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Herr Leibowitz

Herr Leibowitz

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Good Evening. Thank you Rabbi, for giving me the opportunity to share a few words with your community. It is an honor and a privilege to be here tonight.

The Alter Rebbe teaches in the Hayom Yom for the 10th of Tammuz, “‘The footsteps of man are directed by G‑d.’” When a Jew, or more explicitly, a businessman, comes to a particular place, or more specifically to Dusseldorf Germany, for what he thinks is a business transaction, there is actually an inner Divine Intent and purpose for why G‑d put that businessmen in that particular place. G‑d can give a businessman parnasa anywhere he wants, so why should I have to travel half way around the world to go to a shoe fair in Dusseldorf? 

In September of 2002 I thought I was coming to Germany to grow my footwear business and expand into Europe, but I was wrong. It was Divine Intervention that I came to Dusseldorf that Sukkot. It was to meet Rabbi Chaim and Rebbetzein D’vori Barkahn.

Five years ago this coming Tuesday night I walked into the Chabad of Encino, California. That Shavous, I learned all night for the first time in my life. I grew up in a Conservative Household celebrating all the major holidays, having Shabbos Dinner every week, and even putting on T’fillin from the time of my Bar Mitzvah, but I knew very little of Torah and Mitzvot, and that Shavous was the night my Neshoma was ignited with the beauty of all the Torah teaches.

However, it wasn’t until five months later when I came to Dusseldorf that the inner-flame of my Neshoma exploded. Until that trip, I had never fully observed Shabbos and certainly never observed Sukkot, but on that Shabbas I walked from my hotel room at the Raddison down the street to the Shul and davened with this community. Is there another more incredible place to fully observe my first Shabbos and Sukkot then in Germany?

When davening ended I approached Rabbi Chaim. In our own way we somehow communicated, and he invited me to his house for Shabbos lunch. We entered his tiny Sukkah in the backyard and did not really say too much as he spoke almost no English, and I knew absolutely no German, Dutch, Russian, Yiddish and very little conversational Hebrew. However, as I sat in that Sukkah in a community that 60 years earlier was virtually destroyed, my Neshoma was ignited with a sense of elation I had never experienced before.

Over the last five years I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn about the Rebbe and his Schluchim. The Rebbe told young men and women to leave their homes in Kfar Chabad in Eretz Yisrael or Crown Heights in New York and go out into the world and simply “open up a Chabad House” to teach Jews about Torah and Mitzvot. It’s one thing to send someone to Los Angeles where there is a vibrant Jewish Community, but to Dusseldorf, Germany? Before Hitler came to power there was a Jewish Community that numbered 5,100. By the end of the war there were only 249 Jews left. The Rebbe chose to send a Schliach here, to this community, 55 years after it was almost completely wiped out. And it is here, in this Commnuity, with you, with your Rabbi that my Neshoma was ignited. I learned for the first time about what it means to Observe the Shabbos and Sukkot and if it had not been for Rabbi Barkahn that never would have happened.

On that cold day, Rabbi, in your Sukkah there were five of us, but since then this community has blossomed as each year you and D’vori touchethe lives of so many in this city. 

In December of 2003 you wrote “From this coming Shabbat, we will be holding bi-weekly services at the Chabad House. This means that every other week we will have Friday night and Shabbos morning tefillot, as well as a kiddush Shabbat afternoon.” 

In September of 2004 you sent me a flyer of all the High Holiday services that would be taking place at your Chabad House, and of the Sukkah Mobile that would be traveling around the city. No longer was it every other Shabbos…now all the Shabbosim and Chagim would be celebrated at Chabad of Dusseldorf.

In April of 2005 you shared with me that there would be over 200 people joining you and D’vori for Pesach at a local hotel, and by the following Channukah your Menorah Lighting brought out over 500 people.

And in 2006 you had the merit to receive a blessing from the Rebbe and acquired your own site for not just a future Chabad House but actually a full Chabad Center. Today I know why Hashem sent me to Dusseldorf for a Shoe Fair…not to do business in Europe. Instead it was to meet you Rabbi, and to have the honor and the privilege to share with all of you here tonight, with the Rabbi’s family, and with Rabbi and Rebbetizin Barkhan the Seventh Anniversay of Chabad of Dusseldorf and to celebrate the dedication of laying the first stone in the new Chabad Center of what will certainly become the cornerstone of Judaism in Dusseldorf Germany.

When we look inside the Torah we learn from the relationship of two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Yissachar. The Tribe of Zebulun and Yissachar always traveled together in the desert as we learn in yesterday’s Parsha. When they arrived at the Land of Israel the Tribe of Zebulun were given the land by the sea so that they could travel the world and conduct business. Of course the land next to Zebulun Hashem gave to the Tribe of Yissacher, the Tribe that would bring us our greatest Torah Scholars and many of the members of the Sanhedrein, the Jewish Court. Why did Hashem put them near each other? The reason is simple, the Tribe of Zebulun supported the Torah Scholars of the Tribe of Yissacher so they could learn and in turn teach the rest of the Jewish people about Torah and Mitzvot. This partnership continues today. The Rebbe teaches that one elevates all of his material possessions through the giving of Tzedakkah.

Rabbi, I pray that Hashem continues to bless you and D’vori in all that you do to bring the light of Torah and Mitzvot to this incredible community, and that Amy and I should continue to merit to receive Hashem’s blessings so we may grow in our support of Chabad of Dusseldorf.

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