Chabad sees role in bringing heaven to Earth

By Savannah Leavitt

The Hassidic Jewish community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, seeks to bring “heaven to earth” in the words of Yonitan Katz and Mayer Friedman –– two Hassidic rabbis in the community. 

Crown Heights is considered to be the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which is one of the world’s best-known Hassidic groups. Katz explained that the movement’s purpose is evident in the title “Chabad,” which is made up of three Hebrew words meaning “wisdom, understanding and knowledge”. 

Chabad sends rabbis to strengthen Jewish communities around the world. Those living at home in Crown Heights engage with the secular world while maintaining their religious customs. They even welcome visitors who are curious about the Chassidic movement into their homes, as Katz and Friedman did. 

Katz received his rabbinic ordination in Crown Heights, and is married with eight children –– “Thank God,” he commented. He then cited the Bible’s teaching to multiply and replenish the earth.

Whereas professional life might pause when visitors arrive, family life does not. Visitors gather at the dining room even as Brocha Friedman, mother of Mayer Friedman and mother-in-law of Katz, works in the kitchen and children stomp up and down the stairs. 

Katz pulls aside one of his children to show his guests the knotted strings that hang over the child’s pants. “They are called tzitzit,” Katz explains. In the Jewish tradition, “each letter has a numerical value.” The letters in the word tzitzit add up to 600. This number is augmented by the tzitzit strings themselves, each of which bear five threads and eight knots, totalling 13. Of note, 613 is the number of commandments in the Torah. The tzitzit is a beautiful reminder of the commitments that each Jew makes to God.

Other signs of devotion are evident in the Hassidic dress. Members of the Chabad community proudly don long black coats and fedora hats –– Russian attire favored by their ancestors in Lubavitch. They distinguish themselves from the world and honor the struggles of their ancestors through their dress.

According to Katz, Jews are made Jewish. “God needs us more than we need Him,” the rabbi explains, to bring about His will on earth. As they reach out with attitudes of peace and understanding both to Jewish and gentile communities, Hassidic Jews can work toward a perfect world, or “heaven on earth”. 

Friedman, at 23 years old, recently received his rabbinic ordination after completing Yeshiva (rabbinic schooling) in Jerusalem. He explained that once the world is perfect, the Holy Jewish Temple can be built in Jerusalem. “There will be no more war” at that time, he expounds –– not even personal conflict. 

In the meantime, Hassidic Jews continue to uphold their traditions and beliefs. They promote religious collaboration and peace in their efforts to one day bring “heaven to earth.”

Categories: New York

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