The Immigrant’s Credo

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The following is a freely-translated excerpt from a letter written to a chassid living in a midwestern US city by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, during his year-long visit to the United States in 1929-1930:[17]

…The people of your community made a most positive impression on me. I enjoyed seeing the arousal of the inner vitality and sensitivity [of the Jewish soul], which, though it is covered with the dust of the roadways of life and enveloped in the cloak of material cares, glitters “through the lattice,”[18] making it an easy matter, with the help of G-d, to awaken it and bring it forth from concealment to revelation.

In every Torah-knowledgeable Jew, the divine lamp [of Torah] illuminates the darkness of his material self, so that he may contemplate the purpose of his being upon this earth, what it is that G-d desires of him in the mission He entrusted to his soul, and what is the purpose of his wanderings from land to land.

For can it be that it was solely for the sake of bread and meat, for the feeding of your own body or the sustaining of your household, that G-d has driven you from the land of your birth and dwelling, distanced you from your parents, your family and the graves of your grandparents, placed in your hand the wanderer’s staff, and dispatched you to a foreign land and alien environment where you have neither friend nor acquaintance? Can it be that all this was merely to provide forage for your flesh?

Can any man imagine that the Almighty G-d, who feeds and sustains every creature and provides a livelihood for every living thing—who provides nourishment to a worm residing in a barren wilderness—would so trouble the most select of His creations only to obtain its daily bread?

Certainly what we are witnessing is G-d’s guidance of the steps of man, for each and every Jew is an instrument in the hands of the Divine Providence.

We know what our sages have said[19] regarding the verse, “The charity of His dispersion of Israel”[20]—that G-d has done a kindness to the people of Israel in dispersing them amongst the nations. For if the people of Israel, their Torah and faith are persecuted, G-d forbid, in one country, the strengthening of Torah learning in another country, besides illuminating its own place with its goodly light, also strengthens and empowers those who find themselves under siege and oppression, G-d forbid, to hold their own, overpower their adversaries and fulfill the Torah and its commandments with great sacrifice….[21]

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber


[17]. The letter was written in Chicago on the 17th of Adar, 5690 (March 17, 1930), and refers to an address the Rebbe delivered in the recipient’s hometown about a week earlier; thus the letter is probably to a chassid living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which the Rebbe visited on March 10.

[18]. Cf. Song of Songs 2:9.

[19]. Talmud, Pesachim 87b.

[20]. Judges 5:11.

[21]. Igrot Kodesh Maharayatz, vol. II, pp. 241-242.

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