Friday, March 26, the 11th of Nissan in the Jewish calendar, marks the 108th birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe's outsized personality is a rare mosaic of Divine genius, prophetic vision and great practicality. The Rebbe was known even among the nations of the world as the greatest Jewish leader of the generation.
According to Jewish teachings, on a birthday one's mazal, fortune, is strongest. On the Rebbe's birthday, the mazal of all the Jewish people is strong, for the word Rebbe is an acronym for the words Rosh Benei Yisroel--the head of Israel. When the head is strong, the body is strong as well.
A birthday is an appropriate time to take upon oneself good resolutions, since the strengthened mazal gives one added powers to stick to and carry out one's resolutions. On the Rebbe's birthday, when the mazal of the entire Jewish people is strong, it is certainly an appropriate day to take on good resolutions in areas of Torah and mitzvot.
Some find the hoopla over the Rebbe's birthday to be somewhat odd, especially considering that it is 15 years since we have seen the Rebbe in physical form. In fact, there are those who argue that celebrating the Rebbe's birthday goes against the spirit of Judaism.
However, the birthday of a tzadik has long been considered as an auspicious day for all Jewish people. Recently we celebrated Purim, a holiday that came about, in some measure, due to the birthday of a tzadik. Our sages relate that Haman cast lots for an appropriate day to annihilate the Jews, and was happy when the lot came up on 7 Adar--the day that Moses passed away. However, he did not realize that 7 Adar was also Moses' birthday, and in merit of that day the mazal of the Jews changed for good.
Regarding the veneration of the Rebbe amongst his Chassidim, it is important to understand that it is an outgrowth of their faith in G-d, not G-d forbid a contradiction to it. The Zohar explains that G-d upholds the world in the merit of the righteous: "Tzadik yesod olam." The righteous are the ones who translate the will of the Almighty into a message that the common person is able to grasp and fulfill.
In our generation, the Rebbe clearly filled the role of the tzadik. He drew thousands of fellow Jews closer to Torah and mitzvot. He was a source of Divine inspiration and blessing to many. More than any other person, the Rebbe was attached to the Almighty and served as a powerful symbol of a servant of G-d, a symbol that we could all look up to and learn from.
Celebrating the Rebbe's birthday is a way of honoring G-d Himself. After all, the Rebbe is the one who guides and leads us to fulfill G-d's will completely, and will bring about G-d's ultimate desire in creation--the true and complete Redemption.