How do I explain my book? What is The Lamplighter all about? This idea started years ago, when one first looks at the time of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: a man of vision, not just the average person, but rather he would stand in line for hours to partner with his fellow Jew in the mitzvah of charity.
It happened once that this old lady was there standing in line and seemed to ask the Rebbe, “How can you stand for hours? You’re my age, aren’t your feet hurting?”
The Rebbe responded softly, “When counting diamonds, one’s feet don’t hurt.”
Until his last day, whoever needed anything from the Rebbe, he always gave it, in one way or another. The Lubavitcher Rebbe had this dream and vision that every single Jewish person, especially after the holocaust, had to be reached, touched, and shown that they mattered to G-d and were always deeply cared for.
It’s been many years since the Lubavitcher Rebbe had passed, but he left the legacy and gift of his Shluchim, emissaries, to mankind. He even called the Shluchim his children: they would be willing to go out to every corner of the world. Plenty of times, it was and is very difficult, all because emissaries want to do what the Rebbe envisioned for humanity.
The real concept of Tikun Olam, spreading light to others, is to do what is right for the generational needs, even if it would be very difficult in one’s personal life.
Many times one wonders: going to a new place, how will I find Kosher food for myself, let alone for my children and community? How will I educate my children? Where will we as a couple go to the mikvah for the mitzvah of family purity?
Yet, as one knows, five thousand couples and counting have gone out, even more after the passing of the Rebbe. Is it because the vision of what’s needed to help others is so clear? Each emissary is taking a part of the Rebbe’s work on themself to do what needs to be done in Ker a velt, changing the world.
For years it was back-n-forth, a debate in my head, should I write about some of my own experiences, a Journal for others to see the behind-the-scenes life of an emissary? I remember when I was in high school when Rebbitzin Chana’s Memoirs came out. She was the mother of the Rebbe; her memoirs held some of her personal stories of her helping the community in exile in Yekaterinoslav.
There would even be visitors visiting the Rabbi and Rebbitzin from afar. It became so exciting and special for the emissaries and others to be able to have a window into their lives and to understand a little peek behind the scenes of these leaders in their community.
One gets to envision the Rebbitzin’s self-sacrifice at a time when they had barely any food, and it brings out the awareness that even when you don’t have much, you gladly give to others.
When Shluchim go out, one can ask, what makes you an emissary? What is the difference between you and the regular observant person? The answer is with a question that a Shliach or shlucha asks themselves: in each situation that one encounters, it is asked, what would the Rebbe want me to do?
Is it really about taking the Rebbe and his ideals with you in each step, direction, and initiative that one does? For example, when I wrote this book, in the story “The First Chabad House,” I talk about giving up my small three-bedroom ranch and gifting it to the community.
It happened that we started building our Chabad house from our own small ranch, but when my children came out in their towels, with an audience that was learning with the rabbi, that moment changed everything!
I wanted to run and hide and laugh at this most embarrassing moment, but at the same time, I knew that I needed to find another place for my family so that the Chabad house could blossom.
The Community was now my children as well, and all of their needs needed to be met. They needed a place where they could feel comfortable. How does one do this? I didn’t have the money. How can I ask this from my family and my husband? Most Chabad houses do not have funding and depend on donations; some people want to partner with Chabad to make the Rebbe’s vision a reality and help them out. Otherwise, it is hard!
We picked ourselves up but could only afford a five-hundred-square-foot apartment, and the way it was constructed felt like a mere two-hundred-square-foot! If one would only imagine putting in this tiny apartment: you, your husband, your three kids, and one more on the way. However, it was the only way to build up the Jewish community and help others that really needed us.
Gone are comforts, gone is wants, and only necessities stood with us in our doorway. Everything else had to take a back seat to do what was right. An old Russian, Ukrainian expression holds weight, “Kadah Nadah,” meaning one can do anything if they had to.
I remember the first time I walked inside the apartment; I took a U-turn and walked right out, shook my head in disbelief of how tiny it was, and felt the overpowering terrible reality that I didn’t know if I could do it! My husband gave me this sheepish look: “I told you it’s too small.” I wanted to do this, I felt so compelled to do this, but there was no way!
I understood that it was impossible, but I couldn’t have this mindset and knew that I would have to break my comfortable self to live there, for it was the only way. The community and my little children needed to blossom. My kids needed their homeschool room and space; the community needed their synagogue room, Torah classes without interruption, and a Jewish home which they felt was theirs as well. The debate in my mind was now over! The hard decision became a reality!
I walked back into the cube, but this time I imagined that the Lubavitcher Rebbe stood beside me, and it then became the deal was more than done; the apartment was now ours.
After a few moments, I had to consider what this would entail: many nights, my husband would come home late from the small Chabad house, and as a result, we would miss each other terribly. It always felt like music listening to my husband prepare or give classes, and now it would be harder to enjoy those moments, but with time this crucial decision helped our community grow and our children too.
This is only one of almost fifty stories that I’ve written about my life. The book that I’ve written is to be an example for others. When I debated writing this book, it was never about me. I’m very shy to share my life stories, and most of us don’t want to share things so personal, but I felt that it was important to share behind the scenes as a tribute to the five thousand and counting couples around the world.
I know many other emissaries go through this sacrifice and more, leaving behind their most basic comforts. The regular person, oblivious to an emissary’s sacrifice, walks by and doesn’t notice it. It is no fault of their own because they’re not attuned to what’s happening behind the scenes. A Chabad emissary’s love for another overshadows whatever discomforts go into his or her personal life.
The sacrifice is raw, and the Chabad emissaries’ dedication is very real! This book is being shared for one to realize how Chabad Shluchim and Shluchos really feel about their community.
This included many sacrifices; for me personally, on my own shlichus when we came, there was no kosher, no school for my children, and no mikvah. It is not called the frozen tundra for nothing! The snow gets that high, and traveling for kosher or mikvah can sometimes be very dangerous.
Homeschooling in five hundred square feet was very hard, and what made it all worth it was focusing only that I’m here as an emissary, a representative of the Lubavitcher rebbe. How would the Rebbe conduct himself in this situation? Not only the Rebbe but Rebbitzin Chaya Mushka too. The Rebbe spoke of his wife, using the expression my Pnimi, my essence. The Rebbitzin was the one who pushed the Rebbe to take on the leadership as the next Rebbe and to have private meetings with couples. The Rebbitzin was incredibly behind the scenes in which most still, to this day, don’t know all of her greatness.
On the Times Of Israel itself, I was privileged to write the stories of my life, where everyone could read about my experiences and the behind-the-scenes life of emissaries. It is for one to read and realize that this happened; the emissaries are giving it their all!
The Lamplighter: Experiences of a Chabad Rebbitzin contains fifty stories that were selected and were never written anywhere before. Fifty powerful stories! One should remember that the thousands of other emissaries have their stories, struggles, and self-sacrifice to their community for the sake of helping to strengthen their Jewish communities physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The cycle never ends, sleep rarely happens, and the love to help keeps on giving.
The community to an emissary is not just one’s friend or congregant; to the emissary, that person is much deeper. If one needs a couch, a bed, a place to stay, kosher food, or a listening ear, we are there all hours of the night!
This is the behind-the-scenes of an emissary’s life that can not be replicated elsewhere. Inside my book, The Lamplighter: Experiences of a Chabad Rebbitzin. It’s a one-of-a-kind book that I feel deserves to be read as each chapter took years to write. It is to be shared with you, the reader, and those worldwide who want to be inspired.
Available for purchase at: https://mosaicapress.com/product/the-lamplighter/