from the desk of Rabbi Shalom M. Paltiel

Monday, June 8, 2020 

Dear friend,

I must be honest with you, dear friends. This was a difficult week for me. I found it difficult to focus; I couldn't figure out which way was up... So, please pardon the length of today’s column. I guess I’m sharing a page from "my personal diary"...

If you read the whole thing... I thank you in advance.

I feel myself very fortunate to have been raised at the feet of a towering Jewish leader, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson, of righteous memory. I was blessed to be able to listen to his saintly and wise teachings, almost every Shabbos, for nearly two decades. This week I found myself missing the Rebbe, and his leadership, perhaps more than ever before. I kept thinking of him as I scrambled for clarity, asking myself over and over and over again:

What would The Rebbe say?


The fundamental paradigm shift The Rebbe brought to the Jewish and global community through his teachings and writings is now seen with the clarity of hindsight, 25 years after his passing.

It's now plain to see that this giant of a man, recognized widely as the greatest Jewish leader of the past century, the first religious leader of any denomination or religion to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, has changed the Jewish landscape forever. His representatives are active at permanent centers in 50 states and 100 countries. 

He invented true Jewish outreach, a message of Judaism with love (or as we call it in Port Wash: "Judaism with a Smile" ;) a message that seamlessly combines unapologetic adherence to our faith’s timeless laws and tenets, with genuine non-judgmental love for every Jew regardless of their observance. He similarly introduced an outlook of life which seamlessly combines an inner Jewish pride with true caring and respect to the entire family of humanity.

And his model is proving hugely effective. At a time when most Jewish movements are on a steep decline and free-fall, Chabad is experiencing unprecedented growth all over the world.  Most experts and historians are in agreement the Rebbe literally saved Judaism from going the way of irrelevance to experiencing a huge upswing and exponential growth. And it has only just begun.


Why am I telling you this now (other than to express some nostalgia for my beloved Rebbe, especially at times like these when the world desperately needs moral leadership...)?

It is because hindsight is always 20/20.  If the Rebbe got it right on so many issues, it behooves us to ask the question: What would The Rebbe say now, in the current situation?

The good news is we don't have to guess. The Rebbe actually said it!

Two recurring themes at many of his large televised "farbrengens" (gatherings) were: a. the critical importance of establishing a "moment of silence" in every public school;  b. the importance of sharing with the gentile world the "seven laws of Noah", G‑d's moral code for all of humanity as delineated in the Torah. He talked about these two topics over and over and  over again, and each time with the strongest sense of urgency. Click the underlined links above to view a sampling of video talks of the Rebbe on these topic.

To be totally honest, I often wondered why these things were so critically important to him that he never tired of revisiting these unpopular subjects virtually every time he had an opportunity to reach a wider audience. 

Well, I guess I am becoming wiser with age. I am beginning to understand this pretty clearly in more recent years. This week, I think "the penny dropped" for me. 

The Rebbe maintained we cannot expect to raise a G‑d'less generation to be good, decent, upstanding citizens. It's simply a pipe dream. 

He further explained that G‑d isn’t a religious concept; it is basic reality. So, while religion is best being reserved for our houses of worship and our private homes, G‑d absolutely must be present, in some fashion, in our public schools (albeit in the form of silent prayer, as verbal prayer might blur the lines between "G‑d" and "religion," which isn't good either as  history has proven adequately enough). 

So it boils down to two choices:

We can either introduce G‑d to our children and our families, and they will live lives with a sense of meaning, purpose and morality. As The Rebbe so often said: They'll behave decently and honestly, not because of fear of the policeman who they can outsmart, but because "there's an Eye that Sees, and Ear that Hears..." G‑d is in charge, and He expects all of us to conform to His code of decent, moral behavior. All seven billion of us.

Or we can decide to deprive our children and our families of a relationship with G‑d, proclaim G‑d as old fashioned and unnecessary in our enlightened and modern age of freedom and equality. And we will raise a generation that sees the world as a literal jungle (the Rebbe's words): a place where man eats man; where nothing matters except myself and my own needs and wants. 

Sadly, we've chosen the latter. We've successfully stripped G‑d out of the public discourse. We've banished Him to be carefully and securely locked up behind the closed doors of our houses of worship. Heaven forbid if the "G" word is even uttered in our public schools and colleges. It's been deemed backwards and unscientific. 

Well... we're getting our just desserts. It just doesn’t work friends! The results are in the pudding.

Just as the human condition is that we cannot live without water, food or fresh air, we similarly aren’t wired up to function as a just society without G‑d in our lives. 

