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As Of Yet, The Rebbe’s Life Work Remains Unfinished
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

The mashpia Reb Mendel Futerfas related the following:

Rebbetzin Rivka, the wife of the Rebbe Maharash and the mother of the Rebbe Rashab, was an exceptional woman even among the other Chabad Rebbetzins. (In fact, Rebbetzin Rivka is the namesake of all the Bais Rivka girls’ schools around the world.) With her outstanding midos she personified mesiras nefesh, and was a living example of what it means to truly care about one’s fellow Jew.

Throughout her life, Rebbetzin Rivka was always helping the needy in one way or another. Whenever her husband, the Rebbe Maharash, returned from abroad, he always knew that he would have to redeem the jewelry she had pawned for some special cause. She was especially devoted to helping poor families celebrate their simchos.

When Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim was founded, Rebbetzin Rivka took upon herself the welfare of its students. She personally oversaw the preparation of meals, and made sure that every bachur had a place to sleep. She would also frequently inquire how each student was progressing in his studies.

From the time he was a young boy, the Rebbe Rayatz, in accordance with his father’s instructions, would visit his grandmother every day and ask her to tell him a story. Many of these stories are revealed in the Rebbe Rayatz’s sichos kodesh and in his Memoirs.

When Rebbetzin Rivka learned that one of her sons had gone into business, contradicting her husband’s stated desire that all his children remain in the four cubits of Torah, she was heartbroken. For several days and nights she wept and could not be consoled.

As time passed and she was still grief-stricken, someone asked her why she was so distressed. “Where’s your head?” he wanted to know. “Even when your husband passed away and orphaned all of us Chassidim you didn’t cry as much! Why is it taking you so long to recover?”

Answered the Rebbetzin, “How can you compare the two? When my husband passed away, it was the will of G-d; G-d determined that his histalkus must occur at such and such a time, even if he was still relatively young. I, therefore, cried only as much as the Torah prescribes for mourners. Now, however, my son is doing something that is against G-d’s will and against his father’s wishes, so I cannot be consoled…”

* * *

The concept of histalkus, the passing away of tzaddikim, is expounded upon extensively in the Torah and in the works of our Sages. The pain and grief upon a tzaddik’s departure is described as being more difficult than the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Nonetheless, when a tzaddik passes away, it is clearly in accordance with Divine will.

A verse in Shir HaShirim is used as an analogy: “My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather roses.” The tzaddikim are the roses whose time has come to be gathered. By Divine decree, the tzaddik’s soul departs from his physical body, although it retains a certain degree of connection to it (which is why it is customary to daven at a tzaddik’s grave). From that point on, the tzaddik begins a new stage in his avoda, as his neshama ascends from one spiritual level to the next.

This phenomenon, although painful for those who are still alive, is nevertheless a necessary step in the historical progression toward the final Redemption. It signifies that the time has come for a new tzaddik to arise and illuminate the world with his own particular revelations.

The tzaddik who passed away, of course, is not gone, G-d forbid, but continues to exert his influence on the world. In fact, the tzaddik’s effect on the world after his p’tira is “stronger than during his lifetime,” as explained by Chassidus in various places.

It is for this reason that those who study the esoteric dimension of Torah do not excessively mourn the passing of a tzaddik. They recognize that, rather than being a negative phenomenon, the passing signifies the culmination and perfection of the tzaddik’s life on earth. Our Sages declared, “The day of death is better than the day of birth.” The sum total of the tzaddik’s actions and teachings coalesce and illuminate upon his histalkus, and “effect salvation in the midst of the earth.”

* * *

Everyone understands that something unusual occurred on Gimmel Tammuz. No one accepts that a natural event transpired. Even those who refer to Gimmel Tammuz as a hilula do not believe that the Rebbe’s function as nasi ha’dor ended on that date, G-d forbid, and that another tzaddik must now arise to take his place.

In other words, no one seriously considers that the Rebbe’s avoda was completed on Gimmel Tammuz. The Rebbe’s avoda will only be finished when the one objective he set for himself – the full and complete Redemption in the literal sense – has been attained. All Chassidim eagerly anticipate the day when the Rebbe will again be visible to our physical eyes.

Whatever disagreement there is centers on exactly what happened on Gimmel Tammuz: Was the event that occurred meant to be taken in the literal sense, or are we supposed to continue referring to the Rebbe as shlita? Do we perform all the minhagim customary on a hilula or dispense with them? Yet everyone is in agreement that there is only one nasi ha’dor. Everyone knows that our current situation is only temporary and short-lived, and that at any moment the Rebbe will rise up like a lion to usher in the Geula.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can understand that the usual explanations of histalkus and hilula simply don’t apply. It is obvious that the Rebbe’s life work remains unfinished; the only completion of his service is the actual final Redemption before the eyes of the world.

* * *

In the last few weeks I’ve written about the question of whether of not it is advisable to write shlita after the Rebbe’s name. I’ve also pointed out that the question is only technical, as it actually revolves around our understanding of what a Rebbe is in general, and the Rebbe shlita in particular.

First of all, however, we must consider the message we are trying to convey to the world.

In the usual order of the world, when a person gets sick, we accept it as a natural phenomenon. We go to a doctor, we investigate the cause of the illness, and we follow the doctor’s instructions. At the same time, as believing Jews, we know that “a person doesn’t move his finger below unless it is announced up Above.” Everything that happens in the world is according to Divine providence, down to the smallest detail. Whatever occurs in the physical world is only a reflection of the spiritual reality in the higher spheres. That is why we derive a lesson in Divine service from physical phenomena, and seek to fix their underlying spiritual causes by checking our tefillin and mezuzos, etc. Nonetheless, the Torah requires us to work within the natural order, as well. In effect, we attack the problem on two levels simultaneously.

