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Day of Gratitude

Showing gratitude is one of the fundamentals of Judaism. The first words we say upon awakening in the morning are “Modeh Ani”—giving thanks to G-d for restoring our soul. We thank G-d every day in our prayers, before and after eating and at every other opportunity.

If we are in the habit of thanking G-d in the course of an ordinary day, how much more so when we experience a miracle. In addition to thanking G-d immediately, we also thank G-d every time we pass the place where the miracle occurred, and on the anniversary of the miracle each year. Most of the Jewish holidays we celebrate commemorate a miracle that our ancestors experienced.

In truth, the greatest miracle of all occurred to each of us when we were born. On our birthday each year, we thank G-d for our existence and we are also called upon to make an accounting for how we’ve used the gift G-d has given us. It is customary in many Jewish communities to celebrate a birthday by making a “shehechiyanu” blessing on a new fruit or garment.

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In the upcoming week we will mark the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the spiritual leader of the Jewish people. Tens of thousands of chassidim and Jews throughout the world will pause their busy Passover preparations to celebrate this day. It will be a day of introspection and reflection, as well as festivity. We will thank G-d for the great gift He gave us when He sent he Rebbe’s soul to earth 114 years ago, on the 11th of Nissan 1902.

Some wonder at the outpouring of joy and thankfulness on the day of the Rebbe’s birth, as if it were a personal celebration. Yet on reflection we can understand how this day impacts every Jew on a personal level, because the Rebbe’s influence on Jewish life was deep and widespread.

The Rebbe accepted the leadership of Chabad during a particularly dark time of Jewish history, in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The Jewish people were mortally wounded, and many expressed their agony and despair by shedding all traces of Jewish observance. The survivors were using all their resources just to rebuild their shattered lives, and many had little energy or motivation left over to rebuild Jewish life.

At this difficult juncture the Rebbe entered the scene and transformed the face of Jewish life. He sent out a vast network of emissaries, Shluchim, who with youthful vigor quickly captured the hearts and imagination of Jews worldwide. Through his innovative programs the Rebbe instilled Jewish pride and made Judaism a pleasant and joyful experience.

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The Rebbe’s genius in Torah was well-known, and the sharpness and clarity of his teachings made them accessible to people of all levels of study. Great scholars appreciate the depth and breadth of knowledge the Rebbe exhibited in his talks, while average people enjoy the practical life lessons and directives that are an integral feature of each of the Rebbe’s talks.

Rabbis, community leaders and heads of state streamed to the Rebbe’s iconic synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway to receive his advice and blessing, but the Rebbe found time to answer even young children. The Rebbe is the “guide to the perplexed” of our generation. He gives counsel and advice on one hand, but also blesses and is a vehicle for miracles by the thousands.

The 11th of Nissan is our opportunity to thank G-d for the great miracle that was done for Judaism in this generation. The best way to thank Him would be to express it in action: to accept good resolutions, to do more mitzvot to hasten the revelation of Moshiach, the Rebbe’s mission and life purpose.

 

 


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