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UGANDA

Friday, 24 November, 2017 - 1:16 pm

Esther and I are often asked what is the most challenging part of living as a Chabad rabbi and an observant Jew in Boise, Idaho. How do you manage without all the kosher foods you are accustomed to? Do you really need to travel 5 hours to the nearest mikvah? Do your children resent not having any friends ‘just like them?’

I was privileged last week to attend the annual Kinus Hashluchim – the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. At the conference, the opening of a permanent Chabad center in Kampala, Uganda was announced. Chabad is now officially in 100 countries!

Having spent time in Uganda as a ‘Roving Rabbi’ in the Chabad Summer Peace Corps program, I know it’s not an easy assignment.  Yet, I also know that the new Rabbi & Rebbetzin are overjoyed at the assignment. Just as their colleagues in Bangor, Maine and Accra, Ghana – they will serve with vigor and jubilation.

No, it’s not because we Chabadniks are oblivious to life’s challenges. Raising the entirety of our nonprofit’s budget, raising eight children בלי עין הרע, and raising a community – are tasks that don’t quite allow me to have my head in the sand. So, what is it about these thousands of rabbis, who joyfully sign up to live the rest of their lives in such remote and small communities?

***

In this week’s parsha, Vayetzeh, Yaakov lives for a couple decades with his uncle, Lavan in Charan. Lavan, it turns out, is a swindler.  Yaakov marries, raises a family and amasses a fortune. When he finally leaves, Lavan gives chase and confronts him, alleging that Yaakov has kidnapped his daughters and grandchildren. At that point, Yaakov ‘has had enough.’

“Already twenty years have I been with you, and your ewes and she goats have not aborted, neither have I eaten the rams of your flocks.  I have not brought home to you anything torn by other animals; I would suffer its loss; from my hand you would demand it, what was stolen by day and what was stolen at night.  I was in the field by day when the heat consumed me, and the frost at night, and my sleep wandered from my eyes,” he declares.

How could you dare you accuse me of being unfaithful!

Interestingly, the Torah tells of Lavan’s shenanigans earlier in the parsha. But, never does it mention Yakkov’s gripes – until he is gone.  Why doesn’t Yaakov voice his discomfort and lodge his complaints while with Lavan?

I’d like to offer that Yaakov was acutely aware of these challenges. Yet, during his time in Charan, Yaakov was so consumed with giving, that these things simply were not material to him. He was preoccupied with the things that matter in life. His lovely family, raising Jewish children, teaching others Torah – were all at the epicenter of his life. Everything else paled in comparison. Only, after he left and reflected on it, did he realize how difficult his conditions were.

When, for example, a mother is busy caring for her children, she does not even notice her own discomfort. If you’d stop and ask, she’d admit that it technically exists. But, it doesn’t register. She’s too excited with the task at hand.

***

I salute my fellow Shluchim, who have taken Yaakov’s lead and focused on helping their brethren – no matter where in the world and no matter the sacrifice. Actually, what sacrifice?! It’s all a pleasure. It really is!

Let’s all be Shluchim and help another. Try it. You just might enjoy it more than your own problems.

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