September 15, 2018
Beis Moshiach in #1135, Sukkos, Tishrei

Tidbits from Zman Simchaseinu at Beis Chayeinu: Why did the Rebbe stop the amazing farbrengens in the sukka? When did the Rebbe make a unique exception to farbreng in the sukka with the children of the Released Time program? When and how did the Rebbe launch the dancing in the streets as we know it today?


Z’man Simchaseinu in Beis Chayeinu: 24 hours, 7 days in a row of simcha. This mitzva is the main mitzva of the holiday, the Rebbe once said, for all the other mitzvos of the holiday are not a constant obligation, and every mitzva has its particular time. Joy on Sukkos is a constant obligation. So there is no better way to begin a description of the events of Sukkos in Beis Chayeinu than the official moments of joy – the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva.

For many of the guests who come every year to 770 and are familiar with the nonstop joyous dancing on Kingston Avenue, it might be surprising to discover that this practice is something new. It was an innovation of the Rebbe in 5741. Until then, the way things were done in Lubavitch was completely different. Simchas Beis HaShoeiva was celebrated with a Chassidishe farbrengen. Until 5731, the one leading the farbrengen was the Rebbe himself. After that, the Chassidim farbrenged on their own in their sukkas.

Actually, the Rebbe farbrenged at Simchas Beis HaShoeiva starting from 5690 according to the instruction of the Rebbe Rayatz. The Rebbe Rayatz said that this farbrengen was for the talmidim of the yeshivos. Indeed, these farbrengens over the years before the nesius and even after (although not emphasized as much) were meant primarily for the yeshiva bachurim, for T’mimim, and many yeshiva students who were not.

The farbrengens were conducted in a yeshiva-style; in many of them, the Rebbe explained something in Nigleh. For many of the participants this was a rare peek into the Rebbe’s farbrengens and some of them stayed on. For example, Rabbi Shmuel Lew, shliach in London today, went for the first time to a farbrengen in the sukka and was hooked.

Some famous sichos, in which the Rebbe laid out his expectations of the youth, were said at these farbrengens. One in particular was the sicha about taking the war on the offensive, the founding of Irgun Talmidei HaYeshivos, and the meeting of Tzeirei Agudas Chabad to report on all their activities which took place every year at this time and would be mentioned in the farbrengen.

Until 5725, the Rebbe also farbrenged on Chol HaMoed. That year, the year of mourning for his mother, the Rebbe said not to advertise in the papers that he would farbreng and said one of the guests should farbreng. When R’ Chadakov tried saying “But it’s a Yom Tov,” the Rebbe replied, “It is Chol HaMoed.”

The bad weather in New York during Sukkos did not affect the tremendous joy in the sukka. The Rebbe would farbreng for hours in the rain. Nothing fazed him. Just to understand what this meant, in 5727, the Rebbe said a bracha acharona without the siddur since it was saturated with water and could not be opened.

What then, caused the farbrengens to stop?

It was the pushing. Oy, the terrible pushing of farbrengens in the sukka! The area was too small to contain all the people who wanted to participate and the pushing was awful. However, unlike the first difficulty, the rain, the Rebbe did not like the second difficulty at all and spoke sharply about it several times. The sharpness increased as the years passed and the pushing increased.

In 5724, when the Rebbe saw the dreadful pushing, he said he did not think of farbrenging that day, but since he then thought of who would benefit from it, he decided to farbreng. But the one thing that he could do was shorten the farbrengen, and enough said about painful and distressing subjects. The Rebbe then farbrenged briefly and ended the farbrengen.

Actually, the year before the Rebbe also cut it short because of the terrible pushing that caused a bench to break during the farbrengen; only then it was without an announcement.

However, the thing that caused the Rebbe to finally stop the farbrengens occurred in 5730, as follows:

At the farbrengen that took place in the sukka on the second day of Yom Tov, the Rebbe addressed the question about sleeping in the sukka and explained the Chabad custom at length. After finishing the explanation, the Rebbe said with a smile that since, “whoever is involved in the Torah of sleep, it’s as though he sleeps,” therefore, they should sing a happy niggun. The Rebbe strongly encouraged the singing and the crowd danced in place with great enthusiasm.

