Written by Matis Abarbanel
Gimmel Tammuz. Is there any Lubavitcher whom those two words don’t elicit some sort of emotional response? Maybe a gut-wrenching sadness? Perhaps a burst of inspiration to be the best that I can be, to want to give the Rebbe nachas? Chances are irrespective of whichever Lubavitcher you bring it up in front of, those words mean something very powerful.
For me they did when I first heard them 15 years ago as a secular Jew, when some crazy Rabbi dressed up like a penguin the very first time he met me invited me to the “Rebbe” for Gimmel Tammuz. I thought “Is this some weird custom where you meet a Rebbe and the first thing he tells you is that he wants you to meet another Rebbe.” He explained that he was a “Rabbi” not a Rebbe, and he is an emissary of the Rebbe.
Besides thinking Gimmel Tammuz sounded like a variant of Hunan Chicken and not having a clue what or who a Rebbe or Rabbi was, for some reason unbeknownst to me at the time, I agreed. A couple days later I found myself in the middle of the filming of a new National Geographic penguin movie in Queens, New York of all places, and the sheer numbers of them were beyond astonishing. It was without a doubt, a very powerful experience, and probably, at least then, one of the worst days of my life.
As disgusted as I was at the time, of being exposed to some crazy cult where naked men congregate together in small crowded rooms that smell like a combination of stale corn chips and wet poodle, waiting impatiently in line to dunk into murky watered ‘cleansing’ baths. Despite the polarizing affect it had on me and the anger and frustration of seeing so many lost, what I considered at the time, brain-washed souls, the impact clearly began to set things into motion for my journey to return to my true identity.
Through HaShem HaRachaman’s awakening of my soul and a full blow war against my yetzer, I began the process of fighting my way out of the pit of abundant gashmias I had been living, very “happily and comfortably” numb in for 32 years. My journey through realms of deeper spiritual consciousness via a plethora of far-east and far-out practices, led me into the caring and guiding hands of countless Chabad Shluchim, and ultimately culminated with the destination that any objective truth seeker will come to, our dear Rebbe.
My journey for truth, brought me to, of all places, a small farm village in Israel that goes by the moniker of Kfar Chabad. And as much of a culture shock the Queens gathering of penguins was for me, I was stupefied to wind up in Yeshivah at the age of 33 in a village where they actually live. That soon led to my second ‘interesting’ experience with this ubiquitous Gimmel Tammuz, whomever or whatever it was.
Soon, much to my dismay and chagrin, I too was dressing like a penguin, and delving into the teachings of this mystical, enchanting, and mythical leader known only as “The Rebbe”. The initial tall tales of this spiritual Paul Bunyan that performs supernatural miracles began to materialize before my very eyes when from one Shabbas table to another, where besides the delicious homemade food, brought with it living proof of beautiful happy children that doctors swore would never be born, bright shining eyes the doctors said could never see again, and amazing families whom nature once ordained shouldn’t be alive.
As time passed on, the sheer pleasure and joy of basking in the light of the Torah, and bathing in the flowing waters of Maiyam Chaim of our Rebbeim’s Chassidus, surpassed and left in the dust a bygone life of high thread count sheets, the once sweet taste of lobster dunked in drawn butter, and the allure of speed bending Italian cars ending in I’s.
When I first came to Israel and my journey back to Judaism it was a lot more confusing than I thought it was going to be. There I was in Meah-Sharim (which makes Kfar Chabad appear contemporary) eagerly placing an order for a pair of tefillin, no sooner to be stopped in my tracks with the first machlockes- “Are you Ashkenazi or Sephardi?” I smiled and proudly responded, “I’m Jewish”. That was only the start.
Then came the next complication-“Kohen or Yisrael…Tribe of Levi or Yehudah?” I was perplexed and befuddled as the dichotomies in one of the world’s smallest religious groups, with a population size less than the census margin of era for the Chinese, began to mount and grow more complex. Yet I managed to somehow maneuver through it and made my way to some degree of certainty within my newfound ‘frum’ world. At least until I got to Chabad. That when this trip started getting really bizarre.
“Don’t let them brainwash you.” I was admonished by one of the “FFB” kids in the Yeshiva downstairs. “Stick with the anti’s” he quickly added before I had time to process what in the dickens he was talking about. “The who?” I retorted. “You know, the crazy Moshiachistim with the yellow flags that you dance with after davening.” I was still too preoccupied with what he meant by “anti’s” to fully absorb the term “Moshiachistim” in this newly unfolding dialect of Lubavs. “Anti-what?” I responded.
