By Carolyn Fabin
In his concluding words at “Larger than Life” – Chabad of Talbiya – Mamilla’s celebration at the Great Synagogue of Gimmel Tammuz, Rabbi Eli Canterman recalled the Rebbe’s revolutionary words:
“You think that human interaction is like a chemical reaction. But it isn’t. In a chemical reaction, there are two elements that interact with each other, and they result in a third compound. But people aren’t chemicals. When people interact, the result is a nuclear reaction. A nuclear reaction occurs at the core and then it radiates in a spherical, rather than linear, way. As the outer rings of your sphere get bigger and bigger, the number of people you are touching gets bigger and bigger—indeed, there is no limit.
“When you touch the heart of one person, that person in turn touches so many other people. So, each person you touch—even if it is a moment’s interaction—represents a nuclear reaction in terms of impact. That’s what it really is.”
Gimmel tammuz, the anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s histalkus – his departure from the physical realm. It is a day of celebration and community wide inspiration as the soul of the Tzaddik ascends to ever higher levels in the spiritual realm.
This year especially, the 28th Yahrtzeit coincided with the 120th anniversary of The Rebbe’s birth – an unprecedented gift to the Jewish world, one that expands galactically, and which affects all of us both individually and collectively.
Coming on the heels of two years of deprivation and isolation caused by the Covid pandemic, Rabbi Eli and Chanie Canterman of Chabad of Tallbiya – Mamilla, wished to create an event that would be momentous, even epic.
Despite meticulous planning, dozens of close friends and supporters were down with a second round of Coronavirus. Many others had flown the coop for vacation after two years of the covid – generated lockdown..
Yet Chabad Shluchim have learned from the Rebbe that when the ordinary doesn’t work, the extraordinary will surely kick in. And, thank G-D, it most certainly did.
Here are the events as they unfolded on Thursday, June 30th.
At 7:30 pm, guests slowly trickled into the Great Synagogue hall. Miraculously, The numbers grew until they reached the significant – 120 participants.
But the best was yet to come.
Out of the blue, world famous singer – songwriter Alex Clare arrived and took to the stage as MC. Alex spoke profoundly about the Rebbe’s melodies.
Featured chassidic singer Eli Marcus who flew in from the U.S, gave an outstanding performance of Chabad Nigunim. The two artists also sang impromptu duets in perfect harmony, straight into the listener’s soul.
Accompanying the singers were choice musicians Gershon Wachtel at the piano, Shmuel Allouche on flute and percussionist Ariel Smidt.
The guest of honor was Avi Kay, the father of Eli Kay HY”D, an alumnus of Chabad yeshivot, IDF veteran and beloved Jerusalem tour guide was murdered by a Hamas terrorist in November 2021 while on his way to the Kotel.
His backpack was found with a well-used Likkutei Sichot inside of which a bullet was lodged. There was a sense that night that the final words of Eli’s song – ‘Atah Tamid Iti – You, the L-rd are always with me’, were also referring to Eli’s connection to the Rebbe.
Avi’s words left the audience in tears of both emotion and faith.
“How can I drive to Shul now on Shabbat after this,” declared Sasha, who is part of the Chabad Talbiya/Mamilla community. Clearly moved, Avi’s words had affected him in such a way that from now on, he would walk to Shul on Shabbat.” For Eli’s sake, I must make a change.” Gimmel tammuz. Larger Than Life impact.
Immediately after this announcement Rabbi Eli and Chanie Canterman were astounded by the appearance of David and Leora (names changed for privacy), dear members of the Chabad of Talbiya- Mamilla Community.
That morning, Rabbi Canterman received word from the couple who had had to make a most difficult medical decision and would be unable to attend the 3 Tammuz evening.
Leora and David, after a long haul of treatments and prayers, were finally expecting a baby at any moment. During a hospital visit early that Thursday, attending doctors were alarmed about the baby’s well being and called for an emergency delivery.
Leora’s instinct had held her back. She felt that since the baby showed no signs of stress, they should rather wait and allow the baby to arrive in its own special moment. It was the most harrowing decision for the couple to make. Though David had canceled their RSVP, in a last-minute decision, the couple made an about-turn. An inner strength directed them to participate in the Gimmel Tammuz farbrengen.
They arrived just in time for the keynote address. Rabbi Yossy Goldman, coined The Pulpit Rabbi for his dynamic sermons, is a shliach of the Rebbe to South Africa since 1976 and Rabbi Emeritus of the iconic Sydenham Shul.
Rabbi Goldman engaged the audience with humor, segueing to a riveting talk interwoven with stories of the Rebbe and shlichus that were both personal and inspirational.. His final story – a message of the Rebbe’s unlimited love for each human being had the crowd on the edge of their seats:
“My wife Rochel was about to give birth to our ninth child, and we ran into complications. My wife was unwilling to go with the doctors’ advice of intervention, believing with complete faith that things would turn out for the best. A second doctor who was called in for an opinion asked me in surprise, ‘Why don’t you call New York?!’
“I called my father at 1:00 am in the morning, and miraculously he was able to put in a request for a bracha to the Rebbe. The Rebbe’s response was: ‘Since the doctor said to call here, I hope he won’t “take umbrage” with me if I suggest that they listen to the mother and wait . . .” The Rebbe gave his bracha. The baby, who was in the transverse position, turned, and a healthy and safe birth followed shortly thereafter.”
Seated in the back of the hall, listening in astonishment to this account was Leora. Yes, they had come after all. And now they knew why. Their herculean effort to replace worry with faith had paid off.
Moments later, Eli Marcus sang the ‘Four Bavos’ —the niggun of the Neshama’s descent from the upper realms into this world. This exquisite performance was followed by spontaneous and energetic dancing after which the guests left in elevated spirits.
A mere two hours after the surreal evening came to a close, Leora went into labor and a beautiful, healthy baby was born.
How does one measure the true impact of an event like this?
Is it by the quality of the speakers? The atmosphere created by the musicians? The number of attendees or the impact on individuals and the resultant changes in their lives?
When two lives are changed forever by divinely chosen words and melodies, when a longed for child is royally escorted into this world with an orchestra, when a bereaved but blessed father inspires us to reach ever higher. All of these are the embodiment of precisely the Rebbe’s message. When we touch one person, we unleash a nuclear reaction.
How propitious and illuminating that this should happen on erev Gimmel Tammuz…
A beautiful neshama descended safely into this world.
Sasha will walk to shul on Shabbos.
Thank you Rebbe. Your light grows brighter each and every day, one Jew at a time.
Eli Marcus sings Stav Yapitu