11 Nissan 5775 is the anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. This year will be 113 years since the Rebbe’s birth in 1902. It is also 100 years since his bar mitzvah. The Rebbe’s teachings and influence are no less influential today than they were during his life, yet many people are unaware of the Rebbe’s belief in the importance of celebrating birthdays the Jewish way.
The Rebbe taught that birthdays should be celebrated in two ways to be sure you had grown spiritually from the event. Firstly, your birthday should be the celebration of when your soul came down to this world to fulfill a certain mission. As you reach the anniversary of the day of your birth, you must plan to achieve something meaningful with the renewed blessing of another year in your life. The day is recognized as a poignant and special time when someone’s mazal or luck, is stronger, so you have the ability to meaningfully bless other people with growth for their mazal over the coming year.
The Rebbe wrote, as recorded in HaYom Yom, that the best way to experience the energy of your birthday is to set aside time to be with alone and to meditate and take a look at your life and achievements, your character and your path and consider what you have achieved over the previous year. This should guide you into forming new goals for the coming year.
At the same time, the Rebbe believed in group celebrations and fabrengens. He knew that people often don’t celebrate their birthdays in a Jewish way and he wanted to encourage this and fabrengens were well suited for this. At the same time, he would only ask for a spiritual gift from his supporters.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter, then the US President, called the Rebbe on his birthday and told him that he was making the Rebbe’s English birthday, April 8th, into Education Day USA, in honor of the Rebbe’s campaign to increase the moral and ethical education of American children. To this day, the acting president has followed this tradition and designated the anniversary of the Rebbe’s birth as a day dedicated to educational awareness.