In Russia, for 70 years, the life of an observant Jew was a perpetual act of martyrdom. Leading your life the way you knew it was supposed to be led meant carrying the weight of the Kremlin and the KGB ominously over your head, with the constant threat of arrest, torture and exile to Siberia. It meant every week risking another strategy to avoid work on Saturday, teaching your children in a different secret cellar each day, suffering scorn and ridicule for being who you were.

Then they came to America. And they could not find the enemy.

It is not a problem unique to chassidim, but to people in general who migrated to a new world and just couldn’t see the connection between all this and what they had left behind. How do you pass on to the next generation something that doesn’t seem to fit in this new context even for yourself?

This is a task where the human mind finds great difficulty: Relating familiar ideas to a new, completely unfamiliar time and place. We are dragged helplessly by the current of Time, mercilessly ripped from our hold on the past that fathered us, forcibly confronting a future with no chance to prepare. We are the intimidated victims, servants and prisoners of Time, forever bowing to the pressures of the moment.

But then there are souls that remain beyond the realm of time and place, even while they enter into it. They know Time as one who looks down from the highest mountain, watching as snow becomes creek becomes river becomes sea. To them there is no dissonance, no conflict -only the movements of a magnificent symphony.

Into our time entered the Rebbe.

Those who could see no further than their own optic nerve saw the Rebbe as a relic of the past. With an untainted eye it was obvious that to the Rebbe there is no past.

To others, life in the small Jewish settlements of Europe had no relevance to the new life in America. The Rebbe saw the essence of that life, and the essence doesn’t change.

To others, the time and place of martyrdom had ended, and an era of freedom and self-indulgence had begun. To the Rebbe, it is all just a newer and even higher rung on the ladder of transcendence of the self.