Historians know little about destiny, AKA history in foresight. Check Jewish encyclopedias, almanacs, theses, analyses and expositions published as recently as the 90’s and you will find minimal mention of the Rebbe or Chabad. However virtually all publications and studies of the past decade reflect the meteoric growth and ubiquitous presence of Chabad in every locale and feature of contemporary Jewish life.

Why was the story missed by inarguably erudite and engaging professionals? Largely because the story of Chabad was neither a story of an organization nor the development of a movement as much as a saga of the heart. How one person was so driven by love for Jews that his love shrank the globe. And that love was so contagious (the truest of love always is) that those who were caught up in it soon lost their ego-centric conceptions and were able to view others—even those different from them—with love. And love is acceptance of the beloved. This does not show up on graphs or trends or predictions.

I was born into a Chabad family. My parents and all four grandparents were devoted to the Rebbe, as their parents had been devoted to the preceding Rebbes of Chabad for generations. Which means don’t expect greatness from me: I am a spiritual trust-fund baby, and like conventional trust-fund babies we rarely produce the rags-to-riches drama that those born without achieve.

What I do have is my mother’s teaching, that without knowing what was you can’t know what is. When she was a girl, Chabad in America was largely confined to her parents' living room and less than a handful of similar homes. Alone, they kept embers of Chassidic ecstasy alive until the Rebbe’s father-in-law, his predecessor, arrived on these blessed shores to breathe life into their efforts. My grandfather, with his flowing white beard and long black caftan, frequented toy stores to choose rewards for the children who came to his home for his teachings and my grandmother’s gefilte fish.

From the enthusiastic assimilationists to the stoic traditionalists, all saw America as a lessening of tradition. The Rebbe counterintuitively concurred: this loss of tradition — and the nostalgia and inertia it often implied — would spark excitement in the generations who are encumbered by neither.

Be flexible, the Rebbe instructed my Uncle Moshe when sending him to Minnesota in the ‘60s. Not flexible in what you stand for, but in your methods of achieving the goal. Synagogue dues never became the spine of Chabad shuls. Generation gaps were simply not recognized. Ideological differences became irrelevant. Only in retrospect can one see that a revolution was born.

I don’t know much about souls: what I do know is their effect. The Rebbe, who never took a day’s vacation, who probed a Rashi commentary until he made it glow, is the same Rebbe who sought the Jew in Dakar and the Jew in prison and the Jew around the corner.

Twenty-eight years ago the Rebbe passed and obituaries were written, for the Rebbe and more or less for the Chabad he bore. There was no prediction of astronomical growth. How could there be, unless one was looking at the love?

We now have the benefit of hindsight, the blessing of history. It comes to us without effort. Destiny is not so available, it demands our input, our effort. Now, more than ever, we, this generation, need to discover and inculcate the Rebbe’s love for each other.