Training the Second Brigade: A Different Kind of Shlichus

Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier revisits his timeless article on training a new generation of chassidim whose shlichus may not be found in the typical Chabad house.

by Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier, as published in the N’shei Chabad Newsletter, Elul 5776

At the groundbreaking for a Chabad yeshiva not long ago the dean opened his speech with, “Every year, this yeshiva educates 150 students who will eventually move out on Shlichus!” His words were met with resounding applause. But I must admit that I was saddened. Not only because his statement was false, but because his words embodied a major injustice to the students in his yeshiva.

Over the past 70 plus years Chabad has become recognized as the symbol of Jewish outreach, so much so that our very identity has become synonymous with Shlichus. This is true not only from an outsider’s view but from within our own communities as well. “You’re a farmer” is a familiar taunt given to someone who doesn’t move out on Shlichus. To be a chossid, we argued, you must go out on the Rebbe’s Shlichus.

There’s no doubt that our Shluchim have changed the world for the better and are indispensable. There’s also no question that the motivation to go out on Shlichus is due largely to the way we educate our children with the Rebbe’s vision. Our families and educational institutions have successfully trained the Rebbe’s army of Shluchim. And it goes without saying that there’s still a need for new Shluchim.

But it’s time for a reality check.

What percentage of our boys and girls are going out on Shlichus these days?

A fraction of the number that used to.

This phenomenon may be due to several factors-including fewer available Shlichus positions because of the number of Shluchimwe already have ka”h-and doesn’t reflect a lack of interest or motivation. But the fact remains: The majority of our young couples are settling in frum communities and working regular jobs.

In Their Minds

If we continue to live in denial, convincing ourselves and our children that a Chabad chossid is exclusively someone who moves out on Shlichusand that most of our children will in fact do so, we will fail our children, the Rebbe and the world.

Currently, our youth face two major challenges.

The first one is that-knowingly or not-they perceive Shlichus and business as two antithetical paths. All our values, they believe, have an ultimate goal: going out on Shlichus. If we succeed as chassidim and go on Shlichus, then those values are important and useful. If we don’t, we’ve failed as chassidim and joined another team. And, they conclude, on this other team it’s no longer important to dress like a chossid, or behave like one. After all, my fate is decided: I’m not a real chossid anyway.

The reality of this attitude hit me hard when I saw a flier advertising job training for Chabad boys. The flier design included silhouettes of several young men walking to work. You couldn’t see tzitzis nor hat or jacket on any of them. The well-meaning organizer was unwittingly sending a message to his audience: When you go into the business world you’re no longer a chossid.

The second challenge is that our youth-even those who want to do what’s right even as a baal habos-are simply not equipped to deal with the world. We’ve trained them for Shlichus, not for living as a chassidishe baal habos/teh. It’s like training a man as a paratrooper and then sending him to the Navy. Many of the core principles may be the same, but they weren’t taught how to apply them. 

Two Brigades

In the winter of 1952, the Rebbe wrote a letter of appeal for Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim. In it the Rebbe celebrates the success of the yeshiva. “…Today, many hundreds of our students serve as Rabbanim; Roshei Mesivtos and Roshei Yeshivos; shochtim; as well as other positions in holy work in prominent Jewish communities. And also those who engage in others areas for parnassah still do what they can, each according to his capabilities, in the field of spreading Torah and yiras Shamayim, and take leading roles in strengthening Yiddishkeit wherever they live.” (Igros Kodesh Vol. 7 pg. 65)

The Rebbe was proud to say that many of his students go into business and still occupy themselves with strengthening Yiddishkeit. Perhaps today it’s time for us to promote, in addition to the importance of Shlichus, this pride as well.

It’s time to train also the second brigade in the Rebbe’s army. 

What can we do?

The primary objective of this article is to raise awareness of our current state of affairs. But perhaps we can consider some general suggestions.

It’s time to reawaken a dormant art: The art of being a chassidishe baal habos.

Just like our Shlichus-training permeates every aspect of our education, training chassidishe baalei batim and bal habostehs should do the same.

Core values for every Jew, and especially a chossid, include: Trust in Hashem; studying Torah every day; davening in shul three times a day; performing mitzvos b’hidur; dressing like a chossid; giving tzedakahfarbrenging; and, of course, reaching out to others and strengthening Yiddishkeit. For a baal habos this can mean engaging in mivtza’im activities while on business; inviting non-Torah-observant guests for Shabbos and Yom Tov; and hosting shiurim and farbrengens.

It’s vital that our boys and girls are aware of these values-their beauty, importance and relevance.

There are, baruch Hashem, many yungeleit today who can serve as superb role models of what the Rebbe has in mind for a chassidishe baal habos. These young men and women live their lives with the above values and priorities. Sharing our admiration for these people will have a profound effect on our children.

These people should be added to our list of heroes.

As parents and teachers we can seize opportunities to inculcate the above values. The stories we tell can be about erlicher business people, about fathers and mothers. When discussing topics like b’chol drachecha da’eihu we can make sure to give practical examples and draw on life experiences of people we know. And the conversations at our Shabbos tables can be about hashgachah pratis, or the mivtza’im we did at work, or a story about a friend who did so.

