Thursday, 3 Tammuz, 5783 (June 22, 2023), marks the 29th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

In 1951, ten days before the first anniversary of the passing of his father-in-law—the previous rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson—the Rebbe issued a letter asking that all those associated with Chabad should come to the synagogues and places of Torah study and take part in public Torah learning. Everyone should be prepared—men, women and children—to receive G‑d’s blessing for life, income and children. On this day, he said, the tzaddik arouses heavenly compassion for all those who connect themselves to him and to his teachings and activities.

It seems that many were unsure exactly what should be done. In a second letter the same day, the Rebbe provided very specific and detailed instructions.

It makes sense that we should follow the same practices on the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. Yes, we know that a tzaddik is with us in this world even more than before his passing, as stated clearly in the Zohar. The Rebbe clearly believed that concerning his father-in-law, and yet he instructed us to follow these practices, and certainly must have done so himself.

Here are those instructions, with some adaptations for our current situation. Many of the practices pertain specifically to men—such as being called up to the Torah, etc. But that simply gives more time for women to be involved in the activities that apply to both men and women.

Torah Reading and Leading of the Prayers

  • On the Shabbat prior to the yahrtzeit, all men should try to be called up to the Torah. This is called an aliyah. If there are more men than there are aliyot, alternative Torah readings should be arranged in different rooms. We do not add to the number of eight aliyot.

  • Try to reserve the final reading (maftir) for the most respected person, as determined by the majority of congregants. (In Jewish circles, that generally means a learned and pious elder.) Alternatively, decide this by lot.

  • Everyone should decide who should lead the services on the yahrtzeit. It’s best if this is divided up, so that one person leads the evening prayer, another the morning prayer, and a third person the afternoon prayer—so that more people have this privilege.

  • The night before, light a 24-hour candle (if the yahrtzeit falls on Shabbat, light it on Friday before Shabbat candles). If it is not difficult, this should be of beeswax. (The Hebrew word for beeswax—שעוה—is an acronym for the verse הקיצו ורננו שוכני עפר, “Those who dwell in the dust shall rise and sing.”)

  • Five long-lasting candles should also be lit before the leader of the prayers.

  • After the prayers (which, in the morning, includes the daily portion of Psalms), the leader of the prayers should complete his study of Mishnah Keilim, chapter 24, and Mishnah Mikvaot, chapter 7. He should then recite the Mishnah “Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya . . . v’ya’dir,” followed by a few lines of Tanya said quietly, followed by Kaddish d’Rabbanan. (This practice applies to the anniversary of the passing of a parent, as well.)

Torah Study & Charity

  • After the evening prayer, someone should recite by heart a portion of the maamar that was printed for the day of passing. (This was Bati Legani, 5710. For the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit, many replace this with V’atah Tetzaveh 5741, since this was the last maamar the Rebbe gave us to study before his passing.) If no one is able to say it by heart, everyone should study the text together. The same should be done after the morning prayer, and it should be completed after the afternoon prayer.

  • Before the morning prayer, study a chapter of Tanya. Do the same after the afternoon prayer.

  • Donate to institutions and causes related to the Rebbe. The Rebbe emphasized that you should do this on your behalf, and on behalf of every member of your household.

  • The traditional letter that is written to a tzaddik, even after his passing, is called a pidyon nefesh, abbreviated as pahn. In it we ask the tzaddik to arouse heavenly compassion for our souls, and for all those close to us.

    Leave the pidyon nefesh between the pages of a maamar or some written teaching of the Rebbe. Then send it to the Rebbe’s burial place at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens to be read there.

    You can fax it to (718) 723-4444, or send your letter via e‑mail. (When 3 Tammuz falls on Shabbat, all writing and of your letter should take place before or after Shabbat.)

  • Mishnah is spelled with the same Hebrew letters as neshamah, the divine soul within each of us. Thus, over the 24-hour period, study chapters of Mishnah related to the Rebbe’s name. This means that each chapter begins with a letter of the Rebbe’s name. (To make that easier for you, we have arranged these chapters in order for you. Click here to download.)

    This practice applies to the anniversary of the passing of a parent, as well.

Spreading the Word

  • Set a time during the 24-hour period to talk with your immediate family about the Rebbe and to explain the work in which he was occupied his entire life.

  • Over the 24-hour period, those who are fit to do so should visit the synagogues and places of Torah study in their city to say a few words from the Rebbe’s teachings. They should explain the Rebbe’s love for all Jews. They should inform them and explain the three daily shiurim of Torah that he established: saying the portion of Psalms for the day of the month every day, studying the portion of Chumash for that day, and studying the annual portion of Tanya for that day. (These were established by the Previous Rebbe. The Rebbe strongly promoted these throughout his lifetime as crucial items in the daily schedule of every Jew, and also added a portion of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah to be studied each day.)

    If possible, this should all be done in the context of a farbrengen.
  • Over the 24-hour period, those who are fit to do so should visit places where young religious Jews congregate. They should also try—in whatever amicable ways possible—to visit those places where young Jews who are not yet religious congregate. They should explain how the Rebbe was particularly fond of the youth, and gave them special attention at all times. They should explain what he expected from them, and the hope and confidence he had in them, that eventually they will accomplish their mission in strengthening Judaism and spreading Torah with all the fervor, excitement and liveliness that only youth can provide.

The Rebbe added that it’s self-understood, as long as circumstances permit, that these activities should continue in the days after the anniversary of passing, and especially on the following Shabbat.

The Mitzvah Campaign & Twelve Torah Verses

We connect to a Rebbe not only through studying his teachings, but even more so by getting involved in his projects. Over the period of his leadership, the Rebbe devised a 10-point mitzvah campaign—a kind of starter kit for every Jew. Read about that here, and see how you can get involved—both in your own life as well as by influencing others.

The Rebbe also chose a foundational set of 12 verses from the Torah and sayings of Torah sages that every child should memorize. You’ll find those here.

The Rebbe concluded his letter with a prayer that “G‑d should speed the coming of Moshiach, and those who dwell in the dust will awaken and sing. Our rebbe will be among them, and he will tell us wonders, and lead us on the way to the House of G‑d.”