Due to the dancing, one of the pyramids suddenly collapsed and crushed Rabbi Marlow’s foot. Despite the tremendous pain, he did not utter a sound so as not to interfere with the farbrengen. The organizing committee members rushed to the scene and began to clear aside all those present, and tried to move Rabbi Marlow too, who was lying on the ground, but then they saw his foot crushed under the pyramid. The singing had stopped and the Rebbe’s face was grave and he kept looking toward the scene.

After much effort, they managed to extricate Rabbi Marlow and he was brought to the hospital. His foot was in a cast for six months and they say that the Rebbe was involved in all stages of his treatment.

The following year, the Rebbe announced that he would not farbreng in the sukka. When the organizing committee members waited near his room and asked for the reason, the Rebbe said firmly that it was because of the pushing in the sukka. The Rebbe no longer continued to farbreng in the sukka, except for one rare farbrengen in 5737 that was meant exclusively for the children of the Released Time Program. The Rebbe went inside for this special farbrengen and washed his hands. They sang joyous niggunim like “Ata Vechartanu” and “V’Samachta,” with the Rebbe saying brief sichos in between which Rabbi Hecht translated into English.

At the end of this special farbrengen, the Rebbe gave out Kos Shel Bracha and dimes to the counselors for them to distribute to the boys and girls.


For ten years, the Chassidim farbrenged on their own in their sukkas. The big surprise came in 5741. Every night of Sukkos, the Rebbe said a sicha, most of which had to do with the importance of simcha. The Rebbe spoke about Simchas Beis HaShoeiva in those sichos in terms of what is familiar to us today, with dancing that lasts until morning.

That year, Sukkos was a three day Yom Tov, a Thursday and Friday followed by Shabbos. When the Rebbe motioned that he wanted to say a sicha, everyone was surprised. Their surprise grew when they heard the instruction about dancing and simcha, and the Chassidim launched into intensive dancing that lasted most of the night. Most of them went on mivtzaim in the morning, thinking they would sleep that night, but the second night again the Rebbe surprised them with another sicha in which he demanded dancing and simcha. Once again, Chassidim danced, and once again, they went on mivtzaim, thinking the Rebbe meant that dancing like this was for Yom Tov. But when the Rebbe repeated the same instruction on Friday night, referring to the idea that “three times comprises a chazaka,” the tired Chassidim realized that something new was starting here…

During Yom Tov, the Rebbe spoke several times about the special avoda of simcha being necessary to rectify and thwart certain dark matters. Details about these events were written in a diary of 5741:

The first night of Sukkos

Before Maariv, when the Rebbe went up to the platform on which he davened, he turned to the singing crowd and encouraged the singing with vigorous clapping. It was unusually rapid clapping.

After the davening, he blessed the people three times with “Gut Yom Tov,” accompanied by a wave of his hand, and then, to everyone’s surprise, he leaned on the lectern which indicated that he wanted to say a sicha. The surprise led to pushing which momentarily drowned out the Rebbe’s first words, but after a few seconds it was silent.

The sicha was very short (about 5-7 minutes) and was about the avoda at this time, when we don’t have a Beis HaMikdash. We also don’t have the limitations that were present then, and therefore, the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva should start already from the first night of Sukkos (although in the time of the Mikdash, it began on Motzaei the first day of Yom Tov).

The Rebbe said to immediately start with simcha and the simcha should encompass “men, women and children,” as in the mitzva of Hakhel. After the sicha, he began the niggun “Ata Vechartanu” and left while waving his arm to encourage the singing, doing so until he left the room. The dancing continued for a long time afterward.

The second night of Sukkos

After Maariv and the blessing of “Gut Yom Tov” as usual, the Rebbe again began saying a sicha. This time too, the pushing drowned out the initial words but the Rebbe stopped and only after there was silence did he begin again and in a louder voice.

He said in the sicha that there is an opinion that the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva began only the second night. Even though the Halacha is not like that view, “these and these are the words of the living G-d,” and on the second night one should increase the joy and in an incomparably greater way until the simcha of the first night won’t be considered simcha in comparison.

