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December 15, 2011 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-15

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said many times since: That the world was
wrong. When they thought that the most
important fact about the Rebbe was that
here was a man with thousands of follow-
ers, they missed the most important fact:
That a good leader creates followers,
but a great leader creates leaders.

That's what the Rebbe did for me and
for thousands of others.

Act 2:

I went back to University, although I still
felt the power of the Rebbe's challenge.
So in 1969 after getting my degree, I went
to study in Kfar Chabad, where I learned
with Rav Gafni, and it was a wonderful
experience. In 1970 I came back, got mar-
ried, started teaching philosophy, writing
a doctorate, but I still felt I hadn't done
enough to meet the Rebbe's challenge. So
I studied for smicha. I qualified as a rabbi,
and I thought that's it. I've grown a little as
a Jew, and now I'm ready to get back with
the rest of my life.
That was when I made the second great
mistake — I went back to see the Rebbe
again. (laughter)
January 1978: My friends in Lubavitch
told me exactly what to do. You put your
question in writing, you give the Rebbe
options; one, two, three, and the Rebbe
will tell you, the one or two or three. So I
set out my options. I said to the Rebbe, "I
have a career in front of me, I have three
choices." Number one, maybe I would like
to be an academic — one day I would be a
professor or maybe a fellow of my college
in Cambridge. Or number two — I went to
university initially to study economics — I'd
like to be an economist. Or number three,
I'd like to be a barrister, an advocate. I
was a member of one of the Inns of Court,
the Inner Temple where you study to be a
I went in to the yechidus [private audi-
ence] not knowing what the Rebbe would
answer, would it be one, would it be two,
would it be three? The Rebbe looked at
me and he went through the list; not one,
not two, not three.
I thought, "Hang on, this is against the
The Rebbe did not give me time to
reply. He told me Anglo Jewry was short
of Rabbis, and therefore he said to me,
"You must train Rabbis." He specified
Jews College, where Rabbis were trained
in Britain. And then he said, you yourself
must become a congregational Rabbi, so
that your students will come and they will
hear you give — I still remember the way
he pronounced the word — "Sermons".
They will hear you give sermons and they
will learn. He said you say you will train
rabbis and you will become a rabbi.
Well, I was a little farblonged — a word
I've introduced into the English language
courtesy of the BBC — but if the Rebbe
says do it, I did it. I gave up my three am-
bitions, I trained rabbis, I taught in Jews

College, eventually I became head of Jews
College, and I became a congregational
rabbi, in Golders Green and Marble Arch.
You know, a funny thing happened. Hav-
ing given up all my three ambitions, hav-
ing decided to walk in the complete op-
posite direction, a funny thing happened.
I did become a fellow of my college in
Cambridge. I did become a professor. In
fact, this year I have three professorships;
one in Oxford University, two in London
University. I did deliver Britain's top two
economics lectures, the Mais lecture and
the Hayek lecture, and Inner Temple made
me an honorary barrister and invited
me to give a law lecture in front of six
hundred barristers, the Lord Chancellor —
the highest lawyer in Britain, and Princess
Anne who's the Master.
You know, you never lose anything — by
putting yiddishkeit first.
And I learned something very deep:
Sometimes the best way of achiev-
ing your ambitions is to stop pursuing
them, and let them pursue you.

Act 3:

Act three was in 1990. Anglo Jewry was
looking for a new Chief Rabbi. It was clear
that I was going to be one of the candi-
dates. But I wasn't sure that I was right
for the job or the job was right for me. And
so, I sat down with my family, with Elaine,
with my children, and they agreed to
permit me to write to the Rebbe and ask
his advice.
I set out the tzdodim lekan u'lekan
— the pros and cons of the job, and the
Rebbe wrote a most extraordinary reply,
a brilliant reply, without using a single
You know that the Rebbe, before he
was Rebbe, ran the Chabad publish-
ing house — Kehot — and as a result he
knew — I've written twenty four books
and I don't know these things yet, but he
knew the typographical symbols that are
used by proofreaders. So towards the end
of the letter having set out the pros and
cons, I wrote the sentence, "If they offer
me the job, should I accept'?" This was
the Rebbe's reply: The typographical sym-
bol for reverse word order. Instead of say-
ing, "Should I?" The answer is, "I should.
So, thirteen years to the day after I
became a congregational rabbi I became
Chief Rabbi, and in that job I have tried
to the best of my ability — if I succeeded I
don't know — but I tried to do what I know
the Rebbe would have wanted me to do:
To build schools, to improve Anglo Jewish
education, to reach out, and to make —
not followers — but leaders.
Non Jews respect Jews who respect
And I did one other thing, which was a
little bit unusual, and I want to explain to
you, now, why.
I never said this in public before. There
was a point when I was a little involved

people into people who themselves trans-
forms lives and that, through you, is how
he changed the world. Through you, his
Shluchim and though all the other special
people who support you and make your
work possible.

