As of this writing, 24,000 people have caught the coronavirus plaguing China. Online, you can watch the spread of it on maps which update in real-time. While we obviously daven that it be contained and that no additional people get infected or die, G-d forbid, as with everything that happens in Hashem’s world, there are lessons that can be learned and applied in our Divine service.
If something negative like a virus can be transmitted person to person, then for sure positive things can be passed from person to person, too—for instance, a helping hand or a kind word. Imagine if we could track the effects these positive interactions had on people. Would the recipients of them decide to help others…who then in turn help still others? It doesn’t take a leap of faith to see how each act could travel around the globe quickly and be multiplied tens, hundreds, and thousands of times over.
Just like the virus, a person can catch it even if they don’t want it. Many people in a bad mood or challenging position will be touched by genuine interest or concern shown them. The “symptoms” may take a few days or weeks to manifest, but ultimately all kindnesses touch their recipients in a deep place. At that point, they might not even recall which encounter caused their own positive actions, but it doesn’t really matter; additional goodness and kindness is now tangible in the world.
This past Wednesday, Yud Shevat, marks 70 years since the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe assumed leadership of his Chassidim, as well as taking personal responsibility for world Jewry. Indeed, his public letters sent out before yomim tovim were addressed to “sons and daughters of Israel, wherever they may be.” As the decades passed, it became clear that this wasn’t just an attitude or feeling; he meant it literally. All Jews wherever they may be had an address to turn to if help was needed. There are over 12,000 letters of the Rebbe’s letters published in Hebrew alone. Every single letter was opened by him personally. He insisted, “The letter is addressed to me, so I need to open it.”
The secretariat once bought a machine that would open letters automatically. The Rebbe declined using it saying, “Can a machine possibly detect the pain and tears that went into writing these heartfelt letters?!”
It’s customary in Chabad that when a rebbe accepts the leadership of Chassidim, he says a maamar, a Chassidic discourse, which acts as a mission statement of sorts. The maamar the Rebbe said 70 years ago begins with the midrash that describes Hashem at the time of Matan Torah as saying, “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride.” The maamar then goes on to explain, among other Chassidic teachings, what it means that Hashem is returning, why this world is called a garden, and what our purpose is in this world. But the thrust of the maamar is that Hashem’s essential Shechinah was revealed in this world at the time of creation, again at Har Sinai, and will be revealed a final time at the time of the Geulah Sheleimah.
At times the world looks and feels like a jungle, where the strongest wins. But this isn’t its true existence. Right at the start of creation, Hashem’s light was seen in this world. Our job is to uncover it once and for all.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,