On a cold winter's day in February 1990, thousands packed into the synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, N.Y., the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. They were all there for the same reason: to join the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in marking the 40th anniversary of the 10th of Shevat—the day of the passing of the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, in 1950, and the day upon which, one year later, the Rebbe formally accepted leadership of the Chassidic movement.

One such attendee was Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, today the regional director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Illinois. Then a child, he was one of the thousands pressed into the crowded synagogue.

He remembers that day well. “All those people gathered to celebrate the Rebbe’s leadership and everything that had happened in the 40 years since,” he recalled.


The Rebbe had spent much of the day at the Ohel, or resting place, of his father-in-law and predecessor, returning to 770 to lead the afternoon Mincha prayers. When they had ended, the Rebbe gave a short talk on the meaning of the 40th anniversary, after which he descended from the podium to distribute a special edition of the Tanya—the foundational work of Chabad Chassidus penned by the first Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi—printed for the occasion. The young Moscowitz took his place at the end of the seemingly endless line slowly making its way up to the Rebbe to receive a copy from his hands.

When Moscowitz’s turn finally arrived, the Rebbe handed him his Tanya. Almost as soon as the book touched his hand, the line swelled forward, and Moscowitz found himself on the other side of the massive synagogue.

Although just a brief interaction, that moment has stayed with him to this day. To him, its significance goes beyond the simple incident of a young boy receiving a gift from his revered leader.

“By giving us the Tanyas, it seems to me the Rebbe was telling us that it’s not enough to just come and observe but that we need to take something back with us,” Moscowitz tells Chabad.org. “The message of the day is to learn the Rebbe’s Torah and live with it. It’s not just about remembering; rather, it is about learning and living.”

For Moscowitz, the Rebbe marking that special anniversary by gifting him and thousands of others a Tanya captures the essential meaning of the day and how one can approach it all these years later.

Annual Kinus Hatmimim, where more than 1,200 yeshivah students gather in honor of Yud Shevat.
Annual Kinus Hatmimim, where more than 1,200 yeshivah students gather in honor of Yud Shevat.

The World as a Garden

Much has changed in the 74 years since the original 10th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, or Yud Shevat, in 1950. But the message of the day, and its application all these years later, remains a constant.

Rabbi Mendy Cohen, director of Chabad of Sacramento, Calif., sees the momentous day as an opportunity to reflect on the Rebbe’s legacy and to delve more deeply into his teachings, none more pertinent than “Basi LeGani,” the Chassidic discourse delivered by the Rebbe upon his formal acceptance of the mantle of leadership in 1951. The Rebbe’s discourse—the first of more than 1,500 he would deliver—was based upon the final teaching of the Sixth Rebbe. In it, he challenged his followers to see an uncertain and often grim world around them not as it might appear, but as a garden waiting for its inherent G‑dliness to be revealed.

Cohen grew up in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, home base of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, immersed in the ethereal world of the Rebbe’s court. He moved to California’s capital in 1994 to establish Chabad in the city and in the decades since has been instrumental in building the Jewish infrastructure in the wider area. Today, 13 Chabad centers serve the greater Sacramento region.

“If you want to understand Yud Shevat,” he says, “you need to understand ‘Basi Legani.’ ”

The discourse explains that while at its essence the material world is indeed a holy garden, it was plunged into darkness by a series of sins described in the Torah, driving away, so to speak, G‑d’s obvious presence from the world. The task of every generation since has been to try to bring G‑dliness back into the world through fulfilling His will and commandments. Ultimately, through continued refinement, the material world can—and will—be elevated to the point where G‑d’s Shechinah—or ultimate revelation—can once again shine openly in this world, this being marked by the coming of Moshiach.

“The Rebbe said that he didn’t see a focus on the idea of Moshiach from his father-in-law, nor did he himself fully comprehend it until he arrived in America [in 1941],” Cohen explains. “But the Rebbe saw a different darkness in America, a certain spiritual darkness unseen in the old world. The light of the Torah doesn’t shine as much here.”

