The Rebbe’s Leadership after Gimmel Tammuz
The Lubavitch movement was established by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, (1745-1812) in White Russia, in a small hamlet of Lubavitch. The Lubavitch leadership mantel was passed down, from father to son, or son-in-law. In the 1940’s, with the onset of the Communist regime in Russia, and the World War Two raging over Europe, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schnersohn, emigrated to the United States, and settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. With his passing in 1950, his son in law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schnersohn became the new Rebbe. (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn was married to the daughter of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s daughter Rebbetzin Nechama Dina Schneersohn).
The Rebbe assumed leadership in 1950/1951 until his passing in 1994. The Rebbe did not have any children, no heirs in which to pass on the Rebbinate. Since the inception of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, leadership was passed down from father to son or son-in-law. How can a generation and generations to follow, thrive without a spiritual mentor and guide, their Rebbe?
A Rebbe being a man of G-d, is a conduit between the Jewish nation and G-d. Over the course of any Rebbe’s leadership, a Rebbe is approached by his Chassidim to help them arouse G-d’s mercy be it for physical, emotional, financial or spiritual reasons and guide their chassidim, like a shepherd guiding his flock. With that being said, a chasid cannot be without a Rebbe, and a Rebbe needs his chassidim.
Instructions for after 120
With the passing of the Rebbe’s wife, the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schnersohn, the Rebbe spoke to his chassidim, that people are mortals, and do not live forever. The Rebbe wrote a will (Forward, 1994), and he gave instructions what should be done with his worldly possessions, but the question arise who will be the Chabad Chassidim’s spiritual mentor with the Rebbe’s passing?
A Man of G-d
Being that the Rebbe is a man of G-d, and a channel to between G-d and his people, thus he is irreplaceable, in terms of his spiritual guidance. But, being the man of G-d the Rebbe is, the Rebbe did prepare us for this day and for future days. In a book called the Hayom Yom, Tackling Life’s Tasks in which the Rebbe compiled, the Rebbe addresses this concept and answers our question. Through the Rebbe’s teachings, his Chassidic discourses, which the Rebbe has delivered countless ones over the course of his forty years of leadership; empowers a message to his chassidim, that associating oneself with the Rebbe’s friends one can stay connected to the Rebbe, even after his passing (p. 367), furthermore studying his teachings and living their lives in the light of his directives, they are bound to him, heart and soul” (p.368).
Additionally, after a righteous person passes away physically from the world as in says in the Tanya chapter 27, a leader of the generation, after his passing, his capabilities to be a spiritual conduit, is not limited to his body, and thus the Rebbe can accomplish more for his followers, after his passing, than during his lifetime. That being said, his burial place, known to many as The Ohel is a place in which all his followers and anyone needing a blessing or guidance whether spiritually, financially or medically, is still flocked by many people; and their requests have been answered.
The following is a classic example of how the Rebbe is still guiding us, even after his physical passing. Rabbi Mordechai Sufrin from England relates, in my encounter with the Rebbe, (2016) how the Rebbe always blessed him for a safe journey home and gave him a dollar for charity. After the Rebbe’s physical passing in 1994, as he was leaving a taxi cab, at the Ohel, the taxi cab driver handed him change, a dollar bill from the Rebbe which someone had paid the taxi cab fare with, as was his custom to receive a dollar from the Rebbe, when visiting him in Brooklyn.
A Rebbe Chosid Bond
A connection, a bond between a Chosid and Rebbe, cannot be detached. A spiritual connection can never be severed, it is a connection, that is not limited to time and space, therefore, the Rebbe with his foresight, although he did not leave any successor or heir, the Rebbe left his teachings and his burial place, for us to remain connected to him and by doing his work.
At the Rebbe’s first Chassidic gathering in 1951, when he accepted the leadership, the Rebbe spoke to his followers and imparting his chassidim, with a mission “to draw from the loftiest heaven below… When you come to a place where they don’t know of G‑dliness, they don’t know of Judaism… you put yourself totally aside… and make sure that those who until now knew of nothing should go into the streets and shout… that G‑d and the world are one.” (Rubin, 2017).
With that vision in mind, and the goal of being connected to a Rebbe, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been transformed into a Jewish outreach network with Chabad being everywhere, with over 4500 centers in 60 countries. The question arises, does a young couple who embarks to a foreign city, to help build Jewish infrastructure, have the skills it needs to be successful.
Education for Success
Every chosid is well aware of the spiritual bond and benefits that one derives from following the Rebbe’s directives. The question now arises, is there enough towns, cities and metropolitan areas that can sustain and have a need for a Chabad shliach?
