Sunday, July 10, 2005
Gimel Tammuz, the Lubavicher Rebbe's Yartzeit
It's motzi shabbos, gimel tammuz, 5765, the yartzeit of the Lubavicher Rebbe. Today was the day he passed away. At the Rebbe's Ohel (gravesite) in Queens, NY, there will be thousands of people lined up to pay their respects and to ask him for various berachas (blessings); most of all, people will be "checking in" to say hello and to hope that on some spiritual level he gets the message that we are still his Chassidim (followers) and that he is still our leader, even though he no longer is alive in this world in his body.
I traveled there last year and the two years before that, however I remember the mentality of the people there and the silent tension that people were feeling specifically last year; that year felt different. Last year was ten years since the Rebbe's death, and there are teachings that say that the tenth year of a person's passing is a meaningful time because (if I remember this teaching well enough to communicate it), perhaps the neshama (soul) of the deceased comes back or comes closer to our world and is more deeply felt by those who are connected to him. I know on the minds of my friends and Rabbis, something else was on their mind. They were waiting for something to happen.
As Jews, we know that moshiach (the massiah) is bound to come any day now. Some of us since it is thousands of years since we've had the Beis Hamigdash (the Temple in Jerusalem) have forgotten that part of being Jewish is the belief in a Messiah. Many Lubavichers before the Rebbe's death thought that he was him. Some still do. Most feel it in their hearts that he is and that on some level, he is working on bringing the Jewish people out of exile even now as we speak even though he is not alive in a corporeal sense. Other people believe that he was capable to have been the messiah, but G-d either changed his mind or that G-d had different plans for the Jewish people. Either way, messiah or not, he is still our Rebbe.
The tension I spoke about from last year was that people were waiting for the Rebbe to happen, as if they were hoping for some mystical lightshow or perhaps even for the Rebbe to come back and materialize in some form as moshiach, or as a manifestation of moshiach's coming. They were waiting for the world to transform to revealed G-dliness. While I remain open to any of these options with the mentality that "we'll know the truth when we see it", I couldn't help to be moved by the silent expectations of all those present that night and the following day. I remember the look on a friend's face when I cracked the joke "what happens if nothing happens?" While the look in his eye was priceless, nevertheless, it was still sad that nothing happened that night and everyone packed up and went home to continue their lives as Jews.
Now again, one year later, they are back. I couldn't make it because I am here in China and traveling back and forth wouldn't have been feasible, plus if something were to happen, I have an idea that I'd know about it pretty fast. After all, if the Rebbe came back or if moshiach came, whether they be the same or mutually exclusive events, I think it would happen all over the world including China. Nevertheless, I am missing a good party.