Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Rescuing a Jew from the Dumps

The Rebbe of Lubavitch ruffled the composure of many rabbis years ago when he dispatched his troops to reach out to Jews in places the rabbis regarded as spiritual pig sties. The criticism faded away and today the Rebbe's approach has become routine - even among non-Lubavitch sectors.

The Rebbe plied his campaign with no less a model than to emulate God Himself. When God "went down" (Ex.11:4) to kill the Egyptians during the tenth plague, God told the Jews, "And among you there will be no affliction" (Ex.12:13). This means, explains Rashi, when an Egyptian sought refuge by visiting the house of a Jew, he was not spared; ie, "Among you there will be no affliction [but among them - there will be]."; Or, when the Jew visited an Egyptian's house, you might think the Jew too would be vulnerable, so God says, "Among you there will be no affliction [no matter where you will be]."

This event occurred the night of Passover, 2448, the very first time they celebrated this holiday, the same night God struck all of Egypt's firstborns.

On that night Moses had warned the Jews, "Nobody should leave their home until morning". (Ex.12:22)

Despite Moses' warning, despite the humiliation heaped upon Egyptians by 9 preceding plagues, and despite the many years Jews suffered enslavement at the hands of these Egyptians, some Jews felt no moral compunction visiting an Egyptian neighbor.  As base and as depraved as this Jew was, visiting his Egyptian neighbor on this of all nights, God Himself "went down" to spare this Jew's life, no matter how his ignoble state and no matter how sordid the environment.

The Rebbe's critics, at the time, did not let up. How could he sends boys out to places where the "dirt" of their surroundings may well rub off on them, they cried out.

The Rebbe once spoke of this from the viewpoint of Jewish law, as it related to the laws of kosherizing (paradoxically). During the salting phase of meat processing, multiple layers of meat may be piled one on top of another, as long as salt separates every layer. Salt draws the blood from the meat, and the concern that blood oozing from a higher layer can be absorbed by meat in a lower layer is discounted because of this ruling: "While in emission mode, meat cannot be in absorption mode." In other words, when it's busy pushing out, it cannot be pulling in.

Similarly with the Rebbe's emissaries, boys reaching out to fellow Jews; As long as they engage in the effort of exerting positive influence, they protect themselves from absorbing any negative influence!

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