Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Several years ago I wrote an article for the website Chabad.org, responding to an “ask the rabbi” question about the personality of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, who was sent to find a wife for his master’s son, bIsaac. The title of the article was “Why is Eliezer anonymous?” because in fact, Eliezer’s name is not mentioned in the story at all.
A few years after the article was published it was again featured on the Chabad.org homepage as well as in the weekly e-magazine, coinciding with the Torah portion in which the story is read. It happened to be the week of the international conference of Chabad rabbis, held every fall in Brooklyn.
Over that weekend, I was ribbed more than once by colleagues and friends from around the world about Eliezer being anonymous. It was not lost on me, and obviously my friends, the irony that the subject of the article shared a name with the author.
Although the comments were made mostly in jest, there was still something thought provoking about them. It reminded me that despite each of us being leaders in our respective communities, in the bigger picture we are actually “anonymous.” This may not be evident at all times, but when we come together, some 3,000 rabbis from the furthest reaches of the globe, I recognized that we are all but one piece of a much greater endeavor. Greater than each of us as individuals, and greater than anything we can accomplish on our own.
When the Rebbe sent his first emissaries in the 1950s, no one in his wildest imagination (except for the Rebbe himself) envisioned Chabad being where it’s at today. But despite the tremendous growth spanning six decades, the mission always remained the same; bring Judaism with a smile to every single Jew. And to that end, there is no difference between a Chabad rabbi in Cape Town, Istanbul, Liverpool, Santa Fe, and even Munster. We are “anonymous” because we are not it for ourselves, but to fulfil the mission entrusted to us by the Rebbe. It is not about the individual rabbi, instead we focus on bringing the whole Jewish world together, regardless of geographic distances.
And this weekend, as we once again convene for the annual conference, these 3,000 anonymous rabbis, who all look and dress the same, will be reminded of this charge. We are here to serve all Jews regardless of background, affiliation, and even whom they voted for. At Chabad, every single Jew fits right in, because at the core, we are all the same.
Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov