The Rebbe held a farbrengen this Shabbos. However, it was not very freilich. The Rebbe has everyone’s worries on his head, especially regarding Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel).

During this farbrengen, the Rebbe spoke about the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos, which we study on the Shabbos before Shavuos.

Shavuos is the anniversary of the day we received the Torah. The sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos is referred to as “kinyan Hatorah” (acquisition of Torah).

In mishna nine we learn: “Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma related: I was once walking along the road when I met a man who greeted me and I returned his greeting. He said to me, ‘Rabbi, what place are you from?’ I told him that ‘I come from a great city of scholars and scribes.’ He said to me, ‘If you are willing to live with us in our city, I will give you millions of golden coins and precious stones and pearls.’ To which I answered, ‘If you give me all the silver, gold, precious stones and diamonds in the world, I would not live anywhere, but where there was Torah.’”

It is unusual to find such a lengthy detailed story in Pirkei Avos, or anywhere in the mishna. [The Rebbe examined this story minutely:]

We infer from “I was once walking along the road,” that Rabbi Yosi did not usually travel around. Therefore, the only reason he was “walking” now must have been for the sake of fulfilling a certain mitzvah.

“I met a man who greeted me.” According to Jewish etiquette and good manners (as is stated elsewhere in Pirkei Avos) one should always be the first to greet another. Rabbi Yosi, upon seeing this man, should actually have greeted him first. However, since Rabbi Yosi must have been in the midst of studying (per another mishna in Pirkei Avos cautioning even someone who is traveling to study Torah) he was not allowed to interrupt his learning in order to greet someone. Nevertheless, once a person had greeted him first, it was imperative, not only permissible (even if the midst of Torah study) to reciprocate these greetings.

“Rabbi, what place are you from?” When the man saw how Rabbi Yosi was engaged in learning even while traveling, he correctly deduced that Rabbi Yosi was an esteemed rabbi. He also surmised, this time incorrectly, that Rabbi Yosi was dissatisfied with his own town and was thus leaving, “walking along the road.”

He only wanted to know which town Rabbi Yosi came from in order to find out whether he was the only rabbi there, for if he was the sole rabbi, it would be unethical to even offer Rabbi Yosi this job.

Rabbi Yosi replied that he came from a city with many scholars and scribes. In that case, the man assumed, if Rabbi Yosi were to relocate, his city would not miss him. He was now able to offer Rabbi Yosi the job. Rabbi Yosi could even demand his own terms! If he just accepted this position, he could continue studying Torah in this man’s town, and the town would supply all his material needs.

Rabbi Yosi replied that even if offered all the money in the world, he would only move to a place renowned for Torah scholarship.

Rabbi Leibel Groner later pointed out how, according to Lubavitch doctrine, rabbis and leaders are encouraged to leave the Rebbe’s side! They are called upon to move out into the world, to any place where there are Jewish people, and to sacrifice their own material as well as spiritual comfort for the benefit of other Jews and Judaism. It is infinitely easier to be an Orthodox Jew near the Rebbe, with every type of Jewish amenity available for the taking. To go out as the Rebbe’s representative to some outlying Jewish community and be solely responsible for establishing kosher food and Jewish education, now that is a very different and a difficult proposition.

During the course of this farbrengen, the Rebbe called me up to the dais and poured a little vodka into my cup and wished me l’chaim. The Rebbe then handed me the bottle and told me to distribute the remainder to those assembled here; not to take it back to Manchester. After fulfilling the Rebbe’s request, by finishing the bottle, I turned it upside down to show the Rebbe that I had obeyed his instructions.

Later in the farbrengen, the Rebbe spoke with great anguish concerning the “Mihu Yehudi” (Who is a Jew) debacle in Israel. It is heart-wrenching to watch the Rebbe’s genuine concern, disappointment, and frustration vis-à-vis this law. It has now been going on for over four years!

The Rebbe again showed displeasure with a certain cabinet minister who (finally) said he would resign from his post in protest over this issue – but not just yet – in a few weeks’ time. Of course, he had a good job and did not want to give that up so fast. The Rebbe pointed out that since this minister knew that what was going on was against the Torah, he was required to resign immediately. The same logic compelling him to resign later applied now. The Rebbe cited the fact that a prime minister of Germany [Willie Brandt –ZJ] held a much higher position in a wealthier (materially) country, yet when he realized that he was doing something wrong, he immediately resigned.