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Rebbe’s army marches victorious



Rabbi Asher Deren, Chabad of the West Coast – Cape Town

For my wife, Zeesy, and I, our common heritage as grandchildren of Holocaust survivors has always given us a shared sensitivity to our generation’s responsibility to ensure, “never again”. While my grandfather passed away before I had a chance to know him, his close friend with whom he escaped from Nazi ravaged Poland – Rabbi Shimon Goldman, whose granddaughter I was blessed to marry – taught me a lesson that I aspire to live, learn, and celebrate – a lesson that he taught the world 70 years ago this week.

This week, the Jewish world marks the 70th anniversary of the leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of righteous memory, who reluctantly assumed the position following the passing of his father, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of blessed memory.

In the Goldman family, this celebration has taken on a very personal meaning because just two weeks after the passing of the previous rebbe 70 years ago, zeideh (grandfather) and bubbeh Goldman were blessed with a son whom they named Yosef Yitzchok, or “Yossy” as Rabbi Yossy Goldman is known to the thousands of South Africans whose lives he and rebbetzin Rochel have touched since the rebbe sent them as his personal ambassadors here.

Today, their 11 children serve with distinction in the “Rebbe’s Army”, whether in formal positions or as lay leaders in the rebbe’s institutions across the globe in Melbourne, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Uruguay, Philadelphia, and Hawaii. As this elite unit of 11 in the Rebbe’s Army gathers at Sydenham Shul for the 70th birthday celebration this week, some may wonder where this army comes from.

This Shabbat, we read the story of the first liberation – not from Auschwitz, but Egypt. Here, too, Hashem refers to us three times in Parshat Bo as an army – tzivot Hashem (from the root word tzava, which means army, like Tzavah Haganah LeYisrael – the IDF).

In the landmark Bosi Ligani Maamer, the rebbe explains that the word comes from the same root as the word tzevayon, which means colour or diversity of colours because in Hashem’s army, it’s our diversity of strengths, and embracing through ahavat Yisrael (the Jewish people) the differences between us, that empowers us to truly transform the world, as those survivors of Egypt and today’s survivors of Auschwitz did.

Every Jew today is a Holocaust survivor. And whether we are major Barak in the IDF or the Goldman family in the Rebbe’s Army, our colours are coming together to lead us to the victory of revealing this entire world, from Auschwitz to Jerusalem and everywhere in between, as the garden of Hashem, where colours shine brightest.

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