This week, as we read the Parsha of Moshe sending Shluchim, we present a letter from the Rebbe in which he clarifies the appropriate role and activities of shluchim. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s personal trusted secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
25th of Shevat, 5735
- F., Calif. 94103
Greeting and Blessing:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. In it you suggest ways and means to promote Lubavitch activities on the West Coast.
First of all, I want to thank you very much for your personal interest and desire to help these activities, as is evident from your letter.
Speaking generally, your suggestion that consideration be given to the possibility of operating a number of small businesses which, in addition to providing needed services, would provide financial sustenance for the Lubavitch activities – it would, of course, depend on the local conditions as well as the availability of manpower, etc., if it is feasible to implement such a plan.
However, I wish to make some general observations, which are applicable to all places where there are Lubavitch activities. Even assuming that there was a surplus of manpower which could be put into such business activity, it would be incongruous if both spiritual activities and business activities were carried on by the same organization under the same roof. It would surely not enhance the inspiration and total devotion which one usually associates with the activities of Lubavitch for the spreading of Yiddishkeit. In any case, this would be an academic matter, inasmuch as we are unfortunately very limited in manpower and it would not be right, of course, to take one away from spiritual activities into business activities.
There is a further general consideration. If one is to have the fullest impact and influence in matters of spreading Yiddishkeit, one must be entirely free from any possible suspicion, however far-fetched, that one has some material gain in mind. Such suspicion would be difficult to avoid if Lubavitch activities were related also to some financial activities, even for the purpose of funding the spiritual activities which are so vital. This point becomes more weighty in view of the fact the Lubavitch devotes so much time and effort to involve also Jews whose life in the past has been devoid of spiritual and religious activity. It would be hard to approach such a Jew and tell him that we are concerned only about his soul and spiritual life, while conducting business on the side.
To be sure, there are many universities and colleges who do have business investments which provide a substantial part of their budgetary requirements. But universities have to do only with imparting knowledge to the students (at any rate, this is their present function, unfortunately, for one would have expected that these halls of knowledge would also be strongholds of morality, etc.), whereas our activities are entirely dedicated to matters of the spirit and character, etc.
The above sufficiently explains our attitude. However, it is possible to add a further point, although it might appear rather strange to a businessman. This is that one of the aims of Lubavitch is to involve the maximum number of Jews in its activities, and I mean to involve them as partners in such activities. Such partners can be of two kinds: Those that are qualified to teach and to influence others and work side by side with Lubavitcher activists and those who are not qualified or who are too busy, etc. and instead are able to contribute financially towards the Lubavitch activities, making them equal partners with the activists. Indeed, this is the old partnership of the two ancient tribes of Zevulun and Yissochor, where the former were primarily businessmen supporting the latter who were primarily Torah scholars, as our Sages explain, noting that wherever the two are mentioned together in the Torah, Zevulun is significantly mentioned first.
I will conclude on this point, hoping that your participation in the work of Lubavitch is two-fold, including both the part of Yissochor as well as the part of Zevulun. May G-d grant that you should have hatzlocho and go from strength to strength in both these aspects.
The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.