That began the beginning of what I saw to clearly be nothing but the nefarious machinations of this infamous ‘yetzer hara’ everyone was trying to get away from. Prior to my being a card carrying Lubavitcher I spent an inordinate amount of time researching history, philosophy, and war.
Despite the vast and eclectic methods and approaches to ‘war’, there were always clear groupings of maxims the held true across the spectrum. And one of the most basic tenants of war on how to defeat your enemy is “divide and conquer”.
At first maybe I thought it was just the rantings of some snot nose yeshiva kid whose world’s awareness was of minimalist design to say the least. Yet I soon learned that these terms of “anti” and “moshiachist” were amongst the everyday parlance of some of the biggest names and brains in Chabad. We’re talking the shpitz of the yichus, the gesh of the gesh. And we’re not just talking about these terms being used as discussion pieces. These terms were main descriptors of people, surpassing any other adjectives. “Berrel-the anti” “Shmerel – the Moshiacist”. I felt like I was in some Kafkaesque fictional world.
What made it worse is not only did each side adamantly claim to be 100% correct, but what was worse than being on the wrong side- was being on the fence. So, which one was it going to be for me? After several months of listening to, and believing, what appeared to my legally trained mind and several hundred litigation cases as a lawyer under my belt, convincing arguments from both sides, the “jury was still out”.
And then…suddenly, without warning or aforethought, there it was again, it was back…Gimmel Tammuz. Amongst the turmoil and confusion was a beacon of light from one of the Rabbis at Ohr Tmimim Yeshivah (the Yeshivah hand-picked by the Rebbe himself to be the “English speaking division of Tomchei T’mimim Lubavitch” with my beloved and honored Rabbi, Rav Schneur Zalman Gafne, at the helm.) “Today we are going to learn about what Gimmel Tammuz means to the Rebbe.” I chuckled. Until he showed me a sicha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe given over in Parshas Korach on Gimmel Tamuz, 1991, where the Rebbe himself permanently ordained the day of Gimmel Tammuz as a “Chag Hageulah” every single year-forever.
Now keep in mind I still didn’t really know or understand what “Gimmel Tammuz” meant, but I did know that I just finished learning that the Rebbe said it was a festival of redemption. And I also knew that the ‘crazy people’ with the yellow flags that say Moshiach on them were the ones in the Yeshiva that always seemed to be smiling and happy the most, especially singing that catchy tune they often sang.
So, me and my equally clueless chavrusa went on talucha, with yellow Moshiach flags singing Yechi Adnoneinu- right through the middle of a massive yahrzeit gathering in the Kfar, with thousands of mourning Lubavitchers lighting memorial candles and crying and reminiscing of days of yore. It was probably best that we didn’t really understand Hebrew or Yiddish, but from the screams and looks on the faces of the angry mobs coupled with the personal escort off the grounds by security, we kind of got the feeling that we weren’t exactly on the same wavelength.
The purpose of this letter isn’t to bring proofs or evidence to corroborate or challenge the belief systems of anyone, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and irrespective of where on the spectrum we are holding, we have all been blessed to merit a meaningful and personal relationship with our Rebbe, each in our own way.
In the most recent sicha we have from the Rebbe in the week preceding Gimmel Tammuz, Parshah Shelach 1991, the Rebbe clearly lets us know through prophetic vision, exactly what was the upcoming plan for the ‘temporary’ separation within Chabad to scout out and conquer the world with Divine light.
There was the first set of twelve spies, all the big machers of their time, shiptz-heads of tribes, got sent as emissaries on a scouting mission. Not on how to conquer the land (G-d already promised us that), but on how to set up shop, how to integrate the once diametrically opposed spiritual and physical worlds. And the Rebbe explains that if they wouldn’t have been spooked by the giants, the Yidden would have gone into Eretz Yisrael in a miraculous way, above the nature.
But we know how the story goes, and irrespective of the medraga of where one is holding, b’pashtus, giants can be pretty frightening. So, then G-d had to arrange for the second set of spies, sent by Yehoshua to actually conquer the land. A much smaller group of emissaries got sent this time (only two), and they were far from big machers, they were simple run of the mill, rag tag soldiers. Now since we didn’t chap the miraculous way, it was time to go in guns blazing and bring out the napalm and clean house.
