, an authentic reliable conduit for the transmitting of the word of G-d – or a charlatan — intent more on PROFITEERING than PROPHETING.
In chapter nine of the laws of “Yesodai Hatorah” he lays out those basic principles “ ..therefore if a person will arise, whether Jew or gentile, and perform a sign or wonder and say that G-d sent him to: Add a mitzvah, Subtract one, or explain a mitzvah in a manner which differs from the tradition received from Moses, or if he says that the Mitzvot given to the Jews were temporary, Then he is a false Prophet….”
Later on in that same chapter, an interesting twist…. “when a prophet who has already proven himself to be a prophet instructs us to violate one of the Mitzvot of the Torah or many Mitzvot for a limited time …it is a Mitzvah to listen to him!”
The example given there, as the necessary scriptural support of this rather edgy, slippery slope law — is from the story of the showdown between Elijah and the priests of the Baal in the book of Kings.
There is a biblical prohibition in Deuteronomy 12:13 “be careful lest you offer your burnt offerings elsewhere” cautioning us against offering sacrifices outside Jerusalem. Anywhere outside of the Temple, the holy Bait Hamikdosh is classified as CHUTZ, or outside.
Still Elijah veered from protocol. Realizing the dire circumstances of a major mass loss of faith, due to the pressure of those priests and their views, he challenged them to an outdoor public “duel of offerings.” Whosoever offerings were publicly accepted by G-d would prevail.
His high risk strategy required him to momentarily re- focus JUDAISM, away Temple, toward the streets, to the CHUTZ.
This unprecedented historic moment was a brazen and bold gamble that paid off big dividends in the end.
Perhaps that’s where the word CHUTZ — PA originated .The audacious use of alternative methods when the conventional approach fails is an outgrowth of an out of the box mentality, a mental stepping away from established norms and parameters, towards the uncharted territories that exist “MICHUTZ LA — BOX …” beyond the safe confines of “box norms.”
Ironically ONLY an Elijah, a being that always seemed to be equal parts angel and man, can pull off this kind of stunt and get away with it. Only a person whose entire existence resonates with G-dliness, humility, and an unconditional, and passionate love for his people, can maneuver successfully in this tricky terrain. Only a prophet whose entire being reflects a living embodiment of Torah, has the power to change Torah!
On that day, up on that mountain top, Elijah WAS a true Prophet of his people, he WAS Torah.
This is the same Elijah who resurfaces in a different generation in a mystical encounter with the Baal Shemtov the founder of Chassidism. When the Baal Shem asks him “when will the master come?” to herald the onset of the utopian era described by the prophets, he answers, not surprisingly and entirely consistent with his approach in the book of Kings — this era will commence only “when your wellsprings will spread to the OUTSIDE, to the CHUTZ.”
Only when the sublime ideas of Kabbalah become integrated into mainstream Jewish consciousness.
The Rebbe was the most inspiring leader of our times not only because of his unmatched Torah erudition, or the way his clear deep eyes radiated with a soft angelic saintliness, but also for the way that he was the big picture Tzzadik of our times.
He realized that there was an entire segment of our people that felt like OUTSIDERS in their own faith, estranged from the warmth of the “Temple”, many acutely uncomfortable even walking inside one.
The Rebbe took JUDAISM out to the CHUTZ as well. The clarion call of “Ufaratzta Yama Vakedma ..You shall spread out to the west and the east” ….was the Rebbes Elijah Moment in history and the full actualization in practice — of the process that the Baal Shem began in theory.
Unlike Elijah, he didn’t even have to tamper with the law, even temporarily, to the contrary, always encouraging a “beyond the letter of the law” stance. What he did tweak though was the outdated and ineffective approach of communal insularity, as a strategic means of preserving Judaism.
For many of his Rabbinic contemporaries throughout the Jewish world at the time though, this was actually akin to establishing altars outside of Jerusalem, and the Rebbe faced serious criticism from those sectors.
Still the Rebbe was never deterred, and was our generations beacon that shined the light of CHUTZ—PA of KEDUSHA, the light of Elijah, a light that resonated with sacred audacity. A light grounded in a place of unconditional love for the ENTIRETY of the Jewish people, He was adamant, that “No Jew would be left behind” on his watch.
Sending out emissaries — Shluchim; from the Teffilin and Shabbat candle Toting Rabbinical students combing the Streets of Manhattan, to the young couples sent out to establish Chabad “HOUSES” — in the furthest far flung communities worldwide, was the Rebbes contemporary version of climbing up onto Mount Carmel. He scaled those heights, and the worldwide network of Shluchim, was the scaffolding that enabled an entire generation to climb there as well.
From that summit he rekindled the flame of Yiddishkeit for us all.