Rabbi’s Corner

Senator Moynihan’s surprise: Lessons from the Rebbe

rabbi Zimmerman_newU.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once scheduled an hour-long meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Towards the end of the consultation, the Rebbe asked if he could request a favor from the senator.

“Here it comes,” the senator thought to himself. “Now the Rebbe is looking for the payoff.”

The Rebbe continued: “There is a growing community in Chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard-working and law-abiding — the type of citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so outgoing and the Chinese are, by nature, so reserved, they are often overlooked. Thus they miss out benefiting from several government programs. I suggest that as a U.S. senator from New York, you concern yourself with their needs.”

“I was overwhelmed,” the senator said afterwards. “The Rebbe has a community of thousands in New York City and institutions all over the state that could benefit from government programs. I am in a position to help secure funding for them. But the Rebbe didn’t ask about that. Instead, he was concerned with the Chinese in Chinatown. I don’t think he has ever been there, and I’m certain that most people there don’t know who he is, but the Rebbe cares about them.”

Such a story gives us a little glimpse into the true uniqueness of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The expansive influence of the Rebbe, dubbed as the most influential rabbi in modern history, is outstanding. On a most personal level, the Rebbe is known for his exemplary care and concern for each and every individual. On a global level, the Rebbe’s advice was regularly sought after by national and international government officials of all levels. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award possible, and his movement (Chabad) is the fastest growing movement in Judaism.

As the Rebbe’s entire life was dedicated to guiding and teaching people, there are pages and pages of teachings that the Rebbe inspires us with. As someone that holds the Rebbe in the highest regard, I treasure his lessons for us.

One of the attributes of the Rebbe that constantly guides and encourages me is his refreshingly optimistic approach on life. One example is when the Rebbe pushed for hospitals to no longer be referred to as “beit cholim,” a house of the sick, but rather as “beit refuah,” a house of healing. The Rebbe always highlighted the positive in every person and situation.

I also admire the Rebbe’s constant “do more” attitude. The Rebbe had a compelling sense of mission, and was famously known to encourage people to take on more than they thought they had in them to accomplish.

Another of the Rebbe’s missions that was close to his heart was promoting a sense of urgency and longing for the Torah’s time of future promised bliss, the advent of the Moshiach. The Rebbe wanted to refocus Jewish attention on this issue. The Rebbe usually concluded his public talks with a prayer for the immediate redemption.

The point of the Messianic arousal is to stimulate spiritual growth, and to empower and energize us to hasten this time period, to do all we can to help the world reach its ultimate state of perfection.

The Rebbe encouraged and implored us all to do one more act of goodness and kindness to hasten the coming of Moshiach. Every good and kind deed that we do brings the world one step closer to the promised era. Let’s take part!