After learning the sicha, especially after a dozen or so times, it becomes perfectly clear what the Rebbe is referring to. In parsha Chaya Sarah, 1991 (the most recent and thus al’pi halacha) the most relevant and important time the Rebbe addressed the shluchim he said clearly, not once, not twice- but 10 TIMES (I’m no goan, but I have learned hundreds of the Rebbe’s sichas and maimarim and have personally never seen the Rebbe repeat the same exact message 10 times in any other sicha or maimar) that all the work is done! The world has been conquered. All the sparks have been lifted. The buttons are polished and even over-polished. The only thing left is to “Kabbalas Pnei Moshiach Tzeidkanu”. Yes, he did say in a way that people can grasp and understand it, but that doesn’t mean to simply ignore the battle call if you don’t personally think they will or don’t know practically how to do so.
The result of that sicha (and all the sichas of Nun-aleph-beis) was the Rebbe gave us the final instructions and marching orders. The subsequent result was the division of the spies (shluchim), the twelve of Moshe and subsequent two of Yehoshua. In today’s world, the “official” heads of Chabad and the subsequent ‘Moshiachistim”.
The initial ‘fear’ of the Giants of public perception and deep pocketed donors, and subsequent sending out of the backup troops.
I hate to point out basic concepts in Judaism, but once something is done, we must believe with complete certainty that its Hashgaca Pratis. To think that the Rebbe is responsible for the 4,000 ‘official’ Chabad Houses but the other 1,000 ‘un-official’ Chabad Houses are operating outside of his purview is about as asinine as the thought that every Chabad shul in the world is under the guidance of the Rebbe, except for the Rebbe’s own shul and Chabad World Headquarters-770, which somehow got wrestled away from him by a group of rogue Tzfatis.
As far as the fear of the Giants of public opinion, the Rebbe immediately quashed that concern in the very next Sicha, Parasha Korach, 1991, where he said that not only is the world ready for the message, but they are literally standing by waiting to help.
To bolster the point even more, the Rebbe, once again through prophetic vision, called Gimmel Tammuz a “Chag HaGeulah” every single year, forever. Yes, on the surface, he was referring to the fact that on Gimmel Tammuz was the announcement and beginning of the Freidecker Rebbe’s redemption from prison.
But the deeper emphasis of the sicha was that G-d brings forth miracles in three stages, in order to be cloaked within the nature, as evidenced by the three miraculous events that took place (and are still unfolding) on Gimmel Tammuz.
First, the stopping of the sun for Yehoshua, the defeat of his enemies, then the return of the sun to its natural order; second, the announcement of the Freidecker Rebbe’s release from prison to exile camp in Kastrama, subsequent announcement of his freedom on the 12th of Tammuz , and ultimate release on the 13th of Tammuz; and third, the most relevant to us in our times, the Torah’s foreshadowing prophecy of Moshiach’s initial revealing of himself and acceptance by many, his subsequent concealment on Gimmel Tammuz, and then the re-revealing of himself to finish his mission.
This is a concept deep rooted in Judaism, addressed at length in several places in the Zohar, the teachings of The Arizal (specifically Sha’ar HaGilgulim), and The Tenach (Rashi Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 12:12), just to name a few. Not only was this concept ‘lifted’ and used as a basis for the goyem’s playbook with their Yoshka bube-meises, the concept is a basic function of math, science, and literature; to wit, Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.
Irrespective of what Gimmel Tammuz means to you personally, I will be bold enough to unequivocally say that collectively, without a shadow of doubt, we all want to see our Rebbe. After the painful past 25 years of not seeing our Rebbe, the time has come. We can now take off the costumes in this funny game of pretend ‘opposition’ amongst each other. Go find that “crazy moshiacist” or “angry anti” and give him a big hug. Not a casual pat on the shoulder, but a big manly bear hug. A full embrace and tell him you love him. You may not agree with which group of ‘spies’ he belongs to, whom it was that “sent him on his mission”, or his approach towards ‘conquering the land’. Nonetheless we are all brothers. And if that still isn’t enough of a reason, then do it because it’s the most recent and important instructions and battle plans that came out of our Rebbe’s holy mouth (see parsha Vayahkel 25th Adar, 5752), not as a mere suggestion, but an obligation. But even then, Ahavas Yisrael is still not enough.
