by Aharon Loschak
Like many other shluchim, Rabbi Yitzchak Kahan of Medford, N.J. operates a Chabad House that provides a wide array of services; Shabbos shul, Hebrew school, holiday programs, and senior visitation, to name a few. And of course, he learns Torah with community members as well. Every week, in fact.
Over the years, there’s something he noticed. As a Chabad shliach, he teaches community members to be aware of who and what the Rebbe is. After all, it’s no secret that the Rebbe is the driving force behind everything he does, so it’s only natural that people begin to catch on. But what, exactly, is their conception of the Rebbe?
“I realized that people’s idea of the Rebbe was limited to ‘outreach’ [activities], the Chabad Houses and mivtzoim,” Rabbi Kahan explained. “They understood that it was the Rebbe who transformed the landscape of world Jewry through a tremendous revolution of shlichus.
“But one thing they may not have realized was just how much of that vision is backed up by an incredible body of knowledge, by profound ideas. First and foremost, the Rebbe taught copious amounts of Torah for so many years, and people don’t really understand that.”
This year, this perception has changed.
It started with shluchim’s first parshah class of the year. When JLI’s Torah Studies announced that they were going to be following Project Likkutei Sichos’ schedule of learning and were producing classes based on the weekly sichah, Rabbi Kahan felt there was an opportunity for change. To present a professionally-produced lesson directly founded on the Rebbe’s Torah each week is bound to make an impact.
“Each week, I sit down prior to the class and learn the full sichah myself. I find it anchoring to know that the class I’m about to give is all right there in the Rebbe’s words. It brings me a sense of comfort in a way.
“And as the weeks go by of people hearing the Rebbe’s Torah firsthand, they are starting to appreciate the Rebbe’s revolutionary way of thinking, and how the movement the Rebbe spearheaded is grounded in real ideas.
“In the past, people would come over to me after class and tell me ‘Wow, Rabbi that was a nice idea!’—and that was it. This year, after each class, I can confidently tell them ‘This is from the Rebbe!’”
Rabbi Kahan is not alone in his sentiments. Hundreds of shluchim have taken advantage of this new collaboration, and are excitedly bringing the Rebbe’s crown jewel—Likutei Sichos—to their communities.
One of the unique challenges of committing to teaching a subject matter like Likutei Sichos with community members is the reality that many sichos are complex. Oftentimes, a sichah will be a deep study on a relatively obscure Rashi that is far too advanced for an average Chabad House audience. That’s why the lessons prepared by Torah Studies are at times skillful adaptations of the sichah’s message, reworked and repackaged to be accessible to the most beginner audience.
“Torah Studies does an unbelievable job of taking sometimes extremely difficult Rashi sichos and making it work for crowds like ours. Hats off to them,” said Rabbi Yisroel Mangel of Blue Ash, Ohio. In addition to his regular weekly class, Rabbi Mangel also delivers a short summary between Minchah and Maariv on Shabbos afternoon, furthering the reach of the Rebbe’s message each week.
“The uniqueness of the Torah Studies classes is how they take a technical Rashi sichah and masterfully creating a motivational hour lesson that led one regular to say ‘Rabbi, this year’s series has been really hitting home!’” said Rabbi Shimon Simpson of Mar Vista, California.
Bringing Likutei Sichos to the masses is wonderful. What could be perhaps even better?
Bringing it back home.
As Rabbi Kahan testifies, “My wife teaches the lessons weekly as well, and so now, we spend time every week in lively discussion about the ‘weekly sichah.’”