The Rebbe’s Secret: Overcoming Fear

The Rebbe’s Secret: Overcoming Fear

My daughter says that our gracious Baltimore Shabbat hostess is like “Avraham Avinu.” I agree…The abundant food, the uplifting conversation, the welcoming atmosphere that makes me feel like I am doing my hostess a favor by being her guest and not the other way around.

And like Avraham Avinu with his tent open on all four sides to welcome guests from all directions, our hostess’ front door is wide open throughout the meal. But the truth is, this makes me a bit nervous. I am the daughter of two New Yorkers, which means that the front door of our Baltimore home is locked every minute of the day.

“Do you want me to close your door?” I ask our hostess.

“Oh no, I like the welcoming feeling of having the door open.” And I can see why…half way through the meal a delicious 18-month-old granddaughter in turquoise sandals walks in without knocking (her mother walks in right behind her), and everyone present squeals with pleasure.

Hmmmm…surprising to realize that Baltimore is so safe! What a warm, close-knit, secure community.

But when I arrive home later that afternoon the Baltimore Sun front-page headline reads “A Bloody Summer” about the 29 shootings resulting in 10 deaths last week alone.

Yikes! It’s so dangerous here…Get me back to Israel…

But this morning, I see that a quarter of the front page of the New York Times is taken up with a photo of rioting Egyptians beside the headline: “By the Millions, Egyptians Seek Morsi’s Ouster: Larger Crowds than 2011.”

Millions of disgruntled Egyptians right across Israel’s Southern border. Over 90,000 killed in Syria’s civil war across Israel’s North-East border. Iran’s nuclear program developing within shooting distance.

Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide…Fear, anxiety, panic. EEMA’LE!


In 1927, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak, was arrested by the Soviet Secret Police. Rebbe Yosef Yitchak had been the unofficial Rabbinic leader of all of Soviet Jewry, and the police, experts believe, had planned to assassinate him without a trial, just as they had murdered tens of thousands of other “enemies of the revolution.”

However, in response to international pressure, the police chose not to kill Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak, but rather decided to sentence him instead to 10 years of exile under brutal and life-threatening conditions in the Soviet Far East. But in the end, as a result of unrelenting international pressure, the Soviet authorities chose to free Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak only 2 weeks following his arrest.

After his release, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak and his devoted soon-to-be son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, continued to serve as religious leaders to the oppressed masses of Soviet Jewry– but their freedom and even their lives were in constant danger.

In the newly-released Hebrew-language book “The Secret of the Rebbe” author Yechiel Harari writes, “On the way to one of their [illegal] meetings Rabbi Menachem Mendel noticed that his [father-in-law, the] Rebbe did not display any fear or anxiety, even though simply driving to their meeting placed them in great danger. He asked his Rebbe how he overcame his fears.

“In response, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that his ability to overcome his fears is contained within the efforts he makes to be completely present within every single thing he does…”

Harrari continues, “From that point onwards, these words became guidelines for life from his Rebbe. Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s ability to focus totally on one single thing, and the ability to experience the constant heartbeat of creation in every single moment and moment, became the goal of his life.

“He was completely and totally involved in every thing he did. When he became the Rebbe, the primary experience that every person who met him would express was that he felt that Rebbe Menachem Mendel was completely focused on him and on the matters that he brought up.

“The general feeling among those who met the Rebbe was that the Rebbe did not bring his self to the conversation, but was rather completely available to the person standing before him. Even when there was a giant line of people waiting by his door to request a blessing or guidance, those meeting with him would say that he was completely focused on every person who walked by him, even if just for a single moment.”
Worry. Fear. Anxiety. The antidote?

Focus on the gift of the here and now. That’s why it’s called “the present.”


  1. Rachel F

    Such an important message! Thank you again.

  2. Hadassah

    Worry and fear are part of our projections for the future. So if we can live in the present it helps. Just a note. Even when confronted directly with a pistol the Previous Rebbe responded to the one who was threatening him by saying, “This ‘toy’ has made many people speak.”
    “That toy works for those with one world and many gods. I have one G-d and two worlds.” (not exact translation). He trusted Hashem so completely and knew that whatever would happen would be controlled by Hashem.

  3. Rachel F

    I love the picture you have at the top? Can you label who is sitting and who is standing?

    • JewishMom

      the father-in-law (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak) is sitting and the son-in-law (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson) is standing

  4. B”H

    Just a little correction – the Previous Rebbe was supposed to be sentenced to 10 years forced labor in Siberia, then it was changed to 3 years exile in Costrama and after only two weeks exiled, he was completely released.

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