The Rebbe saw America as a place of unique freedom and blessing, and a powerful force for good in the world. At the same time, a certain spiritual apathy affected its people, who were ready to relinquish the roots of their faith in pursuit of material pleasures and social status. Apathy is seen as a force antithetical to holiness. Rather than this reality being seen as an indicator of doom, however, the Rebbe explained that it offered an opportunity unseen in history: Moshiach’s imminent arrival.

As Cohen puts it: “Precisely when fighting the greatest darkness is there the potential for the greatest amount of light. That’s fundamentally the message of Yud Shevat.”

This appears a particularly valuable viewpoint this year, when the Jewish people stand in the darkest time since the Holocaust. When confronted with overwhelming amounts of evil, the Rebbe’s message of Yud Shevat is that hidden within the depraved state of the world is the promise of remarkable beauty and holiness. Times of intense darkness often precede times of intense light.

There’s a catch, however—one which the Rebbe clearly defined in his monumental Basi LeGani: Each person has a unique purpose to fulfill, and the accompanying tools to accomplish that mission and help uplift and transform their sphere of influence for good.

G‑d and the world is relying on them.

Yeshivah students are tested on a volume of “Likkutei Sichos,” the Rebbe’s commentaries on the weekly Torah portion.
Yeshivah students are tested on a volume of “Likkutei Sichos,” the Rebbe’s commentaries on the weekly Torah portion.

Torah Study

It might appear difficult to see the Rebbe’s 74-year-old mission statement as a call to action in the here and now, especially for those who never met the Rebbe or were born after his passing in 1994.

“Even while the Rebbe was alive, people would ask him how they could connect with him; to understand what their unique role was,” Cohen observes. “The Rebbe’s answer then is the same as it would be now. One draws closer to the Rebbe through studying his Torah teachings and following his directives.”

According to Cohen, the idea that one needs to have stood in the Rebbe’s presence in order to consider themselves his footsoldier is a misconception. The formula for connecting to the Rebbe’s vision is the same in 2024 as it was in 1974—by absorbing his teachings and following his prescriptions, one reveals an existent bond.

The truth of this claim is proved by the ever-increasing growth of the Chabad movement and the consistent bands of young adults from a new generation that didn’t live with the Rebbe, but nevertheless feel deeply close to him and dedicate their lives to his call and vision.

Rabbi Meir Deren is the program director for the Vaad Hatmimim, an organization geared towards engaging yeshivah students with the teachings of the Rebbe. Throughout the year, he arranges a host of programs, Shabbatons, study opportunities and publications to engross the next generation of students in the Rebbe’s work and ideas.

Yeshivah students celebrate learning “Likkutei Sichos.”
Yeshivah students celebrate learning “Likkutei Sichos.”

Deren’s position affords him a close up view of the state of the new generation of Chabad students and, by extension, the future of the Chabad movement.

“The programs we run are designed to expose every student to the wealth and depth of the Rebbe’s teachings,” Deren says. “Closely studying his Torah teachings, which are voluminous and touch on every aspect of life, you can see how the Rebbe is talking to us today. It is not simply something that happened in the past.”

To that end, the Vaad Hatmimim is holding its sixth annual Halikut Siyum, an event celebrating more than 350 yeshivah students who in their spare time learn and memorize a full volume of Likkutei Sichot, the Rebbe’s teachings on the weekly Torah portion. Additionally, in honor of Yud Shevat, the Vaad Hatmimim is holding a convention for yeshivot throughout the world with some 20 participating and 1,200-plus students attending.

These programs, among others, are seen by Deren as a representation of the strength and continuity of the Rebbe’s message, and a display of how study of the Rebbe’s Torah is the surest way to bring him into one’s life—no matter when or where they were born.

In essence, Yud Shevat is about taking the Rebbe’s vision of the world as a luscious garden and seeing that it’s within every individual’s ability to reveal it to be so.