Chassidim Should be Like One Family

Chinuch and the Parsha by Rabbi Shmuel Wagner: “Yidden are still suffering in Galus because of Lashon Hara.” I came across this line in a Sefer in Shul. I was so shocked that I immediately checked who the author of that Sefer was…

By Rabbi Shmuel Wagner – teacher at ULY Ocean Parkway

“Yidden are still suffering in Galus because of Lashon Hara.”

I came across this line in a Sefer in Shul. I was so shocked that I immediately checked who the author of that Sefer was…

Turns out, I was learning Chumash with Rashi. Yes, this is a quote from none other than Rashi in this week’s Parsha, telling us Moshe Rabbeinu’s thoughts after the Jewish man threatened to snitch to Pharaoh.

If you were tricked by my sardonic script, you could be excused for not naturally associating that line with Rashi and Moshe Rabbeinu. Is Lashon Hara really such a terrible thing that it can hold back the Ge’ulah and be the rationale for the Yidden’s suffering?!

The Alter Rebbe stood for many things. As founder of Chassidus Chabad, as author of the Tanya, and as a Rebbe, he certainly developed many adages and maxims that can be used to describe Chassidus and Chassidim. “Pnimiyus”, “Hisbonenus”, “Mo’ach Shalit Al Halev”, etc.

But, when it comes to Chof-Daled Teves, the day of his Histalkus, the day when – in the Alter Rebbe’s own words in Tanya – all his life’s work, learning and legacy are highlighted and elevated, which teaching of the Alter Rebbe is transcribed for posterity in that day’s Hayom Yom? The Alter Rebbe’s desire of cultivating “ways of Chassidim” in that Chassidim should feel as one family. Wow.

To be clear, this is not the simple “Ahavas Yisrael” speech. “Feeling as one family” with a fellow Chassid, with a fellow Jew, is not just about not embarrassing him or not harming him. “Feeling as one family” is a deep sense of connection. A feeling that allows me to place his needs before mine, because I care, I genuinely care, about him.

Last year I heard a story that will remain with me forever:

Rabbi Leibel Kramer was one of the Bochurim sent by the Frierdiker Rebbe to establish Mosdos in Montreal. He became the director of the Yeshiva, and his friends were the teachers. When one of the teachers, Rabbi Weinberg, got married, he came over to Rabbi Kramer and explained to him that although until now his teacher’s salary was sufficient, he will need a raise now that he is married. Understandably, there was not exactly extra money lying around for a higher paycheck. Rabbi Kramer told Rabbi Weinberg, “I am single [Rabbi Kramer got married last from the group] and I am receiving a director’s salary. You are married and getting a teacher’s salary. Let us switch salaries!”

If you wanted to file that story into a category, it would not be “Ahavas Yisrael”. It would not either be “Tzedaka”. This is a lot deeper and a lot stronger. This is “Chassidim Ein Mishpocho”. Rabbi Kramer was able to sacrifice his salary, because in his perspective, it was not his salary; it was their salary, and in this situation Rabbi Kramer felt that their salary was needed by Rabbi Weinberg.

Usually, when imparting this lesson, these stories are followed by ‘softening the blow’ (Think Mashpia-in-Yeshiva/Mechaneches-in-high-school-voice): “I am not saying that it is necessarily expected from us to be giving away our salaries, but we need to learn from these stories that this is how a Chassid should live.” In other words, awesome story, and now you get bonus points if you could also somehow make it relevant to your life.

I beg to differ. We are always in situations where we are expected to express our connection to a fellow Yid. We are always in situations where we are expected to care, to genuinely care, about someone we know, whether a co-worker, neighbor, or literally a family member. For Rabbi Kramer, it was a salary. For a busy person, it can be 20 minutes of his time, and for an introvert, it can be his privacy. When someone needs help from us, we are one family. We are not merely doing a favor for them. Their hurt is our hurt, and our resources, therefore, become their resources.

This was Moshe’s epiphany when the Lashon Hara factor came to his attention. One of the key severities of Lashon Hara (amongst others) is what it indicates: It indicates the lack of connection between Yidden. It reveals the gaping chasm dividing us, blocking one Yid from feeling another’s pain and sharing the burden of his troubles. This would be an impediment for Yetzias Mitzrayim, which is when the Yidden were born as a nation. Until then they were but a group of people sharing a philosophy, and they were meant to now metamorphose into a united nation (no, I mean the real kind). That, Moshe Rabbeinu said, cannot happen without the Yidden cultivating their feelings of “Ein Mishpacha”.

If there is one takeaway message from Chof-Daled Teves, let it be the Hayom Yom. Better than committing to doing favors for others, let us commit to feel that there are no others.

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