My father-in-law, Rabbi Yankel Weisberg o.b.m., devoted his life to building up Torah institutions and communal organizations. In this capacity, he regularly consulted with leading Torah figures. Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, the rosh yeshivah (dean) of Yeshivat Chaim Berlin, was one such individual.
In 1950, soon after the passing of the Previous Rebbe, the chassidim wanted his capable son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, to assume the leadership of the movement; but he was adamantly refusing.
My father-in-law asked Rabbi Hutner his opinion on the outcome. He was acquainted with the Rebbe and would travel to Crown Heights to pose to him profound questions on the teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidut.
He responded that on the one hand, the Rebbe loathed attention, pomp and prestige. Being the epitome of unbending truthfulness and such an unassuming individual, the Rebbe would find the position intolerable.
On the other hand, the Rebbe had such a sense of responsibility, and understood that the beautiful edifice and the six generations of self-sacrifice by the previous rebbeim could not merely be abandoned.
He concluded that the Rebbe’s staunch feelings of devotion might compel him to undertake the position, despite it being contrary to his nature.
The Rebbe, of course, did accept the leadership, and succeeded in building up Chabad-Lubavitch into the global, dynamic success story it has become. The Rebbe managed to lead this thriving movement without compromising on his inner desire for a quiet, reserved and unpretentious life, away from the public eye.
Living in a simple home, with unadorned furnishings, the Rebbe dressed in plain clothing. His office was modest; he took no vacations, and didn’t allow any attendant to carry his bags. Yet the Rebbe served as an authoritative leader, carrying supreme power and influence. The Rebbe didn’t compromise his standards, but at the same time reached out to every Jew, no matter the theological distance.
As unassuming as the Rebbe was, he was powerful. As much as the Rebbe was unbending to public opinion, he was intent on making the teachings of Judaism accessible to all.
The Rebbe successfully merged seemingly contradictory leadership paradigms because to the Rebbe, there was no contradiction. All divergent elements had one simple, pervasive goal—to make our world a holy abode for G‑d. And in this all-encompassing objective, every aspect and every detail found its perfect fit.
In life, we may be confronted by a situation that feels too formidable. It may seem to require a different person, gifted with a different personality, to succeed.
But perhaps at such moments we need to remember: Working for the sake of a higher goal gives us powers to transcend personal limitations, to overcome innate inclinations and even to merge opposites.
If our goal is to make our world a home for G‑d, contradictions, boundaries and impediments will be overcome.
Wishing you a successful week!