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Recollection from an International Conference of Chabad Rabbis

Recollection from an International Conference of Chabad Rabbis

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Recollection from an International Conference of Chabad Rabbis 

By Rabbi Zushe Greenberg

The Rebbe’s response to a woman's query, is a lesson in the importance of every Jew - regardless of background or affiliation. 

 

An elderly woman's question several years ago is relevant to the events challenging the unity of our Jewish community today. 

One Sunday afternoon in 1990 an elderly woman waited in line for hours to speak to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory. She, along with thousands of others, sought a blessing or advice on a personal matter or a spiritual dilemma. 

 

When her turn finally came, she turned to the Rebbe and asked "I'm exhausted from waiting in this line just a couple of hours. You're much older than I am, yet you've been standing all day. How do you do it?" At that time the rebbe was 88 years old. 

Without hesitation, the Rebbe replied with a smile. "When I see all these people it is like counting diamonds. One doesn't grow weary or weak when counting something as beautiful as diamonds." 

 

Every Sunday, beginning in April 1986, thousands of people would wait to receive the Rebbe's blessing. People ranged from the Rebbe's closest followers to heads of state to great scholars and some of the most influential people in business. 

Along with the blessing or advice, the Rebbe handed each person a brand new dollar bill, to be given to charity. Over the next several years, he handed out hundreds of thousands of dollar bills always with the reminder of the need to give to those in need. 

 

The Rebbe's answer to this particular woman about counting diamonds reminded me of a story about one of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's, Reb Sholom Dov Ber. 

One of the eminent followers of this Rebbe, was a diamond merchant named Reb Monia Mosenson. Once Reb Monia, like the elderly woman, expressed his bewilderment at the Rebbe's dedication to the simple folk in town. 

 

"Rebbe, why do you devote so much of your invaluable time to them?" he asked.

 

"Because each person has special qualities which endear me to him or her." Reb DovBer told Monia. 

"I don't see them" objected Reb Monia. So the Rebbe said, "Do you have any of your diamonds with you?" 

 

Reb Monia said he did, and as a man interested in his own profession is wont to do, he began to describe his most recent acquisitions with excitement. 

"Look it this one", he prompted the Rebbe, proceeding to extol its particular virtues.

 

The Rebbe protested, " I don't see them." 

"Ah Rebbe, "said Reb Monia. "On a diamond, one must be a maven." 

 

"Ah Reb Monia," countered the Rebbe. "On a Jew, one must be a maven! " 

Reb Monia then understood that each Jew is a diamond, which is one of the fundamental ideas in Chasidic philosophy. 

 

This idea is based on a verse from the Tanach. The Prophet Malachi said, " For you (Israel) shall be a land of desire, says the L-rd of Hosts." [ Malachi 3:12

Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, reflected on these words saying that each Jew is indeed like a plot of land: earthy and rough, but

replete with potential treasure. 

Just as the greatest scientists will never discover all of earth's precious gems, neither will anyone find the limits of the great treasure which lie within Israel- "G‑d's land of desire." 

 

Every Jew, regardless of background or affiliation, is a treasure, presenting both himself and his fellows with an opportunity and responsibility to unearth and develop his diverse and fruitful resources. 

One must have the insight and foresight to drill deep down, carefully, and to mine, in order to access these gems. 

 

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe's third Yahrtzeit approaches on July 8th, and as we see events challenging the unity of our Jewish community, I feel that his answer to the elderly woman is more relevant today than ever.

 

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