by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
It’s been 17 years since I lost my Rebbe, since the world lost the Rebbe. Today is the 17th anniversary of the histalkus (elevation via departure from this physical world) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
To explain this anniversary, I turned to an example from the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of chassidus). The Baal Shem Tov was an awesome influence on Judaism and the Jewish People. In his time he was a direct powerful influence on his disciples, their families and the areas they lived. Certainly his direct impact continued strongly throughout the next generation.
But after that? His influence and direction, his spiritual impact, continued for generations and still is strongly felt today (within the orthodox Jewish world, and throughout the Jewish world via the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Chabad). But for direct influence, other leaders arose who provided direct leadership to subsequent generations.
The direct impact of the Lubavitcher Rebbe has been awesome upon the Jewish world. He took the remnants of a chassidus after World War II and completely refocused it on the mission of spiritually energizing the Jewish world. Within a scant 50 years the goals and impact was evident as Chabad had spread itself to almost every area with a Jewish presence world wide.
In the 17 years since the Rebbe’s physical departure, Chabad continued the mission and spread their impact even farther. Today, in many areas Chabad remains as the only organized Jewish presence (and certainly, outside of major Jewish concentrations, practically the only Torah oriented Jewish presence).
Yet the Rebbe wasn’t just about a physical mission. He also changed the conversation of Judaism itself. Topics such as a focus on the physical mitzvot (such as tefillin), the spiritual value of every Jew, and Moshiach became prominent parts of religious Jewish culture and discussion. (Even for those who were or are on the other side of these discussions, the fact it’s being discussed or argued came via the Rebbe.)
The Rebbe was a great leader. Whether he had spiritual vision or just great wisdom, he prepared for and addressed problems facing the Jewish people as a whole as well as specific groups, and marshaled his chassidim in doing the same.
On this date and 17 years later, I deeply feel the loss. Part of this is personal as the Rebbe provided direct leadership and change in my life. But part of this is national. It seems to me NO ONE, no leader, seems to care about the whole Jewish people anymore. It seems to me NO ONE, no leader, is trying to address problems of the Jewish people as a whole anymore.
I know, intellectually, the power of a tzadik is increased after he leaves the physical bounds. And I have no doubt that like the Jewish people are still talking of and impacted by the Baal Shem Tov over 200 years later that the Jewish people will be talking about and still impacted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe 200 years from now.
But 17 years later, especially when the type of leadership we had then is lacking today…
I miss my Rebbe.
I miss OUR Rebbe.
Though we are supposed to celebrate the elevation of a tzadik, I cannot. I feel the lack. We all do, whether we realize it or not.