By Rabbi Schneur Polter
The scene was right; the mood was perfect, as 75 families (both Shluchim and Anash of the State of Michigan) filed into the gorgeous state-of-the-art Lubavitch Yeshiva, Zekleman Campus, International School for Chabad Leadership, in Detroit.
They were settling in for a Shabbos Hachana in honor of the 20th Gimmel Tammuz, a first of its kind in Chabad of Michigan’s 57-year existence, under the leadership of Rabbi Berel Shemtov, the Rebbe’s first shliach in 1957.
Bochurim from the Yeshiva moved out for Shabbos and spread across the State of Michigan to fill in for the absent shluchim in their posts. The Yeshiva dormitory was transformed into a beautiful hotel for the guests and their families.
The atmosphere was exhilarating as the program began with a scrumptious delectable smorgasbord at approximately 6:30 p.m. Erev Shabbos. Thereafter, the men and women were treated to several wonderful speakers who related personal stories and encounters with the Rebbe, some for the first time.
A 30-minute video collection of various clips from farbrengens and dollars followed. The crowd then davened Mincha, sat down to a passionate seder niggunim led by Rabbi Laima Wilhelm, Rosh Mesivta, and then davened maariv.
Seudas Shabbos was wonderful as the attendees were treated to inspirational talks by Rabbi Yossi Shemtov of Chabad of Toledo, Ohio, and Rabbi Yossi Groner, Head Shliach of North Carolina.
Simultaneous with the adult program was a phenomenal, chayos and fun-laden program for 170 kids. The boys enjoyed a full 30-hour camp-like program in the Schwartz Cheder Building on Coolidge, led by several skilled Yeshiva bochurim. A similar program for girls took place side-by-side with the adults at the Zekelman Campus run by Beis Chaya Mushka High School girls.
Shachris took place at Beis Chabad of North Oak Park. A dynamic drasha by Rabbi Yehoshua Werner followed Kriah. At lunch, the baaleibatim were treated to inspirational talks by Rabbi Benzion Stein, Dean of Cheder Lubavitch; Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Gershon Steinmetz, and myself.
The farbrengen that followed lunch was epic and attracted a full house. Unlike the average farbrengen where one mashpia speaks and the others listen, Rabbi Levi Shemtov of the Friendship Circle, who conducted the farbrengen, engaged the crowd in roundtable style, where everyone got an opportunity to speak for a few minutes.
After each couple of brief talks, gashmake chassidishe niggunim ensued – “awesome” is the most accurate description for this experience; it was the quintessential definition of Sheves Achim, fully immersed one holy Shabbos in kedusha and basking in spiritual bliss. The farbrengen lasted nearly six hours. Sushi and other culinary treats accompanied the late afternoon farbrengen that doubled as shalosh seudos.
Thanks to the High School girls and local babysitters, the women were able to enjoy the program while their babies and toddlers were kept entertained in play rooms fully equipped with toys and snacks. In addition to the programming during the meals, the women were also treated to sessions created just for them.
Shabbos morning, inspiring activities and group learning was accompanied by a gourmet breakfast. The women also were treated to a magnificent 5-star Shalosh Seudos in a tent while they discussed various topics such as chinuch, hiskashrus, and mivtzoim.
The crescendo was the heartfelt performance by the girl campers (100). The energized pesukim they recited and the song about the Rebbe that they learned together brought tears to everyone’s eyes. The love the children have for the Rebbe was fully apparent and infectious. The women’s program concluded with niggunim until havdalah.
Mincha, seder nigunim, maariv and havdalah followed the men’s seudas shlishis.
The Shabbos Hachana achieved its intended goal and purpose in inspiring and uplifting Anash and shluchim alike in preparation for the Yom Hakadosh, 3 Tammuz, 20th Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe. The Shabbos truly imbibed the olam with a sense of hiskashrus to, and love for, the Rebbe, and hammered home the critical importance of passing his legacy and his mission onto the next generation, our children.
Chabad of Michigan will also be hosting a 20th Yahrtzeit commemoration dinner next week at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, where over one thousand people are expected to be in attendance. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Piamento and a special video presentation are only a few of the features that will engage, serenade and entertain dinner guests.