The Third of Tammuz
Remembering the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
The seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, led that Hasidic movement as it grew in numbers and reach during the second half of the 20th century. His yahrzeit (the anniversary of his death)--the third of Tammuz--is commemorated by Lubavitcher Hasidim as a time to rededicate themselves to the values and work the Rebbe inspired them to achieve. Many also visit his gravesite in Queens, N.Y. To many Jews, the concept of a Rebbe seems foreign, so in the following article, a Chabad member describes the emotions he felt when hearing of the Rebbe's death and what the Rebbe meant to him. Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org.
I remember hearing the news early Sunday morning (Israeli Time) and rushing to the airport. I remember arriving at the cemetery hours after the funeral, in midst of the throng still pouring in, as it would through the night and the days and nights to follow, from all over the world.
We (my wife, my 20-month-old daughter and myself) came with the clothes on our back, thinking we'd be taking the return charter flight to Tel Aviv that very night. We stayed seven days, most of which I spent holed up in an office at 770 Eastern Parkway [Chabad's headquarters] working on a special issue of Week In Review, a weekly digest of the Rebbe's teachings which I edited at the time. I remember observing with growing amazement what was happening--and what was not happening--in the Chabad-Lubavitch community.
Just about everything imaginable was happening--except for the natural, predictable thing which everyone expected to happen.
There was shock and incredulity. There was grief and agony. There was passionate disagreement and fervent expectation and many, many unanswered and unanswerable questions.
But there was not despair. There was not paralysis. Every one of the Rebbe's emissaries, disciples, and followers was saying to himself or herself, "What should I be doing now?" And doing it.
I remember thinking: The Rebbe, who has redefined virtually every aspect of life, has also redefined death.
Such was the Rebbe's way. He would, for example, consider the concept "work." With sure and lucid steps, drawing on the wisdom of Torah and the truth of everyday experience, he would show that work equals creativity, creativity equals human partnership with the Creator, and human partnership with the Creator is the raison d'être of human life.
This truth, of course, was stated thousands of years ago by the Scriptural verse, "Man is born to toil." But that statement, which had always struck us as a melancholy if inescapable fact of life, became, in the Rebbe's hands, the key to understanding what makes us tick and to achieving meaningfulness and fulfillment in our daily labors.