Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's a Professor’s Role on Campus? Interesting Letter & Photo of The Rebbe

How profoundly can a professor affect his university students? Could he, perhaps, shape the rest of their lives? The Avner Institute is pleased to present an interesting letter, written by the Rebbe to a professor in a Californian University. The Rebbe describes the potentially tremendous role that he could play in the life of his student, and the great responsibilities that accompany him in delivering his lectures.

We have also included a photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of The Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

By the Grace of G-d
20th of Kislev 5732
Brooklyn, NY
Prof. –

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive regards from you through our mutual and esteemed friend Rabbi S.D. Raichik, who has written to me about his visit with you and your participation in the worthy cause, in which you also took in your children as partners.

In the light of what Rabbi Raichik has written to me about his acquaintance with you, I am confident that you will utilized your distinguished position, which brings you into personal contact with Jewish youth, to strengthen also their Jewish identity. To be sure, the courses which you teach are undoubtedly far removed from the religious and spiritual aspects of Jewish identity. However, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you that students generally look up to their professors not only as experts in their particular field, but also as persons and individuals who have accomplished a great deal in their life, and have attained high status.
Consequently, the views and ideas that a professor expresses,

and especially his personal way of life and world outlook, directly and indirectly influence the students, and create in them a desire to emulate their professors. And even those who for one reason or another are rebellious inwardly recognize that the achievements of their professors should be emulated.

In the light of this, a professor in college or university has an extraordinary opportunity to benefit his students by word, and even more so, by example. Even if an extra effort in this direction may entail certain difficulties which are sometimes not imaginary nor magnified, but real – the thought of how much good a little extra effort might be, and how much it can be reflected and multiplied in the loves of the young people who so badly need guidance and inspiration, should make all such difficulties worthwhile.

Although the above has been written in general terms, with a view to disseminating Jewish values, etc., it is important to bear in mind the dictum of our Sages of blessed memory that “the essential thing is the deed,” namely the actual Jewish experience in the daily life. For, Judaism is a way of life that is not relegated to several days in the year, specific holy days, or even Shabbos, but embraces the entire Jewish life each and every day. It is for this reason that the Torah and Mitzvoth are referred to as “our life,” indicated that it must be continuous and uninterrupted, just as life must be continued and uninterrupted. Herein the Jewish religion radically differs from any other religion in that it is not something additional to a person, but is intimately the person himself, for a Jew and the Torah and Mitzvoth are inseparable.

Much more could be said on this subject, but I trust the above will suffice. I will only conclude that inasmuch as we are about to celebrate the festival of Chanukah, when we will be lighting the Chanukah candles in growing numbers from day to day, indicating the need to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth in a growing measure, since it is written, “A Mitzvo is a lamp and the Torah is light,” thereby illuminating the Jewish soul of which it is said, “A lamp of G-d is the soul of man” – may this be so with you and me and all our people.

With esteem and blessing,

Remarkable Photos of The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe

Purkersdorf , Austria, 1935.

Yud Tes Kislev (the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus”) marks the release of the Alter Rebbe (first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) from Czarist imprisonment. With his trail and unequivocal vindication, the official green light was given to his teaching of Chassidism, reflecting Heaven’s approval of their dissemination. Immediately thereafter, the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings began to be spread in earnest, preparing the world for Moshiach.

In honor of the auspicious date, the Avner Institute is pleased to present two remarkable photos of the Previous (sixth) Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn – courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; with special thanks to Yechi Ezagui.

The photos were taken during the month of Adar, 1935, in Purkersdorf, Austria.

We have also included two quotes from the Rebbe, on (a) the study of Chassidus; and (b) the nature of a Chassid (special thanks to Sichos In English).

Good Yom Tov.

What is a Chassid?

Dr. David Weiss has achieved world renown for his work in cancer research. Although he came from an observant home, his involvement in American culture presented him with many challenges. His encounters with the Chassidim and the philosophy of Lubavitch helped him overcome these hurdles.

