It’s 5:30 a.m. and faxes and e-mails are coming in nonstop. A maintenance worker hauls fresh chocolate cookies off a truck while another stacks endless pairs of non-leather shoes into a wooden shelf. Piles of white paper and blue pens have been set on every one of the 30 tables here since 3:00 Thursday at Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch, a center in Cambria Heights, N.Y., abutting the Old Montefiore Cemetery and the resting places of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, and his son-in-law and successor, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

The preparations are being carried out in order to welcome the throngs of people from around the world who are flocking here tonight and Friday in honor of the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the anniversary of the Sixth Rebbe’s passing in 1950 and the ascendancy of the Rebbe to the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch.

At any hour on practically any day besides the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, you can see college students, young professionals, Israeli backpackers in blue jeans, fervently religious women, rabbis, and even a politician or two crouched around tables at the Ohel’s visitor’s center, writing down prayer requests and the challenges they may be facing in life on small sheets of paper. In keeping with Jewish custom dealing with visiting the resting places of the righteous, many will take off their leather shoes and head down a stone path to the structure surrounding the Rebbes’ side-by-side resting places. Inside, they’ll pray to the Almighty and read their notes before tearing them into pieces and scattering them on the ground.

It’s the closest, many say, today’s generation can get to the private audiences both Rebbes held in their offices in years past.

“The Rebbe lived a life of holiness, a life grounded in spirituality,” explains Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, spiritual leader of the Shul of Bal Harbour, Fla. “That’s what people connected to. After his passing, soul-connections continue to form.”

And for those study the Rebbe’s teachings, adds Lipskar, visiting the Ohel “is actually the climax of a continuous relationship with the Rebbe. It’s an educational process.”

The Rebbe often prayed at his father-in-law’s resting place, sometimes multiple times in one week. It was there that the Rebbe fervently read thousands of notes that people from all walks of life sent in to him, praying for them and sharing their joys, troubles, and requests.

“Writing the letter is not only the time for asking for blessings,” says Ari Eliefija of Coral Springs, Fla. “It’s a time to also report about all the good things that happened during the year and the good things I’m trying to do in my life. It’s an opportunity to give thanks and to make resolutions.”

Eliefija first went to the Ohel in 1988, before the Rebbe passed away. And he counts his most-memorable visit to the Rebbe’s resting place as the time he went in 2000 on the occasion of one son’s Bar Mitzvah.

On Friday, Eliefija will arrive at the Ohel with Chabad of Coral Springs director Rabbi Yossie Denburg and a group of fellow congregants. They’ll stay there through the Sabbath, sleeping in two homes near the visitor’s center and eating meals with hundreds of others who are similarly staying through the weekend.

“I’ve never gone as part of a group before,” he says. “The Ohel will have a lot less distractions than you usually have on a typical Sabbath. There will be a different routine where I can concentrate purely on connecting with G‑d. I think it will be inspiring.”

Miami television reporter Rosh Lowe is a frequent visitor of the Ohel.
Miami television reporter Rosh Lowe is a frequent visitor of the Ohel.

Rosh Lowe, a veteran Miami reporter for the WSVN television station, was introduced to the Rebbe in 1987.

“The Rebbe brought the concept of G‑d into my home,” he says.

Years later, after graduating from the Colombia School of Journalism, Lowe found his first news casting job in Naples, Fla. Although he enjoyed his new job, Lowe lamented that there was little religious presence in Naples.

“I wanted to move to a more substantial Jewish community to raise my children,” he says.

Lowe’s father went to the Ohel asking for a blessing so that his son could find a job opportunity near a Jewish community. Against all odds, Lowe was asked to join the team at WSVN, an incredible leap up from his second-tier station in Naples.

“But the connection didn’t end there,” says Lowe.

His wife had suffered through three miscarriages. Four months into a fourth pregnancy, the doctor observed that the baby had just one artery in its umbilical cord and explained that the condition could lead to growth retardation or another miscarriage.

“The next morning I took a flight to the Ohel and wrote a long letter begging for a healthy baby,” says Lowe.

Lowe resolved to inspire Jews all over the world if only the baby would be born healthy. Five months later, in a complication-free delivery, Lowe’s son, Yeshaya, was born at a healthy eight pounds.

Every day, Lowe thanks G‑d for the gift of his healthy baby boy. And since Yeshaya’s miraculous birth, Lowe has been speaking at Chabad Houses, motivating others to create stronger connections with their own Judaism.

“The Rebbe’s leadership continues,” says Lowe. “I’m a big believer that when you attach yourself to a righteous person, miracles can happen. I’ve see that in my own life.”