We sat down with Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier to discuss his 2016 article “Training the Second Brigade“, which became an instant classic – and the subject of much debate.
Anash.org: Thank you for sharing your article, “Training the Second Brigade,” with us. We’re coming up on 6 years since this article was published in the N’shei Chabad Newsletter. Firstly, do you still feel the same way about the subject?
Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier: I’m even more convinced about it now than I was then.
Anash: Ok, let’s back up a little. What was happening at the time that inspired you to write it?
Rabbi Lipskier: When I wrote the article, we had many yungeleit who were feeling lost, that there was no place for them. Some felt guilty that they were doing something other than the ‘typical shlichus.’ Others were not ready for the idea of shlichus at all. By carving ourselves into this specific role – if you want to be a real chassid, this is what you do – we were rejecting a large number of young Lubavitchers. They needed to hear that there is a place for them.
Anash: What kind of feedback did you receive?
RL: To my surprise, most of the feedback was positive. It came from parents, from shluchim, rabbanim and mechanchim, and yungeleit themselves. Actually, I am still hearing from yungeleit who tell me that the article helped them.
As a side note, the most unexpected response came from many shluchim who said that this reframe is needed within the world of traditional shlichus, too. One head shliach put it like this: “We need to bring the ‘shlichus’ back into the shliach.”
This shliach really understood the crux of the matter, but some of the other feedback made me realize that I hadn’t clarified the issue as well as I should have.
Anash: What feedback did you get that made you realize that?
RL: The article left room for a misunderstanding that it’s time to go back to the old-fashioned “erliche Yid” model. Some of those who understood it this way applauded it, saying that shlichus hijacked Lubavitch and it’s time to reclaim the old Baal Shem Tov model. Others criticized the article, saying that it’s an affront to the Rebbe’s call for shlichus.
Anash: What would you say today to clarify this point?
RL: The Rebbe’s expectation of every chassid is that he should live by the words, “Ani lo nivraisi ela l’shamesh es koni” (I was created only to serve my Master). It’s about our mission, what we are here for.
The Rebbe made something clear numerous times. There is no going back to the shtetl – we’re on the offense now! Regardless of our profession, we must remain committed to the values of ahavas yisroel and hafatzas hamaayanos – reaching every Yid with love. When we remain focused on the mission, our shlichus, we aren’t easily affected by the things going on around us. This message is for everyone.
Anash: So a businessman should make mivtzoim a part of his work day?
RL: Actually, that’s precisely not the only thing it’s about. Having the shlichus attitude is a mindset and drive that affects all areas of daily life.
If a person is left to their own devices, they’ll end up in a rat race, whether they are in business or living on shlichus. Recently, there has been a shift in hashkafos, and some people are much more driven today to make money or build large institutions, instead of accomplishing what’s needed of them.
When we make intentional decisions about how we set ourselves up in our line of work, it leads to making more thoughtful choices in every area. We make time for learning and davening properly. We give tzedaka generously. We choose a community to settle in based on our priorities – being able to influence others and raising a chassidishe family.
Being an erliche Yid and businessman is valuable in and of itself. But in the Rebbe’s book, the only way to truly accomplish this is by being mission-oriented. Doing mitvtzoim is an important outlet of this concept, but it’s not the defining factor.
Anash: What can be done to give our youth the right perspective?
RL: The most urgent order of business is to address this with our older bochurim and girls. Mashpiim and teachers must face this issue head on and speak openly about our core value of shlichus-minded living and how it affects our lives. We must emphasize the chassidishe value of learning Torah daily, so that men will prioritize it with the encouragement of their wives.
Anash: In the article, you mention finding and celebrating role models. But the people living the genuine lifestyle of a chassidishe balabos tend to shun the limelight. How can we increase awareness that these role models exist without embarrassing those who want to avoid recognition?
RL: You make a valid point. The first thing to consider is that when you look for something earnestly, you will find it. If we train ourselves to look for a chassidishe baal eisek or shliach who can be an example, we will find them and be affected by them. I’m blessed to have my shver, Avrohom Moshe Deitsch, sheyichyeh, as my living example of these values. But since not everyone is his son in law, I recommend reading the book, “A Chossid, A Businessman” about my shver’s brother, Reb Zalman Deitsch a”h. He was a great example of being a shliach in the world of business.
Having said that, it might be time to call these people out! Nudge them out of their comfort zones – they need to come out and farbreng. Now is not the time and place for being a pnimi!
And finally, in addition to looking outwards, we need to give our own children the secret ingredient. If we live with the attitude of going where we are needed and doing what needs to be done, they will find a way to apply that to whatever they end up doing in life. If a kid grows up on shlichus and sees that his father is focused on money and control, this will be his model in anything he does. But if a shliach or businessman is constantly questioning, “What would the Rebbe say? Am I making this decision with a shlichus mindset or a business mindset?” his children will, with Hashem’s help, learn to do the same.