Once while at Yechidus with the Rebbe, he asked him if he could consider himself a chassid. "I am attracted to the chassidic way of life," he explained, "but can never see myself donning a black hat or chassidic garb. Does this disqualify me?"

The Rebbe responded, "When a Jew endeavors to take a step forward in the service of G-d and the love of his fellow man every day, I am happy to consider him my chassid." This is the thrust of this chapter: to share examples of how the Rebbe has personally encouraged people to advance in Jewish practice”

Why is Chassidus So Important?

“In the first years of the Rebbe's leadership, during the farbrengen of Purim 1953, the Rebbe told one of the participants to study Chassidus. The person voiced his hesitation; he had never been trained in this system of thought, nor did he understand how this study would contribute to his personal development.

The Rebbe replied with a rhetorical question: "When you board a train, do you fully comprehend its precise mechanical functioning?

"When a passenger sits in the coach, whether he understands how it works or not - the train crew will perform their task, and the train will transport its travelers to their desired destinations”

Can a Woman Serve as a Rabbi?

Can a woman serve as Rabbi? In an insightful letter (courtesy of the Nissan Mindel Archives) written to a woman from Winnipeg, Canada, the Rebbe addresses this issue.

We have also included a picture of the Rebbe (courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; special thanks to Yechi Ezagui).

Good Shabbos,

By the Grace of G-d

Winnipeg 9, Man., Canada

Blessings and Greetings:

I am receipt of your letter of_, as well as the previous correspondence. It surprises me somewhat that you ask my opinion on a question which I have already replied to you long ago; inasmuch as you press the subject, I will again give you my unequivocal opinion. It is:

The primary function of the Jewish woman is to be the Akeres Habayis (foundation of the Jewish home), namely to establish and conduct her home in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim, and the Mitzvoth, whereby Jews live. And to the extent that it does not conflict with the Jewish sense of Tznius (modesty), the Jewish woman is also expected to participate in charitable activities in support of worthy institutions, etc., and the like. It is altogether not within her sphere, nor should it be her aspiration, to be (G-d forbid) a Rabbi. This stand has been firmly established in various authoritative Jewish sources. As a matter of fact, the more familiar a Jewish woman is with the Torah world outlook, and the more versed she is in her knowledge of the Torah in this area, the better she should realize that it is not her province to be a Rabbi. The very aspiration to be one is in itself proof of the lack of adequate knowledge and feeling of the true Jewish outlook on life.

As already mentioned above, I have already indicated to you my views on this subject, though perhaps in different words. I repeated only on your insistence. I want to add again that this stand is no reflection (G-d forbid) upon a woman’s worthiness or intelligence, etc. It has to do only with the particular function which has been Divinely allocated to particular things in the word, and the function of a woman, as noted above is to be the Akeres Habayis and to contribute her share in the areas of philanthropy and social service, which are not less important then the functions of a Rabbi.

I trust that the above will once and for all resolve your question, so that there will be no point in any further discussion on this matter.

With blessing.

"The Jewish Community in Mumbai"

Wednesday, the First of Kislev, marks the first Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg hy”d. Gabi and Rivki served as the Rebbe’s emissaries to Mumbai, India, until their horrific murder along with four other Jews – guests in their welcoming Chabad House on the night it was targeted by terrorist.

The Avner Institute would like to present a letter composed by the Rebbe and sent to a Rabbi in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England. The Rebbe expresses great interest and concern in the Jewish Community of Mumbai.

We have also included a unique collection of pictures of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; special thanks to Yechi Ezagui.

This email is dedicated in honor of the murdered emissaries and their guests; and in honor of the upcoming third birthday and opshernish of their surviving son, Moshe Holtzberg – may he enjoy many years filled with much revealed blessing, generating nachas for his family and for klal yisrael.

Good Shabbos,

Letchworth, Herts, England.

