Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mitzvah Mobility

Mitzvah is a Hebrew word for a good deed. The bearded man on the side of this Recreational Utility Vehicle is Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994), an Hasidic rabbi who was the seventh and considered the last Rebbe (spiritual leader) of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. He was a spiritual, wise man and revered. His face invokes wisdom—as well as kindness and understanding. He and his followers—the Hassidim, you see them around, they’re dressed like old world Amish—believed that Messiah’s arrival was imminent—some believe Rabbi Schneerson was the “massaich,”—and to make the world ready for God’s Kingdom, one must do good works, i.e., mitzvah’s. Mitzvah mainly means for them, making Jewish folks more observant. I have gotten friendly with a couple of these Lubavitch Hassidim. They have this big headquarters on 5th avenue in the 40s and on Fridays, mainly young men, go around and try to get Jews to pray with them. I work with a Jewish guy and they come by the office and they have actually gotten the dude to pray. He’s not a religious guy or anything, but he was raised Jewish and considers himself a Jew. I believe in the power of prayer. They put a shawl on him and wrap the tefillin around his arm and together they recite the Hebrew prayers. They’re good kids actually. I believe in encouraging youth when they are doing positive activities and getting Jews more in touch with the theology and practices of their religion seems to me a very good thing. Before a holiday, like Passover, they drive around the tank and do more of this kind of out reach. I read scripture and have read several of Jewish texts and commentaries, such as the Zohar. The Hassidim kids that come by the office are interesting cats to talk to. I’m sure I might have some of the facts wrong here, for which I apologize. My buddy at work, he’s told me more than once, ‘you know, all they want to do is pray.’ They are never mad when he doesn’t feel like praying—and he doesn’t pray more often than he does pray. They always come back. They never ask for donations. They never try to get him to become a Hassidim. They just want to pray with him. And, I can tell, that he appreciates being forced to remember the Hebrew learned during his very long ago Bah Mitzvah instruction. And Rabbi Schneerson? President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed his birthday as Education and Sharing Day, and every year since the president has issued a proclamation—it is usually on April 5th, but because it is based on the Hebrew Calendar, the exact date can change. In 2009, President Barack H. Obama wrote in his proclamation on Education & Sharing Day, "Few have better understood or more successfully promoted these ideas than Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who emphasized the importance of education and good character. Through the establishment of educational and social service institutions across the country and the world, Rabbi Schneerson sought to empower young people and inspire individuals of all ages. On this day, we raise his call anew." Rabbi Schneerson was awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor in 1994. President Bill Clinton spoke these words at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony: “The late Rebbe's eminence as a moral leader for our country was recognized by every president since Richard Nixon. For over two decades, the Rabbi's movement now has some 2000 institutions; educational, social, medical, all across the globe. We (the United States Government) recognize the profound role that Rabbi Schneerson had in the expansion of those institutions.”

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