Are you hating 2020?

Eight months into COVID madness I hear from so many that they expect only the worst from 2020 after so many disappointments. Aside from the pandemic’s devastating impact on public health and our economy, the forced isolation that has brought with it lonely birthdays, Passover, High Holidays and now Thanksgiving is having a demoralizing effect.

Last weekend over 5,000 Chabad rabbis faced a similar disappointment as the annual Chabad Lubavitch Convention was staged online instead of in the halls of Brooklyn for obvious reasons. Sure there would be workshops, presentations and plenty of inspiration, but I and most of my contemporaries expected a damper of a convention since its main appeal would simply not exist on so many levels.

Then something wild happened.

Each year the convention features a Saturday night event called Melave Malka, the traditional meal held at the close of Shabbat. Since the thousands of Chabad rabbis all over the globe would be celebrating the conclusion of Shabbat at vastly different times, the organizers conceived a rolling Melave Malka event which started Saturday night in Australia while New York was still sleeping and as Shabbat concluded in more time zones other rabbis joined the program culminating with Alaska and Hawaii close to 24 hours later.

All went according to plan, until some rabbis in Australia woke up Sunday morning and, in the spirit of the convention, tuned into the Zoom program that was reaching its final minutes with our Hawaiin colleagues. The atmosphere was so joyous and compelling, they continued sharing chassidic stories, words of inspiration and camaraderie - which ultimately continued for a total of 138 hours!

The unending flow of Chassidic inspiration was electrifying and guys in multiple time zones were tuning in at all hours of the day and night, to the point that it was officially closed on Thursday evening with over 1,000 participants online. While the event set a record for the world’s longest Zoom meeting, more importantly, it transformed an otherwise forced online convention into the most inspirational convention experience we ever had. 

In this week’s parsha Toldos we learn how Yitzchak intended to bless his eldest son Eisav but blessed Yaakov instead, thanks to an elaborate deception arranged by their mother Rivka. The explanation of why this scenario of dishonesty was the right thing to do at the time is beyond the scope of this message, but the fact remains that the tremendous blessings of Jewish destiny came to us in an awkward and uncomfortable fashion. This teaches us that at times the best emerges from what can seem to be the worst.

I and my colleagues experienced it this week and I hope and pray we merit such a transformation on a global level as well. That these terribly dark and frustrating times imminently lead to a brighter future, the era of Moshiach, when the world will be healed of all illness, suffering and jealousy and peace will prevail for all.

Through learning more Torah, doing more Mitzvot, increasing our charitable giving and encouraging everyone to add in goodness and kindness we can make this happen even faster.

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