Friday, February 3, 2012

Yud Shvat - Basi L'Gani

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, arrived on the shores of America in March 1940, after a miraculous escape from Nazi-occupied Poland. Arriving in New York, he set for himself the task of building a Jewish infrastructure to replace the one going up in flames in Eastern Europe. In fact, he established his first yeshivah in the Western Hemisphere on the very night that he arrived. In the decade that followed, many more Torah schools and other religious institutions were founded by his devoted emissaries across the United States and Canada.
The Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn and his
predecessor R' Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn  in 1949

Though the Rebbe’s spirit and resolve were indomitable, his body was battered and broken due to beatings and abuse at the hands of the KGB, as well as multiple health issues, including debilitating multiple sclerosis. The Rebbe’s speech was also impacted; after a few years, only those in his closest circle, such as his family and secretariat, were able to comprehend his slurred words. As a result, the Rebbe stopped orally delivering chassidic discourses in honor of special dates on the Jewish and chassidic calendar, as was his custom. Instead, in advance of these propitious dates, he would submit written discourses for publication, to be studied by his chassidim when that day arrived.

The tenth of Shevat was the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivkah. In the year 5710 [1950], the tenth of Shevat would fall on Shabbat. In honor of the occasion, the Rebbe submitted for publication a discourse entitled Basi L'Gani [“I have come to My Garden”].

On that Shabbat morning, the Rebbe passed away at the age of 69.

The year that followed was one of apprehension for Chabad-Lubavitch chassidim. Many immediately recognized that the Rebbe’s son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was eminently suited to succeed his father-in-law, due to his outstanding scholarship and piety. But Rabbi Menachem Mendel humbly refused to accept the mantle of leadership.

After a full year of pleading and cajoling on the part of chassidim, Rabbi Menachem Mendel relented. On the first anniversary of his predecessor’s passing, Rabbi Menachem Mendel accepted upon himself the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. In traditional Chabad chassidic form, he did so by delivering a chassidic discourse during a farbrengen [chassidic gathering] on that historic day.

The new Rebbe’s discourse was also entitled Basi Legani. In fact, it was based upon the very discourse that his father-in-law had submitted a year earlier. He started off where his predecessor left off . . .

In the decades that followed, every year on the 10th of Shevat, the Rebbe would host a grand farbrengen, in keeping with chassidic tradition that designates the yahrtzeit of a righteous person as a highly auspicious day. For the chassidim, the day had additional import—it was the anniversary of the date when the Rebbe assumed leadership.

And every year at the 10 Shevat farbrengen, the Rebbe would say a chassidic discourse that started with the words Basi L'Gani, always based on a different chapter of the original discourse penned by his predecessor. It became increasingly clear that the themes addressed in this discourse defined the Rebbe’s leadership.

What does this special discourse discuss? Which garden? Who’s coming to the garden? And why is this arrival in the garden such an important message for our generation?

The Garden
The words “basi legani” are taken from Solomon’s Song of Songs.

The garden is our world. Announcing His arrival here in this garden is G‑d Himself—who refers to it not as “a garden,” but as “My garden.” All that He created belongs to Him, but of all the myriad spiritual emanations and worlds, there is only one to which He refers as “My,” because it is only here—the very lowest realm—that He wants to call home. The divine light shines ever brightly in the supernal worlds, but only in this physical world does G‑d wish to manifest His very essence.

His shechinah [presence] was here when He created this world. But it was driven away by a series of sins, starting with Adam and Eve’s eating the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Subsequent sinful generations drove the shechinah further away, as it ascended from one heaven to the next.

This was no glitch in the plan; it was anything but.

Just as G‑d created the world with the vision that it would serve as His domicile, He also had a clear vision as to how this domicile would be created. He envisioned a world characterized by frightful spiritual blackness, wherein creations—possessors of free choice, capable of embracing the darkness or rejecting it—would repress the darkness, and ultimately transform it into light.

There must be a world which [on the surface] is inhospitable to its Creator. And through the difficult work of banishing and transforming the darkness, it becomes a beautiful “garden.” A place that G‑d is delighted to inhabit.

Over the years, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, elaborated on the many concepts discussed above.  The Rebbe’s inaugural discourse in 1951,  explains the special relevance of these ideas to our generation.


“We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach; indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period. Our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down the shechinah—the essence of the shechinah—specifically within our lowly world.”

Source and full article at: Chabad

1 comment:

Devorah said...

by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

The two words 'jungle' and 'garden' create very different images in our minds. A jungle has a feeling of chaos and disarray. It is place where dangerous animals roam; an unsafe environment. A garden on the other hand is an array of beautiful flowers blossoming and delicious fruit trees. The more beautiful the garden the greater the feeling of calmness and serenity.

Sometimes our world reminds us of a jungle. Newspaper headlines are filled with stories of violence, immorality and political unrest. Riots, protests, economic instability seem to be the dominating forces in many parts of the globe. Like the jungle, there is an uneasy feeling of unrest and an uncertain future.

But strangely, in the book "Song of Songs" King Solomon tells us that G-d calls this planet "my garden". How can such a chaotic world be G-d's garden?

In one of his public addresses, the Lubavitcher Rebbe o.b.m. shared the following idea. The jungle is a potential garden. It just takes work and time. If the gardener invests effort to clear the ground, dig up the earth, soften the soil and plant the appropriate seeds, then over time he will witness a transformation and a beautiful garden of flowers and trees will emerge.

Our world may sometimes look like a jungle. But G-d chose it to be His garden and we are His gardeners. With effort and determination to engage in positive activity, goodness and moral behaviour we are able to transform the chaos into serenity and the uncertainty into stability. The unrest and negativity around us is only superficial and transient. Every time we extend ourselves to engage in positive activity and every Mitzvah that we do plants a seed which will eventually sprout into a strong tall tree of permanence and beauty.

Perhaps a good start is to distance ourselves from the media's negative pessimistic view and learn to adopt G-d's positive attitude. When you wake up in the morning, don't see the apparent jungle around you but learn to notice the beautiful garden you are about to create.