Should We Rethink the Way We Talk About Shlichus?

Oped by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: Many people have told me that we should stop promoting, and farbrenging about, shlichus. But should we really throw away that which the Rebbe painstakingly ingrained into our generation?

By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon – Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chabad Cincinnati

The Kinus Hashluchim is quickly approaching. It is a time that the Rebbe’s dedicated soldiers “come home” for an uplifting Shabbas by the Rebbe in Crown Heights. They get to visit 770, the Ohel and Farbreng and strengthen each other.

As a bochur in Oholei Torah Zal, it was a weekend that I really looked forward to. We would always Farbreng with different Shluchim who would inspire us to retain the mindset that the Rebbe expects each of us to be his Shliach. 

A Farbrengen with Rabbi Nechemia Vogel (Shliach to Rochester, NY) remains with me until this day. It was Thursday night (of the weekend of the Kinnus) – at the home of Rabbi Avremel Silver –  and he told us a very personal story: After he got married, his father wanted him to join the family business in England. He went to speak to his Mashpia, Rabbi Itche Shpringer A”H, who explained to him that, while there are many universities that produce qualified businessmen, Tomchei Temimim is the only place that produces Shluchim. If a graduate of Tomchei Temimim does not go on Shlichus, who will save the world? He committed the rest of his life to Shlichus.

That was over twenty years ago and much has changed since then. Boruch Hashem, the Rebbe has “conquered the world”, and almost every city with a Jewish population has a Shliach. In addition, without expressing an opinion on this particular issue, many senior shluchim are “saving places” for their children and family members. The fact remains: There are many couples clinging to a dream of Shlichus which will not happen in the conventional sense.

This has led to three big issues: 

1) A big disillusionment, and inner depression, by many young couples which has serious effects on their marriages and idealism. Many couples spend a few years “looking for shlichus” and only hit reality – that they are not destined to move on shlichus –  after having a few children. They never moved into bigger apartments and homes, as they are expecting to move any month, nor has the husband found a proper parnassah.  

2) Many yungeleit – who go into business – now feel exempt from the Rebbe’s expectations and demands, for after-all the entire system is only for Shluchim.

 3) Many bochurim become disillusioned in the system itself. If the whole Chinuch is about shlichus, and they know that it is not available, then why get involved in the first place?

Many people that I have discussed this with have told me that we should stop promoting, and farbreinging about, Shlichus and focus on educating the talmidim to be honest and G-d fearing Yidden. As “frustration comes from expectation”, we need to temper the expectation of Shlichus in our Chinuch system. 

While it is obvious that having ehrliche Yungeleit is very important, I do not believe that the time has come to throw-away the entire emphasis and deep-rooted Ahavas Yisroel that the Rebbe painstakingly ingrained into our generation. The Rebbe has a vision and a clear path of how to actualize that vision. Are we going to throw away the entire mission, when we are this close to the culmination and success of the mission? Is this what the Rebbe envisioned when he gave each of us the shlichus to bring Moshiach?

While the emphasis on Shlichus should never change,there is one thing that should be changed: How we talk about Shlichus. Instead of it being just a specific destination (a place that we move to), it needs to be spoken about as a mindset

Our children need to hear that every Chassid is expected and able to be a shliach as shlichus is a mindset in life – hashkafas Hachayim. It doesn’t matter if you are a businessman or a professional lawyer, you must bring the Hashkafa and attitude of Shlichus with you to your work and home. It should be clear in the office that you prioritize Ahavas Yisroel and hafatza amongst your neighbors and co-workers. A pair of Tefillen in your office, to put on with others, should be a basic understanding.

When Yom Tov approaches, every Chassid must be thinking of his contacts to bring the awareness and Tzorchei Hachag to.  Your family must see your passion for reaching out to another Yid and hosting people for Shabbas. Giving, and inspiring others to attend, shiurim is possible for everyone.

The Message to our Talmidim must be absolutely clear: “We do not know what official capacity you will be filling when you grow up. Some will be Rabbanim, Shluchim, and Mechanchim and others will be laborers, entrepreneurs and businessmen. What we do know is that the Rebbe expects all of you to be his Shluchim and the only place to prepare for that is in Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim. The Foundation od Tomchei Temimim is to produce “Chayolei Beis Dovid” and everyone that is in Tomchei Temimim were chosen by our holy Rabbeim to be there. Thus, Shlichus is for everyone.”

The Rebbe gave each of us the unique Shlichus to prepare the world for Moshiach and nobody is allowed to feel exempt, as we need everybody to make this happen! Everyone, truly, everyone needs to feel – in truth –  that they are on the Rebbe’s Shlichus.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the above in the comments section or by sending me a personal email: [email protected]

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  1. There is Shlichus and there is shlichus.
    The former has the official title, the territory, and with that a responsibility to a place and its people.
    The latter has none of that. He has his “mission in life”. For a territory he can choose according to his assumed title – which would be melamed, magid shiur, or rov, or even a shochet or a business person. However, his mission in life is “shlichus”. The rest is arranging a life that will accommodate and/or facilitate the combination of living and “shlichus”.
    Rashi on the gemara of Torah lishma says “kdei lehikarei rav.” The Alter Rebbe in Tanya is a says “lihyos rav.”
    There is a shliach who is called a shliach. There can be a shliach who is a shliach. (And both are Lishma.)
    An area that is ripe for the taking is joining a veltish or Litvish kollel (out of town?), being a kollel yungerman, projecting the image of a talmid chochom in town, creating shurim (there is an exceptional interest in Tanya and chassidus in der velt now), and gathering youth, children, students etc.
    Abi nisht tzu shtern an existing shliach. Most shluchim will welcome a helping hand from a chassidishe couple who are not there to carve out a territory or a name.
    Ah, but you want to be a Shliach? Nu, nu.

    1. There is tremendous infrastructure available to the people you call Shluchim with a capital S.
      There are programs for their kids, retreats for inspiration, grants for simchos and financial support for a whole list of things that can come up for a family living away from a natural support structure.
      A young Chassidishe couple moves to to be shluchim with a lower case s- they can’t access all of that infrastructure. Of course they want the capital S. Then the existing Shluchim get territorial and politics happens and why are we surprised?
      It’s the same reason we lack melamdim and moros. We don’t offer a support structure to keep their choices viable. Abi mesiras nefesh but let’s be honest – Our best and brightest aren’t stupid.

      1. You have made a good point. Ess klingt. A bell.
        So let’s come up with a practical solution. Maybe a division in the office of shluchim for “clandestine operations”, or “Shluchim in disguise”. Undercover shluchim who will be given access to infrastructure that aids and supports their “operations”, as well as access to The Kinnus. They can adopt the option of answering (when asked what/where are you located) “clandestine operations”. THAT could become a status to be honored and/or envied.

      2. This support system is a relatively new development. People went on shlichus for decades without it. Where there’s a will, a passion, a belief, there’s a way.

  2. The word “lawyer” in the article is extra- and deceiving. Since it hints at the need/permission to chas veshalom go to university- something clearly against the Rebbe’s explicit instructions “vision and path”.

    (Obviously, bedieved, he isn’t potur of shlichus! But to say it when farbrening with our pure Bochurim.. is planting a rotten seed in their holy minds and souls.)

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