My dear friends,
Once again, we find ourselves on the threshold of Shmini Atzeres and Simcahs Torah with such strong feelings and emotions of Chadesh Yomeinu Kekedem… Our thoughts go back to the Hoid Kevoid Kedushas, Adoneinu Moireinu V’rabeinu N’sie Doireinu walking into the Shul… The Niggunim… The Atoh Horeisos… the Rebbe walking down that Shvil… The Rebbe dancing holding the Sefer Torah… The Rebbe leading during the rest of the Hakofos… The Farbrengens, Kos Shel Brochoh, Horabi Shlita, Mershus…
Many may not understand some of the above lines – which makes it that much more difficult to understand Ad Mosai that those who were not Zoche to experience what so many did should be Nigora. And it makes it that much more painful for those that were there and know exactly what we are missing.
With all this, though, I would like to go back twenty-five years, to Tof Shin Mem Ches, coined by the Rebbe as Shnas Tismach. That year’s Simchas Torah stands out as a most unusual and incredible Simchas Torah. Immediately after the Rebbe left the Shul after Hakofos, I recall asking several people who hadn’t missed a single Simchas Torah with the Rebbe, whether they remember anything like this, or if some year stood out more than others. One or two mentioned Yud Zayin (imagine that: more than THIRTY years before!). Most could not remember such a Hisgalus as Hakofos in Tismach.
But it wasn’t just Simchas Torah. The whole year stands out as must unusual. First of all, the obvious: the Rebbetzin was Nistalek. This turned the entire Hanhogoh of the Rebbe into something no one ever saw: The Rebbe’s house suddenly became the headquarters of Lubavitch, plus the Rebbe Davened Faren Omud each day. The Rebbe phased out weekday Farbrengens and also phased out saying Maamorim towards the end of the year (after Shabbos Bolok the Rebbe said just three Maamorim, despite Farbrenging every single Shabbos).
There was plenty other unusual things: 1) Aside for the Sichos each night of Sukkos, the Rebbe said Sichos and spoke each day of Chanukah and each night of Pesach. 2) The Rebbe spoke on occasions such as each day of Bahab, and so forth. 3) Being Shnas Tismach, the Rebbe urged and pushed Simcha on a level never seen before or since. The Rebbe stood up to dance 11 times at Farbrengens during that year!! Even in the Lameds, if the Rebbe stood up more than twice in the year, it was completely unusual (besides for Lamed Beis, when the Rebbe got up to dance on many occasion). On Shabbos Lech Lecho, the Rebbe stood up, started his father’s Hakofos Niggun, and went through the ten times, but did not sit down. The Rebbe continued through the Niggun, and another ten times, and then the Rebbe did this for a third time! The Rebbe also got up on Shabbos Vayeiro. On Shabbos Ki Seitzei, three weeks before the end of the year, the Rebbe Shturemed about utilizing Simcha to bring the Geulah, and the Rebbe stood up with a tremendous energy. This happened the next two Shabbosim as well. On Achron Shel Pesach, before the Rebbe stood up, the Rebbe said that Tismach only happens once every thousand years, so the Simcha of such a year hadn’t happened in a thousand years!
The year of Tismach was, obviously, a year in which the Simcha element of it was not just in the letters that made up the number of the year, but also in the essence of the year, as indicated and led by the Rebbe.
Tismach was also Hakhel. The Hakhel years by the Rebbe, by the Melech, were always treated with a special attitude. In Tismach, the Rebbe’s last Hakhel with us, the Rebbe asked (at the Farbrengen of YG Tishrei) that each person make “Hakhel” gatherings for family and friends. This was, it seems, what the Rebbe left us with to make it through the couple of Hakhel years in the absence of the Rebbe being with us B’gashmiyus.
And so, the year itself was a most unusual year – Chedvah Gedolah on one side, and Bchiyah Gdoloh on the other side.
Simchas Torah that year, however, was the most amazing of times.
In the year of Tismach, Simchas Torah was a three-day Yom Tov. In those three days, there was: 1) Maariv Shmini Atzeres. 2) Hakofos Shminin Atzeres. 3) Shacharis Shmini Atzeres. 4) Mincha Smini Atzeres. 5) Maariv Simchas Torah. 6) Farbrengen Leil Simchas Torah. 7) Hakofos Leil Simchas Torah. 8) Shcharis Simchas Torah. 9) Mincha Simchas Torah. 10) Farbrengen Simchas Torah. 11) Maariv Shabbos Braishis. 12) Tehillim Shabbos Braishis. 13) Shacharis Shabbos Braishis. 14) First Farbrengen Shabbos Braishis. Mincha Shabbos Braishis. 15) Second Farbrengen Shabbos Braishis. 16) Maariv and Havdoloh Motzei Shabbos Braishis. 17) Kos Shel Brochoh Motzei Shabbos Braishis.