Greetings and Blessings:

It has been brought to my attention that the Jewish community in Bombay is facing a serious crisis. According to my information, which apparently comes from a reliable source, there are at present about 450 Baghdadi Jews there, whereas the Bnei Israel community numbers about a couple of thousand, spread over the whole of India.

Of the three existing Jewish schools, two are expected to close in May 1970, partly for lack of funds, and partly because the number of students has fallen. The largest Jewish school is the Jacob Sassoon School, where about 300 children, including some Bnei Israel, receive more or less free education and free meals; however, because of lack of funds, free meals might soon be stopped, while snacks will be given only to the poorer children.

I am further informed that poor orphans and widows, and the aged, face increased hardships because of cuts in their monthly allowances etc, A case in point in the recently widowed wife of the Chazan of the Magen David Synagogue, left with eight children and so placed that, unfortunately, she is no longer able to maintain the middle-class family life that they have been accustomed to.

Knowing of your keen personal interest in the Jewish community of India, especially Bombay, and of how much your ancestors have done to provide vital education and social services for our brethren there, I am confident that you will look into the present situation, and do all that you can, in the great tradition of your family.

Hoping this letter finds you in the best of health.

With blessing

The Soul of A Gentile.

The Avner Institute is pleased to present an insightful letter of the Rebbe, discussing the nature of the respective souls of Jews and non-Jews. (Special thanks to Rabbi Schapiro and The Nissan Mindel Archives for the letter.)

We have also included a photo of the Rebbe giving L’chaim at a farbrengen marking the Previous Rebbe’s passing in 1972.

Good Shabbos


Mr. _ Brooklyn, New York

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter, in which you refer to a discussion that you had on the question of whether or not Gentiles have a neshama . . . .

I cannot see where there could have been any difference of opinion on this matter, inasmuch as it is explicitly stated in various sources, and statements are also found in various sections of Tanach (Isaiah 42:5, 57:16), to the effect that Gentiles also have a neshama . . . . It seems to me, therefore, that you may have been arguing at cross-purposes, and that perhaps the question related more to the fact that there are different levels and qualities of soul. Now if this was the point of contention, then it is true that the soul of the Gentile and the soul of the Jew differ in their nature, this being connected with one of the basic principles of the Torah – the fact that the Jews are a people chosen from among the nations of the world. This chosen-ness originates in the fact that when G-d was about to give the Torah at Mt. Sinai, He first offered it to all the other nations of the world, who refused to accept it. The Jewish people did accept it. Needless to add, this is in no way inconsistent with the statement of our Sages, to the effect that the righteous among the Gentiles have a special status and, according to the Rambam, also have a share in the World-to-Come.

Judging by your letter, it is surely unnecessary for me to emphasize to you what has already been indicated above, namely, that our belief in the chosen-ness of the Jewish people is not a matter of chauvinism or fanaticism, but rather the deep-felt realization that this uniqueness carries with it great responsibilities and special obligations. This is why, for example, Jews have to fulfill “Taryag (613) mitzvoth,” whereas Gentiles are not obligated to observe kashrut and various other restrictions connected with the idea of holiness, holiness being the essential aspect of the Jewish soul.

If I allude here to the special obligations which are incumbent upon a Jew, as a Jew, it is only for the sake of emphasizing that what is at issue is not whether a Jew should meet minimal, or even average standards, but that it is in fact incumbent upon him to attain the very maximum. In truth, this is self-evident for, inasmuch as G-d has given us the innate capacity to attain the very heights of the spiritual and the holy, it is only right that we learn how to recognize this incomparable Divine gift; while any lack of effort to utilize it to the utmost would be in the nature of a derogation. And if, in one’s business or profession, one always tries to give of one’s very best – for to do less would be to risk being branded a failure – how much more so in regard to spiritual capacities, which are of vital benefit not only to one’s self, but also to one’s surroundings and the world at large.

With blessing,