Jews: what are we doing here?
Originally published in The Times of Israel
Based on a lecture by Rabbi Reuven Wolf on Parshas Vayishlach 5752
In honor of the 221st anniversary of the Holiday of Holidays, Yud Tes Kislev, the liberation of the Alter Rebbe and the beginning of the Torah of Moshiach
Long long LONG ago, way before you and I knew anyone who was ever born, the Almighty was thinking about creating a world. He asked the souls of the righteous, the Jewish people, “What do you think?”
He described the plan in detail: how there would be two teams: good and evil, how the earth would be populated by the nations who wouldn’t have any idea about the One G-d, and how the Jewish people, through their many travels and travails, would little by little purify the world and bring it to the recognition of the One G-d.
This was very challenging!
But the reward would be great. It would be worth the effort! Worth the suffering, pain, self-sacrifice and misery at the hands of the nations.
Because in the end, the nations would understand the great merit of the Jewish people and would love them and acclaim them and thank G-d for them.
Without the Jewish people, the world would have no purpose and no meaning.
With the Jewish people, a beautiful world would come to be.
The Jewish people agreed! They would shoulder the task of transformation, although it would take thousands of years.
However, when Jewish souls were enclothed in bodies and came down to this world, they went through the chain of Creation and as they descended, their souls picked up some spiritual shmutz and forgetfulness along the way. As their souls were recycled, they forgot their original mission.
The challenges were daunting. They had to till the soil, make a living, deal with hostile and in some cases murderous goyim, who recognized that Jews were different and connected to another world.
Again and again, the goyim sought to wipe out the Jewish people.
But many held on. For many centuries, the Jewish people kept their nose to the grindstone, learning Torah and doing the mitzvahs.
But they forgot the end goal of their mission, or it became to them like a far-off dream.
Enter the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Lubavitch. The Alter Rebbe re-focused the entire Jewish people on their true purpose.
What is the end goal? To make a dwelling place for G-d in this world, a place where He will feel at home. This is the point of the entire Creation as G-d shared it with those primordial souls who agreed to make it happen.
Every Jew and every person will be in a relationship with G-d, a loving relationship where G-d’s commands will be respected and where all mankind will try to do good in keeping with G-d’s will.
The question is: how did the Alter Rebbe remember the end-goal? What distinguished him from other sages?
We are told that the Alter Rebbe came down to this earth as a new soul.
His soul was fresh from under the throne of G-d, and not the descendent of many souls who had travelled this earth before. Therefore, his soul was not besmirched with the aches and pains of thousands of years’ travail in this world. His was a clear, pure soul and he remembered “like yesterday” the promise the Jews made to G-d at the beginning of time that they would put His great design into effect and make it happen.
This remembered mission was imprinted in the DNA of every subsequent Chabad leader until the final one, –Moshiach, leading the way to the completion of the mission.
Friends, this is where we are today. Through the leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we have come face to face with our original purpose. We are waking up our fellow Jews to Torah and mitzvahs, the will of G-d, and spreading the 7 Noahide Laws to the nations, the responsibilities they are longing for in order to participate in the era of Redemption.
And as the prophet says, we are arriving at the time when “I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call on the name of the Lord and serve Him with one purpose.” (Zephaniah 3:9)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Basha Oka Botnick is the president of Geulah Generation, a Jewish women's organization based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, devoted to learning the talks of the Rebbe known as Dvar Malchus and spreading matters of Moshiach and Redemption.