Throughout all those appearances during these three days (Tefillos, Hakofos, Farbrengens), the Rebbe began his father’s Niggun 21 or 22 times!! TEN times just in the four Farbrengens (including after Mincha on Shabbos).
This should give a little perspective of how these three days were regarded by the Rebbe.
The following is my feeble attempt to somehow recapture this basically impossible time to recapture.
The Rebbe would come into Maariv on Shmini Atzeres at 7:00 p.m. The Oilom was singing the song that very frequently was sung on Smini Atzeres and Simchas Torah when the Rebbe entered the Shul. It’s the song people sing at the end of Benching, or that some like to sing on the words Ksiva Vachasimah Tovah.
The Rebbe would always place the Siddur on the Shtender and turn around towards the Oilom to be Meoded the singing. Sometimes the Rebbe would clap, and other times the Rebbe would swing his arm, Kedarkoi Bakodesh. As the singing would continue, the Rebbe’s Hislahavus and intensity would grow. Towards the end of the Rebbe’s Idud, the Rebbe would routinely pick up the tempo, claping faster, or swinging the arm quicker, or even using both arms. The Simcha and singing would, obviously, hit the roof!
When the Rebbe entered the Shul on Shmini Atzeres Tismach and placed the Siddur down, the Rebbe immediately began to use both arms, with strong Tnuos, on and on and on. As the Niggun moved ahead, the Rebbe went faster and faster. The Oilom Mammosh was unable to keep the speed of the Niggun up with the Rebbe’s Iddudim…
When the Rebbe finished and turned around to Daven, people reacted with “wow”! It was something that hadn’t been seen like for many years!
For that year, the Rebbe’s Davening Bimah was elevated higher, as well as a special Bimah in the “Ches”, where the Rebbe was going to dance the first and last Hakofoh.
After Maariv, the Rebbe began his father’s Niggun and left the Shul.
The Rebbe returned, Kerogil, at 9:00 p.m., and here, once again, after the Rebbe placed the Siddur on the Shtender, he turned around and, again with both arms, was Meoded the singing, as was roared by the Oilom – the same Niggun as before Maariv.
And then began the Atoh Horeiso. On Shmini Atzeres night, the Rebbe would say the first and last Psukim of all three Atoh Horeisos (on Simchas Torah night, as well as by day, the Rebbe would be Mechubad with all the first (of three) Atoh Horeisos.
After the first Atoh Horeiso, the Rebbe began to sing the Simchas Torah’diken Niggun from Nikolayev, which the Rebbe was very Mechabev (this Niggun appears on the first Nichoach record, and they sing it with Bom di di Bom Bom, Bim Bom Bom Bim Bom…). The Rebbe began to clap, but these were soft, gentle claps. This was completely inconsistent with how the Rebbe was being Meoded previously.
It was soon obvious that the Rebbe’s attention was diverted to his right, where the Rashag was. The Rashag had been battling a cold or something for the past few days, and he tried Bchol Kochoi to be there for Hakofos, and his Zechus of dancing with the Rebbe.
At this point, the Rashag was gasping. The Rebbe asked Reb Berel Junik (if I remember correctly) to ask the Rashag if he feels that he could make it. The Rashag said no, and that he must go back upstairs.
The crush of the people on Simchas Torah around the Rebbe was immense. Especially in the front. It would be a monumental task to free up some space to help the Rashag leave the Shul. A couple of Bochrim took both of his arms, and began the very slow and difficult trek through the massive sea of people.
It must have taken 15 minutes or so for the Rashag to exit the back door. All this time, the Rebbe watched very intently and closely, while softly clapping to the Niggun.
And then the Rashag had left. This would be the last time the Rashag was at Hakofos.
As soon as the Rashag had been helped all the way out of the Shul, the Rebbe began swinging both arms even faster and stronger than before. It was Mammosh amazing. Needless to say, the singing went on and on, louder and more powerful… Vayonu’u Amos Hasipim…
The next Atoh Hoeiso was now. After this one, the Rebbe began Al Haselah. The Rebbe began this Niggun a little different than the way we begin it, and without the words! It took a moment until the Oilom caught on as to which Niggun this is.
