Yosef went looking for his brothers. Why? How does this concept apply to us? Do we too need to go far or into the zone of danger to accomplish this? Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Shliach to Doral, FL, shares his thoughts on this week’s Parsha – Vayeishev.
“Ess Achai Anochi Mevakesh” “I am looking for my brothers”
When Yosef went to find his brothers he was approached by a man who inquired “What are you looking for?”. Yosef replied that he was looking for his brothers. They didn’t share the same point of view. They weren’t the best of friends either. They weren’t all that in common with one another. Yet, Yosef The Tzadik was searching for them. Yaakov had sent him to find “his brothers”. Yaakov the Nassie of the generation charged him with the holy task of seeking out his brothers.
Our generation has merited a Tzadik, a Nassie, with the same concerns and mission. The Rebbe has inspired us to always be in the mode of going out there to “search for our brothers”. No Jew was too far or forgotten. No Jew was considered “not important enough” – for us to go out there and try to find him! From our early childhood we are imbued with a passion to reach out of our own comfort zones and attempt to bring Yiddishkiet to our brethren. Every Chabad child dreams of going on Mivtzoyim and doing their part to spread Yiddishkiet. My memories of Chanukah from a very young age are the planning and preparing for our “Menorah car” for Chanukah Mivtzoyim. There was no looking forward to Chanukah parties or family get-togethers; standing in the freezing cold for countless hours to distribute Menorahs was more exciting!
There are countless stories about The Rebbe’s concern for each and every Yid, no matter who they were or where they lived. One of the famous “roving Shluchim” who had the merit to carry out some amazing missions of this sort was Rabbi Yosef Weinberg OBM. The common thread in all of the various experiences he had carrying out these lofty missions, was The Rebbe’s concern even for a Jew living in the most remote place or circumstances. One such story relates to our subject, namely “looking for my brother”.
In one of his many trips around the globe, he once received a letter from The Rebbe mid-route. He was instructed to travel to Uganda. The Rebbe added the following: “If the Rebbe Maharash made the effort to travel abroad just to bring one Jew back… (this refers to the famous story of His trip to France) then certainly it’s incumbent on us to make every effort for every Jew”. Rabbi Weinberg was already accustomed to these types of “heavenly directs” and immediately set about a plan to make it to Uganda. Realistically however, there were no known Jews in that country at the time.
He decided to spend Shabbos in Nairobi on the way to Uganda. The Rabbi who served the very small community tried to discourage him from continuing on to Uganda “there aren’t any know Jews there, even if there are one or two Jews, how will you ever find them?”. Rabbi Weinberg was obviously not shaken off course, as he knew that if The Rebbe is sending him certainly he will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
In the meantime, the Rabbi arranged for a Melave Malka to which he invited all known Jews in the area. After the formal part of the event, Rabbi Weinberg sat down for a lengthy Farbrengen. One Yid in particular was drawn to Rabbi W and sat through the whole night. He revealed to Rabbi W that he was originally from Belz and that for almost forty years he hasn’t tasted real Yiddishkiet. He took upon himself to put on Tefillin and begin keeping Kosher (a very difficult feat in Kenya). After while he made Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and became a fully fledged Bal-Teshuva! “But this was only a “fringe benefit” of the whole trip…” remarked Rabbi Weinberg.
Upon arriving in “Jew-less” Uganda, Rabbi Weinberg succeeded in finding a total of eighteen Jews. None of them knew anything about Yiddishkiet, only one had a Mezuza. Rabbi W gave them all Mezuzos and some informational material on Yiddishkiet and opened their hearts to Yiddishkiet. These days there tens of Frum Yidden, the children and grandchildren of those few Jews!
I’m sure that you are awed by this story, understandably so. I felt inspired and motivated to do ever more to “find” Yidden and do whatever possible to bring them closer to Yiddishkiet. The fact however is that we don’t have The Rebbe explicitly directing us where to go and what exact task to do at a given place. The reality is that we all live in a certain reality. We have our limitations and boundaries. Some are “officially” on Shlichus, many of us live in various communities which are well inhabited by Frum Yidden. The glamorous Shlichus escapades are far and few between. Most of us are limited to more “ordinary” situations.
And THIS exactly is the point of message for this week.
Recently I was in Crown Heights (for The Kinus). Walking up Kingston Ave I bumped in to a fellow Shliach. He was holding his Rashi Tefillin bag in his hand. (I must tell you in envy, “He never leaves home without it”!) He shared with me that he just got several people to put on Tefillin. IN CROWN HEIGHTS! Children from “Unzere Mishpochos”. It took a Shliach to come from Florida to CH – to offer these young men the opportunity to put on Tefillin. And, in his words “they were readily available” to do so; they responded positively to his offer.
Chanukah is coming up. Many Menorah cars are going to traverse the streets of every major city the world over. Every Chabad Chosid who has the ability to, will be out there searching for Yidden with the purpose of bringing them the light and joy of Chanukah. PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO LOOK FOR OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS THAT ARE RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES! Let’s “look for our brothers” in Crown Heights, in our Frum neighborhoods and include them in the message of Chanukah.