By divine providence last year and this year, I visited the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Elul 8 (Wednesday, August 30) and on each occasion, I had the merit to have a private yehidus (“conversation”) with the Rebbe! For those precious moments, I was “alone” with the Rebbe in a completely empty Ohel (even the director says that circumstance does not happen often!).
What the moment signified for me was complete gratitude to the Rebbe whose life and afterlife are completely dedicated to serving the needs of anyone regardless of “race, color or creed” and making each person feel that his/her prayers are going to be answered with sensitivity and affirmatively!
Last year I visited the Ohel twice during a whirlwind two day visit from Israel to New York and back, and this year I went three times to the Ohel during the course of also a two day/night visit from Israel to New York and back (I arrived in NY at 5PM and at 8 PM I was already at the Ohel visiting the Ohel until 10:30PM and back at 7:30 AM the next two days!)
What stood out to me was the number and diversity of people who find their way to the Rebbe’s Ohel – whether it was an Afro American non Jewish person whose friend encouraged her to come (and have all her requests positively addressed) or men and women from every spectrum of Jews – each person was treated with dignity and a staff ready to patiently assist and explain the customs and rituals and make a visit an experience to remember.
What is it like to be at the Ohel itself?
Each time I entered the Ohel, it was like Neilah (final moments) of Yom Kippur . There is such a feeling of such holiness the minute you walk in and it carries you to a level of spirituality which is special.
For each request, the custom is to read it and then tear the request up and deposit it in a central area. And you really had the sense that a special force was “hearing each request.”
I heard from more than one person that “every request that they had made was answered in a positive way” – so how can you not feel a sense that there is a compassionate listener taking each request for a bracha in the most serious manner possible!!
The opportunity to stand at the Ohel for hours each day praying from the prescribed book Maaneh Lashon and presenting requests (including my own and others) was indeed a gift. And, when I got tired of standing, all I had to do was reflect on the number of hours that the Rebbe stood giving out dollars to any one of the thousands who lined up, and my energy was renewed for the privilege of standing in his special place.
Prayers for Houston Relief and How to Help
Among what I considered the most poignant requests that I could make relates to the events in Houston, a place where my Chabad roots began.
I was certain that from the minute the Hurricane Harvey storm was predicted, the various Chabad “franchises” in Houston and the surrounding areas (headed by people who helped me gain my exposure to Yiddishkeit) were mobilizing to help provide for shelter and kosher food and assist in any way possible.
Sure enough, the news out of Houston regarding the negative impact of the flooding on the Jewish community and the efforts by Chabad demonstrated the accuracy of my sentiments and the kindness and unselfishness of the Chabad leaders.
In addition to the prayers, what we can do in Israel for the Houston community is donate financially to the relief efforts taking place and spearheaded by Chabad.
If one clicks on the following link, you can see the ways that you could contribute to the Hurricane Harvey Relief initiatives.
A Gift to Ourselves
I was so fortunate to have picked an auspicious time to visit the Ohel. I left certain that the Rebbe’s concern and compassion for the events in Houston and for mankind would make a major difference on the spiritual level. I was equally convinced that it up to us to help on the material level to aide our fellow Jews in distress.
May we all merit a healthy and happy and peaceful New Year.