With all our supposed forward-thinking openness, freedom, and equality, without G‑d the results are what we saw this week.

During the past two centuries, society has taken giant leaps of progress in terms of the advancement of the sciences and technology. We've done extraordinary things in our role as "partners" with the Creator in so many areas that make our lives longer, better, healthier and more comfortable. And yes, we ought to congratulate ourselves for it. That’s what G‑d asked us to do when He told Adam and Even on their first day in this Garden of His: "to work it and to guard it". 

We've "worked it" quite well.

But we also need to "guard it"; to protect its timeless moral truths, as handed down to us by the Creator Himself. Here, innovation is futile; no human mind can define morality, as it will be subjective by definition. In this arena, rather than progress I think we’ve actually begun to regress. This is not an area in which we are called upon to work it. We’re simply asked to guard it.  Morality is only discovered through Divine revelation, as communicated in His best seller, The Torah. We cannot improve upon it. It is best left alone, untampered with.

But I'm afraid we have done just that. To the point that we’ve successfully removed G‑d from society. G‑d isn’t part of reality. He’s to be found only in the houses of worship and in the "religion" section of the library.

Remove G‑d from our the national conversation, and we witness law enforcement personnel who lack basic respect for all human life as equal; strip society of G‑d and we end up with protesters in the name of human rights wreaking pogrom-like havoc, destruction, murder and fear as sanctioned and self-righteous behavior.  And who is the arbiter to decide right from wrong here? Only the Arbiter in Chief who proclaimed unequivocally in His Torah, as expressed through these Seven Universal Laws of Noah, which clearly and unequivocally outlaws murder, theft and afflicting any hurt, physical or financial, to our fellow human being.


In terms of a take-away from this megillah:

  • I would love to set up a task force of local committed people, from all faiths, to help institute a moment of silence in our school district. It's been done successfully in many schools throughout the country, especially as a result of the school shootings during the past few years. Please do reach out to me if you'd like to get involved. 

  • Let us be more forthcoming and proud to mention the "G" word in our conversations with friends, and perhaps mention  the Seven Universal Laws of Noah to gentile friends and neighbors when the opportunity presents itself. As a chaplain to our local police department, I mention them at every opportunity I have to speak to the members of the department. Please join me in my efforts to spread this message in our community and in our society. It's always welcomed and applauded; people simply don’t know about them. Let’s not keep it a secret.  Let these events be a wake-up call to each of us, and through us to those around us, that we need more G‑d in our lives, not less. We should unapologetically share with our children and neighbors about G‑d’s expectations of us, that we live up to the Divinely mandated standard of morality, decency, honesty, fidelity and respect for all people as truly created equal in His Divine image.

    Perhaps the Founding Fathers were on to something when they wisely taught that no union can truly succeed without G‑d as its foundation and core principle.  We will never be One Nation, unless we are Under G‑d. That is what unites us; because that is what endows each of us intrinsic value, while making us completely responsible for our behavior.

  • And to my fellow Jews, congregants or friends: 

    Whenever you make time for prayer, Torah study, or more mitzvah observances, I assure you these are humanitarian acts. They are the ultimate humanitarianism! Because there is no decency without the foundation of Torah.  Our faith and service to Hashem is our best and only anchored morality; our Torah and its teachings are our unchanged moral compass. The more “Torah” in our lives, the more moral clarity we’ll have. The better human beings we’ll become. Promise!


Dear friends,

Thank you for taking the time to read these pages out of my personal diary...

In closing, I encourage you to take time out for personal prayer to help us stay calm and focused during these unprecedented times. Maybe that's why these things are happening, to refocus us on what is important, as we’ve been discussing these past few months. I urge you to take some time each day when you shut down your smart phone and take a break from the continuous barrage of shocking news, to find your inner soul, and connect to the Soul of your soul – our Father in Heaven.  We all need prayer now more than ever. It’s the best therapy, trust me. Try it and you’ll see. Hashem is by far the best therapist… because He truly listens and truly cares (and doesn’t charge...)

Shabbos is coming; please consider powering down for 26 hours, making quality time and head space for prayer, Torah study and focused family time.


Thank you for listening. I love you all very much and feel extremely blessed to be surrounded by the absolute best community any rabbi can dream of. I am especially blessed to be  able to share with you the teachings taught to me by the Rebbe, which guide my life and the life of my family in the paths of Hashem, resulting in a peaceful, content and joyous way of life. 

I wish you a Gut Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful, focused and meaningful Shabbat.

Rabbi Shalom M. Paltiel
Chabad of Port Washington
"Judaism with a Smile"