Thursday, June 19th, 2008
The duplicate 770 was said to be indicative of how crazy and messianist the Chabadniks were, they must have been expecting the rebbe to drop in, pretty funny. Only a chasid could be so nuts, right?
Wrong. I’m not a chasid and I understand completely. When I went to Epcot I got a kick out of the recreations of town squares in Paris and Morocco, and the animatronic presidents in the Magic Kingdom. I like seeing the duplicate Statue of Liberty on a rooftop near Lincoln Center.
Any Jewish soul with a sense of history would be understanding of an Israeli chasid’s natural longing to be reminded of a place so beautiful, historic, and evocative of perhaps the greatest Jewish story of the 20th century — second only to the rebirth of Israel — the rebbe’s campaign to find, love and serve every single Jew on the planet, from the Congo to Kansas.
Baseball fans have built replicas of Fenway’s Green Monster.
Last week, The New York Times (June 15) ran a front-page photo, with an accompanying story, about a beachfront hotel in Turkey,designed to appeal to Russian tourists. The Kremlin Palace Hotel’s buildings are replicas of the Kremlin and the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral .
This summer, thousands will be visiting Williamsburg, Virginia to see the recreations. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, attempts a spiritual recreation of Satmar in the Carpathians.
A few days ago, I was in Crown Heights, at the original 770, for a wedding in the alley – an alley just big enough for a chuppah, and ten flanking rows of folding chairs — between 770 and the Chabad library.
After the ceremony I touched the outer bricks; touched the brick fountain that’s gone dry in the small yard in the rear; walked through the old hefty front door into 770’s hallway where the rebbe used to stand; and down the narrow, twisting stairway into the great block-long fabrenegen hall.
In 1979 it seemed much larger, the size of a football field, or the Temple Mount’s plateau. It now seems the size of a shul, or yeshiva study room.
Were there some signs and stickers about Moshiach? Yes. Did it matter? No more than a visit to Jerusalem’s Wall would be disturbed by seeing foxes on the Temple Mount. It wouldn’t matter anymore than it would to see bumper stickers for McCain and Obama, evidence of mortals and lesser men, in Jefferson’s Monticello. What the rebbe did here goes far beyond anyone’s poor power to add or detract.
There was holiness in 770, such as tourists would spend thousands of dollars in airfare to see on heritage tours to the Polish woods or the Ukrainian countryside. In Brooklyn, you can see it – the real thing – for the price of a subway token.
I closed my eyes and ran my fingers over the bricks like a blind man running his fingertips over the face of a beauty queen from some year before I was born.