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Monday, December 11, 2023 - 28 Kislev 5784
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Lights in India

As we were going to print we heard the horrifying news of rocket attacks at Israel population centers with devastating losses. Among those killed was a young pregnant woman, Mrs. Mira Scharf, a Shluchah (emissary) of the Rebbe in New Delhi, India, who was visiting family in Israel. What made this death particularly shocking was that it took place four years to the day after the terrorist killing of another Shluchah to India, Mrs. Rivky Holtzberg of Bombay.  

The parallels between the lives of these two women is uncanny. Both of them left the comforts of home in Israel to take up a post in a particularly difficult environment, in India. Both were known for their open-hearted generosity, cheerfully hosting between 50-100 people per week at their Shabbat table. Both left behind young children not quite old enough to remember them. Both also lost an unborn child. Both died on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, a day that chassidim celebrate since 1978, when the Rebbe recuperated from a heart attack, and within the week of the annual convention of Shluchim.

Chassidut teaches us that when we face hardships and challenges, this is a sign that our work is threatening the Satan and he is doubling down his efforts to fight us. And when we overcome those challenges, we come out stronger than ever before. We learned this lesson from the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen from Liadi, who in 1798 was imprisoned by the Czar in St. Petersburg and accused of being a traitor. Rabbi Schneur Zalmen successfully refuted all the charges against him and was released on the 19th of Kislev, which chassidim celebrate to this day as the “Holiday of Redemption.”

His imprisonment was a demarcation line between two epochs in Chassidic history, “before Petersburg” and “after Petersburg.” Before his arrest and imprisonment, the Alter Rebbe disseminated Chassidic teachings, but on a smaller scale. Before his imprisonment he taught in brief, esoteric remarks, while after Petersburg he taught lengthy, well-developed dissertations. Following his release, the Alter Rebbe took it as permission granted from on high to open the wellsprings far and wide, and let all Jews come and drink of the life-giving waters of Chassidut.

We can look at what happened in Mumbai four years ago, and in Israel recently, as a challenge to the whole enterprise of Shlichut, especially to those remote or primitive locations where Shlichut is particularly challenging. And our response is to say, we will not let their sacrifice be in vain. The cause to which they dedicated their lives must go on, greater and stronger than ever. The mission will go on in Bombay, and in New Delhi, and in any corner of the world where the light and warmth of Judaism has not yet penetrated. Our idealistic young Shluchim and Shluchot will not be stopped by evil, they will not be vanquished by darkness. And this Chanukah, thousands of public menorahs around the world will light up, testimony to the power and force of the Rebbe’s Shluchim, who will not rest in their goal to prepare the entire world for the coming of Moshiach.


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