By COLlive reporter
Photos: Simon Roumani
Hundreds of descendants of the Alter Rebbe gathered for the yearly Melava Malka arranged by the “Association of the descendants of the Alter Rebbe, the Baal Ha’Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch.”
The gathering was special this year because of the special timing of Shnas Hamosayim, the Bicentennial year of the passing of the Alter Rebbe.
In honor of the Bicentennial several innovations were added to this year’s event.
The first was the printing of the Tanya in the room next to where the gathering was taking place.
At the end of the Melava Malka, Rabbi Shmuel Butman, chairman of the Association of the descendants of the Alter Rebbe and Director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, made a Siyum and Haschalah, “Conclusion and start,” of the Tanya from the freshly printed pages.
The second innovation: Special folders were prepared in advance, with each folder including a part of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, to be finished by the next 24th of Teves.
Every participant registered with a special coordinator, to organize who will learn what section. The coordinator will also send a reminder email to all participants of what they need to learn. Many of the descendants were seen going home proudly with as many as ten folders, each containing a special commitment to learn a section of the Shulchan Aruch.
The third special innovation was the children’s choir which sang some of the niggunim of the Alter Rebbe. Some of the musical instruments that accompanied the choir were played by the children themselves.
The highlight of the conference was the singing of the Alter Rebbe’s niggunim at exactly 10:25 pm. The Tzemach Tzedek wrote that the time of the passing was on Motzaei Shabbos Shmos, eve of 24 Teves, “around the middle of the eleventh hour.”
In 1963, when it was one hundred and fifty years since the passing of the Alter Rebbe, the Rebbe came out to a Farbrengen at exactly 10:25.
There was awe in the air when the chairman announced what the Rebbe said then, that by gathering at a farbrengen at this time “We are sending a Pan (personal petition) to the Alter Rebbe.” The descendants began to sing the “niggun of preparation” and after that the grand Nigun of the Alter Rebbe.
“You cannot possibly describe the unique atmosphere that was in place when the nigun was being sung by the descendants of the Alter Rebbe,” said one of the attendees. “This was a particularly uplifting moment, one was able to truly feel that a Pan was being sent to the Alter Rebbe.”
The singing was accompanied by one of the younger descendants, Menachem Mendel Kugel, who masterfully played the violin during these awesome moments.
Rabbi Butman opened the event by stressing the significance of this year. By seeing how the Rebbe treated the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Alter Rebbe’s passing and the Bicentennial of the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, we can gain an appreciation of this special year.
The Rebbe called the year a “Shnas Seguloh” – “An auspicious year,” and wrote of the special virtue of this year not only to public institutions but also to private individuals.
The noted psychologist Rabbi Benzoin Twerski, a grandson of HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Mordechai Dov of Harnasteipel, grandson of HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Yaakov Israel of Cherkas, son-in-law of the Mitteler Rebbe, spoke of the great zchus of being a descendant of such a great Tzadik and the need to conduct oneself as is fitting for one who is a descendant of such a great Tzadik.
He was followed by his nephew, called by the same name, Rabbi Benzion Twerski, Rosh Kollel in Boro Park. Rabbi Twerski said he felt the night to be magnificent and heartwarming. “In general, in this day and age, things decline in spirituality. But here we see the case of things becoming ever stronger. It must be that the Zchus (merit) of the Alter Rebbe is with his descendants.”
Rabbi Twerski also added, that when asking someone what generation are you from the Alter Rebbe, the answer is “the eighth generation” and my son is “the ninth generation” and so on. With God’s help we must make sure that our children are not one generation further but rather one generation closer to the Alter Rebbe.
Rabbi Shlomo Besser, grandson of the Chasid Reb Dov Ber Ludmir and the son of the late renowned Rabbi Yechezkel Besser talked about the special relationship his father had with the Rebbe and the special attention he had received while still a young man.
Rabbi Besser told a few stories to which his late father was a witness and about some of the people that came closer to the Rebbe through his father. He also talked about the times when he had a Yechidus (private audience) with the Rebbe and what the Rebbe said to him.
Among the stories he told was about his father’s partner for whom his father had arranged to have a special Yechidus with the Rebbe, and for which he waited six months.
On the day of the scheduled Yechidus the partner told his father that he would not be going to the meeting.
Rabbi Yechezkel Besser said to him, “The whole world is waiting for the opportunity to have a private audience with the Rebbe and you have an appointment tonight and you’re not going?”
The partner replied that a member of his family is very ill with the “terrible disease “and he is devastated and wants to go visit her.”
When hearing this, Rabbi Besser said, indeed, go to the Rebbe and ask for a blessing. The man agreed to go. After an hour and a half at Yechidus, to which he insisted that Rabbi Besser join him, he asked the Rebbe for a blessing.
After inquiring if she lights Shabbos candles the Rebbe said that she should give charity before she lights the Shabbos candles, and the Rebbe gave his blessing for her to have a speedy recovery.
When they came out of the Yechidus, the partner turned to Rabbi Besser and said “I do not understand, the Rebbe did not direct me to any doctor and did not give me any medical advice, all he said was that she should put money into a charity box before lighting Shabbos candles!”
Rabbi Besser replied, “You do not understand now, but wait and you will understand.”
After a few days she went back to the doctor, and after taking the x-ray again, the doctor told her that everything is “clean” and that they think that what they saw was because of scar tissue that was there from before.
After that, her personal physician called Rabbi Besser and said, “Tell me what’s going on here, because we doctors do not make mistakes like that,” and then Rabbi Besser told him of the Rebbe’s blessing.
VISITS TO THE REBBETZIN
Rabbi Shem Rokeach, grandson of HaRav HaTzaddik Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Avrootch, son of the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, and whose grandmother was a cousin to the previous Rebbe, told of how his family was close with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin and how they would visit them often.
He told of how he would call the Rebbitzin every Erev Shabbos and how they would not take any step without first asking the Rebbitzin who would ask the Rebbe, and then she would call them back and give them the Rebbe’s advice.
Rabbi Rokeach also told of how after Gimmel Tammuz this special connection continued and how he received the Rebbe’s blessings by opening the Igros Kodesh, (the Rebbe’s holy letters) particularly concerning shiduchim.
Rabbi Butman also made a Siyum and Haschalah – “conclusion and start” on the Alter Rebbes Shulchan Aruch.
The descendants continued to sing the rest of the nigunim of the Alter Rebbe, led by renowned cantor, Rabbi Schneur Zalman Baumgarten and by the young Yoseph Zirkind who sang beautifully some of the nigunim in memory of his father Rabbi Yitzchak Zirkind A”H who was the son in law of the late Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Groner from Australia.
Rabbi Butman thanked his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Butman for organizing the Melava Malka, “May the Zchus of the Alter Rebbe stand him in good stead in all things.”
The evening ended with the strong feeling that the Alter Rebbe – the first of Chabad leaders – began the work to prepare the world for redemption and that the Rebbe, the seventh, who explicitly told us that this is the last generation of Galus, will finish the work of preparing the world for the great redemption, speedily in our very own days.