This week’s music: Shlomo Carlebach
Today, Thursday the 16 of Cheshvan tens of thousands around the world are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the passing of our friend and teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Shlomo, as those of us blessed to be “close” called him, had so many beautiful character traits that he shared through his music, his friendship, his masterful storytelling and for me, most powerfully, through his teachings of Torah and its application to our daily lives.
Obviously, I believe that it is no coincidence that Shlomo was taken from this world (on Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayera,5755) on a day that falls in between our yearly reading of Parshat Lech L’cha and Vayera, the two portions most highlighting the life of Avraham Avinu.
A couple of hours after receiving the 5:45 a.m. call from my brother Rabbi Moshe Shur, he should always stay healthy, our friend Yitzchak Miller called to ask if we could spend Shabbat together. Pashut,simply put, they didn’t want to be alone after hearing the news. I had met Yitzchak just a few days after meeting Shlomo in Miami Beach, Florida in November of 1972. I was happy that he wanted to share this sensitive Shabbat with us.
Over the course of Shabbat, two of the many recollections which we shared were things that perhaps we took for granted over the 22 years we had known Shlomo.
One was a question which we both wondered about. We both mamash loved his teaching and listened quite attentively when Shlomo taught. Often we would go home and look into the source of the book he was teaching from, be it Likutei Maharan of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov or Mei Hashlioach of the Holy Ishbitzer, and be unable to find that which we had heard and studied that night. Only then did we realize. All Rebbe’s in their holy books list the verse of the Torah they are commenting on, perhaps a short quote from Rashi, a line of Talmud and a quote from the Holy Zohar. Each Rebbe assumes that his students know of all of the details of those teachings without him having to spell them out. Reb Shlomo, in his genius experience of Torah study, knew all of those sources by heart. He also knew that most of us had never ventured into those areas of study, so he would focus on the missing links to connect us to the Rebbe’s teaching. Those were teachings, therefore, that we could not find within the text.
In addition, it became clear to us that all of the stories which Shlomo brilliantly told, were experiences that he was mamash reliving right on the spot. He delved into the moment to be able to share it with us from the deepest place in his heart. When he spoke of the loving kindness of Aharon Hakohen, the outreach of The Holy Ba’al Shem tov, the love of Israel of Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, he was connecting it all to a deep internal place in his own being.
We are taught in this week’s portion of Vayera that Avraham could not see God destroying the entire city of S’dom before thoroughly checking if there was not at least a “minyan” ten people who were not wicked. How could Hashem, he thought, kill the righteous together with the wicked? Similalry, last week in Lech L’cha, when the King of Sedom offers him treasures for helping him in the military victory over the 4 kings, Avraham refuses. He only wants back the lives of his nephew Lot and family (Bereshit 18.23-32). This is the same Lot who Avram needed to split with because of fighting between their staffs over land and cattle issues (Bereshit 14.21-24). Nevertheless, when push came to shove, the life and being of a family member took precedence over all. The unity of the Jewish family is clearly of the utmost importance to Avraham, as it must be to all of us..
Who taught more in our generation about the importance of brothely love, Achdut Yisrael, unity of us all then Shlomo?
On the way driving to our Motsash Melaveh Malkah last week, the night of the yahrzeit of Rachel Imenu, I heard the radio commentator quote her, asking for Hashem to “return his children to their borders.” In our lifetime no one did more to return God’s children home than Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson,Harabi Melubavitch and his right hand of the early 50’s Reb Shlomo Carlebach.
We love to sing his songs and indeed, they were the keys to open our hearts to a new world and life. We have been singing those songs, creating synagogues that pray with his melodies. Now is the time to share his beautiful Torah even more so that we can spread the great message of love and joy, unite us all through song and be a great light for the whole world to join together in Peace. “Peace in Yerushalayim, Peace in the Holy City, Peace in the whole world. Let there be Peace.”