Barely thirteen years old, standing on the newly built balcony outside Lubavitch World Headquarters under the ominously dark skies emitting an avalanche of rain upon those of us below, I watched as tens of thousands of men, women and children gathered on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue.

That morning, waking at five-thirty to join in the daily morning prayers, I was surprised to see that the streets of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn where I lived, usually abandoned at this early hour, were full. Sadness and dread were thick in the air. My heart guided me to 770 Eastern Parkway, the focus of attention of all the followers of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.

The Rebbe had passed away.

I entered the foyer leading to the Rebbe's office, the foyer where many times I had received a blessing along with a crisp dollar from the Rebbe's hand to pass on to charity. Sitting on the staircase leading to the hallway, I reflected on my privileged personal experiences, from the Rebbe responding to me directly with "l'chaim" ("to life") when I raised my glass to him at age six to participating in children's parades of Jewish pride over which he presided.

Everyone has their unique experience with the Rebbe that fostered their view on who the Rebbe was. Photo: Marc Asnin
Everyone has their unique experience with the Rebbe that fostered their view on who the Rebbe was. Photo: Marc Asnin

But who was the Rebbe? I knew the little that I had experienced firsthand. But why were so many thrown into inconsolable mourning over the passing of a ninety-two year old sage? I needed to find out...

Years have passed since that fateful day. Since then I've read every book of the Rebbe's letters and studied many of his talks. I've also had the merit to be involved in publishing many of the Rebbe's teachings and directives.

On a personal level, I've been privileged to meet with many who were frequently in the Rebbe's presence. I've heard from them about their indelible memories, and some shared with me what the Rebbe meant to them. I've also spoken to hundreds of people from all backgrounds about their experiences with the Rebbe.

Every time I study one of the Rebbe's teachings, read another of his letters or hear someone reminisce about his or her experiences with the Rebbe, I learn something new about life, about who I am, about the world around me and how all these elements are to interact.

But I still cannot describe the Rebbe.

Yes, many have described to me their personal experiences with the Rebbe, but it is just the Rebbe through their eyes, their personal impression of the Rebbe.

Every encounter, every letter, every talk, reveals a new dimension.

Will I ever truly know the Rebbe? Will I ever be able to define this monumental leader? I doubt it. But I'm picking up as many pieces as I can.

Fifteen years after the Rebbe passed away, I would like to share with you some of these pieces that I've uncovered.

I'm glad to have you joining me on this journey.

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