Netanyahu had to step down after leading Israel for 12 years. Two leaders – the Rebbe and Bibi, who had met before now shared the same day of fate.
THE BELOVED Lubavitcher Rebbe shuffled off this mortal coil 27 years ago. / (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Today is a weird day. The sky is slightly yellow, Jerusalem is surrounded by smoky air hanging below the clouds, it’s hot and the forest at the entrance of the city is burning.
I drive through town and in my head I turn off the sound around me and hit a slow-motion button. The traffic is moving slowly around us, there are policemen and roadblocks on all the main roads, for the town is full of politicians who came to swear in the next prime minister after Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Netanyahu era seems to be over.
People seem to be running chickens without heads. Everyone is busy. In Israel people are always busy – on the phone, talking, arguing, beeping, yelling, eating. Never relaxed. Imagine all this in your head in slow motion, and now add the music, “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rachmaninoff.
ON THIS same date 27 years ago, there was also chaos: the Lubavitch Rebbe passed away. Suddenly a massive number of Jews were left with no father and no leader. Some people seemed happy at the sad news, believing that Moshiach now was for sure on his way, they were getting their violins and clarinets ready to greet him. Some were crying, some were sitting on the floor clueless of what to do.
The Chabad world movement was in shock. The Rebbe cannot pass away. I was also in shock and felt spaced out.
So this is the end of the world, I remember thinking for a split second.
I was 16. I saw adults suddenly falling apart and crying heavy tears. I saw teachers raising their heads to the sky screaming with pain in their hearts. I hugged my friends, some of whom were laughing and telling me, “Go get dressed for Shabbat; Moshiach is here.”
Is this what Moshiach’s arrival feels like? Quite disappointing. I felt terrible.
When the Rebbe left us suddenly I remember hearing all around us, “There you go, your leader left you. Who will take the reins of Chabad now? There’s no heir. Chabad will self-extinguish; it will fade away.”
I was worried. What if this really is the end? Maybe it was all fake. Did we live in a bubble?
Look at us now, 27 years later. Chabad is probably the strongest Jewish movement in the world. There is a shaliach of the Rebbe in every possible country in the world. When all the shluchim of the world unite, they cover all languages of the world. Chabad is one of the biggest real estate owners; they own buildings in every country around the globe.
Chabad has reached millions of Jews who didn’t even know they were Jewish; it has covered millions of arms with tefillin and has encouraged women to light candles in every city in the world. Darkness can be fought only through shining a light – one of the many famous campaigns of the Rebbe.
The Rebbe left us physically, but his presence has never been stronger. He made sure to leave very precise missions and teachings to be taught and fulfilled. It doesn’t matter where you come from or how much knowledge you have; you have a Jewish soul ignited! Light up the world through love and kindness and even if you know only the letter aleph then teach aleph!
The Rebbe saw souls not bodies, the Rebbe saw flames aspiring to shine brighter and reach higher. For a flame is always aiming up, it struggles to stay alive and shine. The Rebbe did not leave students behind, he created strong and focused leaders.
Today the Rebbe would be proud as he watches over us and we stay connected through his books and we pray and write to the Rebbe as we visit his grave in Brooklyn, which became a focus of holiness and prayer for Jews from all over the world.
Gimmel Tamuz is the day we celebrate the Rebbe’s anniversary of his passing; on this day thousands line up to enter his gravesite for only a few minutes, and all over the world we try to learn more and take upon ourselves an extra good deed in the honor of the Rebbe.
GIMMEL TAMUZ this year was this past Sunday, the date set for the swearing-in of the next prime minister of Israel.
Netanyahu had to step down after leading Israel for 12 years. Two leaders – the Rebbe and Bibi, who had met a long time before and had crossed eyes when Netanyahu had gone to 770 the Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn and asked for a blessing – now shared the same day of fate.
The Rebbe then had blessed him and told him, “Hashem is by your side.”
As he was preparing to leave his post on Sunday, Netanyahu shared these memories with the world. Those words the Rebbe had told him never left his heart and gave him strength.
One can argue all day long, Bibi yes, Bibi no, but a leader he was. To lead you need charisma, strength and faith. Netanyahu made mistakes; he is not a Rebbe. He is human, but he will be remembered as probably the greatest leader Israel had. Giants are often lonely; they are too high up and too strong. It’s hard to keep it up.
Netanyahu loved his land and loved his people. Leaders like Winston Churchill, Menachem Begin, Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump all fell at some point and felt betrayed by their own people.
On Gimmel Tamuz this year we marked the Rebbe’s yahrzeit and the end of “Bibism.”
When a leader is true and real, his success is seen in his followers. Chabad has become the power it is today because of one man and his endless love for every single Jew.
Let’s wait and see what will happen with Netanyahu and his legacy. In the meantime he is still alive.
Get ready – you never know.
The writer is from Italy, lives in Jerusalem and heads HadassahChen Productions. A director and performer, Chen also heads the Keren Navah Ruth Foundation, in memory of her daughter, to assist families with sick children. email@example.com