“Wait, I thought you just went to a convention,” my mother asked when I told her I was planning to go away again.
“You’re right, I did,” I answered. “The convention I just went to was for all Lubavitch women– it just happened to be in Pittsburgh this year. The Shluchos convention I’m going to is held every year in New York.”
We then proceeded to discuss who in my family was going, who was staying, who would be watching which kids. It sounded more confusing than it was, but I assured her everyone would figure it out, mainly because the “girls” who were going were very excited about it. The annual Lubavitch Shluchos Convention is the largest gathering of women on the planet, with shluchos from every corner of the globe convening in New York to strengthen each other (not to mention do all the other things women enjoy doing together). Together, they rededicate themselves to fulfilling the Rebbe’s singular mission– to bring goodness and G-dliness into the world as preparation for the arrival of Moshiach.
In Hebrew, shaliach means “emissary,” and shlucha is the feminine form; shluchim and shluchos are their respective plural forms. In Lubavitch-speak, shluchim are the people employed by any of the thousands of Chabad/Lubavitch organizations–schools, shuls, Friendship Circles, Chabad Houses–scattered around the globe. There are thousands of institutions and shluchim; their numbers grow frequently so it’s hard to give an accurate count.
For me, the beauty of the convention experience is that it’s cold, it’s crowded, it’s slushy, it’s New York, but none of that matters. Even if I just go to breathe the air, I am breathing the same air at the same time as the women who dedicate their entire lives, body and soul, to breathing Jewish life into other Jews. And I want to celebrate, honor, and thank them for their work, just by being there with them.
“We are all the Rebbe’s shluchim.” You hear that a lot, not just at conventions, but at many Chabad gatherings, a way of saying that every Jew should feel responsible for another Jew’s well-being. But we all know there’s a big difference between someone who has the actual, day-to-day responsibilities for an entire organization, and someone whose responsibilities for caring are less well defined. As much as I was grateful for my ability to be completely supportive of all things Chabad, I don’t have to tell you that I often left the conventions with part of me wishing I could have been a real shlucha.
Many events at these conventions begin with a shlucha addressing the huge crowd from a microphone at a podium. “Sister shluchos,” she will call out affectionately, reminding everyone of who they are and how they should see other shluchos. I often wondered if these women really saw themselves as “sisters” and if there was “sibling rivalry” among them. When I used to look around and see these women by the thousands, there was also part of me that was glad not to be a shlucha. I could only imagine how insecure I would have been about how my efforts compared to those of my “sisters.” As a “step-sister,” I wasn’t officially accountable to the Rebbe and could proceed guiltlessly at my own pace. After all, it wasn’t my fault that my husband Zev and I had never even heard of Chabad until we were in our thirties, and that Zev was already established in business when we did.
But that excuse only worked for so long. Thank G-d, I have finally come to understand the futility of trying to measure anyone’s dedication to the Rebbe or closeness to G-d, including my own. I just try to keep moving, grateful to the Rebbe and his emissaries, who continue to provide so much light for the journey.