Menachem Ziegelbaum, Beis Moshiach
In the book of stories about the Geula authored by yours truly, there are several stories about tzaddikim and gedolei Yisrael who did all they could to bring the Geula. Time after time, the Satan intervened to thwart the hastening of the Geula.
When I think back, over twenty-five years ago, to that great event of strengthening the emuna in the hisgalus that took place on Sunday, the evening of 10 Shevat 5753, I think that such attempts to derail the process seemed to characterize that event whose entire purpose was to ramp up the belief of the Jewish people in the Geula and the identity of the redeemer.
Remember, that this was four months after the publicizing of “Yechi” in front of the Rebbe, Tishrei 5753. At that time, the Rebbe began coming out to the congregation nearly every day, and sometimes every day, who sang “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabeinu Melech Ha’Moshiach L’Olam Va’ed.” The Rebbe agreed and accepted this and came out, again and again, and nodded his head and sometimes encouraged the singing with motions of his hand.
Those were days when the emuna among Anash and the tmimim was stronger than it had ever been, and the fire of pure faith burned in every corner of Beis Chayeinu. The entire day’s schedule for us bachurim, revolved around this.
Then came Yud Shevat. From the outset, it was clear that this auspicious day, the day the Rebbe accepted the nesius had to be something special, more elevated and uplifted. And when you connected that with the spirit of Geula which you could practically touch in 770, it was only natural to hold a gathering in which thousands of Anash and tmimim convened along with Jews around the world in order to strengthen the feeling of hiskashrus and to renew the acceptance of the kingship.
In those years, a satellite broadcast event was rare. Today, anyone can go with his cell phone and send a live broadcast to the world of every move he makes, but back then, it was rare and expensive. A direct live broadcast to various points on the globe via satellite required broadcast trucks, film crews, purchasing broadcast time on the satellite server and endless other details. Those were the days.
Still, this was the goal, to unite as many as Jews as possible the world over around this emuna. There were doubts about this. Although every day Yechi was sung to the Rebbe, they still did not know how such a thing would be received by the broader public and whether the Rebbe would be pleased. The Crown Heights Beis Din and the Vaad Rabbanei Anash HaKlali had issued a letter against the event, fearing a chillul Hashem.
However, after the Rebbe saw the detailed program and approved it, “there is nothing to be said after the king has spoken” as the Beis Din wrote, taking back what they had previously said, in a letter that was immediately publicized on the official message board in 770. It was signed by Rabbi Yehuda Kalman Marlow, Rabbi Yitzchok Hendel, and Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi.
AGAINST THE ODDS
Less than 24 hours to the great Kinus. I remember how all the activities were moving into high gear. Matteh Moshiach worked out of the office of Rabbi Dovid Nachshon and the team included Rabbi Shmuel Butman, Rabbi Menachem Gerlitzky, Rabbi Yaakov Spritzer, Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin, Rabbi Yossi Pariz, Rabbi Zushe Silberstein, and others. They all worked through the night and prepared for the Kinus down to the smallest details.
Along with the great excitement there was also tension in the air. All along the way there were obstacles (as I mentioned, the Satan constantly intervened) which almost led to despair and giving up, if not for the answer and bracha from the Rebbe that kept them going. The teams involved did their best to publicize the Kinus in the media and put in effort to invite the media to the event in order to have it covered with the greatest possible publicity. It was because of the opposition and last minute difficulties that they knew how important this Kinus was.
HEIGHT OF THE PREPARATIONS
Sunday, 9 Shevat
I cannot forget how in one of the diaries written afterward, the description of the event began with the festive words, “Today, it was revealed to all that ‘Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabeinu Melech Ha’Moshiach L’Olam Va’ed,’ and the Rebbe MH”M is the one chosen by Hashem to redeem the Jewish people from galus.”
We bachurim worked all night to prepare the big zal for the special event. The main work was taking the benches out of the shul so there would be room for the large crowds. I remember that we speculated about whether this would be the day that the galus would end. Had we reached the time that the Avos, Shoftim, Prophets, Tannaim and Amoraim had waited for, the day the bitter galus would end?