The reason for this is because we have the added quality of [already having performed the mitzva of] the Dalet Minim (the sicha lasted 20 minutes). He began the niggun “U’faratzta” and left the room while encouraging the tremendous singing with his arm. The dancing became even more intense after this sicha.

Friday, Erev Shabbos, 2nd day of Yom Tov

Upon the Rebbe’s arrival at 770, he met R’ Zalman Jaffe and asked him whether he participated in the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva. He said yes, and the Rebbe asked, “For a long time?” and smiled.

Upon the completion of Maariv of Shabbos, the Rebbe blessed the crowd with “Gut Shabbos” three times and then leaned on the lectern and said a sicha for 20 minutes. After the sicha, he began singing his father’s Hakafos Niggun.

On Motzaei Shabbos, after Maariv, when the Rebbe stood to say a sicha, the secretary asked him, on behalf of the crowd, to use a microphone. The Rebbe did not agree for he had not said Havdala yet and he motioned to the person in charge not to bring it. At the end of the sicha, he began singing “U’faratzta” and left.

Sunday, 18 Tishrei, Second Day of Chol HaMoed Sukkos

In the morning, an official announcement from the secretaries was made that the Rebbe would say a sicha after Maariv, as he had done the previous nights.

The Rebbe’s sicha after Maariv was particularly long, about two hours, and many matters were discussed. He said that spiritually, [the dancing that took place on] Shabbos and Yom Tov accomplished whatever had been accomplished in the time of the Mikdash by the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva. He instructed to increase the joy that night, the fifth night. He spoke at length about those who want to make peace in ways that go against the Torah and Shulchan Aruch and spoke at length about unity, emphasizing that the Ushpiz of that night is Aharon HaKohen. At the end of the sicha, he said again to increase the joy and before leaving he began singing “V’Samachta.”

This sicha gave voice to the feelings of many that the situation wasn’t rosy and that the Rebbe was instructing us how to make it better through simcha. Throughout Yom Tov, everyone sensed, along with the simcha, a certain hidden tension on the Rebbe’s face. In the earlier sichos too, there were certain expressions about doubled and redoubled darkness of galus etc., but in this sicha, there were very sharp and frightening terms used.

After Maariv [the next night], he said a sicha again, for about an hour and a half. Most of the sicha had to do with “shocking, saddening things,” like “the unfortunate law” of Mihu Yehudi and returning land and oil [in the Camp David accords]. The words spoken about this topic were very sharp and deep pain was felt. He also spoke about the Ushpiz of that night, Yosef HaTzaddik, “Yosef Hashem Li Ben Acher,” make a son out of “the other,” and even the one standing on the side should join the dancing.

The Rebbe also spoke about dancing in the street and said that when a Jew goes on Hashem’s shlichus and dances in the street so that traffic has to stop, he is making a R’shus HaYachid (private domain) out of a public domain for the Yechido Shel Olam. After the sicha, he began singing “Hoshia Es Amecha,” but he looked serious.

Before the Rebbe went home, R’ Leibel Groner came out and reported that the Rebbe said not to oppose orders from the police while dancing. We are to rejoice, not to deal with the police, and if they demanded that the dancing take place on a side street, to listen to them. He also let the Chassidim know that the Rebbe said that if he had known about the instructions from the police beforehand he would have mentioned it in the sicha.

The crowd obeyed and the dancing took place on Montgomery Street, but this did not affect the simcha which lasted until four in the morning.

After Maariv of the night of Hoshana Raba, the Rebbe said a sicha for 45 minutes. The Rebbe began the niggun “V’Samachta” and the joy, which was above any limitation, began. The dancing started in shul and after a few minutes it moved out to the sidewalk. In the meantime, it was arranged with the police to close half of Eastern Parkway (which is a major thoroughfare) and the crowd went to dance in the center of the street. The circle of dancers stretched out for nearly a block. The joy was so immense; people went completely “out of their vessels.” After 18 minutes, the crowd returned, as per the Rebbe’s instruction, to continue the joy in the shul.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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