The Niggun Al Haselah was one the Rebbe was extremely Mechabev. It is such a “Rebbe” niggun… It’s pakced with energy and Simcha. The Rebbe would often react to the “Hcoh Hochs” according to the tempo of the Niggun.
Here, too, the Rebbe was waving his arms to all sides, and the Niggun went on and on and on.
Every single Niggun that was sung, on this night, the next night, and by day, the Rebbe was Meoded much more and longer than any regular year. The Niggunim took twice as long to sing, as the Rebbe continued K’maayan Hamisgaber.
After the third Atoh Horeiso, comes the Posuk Uforatzto. In every other Hakhel year, the Rebbe would also say the Posuk of “Hinenu Mavie Oisom M’eretz Tzofon…” This is a Posuk in the Haftorah of the second day of Rosh Hashonoh. Everyone expected it this year as well, but the Rebbe did not say this Posuk at any time.
After this Atoh Horeiso, the Rebbe – if I remember correctly – began his father’s Hakofos Niggun.
And here the Rebbe began to look towards different people in the crowd, encouraging them to “get into it”, the Rebbe looked for a while towards the Zkeinim, who had a special cut out spot on the Rebbe’s left. The Rebbe waited around there until all of them were jumping up and down…
Then the Rebbe turned to all the different sides of the masses, spending time and focusing on each group.
And the place went crazy! It was clear that the Rebbe was encouraging that everyone Poshut sing and dance Bli Yotze Min Haklal!
And with this, the Niggun ended.
It was now time for the Rebbe’s Hakofoh. The Rebbe want, Kedarko Bakodesh, into the Shvil. It has been discussed a number of times that the Rebbe’s Ponov Hakdoshos during this time – from the moment the Rebbe entered the Shvil, throught the Rebbe’s Hokofoh and back to his place – was Poshut shining. Geloichten. There is no other way to describe this. It was truly one of the more absolutely incredible Giluyim we were Zoche to.
Many understood the Shaas Hakosher of the Rebbe in this type of Hisgalus, and Brochos and Yeshuos, Mofsim Glyuim, resulted from the Rebbe’s Gissing, pouring of Brochoh, with this Haoras Haponim Giluy Elokus Mamosh.
And so, the Rebbe reached the Ches and the Bimah, and said the Nusach, and then, Kerogil, handed the Siddur to R. Leibel Bistritzky, ZGZ.
The Rebbe then began the Niggun. In almost all of the Rebbe’s Hakofos, the Rebbe himself would begin the Niggun. Some maintain that, on that time, the Rebbe began his father’s Niggun, but it sounded to most as the “regular” Hakofos Niggun, and this was the Niggun.
The Rebbe was clutching the Sefer Torah close to him, and slowly dancing around the Ches. After a while like this, the Rebbe went towards the south part of the Shul, and began to wave the Seefer Torah back and forth, looking at each person. It seemed as though that entire sound lifted off the ground! They went beserk!
The Rebbe then turned towards the other side, came right up to the steel tables that formed the Ches, and, again, scanned the entire Oilom while waving the Sefer Torah back and forth. I am convinced that there could not be a greater Oz Yeranenu Atzei Hayoar than that incredible and unprecedented Giluy Oir Nifloh.
The Rebbe’s Hakofoh lasted for about ten minutes, and it lifted the Oilom to heights we had never seen, as the Rebbe, Kevakoras Roeh Edroi, seemed to make eye contact with every one there.
The Rebbe then returned to his Davening place, and the second Hakofoh was to begin. In all the (later) years, the Rebbe Niguun (that year is was Oidecho) would be sung. For the third Hakofoh it was Vechol Karnei. In both of these Niggunim, the Rebbe was very strongly Meoded, for very lengthy times. The Rebbe was also pointing or directing to several individuals (Dr. Wiess comes to mind), and the Simcha was amazing.
For the fourth Hakofoh, the Oilom sang we want Moshiach now, and then it was tuned into Ad Mosai, and then Yiddelach Shriet Ad Mosai. Here, the Rebbe used Tnuos that no one had seen. The Rebbe was basically swinging just his holy hand, not the entire arm. In this way, the hand moved really quickly. The singing went through the roof!
For the fifth Hakofoh, it was Didan Notzach. Eventuall, the Oilom just screamed out “Didan Notzach, Didan Notzach, Didan Notzach”! The Rebbe, at some point, began to move both of his holy hands up and down, not in the swinging motion… Again, these were Tnuos no one had ever seen the Rebbe use. Understandably, the singing and the Geshrie were elevated to a whole new standard…
The next Hakofoh, for the Russisher Yidden, the Oilom sang Nyet Nyet, here again, the Niggun went on and on, with the Rebbe encouraging to all sides.
