Visitors from all over the world have been traveling to New York this week to mark Gimmel Tammuz, the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—with tens of thousands expected at the Ohel, the Rebbe’s resting place in Queens, N.Y., by Tuesday.

Yanely Mencia, however, didn’t have to travel far at all. The Queens resident went to a Sunday-night event at Chabad of Forest Hills North, which featured guest speaker Rabbi Mendel Feller, director of the Upper Midwest Merkos-Chabad Lubavitch in West St. Paul, Minn.

Gimmel Tammuz falls this year on Tuesday, June 27. It’s a day traditionally used for reflection, learning, prayer, and above all, positive action. Jewish communities everywhere honor the Rebbe’s life and legacy with events that bring people together for farbrengens, to hear guest speakers from near and far, and to study the Rebbe’s teachings.

For Mencia, 29, who started attending events at the Forest Hills Chabad in the last two months, the June 25 program, “A Meeting of Souls,” offered a chance to learn more about the Rebbe. “The Rebbe made sure that every Jew has family all over the world through Chabad,” she said.

When she first heard about the program from Chaya Hecht—co-director of Chabad of Forest Hills North with her husband, Rabbi Mendy Hecht—she knew right away that she wanted to participate. To prepare, she began reading up on the Rebbe, and his life in Europe and America.

“The Rebbe really loved every single Jew,” said Mencia. “That alone has inspired me to care more for everyone.”

Feller gave a talk in Minnetonka, Minn., over the weekend, and then headed to Queens—where the presentation drew a lively crowd—on Sunday and Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Yanely Mencia attended a Sunday-night event in honor of Gimmel Tammuz at Chabad of Forest Hills North
Yanely Mencia attended a Sunday-night event in honor of Gimmel Tammuz at Chabad of Forest Hills North

“Gimmel Tammuz is a time for us to connect to the Rebbe, and to be inspired and empowered in word and action,” he said. “That is what I have been focusing on as part of my talks—that the Rebbe inspired and empowered an entire generation, and indeed, a world.”

Strengthening the Bond

The day that a tzaddik, a righteous person, passes on elevates not only their soul, but that of all associated with him, explained Feller. “But part of being elevated is the idea that you have to get into the elevator,” he said. “And so it’s our job as Chassidim to provide just that: elevator access.”

That means preparing for the day by devoting oneself to the goals, teachings and lessons of the Rebbe, he said. He also hopes that people come away feeling a personal connection with the Rebbe: For those who haven’t felt it, that they should gain it; and for those already connected, that they should feel a stronger and closer bond.

“Every day is important for us to work on our bond with the Rebbe,” said Feller, “though the day of the [passing] is most auspicious. But in order to do that, you have to learn more about who the Rebbe is—and who we are.”

In his presentation, “A Meeting of Souls,” Rabbi Mendel Feller of Minnesota spoke of the Rebbe's ongoing impact on both the individual and the world.
In his presentation, “A Meeting of Souls,” Rabbi Mendel Feller of Minnesota spoke of the Rebbe's ongoing impact on both the individual and the world.