Mendy Kaminker
Mendy Kaminker

You know what Chabad does. But do you know why?

“Rabbi, I love Chabad”!

I hear those phrases often.

And they always make me proud.

Sometimes I reply with a question (how Jewish…): “What in particular do you like about Chabad?”

[I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you like Chabad? What do you like? You can post a comment on this article, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!]

Some tell me about the Chabad houses in far away countries.

Others speak of a non-judgmental attitude toward every Jew.

It’s all great to hear. But I realized that while many people know what Chabad is doing, not many people know why Chabad is doing what it is doing.

I wish it was different. I wish more people had looked under Chabad’s “hood”.

Because the ideas that power Chabad are truly life transforming. And although I can’t tell you that I fully understand or practice them – far from it! – I have personally benefited from these teachings. I know that even a little study and implementation of these ideas will make my life so much better.

The ideas behind Chabad are also known as “Chassidus” or “Chassidic teachings,” and in this column I would focus on two ideas that are discussed in the most fundamental book of Chabad’s philosophy: the Tanya.

RELATIONSHIP

Relationships are one of the most complex parts of our life. We all desire relationships, yet often we are left unfulfilled, disappointed, or even hurt.

Come to think of it, it is quite natural that relationships fail. Isn’t it? After all, we all have our own best interest in mind. If I want what is good for me and you want what is good for you, can these paths fully converge? Can we ever form a real, sincere “we” that is greater than our individual identity and needs?

The Tanya tells us that true love is possible. Firstly, however, a crucial condition must be fulfilled.

Here are the words of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in chapter 32 of the Tanya:

“There can be no true love and fraternity between those who regard their bodies as primary and their souls secondary but only a love based on an external factor.”

With only one sentence, Rabbi Schneur Zalman identifies the culprit of the relationship crisis. When we regard ourselves and others as primary bodies, we will always focus on the differences. If we can focus on our soul, we will find that we do not need to form a new “we,” because in essence we are all connected already.

Am I always aware of this lesson? Do I always remember to put my soul first and my body second? I wish. But when I do, I am a better husband, father and rabbi.

HAPPINESS

The world desperately needs happiness.

Did you know that over 100,000 died last year alone of an overdose? These are staggering figures. Yes, Covid is partly to blame, but many of those poor souls simply sought happiness to escaped the harsh reality of their lives.

True happiness can only come from a sense of purpose. Feeling important and needed, knowing that we are making a significant contribution to the world around us, will make us happy.

In chapter 33 of Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman states that “This, in fact, is the whole [purpose] of man and the purpose for which he, and all the worlds, both upper and lower, were created: that G‑d should have such a dwelling place here below”.

What is beautiful about this idea is that it does two things at once. Not only does it tell us that we are important, we are actually the most important. We are at the center of the universe. We are the purpose of everything. And our contribution is not minimal; we can have a positive impact on the creator of all things, G-d himself.

How do we create a “dwelling place” for G-d?

It goes back to the idea of soul and body. The world, with everything in it, is like a body. And it is up to us to imbue it with a soul. When we take a physical object and use it for good, positive and holy purposes, we bring a soul into the body.

When I have a bad day and feel unaccomplished, I try to think of a way to do even one Mitzvah. It could be just taking a coin and placing it in the charity box or reaching out to someone in need of help. Or opening a Torah book and learn a few lines. This gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel a little better; at least I have taken a positive step towards making this world a dwelling place for G-d. I know that I made a difference.

I hope you enjoyed these two examples from Chassidic teachings. But truth to be told, this is just a small, tiny sample of the vast and deep sea of knowledge and Chassidic thought.

If you would like to learn more, you might want to consider the daily Tanya learning cycle that begins this coming Tuesday – the 19th of Kislev, a very special date in the Chabad calendar. I highly recommend Rabbi Yehoshua B Gordon’s daily Tanya class (available as a podcast or on Chabad.org/RabbiGordon, navigate to the daily Tanya tab). It is filled with knowledge, clear explanations and occasional humor.

May we all be inspired and internalize the ideas of Chassidus!

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