Tuesday, November 07, 2006
TRIBUTES TO A HOLY BROTHER
Today, 16 Rom-Cheshvan, is the 12th yahrzeit of Reb Shlomo Carlebach. Although much is known about him, I am honored to present some tributes from a very special book about him entitled simply, "Holy Brother." So without further ado...here we go!
Shlomo saw the Divine spark in every person he encountered, and strove to ignite that spark until it burst into fiery flame. For those who had pursued nirvana with drugs, he offered the rapture of a transcendent davening; he infused holiness into the ordinary and made sacred the profane. He accentuated the positive in Yiddishkeit [Judaism], affirming and celebrating its beauty and joy. He was utopian in outlook, quixotic in his quest. In short, he was a religious fanatic.
-- "Holy Sister" Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum, from the Introduction to her book, "Holy Brother"
…Reb Shlomo Carlebach...I knew him, too. I see him once again. Always in a good mood, his eyes and his face glowing, his guitar slung across his shoulders, his thirst for a life of singing and of hope.
Traveling across the world in search of lost souls, he would sing of the love that everyone should have for his fellow man, for all of creation, and naturally for the Creator Himself. He attracted young people most of all, and they adored him. He made them laugh, dance, dream. He would help them overcome the bleak intoxications of daily life by modeling for them the spellbinding and mysterious worlds that every human being carries within himself. He would tell the Chassidic tales, giving wings to their imagination. He would show them how to discover the beauty of prayer.
For him, all human beings were worthy of attention. He would suffer with those who suffered. A lover of loving, he would never offend the person to whom he was speaking. Where others might use argumentation and recrimination, he preferred praise. I never once heard him speak ill of another, even of those who cared a little less for him. It's all so simple.
The very fact that a Jew was a Jew and a human being was enough to make him worthy of his warm affection. Did he not call the people with whom he came into contact ''Holy [Brother] (Reb) Shmuel'' or ''Holy [Brother] (Reb) Yisrael"? For him, all the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were saintly, that is to say Just Men…
-- Elie Wiesel, Forward to "Holy Brother"
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, one of the most influential and internationally renowned Jewish personalities in the twentieth century, died at the age of 69 on October 20, 1994, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of mourning fans and followers throughout the world.
Alternately known as "The Dancing Rabbi", "The Singing Rabbi,'' or ''The Hippie Rabbi,'' Shlomo Carlebach was one of the most original and inspired Jewish personages of this century, probably second only to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in his universal appeal and extensive international impact. Widely regarded both as the father of contemporary Jewish music (with over two dozen Jewish albums to his credit) and one of the original founders of the Jewish 'outreach' movement, Rabbi Carlebach's name was a household word throughout the world. He was a bridge-builder and ambassador of love and joy, and his message of openness and inclusion spoke to Jews and non-Jews of all stripes and persuasions. His ''Chassidim'' (followers) represented every spectrum of Jewry and included spiritual seekers of all faiths. He was a ubiquitous presence at ecumenical gatherings and conferences and a popular attraction at New Age retreats.
Rabbi Carlebach was a songwriter, musician, and recording artist who performed alongside Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Pete Seeger at ''peace and love'' concerts in the '60s. He rose to prominence in the ''New Age'' world when he established the famous ''House of Love and Prayer'' in San Francisco in 1967 to draw back young Jews who felt alienated by Judaism. Embracing the earliest visions of Chassidism, with its call to serve G-d and reach other Jews through joy, Rabbi Carlebach brought a new creativity and spirit to contemporary Judaism, saved a generation of Jews from wholesale rejection of their faith, and initiated a movement that now extends worldwide.
An accomplished Jewish scholar and serious ''maggid'' (storyteller), whose reputation as a spellbinding raconteur received acclaim in New Age retreats, storytelling seminars, and concerts throughout the world, Rabbi Carlebach's message of love and joy permeated his tales. Everyone in the Jewish world knew Shlomo Carlebach for his music and storytelling gifts…
-- Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum, from the biographical introduction to her book, "Holy Brother"
Yehi Zichro Baruch - May Reb Shlomo's memory be a blessing for us all!
UPDATE: For those unable to attend any of Reb Shlomo's yahrzeit events, either here in Israel, or elsewhere, there's this:
In honor of the yahrtzeit of the great Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Nachum Segal will be presenting 3 shows dedicated to his music and legacy. More info here.
It has been a very hectic, emotional and spiritual week. We arranged internet commerations around the world. In South Africa, a community finished a rather complicated Gemora which they began last year, on Monday night and made a Seudah dedicating their year of learning to the memory of R'Shlomo OBM. In New Zealand there was a fund raiser for the growing Shlomo minyan. They are attempting to buy a building. Then we went to Australia where there was a gathering of people where the 4 cds of R' Shlomo (being the Maggid of our era)
told stories and sang. The cds where auctioned off and it looks as though the minyan, which is quite large at this time B"H, will get a good start on that building. Then we went to Israe-l where there were so many communities marking R' Shlomo's Yartzheit that we could not even get to all of them. From there to England and then to the US. Coast to coast memorials. All were beautiful and I know that R' Shlomo is beaming that beautiful loving smile watching the learning, singing, happy people who became closer to Ha Sh-m yesterday.
I had just finished a piece I wrote about R' Shlomo, as he put it, before he was Shlomo Carllebach lol. The piece was over 40 years old and I had not looked at this for 12 years. I was pretty controlled up until then. I had spent 3 days living on emotions and coffee. I read my small piece and the piece from a friend from Sfat. I totally lost it. Not because I was sad, but it suddenly hit me. This is the way R' Shlomo would want his Yartzheit remembered. People learning Torah, daavening for Moshiach, singing and retelling the stories that he told so well to keep the legacy of "The Great Ones", the holy masters, as he would say, going. He always believed with all his being that a story carried more strength then hours of mussar. Combined with his supernal songs, how many lost souls did he salvage? We will never know...but in Olam Habah, He who knows everything knows how many and every soul he restored knows. Times are different...the approach to Kiruv is different....but R' Shlomo made the approaches today possible by crashing through the doors of convention to reach even the most lost person. Today his legacy lives on in Aish, Nevei and all the other places where people actively work to find lost lambs. Nobody, though, will ever do it with the love and kindness that R' Shlomo did and that, my friends, is because R' Shlomo never saw people...he only saw neshamas. May our deeds be an honor to his memory and may we say Shema tonight and awaken in the morning to say Modeh Ani in Yerushalayim with R' Shlomo playing guitar.
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