But this is only in usual cases. The Midrash says that Moshe Rabbeinu’s speech was impaired as a child when he burned his mouth with hot coals, and we understand that this is only how it appeared externally. For Moshe Rabbeinu is essentially above nature, and the rules that apply to the average Jew do not apply to him.

As the Rebbe MH”M explained in the famous sicha of Shabbos Parshas Bo 5752, based on the Alter Rebbe’s explanation in Torah Ohr, the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu was “heavy of speech and tongue” was not due to a simple speech impediment. Rather, the G-dly light of Moshe Rabbeinu was too intense to be clothed in the physical world, as the process of separating the sparks was not yet complete; his speech was, therefore, in “exile.” However, G-d assured Moshe that “I (Anochi) will be with your mouth,” as he needed the power of G-d’s essence to be able to convey His message to the world at large.

[In Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe explains Moshe Rabbeinu’s being “heavy of speech and tongue” as an advantage (!), comparing it to the revelation of the Messianic era. See chapter on BaMidbar 7:2]

The Rebbe explains that G-d’s special assistance to Moshe Rabbeinu was temporary and incomplete, as the world was not yet ready to absorb such an intense revelation of G-dliness. (According to Divine plan, the lower spheres would first have to be purified in order to fully permeate creation and have a lasting effect.) At the giving of the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu was momentarily cured, as the revelation of “Anochi,” G-d’s essence, at Sinai rendered the world sufficiently refined to be able to accept it.

However, since the revelation at Sinai came from above rather than below, it did not endure or permeate the very lowest levels of creation. (For example, Mount Sinai did not retain its holiness after the Torah was given.) The world would have to wait several thousand years for the Jewish people to complete their avoda. Therefore, the Moshe Rabbeinu in every generation would continue to appear to be ill or imprisoned, up until the last generation, the eighth generation from the Baal Shem Tov, when the Rebbe Rayatz was also “heavy of speech and tongue.” The simple reason was that the process of separating the sparks had not yet been finished.

This, however, is not the case, the Rebbe continues, in our generation, the ninth generation from the Baal Shem Tov. We are the last generation of the exile and the first generation of the Redemption. The avoda of the Jewish people has come to an end, and “even the buttons have been polished.” We are completely ready to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu; the concept of “heavy of speech and tongue” no longer applies; and the transition to the eternal life of the Geula will occur without interruption.

[Author’s note: Why will we experience eternal life in the Messianic era? Because the phenomenon of death, and indeed all limitations on life, are the result of the sin of the eating of the Tree of Knowledge. In the Messianic era all sins will have been corrected, and the world will return to its former status and even higher. As the process of separating the sparks has already been completed in our generation, the transition to the eternal life of the Redemption is imminent and will be unimpeded.]

What does all this mean? When we perceive the Rebbe as ill or limited in any way, despite the fact that we are required to work within the natural order and consult physicians, etc., we know that the phenomenon is spiritual rather than physical. For his own reasons, the Rebbe has taken upon himself a certain tikkun, but the use of the terms “illness” or “confinement,” in the usual sense, do not apply.

As related in Basi L’Gani 5711, the Mitteler Rebbe once showed a Chassid his arm and said, “‘My skin is shriveled upon my bones,’ and all because of the sins of your youth! My suffering is because of your transgressions.”

The words in Chapter 53 of Yeshayahu, “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,” referring to Moshiach, come right after the prophet’s description of Moshiach: “Surely he has borne our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows; yet we deemed him stricken, struck by G-d and afflicted.” As the prophet continues, when it will appear as if Moshiach is “cut off from the land of the living,” we must remember that he is “stricken for the transgression of my people.” Yet Moshiach himself is essentially “elevated, lofty and exceedingly exalted” and beyond all imperfection.

Even after Moshiach has willingly placed himself within the confines of the natural order, in accordance with G-d’s desire for a “dwelling place in the lower spheres,” he completely transcends all limitations. His essence and strength remain the same, and, as the prophet concludes, “He shall see his seed” (which is numerically equivalent to “zaro ba’chayim – his seed is alive”), and “he shall prolong his days” (numerically equivalent to “shlita”).

This is the literal explanation of the sicha of Shabbos Parshas Shoftim 5751, where it is explained that the Rebbe exists in every generation without alteration or change, or even in a state of g’niza (latency or concealment). The Rebbe is never hidden or concealed. He is always where he wants to be and does exactly what he wishes to do, even when it appears as though he has subjected himself to certain limitations.

* * *

In all of these sichos the Rebbe was not expressing a wish or a desire, but telling us the way things truly stand at present. The Rebbe’s every word is true, his promise is a promise, and his prophecies are true prophecies to be understood in the literal sense. Every utterance of the Rebbe has been and will be fulfilled, for “By Your holy Name, You have sworn to him that his light will never be extinguished forever and ever.”



No one seriously considers that the Rebbe’s avoda was completed on Gimmel Tammuz. 




The Rebbe’s avoda will only be finished when the one objective he set for himself – the full and complete Redemption in the literal sense – has been attained.




The Rebbe is never hidden or concealed, even when it appears as though he has subjected himself to certain limitations.


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