In the pouring rain my brother-in-law and I walked to Flatbush on Shavuos, about 10 years ago, for tahalucha. I mentioned a story I had just read about the Baal Shem Tov, and wondered if I should include it in my talk. On the one hand, the Baal Shem Tov’s yahrzeit is on Shavuos, so it was timely; on the other hand, the story in no way related to the rest of my talk. “Just say it,” my brother-in-law urged. “Everyone likes a good story.” As we arrived, the rain stopped. The locals showed up without coats but we were soaked to the bone. To add to our discomfort, many people left right after mincha, before I had a chance to start speaking. I began with the story – an account of how the Baal Shem Tov once prevented an intermarriage – and then continued with the d’var Torah. After maariv, a man approached us and asked if we’d stop at his house on our way back to Crown Heights. As we walked, he explained, “I wasn’t planning to stay for your speech, but when I heard you start the story of the Baal Shem Tov I stood at the door, listening. I ended up staying for the whole talk, but it’s the story that I want you to repeat at my home. One of my guests tonight is in a relationship with a non-Jew, and hearing this story from you may influence him.”
I don’t know the outcome of that evening, but as we walked home we had a strong feeling that the purpose of the entire trip was for that Jew to hear that story. Two things occurred to me as I recalled the experience this year. One of the Baal Shem Tov’s fundamental teachings is that everything is Divinely orchestrated with individual and exact supervision. That year, we merited to see the hashgacha protis. This year, I’m reminded that everything going on today – the drastic changes to our plans, jobs, and routines – is entirely planned by Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov’s yahrzeit is an auspicious time to reflect on this teaching, and resolve to strengthen and internalize its message. The other thought I had is something we discussed before Pesach but remains relevant. Each year, as per the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s directives, chassidim across the globe march like soldiers on Shavuos to bring the joy of yom tov to thousands of shuls. What will happen this year when we are so restricted? A unique time calls for a unique tahalucha, and we can rise to the challenge. This year, let your fingers do the talking. Before yom tov, think of someone you know who would appreciate a virtual tahalucha. Pick up the phone, send a WhatsApp message, or Facetime an old friend. We can exchange a vort in Torah or Chassidus and give each other much-needed chizuk. There are no limits this year. Even if you usually sit out because of stage fright or difficulty walking or young children to care for… this year, you can join from the comfort and safety of your home. Women and children, too. Don’t overthink it. Don’t worry about what to say or exactly when to call. Just take the plunge and know that when we do the right thing, Hashem helps us do it correctly. Wishing you, in the words of our Rebbeim, “kabolas haTorah b’simcha uve’penimius,” and may we all merit to go on the greatest tahalucha of all: a grand march to the third Beis HaMikdash, very soon.
Good Shabbos, Rabbi Lipskier