The following throughts were presented at our most recent Connect & Create Celebration, a collaboration by Jewish Girls Unite, Crown Heights Yeshiva, the Menachem Education Foundation, and Bat Mitzvah Club International. Broadcasted live on Sunday, April 5, the program celebrated the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe – Nissan 11 – and honored the legacy of Miriam the Prophetess, whose passing was commemorated the day before (Nissan 10). I (Tzipporah Prottas, JGU Team Member) was asked to share a vignette of the Lubavitcher Rebbe with an empowering message for the adverse times we are currently facing in the world.
Step back in time with me, to the early 1960s. It is not long after the horrific destruction of Jewish life during World War II. Elie Wiesel, a survivor, who would later become a renowned author on his experiences, is in an emotional private meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It will last many hours as they discuss the Holocaust and loss, faith and G-d, and more. Repeatedly, the Rebbe gently impresses upon his visitor to explain his deepest, truest motivation to visit. “What do you expect of me?” asks the Rebbe. Wiesel responds, “Nothing, absolutely nothing.” Finally, Wiesel himself realizes what he seeks from the Rebbe. He explains that since he was young and witnessed his father’s cruel death in the concentration camps, the trauma numbed him, and he was never able to cry again. “Rebbe,” Wiesel confesses, “you asked me what I expect of you, and I said I expect nothing. I was wrong. I want you to make me cry.” At this desperate plea, the Rebbe lovingly replies, “That’s not enough; I shall teach you to sing.”
Last week, in a JGU class for teens on the talks of the Rebbe, we learned from Parshat Tzav how a constant fire must be maintained on the Temple Altar (Mizbeyach), and “lo sichbeh – it shall not be extinguished.” Every Jew is a dwelling place for the Divine to be expressed, and our heart is the Mizbeiyach that holds our fiery enthusiasm for our G-dly mission of increasing light in the world. We must stoke the fire daily through even small acts of holiness and kindness. Another meaning to the verse, “lo sichbeh – it should not be extinguished,” is that is when our soul’s fire is burning brightly, all the “lo,” implying negativity, should become “sichbeh” extinguished and eliminated.
We wish you all comfort and strength during these trying times, especially to those who have experienced loss due to the virus. Together, we will get through this, even stronger than before. When we face difficulties and sorrow in our life, we first validate the pain, and empathize, which is integral to our healing, but the grief itself is not the culmination of the process. We must individually choose whether to let our tears extinguish our inner fire, or whether to persevere in singing the song of our soul with vitality, joy, and faith! Inspired by the Rebbe’s focus towards a brighter future, JGU empowers us to sing our soul’s song by integrating all our life’s experiences, both ups and downs, into one harmonious mission. Let’s allow our challenge to elevate us to lead by our inner song to create positive change and Redemption today!