As chassidic custom dictates, there had been no eulogies. Some prayers and a few chapters of Tehillim had been recited. The Rebbe’s secretaries Rabbis Krinsky, Groner and Klein had uttered the Kaddish in unison. The Rebbe had no children of his own, even though thousands considered him their spiritual father. Questions swirled in our heads. Should we continue to stand or go? What next for us chassidim, for Chabad as a community, and, more importantly, for world Jewry?
Suddenly, the booming voice of Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the indefatigable shaliach (emissary) from California, was heard. Speaking from the heart, he said: “Rebbe, in the name of my fellow shluchim, I am assuring you and making an oath to continue the mission that you have entrusted us. To safeguard the institutions the Rebbe has opened, to expand and develop them.”
Rabbi Cunin spoke from the heart. In a few words he said it all. For chassidim, the last ten years have been painful. There is no question that we are orphans. Not a day goes by that I do not ponder the terrible loss. At the same time I am boosted. The Rebbe’s rich heritage of learning, insight and leadership is vibrant and living.
A few years later we organized a major event in the Rebbe’s honor in Washington. Billed as “Living the Legacy,” hundreds of Chabad rabbis and supporters gathered in the nation’s capital. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz questioned the theme of the event when in a lecture in the Library of Congress he said, “The Rebbe did not leave a legacy — he left standing orders.”
With a decade now having passed since that ominous summer day in 1994, there is much to reflect on. The standing orders are being fulfilled. A new Chabad center opens every ten days. In the past decade more than two thousand couples have gone out on shlichus, moving to towns and cities across the globe — be it Novosibirsk in far off Russia or the ritzy suburbs of America’s cities.
Today there is not only Chabad in Katmandu, but in the Hamptons, Kinshasha and Bulgaria.
The Rebbe did not create followers, but community leaders. He empowered his chassidim to focus on our own spiritual welfare and the spiritual welfare of others, Jew and non-Jew alike.