A Message from Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum

Excerpts from the Chabad's Bar Mitzvah Celebration on December 11, 2011

In my minds eye, I have seen this day since I am a child growing up in Squirrel Hill. I would attend the Yeshiva dinners in this very hall as part of the Yeshiva’s boy’s choirled by my father may he live and be well. From that time forward I knew I wanted to be part of what turns out to have been just the early stages of Jewish revolution, the likes of which the world has never seen with Chabad Centers in every corner of Pittsburgh and indeed every corner of the world!

Dreams can take a while to be fulfilled, and are at times fulfilled in installments. We are here tonight to celebrate at least an installment of that dream. Batya and I thank Hashem for all of the blessings he has given us in our lives, to many to enumerate, On paper it was a really bad idea to move our (then) family of five from the comfort of our Squirrel Hill home to the South Hills, where we did not know anyone. We had an odd kind of trepidation; it wasn’t as if we received a call from the South Hills Jewish community asking for a Chabad Rabbi and Rebbetzin.

What motivated us to make this move when we were perfectly happy with our lives in Sq. Hill?

Let me share a very moving short story with you that I heard a few years ago from Ambassador Yehuda Avner at the Shluchim Conference. Yehuda was a close personal advisor to 5 of Israel’s Prime Ministers and traveled with them regularly. He also served as their liaison to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Once in a private audience with the Rebbe where the discussion ranged from politics to Religion, The Rebbe suddenly got serious and told Yehuda the following; Imagine that you are looking at a candle, what you are really seeing is a lump of wax and a thread down its middle. When do the wax and the thread become a candle? In other words when do they fulfill the purpose for which they were created? When you put a flame to the thread the wax and wick become a candle. The Rebbe continued in Talmudic rhythm…The wax is the body, and the wick is the soul, and the flame is the flame of Torah and Mitzvot. When we bring the flame of Torah to the body and soul, we help it fulfill its purpose in life

This is what I try to do, said the Rebbe and this is what we must all try to do.

The Answer!
There is always a market for lighting up a Jewish Soul. The premise is quite simple; every single soul yearns for opportunities to connect to G‑d. If you approach a fellow Jew with unconditional love and acceptance and share the relevance and beauty of Torah, a candle is lit.

I knew that the Rebbe was right, but I am overwhelmed tonight to see just how right he was. Each one of you here tonight validate this idea taught to us by our holy Torah – Ki Neir Hashem Nishmat Adam, that each of our souls are like G‑d’s candles and we have the unbelievable power to light one candle at a time to make the world a brighter place.

And this, my friends is exactly what the mission of Chabad of the South Hills is. To bring the light of Torah and Mitzvot to every single Jew in a relevant, meaningful and exciting way, and each of you have made it possible.

And just like a box of Chanukah candles is comprised of many different colored candles so too, are different the varied and vibrant colors of the Jewish soul. Some are touched most by Torah Study others through prayer. For some it may just be a Menorah displayed in Public or a Jewish Art Calendar in the mail. Some are moved most by a weekly visit from a teenager to their Senior facility or a Challah Delivery, Shalach Manot or Holiday Program and the list goes on.

Chabad then becomes a “Spiritual Third Space”, not a Shul although we have one, not an Educational Center or a Hebrew school although we have that too and much more. Just a place to find the relevance, meaning and excitement of Judaism, and if you can’t come, we’ll be happy to come to you!

 It is amazing that just a short 13 years ago, Chabad of South Hills was born; our candle was lit!

In our infant stages we operated out of the basement of our home on Arrowood Drive. I have very fond memories of those first years, eating Kiddush around our dining room table and sharing our Master Bathroom.

Once when my brother came to visit with his family, we placed him in the “Shul” downstairs in our basement to sleep, I made sure his boys know to sleep on the men’s side of the Mechitza!

From there the flame grew we moved to North Wren Drive, Our programs expanded and so did your support.

 And then it was on to Bower Hill where we rented a small building from the Bower Hill Swim Club…the flame was growing and so was the feeling that we needed a more permanent home.

 And so it was in 2008 – right as the recession was beginning -we managed with your help and lots of miracles and blessings to find a fixed home for our flame continues to grow.

A candle is the perfect analogy for another important reason. Just like when one candle lights another, the room becomes brighter for both, so too, our lives have been so enriched through this work. Each of you has generously shared your light with us and you have brought so much light to our lives.

A Bar Mitzvah however, is not only a time to celebrate the past. It is perhaps even more importantly a time to rededicate ourselves to our future. When I look out at this beautiful crowd I see a very bright future. The Rebbe taught us that we must always be happy but never satisfied. There are so many more opportunities and so many more of our brothers and sisters to share the flame with. I know that with your partnership we will enter our “teenage years” with a new vigor and dedication to this vital work. We thank you so much for investing in Chabad of the South Hills and we will redouble our efforts to make you proud of your investment!