21 Years ago in the same kvius as this year, the Rebbe walked into downstairs 770 late Shabbos afternoon and started a surprise Farbrengen followed by Kos Shel Bracha (on a regular Motzoei Shabbos), Rabbi Yossi Lew Shliach in Peachtree City, Atlanta wrote up what happened, see below.
In honor of celebrating 10 Years of Living Torah, JEM went and found pictures from that Motzoei Shabbos Kos Shel Bracha, you will notice it is very different then usual, it was given out in the front of 770 etc..
In the Rebbe’s earlier years, the “big” winter Farbrengens would take place in a rented hall a few blocks from 770. This would include the Yud Tes Kislev, Yud Shevat and Purim Farbrengens. These were considered big, since many guests, local and non-local, would typically come to visit and participate in these Farbrengens. There was no room in 770 bigger than the small Shul.
During the summer time, the Farbrengens would be held in the open-air courtyard of 770. Today that courtyard is the first part of the downstairs Shul in 770.
From about Tof shin Chof Alef, all of the Rebbe’s Farbrengens would be held down in the big Shul.
There were exceptions to these locations – 770 or a hall: Until the late Yuds, the Rebbe would Farbreng on a Shabbos upstairs, in the small Shul. On Sukkos, the Rebbe would Farbreng in the Sukkah.
And then there were the real unusual and rare locations: Three times, the Rebbe Farbrenged in camp, once, in 5716, in Ellenville, and the other two times, 5717 and 5720, in Swan Lake.
The most unusual and truly amazing location, however, was when the Rebbe held a Farbrengen – a complete and full Farbrengen – from his Davening place. What made this most unusual was the complete suddenness and unexpectedness of this Farbrengen.
This occurred on Shabbos Noso, 5751.
But first: From after the Shloshim of the Rebbetzin, the Rebbe would Farbreng on every single Shabbos afternoon. The Rebbe Farbrenged for a much shorter time than in the previous years, but the Farbrengens took place every single Shabbos without fail, excluding Shabbos Chol Hamoed.
And so, on Shabbos Noso Nun Alef, the Rebbe came into the Farbrengen at the regular time of 1:30. The Farbrengen lasted until 4:00 p.m. approximately. In this Farbrengen, the Rebbe discussed how each year on Shavuos and Matan Torah, one receives the Torah anew. This empowers people to refocus and become rededicated to the Torah. The Rebbe spoke how specifically the Shabbos following Shavuos emphasizes this point, and especially when it’s the Shabbos of Noso, and – as it was that year and also this year (5772) – it was the 12 of Sivan, the final day of the Yom Tov’s extension.
As was the usual Seder, Mincha was Davened after this Farbrengen. After saying Perek Alef of Pirkei Avos, the Rebbe went back to his room. The Rebbe would not be expected to return to the downstairs Shul until Maariv, which would be as Shabbos ended. For that week, Shabbos went out approximately 8:50. As a result of the many guests remaining after Yom Tov, Maariv on that Motzei Shabbos, was to be held downstairs, although Maariv on Motzei Shabbos of a regular week would normally be held upstairs.
At around 8:10, the Rebbe was seen by a Bochur at the sink just at the bottom of the 770’s internal stairs – the one’s the Rebbe would use on Shabbos and Yom Tov. The Rebbe was filling a Kvort with water.
And just like that, “out of the blue”, the Rebbe appeared into the big Shul. The Rebbe was holding a yellow towel over his left shoulder, a Kvort with water in the right hand, and the Siddur under the left arm.
In 770 at that time there were, perhaps, 30 people. Most were Bochrim and Yungelite simply “hanging out”, or looking into a Sefer, and so forth.
To the astounded eyes of those few people, in walks the Rebbe!
R. Levi Garelik was standing at the back of the Shul, not too far from the entrance. As soon as he realized that the Rebbe had appeared, he dashed half way down the block of Eastern Parkway to his in-law’s house, to call his father-in-law, Rabbi Binyomin Klein.
In the meantime, the Rebbe walked all the way to the front of the Shul, stopping close to the steps of the Davening Bimah.
R. Nochum Kaplan, who was present due to his involvement in the weekly Seder Hanigunim and the Maamar, followed the Rebbe to the front of the Shul. At this point the Rebbe informed him of his intentions to wash, and wondered if there was any Challah.
A Bochur, Yehuda Holtzberg, went out and brought the top part of the brown coffee urn from Vaad Seudas Shlomo. The Rebbe washed into it.
Somehow, some Challah was discovered. The Rebbe sat down on his chair and made Hamotzie. In the absence of salt, the Rebbe dipped one piece of Challah into the other piece of Challah, and partook of it.
After a couple of minutes, the Rebbe said that he would like to go up on the Davening Bimah so that all would be able to see. The Rebbe’s chair was taken up the steps, and the Rebbe sat right near the handrail of the steps and basically faced it diagonally, in a North-Westerly direction. The Rebbe balanced his Siddur on the handrail. Someone had brought up a small table, in front of which the Rebbe could sit. But the Rebbe did not want that in front of him. It seemed as though the Rebbe preferred to be closer to the Oilom…
This means that the Rebbe was now sitting on a chair, with absolutely no limits in front of him. It was as if he wanted to huddle with the Chassidim. This was something never seen before or after.
The Rebbe then requested to sing B’nei Heicholo. RN Kaplan began the song. The Rebbe opened his Siddur to that page and began to sing with the very sparse crowd. Since only a handful of people (mainly Bochrim) were present, and they were unsure and perhaps a little confused of the words, the song ended relatively quickly, with many wordless “ay yais” substituting for the words. The Rebbe looked up from his Siddur and said, “M’geit Nit Endigen”, aren’t you going to finish the rest of the song? Some more singing the tune without words was continued.
