by Yochanan Gordon
As Gimmel Tammuz once again approaches, it’s appropriate to reflect on the past eighteen years and analyze the effect that the Rebbe’s passing has had on his Chassidim, and how we have dealt with the situation overall.
The observance of a Yartzeit for the survivors of the deceased is very much similar to that of the marking of a birthday or the anniversary of a marriage between couples. A Jew’s obligation in this world is to continue to strive towards attaining new heights, and so with the passing of each year, we take stock on multifarious levels of the past and commit towards rising to new levels in the coming year.
In the prayer that we wish mourners in the house of bereavement we say, “Hamakom Yenachem Eschem B’soch She’ar Availei Zion V’Yerushalayim.” The description Hamakom is employed in an instance where there is a void in holiness that needs to be filled by those who are initiated in the process. As an example, in the Haggadah we recite the words, “Baruch Hamakom…” which enumerates the four sons that the Torah speaks of. We are all aware of the fifth son that refuses to show up at the seder, and it’s on account of this fifth son that the description of Hamakom is inserted here.
When one experiences a loss, in our case a colossal loss with the Rebbe’s passing, it takes a unified and concerted effort by us all to fill the void left by the loss of one individual – the Rebbe. As we have seen, the task that we were plunged into would be hard enough given an unobstructed path to accomplish our goal, but unfortunately the Satan continues to work overtime testing our resolve, resilience and commitment to getting the job done.
Although we lost the Rebbe in a physical sense, on some level our ability to connect with him and strengthen our bond to him posthumously is much greater than even during his lifetime. The Zohar famously writes that a Tzaddik’s influence with regard to our world increases with his passing, now that he has shed his physical, limiting body.
The manner in which we could strengthen our relationship to the Rbbe and continue to be guided by him is undoubtedly through connecting with him through his writings. In fact, although the Rebbe had no physical children or legal inheritors, we the chassidim were given the opportunity and privilege to use his writings towards getting to know him and uniting the world through them as he did during his lifetime. The Rebbe quoted many times that which the sefarim write regarding the word Anochi, which is the Roshei Teivos: “Ana Nafshi Ksavis Yehavis” – I give my soul to the writings. The Rebbes heart and soul were placed in his maamarim, sichos and letters and he wants us to connect to him through them.
However, the Rebbe is quoted as saying that – while there are those who try to be mekasher themselves by wearing their hat and garb in the manner that he did – such conduct does not create an environment of hiskashrus. On that same token, just because an individual or a group of individuals dress a certain way, and situate themselves amongst Chassidim – does not make them Chassidim.
Dovid Hamelech writes, “Saviv Reshaim Yishalachun” implying that impurity encamps in the vicinity of holiness. In other words, the nature of evil is to assimilate and situate itself to become indistinguishable from the holy in order to have an impact and negative influence on it. So while in the eighteen years since the Rebbe’s passing Lubavitch continues to grow exponentially, age-old disputes have been reconciled and Chabad has made tremendous inroads towards mainstreaming itself on a healthy margin – as it has been at earlier junctures in history, there are those who continuously try to undo all the positive that has been done and counteract all the effort and self-sacrifice that was required to get until this point.
The ‘Tzfati’ community continues to wreak havoc and destruction in Crown Heights. Despite losing legal battles to remain in Bais Rabbeinu, and it seems like they are growing and getting stronger and have no plans to leave anytime soon. We would like to think of them as isolated occurrences, but a handful of stories that I am aware of has them fighting with Mashpi’im, jeopardizing members of Shomrim during that fiasco over a year ago and just this morning sadistically beating a homeless man and threatening eyewitnesses from speaking to the authorities. Notwithstanding the fact that attempts have been made to rid them from the community, someone has to claim accountability and put an end to this.
G-d did not want the Erev Rav to leave Egypt with the Jewish people, but Moshe pleaded on their behalf. The length and bitterness of the exile that we continue to endure is due in large part to the Erev Rav who assimilated amongst us. In an era where efforts are being made to improve on an individual and communal level with all the areas that need improvement, how long are we going to let these parasites eat away and corrode the beautiful structure that we are trying to build? If you want to do construction but you find out you have a crack in your foundation you have to secure that hole to ensure the safety of the building and the people living inside of it. There is a crack in the foundation and we have to fix it if we want our efforts to eventually succeed.