We were privileged right before Pesach to receive a visit from our newly appointed Chabad Rabbi and his wife. Yes, they were as zealous as Abraham pleading with G-d for Sodom and Gomorrah. Also note – whatever your position on the great gender divide in Judaism - that the Chabad Rabbi’s wife has always been a part of the package. A charming and knowledgeable couple with a tolerance as wide as the Gates of Jerusalem for all the pathways of Judaism.
They brought us Shmurah matzoh, which even a scribbler like me appreciates, Matzoh guarded from impurity and moisture from granular birth to conversion into Matzoh. I could be wrong, but I think that Chabad rule 407A prohibits the truck carrying it from traversing a street that houses a swimming pool or has water in the gutters.
There were two qualities about my recent visit from Chabad folks which resounded within my Jewish soul. First, they are humble ambassadors of G-d and second, they are as tolerant as Amos, on an easy day when he sipped orange juice at a sidewalk cafe instead of preaching. Humility rings the bell as a Jewish virtue – as the Chumash tells us many times (“Walk humbly in the ways of our G-d”). You must remember that the standard off-the-shelf Rabbi – sure – knows a lot more about Judaism than me; but believe it or not, he knows no more of the Supreme being than my cat knows of me, his master. My feline worshipper is frightened by my wrath and pleased by my approval.
Chasidism seems to accent that proposition. We are both seekers, the Rabbis seem to say. And all quests are better than none. I’m not the scoutmaster nor are you the tenderfoot in seeking our path through the woods. Nor are you the junior partner and I the senior. To me, this is an engaging quality – call it humility or call it tolerance. Even my negligence of a few (not too many) of the 613 rules still stamps me as a qualified seeker. The Chasids seem to ignore my spiritual report card. They seem to remember that even Aaron had his weak moments. (“I threw it on the fire and out came this calf”)
And in my small reservoir of Biblical knowledge I remember several short, but emphatic passages that strongly infer that “thou shall not look upon Me and live” i.e., walk in my footsteps but don’t expect to know Me. As the scholars say, He is beyond our ken. The efforts of Chabad to universally market the joys of Judaism are grossly unappreciated. And they do so without watering down the product. Christianity performed a similar service a couple of millennia ago, but added a few significant marketing attractions that weakened the creed. Down at the corner bar, they might say it was like mixing Jack Daniels Black with lemonade.
Anyhow, we had a most pleasant social visit and they enlightened me on several topics. But, of course, the Rabbi was unaware of the fact that mentally I placed him on my staff. A demanding and non-salaried position – I’ll call from time to time: When was Aaron’s birthday? How old was Moses when Gershom was born? Why was the Creator upset when Eve grabbed the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil? What’s the name of Noah’s wife? This was yet to come. He would be a splendid resource.
You gotta be smart to be staff material. And this scholar had it all. I might even promote him to Director of my religious staff. (Also, non salaried.) I’ve got an athletic, technical, and historical staff, too – you contribute knowledge, I say “Thank you”. But his assistance to a Hebrew School attendee of many decades ago was unspoken. It may only come up weeks from now, when I call with a piteous whine in my voice to ask the name of Rebekah’s secret ingredient in her lamb stew.