The Rebbe then began the first Sicha, which was quite short. At the conclusion of the Sicha, the Rebbe instructed to sing all the Niggunim of all the Rabbeim.
The second Sicha followed all these Niggunim. In this Sicha, as well as in this whole unusual Farbrengen, the Rebbe continued the theme discussed in the first Farbrengen, but how it’s all connected with Moshiach. The Rebbe was discussing the idea how true renewal in Torah is when Moshiach is revealed. It is now that preparation and a “taste” must be achieved.
As a result of the absence of a table, everyone could see the Rebbe’s holy hands as he was talking. At the regular Farbrengens, the Rebbe would hold those holy hands under the table. Now, everyone was able to see the Rebbe gesturing with his hands. For example, when the Rebbe mentioned the saying, “Etzem, K’sheatah Tofes Bemiktzoso Ato Tofes Bekuloi”, the Rebbe was grasping one hand into the other one.
And then the Rebbe said a short third Sicha.
By this point, approximately 10:00 p.m., a massive crowd had assembled. Bleachers of tables and benches had been erected about a third of the way back from the front of the Shul. Lots of people had the opportunity to see the Rebbe, and be part of this historical and unusual, “heavenly” experience.
It was now time for Benching. The table had been places to the Rebbe’s left, upon which the Rebbe placed his Siddur. Rabbi Berel Junik the one who, in the later years, was appointed to be in charge of pouring the wine for the Rebbe, brought the Rebbe’s cup and wine, and filled the Rebbe’s Becher. The Rebbe then led the Benching, after which was Maariv.
Havdollo, following Maariv, was at 10:30pm.
There was a major noise and confusion after the Rebbe finished Havdolo. People were climbing on and off the bleachers, and lots of noise and screaming. The Rebbe called out a number of times for people to stop pushing, and to get down from the benches. At one point, the Rebbe asked for the Gaboyim to make a Seder, and when little was happening, the Rebbe said, “Zol Men Machen Neiye Gaboyim!” (appoint new ones!) R. Sholom Ber Levitin took it upon himself to yell out instructions until it got somewhat quiet…
The table upon which the Rebbe benched and made Havdoloh had been moved aside. The Rebbe stood up, and discussed with R. Leibel Groner the location of where to distribute Kos Shel Brochoh. R. Leibel pointed to the green dollars table which had been brought up to the Rebbe’s Bimah. The Rebbe stated, motioning by hand, that instead of everyone coming up to the Bimah, it is preferable to do it from the floor.
The green table was immediately taken down from the Rebbe’s Bimah to the regular spot in the ground.
The Rebbe followed, descending the steps from the Bimah. R Meir Harlig wrapped the Rebbe’s Siddur with that yellow towel and held it, wrapped in the towel.
The Kos Shel Brochoh now began.
After a few minutes of the line moving, the Rebbe turned to his right, towards the Aron Kodesh, and waved, with the left hand, for the people there to move and go around and get into the line. After a few more minutes, the Rebbe did so again, with a more definite motion, for the people to move away from behind where the Rebbe was standing.
After a while towels were brought to catch the dripping wine and more towels to serve as an arm rest for the Rebbe.
As was the normal custom during Kos Shel Brochoh, singing took place for the duration. The Rebbe did not react to the singing until R. Shlomo Cunin walked past as they were singing Didan Notzach. The Rebbe then encouraged the singing, and it was very Lebedik for a few minutes. Mr. Shmueli, editor of the newspaper Yisrael Shelanu, also received the Rebbe’s encouragement, which led to more lively singing.
The Rebbe also encouraged the singing towards the end of the Niggun “Stav Yapitu”, at the words “Un Mir Zogen Aleh Tzuzamen L’chaim...”
Kos Shel Brocho lasted for approximately an hour and a half.
The chair and brown table were brought and the Rebbe sat down. R. Meir Harlig took the Siddur out of the towel and placed it on the table for the Rebbe to say a Brocho Achrona.
The Rebbe then stood up to say Veyiten Lecho and was facing Tzofon (i.e., 770’s left side), with the Siddur on the table.
The Rebbe then continued distributing Kos Shel Brocho for another couple of minutes.
The Rebbe began the Niggun Ki Vesimcha, and left holding the Siddur and the Becher with a napkin and the tray covering over the top. The time was 12:15am.
Following the Rebbe’s exit, many of those without usual experience were asked to wrack their brains and try to piece together the Rebbe’s Sichos, especially the first one, at which very few were present.
Throughout the years, one can point to special and unusual moments with the Rebbe. Some of those moments took place during a routine time, and others were at special and unusual times and locations.
And then there were moments which exposed Chassidim to “heavenly” moments.
This totally unprecedented and completely unusual Farbrengen was definitely one of the more “heavenly” ones. So many who were there have shared how they felt that the Rebbe was gathering together the Chassidim so that the process of redemption could begin.
We have no idea how the process of redemption will be. When it happens, speedily in our days, it will surely be a most unexpected surprise ushering in the most incredible “heavenly” experience in history.
This Farbrengen was a taste of that.
May the surprise happen speedily, as the Rebbe returns and we follow him to the biggest and most joyous Farbrengen in the Beis Hamikdosh. May it happen no later than this Shabbos, Shabbos Noso, 12 Sivan.
To learn more about this story and about the project go towww.livingtorah.org/jointheteam