Defining Alive

Friday, 1 July, 2011 - 11:17 am

Dear Friends,

This Tuesday, Tammuz 3 marks 17 years long and difficult years since we were last able to see our Rebbe. Back in 1994 many of the so called experts predicted that without the Rebbe, Chabad would disintegrate and eventually disappear. Yet, despite all of the doomsday projections, quite the opposite has been the case. Chabad has expanded in an unprecedented manner. The explosion of growth is apparent in many facets – in terms of institutions, influence, numbers of participants, and visibility and presence in every part of the world. Hundreds if not thousands of young men and women who never met the Rebbe, are living lives inspired by his teaching and in dedication to his call of bringing Torah and Judaism to every corner of the earth. Through the medium of technology, the Rebbe’s message is being absorbed by the millions who read, listen and watch that message on the internet on a regular basis.

How do we explain this phenomenon? Where did the experts go wrong? The Talmud, when explaining the curious absence of the term death in the Torah’s account of our forefather, Yaakov’s passing, provides the following insight. “Our father Yaakov did not die. One asks, “Did they not eulogize, embalm and bury him?” Still since his children are alive, he too is alive.” The simple meaning of this passage is, that when a righteous person’s descendants live their lives by his teaching and example, he lives on in this world through them. While this is true about anyone, it is even more so regarding a Tzadik, whose life on earth was all about devotion to serving Hashem. (This is of course in addition to the belief that a soul lives on forever in the world of the spirit. Here we refer to living in this world.)

I would like to offer an alternative explanation that I heard from the Rebbe with regards to his predecessor and father-in-law’s passing in 1950. The conventional way of reading this statement of the Talmud is “Still since his children are alive, he too is alive.” However, thinking about this idea in a deeper way we realize that there is another way to read and understand it. If his children are alive – meaning that they live the life inspired by his teaching and example – then one must conclude that at some level, he too is alive. For otherwise, it would be impossible for them to continue living in this manner.

To bring this full circle, while the void of these past 17 years is potent and painful, there is no question that the Rebbe’s leadership of Chabad continues. His presence is very real and strongly felt by those that live their lives inspired by his guidance and direction. This then, is the secret of Chabad’s survival and growth.

To mark this occasion there will be a Farbrengen, an evening of inspiration, on Tuesday, July 5 @ 8:00 PM at Chabad of Metairie. If you are unable to attend, JLTV will be showing a one hour special on the Rebbe at 9 PM, which can be viewed on Directv channel 366.

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the day that the Rebbe and his wife arrived on the US after escaping Nazi Europe. Upon his arrival the Rebbe was placed at the helm of the newly established organizations that oversaw Chabad’s activities. Our friends at have put together a fascinating package of articles, videos and documents of that era.

Mazel Tov to Moshe Lew and his family upon his Bar Mitzvah this week.

Mazel Tov to Batel Sharon and Mike Lieberman upon their wedding next week.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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