I share these thoughts and thanks today with all of you, my friends, in loving memory of the Rebbe.
If it weren’t for the Rebbe and his Shluchim that he sent out worldwide (they are an inspiration, working so hard and passionately), and the powerful messages they’ve instilled in us… My family probably wouldn’t be where we are, and who we are today, with the beautiful, blossoming, forever-growing Yiddishkeit we are so lucky to live with.
We are very fortunate to not live too far from our Shluchim. Growing up participating in Rabbi and Rebbetzin Sternberg’s (of New London, CT) Chanuka and Purim bashes, we were always nourished with new inspiration, from Rabbi Sternberg’s fiery divrei Torah, to Morah Maryashi’s example of gentleness and hospitality, to my friendships with their daughters. We always came away feeling stronger. Chabad Preschool (Glastonbury, CT), in our formative years with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Wolvovsky (and Chabad Hebrew School on Sunday mornings with Rebbetzin Sternberg), was always so lively and memorable. Some of my best memories from preschool are saying Shema with those colorful clapper-yads, to make the mitzvah a little more joyous. ‘Getting ready for Shabbos’ was also so much fun, and left me chattering about my experience until the actual Shabbos Kodesh arrived. I still have Rebbetzin Wolvovsky’s Challah recipe, and will never forget her kind and guiding hand and smile, when my own little braid started to become rather hard and misshapen.
More recently, though, my brothers and I have discovered, through online classes and workshops, new loves for limud Torah and have been taught to take inspiring others into our own hands, Room613, an interactive study program, founded and led by Rabbi Yosef Resnick (Monson, MA), takes online communication to a new level. Rabbi Resnick, with his characteristic understanding, patience, kindness, and humor, has opened for us the treasure house that is limud Torah, and drawn us in, with a taste of so many different areas of Torah– Tanach, Hanhagos Tzadikim, Halacha, the rotating ‘Potluck’, and even his own insights. He has transmitted knowledge to us, through two years of learning with him, that never ceases to bring light and kedusha to our table, enhancing every meal, and such a large part of our family conversation.
The workshops I am referring to, are those of Jewish Girls Unite. I am unable to fully express how JGU has altered my life, and its daily course. It is a huge privilege to learn and work along with such an amazing group! I am forever grateful to my incredible teacher, Rebbetzin Nechama Laber (Troy, NY), and all those who work to make JGU the dream that it is, and for all of the guidance, life tools and techniques, familial friendships, and light, that this beautiful community generates. JGU connects girls and women globally, and together, we are stronger. We discuss openly and warmly, non-judgmentally, the power and unique strengths of the feminine, and grow together as we learn to use our gifts to better the world, and to sanctify all in our lives. We are each a dugma Chaya, a living example, of what we want to see in the world. JGU employs creativity, and creative arts, in presentation, activity, and individual sharing, and the use of innovative technology in meeting up and growing as one. With the masterful and skillful outreach and teaching of Mrs. Laber, every girl feels welcome, every girl feels special, and every individual girl is empowered to fulfill her unique purpose in this challenging world, if only we have the will and knowledge to achieve that shining goal. I am thankful to Mrs. Laber for giving me encouragement and my start, in playing my part as an ambassador of JGU, and blogging, so that I may share my messages. These online groups and learning programs are just a few examples of the Rebbe’s vision for modern technology, to not be shunned, but used in a constructive an beautiful manner. And look at how it is spreading!
With every interaction with all of these unforgettable Shluchim, we always learned something new, and as it was always (and still is!) a growing experience, we each time became a little more in tune with our inner light, and songs.
