There is something magical about the predawn hours. Something faintly mythical, almost fairytale-like, when the forces of nature are so still, so quiet, that anything can happen.

It is one of these mornings; early, too early to do anything at all. I can hear a heartbeat, pulsing beyond time, rising and falling with the moods of the new morning sky.

It is tugging at my heart, gently, powerfully

And then, in the mysterious calm, I hear a whisper, from a distant, magic place. It is so faint, so soft, yet so compelling. It is tugging at my heart, gently, powerfully, and I know you are calling me.

Perhaps some may say I have hardly known you at all. But our bond exists beyond time and space, and I am journeying to see you, once again.

Shalom aleichem adoneinu moreinu v’rabbeinu . . .”

“Peace upon you, our masters, mentors and teachers; may you have peace from now until eternity. May you lie in peace in your resting places, without being pained at the distress of those who are close to you.”

The words are not new to me, yet I tremble each time I read them. I imagine the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch (second rebbe in the Chabad dynasty) whispering these words of the Maaneh Lashon before the grave of his father. (Maaneh Lashon is a compilation of special prayers to be recited at the gravesites of the righteous.)

What were the thoughts that crossed his mind? How did he feel? Did he choke back tears when he said, “Tatte, shalom aleichem; Father, peace upon you. I’ve come here to speak to you and ask for your blessing . . .”?

Did he envision us, a wounded generation, murmuring the very same words before our Rebbe?

I glance behind me as we stand in line to enter the ohel (resting place) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. It is the third of Tammuz, the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing, and I find myself reflecting on the meaning of the day, desperately searching for answers to questions that still remain, unanswered.

Why do we stand amidst gravestones as we prepare to enter the holy space of our Rebbe?

Why is it here that the lines of waiting men and women extend farther than the eye can see?

I imagine these lines leading elsewhere; that at the very end of this long wait, we will dance to the song of redemption.

All at once, the canvas ends“Dear G‑d,” I whisper, “it isn’t meant to be this way.” It’s as though an artist has painted a picture of throngs of vibrant chassidim who have journeyed to glimpse their leader; and then, all at once, the canvas ends.

Heads are bowed.

Hushed silence.

It is my turn now.

“Shalom aleichem adoneinu moreinu v’rabbeinu . . .”

I’m looking out on a battlefield. The night is long, and dark shadows leap across the landscape.

The soldiers are weak, but they do not stop fighting. They are weary; they are hungry for your words. And yet, somewhere, in the space of that silence, they are still singing your song. They are dancing, but it is a long, slow dance. A dance of victory; a dance of sadness.

“Taking wise counsel, I have come to visit the graves of the righteous, masters of their souls, so that the departed will also ask for mercy for me. For it is also of benefit to them, for there are many times when a soul emanates from another soul, attached like a branch to a tree, and clinging like a link in a chain. Here the dead inherit the living, to increase their light . . .”

The soldiers are waiting. They are waiting for the sun to come up, for the night shadows to die. They are waiting to dance a different dance.

The morning mist is rising, and I know it is time to move on. As I turn, I hear you whisper, softly, again. You are calling me, gently, and you are telling me that the war is over. You are telling me that the soldiers will come home.