March 1, 2013, my eighth child was born a month early. He was so tiny and weak he could barely open his eyes. He was sent to the NICU. Seven days later we were told that he has Down syndrome and I couldn’t imagine then what that would mean to me today. Today, at fours year old, Boruch Schneur continues to change our life for the better and I finally get it. I understand the mantra, philosophy and foundational message I’ve been taught my whole life. I am finally able to internalize what the Lubavitcher Rebbe spent a lifetime teaching, imploring and role modeling. The Rebbe’s life was embodied by Ahavas Yisrael, pure selfless love of each individual. In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “The Rebbe said to himself: if the Nazis searched out every Jew in hate, we will search out every Jew in love.”
In the early 1990s, an elderly woman passed by the Rebbe to receive a dollar, which he handed out each Sunday to thousands of men, women and children, whom he requested of to give the money to someone in need, thus passing forward the Mitzvah, good deed. She asked him how he, then in his eighties could stand for hours at a time greeting so many people. He looked at her with a smile and said, ‘When you count diamonds, you don’t get tired.’ The Rebbe looked at a human being and saw a soul. He saw astounding potential and capacity for great accomplishment. He saw in each individual our oneness, that which unites us, while at the same time he constantly encouraged personal growth, hard work and limitless success.
One of the basic principles of Chassidic philosophy is that each person is made up of a body and a soul and that our souls are what define us, unite us and bring out our best selves, through the strength and capacity of the physical body and mind. That we must treat others as we want to be treated and embrace human differences without judgement. For 37 years I heard this message, I saw how it was modeled by the Rebbe; his warmth, unconditional love and attention to each individual, regardless of who they were.
Yet, the world around me radiated the opposite. Intolerance. Judgement. Hate. The source of every war and fight both in the macrocosm of the universe and in microcosm of the individual. How could I as an individual help overshadow the harshness of the world and make idealism a reality? Boruch Schneur helped me realize the profundity and the wisdom of what the Rebbe constantly taught us and how his mission in life could become a guiding light for simple me. It was like I lived in a dark room my whole life and the light was finally turned on. Watching my son, living with him each day makes me see people differently, the way they’re meant to be seen. Perfect on the inside, despite what the human eye may see. For even angels are jealous of people – the flawless faultless angels – want to be us. Flawed, imperfect, struggling, yet with a perfect soul, we are the envy of angels. And as long as we are moving, alive, doing our best, being the best, we can affect change, inspire others, and be a reflection on the outside of the perfection on the inside.
Humans are like diamonds and no two diamonds are the same, yet they each sparkle. Our individuality, unique strength and gifts is what makes each one exceptional, yet our core, the essence of each one of us is identical. And no one is complete unless everyone is included. When I watch my son smile, play, and laugh and work disproportionately harder at simple activities than most kids his age and yet the sparkle and mischief in his eyes never fades, I see a soul and I hear the message. Each person is meant to look different, act different and accomplish different things, perhaps not what’s expected by society or by the norm, but what’s anticipated by G-d. Our only identical mold is the soul, which burns within each one of us, inspires us, encourages us and helps us make the world a better place.
The Rebbe taught us all to be lamplighters, to ignite the fire in those we meet. To love unconditionally, to help another wholeheartedly, to be sensitive to each other. And to be kind, not only in deed, but to take pleasure in doing a kindness and perhaps to ultimately not even see it as a kind gesture, but as a human responsibility we have towards each other. It’s incumbent on each person to take this message to heart. It says in the Talmud that each person is supposed to tell themselves every day, ‘the world was created just for me.’ We must internalize this deep within ourselves, to know who we are, how we can be the best ‘me’ and be a lamplighter to inspire others so that their soul radiates light and warmth. The only solution to darkness is light, even a little light, but fire spreads and warms hearts and minds. And tolerance, good deeds and unconditional love spreads that light near and far.