Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gimmel Tammuz Thoughts

Rabbi Shimon Posner is the shaliach in Rancho Mirage, California. This article comes from his weekly community email.

By Rabbi Shimon H Posner

Walking down Thirty-Fourth Street you see the camera-clad map-wielding tourists heading towards the entranceway of the Empire State Building. They stop and look up, they lean back, lean all the way back until just before they loose balance, and they start clicking pictures – of a wide, wide wall.

The more self-conscious, the more sophisticated blush when the passing New Yorkers suppress a sly grin. It is only once the tourist gets to Seventh Avenue that they gain any perspective of this magnificent, elegant landmark soaring above an already impressive skyline -- and how it is head and shoulders above Spokane.

Was the Rebbe a rabbi? Well yes, but no. Forget it, I'm not going to be able to explain what the Rebbe was, what the Rebbe is. It is now what, thirteen years already since his passing, and I don't see any perspective. I see legacy; newlyweds who never even spoke with the Rebbe that are chopping at the bit to do his work even before they've unpacked their wedding gifts.

"Look into the eyes of the one who has gazed upon the Rebbe!" the shtetl Jews would declare. Look at the lucky one who had made the trip-- by foot usually, by horse and buggy if they possessed what was considered wealth – to spend a Rosh Hashanah, a Succos, with the Rebbe. Perspective?

I see that his idea -- which raised more eyebrows than interest fifty years ago -- is now considered normative Jewish experience; Jewish children will be more inspired than their parents' generation: tradition for a generation without memory. When I came to Rancho Mirage a kind soul suggested that we'll be getting lots of calls for people who want to say kaddish in a traditional shul: like the one their parents frequented. Once in a long while we get such a call. Regularly, just ten minutes ago in fact, we get a call for help with getting kosher food: their grandchildren are visiting.

So if I can't give any perspective on the Rebbe why do I write of him on his yartzeit? For the exercise: the mere exercise will allow a place for the perspective to develop -- and will show the void of having no perspective. Lots of people who take their given expertise very seriously predicted what would happen to Chabad once the Rebbe would pass on, especially the youth. None that I know of spoke of a legacy which becomes more dynamic, not less. I would not have thought it.

Many of these couples are not fully aware of it, but they are not the first. It was their grandparents' generation that was arrested and served in Siberias Jews. In the blank next to the word "crime:" was written the word that sentenced them: Schneersonist. Most of these Schneersonists had never seen the Rebbe then; those who did not survive, never met the Rebbe now. The Bolsheviks meant Schneersonist pejoratively.

President Dubya on a trip to Russia-former Soviet Union-CIS-or whatever, spent forty minutes longer than planned in a shul where Shneersonists were arrested, where one of those newlyweds had come back to -- can I say it without sounding hackneyed? -- breathe Jewish life into the embers of the Jewish spirit.

No, no this is not perspective, this is just a wide, wide wall. Perspective you want? Keep walking.