Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thoughts on Gimmel Tammuz

I am not a rabbinic scholar. I would not presume to interpret the Rebbe's teachings. Although I did not personally speak regularly with the Rebbe, his teachings and life have impacted greatly on me and the Jewish world as I know it.
At the end of World War Two, there were not only countless orphans, but spiritual orphans as well. Many Jews had lost their rebbes as well as their families. Many were emotionally and spiritually adrift from the massive trauma of the war years. Both Lubavitch and Satmar were magnets for the orphaned chassidim who needed a rebbe in the aftermath of the holocaust.
The other great catastrophe of the last century was the victory of communism in Russia and elsewhere. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe led and gave encouragement to the underground Jewish institutions in the former U.S.S.R. during and after the Stalin years. The Rebbe's life was a continuation and extension of the lives of his predecessors. Every human should aspire to a noble purpose that unites generations in a common and holy purpose.
America was known before the war as a "treyfe medina", a material oasis and a spiritual desert, where Jewish immigrants risked the continuity of their Jewish faith where there was no Jewish education. The previous Rebbe, Yosef Yitzkhak stated forcefully and repeatedly that "America iz nisht anders" America is not different". Building schools, setting up Chabad Houses, and building mikvas in America and elsewhere was a work begun by the previous Rebbe in America and continued by his son in law. Today, Chabad houses are a major feature of the world Jewish landscape. Once someone complained to the Rebbe that non Lubavitch orthodox groups were competing with Lubavitch in outreach. The Rebbe's response was "Good. In such a competition, everyone wins." In fact, many who were quietly loyal to the Rebbe worked in other orthodox Jewish organisations, loyally furthering their aims.
The Rebbe has championed special education, the importance of every person of whatever intellectual gifts in the Divine plan. It is clear that developing the potential of those with mental disabilities transforms our vision of ourselves as well.
For years, the Rebbe was a lonely voice in favour of conversion according to Jewish law as being the only type of conversion that would open the possibility of Israeli citizenship. The Rebbe spoke against giving away Israeli land to Israel's enemies back in the '70's. The events unfolding now in the Holy Land are a sad vindication of what the Rebbe said so many times.
One recurring theme in Lubavitch is the idea of reaching out during the seder to the fifth son, the son who is not even at the seder. The idea of reaching out to non observant Jews not only affects those who to whom we reach out but also those who do the reaching out. this outreach is not only to strangers, but to family and friends who leave the faith as well.
On a personal level, I am drawn to the simple beauty of the Nusach Ari Siddur that is so close to the nusach of Jews from Arab countries. I like the idea of morning blessings preceding the morning prayers. The neighbourhood built around the rebbe has Jews from all around the world . I once stood in a shul in Crown Heights. and held a Siddur in my hand that was published by the Mashadi Jews of Iran. These are Jews who in 1839 were forcibly converted to Islam. They practiced Judaism secretly, and escaped the lie of their Islamisation by remaining in Jerusalem after completion of the haj. The father of the previous Shah permitted them to return to their true faith in 1925. One can learn from many in this neighbourhood who have fascinating stories to tell.
In Crown Heights it is possible to have a tangible vision of Judaism that transcends linguistic and ethnic divisions, where Yiddish , Hebrew and other strains of Jewish language are part of a beautiful and harmonious mosaic.
When I first started reading about Judaism, all I had on hand was a King James Bible and some stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Woven into his stories were traditional chassidic stories and visions of shtetl life. I quietly mourned a way of life that I assumed had been wiped out in the holocaust. I had a friend named Davida, who was like a living library of all matters Judaic. When I lamented to her the imagined demise of the chassidic way of life she told me. "There are still chassidim left. Lots of them in New York and some here in Boston. There's one group I know that even tries to reach out to non observant Jews They're the Lubavitchers." Gradually, I accumulated a small assortment of Jewish books, attended shuls of various denominations and found a Lubavitcher who agreed to take me to his rabbi. It's really a much longer story for another time. In my neighbourhood and around the world are many such stories that continue to be lived and written in this very moment.
We are fortunate that in each generation we are blessed with a leader such as the Rebbe. May it be G-d's will that we be consoled on this yahrzeit with the revelation of Moshiach that will unite the Jewish people and bring us out of exile, for our sake and that of a suffering world. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Rebbe said that the way to bring Moshiach is to learn about Moshiach and geula.