A bus full of passengers left Tenafly, N.J., on Tuesday for a trip to Queens, N.Y. More specifically, the group was headed to the Ohel, the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The visit is timed to honor his yahrtzeit, the 22nd anniversary of his passing on the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (Gimmel Tammuz), which this year corresponds to July 8-9.

The Rebbe’s yahrtzeit is a time for reflection, learning, prayer, recommitment and positive action by Jewish people everywhere. Around the world, Jewish communities will gather for programs and events made even more compelling in this Hakhel year. Chabad Houses across six continents will hold Kiddush luncheons and farbrengens this Shabbat in honor of Gimmel Tammuz.

And, as is customary, tens of thousands of people will send letters to the Rebbe in advance of the yahrtzeit.

Visitors have been pouring into New York over the past few days to stay the weekend, as the yahrtzeit falls over Shabbat. Temperatures are expected to hover around 90 degrees, with the possibility of thunderstorms in the forecast. Rain, however, won’t dampen the spirits of those who will wait patiently in long lines for a turn to pay their respects.

Tenafly resident Zarina Kosinovsky, who went to the Ohel on Tuesday evening as part of the group from Lubavitch of the Palisades, says she found the visit a spiritually enriching experience. “It makes you better just by going because it gets you to refocus on what’s important and to commit to being a better version of yourself,” she says.

Rabbi Mordechai Shain, co-director of Lubavitch on the Palisades in Tenafly, organized the trip and a series of other events running throughout the weekend, including Shabbat programming, in commemoration of the Rebbe.

Gatherings will take place in communities everywhere, like this one in Australia.
Gatherings will take place in communities everywhere, like this one in Australia.

“The Rebbe’s influence continues,” he says, adding that the emissaries’ presence in his community and their work are all a result of the Rebbe. “We’re asking everyone to come and commemorate the Rebbe’s 22nd yahrtzeit.”

The Chabad center took part in a Hakhel unity concert on Wednesday night, along with nine other Chabad Houses in northern New Jersey, featuring Israeli cantor and stage performer Dudu Fisher.

This being a Hakhel year—a year focused on Jewish unity and gatherings great and small, with an emphasis on rededication to Torah and mitzvot—put even more importance on connecting as a group around the yahrtzeit.

Pavel Goldsman of Suffern, N.Y., joined Rabbi Shain and community members on the bus trip. At the Ohel for the very first time, he says he found the encounter quite touching. “I lost track of time. I stood there longer than I thought I would. Being vulnerable, and crying and praying with my fellow Jews and opening up, it was a good experience.

“The Rebbe himself is a person I respect,” he continues. “I have tremendous respect for his life’s work—the fact that he devoted every minute to making Judaism more available to Jews all over the world.”

Prayer and meditation at the resting place. (File Photo: Adam Ben Cohen/Chabad.org)
Prayer and meditation at the resting place. (File Photo: Adam Ben Cohen/Chabad.org)

‘One More Good Deed’

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the annual commemoration offered something different this year.

Rabbi Bentzion Avtzon of the Lubavitcher Center produced the Gimmel Tammuz program, which took place on June 28 at the Independence Seaport Museum along the Delaware River. The event, which drew a crowd of about 250 people from the metropolitan area, featured a video presentation of the Rebbe’s legacy with live commentary called “Farbrengen: An Inside Look.”

Avtzon walked about the assembled crowd through the various parts of a farbrengen, stopping to narrate the different sections and root the program in the present. “I didn’t want it to be just a look into the past,” he says.

The farbrengen is a very “layered happening,” he adds. “I hope guests went home thinking about something meaningful, something that really spoke to them.”

Women and girls wait in line to visit the Rebbe's resting place. (File photo: Chaim Perl)
Women and girls wait in line to visit the Rebbe's resting place. (File photo: Chaim Perl)

Over in Canada, for those who couldn’t make it to the Ohel themselves, Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, co-director of the Rohr Chabad Student Network of Ottowa, is coming to New York with other people’s letters and requests in hand. He says it’s his honor to do so, adding that he had encouraged families and individuals to drop off notes in the weeks preceding Gimmel Tammuz.

Throughout his lifetime, the Rebbe received hundreds of letters every day, from people of every conceivable background, occupation and faith. Today, people continue to send letters to be placed at the Ohel in the age-old tradition of written prayer petitions at Jewish holy sites.

“On the anniversary of his passing, let’s celebrate the Rebbe’s vision. Let’s honor his life’s mission to bring goodness and kindness into this world,” notes Boyarsky. “Let’s do one more mitzvah, one more good deed, to make this world a better place.”

Preparing handwritten requests for blessings. (File Photo: Chaim Perl)
Preparing handwritten requests for blessings. (File Photo: Chaim Perl)