Word slowly began to trickle in that the media outlets were beginning to report about the upcoming gathering. As the time for the Kinus got closer, this became more pronounced in the news reports coming in from Eretz Yisrael and the world over. There was tension, along with a certain celebratory feeling. The media just added to the drama.
The broadcast truck for the satellite arrived at 12:00 noon and parked opposite 770, as curious people congregated around it. Here too, things didn’t go easily; those who remember, remember …
Then the beepers went off. Everyone pulled them out quickly and saw the message, “Mincha now.” The beis medrash was packed within minutes with guests, shluchim, askanim and people who had come for Yud Shevat. It was a quarter to one when the Rebbe entered his special room for mincha. First he said korbonos. At the conclusion of the davening, he came out on the balcony and everyone began singing Yechi. I heard several people reciting “shehechiyanu.” These were guests who came for Yud Shevat. It was the first time they were seeing the Rebbe this way; we talmidim on Kevutza had gotten used to it already, but it was moving to think about their excitement.
EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR
Crown Heights was festive. Everyone wore Shabbos clothes and as zero hour approached, masses of people could be seen heading toward Beis Chayeinu. People of all backgrounds arrived en masse in cars and buses. Bleachers were constructed on the left of the room and the women’s section on top was designated for the media.
Right after mincha, preparations were at full blast. The broadcast crew set up inside the building and bachurim set up a special bima on the side of the aron kodesh and decorated the southern side (near the windows of the beis medrash) with a nice red cloth to lend a more impressive and attractive look to the place.
On the southern side of the beis medrash, on the right of the special room, under the big windows, they prepared a stage for the Kinus. Leaning against the wall was a huge painting, the work of Michel Schwartz, of how the world will look in Yemos Ha’Moshiach. Next to the painting hung a huge sign proclaiming the celebration of the completion of the painting. This painting was made at the request of the Rebbe. It consists of hundreds of thousands of letters of quotes about the Geula starting from the Prophets down to the Rambam, our Rebbeim, and of course, the Rebbe’s sichos.
THE ACTUAL EVENT
The time finally arrives and the event begins.
Ten minutes before the start of the live broadcast, Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of the Matteh Ha’Olami L’Bias Ha’Moshiach and director of Tzeirei Agudas Chabad, began the Kinus. He used the remaining minutes until the broadcast to explain the awesomeness of the event, the importance and need to behave accordingly especially when the entire world was watching, live, along with us.
The Kinus began at 5:00 with the Rebbe’s chapter of Tehillim. This was followed by a statement by the emcee that “this Kinus is not a coronation but a gathering in which all Israel asks, simultaneously, that Hashem instruct the Rebbe to be revealed as Moshiach.”
A series of speakers addressed the need to strengthen the belief in the Geula and the identity of the redeemer. First, the emcee reviewed the point from the sicha of parshas Shoftim about the news “hinei, hinei Moshiach ba,” that the Rebbe said as a prophecy, and “a positive prophecy,” says the Rambam, “must happen.” He also spoke about the parshiyos that we read at this time of the year, about the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt, that when Moshe Rabeinu came to the Jewish people and told them that they would soon leave exile, many did not believe him and even mocked him. In the end, he was successful. The comparison to the present situation was clear, even now, a moment before the Geula, various forces try to prevent the Rebbe from carrying out his task but it’s a sure thing that he will succeed and take us out of this galus, lead us to our holy land and build the Mikdash in its place and gather the Jewish people.
Rabbi Marlow delivered brief words of blessing and was followed by R’ Shneur Zalman Gurary who represented the Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch. R’ Gurary had been present at the coronation of 5711 and was privileged to receive signs of great closeness from the Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, and the Rebbe Rashab. R’ Gurary spoke about the significance of the day on which the Rebbe accepted the nesius.
Rabbanim and elder Chabad Chassidim were called up and each spoke in his way about the significance of the time and the event.