Some readers may perhaps be wondering, “I thought this was about the Rebbe? You have spoken much of these wonderful Shluchim, but what of acknowledgement of the Rebbe?” In truth, this is part of my sincerest thanks to the Rebbe. If he didn’t commission them to go out there, and perpetuate the Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit, where would all the Jews who they touched, as they echoed the Rebbe’s message, and carried out the missions he sent them on– where would all those neshamos be? Perhaps, chas veshalom, still lost to the sea of spiritual blackness they were drawn out from? And even more so, the Shluchim, and their astounding efforts, are themselves manifestations of the holy Rebbe’s visions! Thank you Rebbe for your Shulchim, who echo your teaching, and have delivered so much inspiration, kindness, blessing, friendship, and mentorship! Thank you Shluchim, for being who you are, and for all that you do!
Another great impact the Rebbe had on my life: The Rebbe empowered me to live my life with greater positivity, consciousness of Hashem in all that I do, and in all areas of my life, and greater Ahavas Yisrael and kavod for everyone I encounter. Positivity: With the Rebbe’s teaching, positivity has been instilled in my mind, and fuels me through nisyonos. I now understand that there is always hope, there is always something to be grateful for, or admire, in any G-d-given darkness. Just because you’re an idealist, does not mean you aren’t a realist. If you make an effort, have a plan and the tools to achieve your goal, and have bitachon in the Aibeshter that whatever happens is for the best, anything is possible. Increased Consciousness: With greater consciousness of Hashem, I now see that kedusha is not relegated to the shul or Beis Midrash. The home abounds with kedusha. Every mitzvah enhances and strengthens your connection to Hashem, no matter how small. Inherent in every existence is a divine spark, that enables it to exist, and fulfill its purpose, and must therefore be respected, and can always be elevated for a higher purpose. Ahavas Yisrael: The Rebbe so masterfully exemplified Ahavas Yisrael. That “No Jew Be Left Behind” is one of his greatest legacies. It never ceases to inspire me, from reading or listening to reflections on encounters with the Rebbe, how whoever came to the Rebbe seeking guidance, advice, or answers, was always responded to with a reply from the soul, with a look in the eyes, and full attention. Every answer or bit of guidance was tailored to each unique person, and their personal situation. This is something I strive to emulate… (*)
I could go on for ages, but no words can fully, certainly not adequately, express my overwhelming gratitude to the Rebbe, for the eternal spark he’s unsheathed among us, for the countless lessons, and legacy he left, and for his neshama as it still guides us. The Rebbe is as much as ever, perhaps even more clearly, touching the world after his passing, as it’s been taught, that this is true of a great Tzaddik.
But really… How can I do my best to give my thanks? The most I can do to pay back, is to follow in the Rebbe’s ways (**), to take sincere, enthusiastic, and positive action, spreading the flame of Yiddishkeit, and doing my own part to better the world. Lighting even one small metaphorical candle– this will actualize the dream!
May we be reunited with our beloved Rebbe, and all of our luminaries, with the coming of Moshiach, Tzidkeinu Bimhayra Beyameinu!
(* Footnote: I came to admire and reflect with wonderment upon these encounters with the Rebbe, from Mendel Kalmenson’s Seeds of Wisdom books. There are two exquisite compilations, which you can find online, one shop being Kehot Publication Society.
Book 1: http://store.kehotonline.com/prodinfo.asp?number=EO-SEED1
Book 2: http://store.kehotonline.com/prodinfo.asp?number=EO-SEED2
I highly recommend these inspiring and thoughtful works, treasuries of short but penetrating stories, communicating timeless messages and wisdom applicable to every person.)
(** Footnote: A personal tefillah such as this one made up part of my letter to the Rebbe, as it is custom for many to write prayers down on a note, and tear it and place the note into the Rebbe’s gravesite. The yartzeit of a Tzadik is an especially auspicious time to pray at the site of his burial, for on this day the Tzadik rises to arouse Hashem’s rachmanus, (compassion) for His children, and beseech G-d as an intermediary on our behalf. Such is the merit of a Tzadik. If you are unable to visit the Ohel, as the Rebbe’s kever is called, for yourself, you are able to send in your letter via online messaging, and someone on the premises will take care to print it out for you, and place your note into the gravesite. You can send your letter in here:
Powerful essay! So true!
Chaya Mushka Kievman