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A Rehearsal for Redemption

A Rehearsal for Redemption

The Rebbe encouraging Abehsera to whistle.
The Rebbe encouraging Abehsera to whistle.

On the feast of Purim, in the year 1971, I attended a Hasidic gathering with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. We were several thousand strong, all singing and clapping. I had come with a young man who, at that time, was confused about his beliefs. I stood in my usual place, a few feet to the right and behind the Rebbe. My guest stood right beside me. His face was flushed red, both from fear and guilt. He had the sort of wide-opened blue eyes that seem to be continuously staring at an ardent source.

After several hours, my legs and feet were hurting, and I felt a bit dizzy from lack of air. I was considering going outside for a break when, without warning, the Rebbe turned my way and looked me straight in the eyes, he placed two fingers against his mouth and nodded in my direction, several times. I could not understand what he meant. For every nod of the head, I responded with a shrug. His fingers still rested on his lower lip and he nodded once more, this time forcefully. The thought crossed my mind that he might have commanded me to whistle, but I dismissed it. Never would a man of his nobility ask for something so ludicrous!

I looked over my shoulders to be sure that there was not someone else he was addressing, only to find that the people behind me were all looking at me. I turned to face the Rebbe again, thinking that if I did whistle, the Hasidim would throw me out of the place. I was not going to take risks. I was first going to mimic the whistling. I placed two fingers over my mouth and waited.

The Rebbe's face lit up.

This was it! I entered an unknown dimension as I blew my first whistle. The first blow was timid, but I quickly grew more self-assured and went at it as forcefully as I could. Others soon joined until we were hundreds whistling. The air caught fire with the resonance of the piercing sounds. My lower lip ached from blisters. But the Rebbe would not let me pause. He was taking the matter quite seriously.

He called for still more energy as I, in my abruptly unbound imagination, envisioned thick threatening black clouds shattering into dust. We discomfited darkness with our collective breath. Minds were swept clean of all indoctrination, and I knew my guest was being purged of his folly. Every sweet seduction murmured from the other side was blown away by the stiff wind we had summoned. Fallacious arguments flew away like frightened bats as we toned the walls of our hearts to prepare for an all-out war -- fairly fought, wind against wind -- challenging those irrational emotions that pose as thought, but whose essence is only wind. We alienated every gaseous enemy and incurred no casualties; not even the singers hurt their throats as they sang background to our breath.

Our final blast took off like the plaintive calls of a ram's horn. I was thinking of this as a folly ordained, a rehearsal for redemption, when the Rebbe paused.

From The Possible Man by Meir Michel Abehsera
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Avi Toronto, Canada December 15, 2005

... Hello Rabbi,
I just wanted to let you know that you officially inspire me. I have attended a fabrengen of yours, (3 of Tamuz at Mayanot) and have read your book, "The possible man". It was a little confusing at some points, but it took me on a roller coaster ride.... Reply

Anonymous September 4, 2004

Re Purim 1971 That Purim in 1971 with the Rebbe must have been 'out of this world.' I've tried to imagine what it must have been like. Thousands singing, clapping; hundreds whistling, blowing away a young's man's doubt about his belief.

What did it all sound like, I wonder?

What WAS it like, I wonder?

Were any of you still here, on our little planet?

And - what must it be like to be near (or speak to) a holy man, who would put 'the world on its head,' if need be - not just for the sake of many, but for one single other? -- but then again, a holy man knows no 'other,' does he.

Is it possible that, right now, I actually envy the blisters you had on your lips at one time? -- Me and envy? I can see me and a lot of other not so good things - but envy?

I wonder how many other me's I will meet one day. And regardless what they consist of, will I have the wisdom to change them into assets? -- (how I hope so).


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