To Yearn for the Past or Celebrate the Present?

Photo: Shlomo Vishinsky | Courtesy Zev Markowitz/Chai Art Gallery

As we approach 30 years, the debate ensues whether to yearn for the past or celebrate the present, often a divide between the older generation and the younger one. Who is right? An essay by Rabbi Yitzchok Naparstek.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Naparstek – Fort Lauderdale, FL

Photo: Shlomo Vishinsky | Courtesy: Zev Markowitz/Chai Art Gallery

Approaching Gimmel Tammuz, the Yom Hilula of the Rebbe, our Nassi, inspires and moves us,  especially when marking 30 years.  

Each year, this significant and auspicious day offers unique opportunities. Some years, the Yom Hilula may have evoked a sense of longing, prompting one to dedicate more time to studying one of the Rebbe’s Maamarim, while in other years, the emphasis may have been on action, such as engaging in mivtzaim or organizing an event for Gimmel Tammuz. At times, extra focus was placed on the customs established by the Rebbe for this day. Similarly, while waiting in line to visit the Tziyun, various memories and reflections surface in some years, while in others, the playing of videos captures the attention, making each visit a distinct experience. A constant each year is heeding the Rebbe’s words in connection with the Yom Hilula of the Rebbe Rayatz, paralleling the current year.  

Reflecting on the Rebbe’s words during the 30th Hilula of the Rebbe Rayatz, at which time (Yud Shvat and Shabbos Parshas Yisro 5740) the Rebbe emphasized the importance of thirty years,  one particular sentence caught my attention, suggesting a message not only for me individually but also for us collectively as we reach 30 years.  

The Rebbe explained that on each Yahrzeit, the Rebbe ascends to a higher spiritual level (“Aliyas  HaNeshama”), and “all his efforts in which his soul has toiled during his lifetime” become revealed  on high and radiate downward in a manifest way, “effecting salvations in the midst of the earth.”  The Hebrew word for “year,” “Shanah,” signifies change and repetition, as a complete cycle of changes occurs yearly. Thus, each year repeats the previous cycle but with elevated stages. At thirty years, a new and wondrously higher period begins, further elevating the Neshama and its impact in this world, beyond comparison.  

The Rebbe referenced the Tzemach Tzedek’s explanation on the possuk in Yechezkel: “It happened in the thirtieth year” (referring to Yechezkel’s divine visions of the Chariot) that thirty includes “ten internal lights, ten vessels, and ten encompassing lights,” illustrating profound spiritual achievements and that radiate downward to this world, affecting our thoughts, speech,  and actions as well.  

Continuing, the Rebbe elaborated with words that are pertinent, especially today. The Talmud  states: “Just as then (during Moshe Rabbeinu’s lifetime) he was standing and serving, so too now  (even thousands of years after his passing) he is standing and serving.” Despite thirty years passing, and based on the teaching of Chazal that “at thirty—one achieves strength,” it might lead one to assume that now we can stand on our own feet. However, this is not the case; for “a  shepherd of Israel will never leave his flock.” Our connection to the Rebbe is as strong as it was in the first moment on the first day after the Histalkus. We must simply hold fast to his “doorknob,”  and especially to his open door: go to the Tziyun, write Pidyonos, ask that he should invoke mercy on our behalf, and seek blessings (including a blessing to grant us the proper receptacles with which to receive the blessings).  

The Rebbe concluded with a call to action: Accordingly, the spiritual heights experienced by the  Nassi on the 30th Yahrzeit are reflected in the ongoing service of “his descendants who are alive,”  his followers. The Rebbe’s disciples, and their disciples, including future disciples, must intensify their dedication to “his efforts in which his soul has toiled during his lifetime” with increased vigor.  

How might the Rebbe’s application of the Tzemach Tzedek’s reference to the “ten internal lights,  ten vessels, and ten encompassing lights” manifest in our upcoming achievements of spreading Yidishkeit and the wellsprings of Chasidus? How may this information enhance our connection with the Rebbe, since “he lives” and is more present “even in this world”? 

