Reflections on Gimmel Tammuz

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The name of this Torah portion is very interesting. It is named after someone whom the earth swallowed up, together with his followers. Obviously Korach was not a beacon of goodness or his end would have been vastly different.

So what did he do to deserve such a fate? He challenged Moses’ leadership saying, “all the people in the community are holy, and G-d is with them. Why are you setting yourselves (Moses and Aaron) above G-d’s congregation?”

His argument was that Torah was given by G-d to all the people, and they are all holy, so why give exclusive power to leaders if everyone is equal?

Korach’s first mistake was forgetting that the Torah was given in the Sinai wilderness. No country or city can lay claim that the Torah was given in ‘their four cubits’ and thereby claim they are the leaders. By giving the Torah in a wilderness, which is no-man’s land, G-d was telling us that “no one city can lay claim to the Torah.”

Therefore, the Torah does belong to everyone equally. So which is it? Are we all equal or do we need leaders?

History has shown us that, in fact, we do need leaders. And that same history has shown us how corrupt some of those leaders can be. The real question to ask is who is a true leader and who sets the bar on leaders?

The answer to that is Moses himself, as he was the humblest man to walk the face of the earth. He was devoted to G-d and, because G-d is devoted to us, so was Moses. No ulterior motives, no sense of self whatsoever.

Which brings us to next week, the 3rd day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (Tuesday June 27) and the Rebbe’s yahrzeit. In a nutshell, the Rebbe taught that there is a higher truth and that higher truth belongs to you and me as much as it did to him. That can only be taught by someone who recognizes — always — that he is merely a messenger passing on truth from a greater place.

Our sages say that one of the reasons the Torah portion is named after Korach is to teach us what a true leader is and to not make the same mistake as Korach.

I am a direct recipient of the Rebbe’s teachings and of the shluchim he sent. In honor of the Rebbe’s yahrzeit, I wrote a short piece entitled Reflections on Gimel Tammuz. I hope that it will give those who never met the Rebbe, as is my case, a small window into the life of a true leader of the Jewish people.

Today, I am traveling to New York to spend time at the Rebbe’s holy resting place in honor of his yahrzeit. I will bring with me my reflections below. If you’d like to write down your own thoughts, you can share them with Chabbad.

My Reflections

In 1994, the Jewish months of the year were, to put it mildly, vague to me. The best I could come up with was that Tammuz was in the summer and even that was a stretch.

I learned that Tammuz follows Sivan, the month of my birthday. Gimel Tammuz is the third day of the month of Tammuz and, in the Hebrew year 5754, became the yahrzeit of the Rebbe.

The English date was Sunday June 12, 1994. Anyone associated with Chabad will remember where they were on that day. Some of us were very new to the Montreal Torah Centre (MTC) and did not receive a call in the middle of the night about people going to New York. Those who did knew exactly what that meant. The Rebbe was no longer in this world.

I recall going to the bakery later that day and finding it eerily empty. It was as though there was no one left in the city.

The main thought going through the minds of those of us new to the MTC was this: what would happen to our beloved little piece of heaven on earth in Decarie Square? Would the shul close? Our question was answered the following Monday when both rabbis called a meeting of the fledging synagogue.

“We are not closing. We are returning to New York for a few days and then we are coming back, and our shul will continue to grow and thrive.”

Fast forward twenty-three years. Not only is our shul flourishing, Chabad worldwide has become the largest Jewish organization in the world, with an army of rabbis.

To set the record straight, my husband and I never met the Rebbe and yet, we are committed to Chabad, the Rebbe’s teachings and his shluchim. How, you are asking yourself, is this possible? How can one be emotionally attached to a person he or she has never met? The answer is, as many of the Rebbe’s answers are, simple.

When one is exposed to the truth from an individual with no agenda other than the love of their fellow Jew, one realizes with great clarity that this is the real deal.

Of all the accolades written about the Rebbe, I will focus on one: he knew about me long before I ever heard about him. He knew that one day I would come searching for my soul and he put in place rabbis and their wives to help me discover the essence of who I am. The Rebbe put G-d into my life. He showed me that there is a purpose for which I was born. He gave me a sense of self-worth that I could pass on to my children, and they, in turn, could pass on to their children.

The Rebbe gave me the ability, as a Jewish woman, to pass the torch of Yiddishkeit to the next generation. There are no words to thank someone for doing that. The best I can do is live in a Jewish way, keep learning, and reach out to another fellow Jew in love, as the Rebbe reached out to me.

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