Today marks an auspicious day on the Chabad Lubavitcher’s calendar. Today is Gimmel Tammuz (the third day of the month of Tammuz).
On this day in 5754 or 1994 in Gregorian years, the Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away. This dealt a hard blow to the community. He and his wife were childless and he did not appoint a successor. This divided the community, some believing that he was the Moshiach (messiah) and some not believing in that. It is a topic that still divides Crown Heights today.
A newly published biography of the Rebbe’s life has caused a stir in the Crown Heights community as well. The New York Times touches on that today, with a nod to the holiness of the day within Chabad.
But beyond the debate, this day is very special to those who affiliate Chabad or are friends of Chabad. And it cannot be denied that The Rebbe sent thousands of people all over the world to be “a light unto the nations” and to give all Jews everywhere a place to eat Kosher food and pray and find their Judaism. Because of this, thousands of people will descend on Queens today to pray at the grave of The Rebbe and his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe. Don’t believe me? It’s already started! Here are some wounded Israeli soldiers who were invited to come. And here are the people trying to get a head start on the lines.
From the last time I was at The Ohel – the Rebbe’s grave:
From Chabad.org, they tell us that there is a lot more that has happened on this date in Jewish history:
• Joshua Stops the Sun (1273 BCE)
On the third of Tammuz of the year 2488 from creation (1273 BCE), Joshua was leading the Jewish people in one of the battles to conquer the Land of Israel. Victory was imminent, but darkness was about to fall. “Sun,” proclaimed Joshua, “be still at Giv’on; moon, at the Ayalon valley” (Joshua 10:12). The heavenly bodies acquiesced, halting their progress through the sky until Israel’s armies brought the battle to its successful conclusion. Three Natural Miracles The Book of Joshua
• Lubavitch Fire (1851)
A great fire destroyed much of the town of Lubavitch, including the home of the third Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the “Tzemach Tzeddek”, 1789-1826) and many invaluable manuscripts of Chassidic teaching.
• R. Yosef Yitzchak Released from Prison (1927)
The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), who was arrested on Sivan 15 of 1927 by agents of the GPU (soviet secret police) and the Yevsektzia (“Jewish section” of the Communist Party) for his work to preserve and disseminate Jewish learning and observance throughout the Soviet Empire. Held in the notorious Spalerno prison in Leningrad, he was repeatedly interrogated and beaten. Initially sentenced to death, international pressure compelled the Soviet regime to first commute the sentence to ten years hard labor in Siberia, and then to a three-year term of exile in Kostrama, a town in the interior of Russia.
On the 3rd of Tammuz, 18 days after his arrest, he was released from prison and allowed six hours at home before reporting to the Leningrad train station to embark on his exile. Many gathered at the station to see him off. Though he knew that there were GPU agents present, he spoke to the assembled crowd, encouraging all to persist in the very activities for which he had been arrested. “This,” he proclaimed “all the nations of the world must know: Only our bodies were sent into exile and subjugated to alien rule; our souls were not given over into captivity and foreign rule. We must proclaim openly and before all that any matter affecting the Jewish religion, Torah, and its mitzvot and customs is not subject to the coercion of others. No one can impose his belief upon us, nor coerce us to conduct ourselves contrary to our beliefs!”
(On the 12th of Tammuz, after serving only nine days of his three year term, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was informed that he was free to return home. Shortly thereafter, he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union and resettled in Riga, Latvia.) Days of Light (the Rebbe’s prison diary)
They say that the yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of a tzaddik (a righteous person) is a particularly impact-full time for G-d to hear our prayers. And especially if you are praying at their grave site. Chabad is giving people a chance to send them their prayers to be placed at The Rebbe’s grave. But also this is a good time to reevaluate and take on a mitzvah like lighting the shabbis candles or going to synagogue on Saturday morning.
I will leave you with my favorite quote from The Rebbe…
“You have to keep moving forward. As long as you’re holding on to where you were yesterday, you’re standing still.” -The Rebbe
Keep moving forward not just in life but in Judaism too. How did you Jew today?