The third of Tammuz (July 1) marks the 20th yahrzeit of a spiritual giant of our time – the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of saintly blessed memory.
In his forty years of leading the Lubavitch movement, the Rebbe created Judaism’s largest and most dynamic global Jewish educational network. There are close to 4,000 Lubavitch branches worldwide.
I want to focus here on a particular aspect of the Rebbe’s leadership. The 20th century witnessed a number of spiritual giants who labored to enhance the spirituality of the Jewish people. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was unique in that he also labored to directly enhance the spirituality of non-Jews.
To be sure, Jews don’t proselytize. The Rebbe was not out to convince non-Jews to become Jews. The Rebbe’s efforts were focused on non-Jews being spiritual via observance of the seven Noahide Laws (which the Almighty commanded).
After the Flood, God made a pact with Noah and his family consisting of Seven Laws that all mankind must observe: 1) to worship God alone; 2) not to blaspheme God; 3) not to murder; 4) not to commit sexual misdeeds; 5) not to steal; 6) not to be cruel to animals (specifically not consuming the limb of an animal before taking its life); 7) to pursue justice as a society (the opposite of anarchy).
God communicated to Moshe Rabbeinu that He had made this pact with Noah and instructed Moshe to inform the Jewish people that they have an obligation to influence mankind to observe these laws (see the Rambam’s Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings, chapter 8, laws 10 and 11).
Throughout our lengthy exile, this teaching of our responsibility to disseminate these laws to all mankind has, for a variety of reasons, been overlooked.
The gedolei hador, the great Torah leaders, did not push their followers to focus on the obligation of disseminating the seven Noahide laws to mankind. Not so the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He dynamically mandated Jews to realize their Torah obligation and disseminate these seven Noahide laws to non-Jews.
The Torah charges Jews to be God-conscious themselves and to influence non-Jews to be God-conscious. God-consciousness is the basis of these seven laws, even as it is the basis of the entire Torah.
We can disseminate our God-consciousness in a very simple way. When someone asks you how you are feeling, respond by saying “Thank God.” When making an appointment, say “God willing, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Let your non-Jewish friends observe your God-consciousness. Be an example and an exemplar of God-consciousness.
Hence, when getting into a cab, I ask the cab driver, “Did you thank God today?” and this invariably launches a God-consciousness conversation.
Once I jumped into a cab at La Guardia airport. I asked the black Haitian cab driver, “Did you thank God today?” I almost fell out of the taxi when he turned his head to me and, beaming, responded in Hebrew with a distinct “Galitzianer” dialect, “Boorich Hashem yoim yoim” (“Thank God day by day”).
I smilingly asked, “Where did you pick up this phrase?”
He told me that before starting to drive a cab he’d worked six years for a chassidic haberdasher on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Every morning he would be at the haberdasher’s side when the haberdasher would open the door. When the haberdasher saw that everything was fine, he would say those words: “Boorich Hashem yoim yoim.”
“After a while,” the cab driver recounted, “I asked, ‘What do those words mean?’ He told me they mean ‘Thank God day by day’ – and I have been thanking God day by day ever since. When you asked me if I thanked God today, I figured you would appreciate my responding in Hebrew.”