This Monday, January 25, is the 10th of Shvat, which marks 60 years since the passing of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson.
For 30 years the Previous Rebbe led the Chabad community, through some of the darkest and most tumultuous years in Jewish history. For most of his life he lived in Russia, where he will forever be known for his courageous and fearless stance against communist repression of Judaism. The previous Rebbe kept the sparks of Judaism alive in the Soviet Union, becoming the de facto leader of the embattled Jews in that country.
In the final decade of his life, in the midst of World War II, the Rebbe moved to the United States. He was old, weak and broken from all he had suffered in Russia. Yet the previous Rebbe did not live out his final years in retirement. Rather, no sooner did he step foot on American shores than he embarked on an ambitious campaign to transform Jewish religious life in America. "America is not different!" was his rallying cry; he insisted that the same standards of Judaism that applied in Eastern Europe could be applied in the United States as well.
A year to the day after the passing of the Frierdiker Rebbe, his son-in-law, the present-day Lubavitcher Rebbe, assumed leadership of the Chabad movement. Within a short time the Rebbe became known far and wide as a Jewish leader par excellence. He continued in the path of his father-in-law, to disseminate Judaism to all parts of the world and care for the needs of every Jew.
The Rebbe established his well-known network of emissaries around the world, to spread the light and warmth of Judaism to Jews in the most remote locations. From day to day, the number of Shluchim, and the cities they serve, continues to grow.
In his first address upon accepting leadership, the Rebbe spoke of the parallels between the generation of Moses and our time. Moses was the seventh generation from Abraham; the Rebbe was the seventh Chabad leader starting from his ancestor, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, founder of Chassidism. Abraham was the first to disseminate knowledge of G-d throughout the world, and Moses completed the process by building the Mishkan, a sanctuary in the desert where G-d would dwell.
Rabbi Schneur Zalmen likewise was the first to pave a path to serving G-d through intellect; each generation of Rebbes refined his approach and made it accessible to more people, until the seventh generation, when the Redemption will finally be a reality.
With this address, stunning in its clarity, the Rebbe laid out a path for us to follow for sixty years to come. Our task is to bring the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, down to earth. And the way to do that is through illuminating the entire world with the teachings of Chassidus. Then we will merit, as the Rebbe concluded his address, to “see the Rebbe as a soul in a body, and he will redeem us.”