Then Rabbi Yitzchok Hendel, Chabad rav in Montreal, read the psak din of the rabbanim about the hisgalus, explaining that this moment in time on this auspicious day was a most propitious time for the complete revelation.
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, the Rebbe’s chozer, speaking in Hebrew for the benefit of the Hebrew speakers, held the entire audience spellbound as he spoke in very clear terms about the emuna of the Chassidim in the Rebbe.
THE LONG AWAITED MOMENT
At 6:00 the beepers went off and said, “maariv immediately.” This meant that the Rebbe was coming out, at the height of the event. The excitement and the tension were through the roof. The Rebbe himself was coming out to the gathering where Chassidim were accepting his malchus.
The pushing and excitement were intense. Considering all the confusion and rumors of the previous days, despite the Rebbe’s explicit approval of the program, nobody knew how things would work out. I remember clearly how in every heart there beat the powerful belief that maybe, maybe … who knows, maybe the time for the end of days had come and we would merit the revelation of the great light … the night of Yud Shevat … Just as it was previously, the Rebbe agreeing to accept the leadership, so too now, he would accept the eternal malchus …
After maariv, the Rebbe came out to the balcony. As opposed to the usual order of events, the crowd did not begin to sing. Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht announced that as the Rebbe had agreed, Michel Schwartz would now complete his painting of the Geula. With his paintbrush, Mr. Schwartz painted the word “mamosh” [R’ Leibel Groner pointed at the artist and told the Rebbe about the completion of the painting but the Rebbe shook his head as though to say, “I know,” and continued looking to his left.] The word “mamosh” epitomizes everything connected to the Geula, being the initials of the Goel and the word which ended so many sichos over the years. Above all else, it is the word which “seals” the Geula as something tangible, here and now, without pshetlach.
R’ Gurary, who had blessed the Rebbe throughout the years on special days connected with the Rebbe, blessed the Rebbe, saying with great emotion, “At this time, when the Rebbe accepted the nesius … we bless the Rebbe with the blessing of ‘Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabeinu Melech Ha’Moshiach L’Olam Va’ed.’”
This was the signal we were all waiting for. The enormous crowd, those in 770 and those who joined throughout the world, proclaimed “Yechi” three times and then the crowd burst into singing “Yechi.” The Rebbe looked at the crowd and several times raised himself from his seat and looked at those who were standing underneath. He occasionally scanned the journalists’ stage to his left. They saw the Rebbe checking out the scene and the people, taking great interest in everything going on around him.
At first, his gaze was a bit serious but then his face shone when he began encouraging the singing with strong movements of his head. The emotion in the room was without limit. The Rebbe spent more than ten minutes with the Chassidim, which served as the highlight of the Kinus that followed.
YECHI FROM AROUND THE WORLD
After R’ Yoel Kahn repeated the first osiyos of Basi L’Gani 5710, Rabbi Berel Lazar came on the screen live from Russia and blessed the Rebbe and emphasized the fact that in Russia they were all waiting for the hisgalus of Moshiach. He concluded with “Yechi.”
Rabbi Hillel Pevsner of Paris spoke similarly and also concluded with “Yechi.”
At the end of the Kinus, the crowd burst into a mighty singing of “Yechi” as circles of dancers formed all across the room, accompanied by R’ Eli Lipsker and his band.
At the end of the evening, reporters interviewed the crowd. Despite their efforts to get quotes downplaying the events, they were amazed to hear that people would have been happier had they merited the hisgalus of the Rebbe as Moshiach.
Later on there was a Chassidishe farbrengen in which R’ Yoel Kahan, R’ Gershon Mendel Garelik, shluchim and mashpiim farbrenged.
In the days that followed, television reporters from Denmark, Australia, and even China etc. came for tefillos in order to report on the tremendous excitement over the impending Geula. The event on Sunday generated massive interest across the globe.
The great inspiration did not end after the Kinus but continued on and on. On motzoei Shabbos 15 Shevat there was another Kinus to strengthen hiskashrus, led by the Beis Din of Crown Heights and R’ Yoel Kahn, mashpiim, rabbanim and others. Some very powerful speeches were given at this event.
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