On Monday, Sivan 4 (June 4), the evening before Shavuos, I anticipated a pre-Shavuos farbrengen in preparation for yom tov, as was the case last year. I expressed this view to Rabbi Chodakov and to others. They all said they had heard nothing about a farbrengen.

At 9:00 p.m. an announcement was made that following maariv, at 9:30, there would be a farbrengen. The grapevine got working in overtime and within half an hour over 1,000 people had already assembled in the basement hall of 770.

In Crown Heights this can be done. In England it would be more difficult. Lou Tiefenbrun, from London, who was also present in New York, immediately telephoned Rabbi Bentzion Hackner in London – it was 3 o’clock in the morning there – to try and get the chevra (people/group) together within thirty minutes for this farbrengen. It was so unexpected that no one was prepared and everyone was fast asleep! (Manchester, too, had to be contacted.)

The Rebbe entered for the farbrengen at about 9:45 p.m., and had barely managed to seat himself in his regular place, when he immediately commenced saying a maamar (chassidic discourse), without the regular preceding niggun (tune). Generally, the Rebbe remains seated throughout a farbrengen, as do those who are fortunate enough to have a seat (about half of the crowd). When the Rebbe delivers a maamar, however, everyone present will customarily stand. The usual process is that when we sense that the “preamble” niggun is winding down, we begin standing up, so by the time the niggun ends – and the Rebbe begins the maamar – everyone is standing smartly and quietly. Today, when the Rebbe entered and sat down, everyone else took their seats. Seconds later, as the Rebbe commenced the maamar, without any indication or warning, all were required to jump up at once. This momentary thunder of hundreds of bench-seats clattering against the wooden backs and thousands of stomping shoes created a true sense of Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah), which we are taught was given amid thunder and great fanfare!

The maamar lasted exactly thirty minutes.

After most sichas nowadays, we only sing one niggun. Years ago we would generally sing two. After last Shabbos, I complained to Rabbi Gansburg (who normally starts the niggunim these days) that the tunes we now sang – which he started – were not well known or popular, nor “swinging.” In the past we used to sing irresistible niggunim.

Well, it seems he took heed of my request. Right after the maamar he started the song of “Al Achass.” The Rebbe immediately got everyone going with the usual “nodding” of his head. It did not take long before the Rebbe was “conducting” with his head and hands. That means over 1,000 people singing, yelling, shouting and screaming the niggun at the top of their voices; everyone’s arms and bodies swinging to the tune, in unison. It looked as if the whole hall was rising and falling to the “music.”

Sitting along the center tables right in front of the Rebbe were about forty or fifty staid old gentlemen who remained anchored to their seats. I tried to lift up Rabbi D. to dance with him for the Rebbe. He could not have weighed more than 150 pounds, but I could not even budge him; he must have strapped himself to the bench.

I was not going to have my pleasure, nor the Rebbe’s enjoyment, spoiled by these rabbonim. They were so old in mind and outlook. This was contrary to the Rebbe, who at seventy-one is young, youthful and vigorous! I am certain the Rebbe would have been overjoyed to see these rabbonim spontaneously jumping up and down with joy like the rest of us. To give them their due, they do stand up when the Rebbe stands. Occasionally, perhaps once every few months, the Rebbe himself will jump up and “conduct” with both arms out-flung – this is really something to be seen and heard – like a riot l’shem shomayim (for the sake of Heaven).