When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

Cliche, but true. Hard times tend to bring out powers in people that lie latent the rest of their lives. There are countless tales of a single person lifting a car off of someone pinned down, parents working multiple full time jobs to put bread on the table, and people enduring unimaginable pain to gain a chance of survival. There is just something about trials and tribulations that gets to our very core and makes us figure out who we really are and what we stand for.

Generally human beings won’t give up in the face of life-threatening adversity; in fact, for the most part the complete opposite is true. Jewish history in particular  is replete with such stresses and strains and tests of our faith. Think Egypt, the Chanukah story, the Purim Story, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Soviet religious oppression, and of course the Holocaust. Each and every time, the Jewish people have persevered, and stories of heroism in the face of horror inevitably emerge.

But what happens when things are good? When no one is out to kill us every time we set foot beyond our own doorsteps? When we live in a country of religious freedom to a degree that has never been seen in the history of mankind?

We are in an era (thank G-d) where we can afford to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a total luxury. But sometimes that luxury comes with unwanted side effects. Complacency. Over-confidence. Even arrogance. We stop pushing ourselves and our abilities. We settle into a pattern that’s comfortable, but not at all indicative of what we’re truly capable of.

Who can blame us really?

After thousands of years of persecution, who wouldn’t want a break? Can we really be criticized for wanting to bask in the sun-shining rays of democracy for a little while?

No, we can’t be blamed. But we can be challenged. If someone approaches us and says, “Things are good right now. But couldn’t they be great?” and paints us a picture of a perfect world… one where hunger disappears, war is a distant memory, and knowledge flows like water… and then shows us a road-map of little things we can do to bring this world from tolerable to incredible…

Maybe it’s unsettling to think about. It’s easier to stay in our comfortable bubble and complain about inconveniences and far-off battles and politicians every now and then before returning to our three square meals a day, nice houses, and brand new cars.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you like the bubble), there are certain people who know just what to say and do to really shake us up. They are the leaders. The true visionaries. There is someone in every generation that knows how to reach into the depths of a person’s soul and rattle our sleeping talents and determination. They challenge us to not be satisfied with the world as it is, to dig deeper and do what it takes to make this world a better, more wholesome place.

Today we remember a great luminary, a man whose legacy is larger than life, someone who continues to push us to fulfill our greatest potential even 19 years after his passing. To the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who has changed my life and the lives of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of Jews and non-Jews alike, around the world… Thank you. Thank you for never letting us settle for anything less than the best we can be, for showing us what we’re truly capable of doing, and for encouraging us every step of the way.

He gave us a mission: to make this world into the perfect, G-dly place that it’s capable of being… one mitzvah, one act of kindness, or one coin of charity at a time.

I think once and for all, we need to believe that we’re capable of doing everything that the Rebbe has always known we can…

Lubavitcher Rebbe ztl

Here’s to new challenges and amazing accomplishments… L’Chaim!

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of Blessed Memory, passed away on this date (3 Tammuz) exactly 19 years ago, after single-handedly changing the face of world Jewry. He has impacted hundreds of thousands of people both personally and through his 4,500 emissaries spread out in every corner of the globe. Click here to read more about the life and legacy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.