…from the main synagogue in Chabad world headquarters:
The empty chair sits unused, waiting for the late Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who passed away in 1994, to return.
The sign behind the menorah reads, "Yechi adonaynu moraynu v'rabbaynu melech hamoshiach l'olam vo'ed," "Long live our master, our teacher, our rabbi, king messiah forever and ever," and refers to the late Rebbe, who many Chabad followers believe is alive.
This is understood in different ways within Chabad.
The faction that controls this main synagogue believes the Rebbe is still alive and never died.
Others believe he went through what appeared to be death but really is not dead.
Still others believe he did die, but will be resurrected as the messiah.
At least one of these groups believes the Rebbe actually sits on that chair, makes blessings and prays. It acts as if the Rebbe is still physically present in every respect – even though he cannot be seen or heard.
All these factions regularly turn to the late Rebbe for guidance, reaching him in various ways depending on faction theology.
Some put letters of request randomly inside books of the collected letters of the late Rebbe, and then scan the two pages the request sits between for the Rebbe's answer to their question.
Others – those who acknowledge the late Rebbe's death or apparent death and burial – will go to his grave with the written request and will read it over the grave. The Rebbe's answer or his blessing then become apparent, either through a sudden burst of clarity or through unusual events following the supplicant's visit to the Rebbe's grave.
All these factions believe the Rebbe guides them individually and as a group.
All these factions believe the late Rebbe is or will be the messiah.