Sholom Ciment

The Rebbe, 25 Years Later

Despite G-d’s miraculous redemption from Egypt and unprecedented revelation at Sinai, the generation who witnessed it all became cause to the most tragic paradigm shift in our nation’s destiny.

G-d’s “Promised Land” was before them. But they thought it prudent to dispatch “spies” prior to overtaking it. Upon returning, the spies announced “it is a land that devours its inhabitants. Giants live there. We are like grasshoppers to them.” Thus, they concluded, it would be a fatal mistake to attempt conquering it.

This unsolicited personal commentary and crises of faith caused the people to question G-d’s ability to deliver and, ultimately, they rejected entering the land. G-d sentenced them “to die and be buried in the desert.” For those who reject it, cannot have it.

A just released book, “Social Action,” by Philip Wexler, Professor of Sociology of Education & Jewish Educational History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, joins the handful of biographies written in these past few years on The Rebbe. Collectively, well over a thousand pages have been penned by esteemed authors like; Rabbis Telushkin, Steinzaltz, Miller and others.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for The World,” is the aptly worded subtitle of this 265 page, meticulously researched book. More than 700 footnotes list Wexler’s sourced facts. An additional 30-page bibliography and index reveals an extant of issues and subjects, “enchanted,” as he prefers to describe The Rebbe’s global “social action” and impact. It is truly mind-boggling.

In his epilogue’s final paragraph, Wexler teases a summary offering at once, a glimpse into his style, focus and findings. “Hassidism, as inspired by The Baal Shem Tov, seeks to universalize the mystical union of worlds, souls, and divinity in every spoken word. Chabad articulates and elaborates the promise that this will inaugurate the messianic promise of Judaism as foreseen by the Prophets of old, and as revisioned in the 20th century by The Lubavitcher Rebbe. For him, we have shown, Hasidism is not merely Kabbalah become ethos, but Kabbalah become activism. His Hasidic vision has the capacity to replace the empty ritualism’s of contemporary life, instead infusing all interactions with divinity, wisdom, and empathy. Extending from micro activity to macro culture, this would constitute a transformative recalibration of the most elemental paradigms that govern life in this world, thereby bringing about the full realization and eternal renewal of social being and of human being.”

Wexler posits that The Rebbe’s vision went far deeper and further than anything previously reported. The Rebbe conditioned society to embrace a new era of G-dly fulfillment that had been relegated to the written words of the Prophets.

In his final pages, though, Wexler wonders, somberly, aloud, “can it endure?”

The Rebbe’s 25th Yahrzeit, 3 Tamuz is on Shabbat, July 6, 2019. Millions were, and remain, touched by The Rebbe. His monumental paradigm shift brought an entire world the sanctification of G-d’s name. Those who personally met him were unavoidably injected with a self-confidence and clarity of purpose that, often, they themselves never knew they had. His unbridled trust in each individual, was rooted in the fact that he or she was chosen to be created by G-d. As such, they each own an irreplaceable contribution that our society urgently needs.

Torah’s promise of Moshiach’s imminent arrival began long ago. We of this generation have been designated, The Rebbe taught, as G-d’s agents to complete this task.

The lesson from the spies tragic paradigm shift offers guidance to our own modern-day mission. G-d’s reality then was to deliver to His Promised land to His chosen people. The spies, though, perceived and acted upon their own “down-to-earth” reality. We have suffered ever since.

The Rebbe’s mission statement called to “conquer” the egocentric, materially obsessed, world that “swallows” its inhabitants. The infinite might of Torah and Jewish tradition, imbued with Chassidic warmth, is all the power we shall ever need. Never may we diminish ourselves to feelings of awkwardness, “like grasshoppers in the presence of giants,” even as our perceived “reality” contends with a vast, modern and sophisticated world.

Our reality must remain in sync with Torah. Torah does not question if it will happen. Indeed, The Rebbe has told us that it’s time is now.

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.