A note to my kids on leadership
Updated: Feb 5
Dear Y, Y and Z,
We often repeat the stories about the beginnings of our nation when we left Egypt and journeyed towards the promise-land. All through that time we had a very special leader guiding us and teaching us: Moshe. Remember how he went running after even one stray sheep, caring for it as if it was the only one that existed? How he stood up for a fellow Jew when an Egyptian tried to beat him? How he turned down Hashem's offer to be a leader and only accepted the role when Hashem insisted he should? How he communicated with courage and conviction? How he had to face rebels and even leaders who rose against him? How he defended his people? How he stood day and night answering questions and caring for his flock. Moshe was a teacher, a father, a leader... a Rebbe.
In our generation we, too, have a Rebbe. And just as ‘Vaya’aminu Ba’Hashem uv’moshe avdo’, so too, we are connected with our Rebbe.
You watch videos of the Rebbe and learn his teachings. But not so long ago, your own Bubby and Zeidy would go to see the Rebbe, to listen to his voice, to ask for his guidance. It was the Rebbe who encouraged them to move to South Africa and to expend their energy and strengths in giving to our school, our shul and to the wider South African community. Mamme and Tatte had the privilege of seeing the Rebbe too. I remember clearly standing in line to receive a dollar from the Rebbe and the Rebbe's smile when I said "A groissen dank'. I remember trying to grasp some of the Rebbe's Yiddish words when he spoke at a rally especially for children. I can almost feel the Rebbe right in front of me as he waits for me, on his way out of shul, to turn around and accept from him a coin to give to tzedokah. And I can still see feel myself being lifted over many benches in 770 to get to the front to say a possuk in the presence of the Rebbe.
I often think about those moments and about the time that the Rebbe gave to little children: Lag Ba'omer parades, children's rallies, tzedokah coins for children, talks especially to children... And look at the pictures to see who was closest to the Rebbe during farbrengens - it’s the children! The Rebbe often spoke about the prayers of children; about their power to turn worlds. He spoke passionately about the absolute privilege of having children and educating them al taharas hakodesh. He encouraged children to be emissaries to spread goodness and kindness, and to be the change their parents sought to inspire in the far-away cities to which he sent them.
Indeed, you, my delicious boys, carry so much strength within yourself. But, like your parents, you will find that you will regularly need a compass to guide you in your life's mission to connect with Hashem, live a life of Torah and help make a dira b'tachtonim. For me, that compass is our Rebbe - an ish eloki, the embodiment of ultimate holiness. To learn how to daven, watch the videos and see how the Rebbe says every word. To be inspired in limmud hatorah, learn a sicha, listen to the Rebbe's directives about learning, and, as you grow older, commit yourself to the extraordinary yeshiva-schedule. To be a mentch, read about the Rebbe's relationship with all kinds of people, no matter their background or even their ideals. To stir yourself to action, find any farbrengen and listen to the way the Rebbe inspired action and passion in doing a mitzvah and encouraging others to do the same.
A Rebbe is a leader, who, with his holiness and sensitivity, can activate the inner spark in another Yid. As you grow older you will understand the meaning of his title Rosh-Bnei-Yisroel. But even now, look as I look at the picture of the Rebbe on our wall, and try to feel as I feel the Rebbe saying: Don't settle for your superficial view of yourself. Realize your soul's true potential. You have so much strength and potential. Do, do, do. And then do some more......
A story: Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Hecht was feeling overwhelmed by his enormous responsibilities. He wrote to the Rebbe for guidance, saying that he simply could not continue his work, and begged "that the Rebbe should help and do all he can." The Rebbe responded: I’ve already followed your advice. I’ve sent there Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Hecht. But it appears from your letter and from those preceding it that you still are not familiar with him and with the capabilities with which this person is endowed. Whatever the case, you should get to know him now. Immediately, everything will change—your mood, your trust in Hashem, everyday happiness, etc., etc.
The Rebbe's ultimate goal was to prepare the world for the imminent arrival of Moshiach. This Gimmel Tammuz let us think of even one more mitzvah we can do to make this dream a reality.