By COLlive reporter
Photos by Shmuel Amit
A musical farbrengen held in Crown Heights commemorating Chof Daled Teves became a worldwide gathering that inspired some 5,000 people from all walks of life on Tuesday.
“Stories, Songs, and Teachings of the Alter Rebbe” marked the yartzeit of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder and first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, and author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch Harav.
Broadcast live from the Shull of Crown Heights on Albany Avenue, the three-hour evening has been receiving an overwhelming response on COLlive.com. In addition to individuals attending and watching, there have been group viewing of the farbrengen in places such as Chabad of West Orange in New Jersey.
“Both teachings and melodies were crucial components used by the Alter Rebbe to share the ways of Chassidus in the world, so it is fitting for this farbrengen to combine words of Torah and Chassidus with Chassidishe music,” said Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin.
He thanked the event’s producer Galya Bender and the sponsors COLlive.com, Ami Magazine, Eber’s Wine and Liquor, Gombo’s Heimishe Bakery, Boeuf & Bun, and Sushi Spot II. Contributes Yechiel Jaffe, Shmuel Axelrod, and Shlomo Gutlzeizer.
The program began at 9:30PM with Eli Marcus, one of the most popular voices in Jewish music, singing and accompanying himself on piano, two niggunim from the Alter Rebbe–Keili Atah and then Avinu Malkeinu.
Headlining the farbrengen was Rabbi Shais Taub, the renowned Chassidic lecturer and author of the “Map of Tanya” who serves as a scholar in residence at Chabad of the Five Towns in New York and a columnist of AMI magazine.
Rabbi Taub’s remarks were divided into 5 segments, each followed by a niggun. In the first, he spoke about “Intelligent Songs.”
“Music is most often appreciated for its beauty,” he explained. “In Chabad, however, music possesses much more than aesthetic appeal. Music is not “a break in between speeches.” Chabad music grants its listeners mental clarity,” he said and told the story of the Alter Rebbe singing a song in place of a Torah lecture when he visited the town of Shklov.
Marcus then sang and played the Alter Rebbe’s Niggun Yashan and Chazan Aryeh Leib Hurwitz then stopped by briefly to discuss and sing the Alter Rebbe’s Niggun Dveikus Tefilas Shabbos, a melody that the Alter Rebbe would sing during prayer.
Hurwitz mentioned that he needed to get to the hospital where his wife was expecting. Those present said a l’chaim that his wife should have an easy delivery and Hurwitz then headed to the hospital. Later that night, baruch Hashem, a son was born.
The next portion of the farbrengen was a pre-recorded conversation between Rabbi Taub and Rabbi Zalman Duchman of Colel Chabad. The video presented some of the rich history of the tzedaka fund that was founded by the Alter Rebbe. Donations were then made to ColelChabad.org/24Teves.
The program then returned to the live farbrengen with Rabbi Taub’s second talk of the evening during which he spoke about “Rationalize or Rational Lies?” “The more intelligent you are, the farther away from truth your thinking can get you,” he said. “Sometimes our logic is sound, but our premise is flawed.”
To illustrate, Rabbi Taub then told the story of a strange visitor to Liozna, Belarus, a professor who wanted the Alter Rebbe to read two of his secular books. The Alter Rebbe found a flaw in the premise of each book, and the man realized that he had also miscalculated in the premise upon which he had based his life.
Next, Eli Marcus played and sand the Alter Rebbe’s niggun Tzama Lcha Nafshi which was taught by the Rebbe. Rabbi Taub went on to speak about “The Best and the Brightest.”
“There are no such things as flaws, just potential virtues that haven’t yet been actualized,” he said. “When you love someone, you see how even their defects can become transformed into good, as hinted to in the Hayom Yom of 24 Teves.
Rabbi Taub then told two stories, one of how the Alter Rebbe rescued an at-risk youth by revealing to him his potential and another about how the famed Slavita printing press came to be all because one person had compassion on a young man whom the community had rejected.
Singer Boruch Sholom Blesofsky then joined the program and sang Kol Dodi as Marcus accompanied on piano.
Rabbi Taub then told that at the end of the Alter Rebbe’s life, he began to reveal a whole new perspective on the unique importance of this physical world. “The ultimate expression of this will be when Moshiach comes. The Alter Rebbe predicted this by appropriating the song that Napoleon’s army sang as they entered Russia,” he said.
Eli Marcus and Boruch Sholom then sang Napoleon’s March as a duet with many of the members of the live audience joining in. Next, the two sang another upbeat and happy tune, also attributed to the Alter Rebbe, the hakafos niggun which was sung by the Rebbe’s father.
Rabbi Taub mentioned how the Talmud says that it’s a bad sign for one who passes away on motzei Shabbos. “Why then did the Tzemach Tzedek make a point of writing in his preface to the Maaneh Lashon that the Alter Rebbe’s passing was on motzei Shabbos?” he said.
Rabbi Taub then told the story of the passing of Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah, the first Lubavitcher to be laid to rest in the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens and how this relates to the selflessness of a Rebbe.
The spiritual climax of the evening then came as Marcus led the crowd in an absolutely stirring rendition of the Niggun Daled Bavos, which was then followed by Nye Zhuritze Chloptze as is customary.
At that point, there were no longer any words that could convey the powerful and holy spirit that overtook the room. Marcus then sang the Rebbe’s father’s hakafos niggun for a second time as members of the audience got up out of their seats and danced together until the broadcast was over.
Video: Full Replay of the Farbrengen
To learn more from Rabbi Taub, visit SoulWords.org