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The 26 Year Old Ride

Friday, 26 June, 2020 - 11:39 am

Rebbe & Yisroel.pngLast night a young man approached me as I left the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, NY and asked me for a ride to Brooklyn where I was headed. After I ensured that he had a mask (and he had long since recovered from COVID), I said that he could come in my car and we began to drive.

As we drove down the Belt Parkway, I was still contemplating my own journey to this very same spot exactly 26 years earlier when I walked through the cemetery just after the interment. I remembered the packed flight from London, the heat and humidity of New York, and the grief and sadness that hit me as I approached the cemetery that very first time.
As these thoughts passed through my mind, I turned to my passenger and asked him his name, and he told me his name is Daniel. I detected a slight accent so I asked Daniel where he was originally from. He responded that he was born in Russia but had lived in Israel for a few years before moving to Brooklyn. Along the way, he had studied in a Chabad Yeshiva and grew in his Jewish learning and involvement before taking on his current profession.
As he told me his story, I asked him how old he was, and he responded that he was 26 years old.
The irony of his age was not lost on me as I was still contemplating my own journey of where I was 26 years ago.
Daniel described growing up in frigid Northern Russia and not knowing that he was actually a Jew until he was an older child, since his mother had concealed his true identity from him due to her fears of anti-Semitism. When they finally moved to Israel to follow his sister, he slowly began to identify with his Judaism and connected with Chabad and began a path of learning and meaningful engagement with his Jewish tradition.
I thought about his journey over the last 26 years and how it was intimately connected with the seeds of Judaism that the Rebbe planted around the world especially in distant and far flung places. I thought about those first seeds that grew and provided spiritual oxygen and nourishment to the places where they were planted and realized that those seeds have now produced a new crop of seeds which are being planted in even more places.
I was reminded that slowly but surely, the impact of the Rebbe’s unrelenting belief in humanity, and the importance of doing Mitzvot and good deeds, is continuing to make an impact much more that I might ever realize.
26 years ago on this day I was challenged, “what now and where to from here”, and I remember how for a moment we worried about what would happen to all the seeds that had been planted and cultivated.
Yet 26 years later in the car ride to Brooklyn, Daniel from frigid northern Russia and his journey that was deeply intertwined with the seeds planted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, reminded me of how much can happen in 26 years. His story illustrated to me, how with G-d’s help, the seeds that the Rebbe worked so hard to plant for so many decades, are continuing to give spiritual oxygen infinitely more than ever before.
Indeed the Rebbe’s inspiring vision of strengthening Judaism and the Jewish people while uplifting and empowering all of humanity, has not diminished in any way. Instead, it is has grown exponentially in countless ways, as it continues to make a powerful and positive impact on the Jewish people and in so many ways on society at large.
I thought I was giving Daniel a ride, but in truth thank you Daniel for the ride that YOU gave me.
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