Continuing our series on what we stand to learn from the practice of Chabad-Lubavitch, today let’s look at four more lessons for living, these taken from the second chapter of Sue Fishkoff’s fine book, The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch.
1. For Chabad, the work is of priceless worth, even when the facilities are humble.
Many times, people in religious work preoccupy themselves with raising the money for the work before they do the work for which they are raising the money. Not so with Chabad. They start doing the work with whatever humble resources are at their disposal: the money not only comes later, it comes because of the work that is being done. Here is an example concerning a now very successful Chabad Rabbi in South Florida who, like all of the others, started small and worked hard:
Denburg initially held prayer services and ran Chabad business from a 1,100 square ft. rented apartment he shared with his wife and two children. A folding screen used to separate hospital beds serves as his make-shift mechitza. He held Rosh Hashana services that first year in his kitchen (35).
This reminds me of the immigrant generation of my father’s day: people often worked long hours and lived behind the store, with all the rhythms of the family intertwined with those of the family business.
I have a friend who has been attending Chabad services in a wealthy community in Southern California. There is a new Chabad work there. They have set up shop in an apartment over a 7-11, not exactly the standard hangout for clientele who drive a Lexus, a Mercedes, or a Cadillac. But that is how things are when you are beginning. And those who choose to give to such a work give because the need is apparent, and the work is obviously heartfelt and by the sweat of the brow.
You don’t need a lot of money to work hard, and Chabad not only knows this–they live by it. This brings us to a related point.
2. People who do not live according to Chabad’s standards are their biggest supporters, because these people know that Chabad is serious about the right things and will be there tomorrow and not just today.
Most people who give to Chabad are not orthodox themselves. But they believe in what Chabad is doing because it reminds them of the commitments that their parents and grandparents honored, and because they know that Chabad is there for the well-being of the Jewish people, and that they will be there tomorrow and not just today.
When the way you live and the way you serve radiate values that people respect, you can expect support. And when the way you live and the way you serve do not radiate values that people respect, on what basis would you expect them to support you?
3. Chabad serves its clientele by offering programs people want at little or no cost. They do not charge synagogue membership, but do charge an affordable fee for classes. We all need to learn this lesson: People will pay affordable fees for benefits gained. Therefore concentrate on always giving people perceived benefit.
4. Chabad provides positive and enjoyable experiences in an area of life where people often have negative, bad memories. Chabad Rabbi Bukiet of Boca Raton says this,
Everybody I meet has had something negative happen to them once in synagogue, or with a rabbi, and they didn’t go back for twenty-five years. People left Judaism because of the stuffiness, the coldness,m the attitude that Judaism is a business. It’s a shame. We need to create a bridge for Jews to come back to Judaism, showing them the joy in it. Sometimes, when you bring a Jew into an Orthodox synagogue, he gest embarrassed. He doesn’t know what to do. I want to bring him in and make him feel like a million dollars (39).
Do we, in our service to people, make them feel like a million dollars? Do we replace their bad memories and negative experiences with good ones in how we treat them and relate to them in matters of religious faith and practice? Are we sympathetic with people who are negative about what we believe, ready to accept them as they are and to coax them to take another bite?
In all these areas and more, Chabad-Lubavitch has much to teach us. In Interfaithfulness, and in the project, HaB’er which we will soon be launching, we are putting those lessons into practice.
If you want to know more, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
But whatever you do, if you resonated strongly with any of these lessons, my question for you is this: What are you going to do about it?