Why I, a Rabbi from Lakewood, Visited the Ohel on Gimmel Tammuz

After visiting the Rebbe’s Ohel on Gimmel Tammuz, Rabbi Eli Reit of Lakewood writes why we went, and his vision for Chabad and Litvacks working in unison to spread the light of Torah.

By Rabbi Eli Reit, Lakewood NJ

This past Gimmel Tammuz, I paid a visit to the Ohel of the Rebbe. In addition to various Hashgacha Protis, I also chose to be there. Like a messy divorce, the Litvish separated from Chabad. Things have quieted down and we’ve gone our own separate ways. But like children left despondent after a bad divorce, millions of not yet frum Yidden are missing out on our heritage. 

Around four years ago, I started to write a short weekly e-mail called Weekly Inspiration. It is geared toward Jews who have a very limited background in Judaism. I send it mainly to frum people who work in outreach and a few post it on social media. As such, I’ve asked dozens of Chabad shluchim to sign up for my e-mail. I’m always looking for more and I think we could work together in many ways to sustain the Jews who are religiously forlorn, like children of a bad divorce. 

Another analogy would be; after 9/11 I remember Democrats and Republicans coming together on behalf of the country to face the common problem. Similarly, in Israel in times of war, the left and the right unite. 

Last year, I was in a tiny community kollel in West Orange, NJ, where there was also a small Lubavitcher yeshiva in the same shul as us. Around Parshas Vayigash, I was invited to speak at an event they were holding. This is more or less what I said. The way I was brought up, we were taught that the highest ideal is limud hatorah and the only thing higher than that is harbotzas hatorah (spreading Torah).

The story of Yehuda being sent ahead to Mitzrayim to open a Yeshiva was pointed to as an ideal way of frum life. But, it’s important to note that before Yehuda opened his yeshiva, Yosef had already been there for a long time, laying the groundwork for spiritual survival and thriving in Mitzrayim, a land of avoda zara and gilui arayos. Similar to the army corp of engineers who go into battle places ahead of the army to lay the groundwork for the rest of the army.  

In our own time, Lubavitcher shluchim are laying the groundwork in so many areas where Jewish people are not frum. In a perfect world, a community kollel would quickly follow as a way of enhancing the religious involvement/observance of the locale. 

Rabbi Elimelech Bluth told me that he was enrolled in Kollel Gur Aryeh in the 1960s when it was located on Presidents Street in Crown Heights. Every day, the Lubavitcher Rebbe would visit his mother who lived two blocks away from him, on the same side of Presidents Street. People wondered why the Rebbe crossed Presidents Street to walk the two blocks and then crossed back. Rabbi Bluth said, “to me it was obvious, the Rebbe wanted to hear the Kol Torah”.

May we succeed in reaching our Jewish brethren and bringing Moshiach closer!

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  1. There definitely is much work for Chabad and the litvish world to do together!

    However the language used “Lubavitcher shluchim are laying the groundwork in so many areas where Jewish people are not frum. In a perfect world, a community kollel would quickly follow as a way of enhancing the religious involvement/observance of the locale.”
    – Is inaccurate, Lubavitch has the means, ability, and much added depth to provide in learning and enhanced observance, and is not merely “laying the groundwork”, as do many have the faulty and so inaccurate of an opinion.
    The perfect world includes learning Chassidus, includes raising up the world and bring involved in the world properly, not just learning all day or sufficing with the nigleh part of Torah.

    The spirit of the writer however is commendable and should be lauded for coming to Ohel, he doesn’t even need to excuse himself..

    1. Perhaps the author meant a Lubavitcher community kolel instead of 1 shliach giving 2-3 shiurim per week

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