Yesterday was Gimmel Tammuz, the 3rd of Tammuz, the day that the Rebbe left us physically. A Tzaddik never leaves, his guidance and inspiration remains with us always, but we’re simple people and we need to see and hear a person to relate to them.
Gimmel Tammuz became famous long before the Rebbe. 3284 years ago it marked the date when Joshua suspended the sun in midair so he could rout a band of enemies who had attacked the Jews’ allies, the Gibeonites. G-d could have chosen any of a host of miracles to keep the battlefield lit long enough for Joshua to defeat the attackers. By choosing to stop the sun, Hashem set the tone for this unusual day- the third of Tammuz.
We Chassidim were spoiled, inspired and guided by the Rebbe through life’s every step for over forty years. The Rebbe was an expert teacher, weaving tapestries of Torah that intrigue the greatest Jewish minds until today. The Rebbe was a revolutionary, prodding us on to achieve what we were certain was light-years beyond our abilities. The Rebbe was a prophet, predicting the unexpected twists and turns of an ever-changing world. The Rebbe was a father, caring for the disenchanted Jew and the Israeli politician and the Chareidi scholar and the rebellious teen.
We were the fortunate followers, swept up in the raging tide of the Rebbe’s energy. A world without the Rebbe’s presence and guidance was unthinkable. Gimmel Tammuz surprised us completely, challenged our thinking and forced us to reassess our role.
But, the Rebbe had prepared us for that day and its subsequent reality. He had coached us through it from his inaugural address through to the last discourse he distributed. Again and again the Rebbe argued that a righteous individual- Moshe on the banks of the Jordan, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in ancient Israel or the Rebbe in New York- could have single-handedly achieved G-d’s mission for Life and brought Moshiach. But, that would defeat the purpose of Creation.
Hashem made an imperfect world for us ordinary people to fix. We don’t believe we can do it and prefer to defer to the greats of our nation, to let them guide us. Our great sages believe in us more than we do- not only did they trust that we could follow their instructions, but they believed we could even see our own way clear to fulfilling Hashem’s dream.
Just less than a year before the Rebbe took ill, he announced that he had done all he needed to for Moshiach to come and that he was handing the task over to us. On Gimmel Tammuz, the sun of the Jewish nation went still. The sun is still there, illuminating our path, but it has paused, waiting for us to win the battle.
We are an empowered people who can and must rise to the occasion and quite literally change our world. That may sound like a big ask, but one step in that direction is actually all we need. When G-d sees us recognize our potential and step up to the plate, He will push “play”, hopefully right away.