by Rabbi Sholom Avtzon
Going home one day with a fellow melamed, he related to me the following story.
Two Jewish high school boys in Russia began their personal journey to becoming observant Jews. They began studying various Jewish texts and then when they had a question they went to the local shul, where they found an elderly Jew who supplemented his retirement pension by becoming the shammas (caretaker) of the shul.
To their delight he was a learned as well as a patient person who enjoyed teaching and sharing his knowledge with others, so they were able to make tremendous strides. Slowly but surely they came closer and closer to Judaism, and began accepting upon themselves the observance of various mitzvos. Initially it was we will just do this one mitzvah and observe this particular holiday, however as the months progressed they became completely committed.
Speaking to their mentor he would often tell them inspiring stories about tzaddikim and their chassidim. Being that he was a Lubavitcher chossid he spoke glowingly about the Rebbeim and the city of Lubavitch itself. To these teenagers the city of Lubavitch became an icon in their mind and they decided to visit it.
On day during their geography class they took out a map and searched for the city of Lubavitch. However, to their dismay, it was not listed. Their teacher noticed a sign of anguish and frustration on their faces and asked them what is bothering them so much that they are so upset. I didn’t think that the assignment I gave you was that difficult.
No, they replied, the assignment was in fact quite easy, and we did it quite quickly. So we decided to use the remaining time of this period to find the great and tremendous city of Lubavitch, but it is nowhere to be found.
Hearing this, the teacher offered them his assistance and asked them to come with him to the Library, where there is a very large map of Russia. He stated confidently, I am positive we will find on that map the city you are searching for. The boys thanked him for his assistance and after a quick search they indeed located it.
The teacher expected them to burst out with an exclamation of joy, but all he saw was disbelief in their eyes. They were quite disappointed.
The teacher asked them why are you so quiet and somewhat depressed, I thought you wanted to find it and we did find it?
The boys replied, “We are indeed grateful to you that you helped us locate it, but something is wrong. Lubavitch is one of the greatest cities in the entire land. It is much greater than other large cities. Yet we see it is barely a speck on the map, while the other cities are noted prominently. Something is terribly amiss.”
The teacher who did not know anything about the city of Lubavitch thought for a moment and replied; I think I can explain this to you. I personally served in the army in the very large city of —, yet it is not noted at all on the map. The reason it is not noted, is for security reasons. Our enemies should not know about this training base. Similarly, there are certain factories that are vital to the country’s existence, yet they are not publicized, that also is done for the same reason. The more important and vital a role something is, the greater the secrecy is. You boys are exceptionally good friends, but I venture to say, there are certain secrets even between yourself; because they are so personal you don’t want to reveal it to anyone.
And perhaps here also, there are secret factories in Lubavitch that the government didn’t want to publicize their whereabouts, so Lubavitch is only a small speck on the map. In truth the government probably would have preferred to hide its existence completely, but it is too well known not to show it, so they tried to hide its significance by showing it, as if it is barely a small hamlet and village.
Yes that must be it they both exclaimed. And as tremendous as they envisioned the city of Lubavitch until now, it just blossomed in their imagination. It must be on the top five cities in the entire country.
That evening when they met their mentor and friend, they barely were able to contain themselves. Turning to him the breathlessly inquired, “Please inform us, what secret factory is in Lubavitch?”
He obviously had no idea what they were referring to, so he understood their question somewhat differently than they meant it, and he replied; “Lubavitch had a tremendous diamond mine. It produced the biggest and brightest diamonds!”
Hearing this, the boys once again took these words literally and were awestruck. WOW they exclaimed. They then asked him, “So please inform us why didn’t you smuggle a few diamonds for yourself and you wouldn’t have to toil so hard in your elder years, life could have been so much better!”
The elderly person momentarily put his head down as one who is ashamed of his actions and regrets doing them. He then looked at the boys and said, “When I was a young teenager, there were some other boys who toiled hard and indeed took diamonds, but in my opinion it was too difficult of a long stretched out process and sorry to say, I didn’t appreciate the significance of those diamonds. I always convinced myself, I will be able to gather some of them in the last few days I was there. But now I can tell you I was absolutely wrong. Yes being a chossid and especially a Tomim (a student of the Rebbe) demands much effort and toil, but its rewards are immeasurable. You not only brighten up your own life but you can illuminate others as well. So now I try to make it up.
Tmimim and chassidim the effort is well worth it.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech in the United Lubavitch Yeshiva Ocean Parkway and the author of numerous books. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.