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The Rebbe's message: Caring is contagious

The Rebbe's message: Caring is contagious

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The Rebbe's message: Caring is contagious 
By Rabbi Zushe Greenberg

I was astounded to learn recently that about 400 Jews move into Las Vegas every month. 

Thirty years ago in this fastest-growing city in America, there was one synagogue; today there are 22, as well as 12 daily minyans. 

This is just one of the interesting things that I learned from "Celebration 100," which I recently attended in Washington, D.C. The two-day conference was the kickoff of worldwide celebrations commemorating the 100th birthday of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory. 
Delegates representing 40 countries and over 40 U.S. states, as well as international Jewish leaders and dignitaries, gathered to mark this milestone and to seek inspiration from the monumental accomplishments of the rebbe. 

We heard from Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel; famous Talmudist Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz; Senator Joe Lieberman; presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer; chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Lau, and many more. 

But what struck me more than anything were the lay people we heard from all over the world. 

A man from Gothenburg, Sweden, shared the hardships of keeping the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision). According to Jewish law, a brit is done expertly and quickly by a trained mohel without anesthetics. Swedish law prohibits circumcisions of babies without anesthesia and requires a government representative to be at each brit to ensure compliance. Many traditional Jews are taking their newborns to nearby Denmark to keep this centuries-old tradition properly. 

Sitting in that room, I was able to feel the pulse of the Jewish nation thriving. Everyone was there because he or she was a Jew who cared. About Judaism. About Jews in their city. About the future of the Jewish nation. And they care enough to do, learn and be active in their communities. We were all there, as well, to pay tribute to the rebbe who gave us the gift of caring. 

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of Lubavitch headquarters shared a story about a letter that was received by the rebbe in the late 1980s. A Jew from a community in Bolivia was asking for assistance and guidance in living a Jewish life in his remote area. 

The rebbe forwarded this letter to Kotlarsky, whose task it is to open new Chabad centers all over the world, adding, "If you know about this place, then what have you done for these Jews? If you didn't know - how is it that you didn't?" 

The rebbe made the Jewish people his business. He spent his life caring about the little Jews in far-flung corners of the world. And his caring was contagious. He taught us all to care. 

If you had the "Four Sons" at your seder table last week, would you have seated them in the order that they are discussed in the haggada - first the Wise, then Wicked, the Simple, and the One Who Can't Ask? One would think that the order should be - first Wise, then Simple, then the One Who Can't Ask and, last of all, the Wicked. 

There is something striking about the Wicked One, the rebbe said. At least he cares enough to be at the seder - unlike the proverbial Fifth Son who doesn't even show up. He cares enough to ask, unlike the Silent One who doesn't even ask, and he cares enough to challenge, unlike the Simple One who just listens. And one who cares will ultimately find his way.

 

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