Tuesday, April 15, 2008

106 and counting

Today is the eleventh of Nissan, the 106th birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. If you remember, I translated the Maamar that is most associated with this day, B'yom Ashtei Assar 5731; if you scroll down a bit I've spruced it up a (very little) bit, and put it all into one post, for your reading pleasure. In this post I'll reflect a little on what the eleventh of Nissan means to me, and if I get melodramatic in the process, well, that's just a risk we all have to take.

This morning I helped Rabbi Manis Friedman make a Minyan in his house, and at the end he said some interesting things. I was in the middle of saying Tehillim, and so I missed out on most of what he said, but I did manage to catch one snippet. Someone said the old chestnut that, "You can take the Jew out of exile, but you can't take the exile out of a Jew," to which the Rabbi responded, "The Rebbe can take a Jew out of exile, but only a Jew can take the exile out of himself." This reminded me of something that Rabbi Shmuel Lew said a couple of nights back. The Rebbe once told one of his household aids that he was born on a Friday, and just like everyone always works really hard on a Friday but never manages to get everything done in time, so too he worked really hard at everything but never quite managed to bring them to completion. Rabbi Lew spun this positively, but that's not the point I want to bring out. When the Rebbe said on the 28th of Nissan, 1991, that he had done all he could and now it was up to us, he was being serious.
The Rebbe once said (if I recall correctly) that if there were a Minyan of people who really wanted Moshiach then he would come. What's the problem? We don't want enough? I guess so. It's a bit harsh to say that, but presumably it's the truth, and the truth never minced words.

Anyway, onto the Rebbe's birthday. What does it mean to us? I dislike when people say, "Oh, if there was never a 11 Nissan, there would be no Rebbe Chas Veshalom, where would we be?" Listen folks, there could just as easily have been a 10 or 12 Nissan. Sure, special things happen on special days and all that, but I think that the issue is a much bigger one. What does it mean to us now? There are many big Mashpiim who are doubtless Farbrenging on this very topic as I write, and what little I can add to the mix is of decidedly inferior character, but seeing as I've had this big build-up it would be sick of me not to deliver the goods.
11 Nissan is meaningful to me because it's the birthday of the one person who really cared about this world and the people on it. No other human being has ever exhibited the selflessness of the Rebbe. No, sorry, "selflessness" implies that there is a self, only it's sublimated. With the Rebbe, there was no self. Whatever Hashem wanted, he wanted. Hashem wanted a dwelling place down here? The Rebbe did too. But again, the Rebbe took action. I was just reading Oorah's newest brochure, and it's beautiful to see the amazing work they're doing. Who's responsible for what they're doing? Who's responsible for the full page picture of the kid in the front of the booklet wearing Tefillin? You better bet it's the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Forty years ago, a non-Lubavitch organization promoting Tefillin wearing would have been banned with more virulence than any Shaitel or concert. But now? Not only did Lubavitch pave the way, it provided the intellectual underpinnings for the entire new Judaism. Obviously, there's only one person responsible for what Lubavitch has done, and that's the Rebbe.
This reminds me of a relatively famous, probably apocryphal, story of a Shliach who made a dinner, and at said dinner he was surprised with some sort of honor by his congregants. He made an off the cuff speech, in which he said, "Everything that's been done, it's all the Rebbe's Kochos that have been channeled through me", or something like that. An elderly Chassid, probably a relative, was at the dinner, and he went up to the Shliach and said, "Fool! You're right that everything that's been accomplished is only because of the Rebbe. But if you hadn't 'channeled' anything, and had let the Rebbe do what he wanted, how much more would have been done."
Um, I kind of butchered that one. I just can't remember the exact lines. But no matter, the point is clear: The Rebbe wants what Hashem wants, and if you stop being a pretentious, snotfaced little twerp, then the Rebbe can get the work done. Your contribution, what the Rebbe left for you, is just to follow orders like a soldier.
That's the lesson of 11 Nissan. Have a slice of birthday cake, say a Lchaim, and get to work.


Eliezer said...

sublimated? Does that mean "made sublime"? Is that really what you meant to say?

Eliezer said...

"the truth never minced words"

The sounds real profound, but what does it mean? Can the truth do anything to words? I suppose you could have said "the truth doesn't misuse words," or "the truth doesn't boggle words." These are all true statements. Generally it's the people who do stuff to words.

The Real Shliach said...

Sublimation refers to denial of self, al derech "Hiskafia".
And of course the truth doesn't do anything to words, which is exactly why it doesn't mince them.

Eliezer said...

I stand corrected. I was unaware of sublimation's meaning.