Chabad culture and education system has educated its student body with a mission of becoming Chabad shluchim. The local day school in which my children are enrolled have a mission statement that is similar to all Chabad educational institutions. The Chabad school system has a goal of educating students with “stressing the values that suffuse all that is cherished in our tradition (Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School, 2017). When grade school is completed which is followed by high school, the same mission is followed by “inculcating students with a strong sense of responsibility to give back to the Jewish Community” (Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago, 2017). There is a growing threat in the Chabad system, be it in the education system and or in Chabad as well, are all graduates able to become Chabad shluchim? Is this a job meant for all? Are there enough cities and or neighborhoods that still need Chabad shluchim? The short answer in my opinion is, if a young couple has a desire, will and passion about becoming a Chabad Shliach, they will find a community that will benefit from their outreach work.
How did the Rebbe living in Brooklyn, manage to grow Chabad what is it today, even after his passing. According to Hooijberg and Cho explain (2000) Bass’s transformational leadership as the impact a leader has on his followers. These leaders, aside from being dynamic, they have the ability to harvest faith, esteem and respect from their followers, in our case, the Rebbe’s chassidim. The Rebbe was a master transformational leader, who motivated his Chassidim, followers to do his will, how did the Rebbe succeed? The Rebbe had the power to inspire his Chassidim with him mission, of spreading more light into the world, bringing the joy of Judaism to those unaffiliated with Judaism, which in turn gives the Rebbe’s emissaries, an identity of being associated with the Rebbe’s mission and vision thus strengthening the Rebbe – Chosid bond. What greater way to be connected to the Rebbe, than by coming his shliach, his emissary?
A Chassid relationship with his Rebbe is to do what the Rebbe wants. This is not a guru leading a cult, it is the nature of a chassid and Rebbe relationship, in which the Chossid wants to do the Rebbe’s will, so that his connection to the Rebbe becomes stronger, the motivation is a spiritual one, coming from one’s inner self, and receiving guidance from the Rebbe.
In 1972, when the Rebbe turned 70, the Rebbe explained that although 70 is synonymous with retirement, the nature of Jewish existence is to continue to grow stronger and greater, which is what brings human satisfaction, enjoying the fruits of human labor. The Rebbe did not ask for personal birthday presents, he asked for the establishment of 71 new institutions around the world, be it day schools, Judaica libraries, Chabad Houses, and the like. This birthday present was accomplished by his emissaries by his 71st birthday, as reported by the New York Times (1973). Chabad continued to grow with centers totaling over 4500 nowadays, because of a simple bond that a chosid wants with his Rebbe, doing the Rebbes will is an internal motivator.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks summed up what the Rebbe is, “That a good leader creates followers, but a great leader creates leaders.” The Rebbe with his infinite wisdom created leaders that can lead their congregants and communities, with the same oriented goal of spreading awareness of Jewish life, whether the Rebbe is physically alive or not.
The Rebbe who is a tzaddik has a greater presence in this world after his passing. With the Rebbe’s infinite wisdom he prepared us for this period of a Chosid’s life. It is not an easy task having been used to a spiritual mentor give us verbal guidance and now a Chosid has to receive it through his teaching, directives or other open miracles. Furthermore when one is accustomed to receive a verbal answer, one has to be open to accept answers that come in different ways, but a chosid believes in his rebbe and knows the Rebbe lives on.
about Chabad-Lubavitch – Chabad.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/36226/jewish/About-Chabad-Lubavitch.htm
Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School. (2017). Our School – Cheder Lubavitch. Retrieved from http://www.clhds.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/1156821/jewish/Our-School.htm
Rubin, E. (2017, August 2). The seventh generation: A leader of leaders – 1950-1951 – Life & times. Retrieved from http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/2619812/jewish/The-Seventh-Generation-A-Leader-of-Leaders.htm
Sacks, J. (2011, November 11). Transcript: Chief Rabbi Sacks highlights Rebbe’s inspiring charge – Chabad-Lubavitch news. Retrieved from http://www.chabad.org/news/article_cdo/aid/1691120/jewish/Transcript-Chief-Rabbi-Sacks-Highlights-Rebbes-Inspiring-Charge.htm
Schneersohn, J. I., Schneerson, M. M., Kaploun, U., & Touger, E. (2011). Tackling life’s tasks: Every day energized with HaYom Yom Ha-Yom Yom; daily Chassidic teachings & glimpses into the spiritual lifestyle of Chabad-Lubavitch. Brooklyn, New York: Sichos in English.
Schneerson, M. M. (1951, January 18). Maamar. http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/550379/jewish/10-Shevat-5711-Sicha-3.htm. Brooklyn, NY: Jewish Educational Media.
Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago. (2017). ABOUT OUR SCHOOL – Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago. Retrieved from http://www.lubavitchmesivta.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/776130/jewish/About-The-Mesivta.htm