Weekly Letter: “Hasogas G’vul”

As the International Shluchim Convention gets underway – we share a letter of the Rebbe in which he answers those claiming that Chabad  activities constitute hasogas g’vul – the Rebbe gives a clear and definitive explanation based on halacha – with logical and reasonable explanations as well. The letter, written originally in English, is from THE LETTER AND THE SPIRIT – VOLUME 4, available in the Crown Hights judaica stores and on Amazon.

By the Grace of G-d
9th of Sivan, 5745
Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Honorable
Canada
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to receive your letter with enclosure.
First of all, many thanks for the good news it contained about your physical health, enabling you to get involved personally in the life of the Jewish community in your city.
I was also very pleased to read about your going from strength to strength in your personal spiritual advancement, in matters of Torah and mitzvos. Your approach of doing mitzvos and learning about their significance – in this order – is certainly in keeping with the approach of our Jewish people when the Torah was first received at Mt. Sinai, with the commitment of Naasseh (first, followed by) v’Nishma.
Since in the realm of the good there is always a natural striving for better, as our Sages express it, “whoever has 100 desires 200 and (having achieved) 200, desires 400” – it should certainly be so in regard to the eternal value of the Torah and mitzvos.
Indeed, the assurance of Divine help in carrying out His imperatives takes account also of this Jewish nature of ever striving to do better, in keeping with the principle that “All matters of holiness should be on the ascendency.” Thus , Hashem provides the capacity not only to maintain one’s level of Yiddishkeit, but also to do so in a steadily growing measure, since the status quo in matters of Yiddishkeit, however satisfactory today, is not quite good enough tomorrow, when it should be on a higher level.
Now to the second point of your letter and the enclosed copy of the letter which you received from a Rabbi in your community – I must say that I was astonished at its contents. So much so, that I am impelled to depart from a principle established by my father-in-law, the Rebbe of saintly memory, in his activities ever since he arrived in the U.S.A. As expected, he also encountered criticism and sometimes more than that, from certain quarters or individuals. But he followed the principle of not engaging in a polemic since it was almost certain to be fruitless. Indeed, since the issue or issues involved activities to disseminate Torah and strengthen Yiddishkeit, he let the actions and results speak for themselves, for sooner or later, the critics and those who stood aloof, would recognize their misjudgment and become supporters and participants.
My astonishment was all the greater because the letter was written by a Rabbi who should know that there is a clear ruling in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch to the effect that the law of encroachment (hasogat g’vul) – though it is one of the eleven strict prohibitions which the Jews were instructed to and did proclaim upon entering the Promised Land (Deut. 27:17) – does not apply in the area of Torah education. Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch further rules that not only is competition in Torah Chinuch permissible but, indeed, obligatory – regardless of existing facilities, especially when it concerns providing the best possible education for the young generation. Even if existing facilities were satisfactory under existing conditions, there is the rule of maalin b’kodesh, to upgrade things of holiness, i.e. not to be satisfied with the status quo, as indicated.
The halacha does not require to be approved by human reason. But this is a case where even a little reflection will suffice to realize why competition in the field of Torah Chinuch, far from being a negative factor in a Jewish community, is indeed healthy and commendable – if one considers it objectively.
For those who would still try to defend their contrary position in a polemic, I would pose a few “dumb questions,” to use a colloquialism.
Suppose a new and severe disease threatens, or actually takes the form of an epidemic – has one the right to discourage efforts to improve medical treatment of the provable, claiming that existing medical methods are satisfactory?
Question #2: Can one estimate how many of our younger generation and older ones, have moved and are moving away from Jewishness in recent years, many of whom have moved away very far, almost to the point of no return?
Question #3: Has the proliferation of educational institutions ever been harmful, and is not the time-honored Talmudic saying “Competition among the wise increases wisdom” a truism that has certainly proved itself in regard to Jewish institutions?
As for the person who declines to participate in a good cause, yet maintains that it “not be taken as critical in any way, but simply to make clear” his position, etc. – the answer is that public opinion is not shaped by intent, even good intentions, of a person taking a public stand, but by how the public interprets his words and action; and ultimately the important thing is the actual net result of that action.
To conclude on the timely subject of Shavuos , which we have just celebrated, it is worth noting that one may wonder why such a “to do” is made of the Festival of Mattan Torah, considering that only twelve months ago it was celebrated enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, etc. Yet, the Torah requires that it should again be celebrated with renewed enthusiasm and commitment, reliving – as much as possible – the tremendous experience of the Divine Revelation and the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. And since the Torah does expect this, it is certain that every Jew possesses the potential to actualize it, not only for the sake of others, but also for one’s own sake and edification.
May you continue advancing in Torah and mitzvos steadily and consistently, which includes of course, continuing to benefit your community in a growing measure, in keeping with the Great Principle of the Torah – V’Ohavto L’Reacho Komocho.
Looking forward to further good news from you in all above and wishing you again much hatzlocho in all your endeavors.
With esteem and blessing,

3 Comments

  • 2. Mushroom wrote:

    Does it also apply to opening a Chabad Center in an area already occupied by a shaliach? No hasagas gvul!

    Reply
  • 3. Mendy wrote:

    This letter is specifically regarding Torah education. All other areas of holy work such as opening a Chabad house etc fall under the halachas of hasagas gvul. The rebbes letters are full of responses to shluchim that they should watch out for hasagas gvul!!!

    Reply

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