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Op Ed: The Physical Yearning of a Chassid in 2019

by Yitzi Zilber

As a child on one Shabbos afternoon, my siblings and I were sitting on the swings in our backyard as my father chatted with us, when suddenly, his emotions overcame him.

“Next week is Gimmel Tammuz,” he told us, and then wiped away a tear.

You see, for my father and his colleagues who grew up in 770, stood by the Rebbe’s farbrengens, davened in his minyan, and received his Kos Shel Bracha, Gimmel Tammuz was a raw physical wound, a painful hurt that would never heal.

The Frierdiker Rebbe once related how as a young man he traveled with his father – the Rebbe Rashab – to the city of Menton, where on the outskirts of the city, sitting on a bench by the water, sat Reb Zalman Zlatapolsky sobbing to himself as he reminisced his times with the Rebbe Maharash.

But these feelings seem to have always faded away, allowing the next generation to grow up into a new reality. Indeed, the Gemara says that Hashem issued a heavenly decree “for the dead to be forgotten from the heart.”

So for me and my friends, who were born after Gimmel Tammuz, the rules of nature would have had to determine that my relationship to the Rebbe be one of following directives, learning his Torah, and devoting myself to his mission. But a sense of longing, a physical yearning, an occasional tear, these are just things I would have believed belong to the past, to those who basked in his physical presence.

Last week, on Purim night, I was sitting at a farbrengen with some Shluchim as they reminisced their childhood memories by the Rebbe. As the conversation turned into a Niggun, I soon felt hot tears trickling down my face. At that moment I realized that no, these emotions do not belong to history. They are as strong as ever. They are burning inside us.

How is this indeed possible?

The passuk tells us that after the brothers reported to Yaakov about Yosef’s supposed death, “Vayema’en L’hisnachem” “he refused to be comforted”, and remained in mourning for the next 22 years until they were reunited. For while there is a heavenly decree for the dead to be forgotten from the heart, “this applies only to the dead” explains Rashi, “but not to the living perceived to be dead.”

Indeed, a physical yearning of a Chassid in 2019 to the Rebbe, is an unapologetic sign that the Rebbe is very much alive inside each and every one of us.

This is why I so cherish every time I shed a tear for the Rebbe. It proves to me that despite being born after the Rebbe’s passing, he is still alive inside of my very being, allowing me not a sense of comfort.

This, if I may say, is the greatest sign of relief I experience. Because, for me to miss the Rebbe – who passed on before I even entered my mother’s womb – is nothing short of a Giluy Elokus, cleansing me from my physical limitations and allowing me to connect in a way that transcends the finite world.

And so until the day will come that we will be reunited with the Rebbe, I will echo the passuk’s words “Vayema’en Le’hisnachem”, holding on tight to each tear, and not letting the rules of nature create a physical barrier.

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