By COLlive reporter
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
A comment the Rebbe made about the famed American Jewish author Chaim Potok was mentioned at the annual Melave Malka of the Global Yarchei Kallah as a source of inspiration.
It was an unlikely mention as the event featured a few dozen of the leading Chabad rabbis, Roshei Yeshiva and mashpiim, all scholars with impressive knowledge and love for Torah.
Coming from around the world, they spent a few days at the lush green grounds of Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, New York, in intense study and debate in Talmud, chassidus and halacha.
One example was one Shabbos morning when Rabbi Yoel Kahn, the preeminent scholar on chassidic philosophy, began learning two hours before his scheduled class at 8:30am. An audience was quick to assemble.
The annual gathering, which marked its 40th anniversary this year, was founded to honor the yartzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson OBM, father of the Rebbe and the fearless Chief Rabbi of Ekaterinoslav (today Dnepropetrovsk).
“It is not only his vast knowledge and piety that connects us to him, but that his son was the Rebbe,” emphasized Rabbi Leibel Schapiro, Rosh Yeshiva Gedolah in Miami Beach, whose father merited to serve Rabbi Levi Yitzchak while in exile.
Renowned halachic posek Rabbi Gavriel Zinner added that the Yarchei Kallah served as a vehicle for the Rebbe to honor his father. “And what could be greater than the fully spiritual Shabbos we just spent together immersed in Torah?”
The evening on Motzoei Shabbos, which concluded the conference, was participated by vacationers from the Catskill Mountains, as well as Yeshiva bochurim. Rabbi Zalman Wilschanski, Rosh Yeshiva of Tomchei Tmimim in Morristown, NJ, was the emcee.
Welcoming words were heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Yaruslavsky, head of the Chabad rabbinical court in Israel, and Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, Rabbi of Kfar Chabad and a well regarded halachic authority.
Taking the podium, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, the organizer of the Yarchei Kallah and Chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad International, spoke about the bond and obligation chassidim have to observe the Rebbe’s father’s yartzeit.
He later shared that he recently found a handwritten note from the Rebbe that was sent to him in reply to a scheduled meeting with Chaim Potok, a fellow resident of Philadelphia who was working on a novel detailing frum Jewish life.
The Rebbe wished success with the meeting and added, “surely he will tell him what my father in law mentioned a few times that when a Jew decisively decides to act in the areas of Judaism, an action greater than his capabilities – new pipelines are opened for him to fulfill the decision in its entirety.”
Rabbi Shemtov, addressing the rabbis of the communities and the heads of Yeshivas, urged them to expand their already dedicated daily work on behalf of the public.
“Each of us has powers that we ought to fully utilize,” he said, “and then there are totally new powers. Not newfound powers but newly given powers that were not there beforehand.”
He pointed out that the precondition to received this additional energy and strength from Hashem is through a firm decision in relation to Judaism. “How can a person make a decision that is above and beyond his powers? The answer is that once you decide, there will be no limitations to what you can accomplish.”
The evening was concluded with thanking the camp director Rabbi Yossi Futerfas and his brother Rabbi Shloimy Futerfas, as well as the coordinator of Yarchei Kallah Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin and the dedicated staff of Camp Gan Israel.