There is a beautiful maimar from the Rebbe Rashab in Hemshech Ayen Beis where he brings down three hierarchal levels of consciousness inside every Jew. The first, is a state of “Yisrael” consciousness, where we are at complete odds with each other’s ‘perspective’ or way, nevertheless, despite not agreeing, we respect and love each other. Then is the higher state of consciousness of “Levi”, where even if we don’t agree with our brother’s way, despite it not being, “my cup of tea”, I can see your perspective, understand it and give ‘room’ in my being to look at the situation from a different lens, and dare we say-appreciate my brother’s individual way of serving Hashem. Then comes the highest state of consciousness, as a Kohen, an “Ish Chesed”, who understands unequivocally that I am incomplete without you and you are incomplete without me. That we need each other to balance each other out. The beauty of a mosaic is in its fusion of, despite similar shapes, unique and disparate nuances. To be a Chassid is to be an Ish Chesed. For us Lubavitchers there simply cannot be any other realization. The time has come. It’s time to work together. It’s time to put our differences and egos aside and find a way to, irrespective of our stance up to now, realize that we need to be united, in Machshava, Dibor and Miasa, to bring about the Geulah Sheliema. How do we do it? Considering the global reach and impact of Chabad I’m sure we can all figure something out. While specific parameters have been left up to us, one thing we can all agree on is one of our Rebbe’s most implicit battle calls-HaMisa Hu Ha Ikar.
I hesitated to write this letter, after all who am I to address such high ranking Chabadnikem and Shluchim in the Rebbe’s army. I’m just a little pissher trying to do teshuvah. I don’t descend from shpitz or gesh. My grandfather didn’t spend time in a Russian prison for fighting to keep Judaism alive (although he did spend time in prison in New York for keeping the Flatbush illegal number racket going). I’ve only been in the ‘fold’ for 15 years. I didn’t have to deal with the test of watching them put our tattie in the ground on Gimmel Tammuz. But thanks to my background as a lawyer educated in first principles thinking and a relentless drive to uncover the truth, it brought me to G-d, the Rebbe, and the fact that he is unequivocally Melech HaMoshiach, not because I say so, but because he let us know. I personally challenge anyone who is capable of tzimtzuming their pre-conceived notions of what they think or believe to learn the sichas of nun-aleph-beis and not clearly see that the Rebbe had not only prepared us for Gimmel Tammuz, but has openly disclosed that G-d has already chosen and anointed him as Melech HaMoshiach, and that the only thing that is left for him to reveal himself is the acceptance of his kingship by the people (as we all know David HaMelech, already chosen by G-d to be king, spent 7 years in Chevron prior to his full acceptance by the people and subsequent ruling as king in Jerusalem).
The message is clear. The Rebbe was chosen by G-d to be the ultimate redeemer of the Jewish People. Like every Jewish king before him, his malchus must be established through not only his being chosen by G-d, but also his acceptance by the people. We are waiting for the Rebbe and he is waiting for us. There are only two options left in front of us, we can keep ‘separated’ with one group screaming at people (who don’t even know aleph beis) at the top of their lungs that the Rebbe is Moshiach (the light), and the other completely avoiding the subject like the plague and hiding in fear from the giants of public opinion (the vessels). And I am not Chas V’Shalom judging anybody, as I myself have bounced between both extremes. We all are aware of the infamous saying by Albert Einstein, “the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.” Or we could somehow find a way, to stick our egos and pre-conceived notions of “what the Rebbe wants” on the shelf for long enough to sit down and farbreng about how we are going to put our powers together and bring the Rebbe’s Malchus to the world. And please remember, to do nothing it still making a choice. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting real sick and tired of watching the anti-Semitism bubble over again, Rachmana Litzlan, to the worst it’s been since pre-WWII, while our brothers and sisters in Israel are being slaughtered like sheep while the so called government looks the other way and embraces our enemies, Rachmana Litzlan, out of fear from the giants of ‘world opinion’.
My brothers at arms, while I do my best to have Ahavas Yisreal for all Yidden, I have the deepest heartfelt admiration for every single shliach and Lubavicther around the world who despite these difficult final contractions of the gulus, continues on with meseries nefesh to give their lives for our Rebbe. But enough is enough. The madness must come to an end. We must come together and bring the Yidden and the world to the next level, to a state of Moshiach awareness, to Keter-Malchus consciousness. Let’s make this Gimmel Tammuz a rally call for something that is really meaningful to our Rebbe and simultaneously ensure that the next one we will be farbrenging together with our Rebbe in the Beis Hamikdash Shlishi. You have received this letter from the utmost of respect and admiration, if you feel inclined, please share it. With blessings for the immediate redemption, Ad Mosai!!!