Tomorrow, November 22nd, Americans will be remembering the fiftieth anniversary of the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was only in third grade so my actual memories are vague. ( I do remember my parents talking a lot about someone named President Kennedy and thinking what an unusual first name “President” was.) But, looking back on those years and seeing where we are as a nation now, my take on November 22nd is that the American dream died on that day, too.
In contrast, Chabad followers, known as Chabad Chassidim, will celebrate this Thursday night and Friday day as Yud Tes Kislev, the nineteenth of the month of Kislev, a joyful day known as the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus.
So I sat here long enough and found a connection beyond the calendar.
I recently saw a statistic that showed that only 25% of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Apparently most think there was a conspiracy. Since we will probably never know the truth, what was accomplished by Kennedy’s assassination other than that we became a nation of cynics? Or is cynicism somehow a good thing in our generation?
So here’s the connection to this auspicious day on the Chassidic calendar.
Because of JFK’s assassination, I am an unapologetic, post-Camelot cynic. We are all corrupt.
Because of the events of Yud Tes Kislev, I understand that it doesn’t have to be this way.
On one foot, here’s what happened in 1798:
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe, had turned the Jewish world on its ear with his core teaching that each and every Jew has a literal spark of the Divine within his or her soul, making everyone equally and inherently precious to G-d. In the wake of the pogroms, this was a spiritual life-saver to the downtrodden Jews of Russia. But some among the Jewish elite opposed this spiritual revolution known as Chabad Chassidus and conspired against him. They convinced the Russian government that the Alter Rebbe was a traitor; he was arrested and spent 53 days in jail in Petersburg. The Alter Rebbe’s release on the 19th of Kislev is celebrated worldwide by his Chassidim, who see this event as G-d’s go-ahead to learn and spread these mystical teachings of the deeper dimensions of Torah.
Thanks to the Alter Rebbe’s release, someone like me, who still pronounces Kislev as Kee-slave, has access to the understanding of the secrets of G-d and His universe. We’re talking access, not necessarily understanding. But still, it’s out there in the world.
And that is something to celebrate.
JFK’s assassination may have opened the door of cynicism, but thanks to the Alter Rebbe, I understand that theres a place for both the cynic and the idealist in me. The world is supposed to have duality.
So why does so much of the world stage involve conspiracy and corruption? For one thing, Chabad Chassidus teaches that G-d is the ultimate Conspirator, so to speak, stealthily hiding our souls within our bodies and Himself in all of creation. It’s apparently a concept with relevance on many levels.
But thanks to Alter Rebbe, I know that my main job in this world is to free Him from that hiddenness by freeing my little Jewish soul from, you got it, corruption.
And the teachings of Chabad Chassidus give me tools to understand and do just that. Trust me, this is one large undertaking.
By doing it, though, the Alter Rebbe says, I transform myself and the world around me. And if enough of us manage to pull this off just a little bit more, we get the big payoff of Moshiach, a totally transformed world.
No more assassinations, no more conspiracies, no more hiddenness.
So please pass this one on–G-d’s turning up the light tonight.