L’chaim U L’Brocha

Its finally happened. Summer has hit New York, (albeit with thunderstorms and nasty humidity, but it is summer nonetheless). It almost feels like a redemption of sorts. Though, redemption from extreme cold to extreme heat is a bit of an irony. I find the whole world ironic lately, and today’s ironies hold no exceptions. There are many things I can say today. I know what I want to say, I know what I think I ought to say, and I know what I want to avoid saying at all costs. On such a day of importance, suddenly my ability to say anything at all is lost. I look at others who have gone to great lengths to express their connections and their thoughts, and my mind draws a momentarily blank. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t slept in about two weeks. Regardless of the reason, I suddenly can’t come to terms with how I feel. Today, Gimmel Tammuz (The 3rd of Tammuz), marks the 19th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of blessed memory. He was and continues to be the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. But, he was so much more than just a leader. He was a visionary, a scholar, a teacher…He was a trailblazer.

19 years since the passing of the Rebbe, practically my entire lifetime. I was two years old when the Rebbe passed away, and my life as an Orthodox Jew has been spent learning the teachings and following the ways of a Rebbe who impacted my life more than I could have ever known or understood at such a young age. But, with every impact the Rebbe has had on my life, the lives of my family and the lives of the community members which make up my family, I am still unsure of how I am meant to feel today. Some people refer to this day as a day of sadness, a day of mourning. Others look at it as a day of reflection and internalizing. Today of all days, one should look at their life and see, in every aspect, how much the Rebbe has made a difference, not just for themselves, but for the entire world….The Rebbe is with me everywhere I go. So, why draw a blank?
What does it mean to me to be a Chosid (follower) of the Rebbe on a day like today? In order to answer that question, I feel it is most important to explain why my family came to be followers of the Chabad Lubavitch movement and Chassidim of the Rebbe. My parents came from very different backgrounds. Though they were both born and raised in Israel, their family values when it came to religion were as far off from each other as possible. Regardless of their different backgrounds, as a married couple, they adhered to a certain level of Orthodoxy in our home. The journey to a religious lifestyle began shortly after we were born, but their connection with Chabad began long before that. When my twin sister and I were born, two and a half years after my parents were married, it was viewed as a miracle. Until that point, my parents had struggled to conceive, and had gone through several trials with the most prominent doctors to pinpoint the issue to no avail. At the time, my mother was working as a preschool teacher run by one of the Chabad emissaries in San Francisco. A co-worker suggested that my mother write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, requesting a brocha (a blessing) to have children. My mother did not feel comfortable writing in to the Rebbe, so she appointed her friend to do it for her. A little while later, my parents received a letter back from the Rebbe. It was one of the last letters the Rebbe sent out before he became ill. In this letter, the Rebbe explained to my parents that in order for the blessing to be received, they must first make a proper Keli (vessel) for the brocha to be received in the world. Towards the end of the letter, before the Rebbe signed his signature, he gave my parents a blessing to see double the blessings in a time of miracles.  Less than three months later, my mother was pregnant. Not only that, but she was pregnant with twins.  Low and behold, on the 4th night of Chanukah, my mother gave birth to my sister and I. A double blessing in a time of open and revealed miracles.

Still, the question begs to be answered. What does it mean to be a Chosid of the Rebbe, in light of the fact that today marks 19 years since his passing? It means taking his legacy everywhere you go. It means internalizing everything that the Rebbe taught to his followers and to the world. It means that every matter of your being should emanate what  you have been taught. Become a trailblazer. The Rebbe did not just did want us to sit idly by and watch the world move by without doing anything to change it. The Rebbe created a generation of trail blazers, and that is what we should all strive to be every single day. If there’s one thing I learned from the Rebbe in all this time, it is to get out of your comfort zone and make magic happen. Turn the world over. Change it until it no longer resembles shambles. Flip it over until it looks and feels like heaven. Bring heaven down into this world, and continue to drag it down into this world until the eyes of the world cannot tell the difference.