Sholom Ciment
Sholom Ciment

Appreciating Genuine Leadership

The Rebbe’s 23rd yahrzeit, marked on the 3rd of Tamuz, Tuesday, June 27 provides an annual opportunity to reflect, appreciate and be inspired.

For some, the Rebbe graced their lives. Others were impacted. Still others found their lives profoundly changed. For his Chassidim, The Rebbe’s leadership was life transforming.

It is hard to find a Jew today that has not heard of, or has not been touched by, The Rebbe. Indeed, several days ago The New York Times’ daily crossword puzzle asked for a six-letter word synonymous with Jewish outreach. Chabad, that one small entry, confirmed The Rebbe’s achievements to be a present-day, universal, household fact.

In a time when “Leaders” have sullied and distorted a once venerated title, our generation’s good fortune was having The Rebbe’s leadership which continues to inspire so many millions.

If you merited to be in The Rebbe’s presence, no further elaboration is needed. For those who did not merit a physical interaction, it is a struggle to find words that effectively illustrate a phenomenon virtually indescribable.

This was a man, whose entire essence, his entire being, his every breathing moment was dedicated to The Higher Cause, to Hashem.

The Rebbe has been described by many qualities. His penetrating blue eyes, his soft gentleman-like charisma, his care for all others, his scholarship and renowned genius. While all of these and much more are true, they are missing the central core, his essence. His, was a palpable, tangible and undeniable humility. Ultimately, this is what makes a leader genuine. Moses – the epic Jewish leader – is described by G-d with one characteristic; “And the man Moshe was the humblest man on the face of the earth.” That is, it. Indeed, it was all.

In the Rebbe’s presence you were in awe. Yet, your reverence did not register. Upon eye-contact, any such expression was immediately overwhelmed by a staggering focus, to the exclusion of everyone and anything else, The Rebbe’s total immersion in you – the Jew that stood before him.

Watch the videos. The Rebbe, a man in his ninth decade, stands for 7-8 hours without a sip of water or a moment’s rest. Each and every man, woman and child, from the oldest to the youngest, from the first until the very last, received his absolute, undivided and full attention.

This was not an act of duty, this was real. This was complete validation. Total affirmation. This was true Jewish leadership.

In his presence, you felt that you belong. In his presence, you felt that you matter. In his presence, you were indispensable. He genuinely believed and made sure that you did too, that you had a contribution to G-d’s world that absolutely no one else could replace.

From him, one learned to access one’s soul. From him, one learned the soul’s infinite powers. From him, one learned how to contend with life and it’s challenges. Always, and without exception, this came from Torah’s unalterable and eternal truths. Nothing else was relevant.

On that forever dark, early Sunday morning, Tammuz 3 5754 (June 12, 1994), Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks issued a statement: “The Rebbe has passed. The Rebbe left no heirs. But, The Rebbe, has left millions of mourners.”

The Rebbe’s unshakeable trust in each Jew was equaled only by his love. Every single Jew is precious and holy.

The Rebbe’s teachings are as fresh and relevant as the day he said them. They, continue to deliver his absolute clarity, indestructible faith and peerless leadership. Immersing oneself in these teachings provides an anchor so powerful, that his endless faith in each of us once again comes alive.

The holy Zohar teaches that a tiny part of Moshe is within every Jew. The Rebbe, the Moshe of our generation, searched and discovered this spark of Jewish selflessness within us all. Unleashed, no challenge nor test will ever be too great.

As Rabbi Saacks underscored; “The Rebbe was not interested in followers. He was interested in creating leaders.” Fortified by the enormous strength and clarity of Torah, The Rebbe forged a generation of leaders whose premier reality is a living Torah that under any circumstance, it will never waver nor bow.

His daily injections of raw faith, through his talks, meetings and writings, have become embedded into our very essence. It has given birth to an exceptional sense of purpose and direction which continues as our guide.

Just ask the newly married couple, who never even met The Rebbe, yet fly off, by the hundreds, with one-way tickets, to the most remote places on earth to further Torah’s truths as his Shluchim – emissaries.

Or, ask one of the 50,000 men, women and children who waited up to four hours in line, one week ago, just to stand for two minutes by The Ohel, his resting place, to beseech of him to ensure on high that we receive all that we might need. 

Such it is with truth. It does not die.

Exile is an ongoing puzzle. Remaining focused and anchored to the Rebbe’s message will bring the few remaining pieces back home. By doing so, our final, imminent and wondrous redemption will emerge, complete.

About the Author
Ciment is Founding Rabbi of Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Boynton Beis Menachem, a pioneering traditional Jewish presence in Central Palm Beach County, Florida established in 1994. Chabad's 5 acre, "Rae & Joseph Gann Campus for Living Judaism" serves hundreds of member families and services thousands of Jews from all walks of life.
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