My first time at the Children's Rally for the Rebbe's birthday. I come bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be taken to great heights. I sit with Tanya next to me, Naomi on my lap, feeding them potato fries every so often to keep them content. There's nothing like some food in the purse to keep a mother feeling like Everything Is Going To Be A-Okay. There's nothing like potato chips shaped like fries to capture children's attention.
The excitement soon descends into mild enthusiasm. The roll-calling of all those young children who have done amazing feats of memorizing Tanya and Mishnayos ( of which I could only imagine, and I do start to, and start to realize that my daughter could be doing this one day) nevertheless starts to drag on me. The promise of prizes for their achievements has me crinkling my nose a little, just a little. I mean, c'mon, it IS amazing. But where's the fire? Where's the heart? Where's the love of Torah beyond what it can give to me? Where is the singing?The objective, the man at the microphone states, is to reach 300, 000 something lines memorized from Chabad schools throughout the world, some multiplication of something Rebbe-related that falls from my memory. As they roll-call through all the schools, of all those hundreds and thousands of lines of Tanya and Mishnayos these children have learned BY HEART (what?!) , I watch the three girls in front of me reacting to the numbers applauding and giggling with each other. "50 THOUSAND?!" they mouth to each other, and then "12?" when it inevitably comes up to a probably smaller school. And then one girl, the middle one, about eight years old per my guesstimatation, in this super fashionable short haircut most women get when they are 20 years older than her and certainly not in frum circles, grabs their hands and stops them, abruptly but cheerfully. "You guys, it's not a COMPETITION! We're in this TOGETHER! We're trying to win TOGETHER!" And there you have it. That's life. That's Jewish life. In a sea of people trying to do the right thing and somehow clumsily celebrate and reach truth and find the fire, there are the lamplighters. The girls and boys and men and women who stop others short of their judgements and bring them to the higher perspective. We're in it together. Let the mitzvah tanks roll. I'm sure the Rebbe would be proud.