The inaugural address is an opportunity for the new president to share a message that will hopefully shape the imminent future and serve as an inspiration for generations to come. Although at times these speeches produced memorable quotes, rarely are they considered to be the dawn of a new era.
Seventy years ago, on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat 1951, exactly one year after the Previous Rebbe’s passing, the Rebbe led a Chassidic gathering in which it was believed he would formally accept the mantle of Chabad Lubavitch leadership. For many months, hundreds of Chassidim had petitioned him to assume the official title of “Lubavitcher Rebbe,” although he informally assumed most of the responsibilities of the position almost immediately.
The Chassidim were waiting for the Rebbe to deliver a “Maamer” - an original Chassidic discourse - which is the exclusive privilege and duty of the “Lubavitcher Rebbe.” On that Wednesday evening, the Rebbe delivered his inaugural discourse - called “Bosi Legani” - to the immense joy and relief of Chassidim around the world and changed the course of Jewish history.
Within a decade of the horrors of the Holocaust, as millions of Jews - including most of the Chabad community - remained trapped behind the iron curtain, the Rebbe spoke of a new era. Instead of issuing poetic and aspirational statements, the Rebbe gleaned from multiple sources in Talmud and Jewish mysticism to illustrate that the feasibility of fulfilling our mission to perfect the world, and the urgency to do so in our time, is a proven fact.
Whereas everyone in the room that evening had lost so much and felt so broken - the Rebbe announced that each and every one of them could change the world for good in ways their ancestors could not fathom.
Whereas everyone else saw the physical destruction of our nation and the onslaught of assimilation - the Rebbe declared that specifically our generation would complete the historic task of perfecting our world with the arrival of Moshiach.
He spoke of Abraham the first Jew who dedicated his life to enlightening a heathen civilization with the light of monotheism. Abraham worked tirelessly to inspire others to become teachers of this truth as well, the Rebbe explained, and this remains the ultimate prototype for Jewish success to this day: if you want to be Jewish, you must share your Jewishness with others.
Most importantly, perfecting the world is our mandate and destiny not because of our superior talents or elevated spiritual status, but rather simply because we are alive today.
Amazingly there is a recording of that historic event and as I listened to it this evening the Rebbe’s words sounded more relevant today than ever before. We’ve come a long way since 1951, but the world is not yet perfect and the urgency to complete our mission only intensifies with time.
This Shabbat is the 10th of Shevat. As we celebrate 71 years from his inaugural discourse, I encourage you to dedicate more time to studying Torah and to share your knowledge with others. Observe a new Mitzvah and encourage a friend to do the same. Increase your Tzedakah giving and inspire others to give as well. Because each act of kindness makes this world a better place and hastens the arrival of Moshiach when goodness, peace and freedom will abound for all.