As we all travel through that vector known as Gimmel Tammuz, the day that the Rebbe, left this world, my thoughts come forth in the form of a brief appreciation:
I share them with you in the form of a short list
- The Rebbe’s death and life, redefined death. And life. While I have little doubt that the Rebbe’s body is interred a burial plot of ground in Queens, New York, he still lives on. In fact, I don’t know if he will ever die. Or, perhaps he’s transmuted into some other non-corpereal form, into an idea or a paradigm that lives on in all those who changed by it. His infusion of renewed life into the world pulsates ever stronger every day. He occupied a space inside a physical body, but his spirit seems to seek connection in every milimeter of everywhere I go much the way it did when I attended those Farbrengans so many years ago. Even stronger in fact.
- The Rebbe created a sustainable vision of Man and Judaism for the generations after the Holocaust. Through his unflagging joy and devotion to the Jewish idea, he not only breathed life into a broken Jewish world, he redefined what the Jewish future should look like. As Jews were fleeing their Judaism through assimilation or were retreating into walled off enclaves, the Rebbe went on the offensive. This offensive continues to this day; more and more of us, in the farthest flung places, are touched and inspired by the Rebbe’s soldier-emissaries and their sacred mission.
- The Rebbe brought Judaism down to human level. While there has never been a shortage of great minds, the Rebbe’s brilliance was in insisting that Judaism not be an intellectual aristocracy but rather a human centered collective. His Judaism and the Judaism that he taught was not meant to clever or ‘up there’-it was meant to be down here, in the total human experience so that every part of who we are, including our broken and taboo parts, could be elevated and loved.
- The Rebbe introduced The Engineer’s Mindset to Judaism. The Rebbe was trained in engineering, a discipline that brings together sciences to serve a practical purpose. At a time when science and philosophy in the form of psychology and politics mushroomed in so many different directions, the Rebbe never let us forget that all of ‘this’, this conquering of so many areas of the Universe, must all come together to form a productive sustainable whole. Physicists, psychologists, scientists, and all the others, may come up with new ideas but those ideas must serve wholeness. For the Rebbe, God’s word was that wholeness. That wholeness becomes manifest in the transformation of Mankind.
- The Rebbe redefined God and Godliness. With the Scientific Revolution, Man got heavily ‘into’ reductionism, of delineating ‘this’ from ‘that’. And Halleluyah for that; as soon as we could unpack the opaqueness of a cough or a fever or a tumor, we could take the next step of controlling phenomena that were previously thought of as untameable spirits and luck. In our hyper-technological, dehumanized modern society, god was cast, much like everything else, as something separate from everything else. The Rebbe however taught us that God and Godliness is everything, that He joyously waits in hiding behind every human thing, to greet us with an ear to ear smile, a heartfelt l’chaim, and the hug of a Father who rejoices at being reunited with His most beloved child: each one of us.
The Rebbe may have left this world (and I say may because who truly knows), but he lives on in all of us as we go about the mission of bringing Light into the Universe.