For the seventh Hakofoh, the Rebbe’s Hakofoh, a similar scene unfolded as in the first Hakofoh. This time, without a doubt, the Rebbe began his father’s Niggun. The Rebbe, at first, began to go around, and at the Tenuah Hayodua, was Meoded the Niggun ten times. At some stage, the Rebbe went to all four sides of the Shul several times. The Rebbe stood at the Maarev side of the Ches, and spent time being Meoded all the people in the back, on the bleachers, and so forth. Those Chevra did not usually have a chance to see much, if anything. The Rebbe went slowly through each person, eye contact, while waving the Sefer Torah. At times, the Rebbe was waving the Torah really fast, and one wondered how all those bleachers managed to stay in one peace after the major jumping up and down…
This Hakofoh was TWICE as long as the first one. It took about 20 minutes of incredible Hisgalus and fatherly attention.
As the Rebbe was going back in the Shvil, someone yelled out “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu Verabeinu”, and a resounding “Yechi” came forth as a response…
The Oilom began to sing Ashreinu (the Halelu tune) – another favored Niggun by the Rebbe. When the Rebbe returned the Sefer Torah and want back on the Davening Bimah, the Rebbe began to clap to this Niggun. The Rebbe continues clapping, as each Torah was returned to the Oron.
Once the Oron was closed, the Rebbe began to swing both arms, with rapid and hard Tnuos, over and over and over again. Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu – indeed.
Oleinu and Al Tira were then sung. For Ach Tzadikim, the Rebbe turned around and clapped again through Ki Elokim Yoshia Tzion.
After the Kaddeishim and announcements, the Rebbe called out, Kedarkoi Bakodesh, Goot Yom Tov, Goot Yom Tov, Goot Yom Tov! And began his father’s Niggun.
Hakofos finished around 12:00 – 1 hour later than any usual year on Shmini Atzeres. Even Mem Daled, in which the Rebbe was in an unusual Simcha Gedolah (as the Rebbe explained at the Farbrengen of the next night), the Hakofos did not end this late.
Many people had sore throats following this Hakofos… And everyone realized that something very special and unique had just happened.
We will now move to Simcas Torah night. At 9:00, the Rebbe came into the Farbrengen. Very few people were present, as this was the night the Oilom would go to be Mesameach Yidden. Personally, as one who was Zoche to work in writing the Hanochos, I would be present at the start of this Farbrengen, returning from a close Shul. I was never at Maariv on this night, so I have no idea what would happen…
The Rebbe would always ask, as soon as the Farbrengen began by the Rebbe sitting down, for someone to make Kiddush and be Moitzie the Oilom. R. Hirshel Shifrin had that job for as far back as I recall.
As he finished Shehechiyonu… Hazeh, and began to drink, the Rebbe began his father’s Hakofos Niggun, and very shortly, the Rebbe stood up to dance. The Rebbe was clapping and turning to all sides – but there were extremely few people present. Yet, the Rebbe continued on and on…
This began a succession of five straight years in which the Rebbe stood up to dance at the beginning of this Farbrengen – till Nun Beis, V’ad Bichlal. (In Mem Tes, the Rebbe stood up to dance twice at this Farbrengen, and in Nun Beis they sang Zol Shoin Zain Di Geulah, and the Rebbe not just danced, but indicated, while standing, for the Oilom to whistle… In Nun Alef, the Rebbe stood up towards the end of the Farbrengen).
This Farbrengen, the onset of the Rebbe’s Ushpiz, would usually contain Morah’dikeh Gillyuim in the Sichos, and many times all kinds of actions took place all surrounding Simchah, Torah and almost each year – to the exception of Tismach! – the Rebbe would discuss and explain some, or all, of the Psukim of Atoh Horeisoh.
At this Farbrengen, The Melech’s Ushpiz, the Rebbe spoke very strongly about Hakhel. Towards the end of the Farbrengen, the Rebbe explained, in an absolutely Moirashdikeh Sichas, how come the Chassidisher Ushpizin are the LUBAVITCHER Rabbeim? How can we go to the world and claim that these are the specific Ushpizin for everyone?
I won’t do it justice here, but the Rebbe’s Biur was that, according to Halochoh, once something is established it becomes fact. In this case: The main Mekabel from the Maggid was the Alter Rebbe, and it was Nimshach through all Raboseinu Nesieinu… This is not, said the Rebbe, to discount any other Tzadikim, and if others feel they want to appoint Chassidisher Ushpuzin they can……
The Farbrengen ended at around 12:00 midnight, and the Rebbe came into Hakofos at around 12:45.
