By Faygie Levy Holt
(Chabad.org/News via JNS) All across the globe people from all walks of Jewish life came together this past week to mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson z”l. The Rebbe’s yahrtzeit, the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, fell on Shabbat this year–Saturday, July 6. The Rebbe headed the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement from 1950 until his passing in 1994 – a movement he had helped revive following its post-Holocaust re-establishment in New York.
In keeping with the Rebbe’s lifetime goals and teachings, millions throughout the world participated in prayers, lectures, gatherings, tributes and the additional performance of good deeds in the Rebbe’s memory.
In California, the dozen Chabad Houses that comprise Chabad of Conejo Valley and Ventura County jointly hosted “An Evening of Unity and Inspiration” on July 10.
“There is so much doom and gloom and friction in the world, but the Rebbe taught us to look on the brighter side and see the good in everyone,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Sapochinsky, director of Chabad of Westlake Village, California. “He believed in each individual, and we need to believe in ourselves.”
The Rebbe’s thoughts on the subject are at the heart of a new book, Positivity Bias by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, released in time for the Rebbe’s yahrzeit. Kalmenson, who was a keynote speaker at the “Evening of Unity and Inspiration.” Also scheduled to speak is Salvador Litwak, a Hollywood screenwriter.
Like many other communities, the Southern California program was held under the banner of “One Heart, One People.” That banner, says Sapochinsky, exemplifies what the Rebbe was all about: being one. “We are trying to bring everyone together under one roof. At the core, we are one people, and the Rebbe taught us that.”
A display of unity was also seen down under as a standing-room-only crowd in Sydney, Australia, where the community came together on July 4 to remember the Rebbe during a farbrengen attended by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, the N.Y.-based author of Toward a Meaningful Life and other works. Jacobson spoke on the topic of “What Is the Secret Behind Chabad’s Success? Five Transformative and Enduring Lessons From the Rebbe.”
According to Rabbi Elimelech Levy, director of Chabad Youth New South Wales, “Gimmel Tammuz [the third day of Tammuz] is about the Rebbe and his enormous contribution to Jewish life, and by extension, humanity throughout the world.”
The biggest gathering was at the Ohel in Queens, New York, the resting place of both the Rebbe and his father-in-law – the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn – some 50,000 men visited the gravesite over the course of the week. Throughout the year, approximately 400,000 people, both Jews and non-Jews, frequent the Rebbe’s resting place seeking blessings, spiritual guidance and inspiration. In addition to personal visits, the Rebbe’s resting place annually receives more than 500,000 prayer requests via email and fax. Many of this week’s visitors brought with them to the gravesite petitions for blessings from friends and family around the world.
While men have gathered at the Ohel to mark the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit every year since his passing, this marked the first time that a concurrent program is running for women and girls. Some 400 women attended the Shabbat of “Reflection, Connection and Action.” The program was led by Chabad shluchas (“emissaries”) from South Africa, Australia and Hawaii, and was held at a hotel a few miles from the Ohel.
A focus on education, welfare, students and soldiers
Though he is known for his work in ensuring Jewish continuity and his love for the Jewish people, the Rebbe also made a significant mark on the world as a whole. His dedication to children with special needs – he advocated for the term years before it became part of the common lexicon – and his focus on education, welfare and those in the military who defend their countries earned him respect from world leaders.
He was awarded a Congressional Medal, and the U.S. National Education and Sharing Day was established in his honor.
As such, the Rebbe’s thoughts on social justice were front and center of a new book released on July 6 as part of the yahrzeit observance. The book, Social Vision, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for the World by Philip Wexler, with Eli Rubin and Michael Wexler, highlights many of the Rebbe’s thoughts on improving the world.
Online, the Rebbe’s visionary approach to many of the questions and challenges faced by society has been made available in a new section of chabad.org, which combines hundreds of transcripts, clips of original footage and personal correspondence of the Rebbe, highlighting how he applied the deep wisdom of Chassidic philosophy to real-world issues. Among the topics addressed are mass incarceration, the importance of renewable energy and the imperative of transforming public education for the greater good.
This article is an excerpt of an article that first appeared on Chabad.org/News.