By COLlive reporter
Jewish music fans around the world mourned the sudden passing of popular Yiddish singer R’ Michoel Schnitzler OBM at the age of 62 this past Shabbos. He was not only loved for his moving songs sung in his inimitable, deep voice but also for his big heart and genuine ahavas yisroel.
One of his favorite songs is called “The Last Dichenen.” It describes an old Jew sitting in Shul on Yom Tov who quickly hurries out when duchening begins. A curious congregant of the Shul approaches the man after davening and asks for an explanation for his strange behavior.
In haunting tunes, the song recounts the story that the old man shared with the fellow congregant that day. He had been a young boy during the Holocaust, an inmate in Bergen Belsen concentration camp. One day, the Nazis assembled the entire camp to witness the hanging of a Jew who had been caught the night before observing a Pesach seder. Before they killed him, the doomed man asked for one last wish: To duchen for the assembled crowd on the holy day of Pesach. “I never want to forget what I witnessed that day,” concluded the man, “so whenever duchening begins, I move to a private corner and quietly repeat the Birchas Kohanim to the tune that the Kohen recited it with that day.”
This powerful song was released in 2014 but it wasn’t widely known where the story originated from. In a video shared with COLlive.com following his passing, Schnitzler explains that he had heard the story from R’ Dudi Farkash, a Lubavitcher and the founder of Chabad of Olympia in Monsey, NY, who repeated it one year to an emotional audience before Yizkor at a Pesach program.
The fellow in the story, he said, was R’ Chaim Lipskar from New Rochelle, NY, a brother of Rabbi Shalom Ber Lipskar, the Head Shliach of Bal Harbour, FL, who heard the story from the elderly Holocaust survivor himself.
Listen to the song here: