Tuesday, June 19, 2007

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The Rebbe - Face to Face

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Tonight is Gimmel Tammuz. For those who don't know Chabad Lubavitch (chassidus), this is the day of the hilhula, the elevation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe from the physical confines of this world. There is much I could say about the Rebbe, his impact to the world and his impact to me. Yet, and somewhat surprisingly, I find that such articles have sprouted up all over the place on mainstream Jewish sites. I doubt I have something particularly special to add there.

But as I've spoken to my children, and even to younger chassidim, while I've found them well connected with the Rebbe's goals and chassidus, of course they have no personal experience of standing in the presence of the tzaddik hador. That I can share...

The first time I went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe was in the years when the Rebbe was open for meeting everyone on Sunday's. The Rebbe would stand for hours on end, meeting people by his office, with lines literally down the block.

I waited in line with thousands of others for a brief moment with the Rebbe. As the line neared 770 and a few foot steps away from the Rebbe standing by his office, I prepared what I was going to say, a request for a blessing. Ushers kept the line moving, people were urged through so the crowds could be accommodated. People in front of me were going, then 1 more stood in front, then I stood at the doorway. They stepped away, the usher pushed me forward...

I stood in front of the Rebbe, who was standing behind a small table that had dollars. I opened my mouth to speak, turned to the Rebbe... and he looked at me. His eyes pierced my soul and drilled to the essence of my being. I began to tremble, my mouth hung open, no words came forth. The Rebbe smiled, pronounced a blessing, handing me a dollar (to give tzedakah). I could not move, I stood trembling with the dollar in my hand, for the first time ever my soul shining in the open. Apparently this was not an unknown reaction, for the ushers gently but quickly pushed me through.

I stood outside of 770 and the people I was with (who had not gone through with me) asked me about my experience. I could not answer, my mouth would not move. They asked if I was ok, I shook my head, yes, no, I didn't know. They understood even if I did not.

It's hard to describe the penetrating presence of the Rebbe. He was an old man, and not a particularly large man, yet no one would ever call him anything but a giant. He had a radiance about him, not of physical light but of spiritual energy, of G-dly light. And when he looked at you, there was no other existence beyond you and him and bare souls before Hashem. And yet, though he was seeing to the depth of your soul, there was always a smile and no judgment, every single soul was special just because it was a soul connected to Hashem. And no judgment was necessary, the soul awoke of it's own accord.

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Some years later on another visit to the Rebbe, I was fortunate to be nearby after Succot, where the Rebbe offered Kos Shel Bracha, wine from his havdalah cup. I grabbed my baby, my first born child, and ran to 770 (there was a special line for parents). The bochrim, the young men, stood to the sides singing niggunim (chassidic tunes). Occasionally the Rebbe would swing his arm, encouraging them to continue energetically.

The Rebbe sat upon the dais, secretaries by his side refilling his kos (cup). I had more time to prepare myself for the Rebbe's presence, though I was struggling a bit with the baby in a baby carrier as we gradually made our way through the big synagogue of 770.

I began up the steps, a few people in front of me, with my thoughts to say firmly in my mind. But then I looked up as I neared the Rebbe, and my body began to tremble. Another step and I was afraid I might drop the baby carrier (and baby!) Another step and I stood in front of the Rebbe. I placed the baby (in carrier) on the table so the baby could receive a blessing, and tears began pouring from my eyes. The light of the tzaddik, the brightest light we see from Hashem in this world overwhelmed me...

I couldn't speak, my body rebelled, trembling, tears pouring from my eyes. But I leaned forward, force my words out to the Rebbe, and turned to flee! I thought my soul would leap from my body. I grabbed the baby carrier and ran down the steps from the dias. But the usher jumped in front of me, the Rebbe was calling me back!!!

With a big smile that lights my neshama (soul) to this day, he handed me two cups of wine (which he was giving out and I had skipped in my holy terror), and gave me and my baby a big bracha. This time I stumbled away, carefully with 2 small cups of holy wine and the baby, and trembling, made my way out.

That is a visit with a great tzaddik. The soul comes alive, the body trembles in the face of great kedusah (holiness). The loss of the physical presence of the Rebbe was a tremendous blow to our generation. We wander in the dark, for while we are not without tzaddikim and rebbaim, we are without leadership.

May Hashem have mercy on us and bring us the leadership of Moshiach Tzidkaynu, mamosh, now!

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.


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