Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), also known as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, was one of the greatest figures in Jewish history. Several years after the Nazis searched out, and murdered every third Jew in the world in hate, the Rebbe vowed to search out, and reach out to every Jew in love. When the Rebbe turned 70, his disciples asked him what he would like as a gift for his birthday. The Rebbe immediately answered: “71 more Chabad centers around the world within the next year!” And this was achieved! Baruch Hashem. Perhaps that’s why some people jokingly say that from outer space one can discern today three chief global logos: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Chabad…
But seriously, why was the Rebbe so spiritually possessed by an unquenchable yearning and longing to bring the eternity of Torah to every single Jew on the planet? Because we live in an age of utter spiritual impoverishment. Many people are materially affluent today, but they are also spiritually bankrupt. They lack the basic tools needed to harness their monetary capital into existential and spiritual well-being. Their soul is in a state of ontological exile, in the sense that the only reality they can access and experience is that of the material and empirical world. The Rebbe strove to emancipate Jewish souls from the shackles of internal exile, and hand them the key to Jewish spirituality, to a life of grandeur, boundless inner joy, and ample vitality. In a word, the Rebbe was in the business of soul-redemption.
We find in this week’s Parashah the following verse: “Should your brother become impoverished and lose his ancestral heritage….his redeemer who is closest to him shall come and redeem [him]…” (Leviticus 25:25). On the surface, the Torah is talking here about people who lost their homes, their material real-estate, on account of a financial crisis, and about the monetary obligation of their relatives to help them out in re-acquiring their property.
However, on an inner Kabbalistic level, the Torah is alluding here to the most fundamental of assets – a person’s inner resources – a person’s emotional, mental and spiritual capital. Chassidism teaches us that on an inner level, we all have an unbinding obligation to empower people who are bereft of basic spiritual tools in this world. To salvage and redeem lost souls, including our own neshamah. All around us there is spiritual illiteracy in this world, and people frantically and desperately look for the power of vitality in self-destructive and counterproductive modes of being. It is the Jew’s responsibility to bring more G-dliness to this world, and proliferate the eternal way of being. And indeed one of the loftiest, noble and uplifting mitzvahs, is to be in the business of “soul redemption”. That’s what a great parent does for his or her children. That’s what a good friend does. And “All of Israel are friends ” (as it states in the prayer for the new month).
Think of someone you can reach out to, and participate in kindling his or her soul. It is no less holy an act than kindling your own Shabbat candles in the privacy of your home. May we internalize how blessed we are. We are God’s children.