Weekly Story: How We Celebrate It

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

I heard the following story from Rabbi Kasriel Kastel sheyichyeh, some time ago, and as always your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Rabbi Kastel said: One of my responsibilities in Tzerei Agudas Chabad is working on the Shabbatons for various groups who came to Crown Heights. They are known as A Pegisha With Chabad. Many of them were geared for college students. In the winter, when Shabbos begins around five in the afternoon, there is plenty of time for the Friday night session. However, when we made it in the summer, the sessions could only begin at around ten, as we had to give their hosts at least an hour and half or two hours for the meal.

So the following thought was presented to the planning committee: Since the halachah is that one is allowed to daven Kabbalas Shabbos before sunset (as many shuls and bungalow colonies do). Just you would have to say the Shema again once it becomes truly night. Therefore, perhaps we should make a special minyan Friday evening just for the pegisha attendees and their hosts, and this way we can begin the Friday night session much earlier.

The protocol was that any change in the schedule or any other major decision related to these Pegisha’s were not finalized until we informed the Rebbe about it, and received an affirmative reply. So we presented this option to the Rebbe and asked him if we should implement it? The Rebbe replied, Although there is a basis in Halachah to do so, these students (and others) who come here to be part of the Pegisha, are coming to see how Lubavitchers celebrate and conduct themselves on Shabbos, and we daven on Friday after nightfall.

Receiving this clear directive the thought was dropped.

Although I heard this from Rabbi Kastel some years ago, it came to mind last week when I saw the articles about the Halachah status if one can or should build an eruv in Brooklyn etc.

I will state upfront that I am not proficient in the laws and guidelines of building an eruv in a city, and I will leave that to others. However, based on the above viewpoint of the Rebbe the question is not can an Eruv be erected, but is, should a Lubavitcher create or use an eruv, even if it is halachically proper?

In the pro-Eruv article a clear contradiction struck me. It began with a statement that the Rebbe often replied to the same question differently to different people. Then the writer continues and says the Rebbe not only verbally encouraged many communities to erect an Eruv, but also participated in bringing it to fruition by giving monetary support.

With this he “proves” that the Rebbe was for building an Eruv even in Brooklyn and also for his Shuchuna of Crown Heights, and in fact it is a mitzvah to do so.

So let us look at it objectively. If it is a mitzvah to build an eruv and therefore any community that asked the Rebbe whether they should build his reply was in the affirmative and he encouraged it (as the writer claims, even though many state this was not the case), why then, when it came to his own community, didn’t the Rebbe encourage someone to fulfill this vital mitzvah?

Evidently, for some reason, (either halachically or for some other reason), he wasn’t interested in having an Eruv for Crown Heights.

In other words, even if it is permissible but there is a way how we observe Shabbos, and that is we don’t carry.

Why, I don’t know with certainty. I have my thoughts but then we can get caught up in an argument about whether these are valid reasons or not, But as stated above the Rebbe didn’t encourage it (and some say he advised some not to).

The fact is we all are living in Crown Heights because this is the Rebbe’s shuchunah (community) and therefore it is incumbent upon all of us that the community adheres to his guidelines and principles.

I was asked by former students who are for the Eruv, why I don’t use it, as we see the Rebbe allowed Kfar Chabad to build one?

I replied there are two answers to this question.

1) When you are comparing two things together, they have to be similar in all aspects, and there are many differences between a small town in Eretz Yisroel to the metropolis of New York.
2) Why Rabbi Schneur Garelik, the Rov of Kfar Chabad built it, I don’t know. But at the same time everyone knows that he personally didn’t use and encouraged others as well, not to rely on it.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran machanech and author of numerous books on the Rebbeiim and their chassidim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

One Comment

  • Mushkie

    Doesn’t the Alter Rebbe actually ENCOURAGE making shabbos early? Aside from adding significant to the shabbos from the weekday, it also enhances oneg shabbos by not starving till late at night for the shabbos meal or eating a meal before shabbos enters/

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