NEW YORK (Jun. 18)
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher rebbe, underwent successful surgery Thursday morning to remove an infected gall bladder, and is said to be resting comfortably.
The 90-year-old leader of the Lubavitch branch of Hasidim has also been recovering from a stroke he suffered March 2.
“The surgery could be an asset to the overall recovery process,” said Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the rebbe’s spokesman.
Soon after a Hatzoloh ambulance rushed the rebbe to New York’s Mt. Sinai hospital at about midnight Wednesday, hundreds of his followers gathered in a prayer vigil outside the hospital.
They were joined in their prayers by thousands of Lubavitchers at the worldwide headquarters of the hasidic denomination, located at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Lubavitch centers around the world.
“There must have been millions of people praying for the rebbe,” said Krinsky. “It’s been a spontaneous outpouring of love and camaraderie for someone they love very much.”
His supporters have been reciting psalms for his recovery ever since his stroke, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to make the frequent synagogue appearances which are a central feature of Lubavitch life in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
And they will continue to pray until he recovers, according to one Lubavitcher. “No doubt the prayers are a great source of strength for the rebbe,” said Rabbi Yosef Friedman, editor of Lubavitch International Magazine.
The rebbe made his first and only public appearance since his stroke on the first day of Shavuot, May 7.
He came out of 770 in his wheelchair, to the front stoop of his residence, and watched a parade of young Lubavitchers celebrate the holiday.
If his recovery from the gallbladder surgery proceeds as hoped, he will likely be released from the hospital after 7 or 8 days, said Krinsky.
The question on many observers’ minds is what will happen to the Lubavitch movement once its leader dies, particularly in light of the fact that some of his followers believe he is the Messiah.
Said Krinsky, the question of succession “has never been discussed.
“It’s not a topic of consideration in the past nor now.”