He Had the Hardest Job in Lubavitch

Photo: Bentzy Sasson

Photo: Bentzy Sasson

Article by Rabbi Mendel Itzinger: He didn’t look at big projects, big buildings, mosdos, gatherings of thousands or successful events. But Rabbi Yudi Dukes was a real shliach, and we should try to emulate his ways.

By Rabbi Mendel Itzinger, Director of Igud Mesivtos V’Yeshivos Lubavitch

He had the hardest job in Lubavitch

I am not sure I can think of another Shliach who has a more frustrating Shlichus…

He worked all day every day, asking Lubavitcher’ to learn with someone on the phone…

That is how I got to know him.

I was newly married and in Kolel when he walked over to me: “Hi, I’m Yudi Dukes, I run JNet, I have a bunch of people who want to learn on the phone for an hour a week, could you learn with one of them”?

I really didn’t want to… but I also didn’t want to say no, so I gave him my number and hoped he’d find enough others that he would need me.

After the third time I missed his call (not ח”ו purposely), I assumed he’d give up.

He didn’t.

I took a Chavrusa and we learned for a while.

This is what he did day in and day out.

I work with Lubavitchers, I can tell you if you don’t already know, we are really not an easy crowd…

We are already over committed with a list of Mivtzoim and ‘Peulos’ we do, and hundreds of Moisdos vie for our time and help, on top of our incredibly busy lives. It is not always easy for us to give much attention to new things.

(Look at recent small money campaigns… reaching the goal is not getting easier…)

There is nothing more humbling than putting your life and soul into something that requires a commitment from others to make happen… because it is so hard for already overworked people to commit to more.

And being “fobbed off” really doesn’t feel good…

It’s one thing to do the job he did job for a few months… if you are tenacious you could push it a bit longer.

Yet two years later he was still at it. And five… and ten..

He never stopped.

He didn’t look at big projects… big buildings… Moisdos…. gatherings of thousands…. successful events… 

I’m not even sure how many times he even saw the fruits of his labour…

Yet his tenacity to keep pushing stands before me every day… 


At the Kinus Hashluchim in 5747 the Rebbe explained the difference between an ‘Askan’ and a Shliach.

The Asken worries about the ‘worlds problems’. Following deep analysis he decides on a course of action; His work with the individual fits in to his narrative and agenda of dealing with specific global challenges.

A Shliach on the other hand, sees each Mitzva and Peula as the greatest achievement. If “all” he does all day is put Teffilin on people, he sees immeasurable success.

The Askan solves the worlds problems, the Shliach solves the individuals problems. And yet, which one truly changes the world?

The real way to solve the worlds problems, the Rebbe concluded, is through absolute focus on the individual. In the Rebbe’s words: ווערט שלוחים און נעמט איין די וועלט מיט אידישקייט. 


Yudi was a real Shliach.

And as someone who is more naturally pulled toward solving the “worlds problems” I think of him often.

His tenacity to keep the individual at the forefront, has been and will continue to be an inspiration to me each time I need to reach for motivation, as I’m sure it does for so many others.

Yudi, I do not know why the Eibishter took you so early, but I do know that whist you sit in the Rebbe’s Heichal in Gan Eden, we here will continue to try emulate your life’s lesson, and hopefully those who we touch will do so too. So that בקרוב we will have readied the world enough to see you once again בביאת משיח צדקנו במהרה בימינו ממש.

חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין

May I humbly suggest that לע”נ חיים שניאור זלמן יהודה בן ר’ אהרן ליב

, we try over the next week to reach one יחיד, be it a new person on Friday Mivtzoim, an associate, a friend that could use a few minutes of our time to learn something, or for help in another in another matter whatever it may be.

A campaign has been launched to support the Dukes family following the passing of their husband and father. Please give whatever you can at https://www.charidy.com/dukes/Anash

In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)

We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.

  1. A very accurate portrayal. My wife and I had the same experience during the time we volunteered for Jnet before we moved on shlichus. After Yudi passed away I was thinking about the outpouring of love both while he was sick and now, and I couldn’t put my finger on the exact point what was uniquely special about him. Thank you for capturing the message we can all learn from him.

  2. R’ Mendel Shy

    Everything you say is right . Having first-hand experiences with R Yudi OH he was indeed tenacious in what he did and he did it well.

    I’m not sure if you wrote the title of this article so I’ll be careful how I respond.

    The “real” Shliach title, is a little distasteful, every Shliach has his/her unique role Ithe Army , it could be educating Bochurim a stone throw away from grodinskies bakery in London, or in a small Town in America performing a Tahara on a sweet yingele who sat in your talmud torah who RL put an end to his troubled life earlier this week.

    Let’s be dan lkaf zchus and perhaps a little more sensetive on our words to make our point.

    Gut Shabbos

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

advertise package