Around the world, the Rebbe’s shluchim work to bring the light of Shabbos candles to their fellow Jews. Sometimes, the non-Jewish press joins along and promotes the idea on their own initiative.
For years, the New York Times published the candle lighting times each Friday for the women to know when to light candles that week. Other shluchim have taken inspiration from this and brought the Friday ad to their community newspapers.
In 5735 the Rebbe launched Mivtza Neshek to encourage every Jewish woman and girl to light Shabbos candles every week. The Rebbe asked that the Mivtzah should be publicized using all means of publicity using radio, television and newspapers.
Recently, a number of shluchim have been implementing this hora’ah of the Rebbe in their local cities and are seeing unexpected success specifically through the non-Jewish publishers of the respective newspapers.
Rabbi Mendy Greenberg of Mat-Su Jewish Center Chabad has been running a Neshek ad in his local paper for the past seven years.
This began in a most unexpected and unique way:
Ahead of Yud Alef Nissan 5776 Rabbi Greenberg sought to fulfill the Rebbe’s instruction to have the local mayors and public figures recognize the Rebbe’s birthday as “Education and Sharing Day”.
Before arranging a meeting with councilmen from the area, he called in to the Ohel to ask the Rebbe for a bracha for success in the campaign. He also asked that the local monthly newspaper, The People’s Paper, take interest in this activity.
Following this Rabbi Greenberg had many successful meetings with leaders of the council, municipality and school district. The story was indeed picked up by the local newspaper with an extensive article published on the front page of the local paper together with a picture of the Rebbe.
Rabbi Greenberg proceeded to meet with the newspaper publisher, Mr. Jack Fryfogle, and gave him a biography of the Rebbe as a gift. The non-Jewish publisher was greatly impressed by what he heard about the Rebbe and told Rabbi Greenberg that he was interested in writing a letter to the Rebbe which he sent to the Ohel.
A few weeks later, Rabbi Greenberg received a text from the newspaper publisher reading: “I am almost finished reading the book you gave me. I am inspired to publish an advertisement each month that lists the proper time for Jewish women to light Shabbos candles free of charge in honor of the Rebbe”.
Rabbi Greenberg made contact with Mrs. Esther Sternberg, director of the Neshek office of N’shei Chabad, to hear from her how the Rebbe instructed for Mivtza Neshek to be publicized and a beautiful advertisement was made up with the Shabbos times, instructions and a picture of the Rebbe with a dedication from the publisher reading: “Sponsored by Josh Fryfogle in admiration of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and in tribute to his timeless leadership and inspiration for all humanity”.
It has been seven years, and the paper is still publishing the beautiful ad with the Shabbos times together with a picture of the Rebbe.
This story continued this month in Gresham, Oregon, when the local shliach Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Dyce decided to publish a similar advertisement in the local Mountain Times monthly newspaper as a paid advertisement.
The advertisement came out beautifully and a number of Jewish people shared how touched they were to see this being done.
Upon receiving a copy of the paper, Rabbi Dyce was amazed to see that in addition to the advertisement, the non-Jewish publishers had printed the Shabbos times in the center page spread which features the event calendar of all the events going on in the area!
Though the Shabbos times are not a community event, the publisher expressed that she liked the messages it contained and was excited to help spread the word and encourage people to get involved with the local Jewish activities. She added that the paper is happy to print the Shabbos times in the event calendar every month, as well as feature them on the newspaper website free of charge.
Rabbi Dyce said that he saw this special gesture as a sign that he should continue running paid advertisements in newspapers about Neshek, and even invest more to enlarge the size of the advertisement in an effort to reach even more Yidden and teach them about the Rebbe’s mivtzoyim.
These stories bring to mind an amazing story which happened following a hora’ah of the Rebbe about forty years ago (excerpt from Chassidisher Derher – The Story of Mivtza Neshek):
A few years after the mivtza’s launch, at the yearly sicha to N’shei U’bnos Chabad, the Rebbe spoke of the mivtza with great emphasis. Upon exiting the shul after the sicha, the Rebbe stopped to speak with Mrs. Sternberg, director of the Shabbos candles campaign. The Rebbe instructed her to “see to it that a prominent advertisement be printed in the New York Times for the correct candle lighting times.”
Indeed, an advertisement was immediately organized for the New York Times along with other leading newspapers. Eventually, a weekly advertisement ran on the bottom of the first page of the New York Times every Friday (the only advertisement to run on the front page!) stating the candle lighting times in the New York area, and leaving a number to call for other locations. With this small but prominent advertisement, virtually the entire world was reading about the mitzvah entrusted to Jewish women and girls to illuminate the world.
Around 5758 the advertisement stopped being run in the Times when the price became too exorbitant, but on the day that the new millennium rolled around, in the secular year 2000, the ad suddenly reappeared in a most mysterious way.
In celebrating the new millennium in the secular year 2000, the New York Times marked the historic day by featuring a fictional front page, presuming what may be the front-page news in the year 2100.
The imagined front-page reported of robots demanding equality, of politicians misusing weather controlling satellites, and of sports games not yet played. But there, on the bottom right corner, was a small advertisement notifying Jewish women and girls of the candle lighting time in the New York area, instructing to “tap here” for times for other locations.
Mrs. Sternberg was pleasantly surprised to see this advertisement, as she had not paid for such an impressive ad!
Upon contacting the management of the New York Times, she was told that a chosen group of the Times staff met to discuss this fictional front page. Everyone had a different opinion as to what to report about. But all in the room agreed on one thing: While no one can truly know what may be making world news in 2100, all agreed that Jewish women and girls will still be lighting the Shabbos candles on Friday eve.
Indeed, the Rebbe’s wish to have an advertisement in the New York Times, and that it be “prominently displayed,” could not have been fulfilled any better!
These three stories illustrate in a clear way the powerful words of the Rebbe on 3 Tammuz in 5751 where he says that people ask a question:
“What will the world and the nations say about a Jew doing his avodah of “hafotzas hamayonos chutzah,” and especially – in hastening the true and complete Geulah, seemingly they don’t understand what this means?! It is indeed a great and lofty service – however seemingly we must take the world into account – he objects!
The answer to this is: the world is already prepared, fartik (over and done with)! When a Jew does his avodah of “hafotzas hamayonos chutzah ” and especially in hastening the true and complete Geulah, in the correct manner – in a manner of above confines and limitations and along with this, as it is clothed in the vessels of the vestments of nature – he will see how the world, the nature of the world and nations of the world assist him in his service.” (Free translation from Sicha of Shabbos Parshas Korach – Sefer Hasichos 5751 vol. 2 pg. 663).