By Miriam Shaviv
August 19, 2008
Chabad are certainly the PR masters.
Each summer, some 400 young rabbis are sent to far-flung communities in order to make contact with local Jews, as part of a programme called 'Roving Rabbis'. This year they are running a blog about their experiences - which is actually quite interesting.
In this post, for example, two young Lubavitchers meet a mental patient at a top-security hospital in Connecticut:
X came up to us and we slowly ambled on into a conference room. It seems that last year he was in an intensive security wing, while now he's in minimum, which means that he has a lot more freedom. After introducing ourselves, we began to discuss Judaism.
He's a fan of Mussar and we talked about how Mussar and Chassidus differ. This distinction colored the rest of our discussion, which ranged from reward and punishment to heaven and hell, Gan Eden and the world of Moshiach, suffering in Jewish thought, and the purpose of our existence. I did most of the talking and congratulate myself on having made at least a bit of sense. Once we were finished, X put on Tefillin and we parted amicably.
In the middle of our discussion on Teshuva, wherein I mentioned that Teshuva is properly not repentance but rather return, he mentioned something along the lines of "Well, I did a big sin. I killed my parents." I didn't quite know what to say, and just responded with a "hmm". The conversation continued unabated, and I explained how no one is inherently evil, no matter how heinous a crime he or she has committed. If anything, their soul has merely become covered; all they really need to do is wipe off the grime.
Once we got back to the Chabad House, I of course asked the rabbi to explain what was going on here. In short: X was never all there mentally. At one point he wanted to go and study in Israel. His parents told him that he couldn't. He killed them both with furniture. He was found not guilty on grounds of insanity, and spent the next 16 years in a maximum security hospital.
When we visited X, he seemed perfectly normal. When I look back at our conversation, I think "Wow, he knows something about good and evil, huh?"