Yud Shvat (10 Shvat) marks the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, and the day on which the Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, accepted his leadership position.

For a Lubavitcher chassid, this is not a historical event that happened more than 57 years ago. Each year, Yud-Shvat is a time when this connection is renewed and a chassid identifies with the Rebbe and accepts his leadership.

Today, there are probably more chassidim who unfortunately, have never seen the Rebbe than those who had a personal relationship with him during his lifetime. And so, the question arises: What does Yud-Shvat mean to them? How can a chassid who has never seen the Rebbe accept him as Rebbe?

In truth, the same question exists for all those who shared a relationship with the Rebbe during his lifetime. For the relationship between a chassid and his Rebbe is not one of mere memories. Recalling the past and studying his teachings is not enough. For any chassid, the relationship between him and his Rebbe must be alive.

Yud Shevat — The Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe
and the Anniversary of the Rebbe’s Ascent to the
Leadership of the Chabad Movement

The bond between a Rebbe and a chassid is far deeper than that of teacher and student and of more substance than that shared by a counselor and one seeking guidance. Yes, a Rebbe teaches and gives guidance — and much more, but beyond all the tangibles in the Rebbe-chassid relationship, there is an essential point.

When writing of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe explains that there are those who would describe him as a paradigm of self-sacrifice, a brilliant scholar, a man of exemplary character traits, a tzaddik, an individual endowed with divine inspiration, an individual who works miracles, and so on.

These, he explains, reflect truly exemplary qualities. But they are all particular qualities, reflecting only limited aspects of his personality. Beyond that, there is an essential quality, one which bonds him to his followers, that he is a Rebbe. Our Rabbis interpret the word Rebbe (רבי) as an acronym for the words ראש בני ישראל, “the head of the children of Israel.”

In Tanya, ch. 2, the Alter Rebbe states that there are certain comprehensive souls, souls that share a bond with others. He explains that concept with the analogy of the human body. The brain contains a map of the entire body and has a portion associated with every limb or organ. Similarly, a Rebbe shares a soul connection with every Jew.

To explain: When we try to define who we are, we obviously look past our bodies. Of course, our bodies are not to be neglected, but what is significant about our bodies is not the body as it exists for its own sake, but how it reflects the soul.

Going deeper, we all have particular qualities, the way we think, the way we feel, the unique way in which we do things, but these also are not the core of who we are. We all feel that we possess something transcendent, something that cannot be defined, a G‑dly core. That is who we really are. Nevertheless, that G‑dly core is often hidden, submerged beneath many other veneers of self.

The G‑dly spark in a Rebbe is not hidden. The G‑dliness which we all possess is as real and cogent a factor to such an individual as ordinary material existence is to us. Now when a person comes in contact with such an individual, they cannot remain unmoved. Simply put, the Rebbe stirs the souls of others, infusing them with the awareness of G‑d and empowering every individual to relate to Him with the context of his or her experience.

The spark of G‑d we and the Rebbe share is infinite and unbounded as G‑d is. As such, the limitations of time also do not confine it — and so, there are no restrictions holding back our connection to the Rebbe. This is the meaning of the Zohar’s statement, the presence of a righteous man is felt tangibly even in this world after his death, and indeed, more than during his lifetime.

There is no need to speak theoretically. The exponential growth of Lubavitch over the last decade bears testimony to the Rebbe’s continued influence.

Looking to the Horizon

In the era of Mashiach, the fundamental connection between G‑d and the world will surface. Rather than relate to G‑d as a separate entity with Whom we seek to bond, the essential G‑dly life-force that permeates all existence will be revealed and we will appreciate that this is our true identity.

This helps explain why the Rebbe pressed so powerfully for the coming of the Redemption. It was not only that he was a visionary, able to appreciate that the spiritual climate of the world is changing and that “the time for your Redemption has come.”

The Rebbe’s mission was to reveal G‑dliness within others. In this way, he was a messenger for the future, possessing the mindset that will characterize the era of Mashiach and sharing it with others.

The era of Mashiach will be characterized by eternal life. Since the essential G‑dliness within each person will surface, the limitations of the body will not be significant. Therefore it will be the era of the Resurrection when the souls from all previous generations will also descend to this earth again.