“Would you take me as a partner in your business?”

Max Kotz, a member of the Lubavitch community in England, was shocked by the Rebbe’s question. For the Rebbe to be his business partner! Never in his wildest fantasies would he have dreamed of being made such an offer. He immediately agreed.

The Rebbe took out a token sum of dollars and gave it to Mr. Kotz as his investment. “In a partnership,” he reminded Mr. Kotz, “Neither partner should engage in a deal without the okay of the other. Do you agree?”

Mr. Kotz, an international fur dealer, was somewhat puzzled. What did the Rebbe know about furs? But he agreed. The Rebbe then advised him to purchase large quantities of a particular type of fur.

Mr. Kotz returned to England and invested several thousand dollars in the type of fur the Rebbe had suggested. When he advised the Rebbe of the purchase, the Rebbe answered that his investment had been far too conservative; a much larger quantity of fur should have been purchased. And so it went, back and forth, until on the Rebbe’s urging, Mr. Kotz had purchased truly astronomical quantities of the desired fur, investing his entire personal fortune and even borrowing large sums.

To Mr. Kotz’s surprise, the value of the fur that the Rebbe had advised him to buy began to plummet. Perhaps, he thought, he should sell at least some of the fur he had purchased. As promised, he contacted the Rebbe before making the sale. To his surprise, the Rebbe reminded him that, as partners, it was possible to sell only when both agreed, and at this time, the Rebbe continued, he did not agree to the sale.

The price of the fur continued to sink. And with it sank Mr. Kotz’s spirits; it seemed to him that he would certainly be ruined. He contacted the Rebbe repeatedly, but always received the same answer: Don’t sell! Worried about his financial future, he finally began to question his entire relationship with the Rebbe and Lubavitch. Perhaps it was all a mistake?

For several months, the price of the fur Mr. Kotz had purchased remained low. But then it suddenly began to rise. When it reached a level at which the loss was bearable, Mr. Kotz again consulted the Rebbe. “Maybe it’s time to sell?” But still the Rebbe refused. Again there followed a chain of telephone calls from Mr. Kotz to the Rebbe’s office as the price of the fur steadily advanced. At each juncture, Mr. Kotz desired to sell, and always the Rebbe advised him to wait.

As the price of the fur continued to rise, Mr. Kotz’s trust in the Rebbe also returned. Only when the price of the fur had doubled did the Rebbe finally agree that the time had come to sell. In a relatively short time, Mr. Kotz was able to sell his entire inventory at a resounding profit. Even after repaying the loans and calculating his costs, he had still made millions.

It was time, thought Mr. Kotz, to give his partner his share. At yechidus, the Rebbe declined to take a penny, instructing Mr. Kotz to donate the Rebbe’s share to different charitable causes throughout the world.

“Would you like to continue as partners?” Mr. Kotz asked hopefully. The Rebbe, however, demurred. “You’re a shvacher shutaf, too weak-hearted,” he replied.

Yud (10th of) Shevat marks the Rebbe’s assumption of the leadership of the Chabad movement. With the far-sighted vision that characterizes true leaders, the Rebbe charged us — both as individuals and as a community — with significant long-term missions, including the ultimate mission, preparing the world for the coming of the Redemption.

Often our limited perception and the descents and ascents that characterize mortal existence subject us to doubts and hesitations similar to those experienced by our fur dealer. Someone who is not “a weak-hearted partner” endeavors not only to heed the Rebbe’s instructions, but to expand his own horizons, so that he is comfortable with the mission in which the Rebbe has invited him to share.

Yud Shevat — The Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe
and the Anniversary of the Rebbe’s Ascent to the
Leadership of the Chabad Movement

The 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat is the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, who passed away on Yud Shevat 5710 (1950). A yahrzeit is the day on which a person’s Divine service is consummated. Each year, this anniversary gives others an opportunity to establish a connection to that person, learn from his life, and apply the lessons they learn in their own Divine service.

That same date is also the day on which the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, assumed leadership of Lubavitch a year later. Without diminishing its connection to the Previous Rebbe, this dimension of the date commands the focus of most chassidim today.

We are not interested in the events of 5710 (1950) and 5711 (1951) merely from a historical perspective. On the contrary, most of us are not historians, and what happened in the past is relevant only as it affects us today.

What is important about the 10th of Shevat is not that over 50 years ago the Rebbe became Rebbe, but that today, we can accept him as Rebbe and in doing so, enhance our own personal growth and spiritual development.

Once when the Rebbe was asked to elaborate on the nature of his position, he explained that he is a miner. Just as a miner digs into the depths of the earth, sifts through much dirt and stone, and ultimately comes up with jewels and precious metals, so, too, the Rebbe teaches and empowers us to penetrate to the depths of our being and reveal the inner G‑dliness dormant within our souls.

Now going beneath the surface of our personalities is not particularly new. For over a century, psychologists have spoken about this goal, and in the last decades motivational specialists and personal growth coaches have become a major part of even the corporate structure of western society. So what’s new about the Rebbe’s approach?

The novelty is not in the idea of digging, but what one comes up with when one digs.

Secular psychologists have dug and come up with passions and fears that diminish rather than enhance our humanity. Humanists have dug and come up with existential despair and emptiness. The Rebbe dug and came up with G‑dliness.

Why do the psychologists come up with fears and passions, or the humanists with despair, when they try to probe beneath a person’s surface?

Because that is their own inner mindset. They do not set out to diminish man’s potential. Quite the contrary, they want to help; they are well-intentioned and honest.

But that very honesty causes them to project their own image over humanity as a whole. You can’t blame them for that. They are human and this is the way they see man. But what is their image of themselves or of man in general? And what is the image of man the Rebbe projects?

They look around at their environment and try to make sense out of the different forces and factors they see. They discover patterns and share them with others. By doing so, they reinforce the patterns that they discover.

The Rebbe operates from a different perspective. What is significant is not what he or other people see or want in this world, but what G‑d wants. Why did G‑d create the world? And why did He create this particular person, this particular situation, and this particular moment?

The question motivates the answer. It frees a person to look beyond his own individual horizons and see a larger picture — a Divine picture.

Most of us do not ask these questions naturally. But as we connect with the Rebbe, study his teachings, follow his directives, and endeavor to understand his motivation, we learn to do so.

Looking to the Horizon

Extending this approach further, one looks to the era when G‑d’s conception of the world will blossom into manifest fulfillment: the era of the Redemption. For just as every particular entity was created with a purpose, so, too, the world at large was brought into being with a goal. As our Sages comment, “The world was created solely for Mashiach.”

For that reason it is important to learn about the era of the Redemption and appreciate the mindset that will prevail at that time. As we become more acquainted with G‑d’s purpose for creation, we are more capable of prodding that purpose into fulfillment and enabling the world to reach that desired state.