Honoring the Lubavitcher rebbe

Honoring the Lubavitcher rebbe

1994 was a long time ago

In 1994 I was just a young child, but I vividly remember the news of the rebbe’s passing. Growing up in a home dedicated to the rebbe’s teachings and inspiration, I was heartbroken.

I felt like I knew so much about the rebbe — I even had the privilege of traveling from Israel to New York with my family to see him, and I will forever cherish the memories of that visit.

Hearing so much about the famous dollars, when the rebbe would hand out a dollar to each person for charity, I knew it was my chance to speak with him. But when my turn finally came, and the rebbe looked at me with his famous blue, penetrating yet loving eyes, I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t say anything.

Only after the rebbe’s passing, as a teenager and later as an adult, did I gain a deeper appreciation of his teachings and impact. Studying many of his writings, listening to and watching recordings of the rebbe, hearing stories about him, and visiting the Ohel (his holy resting place) helped me develop a closer connection and greater appreciation for him.

Often, when I listen to the rebbe or read about him, I get a feeling that I struggle to define. It’s something similar to the overwhelming feeling I got when I met him as a child.

It’s like when I watch a video of the rebbe during a farbrengen — a chasidic gathering — raising his hands up and down to encourage the audience to sing more enthusiastically. Or when I see a video of him smiling warmly at a young child. Or when I listen to him choking back tears as he speaks about Jewish suffering.

What is it about all these moments? Is it passion? Is it depth? Is it the fact that you feel how the rebbe was all-in?

The more I think about it, the more I feel it’s about one thing: The rebbe cared deeply.

About everything.

He cared deeply about the Jewish people. Here is just one example: One time, when he sent his emissary to help a struggling girl, the rebbe asked him to tell her that he didn’t sleep at night because he was so worried about her situation. And, of course, he sent his followers to open Chabad houses all around the world with one goal: to help every single Jew, physically and spiritually.

The rebbe cared deeply about humanity. He interacted with world leaders, always emphasizing how our highest priority must be to build a moral and just society. He championed criminal justice reform and was involved in creating welfare programs for those who needed it most. (You can Google “the rebbe and criminal justice reform” and “the rebbe and food stamps” to read more about it.)

The rebbe cared deeply about Torah study and spreading of the Torah’s teachings globally. In addition to the hundreds of Torah books containing his writings, he was the force behind the publication of thousands of Torah books covering all aspects of the Torah.

The rebbe cared deeply about mitzvot. He passionately believed that we should spare no effort from helping a Jew perform a mitzvah. He spoke often about the incredible impact that each mitzvah has. (If you were ever asked “Excuse me, are you Jewish?” you know what I mean.)

And the rebbe cared deeply about the coming of Moshiach. When discussing the physical and spiritual tragedies that the Jewish people experienced, he would weep publicly. He concluded almost every talk with a prayer that we merit the promised redemption, when suffering will be gone forever, and the entire universe will experience only goodness and closeness to G-d.

I wish I had unlimited space to elaborate and share more stories about the rebbe. I recommend the book “Rebbe” by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin as a good starting point to learn more about the rebbe and his impact.

This Monday night and Tuesday, the 3rd of Tammuz, is the rebbe’s 30th yahrzeit. On this day, we celebrate the rebbe’s life and the countless lives he touched. I believe that today, almost every single Jew around the planet has directly or indirectly benefitted from the rebbe, if only through the Chabad houses all around the world.

In Hackensack, we will be honoring the rebbe at a special event on Monday night, July 8, and I invite all of you to attend. (Please contact me for more details.)

And wherever you are, I believe the best way to honor the rebbe is simply to follow his example: to care more deeply.

Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member Chabad.org He welcomes your comments at rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com

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