Mendy Kaminker
Mendy Kaminker

What does it take to be a Chabad Rabbi?

“What does it take to be a Chabad Rabbi?”

I was cleaning up after the Rosh Hashana Kiddush at our Chabad house, when someone approached me with a question I was never asked before.

“What did you say?” I asked, trying to buy myself some time.

“Which skill set and special talents a Chabad Rabbi must have?” He explained himself.

“All you need is one thing” I found myself saying.

“Willingness”.

Actually, I have an idea.

Very soon, I will be seeing a few thousand Chabad Rabbis. Maybe I should present them with that question!

You see, the annual “Kinus Hashluchim” takes place this weekend. It’s a once-a-year conference for the Rebbe’s emissaries, Chabad Rabbis, from all over the world.

[Last year, the conference took place via Zoom; thank G-d, because of modern medicine and Covid safety measures, we will be meeting once again in person. Oh, and for those who might be curious, a Shluchos (Rebbetzins) conference will take place in a few weeks from now.]

So, it’s a perfect opportunity to discuss this question.

Maybe I should ask my classmate Rabbi Menachem Hartman, who is the Shliach in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam? Or maybe I should ask my other classmate, Rabbi Osher Litzman in Seoul, South Korea? Or how about another classmate, Rabbi Shalom Ber Chazan from Shenzhen, China?

Maybe I should present them the question: what skill set did they need before going to those far away places? What is their special talent?

Honestly, I know the answer. They didn’t need to take long personality assessments or to go through a rigorous learning regiment before embarking on their life-journey to the other side of the world.

All they needed was to say:

“We are ready”.

*

10 years ago, we had the distinguished honor of hosting Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory at the Shluchim conference.

He shared stories about his encounters with the Rebbe and the tremendous impact it had on his life.

“Good leaders create followers; great leaders create leaders” he said.

Rabbi Sacks was a living testament of that. After graduating, he was considering a career in economy, law or philosophy. He sought the Rebbe’s advice.

But the Rebbe had a different suggestion: he should become a Rabbi!

The rest is history.

*

Here is the thing about leadership:

Most people feel that it’s simply out of reach. They believe you need specific qualifications or abilities, to be on a higher level than other people.

The Rebbe taught us that this is not the case.

He encouraged us to look past the barriers of fear, the self-doubts, the fake humbleness of “who am I to make a difference”.

Instead, we should see ourselves for what we truly are: natural born leaders, endowed by G-d with the abilities to make a positive influence, teach and inspire our surroundings.

We can, and should, be leaders. We just need to be willing to do it.

“Do you know an Alef? Teach an Alef” the Rebbe would say. Don’t say “oh, I know just an Alef” or “maybe I should wait until I learned also Bet and Gimel”. Even if you know one letter in the Torah, you already have enough to be a leader and teach those who don’t know it yet.

So regardless of our “official” occupation, let us all join hands and accept this awesome privilege and responsibility of being leaders. When we do, we will finally bring about the change the world is yearning for: a world filled with peace and harmony, with the coming of Moshiach, Amen.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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