Today, the third of Tammuz, the day of the swearing in of the new government, is also the day of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s passing 27 years ago. There are so many things we would be wise to learn from him, especially today.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe is considered to be one of the most outstanding Jewish leaders of the 20th century, although he never won an election. Leadership, it’s so important to remind ourselves, is not only in politics. Leadership is also expressed in spirit and in Torah, in culture and in art, in business and in industry, in the military, and more. There are many other areas besides politics in which to lead, with all due respect to the political leaders that have obsessively preoccupied us during the last four rounds of elections.
We can guess that the Lubavitcher Rebbe would oppose the present government. He ruled out leftist ideologies. He also staunchly rejected compromises on the subjects of conversion, kashrut, and similar issues. He believed that the future of the Jewish people is based above all on devotion to tradition. But it seems to me that the opposition also has something to learn from him: the Lubavitcher Rebbe was uncompromising in his relationship to the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the nation of Israel. But he criticized and rebuked others out of love for Israel. He would never tell anyone to take off his kippa. Even those furthest from him were still given honor and a smile, and he did not forget to inquire after their welfare in subsequent heartfelt communications. More than once, those who voted in the Knesset against what he believed would write to him affectionately, relating how they had put on tefillin, given tzedakah, or lit Shabbat candles as he had requested of them.
The Jewish nation is greater than its politics. Shimon Peres once emerged emotionally from a meeting with the Rebbe and said: “This man looks knowingly ahead. He sees the future with the same clarity with which we see the present.” Education, treating others with kindness, a sense of mission, repairing the world — these were the causes to which he dedicated his life and the multitudes followed him. A glorious vision for the future of the Jewish people does not depend on 61 Knesset members or on the government’s next budget. 27 years ago, a leader passed away who reminded us continuously that our story is about so much more.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin