Dear Friends,

There are few occasions in our lives when we have the opportunity to meet someone who has a profound, positive influence on our future. Although I don't need constant reminders of the Rebbe of blessed memory, today as with every year on this date, the birthday of this great mentor of mine, is very special to me.

When I was a young boy of 11, my class held a competition to memorize a book of daily thoughts.  It is still fresh in my memory, how our teacher would ask us: " What is  the thought of March 11?" and we would have to rattle it off.  There were only two others who participated and as a reward, we were treated to a trip to New York, during which we visited with the Rebbe, whose custom was to give out dollars every week to people from all walks of life.  When my turn arrived and I told the Rebbe what we had memorized, he gave me a dollar, and then a second.  (Please see the photo — yes, that is me)  He looked me straight in the eye and I vividly remember his saying, that he wished me success in my continued studies.  As I looked around me, I saw that I was surrounded by a person who could be a head of state, and one who flew in from a great distance like Australia — and yet, the Rebbe took the time to speak with an 11-year old because he recognized that every person needed a special moment and would eventually contribute to the community in some way. 

There is no doubt in my mind, that whatever success we enjoy here and now, began  then, with those principles he lived and taught to us: to reach out, to believe, to persevere. Have faith in yourself and your potential and you can achieve so very much.  In those few moments, his endless love and his teachings, exemplified by how he lived his own life, were instilled in me.  

Images are powerful, and those of the Rebbe extending a hand to help other human beings reach their potential, are innumerable. You may be aware, sadly, how many people judge books by their covers, people may have preconceived notions about them.  At the heart of the Rebbe's philosophy was a deep belief in the Divine image that all people share;  to this end, he strove to tear down the external barriers of appearance that might have divided, rather than united people. To him, all of us were indeed equal and should be offered the opportunity to develop our G‑d-given potential.

Here in this video (click here)is an example of one interesting encounter with an African American neighbor in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, that might convey the Rebbe's philosophy to you. Who else took the time, to show these two children, by example, how to begin with love and respect for oneself and to let it flow outwards to encompass each and every other person without reservation.  His simple acts of lovingkindness influenced everyone, without regard for race, color or creed, to live a life of exemplary goodness. As he influenced these young men, let the memory of his life serve as  your role model too.

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom!


Rabbi Fishel