Here, again, the Simcha by the Rebbe was in a whole different way than until this year. In every Niggun, the Rebbe continued it more and more, and with all kinds of Tenuos that were never seen before or after.
What particularly stands out in my mind is the last Hakofoh. Here, the Rebbe Mamosh “Farbrenged” with the Oilom, spending much time on each side and in each direction. The Hakofoh went on for longer than the previous night, for sure.
When the Rebbe came back to end of the Shvil, the Rebbe would usually give the Torah back, and then go to his Bimah. On this night, the Rebbe wlaked up the steps of his Bimah while still holding the Sefer Torah, and began to sing Uforatzto. This was an Uforatzto that was Markiah Shchokim! The Rebbe was waving the Seefer Torah Yomon Vokeidmoh Tzofoinoh Vonegboh… To every direction, and seemingly to every one there. This was a scene that, I would imagine, no one can forget. The Rebbe was Mamshich his Hakofoh – which was longer than any Hakofoh in the Rebbe’s Nesius – and it was as though the Rebbe did not want this to end!
To make this even more unusual, the Rebbe left the Shul beginning his father’s Niggun yet again. The Rebbe walked out of the Shul uncharacteristically slowly, being Meoded the singing more and more. When the Rebbe reached the back door of the Shul, the Rebbe stopped, placed the siddur under his arm, and began to clap at the door. Then The Rebbe began to be Meoded with the arm, turning to all directions, and looking upwards to those big bleachers on the Maarev wall.
The Rebbe Poshut continued on and on and on…
The Rebbe left the Shul close to 4:00 a.m.
And returned by 10:00 a.m. the next morning.
The Niggunim here were also very long, but what was most incredibly amazing, and most unforgettable, was undoubtedly the Rebbe’s Hakofoh.
As usual, the crowd was somewhat smaller by day. The Rebbe, this time Mamosh spent time looking at each person for quite a while.
At one point, when the Rebbe was at the Maarev side, the Rebbe’s holy eyes caught Izzy Kogan, ZZG. The Rebbe began to “dance” with him, by swinging the Torah towards him, over and over, and over again… Kogan went nuts, jumping up and down, and the Rebbe continued to point the Torah towards him, and given him this incredible Kiruv.
Following this, at the point of the Tenuah Hayodua, the Rebbe began to be Meoded the singing over and over again. This would be the sign to repeat that Tenuah, usually ten times. But the Rebbe didn’t relent, and that Tenuah went on and on. Aya ya ya, aya ya hei, aya ya ya, a ya ya hei!
At some point, the Rebbe poshut left his two feet and was jumping up and down. This was absolutely amazing to see. Personally, I could not utter a sound. I had completely lost my voice. As such, I could not sing, and so I just was jumping up and down and counting the amount of times this Tenuah was repeated.
I counted 125 times!!
During the entire 125, the Rebbe continued to dance and to Poshut jump with Simcha Atzumah L’maalah Mimdidah V’hagboloh.
It was so much L’maalah Mimdiadh Vehagboloh that, at one quick second, while the Rebbe was facing the opposite side, I caught site of a verteran Shliach (SZ) who was high up at a pole. And he was crying his eyes out… It was a Giluy that was so Hecher Fun Velt that it was extremely difficult to contain the Hisragshus.
Oy, how fortunate we were to be part of this.
And, Boruch Hashem, we continue to be fortunate to be the soldiers entrusted to bring this back to this world, when Chadesh Yomeinu Kekedem.
And in the short time till then, we are the one’s who carry the torch of the Chassidisher Ushpizin, and the ninth day, the day of Simchas Torah, is our Rebbe’s Ushpiz, our Melech, our Meshaleach, who, without a shadow of a doubt, continues to pour towards us a Shefa Brochos, Hatzlochos and Yeshuos, not just as much as twenty-five years ago, but Yatir Mibechayohi, so that we have the Kochos to get through Simchas Torah in our Mokom Hashlichus by thinking back to those days.
And by thinking ahead to Simchas Torah with the Rebbe in 770 and the Beis Hamikdash Hashlishi, Teikef Umiyad Mamosh.
A Frielechen Yom Tov and a Freilechen Yohr.
PS there is still much to be Mashlim, including three more Farbrengens, and an incredible Kos Shel Brochoh. I am compled to leave this for a different time, B’ezras Hashem.
Peachtree City, GA.