Today’s Hebrew date is the 11th of Nissan, and it is the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s birthday.
As a child and later as a yeshiva student, every year on this date, three days before Passover, my friends and I would celebrate the Rebbe’s birthday by fanning out around New York City to meet other Jews in the streets. We would offer the men a chance to put on tefillin, Shabbat candles for the women, and everyone would get a package of handmade shmurah matzah for their seders.
The Rebbe lived to serve the Jewish people, and these activities on his birthday just seemed to be the right type of ‘gift’ for him.
Of course, this was not limited to the Rebbe’s birthday; it is something that Chabad boys and girls often do, but the 11th of Nissan was the highlight of our relationship with the Rebbe—the Rebbe’s personal day—and what better way to observe it than by doing what the Rebbe loved?
This week my children did the same with their friends. They spent a day in the streets of downtown Chicago doing what Chabad youngsters have been doing for decades—asking passersby if they are Jewish, offering them to perform a quick mitzvah.
Looking back, I can comfortably say that this prepared me for what I do today, bringing the joys of Judaism to my fellow Jews on a regular basis. Twenty five years after his passing, we still celebrate the Rebbe’s birthday because his inspiration is why my family and I live in Munster, Indiana, and it’s why our home is open to every Jew. It’s what drives us to deliver shmurah matzah to as many people as possible, to encourage people to do just one more mitzvah, and to represent the Rebbe in our part of the world. We live for making the Rebbe proud.
All the activities of our Chabad House, as well as every Chabad around the world, are our birthday present to the Rebbe. And if you are in any way involved with Chabad, even in the slightest, you are also are part of this gift.
Happy birthday Rebbe! L’chaim!