A Birthdate to Remember


April 20, 2005

During his lifetime, thousands celebrated the Rebbe’s birthday at an all night farbrengen, a Chasidic gathering. Seated at a table decked in a white cloth, the Rebbe’s mellifluous voice commanded the cavernous, crammed hall at 770 Eastern Parkway. A Chasidic exposition on a Biblical verse, a discourse on Divine infinity, on the union of the soul and the Source, and various themes both exoteric and esoteric, always interlaced with a challenge to his listeners to study more, to do more-–would occupy the better part of six hours.

After about an hour or two, the Rebbe would pause, and the congregated would break into a Chasidic melody. This pattern repeated itself in the course of the night, with a predawn denouement of blessings and a call to action, leaving participants at once inspired and contemplative.

Today marks the 103rd birthday of the Rebbe. To be sure, the day will be celebrated by Jewish communities around the world. But now Chasidim, teachers, parents and grandparents who had participated in those farbrengens, will recall nostalgically those dedicated nights, and try to impart something of the aura that set apart the ordinary from the extraordinary in the presence of the Rebbe. Many resort to aides, such as videos and recordings—students have even downloaded some 40 years of farbrengens onto ipods—to help recreate a similitude of those extraordinary farbrengens.

Finally, however, it was the Rebbe’s focus on the pragmatic, on the here and now, the fulfillment of the present and the anticipation of the future, that honors his legacy. In a proclamation by President Bush., this day was named Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A. to commemorate the Rebbe's life and legacy that "teaches the next generation that a single life of conscience and purpose can touch and lift up many lives." Hence Chabad-Lubavitch today, and its ever growing Jewish educational and spiritual activities impacting the broader Jewish community while never losing sight of the individual, as exemplified by the Rebbe's leadership.


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