July 25, 2024
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The Rebbe Who Knew How to Find Diamonds

Do you know how to find a diamond in the dirt? If you want to find the diamond, you will need to be persistent and be ready to spend a long time looking for it. But most importantly, you will need to know how to look past the dirt and focus on the diamond.

This Shabbat marks the 25th yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. One of the greatest lessons we can learn from the Rebbe is how to appreciate a Jewish soul: how to ignore the dirt, the exterior shell and find the shining soul hidden in every person.

Many people who came in contact with the Rebbe shared the same feeling. They felt welcomed and embraced regardless of their background, affiliation or level of observance.

But perhaps nothing illustrates this point better than the following two stories.

1. Miriam bat Bilgah.

Miriam, the daughter of Bilgah, was a traitor of the worst kind. When the Jewish people were attacked by the Greeks, she converted out of Judaism and married a Greek general. She then had the audacity to join the Greek forces as they stormed and desecrated the Holy Temple.

And to add insult to injury, as she approached the altar, she struck it with a sandal and called out, “Wolf! Wolf!” (meaning the altar, consuming the daily offerings, similar to a wolf eating prey), “Why do you consume Jewish wealth yet don’t help them in their time of need!”

Indeed, Miriam’s family was severely punished for her actions. But in an emotional talk in 1974, the Rebbe saw something else.

“Look at Miriam. She converted out of Judaism! She intermarried! She walked into the Temple together with the enemies! And obviously did not keep any of the laws of purity required to enter the Temple! She seems so far…

“Yet, when she saw the suffering of her Jewish brothers and sisters, she is overwhelmed with pain and she cried out…”

[I highly recommend watching the Rebbe’s talk, as my words are not doing it justice. You can watch it here: www.chabad.org/942194. ]

Layers and layers of dirt. But the Rebbe found the diamond.

2. Haim Cohn

When the Israeli Supreme Court Justice Haim Cohn showed up for hakafot in 770 Eastern Parkway, I am sure that many chassidim were conflicted how to treat him. After all, he made headlines when—despite being a kohen—he married a divorcee in a much-publicized marriage, outside of Israel. And as someone who grew up in a religious family, he should have known better.

Maybe some chassidim felt it would be inappropriate for Justice Cohn to be present at the Rebbe’s hakafot, let alone receive any honor!

But the Rebbe thought otherwise. He invited him to the front of the shul and asked him if he is ready to “hold the Torah.” Cohn agreed, the chassidim erupted in song and for 45 minutes the Rebbe encouraged the singing and dancing.

If you looked into Cohn’s eyes at that moment, if you looked at how he hugged the Torah, you could have seen the diamond too.

As we contemplate on the Rebbe’s life and teachings, let us take this lesson to heart. Wherever we go, let’s search for the diamond. Granted, we will see dirt. No person is perfect. But the diamond is there if we just know how to look for it.

By Rabbi Mendy Kaminker


Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad Hackensack. He welcomes your comments at [email protected].

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