Greetings From New York – Chayei Sarah 5777
5000 Rabbis In The Big Apple
Greetings from New York. No, I’m not in Trump Tower and neither can I confirm or deny any reports about any possible up and coming ambassadorial posting!
I am here for the annual Lubavitch Conference – the Kinus Hashluchim, with 5,000 of my colleagues, from around the world; every Continent and pretty much every country is represented here. The potpourri of languages and dialects, expertise and interests, age and experience is just breath-taking and inspiring. Shacharis this morning was a kaleidoscope of color and sound.
The Kinus, is always the weekend of Shabbat Mevarchim Kislev; which this year coincides with Thanksgiving Day in the US of A, so the plane was full of Americans returning home for ‘The Holidays’. One of my fellow travellers, asked why on earth we would have the convention on this weekend? My answer was simply to show him the ‘class photo’! There’s no way, you can get so many beards in the same place and the same time, without having the date set in the calendar; carved in stone. Immovable.
However, whilst the date is always the same, the Sedra of the week can differ depending on that year’s cycle. This year it is the Sedra of Chayei Sarah, which is basically a Shidduch story from start to finish. The Sedra though, also contains the Shalsheles, the musical note described in last week’s post as representing cognitive dissonance.
Which of those two; the Shidduch or the Shalsheles is more suited to the Kinus, a gathering of 5,000 Rabbis?
You would probably say that the answer is obvious, and you would be correct: Rabbis and Cognitive Dissonance are as similar as chalk and cheese! However, as mentioned last week, the use of the Shalsheles in this week’s Sedra, describes Eliezer’s specific hesitance; in his heart, he wanted his mission to fail so that Yitzchak would marry his own daughter, whereas in his mind, he knew that for the safety of Avraham’s legacy, for the future of the Jewish Nation, he needed his mission to be a success.
It’s how every Shidduch begins; psychologically we are individual beings, but emotionally we need to have a partner. In the words of the Torah; ‘it’s not good for man to be alone’. For some it might be the exact opposite; emotionally, after a lifetime of being a singular individual they are most comfortable in their own emotions and feelings, but psychologically they know that they need a spouse.
And that is why I value the Kinus so much. I grew up and was educated in the Lubavitch system, my friends and family are and were Lubavitchers. Both psychologically and emotionally I am Lubavitch, but for the last 15 years, 98% of my professional life; I, together with Nachi and the girls, have lived and breathed the Ashkenaz/Modern Orthodox/Anglo Jewry/United Synagogue world.
At times, even if it is only subconsciously, there is a cognitive dissonance – and it can go both ways: emotionally I may miss the Minhagim of my youth, but psychologically I know my responsibility, or the alternative; psychologically I may hanker after the Lubavitch Davenning but emotionally I look around at ‘my shul’ and my friends here and now.
The Kinus cures that emotional/psychological struggle, specifically by highlighting and emphasising it! You get a massive injection of Lubavitch, you are literally immersed 24/7 over a very intense 4 days with the message of Chabad Shlichus. But at the same time, it reminds each of us there of our mission; to help each and every Jew to be the best that they can be. If I have been lucky enough to achieve anything in my Rabbinate, it is down to my specific education and upbringing in the Lubavitch system. It’s what drives me to be what I aim for; it inspires me to reach out to everyone and join them in their individual journey of Judaism.
This trip to the Big Apple highlights the beauty of cognitive dissonance. It renews my batteries to enable me to utilise both my emotional and psychological connections with all of you.
I look forward to seeing you all next week, refreshed and invigorated as we begin the month of Kislev and get ready for Chanukah and our various Shul activities.
Shabbat Shalom – A Guten Shabbos
p.s. The shalsheles isn’t used again for another 4 weeks, so this is the last on that topic (maybe).