I was at a chassidic gathering where the Chabad rabbi was discussing overcoming adversity. He used the Yiddish saying of the fourth Chabad rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash: "l’chatchila ariber." What exactly does that mean?


I'm happy you asked the question. The saying is indeed used often in Chabad circles, and it holds an idea that is important to articulate.

This saying originated with the Rebbe Maharash, who stated:

The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place!

The phrase “leap over it in the first place” in the original Yiddish is “l’chatchila ariber.”

Here's one way I understand this saying:

It's an attitude thing. Generally speaking, when a problem arises, we go into "crisis mode," trying to figure out ways to dance around the issue and get by. What l’chatchila ariber is telling us is that we should jump over a problem almost as if it never existed in the first place (except for the fact that we have to summon the strength to leap, as opposed to simply walking).

For example, people are often apologetic about their Judaism, keeping a low profile in order to avoid being different. With a healthy l’chatchila ariber approach, you’re never fazed in the first place, knowing that there is nothing that can hold you back from doing G‑d's will.

The same attitude of moving forward with happiness and optimism can be applied to other kinds of obstacles as well. As the Rebbe wrote in a letter:

I have just received your letter . . . in which you describe your present [poor] state of health.

Surely you have heard of the saying of the Rebbe Maharash: The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place!

This applies in your case as well.

Indeed, it would seem that the state of openly revealed joy should be delayed until after you are actually healed. Nevertheless, in keeping with the above-mentioned saying, it is reasonable to express this joy resulting from your eventual healing, although the actual healing has yet to take place.

Not only that, but the joy itself will be a catalyst to hasten your healing. This is in keeping with the saying often heard from the rebbes of Chabad: “Think positively, and you will see positive results.” Most assuredly this will be effective when you transfer these positive thoughts into joyous words and deeds . . .1

Finally, in some contexts, l’chatchila ariber is used much like Nike's famous “JUST DO IT” slogan. When the opportunity presents itself to do a mitzvah, we should JUST DO IT, acting decisively and with joy, without overthinking or becoming self-conscious.