Guest post by Rivka Nehorai, AKA Mrs. Pop Chassid.
On the 20th anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz, the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, I reflect upon the irony of my current lifestyle; how did I, a self proclaimed “post- denominational” Jew end up in Chabad Headquarters, Brooklyn, when five years earlier I was sitting in a parking lot, arguing with my now-husband’s shliach about why I didn’t want to wear a sheital or be Chabad?
”But what’s so bad about Chabad?!” he cried out, understandably concerned about how one of his Chabad-loving students could be seriously considering marrying this seemingly Chabad-resistant soul, as I sank deeper into my car’s cushions in frustration.
And then something funny happened – after many years of being together and talking and learning, we came to appreciate each other’s religious outlook, coming to common ground.
But those initial reservations towards Chabad culture and semantics remain in me. The only thing that has changed is that through the blessing of learning at a distinguished Chabad institution, I came to learn what Chabad really stands for. What Chabad really is. I had grown up going to a Chabad shul, being part of Chabad on Campus, and living in a Chabad frum community.
Yet a lingering questions always remained in my mind: ” What exactly is Chabad? What differentiates it from other beautiful, deep outlooks?”
It was only through learning, years later, the complexity of Chabad literature (the discourses and speeches of the Rebbes) from teachers who were willing to discuss the deep, difficult complexities of Jewish thought that I was able to get a taste of the ungraspable. The beauty of Chabad thought, I realized, was in the Chassidus. Everything else was just window dressing.
The fact that so few people know this, that I could go years surrounded by Chabad and with only a glimmer of this reality, saddens me. Chabad’s greatest strength, its teachings, are its most hidden.
I stand up and challenge those who are schooled in Chabad philosophy to somehow find ways to go beyond the simplistic vague ideas offered in most quick dvar Torahs, sermons, and greeting cards about what Chabad represents. Because in case you haven’t noticed, there is a grand injustice happening to the Chabad reputation.
Sure, people ” love” “Chabad” because Chabadniks they meet are warm to them, make them feel at home, etc. But that vast amount of people don’t have any idea about the tremendously beautiful, intricate philosophical platform that is Chabad’s lifeblood and mission. Aren’t we supposed to bring Hashem down into this world through the intellect? Why are the vast amount of people not being challenged in Chabad thought?
Somehow, we must find a way to convey this, to bring this to the Jewish world so that Chabad is not just associated with warm chicken soup and a place to call home (though that is a tremendous blessing to the world). Somehow, we must find a way to show the world how deep our relationship and knowledge of G-d and His ways can go. Somehow, we must take on to expose everyone to the Real Chabad. First to ourselves, and then to others, the avodah must happen.