I am writing this article on an airplane as I fly back home from New York where I attended the International Conference of Chabad Rabbis. It was a truly inspiring experience being with 4,000 colleagues, Chabad shluchim (emissaries) posted around the globe, who dedicate their lives to spreading light, Judaism and kindness to all they encounter.
What stood out for me during this conference is the readiness and enthusiasm of Chabad shluchim to be there to help another human being in times of need. During terror attacks around the world this past year in St. Petersburg, Manchester, Barcelona or Israel, Chabad rabbis were providing help to the victims, their families and first responders. During the wildfire crisis in California, the hurricanes in Texas, St. Martin and Puerto Rico, the rabbis were at the forefront of relief efforts to help locals and tourists, Jews and non-Jews alike.
This motivation and passion to help others is inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Ob”m, who had the vision for a world full of goodness. His life’s mission was to do what he could to fill the world with goodness and kindness and to ensure that every Jew, anywhere in the world, can connect to his or her roots.
The Rebbe would often relate the story of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, who, during the Yom Kippur prayer service, removed his tallit and left the synagogue. He travelled to the edge of town to help a woman in childbirth and did everything he personally could to care for her. Her entire household had gone to synagogue to attend Yom Kippur services and she was left alone with no one to help her. When Rabbi Schneur Zalman found out that someone needed help, he didn’t think twice, and did what needed to be done to help because his greatest passion was doing a favour for another.
What is extraordinary about this story is the fact that it was Yom Kippur, the most spiritual day devoted to prayer. Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the rabbi of his town and the synagogue was full of other people who could have helped. Yet when he found out there was someone in need, he personally went to help, even if it meant breaking the laws of the holiest day.
The underlying motto of the Rebbe’s vision was that notwithstanding the important things that may occupy us and that may include the loftiest spiritual pursuits, our passion and emphasis has to be on being ready to do a favour for another, whether physically or spiritually.
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement once said, “A soul may descend to earth and live 70 or 80 years for the sole purpose of doing a favour for another.”
Additionally, a single good deed, a favour to one person, may have such a powerful impact that it will trigger them to “pay it forward” and become masters of good deeds themselves.