Thursday, March 27, 2008

What a Chabad Prinicpal can achieve, anti-racism education experts can only dream about.

Long time readers of this blog know that I am in midst of writing a book. It should have been done by now but my hard drive fried about a year and a bit ago and the book went up in a puff of cyber smoke. Of course, I hadn’t done anything practical like back up my hard drive or print out hard copies (of even my notes) - so I have had to start from scratch. The pace has been more ebb then flows as I keeping getting bogged down in researching background material for my story. The background material has lead to some truly fascinating reading and I have had a tendency to get a mite carried away with one idea after another.

What many of you don’t know is that my story centers around one of Mal’akh Ha’maret or Angels of Death. I got the idea for the story in a bookstore after a chance encounter with an obviously mentally ill homeless woman who was presumably begging outside the bookstore the children and I were entering.

I say presumably because she didn’t ask me for money although she did ask everyone before me. What she did ask me was whether I knew I was walking with Angels. She appeared to be quite taken back by the idea. At the time, I answered quite smugly that I did know - as I had one of my children on either side of me. Thinking about her comment in the bookstore brought back a slight remembrance of a Talmudic story my grandfather once told me. The memory of it is somewhat elusive even now. It had something to do with two of Mal’akh being sent to follow you home after davening in a shul. One was to strength your good intentions while the other sought to encourage your bad intentions. I only remember it because I remember thinking it hardly seemed fair or just. Anyway, the woman’s comment triggered this vague memory which got me thinking about guardian angels and wondering if they ever get distracted. Don’t ask how logically walking with angels lead to a distracted guardian angel which leads to an angel of death but just know one idea inevitably flows into another in my mind.

My grandfather had an early association with Breslovers, and then with Chabad at the end of his life. Until recently, I never really did much reading concerning the Chassidic movement in general, but researching this book has lead me down some strange paths. Currently, I am in the midst of reading Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson’s discourses on Heaven on Earth and Forces of Creation. It is a little hard to avoid learning anything about the Chabad movement without learning a great deal about the last Lubavitch Rebbe as well. Now I am not ready to name him the Moshiach but I am beginning to think of him as one of the truly inspired of our time.

Normally, a Chassidic Jew would live very separate and apart from the secular community surrounding his religious community - as in - not even in death shall the twain shall meet. Rabbi Schneerson changed all that with his Chabad movement or his own particular brand of Jewish outreach. Rebbe Schneerson sent out specially trained rabbis to act as Shulichim (his personal embassaries) with the goal of establishing Chabad Houses literally all over the world with the express purpose of bringing back secular Jews to a more religious life one mitzvah at a time.

In the Lubavitch tradition a ‘tish’ (or table meal) with a Rebbe or Chabad Shaliach is often referred to a farbrengen. I found this video courtesy of a commenter at Joe Settler’s blog and decided maybe the next time Toronto School Board Trustees need to go recruiting for principals for secondary schools in Toronto - they start by wangling an invitation for the next Chabad farbrengen.

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