Contributed by Rabbi Mendy Greenberg, Mat-Su Jewish Center - Chabad Lubavitch
People are more influenced by the things they do than by the knowledge they are taught.
This truth was embodied by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, one the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. After accepting the mantle of leadership of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, he tirelessly educated his students and admirers an inner dimension of life through traditional means of teaching and mostly through inspiring them to action.
Over the years, he directed thousands of emissaries to move out to abandoned outposts of Jewish life to bring the joy of living Judaism there, thus developing Chabad into the most influential force in Judaism today. As one scholar observed, “This was not a man who was interested in creating followers. Instead, this was a man who was passionate about creating leaders.”
Beyond his empire of goodness, the Rebbe sought to cultivate leadership qualities in every human being. In the quest of transforming our world into a better a place, every inhabitant of our planet plays a crucial role in this collective mission.
The Rebbe identified simple yet profound actions that can be adopted by everyone and turned them into revolutionary campaigns.
In 1974, he introduced the “charity” campaign. Not a fundraiser for a specific cause or a call to philanthropists to write out big checks. Rather, a grassroots campaign to train us all to become “givers.”
This idea was adapted from a concept articulated by the 12th century Jewish sage and philosopher Maimonides. Is it better to donate a large sum of money to charity in one time or to give smaller sums more often?
It depends on the context. Big checks get big things done fast, but to transform people into “givers” - how often they give is more impactful than how much they give. Everyone should become a “giver” and it is within our reach.
The Rebbe’s charity campaign aims to educate people of all ages and stages to become “givers” by giving money to charity every day, even a little bit. To revolutionize our sense of purpose and perspective without hearing a single lecture.
Every Sunday, beginning in 1986, thousands of people would come to see the Rebbe, seeking his blessings and advice. The Rebbe handed each person a dollar bill to be given to charity. He explained that when two people meet, the encounter should benefit a third, so he would give each visitor a mission of charity to perpetuate the good will of the brief encounter.
During one such meeting, a father requested the Rebbe’s blessing for his son who had severe autism and was living in a special home in England. The Rebbe advised him to place a charity box in the young man’s room. “He will be able to give charity and remind others to do so as well.”
Several months later, the parents reported back that installing the charity box in their son’s bedroom had had a positive impact on his development.
As we observe the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing on Tuesday, June 27, I encourage you to join the Rebbe’s “charity campaign.” Place a charity box in a central location of your home and encourage your family members to start each day by placing a coin in the box. Bring this campaign to the wider public by doing the same in your work space. Educators can transform their classrooms into “giving” spaces by beginning their daily lessons with this simple act of kindness.
Together we will make this world a better and more peaceful place for us all.
To learn more about the Rebbe, please visit TheRebbe.org