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Rabbi Adin and Chabad at Brandeis

Monday, 10 August, 2020 - 3:26 pm

Twenty years ago today Chanie and I, with 4 month old Mendel, arrived in Waltham to establish a Chabad House. These two decades have been fabulously enriching, driven by our unwillingness to be satisfied with superficialities - our own and others.


A ‘chance’ conversation that I had with Rabbi Adin Even Adin-Yisrael (Steinzaltz) six years ago played a major role in our lives, and remains resonant with us today as it did then. I wrote about in an essay on the fifteenth anniversary of our arrival in Waltham five years ago.


The theme of the essay was to establish that Chabad (at Brandeis at least) is not here to serve but instead to have an impact.


Here is an excerpt:

This awareness [that Chabad is here to impact and not to serve] began with a “chance” encounter with the contemporary sage Rabbi Adin Even-Yisrael (Steinzaltz) in a Jerusalem synagogue two years ago. Unbeknown to me I sat in his seat which was located in the back of the synagogue. When he arrived he unassumingly asked me to scoot over.


When the Shabbat morning service concluded I introduced myself as the Chabad Shliach at Brandeis, where a decade earlier he received an honorary degree. After quipping some jokes about Brandeis, he looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, “Are you impacting (he used the word changing) people's lives?”


Without awaiting my reply he continued, “If not, leave.”


I was startled by his candor, though he was correct. He was telling me that serving Shabbat dinners is not your mission. You did not spend ten years in Yeshiva, nor did the Lubavitcher Rebbe dedicate his life for you and your wife to serve chicken soup and make people feel warm and fuzzy. Your mission is to impact people's lives.


The full essay can be read here.


Reflecting back today, our conversation was significantly longer and covered more than the short quote mentioned in the essay. It seemed to me that he had an allergic reaction to superficiality and self deception, whether unintentional or not. That included how he would react when confronted with it. He would respond by driving to the heart of the matter, bypassing all the hyperbole and self gratifying claims without even as much as noticing their presence.




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