Search Out Every Jew In Love

Alan Zekelman of Bloomfield Hills, MI

meets British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan

Sacks at the conference.

— the board of directors in Lubavitch in
London asked me just to get involved a
little bit — there was a point in the 1970s
and 80s, when the Rebbe developed a
very interesting campaign — the sheva
mitzvos benei noach campaign - to reach
out not just to Jews, but also to non
I realized that in my new position as
Chief Rabbi I could do just that. So I start-
ed broadcasting on the BBC, on radio, on
television, writing for the national press.
I wrote books read by non Jews as well
as Jews and the effect was absolutely
extraordinary. The more I spoke the more
they wanted to hear — which certainly
proves they weren't Jewish. (Laughter.)
The more I wrote the more they wanted
to read, and you know what that experi-
ence told me — not only the wisdom, the
vast foresight of the Rebbe in under-
standing that the world was ready to hear
a Jewish message — but it taught me
something else as well. And I want you
never to forget these words.

Non Jews respect Jews who
respect Judaism.

And non Jews are embarrassed
by Jews who are embarrassed by
The Rebbe taught us how to fulfill verau
kol amei haaretr ki shem hashem nikra
alecha. Let all the world see we are never
ashamed to stand tall as Jews.
So, at the three critical turning points
in my life, the Rebbe was my satellite
navigation system, showing me where to
go and how. And though I didn't always
understand why at the time, in retrospect I
see how extraordinary his advice was, and
how wise.
Most people look at others and see
what they seem. Great people look
at others and see what they are. The
greatest of the great — and the Rebbe
was greatest of the great — see others
and see what they could become. And
that was his greatness.
And you are testimony to the fact that,
everyone of you, that not only did the
Rebbe transform lives, he transformed

The Rebbe was the first Rebbe to become
Rebbe after the Holocaust.
And how can you redeem a world that
had witnessed Hitler? And the Rebbe did
something absolutely extraordinary; he
said to himself: if the Nazis searched out
every Jew in hate, we will search out
every Jew in love.
This was the most radical response to
the Holocaust ever conceived and I don't
know if we still — if the Jewish world still
— understands it.
Today, in many parts of the world
anti-Semitism has returned, and baruch
Hashem [thank G-d] there are hundreds
of organizations fighting it. But still, even
now, no one is saying what the Rebbe
said — not explicitly but implicitly in every-
thing he did.
If you want to fight sinas yisrael [hatred
of your fellow], then practice ahavas
yisroel [love of your fellow].
Friends, hands up all those who think
there is too much Ahavas Yisroel [love of
your fellow] in the world... So friends, we
still have work to do, we still have work
to do.
Anti-Semites, you know, are totally
crazy. Anti-Semites believe that Jews con-
trol the banks, they believe Jews control
the media, they believe that Jews control
the world; little do they know that we
can't even control a shut board meeting.
The last point I think is very simple,
Chanukah is on the way A Chassid of
the Rebbe knows, aron nossei es noisav,
if you lift another Jew, you yourself are
lifted. If you light with your candle and
kindle the flame in the heart of another,
your light will not be diminished, you
will be lifted; your light will be double.
Friends, forty two years ago, one of the
great Jewish leaders of all time, took an
unknown student from thousands of miles
away, and lit a light in his soul that has
burned from that day to this, and he did it
not just for him, but for ten thousands of
thousands of others.
And he would be saying to us: number
one, live, breath, and sleep ahavas yis-
roel; number two, become leaders who
turn other Jews into leaders; and number
three, be madlik mener le'ner, take your
light and make light others. And together,
let us light a flame in the hearts of other
Jews, and together let us light up the
world. Amen.

To watch a video of this address go to :

9- 1SEMEtir---

December 15 • 2011


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