Having attended the recent International Shluchim Conference, just one of a myriad of Shluchim of the Rebbe, and subsequently reading the articles and glowing reports I hesitated to comment or say anything. I realized, however, I have something different and more personal to impart, so let me have at it.
The Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, R’ Shalom DovBer (RASHAB), once told a chasid, “Raise yourself up and you will be elevated.” To which his son, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, R’ Joseph I Schneersohn (RAYATZ), added, “But one must always be self-aware that one is not yet higher…”
In the same vein when RASHAB was but a 3 year old he was playing with his older -5 year old- brother, R’ Zalman Aaron (RAZA), when his brother lowered him into a trench and crowed that he was now taller (being shorter in height). Their father who heard his middle son, RASHAB, crying, came out and asked what happened. RAZA responded that he put his brother in the pit to prove he was rightfully taller than him. Their father, the Fourth Rebbe of Lubavitch, R’ Shmuel, pulled out the child and then turned to his eldest son and told him, “One is not higher (“taller”) than another by lowering him but by raising oneself higher.”
Upon emerging from the uplifting weekend in Crown Heights with my fellow Shluchim I suddenly felt small and miniscule. Like losing any sense of self-value and identity. As I’m sitting on my return flight I almost regretted coming. Why did I have to sit through a litany of incredible anecdotes and episodes about astounding feats being accomplished by so many of my associates? Of what advantage would it be to me? Quite frankly, I was down and dejected. I’ve no major miracles or upheavals to report and candidly do not feel I can compete with those amazing accomplishments.
In awe –with a tinge of envy- listening to some young and energetic Shluchim and their amazing innovative achievements you start to feel helpless. Who and what am I? What am I even doing here? Is it to know how much I’m not doing and how capable I am of failure?
Submerged in these dark and morose musings it hit me. Yes! It is to know that I am nothing! Truly nothing! Nothing of the sort that leads to the ultimate “Something” since nothingness makes one a vessel for the Infinite Everything. To be a vessel to receive one cannot have any pre-conceived notions, assumptions and delusions. One must be rid of “self” if one wishes to usher in the Divine.
The Talmud said it best: “I, and he (one who is egotistical and aggrandizing), cannot abide together”. If there’s a “he” there can be no “I”. To allow G-d and His Infinity inside one must be totally absorbed and fused within Him losing himself in the process. Only then can one become elevated and capable of accomplishing beyond his self-imposed limitations.
The 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, R’ Menachem Mendel, once said at a farbrengen when chassidim mixed a cup of wine, beer and vodka together and gave it to a certain chasid which he immediately drank with no visible aftereffects: “Noteleh, is on the level of “ayin” – “self-nothingness” – and “ayin” can abide and absorb all contrasts and dissimilarities”!
There are two types of subservience and subordination:
One is the kind that views another with skepticism and jaundice. You judge another by your own “nothing” standards. It emanates from a false-sense of abnegation and humility. If I can’t, don’t or won’t the other cannot either. Envy is next and instead of connection and unity you leave dejected, humiliated, depressed and angry. It’s the other’s fault not your own. He had a leg up all I’ve dealt with is a leg “upon” and non-stop pressure.
Then there’s serenity and self-sacrifice which emanates from within and flows outward. It is I who am nothing other than an emissary and soldier of my general and sender. What happens outside of that rubric is really not my business. My business must be to fulfill my mission and complete my appointment. As such, nothing and no one will stand in my way and I will accomplish what has been placed on me. If I can utilize others to learn from, not dismiss, it is in order to reach the goal my master and mentor has laid out for me.
Having sat in the multitude of humanity and that cavernous great hall I suddenly realized it prepares you for ultimate selfhood and individuality. All that youth, energy, and brilliance are there for me. “The Omnipotent has many emissaries” and what one sees and hears is a lesson and reflection. Good and bad!
So when I see all the wonderful things being accomplished it is to teach and show me I too am capable to do so much more and raise myself to levels I never thought possible. G-d is showing me if I “feel” like nothing I must really “know” I’m nothing with something special to accomplish. I, too, can and must raise myself higher and reach for the stars. If I am nothing I’m capable of infinite possibilities. The experience of such a conference becomes a positive one and holds so much promise for the future.
I must raise myself not by denigrating another or looking askance at his intentions and ideas but by learning and climbing on and above them. Being a part of something huge and just a cog among many others is a wonderfully fulfilling experience of uniqueness and distinction in the end.
I now appreciate the meaning of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s words, our general, when he initiated this annual event with the theme, “each man would help his fellow and to his brother he would say, ‘Be strong’!” It’s not meant to lower or denigrate another by making yourself taller and better. It’s to feel small enough to be part of the many and to listen to the counsel of the other and enable one another to rise and elevate.
Thank you my Rebbe and thank you fellow Shluchim for awakening me to my “nothingness” so I can be self-aware and become “something”. Ultimately, it’s about being a part of the “Everything”!