Rabbi Gabi & Rivki Holtzberg
A year has passed since that calamitous day when the world stood still in shock, horror and disbelief. The day that TV cameras introduced us to an orphan named Moshe, and reminded us once again of the sadistic inhumanity that human beings are capable of.
Reflecting on all that has transpired since tragedy struck, there is one word that best describes the response of the Chabad community at large, the Chabad leadership, and the reaction of the vast army of Chabad emissaries in dealing with the loss and grief, and that word is Courage.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines courage as “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, pain, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.”
Courage is that especially rare and treasured quality of real leaders, visionaries and pioneers, who confront dangers, and recognize hardships by forging ahead with strength and determination. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Courage is rightly esteemed as the first of human qualities... because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Following the massacre, the Chabad leadership called a press conference at the Jewish Childrens Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In a stirring moment during the event, a reporter asked, “How will this affect the emissaries? And will you be deterred from going to more volatile areas?” A Chabad representative matter of factly responded: “Nothing deters us.”
Great courage has been displayed by Chabad in its ability to move on and grow despite the challenges and hardships and to redouble their efforts in seeking to build a better world, despite threats to body, soul and spirit.
Displayed in action as well as in words, restoration plans for the Jewish center are in full swing. Not one week passes by without a Shabbat meal organized by Chabad for Jews in Mumbai. “We will never forget, but now the time has come to take the sackcloth of mourning off,” Said a Chabad representative “We will rebuild Mumbai.”
At the memorial service last week, a popular Jewish song was sung in English, Hebrew and Hindi comparing the world to a “very narrow bridge” and stressing that “the main thing is to be strong and have no fear at all.”
The determination of Chabad is to re-create all that was lost and more, to transform the pain into a source of inspiration and not to be cowed or intimidated but to strengthen in resolve and fortitude, with renewed endeavors and initiatives.
This quality is instilled in Chabad youth from a young age. Where else do you find ten year old children who have the boldness to approach groups of strangers in the street, the mall or at their homes, and ask them what religion they belong to? And if they would like to don phylacteries or light shabbat candles?
In what other persuasion are children born as leaders within their own juvenile environments, often standing out in school and in the playground surrounded by secular children as different and yet purposeful and with a mission.
This courage and strength is a symptom of a belief in a higher purpose as there is no greater source of inner power than a dedication to a cause bigger than one’s self. Chabad emissaries are deeply and truly committed to their ideals.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson “one man with courage is a majority” maybe this is why the influence of Chabad far exceeds its numbers.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at email@example.com