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I know next to nothing about Chabad shlichus other than the fact that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe would send people to various locations on "shlichus" to set up some sort of Jewish outpost where, perhaps, none existed.

I would imagine that such a thing would require various halachic compromises such as not being able to daven with a minyan, not having meat for yom tov, or perhaps not having a lulav and etrog on sukkot etc.

I would like to know

  1. Am I correct that sometimes shlichus involves halachic compromises? And if so how is a person allowed to go on shlichus?
  2. Is shlichus permanent? Can a person who has agreed to go on shlichus ever leave that post?
  • Minyan yes. Meat yes (although I don't think it's forbidden to live somewhere without meat). Lulav and Esrog are generally available. – Shmuel Brin Aug 21 '14 at 4:43
  • "The Rebbe's Army" is highly recommended (by me anyway, for whatever that counts for), which describes specific stories and details of particular shelichim as well as some of the ways that they deal with these challenges as a whole – הנער הזה Sep 23 '14 at 5:58
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"shliach" means an emissary of the rebbe to carry out his public work ("avodas haklal") in strengthening the condition of jews and judaism. this practice of a rebbe sending emissaries to do this work has its roots going all the way back to the baal shem tov. it is only in recent times that due to the condition of the majority of the jewish nation vis a vis their connection to judaism that shlichus in its current form became the major work of the rebbe and therefore his chassidim.
does shlichus allow for compromise in halacha: absolutely not. in the rebbes sichos from the early years especially (50's america) the rebbe sets out that the work must be to bring jews closer to judaism, never judaism closer to practices that were common in many american jewish communities at the time (mechitza et. al.), and catgorically rules out any compromise on anything halacha. regarding lack of minyan, if one lives in a town where there is no minyan then there is no halchic obligation to daven with a minyan. which begets the question "isn't moving to a town without a minyan a halachic compromise" to which the answer is not if it is to perform a mitzva that cannot be performed in any other way. the talmud is full of stories of the greatest sages going on such journeys where it is obvious if not clearly stated that there was no minyan.
can a shliach ever leave his post: they can, and have. though every case that i know of was due to lack of choice. in general chassisdus chabad and the chabad rebbes were not into coercion. a major emphasis of chassidus chabad that the alter rebbe set up it is that one must serve g-d through their own work, not (primarily) by inspiration received from their rebbe. as far as i know, in the early years (50s-60s) shluchim were asked by the rebbe if they wanted to go, after that in most cases the shluchim asked to be sent on their own initiative.
i wrote this answer in the style not of an academic response but of a chabad chosid saying what he knows being a member of the community. sorry it is not possible for me to write more rigorously.

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To answer I will address each issue raised individually.

"Halachic compromises"

I wouldn't say that Torah-observant Jews are ever "compromising" in Jewish Law.

The Rebbe was a Shulchan Aruch Yid and always followed Halacha to the detail. (This is obviously true of every Tzadik. Following Kabbalah or Chassidus does not negate that). That said, Halacha recognizes that in cases of great need, such as saving a Jewish life, different opinions can be relied upon, not rejected altogether.

"not being able to daven with a minyan"

I don't think Davening with a minyan has the same status as Lulav and Esrog which is explicitly in Torah.

"not having meat for yom tov, or perhaps not having a lulav and etrog on sukkot etc."

These are often easily obtainable. Even Cholov Yisrael milk has become accessible though I know many Shluchim who froze milk, or even used dehydrated milk. I don't think there is a Shliach who ever went Sukkos without a Lulav and Esrog.

A major issue that is absolutely uncompromising is Mikvah. The Rebbe was adamant that Shluchim, regardless of where in the world they are, must have access of some sort to a Mikvah (i.e. flying to get there, having access to an ocean, etc.)

"how is a person allowed to go on shlichus?"

If you ask any Shliach this question they will most probably answer you "with כח המשלח (the strength of one who sent him)". The Lubavitcher Rebbe took an enormous responsibility upon himself in making that decision, and many critics at the time saw the program as spiritual suicide.

The Rebbe often reference the Halachic ruling in Kashrus that "איידי דטרידי סימנין לאפוקי דם לא בלעי" (Gemara, Chullin, 8:2), that when something is extracting it does not absorb. So too, by being focused on influencing their communities they are not influenced by them.

In hindsight, we obviously see that tens of thousands of families were transformed positively through the Rebbe's work.

"Is shlichus permanent?"

Usually, when Shluchim agree to go out, it's a one-way ticket. The Shlichus finishes when Moshiach comes, which the Rebbe ensured us would be in this generation.

"Can a person who has agreed to go on shlichus ever leave that post?"

For various reasons, there are some Shluchim who do leave their post, or move to another place of Shlichus.

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If his post has not worked out he is allowed to leave it, but with the Rebbe's beracha it is almost impossible to happen.

And yes there are halachic compromises but in the long term, hopefully everything will work out. Does this answer your question?

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