1980 La Costa Avenue, Carlsbad
Membership: 80 families
Rabbi: Yeruchem Eilfort
Born: Los Angeles
Formation: Central Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva, Brooklyn, NY
Years Ordained: 25
The San Diego Reader: What is the mission of your chabad?
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort: The mission of my chabad is to be here as a beacon of light — a Jewish home — for the people in this area and to serve them in whatever capacity they need — spiritually, emotionally and even physically. We try to help people on their terms with what they need. It isn’t always easy — often it is not — but that is what we try to do.
SDR: Where is the most surprising place that you found God?
RE: Obviously, December 25 is not our holiday — but on this day this man said to me, “Rabbi, you’re going with me.” “Where are we going?” He said, “You’ll see.” We went to Mexico with sandwiches and pockets full of change and his joy was to give something to the people who are living in such abject poverty. It was so sad. I saw a little kid trying to strum on a guitar with one string and sing to get some sort of handout. The way my friend’s face lit up — he couldn’t give a lot, but he could give everyone a little bit of money and a sandwich. I thought it was unbelievable. I said, “Look, God is here on the streets of Tijuana.” When we reach out to others who we are not connected to and have no business being connected to — our soul is reaching out to their soul. So, you can find God in the most unlikely place, such as in Tijuana on Christmas day.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
RE: Walmart with unlimited money. I’m kidding. No, this is a great question. Judaism believes in a life after death. There’s no question about it in my mind or traditional Jewish theology. The soul is the essence of the person, a spiritual being that is miraculously enclosed in a physical garment, the body, for x number of years. So, what’s the purpose of this? To refine or prove the soul. In Hebrew terms it’s a yerida tzarich aliya, which translates as “a descent in order to ascend.” In other words, that God sends our souls down here in order to enclose it in a body so it should elevate the body; instead of being merely flesh and blood, the body should be elevated to become a receptacle or vessel for Godliness…. The type of life that the individual led will determine what his or her experience will be in the world to come. If I spend my life training to desire Godliness and spirituality, studying the Torah, praying to God, or doing acts of kindness, my soul has become acclimated to Godliness. So, when my soul goes to the world to come, it feels right at home — heavenly. It’s so wonderful because this is what I enjoy doing after all. But if I spend my time in this world chasing physicality and these other types of pursuits — the soul feels totally out of place in the world to come: uncomfortable, bored, and realizing that this is not what it wants. It’s like hell. Our tradition teaches that over time the soul becomes acclimated; even the soul that spent its life pursuing physicality eventually becomes acclimated, and therefore the hellacious initial experience turns into a heavenly experience.