Letters to The Rebbe
Jewish tradition advocates celebrating birthdays not only in one's lifetime, but commemorating the birth-day of a person -- especially a tzadik -- even after his passing from this world.
Thus, it is not surprising that Jews the world over will be gathering for birthday celebrations in honor of the Rebbe on or around 11 Nisan .
What is perhaps unique about this year's birthday celebrations is that followers, admirers, even people who have had only casual interaction with the Rebbe, are still "living with the Rebbe," following his directives, turning to him for advice, asking for his blessings.
How is this being done?
Studying the Rebbe's teachings is one of the most important and basic ways to live with the Rebbe.
The Rebbe often quoted the Previous Rebbe's letters which explain that a true connection with the Rebbe is attained only by studying the teachings of the Rebbe. The Rebbe clarified, though: "Most certainly the Rebbe is a tzadik who bestows blessings; G-d surely fulfills his blessings to the utmost, to each and every individual, according to his need.
Specifically, the Rebbe holds each person by the hand and guides him; one must only be careful not to involve his own will in the matter."
Just two months after the Previous Rebbe's passing the Rebbe wrote the following to someone: "You worry that now one cannot ask the Rebbe when he is in doubt how he should conduct himself. If you stand strong in your connection to him... and send your questions to the Rebbe's Ohel [gravesite], the Rebbe will find a way to answer."
Some people fax letters to the Ohel (718-723-4444 or send in requests via e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org), some come from near or far to go personally. Others ask one of the Rebbe's secretaries to read the letter at the Ohel.
Another way people "live with the Rebbe" is by placing a letter to the Rebbe in any of the nearly 100 volumes of the Rebbe's Torah teachings or correspondence. This is, in fact, what Chasidim of previous generations did when they were unable to correspond with their Rebbe in the conventional way.
There's a modern twist, though.
Today we have 33 volumes of Igros Kodesh -- letters written by the Rebbe to private individuals over the past 50 years. As they are letters to private individuals -- and the Rebbe "tailor- makes" the advice to fit the soul -- there are different answers to similar questions.
For instance, to one person who asks the Rebbe if he should move, the Rebbe answers "yes." To another person the Rebbe's answer is "no."
After writing to the Rebbe, one opens the book "randomly" and the advice in that letter is one's answer. And we haven't heard of a case yet when one sincerely asks the Rebbe advice in this manner that there hasn't been an answer.
How are these answers, blessings, and guidance, possible?
Again, let's turn to the Rebbe directly for an explanation. "In answer to your question, when people came to the Rebbe for a blessing they did so not because of the superiority of his physical body, but because of the superiority of his soul. Death only pertains to the physical body, for the soul is eternal, especially the soul of a tzadik to whom purgatory and punishment have no relevance. The passing of a tzadik is merely a departure, an ascent to a higher plane, and cannot therefore be termed 'death,' as is explained in the Zohar."
May we all celebrate the Rebbe's birthday together this year in the Third and Eternal Holy Temple. Happy birthday, Rebbe!