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Wednesday
Jul102019

WHO ARE YOU?!

Who am I? Who is anybody? We have a horrible, gaping vacuum in leadership, an absence of direction, a resistance to being captivated by really the only thing that matters: maintaining heightened enthusiasm for Moshiach. Gimmel Tammuz is not to blame for that…

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

I saw the Rebbe just once. It was on Gimmel Tammuz 5754. I was ushered passed the Rebbe’s study along with thousands of Chassidim. 

Shabbos Mevarchim Tammuz of that year, I had my first yechidus, though I never saw the Rebbe at the time. It was at the hospital in lower Manhattan, Beth Israel Medical Center, on the seventh floor. I was with a friend. We were stopped by security at the entrance to the wing. Believe it or not, the man agreed to alert the secretaries. Rabbi Klein walked out from being with the Rebbe and met us at the entrance to the wing. We handed him letters, pidyonei nefesh, to give to the Rebbe.

I sat on a bench before the elevator and said T’hillim. Perhaps Rabbi Klein read the Pan to the Rebbe just then, because as I was saying T’hillim, I became totally engrossed in it, emotionally electrified.

The doors parted and a man of about 60 emerged from the elevator. At this point, my face was red and tears flowed freely.

Did something happen? Is there any news about the Rebbe?! The man was terrified.

The words sunk in and I realized his concern. No, no, I reassured him. I was just saying T’hillim…

I found a stack of towels in a nearby room and buried my face in whiteness and cried from the depths. That was my yechidus.

I remember seeing mashpia Rabbi Avrohom Lipskier in 770 on Gimmel Tammuz. I looked at him perplexed. He shrugged. It was a time of shock.

I saw a relative of Dr. Block, of blessed memory, who was there for me from Day 1. He told me that evidently this is the way the Rebbe has gathered all his shluchim (so many had flown in) to join in the full and final hisgalus, Moshiach revealed and the dawn of a new era.

I think it was Dalet Tammuz, the very next day, when Rabbi Lipskier gathered us into a classroom. His shrug was gone. His command had returned. He had a Yechi HaMelech pamphlet in hand and we learned, our faith restored and refocused. Here is a leader who helped us defy despair.

Not long after Gimmel Tammuz, we went as a yeshiva to the Ohel to daven for rosh yeshiva Rabbi Wichnin’s health, which was failing (an illness he succumbed to many months later). A therapist was there giving out business cards to the supposed beleaguered ranks of Lubavitch. I respectfully turned down the offer. The Rebbe is alive in us; we are well again.

***

I think we don’t realize how important it is to be healthy. I mean in all areas, especially mental health and maintaining a positive outlook, having the discipline to detect and uproot the source of all despair: cynicism.

Once in 770, I saw a group of bachurim sitting on and around a table. There were many Torah publications beneath them. I asked the offending parties not to sit on the table. The response came quick and with a sneer: Who are you?!

Who am I? Who is anybody? We have a horrible, gaping vacuum in leadership, an absence of direction, a resistance to being captivated by really the only thing that matters: maintaining heightened enthusiasm for Moshiach.

Gimmel Tammuz is not to blame for that. It is perhaps because we haven’t fully absorbed the Rebbe’s earlier directives and chiddushim. The Rebbe does not leave us with segulos and tell us to go out and conquer. The Rebbe blazes a path for us. He urges us to draw on the infinite resources at our disposal to summon the strength required for us to march forward to victory. The Rebbe has made it abundantly clear that we must use our own cognitive faculties to do this. That requires us to be leaders, each of us.

The main thing we have to fight today is the next generation of cynicism. We breed it because we fall into despair. Our children pick it up and suffer.

The vicious cycle is broken by living with Torah, by forging a real connection with G-d, as seen through the vision of the Rebbe, but as it unfolds through our own toil, our own pursuit, our own chiddushim, even our own personality.

It is our duty to continue the Rebbe’s mission to bring Moshiach, but with fresh ideas unique to each person, teachings that resonate in today’s language. It doesn’t do any good to pretend everyone is card-carrying and mekushar to the core if there are cynics among us. Torah study must be fresh, vibrant, and relevant, brimming with insight and compelling delivery, in order for us to inspire the world to wake up to the reality of Moshiach, which is unfolding now. ■

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