"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The goal of the Mitzvah campaigns

A newspaper report on the Lubavitch movement (see hereemphases added) states:
Emissaries ... credit Schneerson as the architect of the Lubavitch outreach approach, which asks Jews to fulfill specific commandments without demanding higher levels of general observance. Schmidt says that the rationale for this approach resides in the realm of Hasidic philosophy. “Every mitzvah that a person does makes a tremendous spiritual revolution in the world,” he said. “It’s not about becoming observant.”
This statement demands a response. I think it’s quite possible that what Rabbi Schmidt said was misunderstood, or taken out of context, but regardless, the way this idea is presented in this article is totally incorrect.

It is indeed true that every Mitzvah performed has immense inherent value, as it is written in Tanya chapter 25: “In the supernal realms, this Mitzvah is eternal and forever, for He and His will transcend time.” However, disseminating Judaism involves teaching all aspects of Jewish observance, not asking a Jew to perform one Mitzvah and suffice with that, G–d forbid. The goal is definitely to bring every Jew to follow the entire Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, for every Jew is equally obligated to fulfill these laws, regardless of whether he has observed them his entire life or he has never heard of them.

Perhaps what the spokesman meant to say is that the approach of the Chabad Mitzvah Campaigns (known as mivtzo’im) that the Rebbe initiated is to encourage Jews to grow one step at a time. The Rebbe explains (Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 33, p. 146-147) that this does not mean that one tells the beginner that he should compromise and decide to perform this Mitzvah to the exclusion of others. Rather, the beginner recognizes, or should be brought to recognize, that in his current state it is not feasible for him to suddenly start observing all the Mitzvos at once. Such a drastic change in lifestyle would be overwhelming and psychologically damaging for him, and he would be highly prone to abandon observance as quickly as he took it on. So in the meantime he must suffice with adopting several Mitzvos, or perhaps even one solitary Mitzvah, for that is all that he can handle in his current state of mind. And yet since “One Mitzvah brings another in its wake” (Avos 4:2), he will eventually come to keep all the Mitzvos. (See also here.)

The Rebbe compares this to teaching a child the 
alef beis. One can only teach one letter at a time, but even while the child learns the very first letter, the alef, he knows that there are many more letters that he does not yet know and that he will not be learning about just yet, but that with time and perseverance he will master.

This attitude should reflect itself in the approach of the one encouraging his fellow Jew to undertake this new Mitzvah. He should find the right words to make it clear that the only reason that a beginner can’t keep all the Mitzvos at once is due to his adverse circumstances, but that gradually, slowly but surely, his goal should be to grow in performance of Mitzvos until, with the help of Hashem and appropriate mentors, he will be fully Torah-observant.


  1. The question is what will your attitude be if after all the effort you pour into someone he does not end up becoming 100% observant, but he is doing one more mitzvah than he was doing before? What if, after ten years of shlichus you cannot point to a single mekurav who lives an observant life, but you have hundreds who are doing more mitzvos than they were, plus thousands who are doing no more that they were, but who did a mitzvah once under your influence?

    If you're an Aish "kiruv" worker, you will surely consider yourself to have failed. What was the point of all that effort, if they yielded no results? But if you're a Chabad shliach you will be happy with what you have achieved. Sure, you would like to have achieved more, but what you have done is also worth celebrating, because each mitzvah is inherently valuable, even if it's not part of a life of shmiras hamitzvos.

  2. Yes, that must have been what the spokesman meant to say, but it was unfortunately misunderstood.


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