My 2012 was 15 months long. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but it started sometime last October. I sold my Mamiya 645, bought a Contax 645 (read: ridiculously overpriced medium format film camera), and shot my first all film session. I fell harder in love with it and stuck my digital gear in some farflung corner of my beautifully junglistic garage. I still reach for it now and then, for dark receptions, for photos of gear, to test lenses. I kind of feel bad for it’s mass produced, machine made feelings. (Of course I know digital cameras don’t have feelings, it’s residual mental scarring from Disney movies.)
November came and I took my oversized backpack to the Genesis workshop in Memphis. I thought I was going in order to learn how to build a wedding photography business (which was the main thrust of the workshop, both the creative and the business side). Instead I came out with 50 awesome friends, and a thoroughly confounded outlook on what and how I wanted to shoot. The instructors were very encouraging, even inspiring, but when I put forth my purported goal of becoming a hot-shot wedding photographer I received some raised eyebrows. Not because anyone thought I wouldn’t be good at it, rather they saw something very unique in my family work that I didn’t.
I didn’t see it. Not for a while at least. But then I started
I was planning on finishing the thought and possibly thinking up more thoughts. But being as it is now Sunday, 11:09 PM Pacific Standard Time, there are other, more time-specific thoughts to think.
Tonight begins the tenth day of the Jewish month of Shvat. On this day 63 years ago the Previous Chabad Rebbe (leader of the Chabad sect) passed away, and exactly one year later, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (known as “the Rebbe”) accepted the mantle of leadership.
The Rebbe was always a large presence in our lives.
Way back when, my father grew up in Boro Park, Brooklyn (on top of Rubashkin’s butcher shop). One day the Yeshiva he went to called his parents house wondering why he hasn’t shown up for the past few weeks. Turns out he casually left and went to the Chabad Yeshiva in Crown Heights. (That was the good old days, nowadays we can’t seem to go anywhere without the whole world knowing where we are and what we are doing.)
My mother, on the other hand, did very much of her growing up with Chabad. Her father (along with his twin, Shlomo Carlebach) was a Chossid (follower) of the Previous Rebbe, and when he passed away had a very hard time transitioning. Whereas the Previous Rebbe was very personal, the current Rebbe was more brusque (possibly due to the sheer amount of Chassidim and work that had to be done). He connected very much with the Bobov Rebbe and tried to get his family involved. Didn’t happen. Being that my grandmother (whose birthday it is today) is a Schneerson and second cousins with the Rebbe, Chabad was too much of a presence to be sidetracked by any Bobovers(If you’ve got a few minutes, you could read all about my hotshot lineage.)
After my parents married the Rebbe sent them to a few places to teach and spread Judaism. After some time in Nashville (where my two oldest siblings were born), Palo Alto (where my brother was born), Long Beach (my sister and I were born there), and Westminster, we finally settled in Huntington Beach, where they established a wonderful community.
Growing up, in school, and later in Yeshiva, we had it hammered into our skulls, how very important we were. Not as Rabbi’s kids, as Lubavitchers (another name for Chabad Chassidim), or even as “Orthodox” (can’t stand that word), but as Jews and as people. How G-d has a mission and if we weren’t an integral part of that mission then we wouldn’t be here (G-d does nothing in vain).
We were taught not only not to judge others, but to respect everyone, for who they are, and who they can be. To learn from them. The Rebbe taught us to be real, and to make G-dliness a real part of our lives. Not just doing what G-d wants, but to work on ourselves until we feel it. Until the fact that G-d is everywhere and everything, is not just an intellectual concept but something we see with our own eyes.
The Rebbe taught us to be real. He showed us (along with the previous Rebbes) that G-d and his Torah don’t have to be foreign concepts forced upon our consciousness. That we don’t have to fight our inner nature, rather we have to reveal it.
And that is why a Rebbe is so important. We all may know, and even believe. But we don’t see G-d. We see tables, clouds, beer, mountains, buildings, tar pits, and flashlights. And we may know that behind all the physicality is a G-dly animating force. But we don’t see it.
The Rebbe does.
The Rebbe sees the world as G-d does. He doesn’t see a hand, he sees an instrument to give charity. Not beer, but something to allow us to open up more freely and talk about things that actually matter. Not a table, rather something by which we can learn and eat. For in fact, a hand is nothing but the expression of G-ds will that charity should be given, and tables were created out of G-ds will that books be learned, and food be eaten (uplifted). And when we connect to the Rebbe, through his teachings and directives, we connect to that level. And now and then, even get a glimpse of that perspective, that truth.
Be real. Live truth. That is the goal. And that’s the mission.
My thoughts, beer, and chia seed pudding, are all running low. The AM has laid down it’s chilly fingers, and my brain is all athunked.
Below is my year. And a bit (and most of December is at the lab). Both paid and personal work (my family work I’ll save for a later date). I’ve learned how to take pretty photos, and sometimes even good ones. I’m posting this more for myself, to see next year how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve learned. If I did at all.
Important notes: Tonight’s beer is Firestone Brewery, Union Jack, India Pale Ale. Full bodied and bitter, though slightly boring. Decent and overpriced. Chia Seed Pudding is made from Chia seeds, water, raw honey, unrefined coconut oil, walnuts and raisins.