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Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson , OBM

Friday, 5 July, 2019 - 3:22 pm

This Saturday, the third of Tamuz, marks the 25th anniversary of the Yahrtzeit of The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of blessed memory. As my fingers type these words I cannot help but wonder how any one article can do justice to this giant of our times.


I had the great merit to have lived 3 blocks away from the Rebbe and therefore spent over 25 years hearing him, seeing him, davening with him, etc. I do not take this for granted and I thank Hashem every day of my life for giving me this treasure and merit. With all that said, being that close made one recognize how far one really was. As one of the Rebbe’s secretaries once said, “the closer you got the further you realized you were.” How true that is. The Rebbe was a great Tzadik (righteous person) of enormous proportions. Listen to the thousands of people who recount their personal moments with the Rebbe. They all tell of the Rebbe’s love, passion, care, etc., but they also all talk about being enveloped in immense holiness. They describe the feeling of being in an oasis of spiritual closeness that is hard to describe but easy to identify with if you have experienced it. I did. Time and time again. I have seen the Rebbe in moments of intense seriousness as when he blew the shofar on Rosh Hashanah; in moments of intense joy during the dancing on Simchat Torah. I saw the Rebbe when he davened and I saw him when he spoke at Farbrengens and taught Torah for hours on end. And I also saw him as he spent days at the Ohel (resting place) of his Rebbe and predecessor praying on behalf of the Jewish People. In all these experiences, one sensed a heavenly aura that was present.

To me and so many thousands of others the Rebbe was our modern day Moses who led the Jewish people with incredible devotion and self-sacrifice. His bounding love for every Jew was limitless. I think it is fair to say that never has there been a Jewish leader who made himself available with such love to every person as much as our dear Rebbe. For 30 years he would spend three nights a week often times till dawn, meeting Jews from all walks of life, listening and tending to their needs and problems, giving advice and council to tens of thousands of Jews who came to meet him. When that was no longer possible he began, since 1986, meeting people every Sunday for four or five hours as thousands filed by for a quick moment to receive a blessing and a dollar to give to charity. It’s estimated that during these Sunday afternoons the Rebbe met and made eye contact with over one and a half million people. This is unprecedented in Jewish or any other history. It’s no wonder that even after 25 years since his passing, hundreds of thousands continue to flock to his resting place at the Ohel to seek his blessing and pray there. It’s no wonder that after all these years there are still thousands upon thousands of books, biographies, videos and articles being published about the Rebbe’s life and his teachings. Just last month a new book about the Rebbe’s unique approach to social issues has been published. Millions of people want to learn about this incredible leader and the number grows with time, which brings me to one final, and maybe the most important, point.

The Zohar says that real tzadikim are alive after their passing even more than during their life as a soul in a body. I can say that this is precisely true with the Rebbe. I remember when the world suffered his loss in 1994, when all the “experts” were foretelling the future of Chabad and how it will be impossible for the movement to continue without him. After all the Rebbe was the life behind everything and the admiration that his Chassidim and admirers had for him was intense. No one could imagine how the movement could survive without his physical presence. Even the most pessimistic doom sayers are all trying to figure out how it is that not only did Chabad not lose its steam, but in fact it doubled, tripled and quadrupled in the last 25 years. Many hundreds of young couples whom never even saw the Rebbe, are dedicating their lives to his message and are becoming his emissaries to such forsaken places that most people don’t even know exist.

How is this to be explained? To me it’s obvious. The Rebbe lives, albeit in a different way, but in a real way. The Ohel, or resting place, of the Rebbe is a place where millions of Jews come to or write letters to for blessings. I know firsthand that these requests are being answered in a most wondrous way. If you have a problem, a need, a request that needs a blessing from a tzadik, write to the Rebbe and send it to the Ohel. He will find a way to answer you and you will find that you will be helped. This, of course, depends a lot of the way one writes and the seriousness with which one treats it.

I would like to suggest that on, or before the Yahrtzeit, (on friday or on Saturday night) you should write to the Rebbe, the leader of our time, and make that connection. It is real.

The Talmud says about Jacob our patriarch that he never died and explains, “Just as his children are alive, he too is alive”. The way I understand those words is: Because Jacob is alive that is why his children are alive. To those wondering how it is that the Chabad has so proliferated over the past two decades, it is said: Because the Rebbe is alive that’s why his children are alive. May this day inspire us to live more Jewishly and may it bring blessing to all of the Jewish people.

Shabbat Shalom

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