Photo Credit: JEM-The Living Archives

“And it was in the 30th year.” So begins the book of Yechezkel and his vision of the ultimate spirituality and redemption amidst suffocating exile.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz, these words reverberate deeply.


In 1980, upon the 30th anniversary of the passing of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchok Schneersohn, the then Rebbe spoke extensively of the global loss of his father-in-law and mentor and the uniqueness of the “thirtieth” anniversary. Drawing a parallel to Yechezkel, who only saw the revelation of the heavens opening after the 30th year, the Rebbe explained that 30 years brings greater spiritual revelation. The Rebbe also tied the 30 years since his father-in-law’s passing to the 30 years that preceded it and celebrated the fulfillment of his predecessor’s work. This included ensuring the survival of Judaism in the Soviet Union as well as nurturing new life for Judaism in America, which had since been unequivocally accomplished.

It is impossible to fully encapsulate the impact or the influence of the Rebbe in a single article. Growing up as a young emissary (shliach) in Louisville, Kentucky, I rarely saw the Rebbe in person, but I witnessed the effect of his teachings and worldview every single day.

When my wife and I got married, neither of us questioned our desire to dedicate our lives to the Rebbe’s vision, further establishing Chabad in central Kentucky, and opening a Jewish student center at the University of Kentucky.

Now 30 years after Gimmel Tammuz, while we can’t see the Rebbe with our physical eyes, the entire Jewish world witnesses the effect of his teachings every single day.

The story of the Rebbe’s life is an extraordinary one, taking place during extraordinary times. The Rebbe was the son of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, two historic leaders during the fall of Czarist Russia and subsequent rise of Bolshevik Russia. He came from a family of remarkable religious leaders tracing back to the Rebbes of Lubavitch, the Maharal of Prague, and through him, all the way back to the line of Dovid HaMelech.

From childhood, the Rebbe was recognized as a prodigy, with a singular love for his fellow Jew. From a young age, the Rebbe envisioned the long-promised era of Moshiach and was driven to help individual Jews, and Jews at large, as a way of making the coming redemption a reality.

He married Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the daughter and key aide of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, and quickly became an integral part of his father-in-law’s inner circle. He corresponded and interacted with the greatest Torah minds of Europe while maintaining fierce privacy and humility.

As the scourge of hate engulfed Europe, the Rebbe escaped to America. Upon his arrival, he was tasked by his father-in-law with a responsibility that would define the rest of his life, to ensure Jewish education and the availability of Jewish life in the new world.

In 1951, following the passing of his father-in-law, the Rebbe gave in to the pleas of the chassidim and assumed the mantle of leadership.

From his first moments as Rebbe, he set the tone that would define his mission. He declared: The love of Hashem, the love of His Torah, and the love of the Jewish people is one. The Rebbe began the revolutionary idea of sending dedicated chassidim – emissaries – to create Jewish communities in seemingly remote places around the world. Turning Judaism outward, and recognizing there was no such thing as a small Jew, or a Jew without worth, the Rebbe established communities in North Africa, Eretz Yisrael, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and even the Soviet Union, where the forces of Stalin, yemach shemo, still gripped the land.

He created a movement often mischaracterized as “kiruv.” The Rebbe never intended to bring closer those who are already, chas v’sholom, far. Rather he intended to help every Jew to ignite their pintele yid, their Jewish spark, from however close they already are.

He spoke and lectured at a superhuman rate, reinvigorating the study of Rashi, and Rambam, and bringing Torah study to previously unheard-of locations. He took the crucial concept of Moshiach, codified in the principles of our faith, and brought it to the forefront of the mind of every Jew, teaching children and adults alike to cry out: WE WANT MOSHIACH NOW!!

Thirty years after Gimmel Tammuz, it’s impossible not to see that these ideas have become unquestionably established, and wildly successful, beyond measure.

In 1994, only about 1,200 families had gone out on shlichus. Today, there are over 11,000 shluchim and shluchos, who, together with their families, direct Chabad Houses in all 50 states and in over 100 countries!

As ubiquitous as Coca-Cola, Chabad is found anywhere a Jew might go.

On college campuses, where the scourge of antisemitism and anti-Jewish ideas run rampant, hundreds of Chabad Houses provide a Jewish home for students and a source of authentic Judaism.

The Rebbe’s drive to reach every Jew, regardless of where they are in their life, has overflowed to every corner of the frum world, where the ba’al teshuva movement and kiruv outreach continue to grow.

The Rebbe’s Torah can be found everywhere, and initiatives like Lag Ba’Omer parades, learning Rambam daily and even helping other Jews with tefillin have become the standard. As the President of YU recently remarked on a video of one of his students helping another Jew wrap tefillin for the first time, “We are all shluchim now.”

The Rebbe’s campaign for persumay nisa at Chanukah, once forcefully opposed by many parts of the Jewish establishment, is now a mainstay of Chanukah in communities across the world.

In 2024, the Rebbe is still accurately called the most influential rabbi in the world, and his effect is felt every single day.

More remarkable still are the hundreds of seforim and thousands of videos of and about the Rebbe, and even more so, how timely the messages ring.

As antisemitism rages in American politics and streets, the Rebbe, who survived the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks, Nazi Germany, Vichy France, and Franco Spain, gave us clear and timeless lessons of the importance of Jewish pride and standing firm in the face of hate.

As our eyes and hearts are tied to every headline from Eretz Yisrael, the Rebbe’s voice rings out with optimism, reminding us that Hashem promised his eyes would be on the land of Israel, “MiReishis HaShana Ad Achris HaShana” continues to inspire, while his constant heartfelt plea for the political leaders to put the lives and safety of the citizens first, and that many political decisions are a matter of pikuach nefesh, continue to set a path forward.

Above all else, his call to reach every Jew, to uplift every spark, and that bringing Moshiach is entirely in our hands, continues to light a fire in countless hearts and minds of Jews everywhere. New shluchim and shluchos are moving out approximately every 10 days, for lifetime commitments, with plans only to leave for Yerushalayim with Moshiach.

In my own life and work, the Rebbe’s vision continues to expand every day, from the 95-year-old Holocaust Survivor wrapping tefillin for the first time, to a young woman who began her Jewish journey through discovering that having a Jewish mother makes her a full Jew, and is now living as a Jewish mother in Shomron. Many similar stories occur on a daily basis.

This year thousands will gather at the Rebbe’s Ohel and online, to mark the day, and to reflect on the Rebbe’s legacy.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz, we should not only recognize the influence and effect of the Rebbe of the last 30 years, but commit ourselves to furthering his vision, and speedily bringing about a revelation for the entire Jewish nation, with the coming of Moshiach.

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Rabbi Shlomo Litvin is a Chabad rabbi and director of the Jewish Student Center at the University of Kentucky. A national advocate combatting antisemitism, he is a prolific writer and educator with many leadership roles including chairman of the Kentucky Jewish Council. He writes across social media at @BluegrassRabbi.