In 1951 when the Previous Rebbe passed away, the Jewish world was still reeling after the horrors of the Holocaust, and with a few exceptions, it did not seem that traditional Jewish life would take root in North America. The few communities that did establish themselves after the war, worked on creating isolated bastions of Torah observance where those who wished to follow the ways of their forefathers could do so with limited exposure to the outside secular world. Thank G-d, over the last seven decades, these communities have blossomed and increased in ways no one could have imagined. There are hundreds of thousands of Jewish people committed to Torah study and observance across our country. However, the leaders of these communities chose to focus on making their communities insular, and there was no attempt to reach out to the many millions of secular and assimilated Jews. In some circles, those Jews who did not live Orthodox life styles were all but forgotten.
When the Rebbe assumed leadership, Chabad Lubavitch was a tiny Chasidic group, which was not very influential in the wider Jewish world. The Rebbe immediately began speaking about the obligation of insuring that EVERY Jew has the possibility and opportunity of living their Judaism. Over the fifty years of the Rebbe’s leadership, more than 4,000 rabbis and their families have been sent to virtually every Jewish community in the world to help bolster and support Jewish education and practice. My wife and I are proud to be among them. Thousands of the Rebbes talks on the weekly Torah portions have been published, inspiring millions. Hundreds of programs have been created to strengthen Torah observance. Chabad now runs programs for college students, seniors, Hebrew schools, Kosher meal plans, prison visitation, Mezuzahs and Tefillin distribution, Torah classes, and more .
After the Holocaust, many people doubted if Judaism would ever recover. Thanks in great part to the Rebbe’s vision, Jewish life today is as vibrant as ever. A yahrzeit, the anniversary of someone’s passing, is indeed a sad day. But beyond this, our tradition tells us, it is the day when everything the person accomplished in their life time shines openly, and their effect on the world is felt. In the memory of the Rebbe, I encourage everyone to take upon themselves one more mitzvah. Whether it is committing to light Shabbat Candles more often, setting aside a little rime each day to study Torah, to say the Shema every morning, it is between you and G-d. the message we must take from the Rebbe’s life is that each of us must do our part in lighting up the world. To learn more about the Rebbe’s life, please visit www.chabad.org/therebbe .
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson זי"ע