Leave the Calculations to Me

I’ll never forget that drive up Route 80. The week of Shiva had just come to an end for the hundreds of thousands connected to the Rebbe who were reeling from the loss. Giving voice to my inner turmoil I asked my father “What now?”

By Rabbi Levi Slonim – Binghamton, NY

I’ll never forget that drive up Route 80.

It was Monday, June 20, 1994.

The week of Shiva had just come to an end for the hundreds of thousands connected to the Rebbe who were reeling from the loss. My family was heading back from Crown Heights in Brooklyn, NY to Binghamton, NY where we are shluchim of the Rebbe.

Giving voice to my inner turmoil I asked my father “What now?”

“How are we returning to Binghamton?”

I’m sure thousands of children asked their parents the same question. And thousands of adults echoed the sentiment.

I cannot recall his reply. But I do remember the message I got:

We must continue the Rebbe’s work. There is no doubt that the Rebbe is with us.

Being a month shy of ten, I accepted what he said. But it made no sense.

On the heels of months of prayer and yearning for the Rebbe to recover, and a resolute belief and hope that we would welcome Moshiach in the Rebbe’s lifetime, the loss was a devastating blow. Honestly, I’m not sure if anything my father would have said to me could make sense to anyone at the time.

* * *
Last week, a friend of mine on Shlichus in an area that is experiencing political unrest and upheaval shared his challenges in raising the necessary funds to build a mikvah in his town. Too many of his potential supporters were expressing skepticism about the future of Jews in that area and were reluctant to support his “crazy” plan. And yet, as the Rebbe’s shliach, he felt the responsibility to properly provide the spiritual infrastructure for the thousands of Jews in his town.

His predicament reminded me of a story I had heard many years back from Rabbi Tzvi Grunblatt, Shliach and director of Lubavitch activities in Argentina. I contacted him to ascertain the details:

It was 1982 during the Falklands War. Argentina’s economy could only be described as precarious. Rabbi Grunblatt’s supporters were anxious and fearful about the financial situation and as a result he was having extreme difficulty in garnering the support he needed to fuel his activities. Rabbi Grunblatt communicated his fear and angst to the Rebbe.

In response the Rebbe replied
Note, this is the message that was given over to Rabbi Grunblat verbally via Rabbi Hodakov, and is not an exact dictation of a written response:

מהאט דיר נישט גשיגקט ,דיר און די אנדערע שלוחים, צו מאכען חשבונות פון די פוליטישע און עקאנאמישע מצב פון דער מדינה

דיין ענין איז הפצת היהדות והמעיינות מתוך בטחון בה’

קען זיין אז מענטשען וועלען דיר פרעגען וואס דו טראכט וועגען דעם עתיד זאלסט זיי ענטפערען אז דו ביסט נישט קיין נביא און דיין ענין איז הפצת היהדות והמעיינות מתוך בטחון בה’

You, and the other Shluchim, were not sent to make calculations concerning the political and economic situation in your respective locales.

Your purpose and mission is to spread Judaism and the wellsprings of Chassidus and trust in Hashem.

People may ask you, “What do you think about the future?” You should respond to them that you are not a prophet. Your purpose and mission is to spread Judaism and the wellsprings of Chassidus with trust in the Almighty.

Remembering this story and ascertaining the Rebbe’s exact response to Rabbi Grunblatt could not have come at a more perfect time.

*  *  *

Reflecting today on that conversation with my father thirty years ago, his response still defies logic, but one thing is clear.

In 1994 we needed trust and faith to believe that the Rebbe “is with us” and that his life’s work will continue to grow and thrive.

In 2024 we no longer have to believe it because we can all see it.

Each and every day.

Indeed the Zohar tells us that any Tzadik that passes is found in this world even more than during their physical lifetime. The manifestation of this expressed in such an unprecedented way through the continued exponential growth of the movement thirty years after the physical passing of its leader, and the connection, dedication, and devotion of the Rebbe’s followers to his teachings and values is a gift we thank Hashem for continuously.

And yet, there is a question that consumes our minds and burns in our hearts.

Every day.

As the weeks, months, and years go by – as we mark the thirtieth Yahrtzeit from the Rebbe’s passing – the question has changed from “what now” and “how can we continue” to “when will this end?” “How much longer will this situation continue?” “When will we merit the coming of the Moshiach? When will we once again be privileged to hear the Rebbe’s clarion call, his direct and clear guidance?”

The Rebbe’s response to these questions?

Your job is not to make calculations about the situation.

Your job is to stay the course and keep focused on your mission.

Indeed, we don’t understand.

In 1994 we could not conceive of living without the Rebbe’s physical presence in this world.

And here we are thirty years later without understanding how the Rebbe’s presence, his message, and impact, continue to reach and resonate with an ever-widening audience.

As compelling as it is to try to make sense of this, that’s not our job.

Our purpose is to double down on our work.

This brings to mind the iconic instruction of Hashem to the Jewish people when they felt helplessly stuck between the Egyptian army and the Sea of Reeds: Daber el B’nai Yisroel …Viyisau, Speak to the Jewish people…and they shall travel forward.

Keep traveling forward towards Sinai, towards redemption.

Leave the calculations to Me.

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