Our commitment to the Rebbe’s activities is twofold. Firstly, we must study and disseminate the  Rebbe’s Torah and directives, preserving his actions and divine service throughout his life by sharing memories, stories and holding Farbrengens etc. This includes upholding the Rebbe’s framework for Chasidim and safeguarding his institutions. This may correspond to the “ten internal lights” (from above to below). Secondly, we must translate and communicate the Rebbe’s teachings to broader audiences, innovating and implementing his directives. This involves launching new projects and expanding institutions in line with the Rebbe’s spirit, teachings, and guidance. This may correspond to the “ten vessels” (from below to above). 

These components align with the Rebbe’s explanation (Likkutei Sichos vol. 15, p. 433-434) of the two forms of divine service represented by Menashe and Ephraim, the two sons of Yosef born in  Mitzrayim before Yaakov’s arrival. Yosef named his firstborn Menashe “because G-d has made me forget—‘Nashani’—all my hardships and my father’s home.” This emphasizes his determination to remember and maintain a connection to “my father’s home,” and not be impacted by the foreign atmosphere of the Egyptian exile. His second son, Ephraim, was named  “because G-d has made me fruitful—‘Peri’ (fruit)—in the land of my suffering.” This expresses gratitude for spiritual growth, being “fruitful” in challenging circumstances of exile, by illuminating the darkness with the light of holiness. 

Both types of service are indispensable. The Menashe style prioritizes loyalty to the Rebbe’s work  (“internal lights”), yet it may risk overlooking effective outreach to younger or broader audiences.  Conversely, the Ephraim style emphasizes innovation and communication (“vessels”), but it must maintain a steadfast connection to “my father’s home,” ensuring accuracy, correct interpretation,  and preservation of the Lubavitch identity. Ultimately, Ephraim’s role—to be fruitful—holds greater significance (“he will be greater”), embodying the ultimate intent to make this world a dwelling place for G-d. This is underscored by Yaakov placing his right hand over Ephraim’s head for the blessing. Nevertheless, Menashe was born first, because recognizing and internalizing  “my father’s home” are essential prerequisites for making a meaningful impact in society and  being “fruitful.” 

Every one of us is meant to engage in both types of service. However, on a more general scale,  it can be said that the older generation, who recall the Rebbe, etc., embody the Menashe style, while the younger generation, born after Gimmel Tammuz 5754, reflects more of the Ephraim style. Ensuring that Anash “his descendants, are alive,” requires the older generation, and those proficient in the Menashe style, to genuinely support and mentor the younger generation, encouraging them to excel as Chasidim and Shluchim, and empowering them to assume leadership roles. Simultaneously, the younger generation, and those adept in the Ephraim style,  must develop respect and seek guidance from the older generation to continue the Rebbe’s work effectively. This synchronization may correspond to the “ten encompassing lights,” as these encompassing energies transcend both the ten lights (Menashe style) and the ten vessels  (Ephraim style), uniting them in full harmony. 

As we conclude a thirty-year cycle, during which we all took part in fulfilling the Rebbe’s requests and instructions, experiencing trials and lessons, let’s embark on this new era. Drawing inspiration from the 30th Hilula of our Rebbe and Nassi, this is an opportune moment for our community— Chasidim, Temimim, Shluchim, and leaders of institutions—to maximize both styles and, most importantly, in a unified manner. We will then “walk in the straight path that he has shown us; we  will walk in his ways forever.” 

May this very commitment itself suffice and bring about the ultimate Aliya—Mashiach’s arrival,  even before Gimmel Tammuz, when “those who lie in the earth will arise and sing,” and the Rebbe will lead us out of exile with the true and complete Geulah.

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  1. Wow, these are deep and profound thoughts! I love them! In short, the younger generation will keep us moving forward and break us out of our old routine!

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