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The Rebbe’s Tomorrow

Yisroel Besser

On the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s 20th yahrtzeit this Gimmel Tammuz, his chassidim and admirers the world over will stop for a moment to reflect on the Rebbe’s enormous accomplishments — and then they’ll get back to work, energized by the Rebbe’s words, inspired by his example, and motivated by his vision, even two decades later.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

If there is an idea that runs through the maze of well-worn hallways at 788 Eastern Parkway, the offices adjoining one of the most iconic shuls in America, it might well be a quote from the man whose name and mission will forever be synonymous with the building. “When you use a moment productively, filling it with purpose, it lives on forever,” the Lubavitcher Rebbe would say. Watch the videos, if you’re not old enough to remember, and study the way the Rebbe spurs on the spirited singing of his chassidim, waving his right arm in a gesture of enthusiasm and encouragement. “Sing on,” he seems to be saying, as he makes his way down the mysteriously created passageway, space where a moment earlier, there was a tightly packed mass of people. “Sing on.” And so they do, trying — despite the crushing loss of their leader, father, and inspiration — to focus on the tasks at hand. And there are many tasks. These people, the army he left over, are undaunted, courageous, energetic. There is an entire world to engage, to light up. Here at Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters, that’s what keeps them busy. The building’s architecture doesn’t live up to its impressive name. The cracked tiles and sagging stairs leading to upper floors seem more appropriate to a struggling business than to the nerve center of a global education and outreach enterprise. My guide, the dynamic Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky (son of Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky), is quick with a story. The offices of the Rebbe and his faithful secretary, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov z”l, were relatively simple. Once, someone commented about the plain decor and furnishings at the center of operations andRabbiHodakov replied to the petitioner with a question. “The Empire State Building is the most imposing building in the city. And where does this huge skyscraper get its heat from? The boiler room! Why then, isn’t the boiler room, with its tank and pipes, in the lobby, on the red carpet? Why is this crucial center hidden away, several layers below street level? “This is the fact — the boiler room doesn’t get the fancy furnishings, but it’s where the energy and fuel for the rest of the structure comes from. This,”RabbiHodakov would conclude, “is the boiler room of Chabad.”

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