Hello to my fellow Boulderites, the once home of Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi. Yes, my beloved Rebbe passed on the 5th of Tammuz, 5774, a mere 6 weeks shy of his 90th birthday. You have been here my friends. In 1994, you felt the pain and grief of the passing of a great and wonderful man, have moved through it, and now celebrate a thriving community in his honor. Many of you were also talmidim of Reb Zalman, and feel the weight of his passing. To all of you, I meet in heart and soul, to proclaim the richness of our lives for the memory of these two remarkable beings and profound Rabbis. Their legacy will continue to move us and unfold for generations to come. We were lucky to have been exposed to their wisdom firsthand.
Last time I wrote you, it was to tell of a story when they were first sent to Brandeis University by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in 1949. This time I want to share a story about their unique bond, that went beyond time and space. It is told by a fellow member of Congregation Bonai Shalom, Josh Fallik. He reports:
Years ago, in Scottsdale AZ, my family and I went to a Reb Shlomo concert, not long before he passed. Earlier in the evening I had gotten into an argument with my teenage son, who was perhaps a bit sullen. Midway through the concert, in the middle of a song, Reb Shlomo stopped singing, looked into the audience, pointed to my son Yedidiah, and said, “You need to be up here with me”. So up he went, and hung out on the stage with him, playing a tambourine. During the course of the concert he called some other people up to dance and sing on stage. The others came down after a few songs, but to my son he said, “No, you stay with me.”
Years later, in Boulder CO, at the Hillel House during morning minyan, I was davvening with my youngest son, Yoni. Like Yedidiah, this was before his bar mitzvah. That morning Reb Zalman was leyning from the Torah. Suddenly, he stops, looks directly at Yoni, and says, “You need to be up here with me.” Up he went, as I flipped! Would he be able to read from Torah at such a young age? Well, he read beautifully. After the service, I went up to Reb Zalman and said, “You know, you used almost the same words to call up my son as Reb Shlomo did many years ago.” Reb Zalman replied, “I’m not surprised, yes, I know.”
What is so amazing to me is that each Rebbe gave the offering that was most precious to them; Jed loved to sing and Yoni loves to read books. They each gave my sons a gift that recognized their passion, in a remarkable way.
Each man has created a rich and enduring body of work that has shifted, shaped, and influenced many. Their special bond worked in tandem to inspire us all, as their works continue to live on through us. Here I am at the beginning of grieving for my dear teacher, mentor, and rebbe. I find solace in these words of wisdom from another beloved teacher, Sarah Yehudit Schneider:
I am sorry that you have lost your rebbe. But it is also the nature of rebbes that despite their passing they remain deeply attached to their disciples and energize them to continue to bring forth through their lives, in concrete ways, the lights they received from their rebbe. Sometimes BECAUSE OF the rebbe’s outer absence but inner presence…the students blossom.”
Reb Shlomo and Reb Zalman have touched us all in ways that are so personal and inspiring. Each of us reading this has thought ourselves to be a better person in their reflection. This is certainly true for me. Reb Zalman saw something in me and lifted me in the darkest time of my life. Instead of pitying me in my situation, he offered me an opportunity to be a storyteller of his life. It has taken a long time to allow his reflection to be seen by my own eyes. Yes dear Rebbe, here I am, becoming the best Charna I can be.
At the funeral, I tuned in and asked if there was a message for us. The answer I received is, “Tell them to bless each other.” So my friends, look around at who is nearest to you. We are each a thread in the whole of this Grand Mystery, needing to weave together a tapestry of our choosing. May we all continue to reap the benefits of their gifts to us, as we bless each other and all peoples with the wisdom of their Torah.
Maggid Charna Rosenholtz, Boulder CO