January 4, 2016, Israel
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known simply as "The Rebbe". Born in Ukraine (Russian Empire) April 5, 1902, departed in the USA June 12, 1994, he took a dying movement, nearly destroyed after the Holocaust, and built it into a major international force helping people all over the world. The Rebbe had no children but we are his children.
In 1994, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his "outstanding and lasting contributions toward improvements in world education, morality, and acts of charity"
There are times in life when we meet someone special, extraordinary. There are times in life when someone shines a light on us. .
For some those are life changing events, a new beginning; a catalyst. For others it becomes nothing more than a pleasant memory.
I have been privileged in my lifetime to behold the presence of some great men, men who are no longer with us, but whose impact only grows from day to day.
I recall the Rebbe, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was larger than life. He faced challenges in his life beyond what I can imagine and his wisdom has enlightened thousands of souls.
He gave an analogy of a candle. A candle is only wax and a wick. But of what value are those? The benefit of the candle is in the flame. The wax is the body and the wick is the soul, he said, when the candle is lit the wax, the body, can fulfill its purpose. When a soul is lit, when a soul is on fire the body can fulfill the purpose for which it was created.
A Jew asked the Rebbe, Has the Rebbe lit my candle? but the Rebbe said, no, for I cannot, all I can do is give you the match, only you can light the candle.
The man trembled.
When we have a great opportunity, when we encounter a great person, it is God giving us a match and saying; here, here is another opportunity, I have given you another match, now light your soul and do that for which you were created, fulfill your purpose. We have all come to fulfill a purpose.
The match is given, the wax and the wick are given, it is for us to set the soul on fire. Some will compose heavenly music, poetry and art, others will create art in motion. And some ...remain a body of wax and an unlit wick.
We need to set our souls on fire.
We must tremble.
What gifts do we have? What talents have we been blessed with? And what are we doing with those?
A man loved his son very much, but his son was offered up as a sacrifice for the State of Israel; killed in combat during the War of Independence. The grieving father stood on the roof and was ready to jump, to end his suffering and exit this harsh world in which we live.
Friends said, wait! Wait until the rabbi comes. The man waited. The rabbi said, why do you wish to kill yourself?
The man said, I have lost my only son; I have nothing to live for.
The rabbi said, I will not stop you, but before you jump allow me to show you something. The man went along
It was the early days of the State of Israel and the land was flooded with Jewish refugees from all over world, among them many orphans.
The rabbi showed the man a schoolyard filled with children. Look! You see those children? Their parents were killed by the Nazis, they were brought to Israel as orphans. They need a father.
These, my friend, are your children, and they need you now. So if you wish to jump go ahead but do not tell me you have nothing to live for; your children need you.
From that day onward the man devoted himself to the orphans, his children; he became a great educator.
Give us the match and let us light our souls to do meaningful work in this lifetime. Let us light a match that will shine for generations after us. The match is given and the hand must be outstretched. Each of us has a different gift, and a different mission. Let us not be jealous one of the other, let us only strengthen each other and follow a straight path.
And I think of the great men I have seen in this lifetime, men who have passed from this life, outstretched hands and open hearts.
When I arrive at Ben Gurion airport, on my way to teach Krav Maga abroad, I always pay a "visit" to the Rebbe. He has an office there, and a small synagogue. In the office he welcomes us with coffee, tea, soft drinks. And there is a large screen with his videos. I sit there for a little while and I hope that my mission will be successful. I hope that my teachings will reach people in the right way and benefit their lives. And I pray to have the strength and the wisdom to deliver the message in the right way, that it should find favor in people's eyes and hearts, and that the candle, the wax and the wick, shall do that for which they were created.