For older boys and girls, the topics for study and farbrengens could include the above-mentioned values. Draw their attention to the countless sichos and letters in which the Rebbe addressed the need for businessmen to study Torah every day and the need for their wives to appreciate this need and encourage it; the importance of trust in Hashem.

Share with them the many ma’amarei Chassidus which discuss the unique role of the businessman in making this world a dwelling place for Hashem. And tell them chassidishe stories that demonstrate our admiration for these “farmers.”

One of the most memorable talks we heard in all our years in yeshiva was when Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, Executive Director of Oholei Torah, lectured us on the importance of dressing like a Yid when riding the subway to work. We had never heard this topic addressed before!

Let the message to our children and the supporters of our schools be, “Every year, we educate students who will dedicate their lives to strengthening Yiddishkeit, each with their unique contribution.”

May the efforts of all our troops bring the ultimate victory, the coming of Moshiach now!

Coming soon: an exclusive interview with Rabbi Lipskier, further exploring the ideas in this article!

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  1. This is so refreshingly original! Thank you for this well-written, clear message on an almost taboo subject. Looking forward to the interview!

  2. Beautiful article. I wonder though if these students can dedicate their lives to our lubavitch community. That’s a huge shlichus equal in my opinion ( as a shlucha) to Shluchim in far out places.

  3. Thank you so very much Rabbi Lipskier for this so needed article.

    It’s truly unfortunate that our Youth and Yungeliet and even many that are older, don’t realize that great and infinite value of being a Frum and Chassidishe Baal Habos and how much it matters to them, their families, and the community. As well as the tremendous Nachas and joy that it gives the Rebbe.

    On a related topic. Unfortunately this extends itself to Limmud HaTorah as a separate topic for itself. Working in Chinuch, I very often hear of “at 16 this Bachurim feel that it’s already too late for them to learn how to properly learn” or “at 25 and married, he sees himself as not Shayach to learning. When it comes to learning, the system failed him and he failed the system”.

    How can a 16 year old or even 25 year old say such a thing? At 25 a person has Baruch Hashem 40, 50, 60 or even more years left where they can dedicate some time every day to learning. They were only בן חמש עשרה לגמרא for 1 or 10 years (and only 7 or 16 years if they started Gemara at 9 years old) and they have 4, 5, 6, or more of as much time where they can still learn. Yes, they don’t have the כל כולו experience of a בחור. But they still have so much time.

    In addition, now have the appreciation and desire for learning (that’s sadly leading them to feel down instead of inspired) and also a greater intellectual maturity which can help them in their learning.

    The love the Baal Shem Tov had for the simple Yidden was unbelievably great. Today we have even more than that. Then, many of them struggled to even read, let alone understand anything at all. Today, a Baal Habos has access to so much, yet finds a way to feel bad that he’s “only” reading Chassidish Ma’asos, “only” learning Nach, “only” learning Mishnayos, etc.

    If anything, today we have so much to be grateful for when it comes to our access and ability to learn Torah. The Yetzer Hara wants us even more than our actions, and so he finds a way to get us by making us feel down. If we overcome that, then Baruch Hashem there is so much good that we have today to use out and to be thankful to Hashem

  4. It’s an EXCELLENT article! Thank you for writing it so clearly.

    And I would add, from personal experience, that it applies not only to those who DON’T go on shlichus, but equally to those who DO go on shlichus. If they go on shlichus, but don’t have these basics of hashkafa, then something is very “off” with the “Yiddishkeit” that they are spreading… If a person thinks that all of Yiddishkeit is to “feed” the “shlichus machine”, and nothing more, then there are big misconceptions. It’s not that Yiddishkeit was “created” for the purpose of providing parnasa for the shluchim. The OPPOSITE is true: the Shluchim were sent to spread YIDDISHKEIT.

    A practical suggestion to the author: you’ve written the clearest article on the topic that I’ve personally ever come across.

    You write “The stories we tell can be about erlicher business people, about fathers and mothers. When discussing topics like b’chol drachecha da’eihu we can make sure to give practical examples and draw on life experiences of people we know.”

    Even for people who AGREE with you (such as myself), it might be difficult to come up with concrete ideas. Maybe share with us on this platform some of yours, to get everyone’s mind going.

  5. BH

    It doesn’t make sense to me that someone who learned chassidus and has read A DROP of the Rebbe’s value system (which is the chassidic value system which is the true Torah value system.)

    Which the Rebbe repeated and repeated countless times How EVERY SINGLE JEW is a shliach and wherever Hashem has put you in this second is your mokom hashlichus and every second that Hashem gives you is for a shlichus…

    How can lubavitchers look at life like the misnagdim, where you have the “talmidei chachomim” who are important to Hashem, and you have the simple non-important Jews.

    It is kefirah in hashgocho protis.

    The Rebbe begged in 5746 “I am asking the shpitz chabad not to play with my words. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. “אט דאס וואס איך מיין, אט דאס זאג איך” and then the Rebbe said “EVERY YID IS A SHLIACH OF NOSI DOREINU”

    It seems the shpitz chabad still didn’t get it…

    Moshiach NOW!!

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