We arrived back in New York, after about two weeks in Miami, on Monday, Shevat 10 (January 19) and prepared for the Yud Shevat celebration, which was due to commence at 8:30 that evening.

I was told that there would be no food served, only drink and cake, and spiritual food – Torah. The farbrengen was expected to conclude early, by about 1:00 in the morning.

It was anticipated that a large crowd would be present, but Mendel Shemtov assured me that he had reserved me a seat. I also donated two bottles of drink.

This farbrengen was held in the Albany Rooms, a large hall about twenty minutes walk, as 770 was much too small. I reckoned that over 1,000 rabbonim, men and yeshiva boys took part in this celebration. If one took into account the “fluctuating audience,” those who stayed for only an hour or so, 1500 would be a more realistic figure. There were also about thirty women present, of whom Roselyn was one. They could hear, but could not see anything at all behind the partitions.

The farbrengen started at 8:30, with the Rebbe arriving shortly afterwards. I was offered a seat on the platform near, but behind, the Rebbe. This I reluctantly refused. I desired to sit facing and watching the Rebbe, who sat alone at a long table situated on the platform. A semi-circle of about forty rabbonim surrounded him.

Drinks were served in paper cups – very hygienic. Cake and egg kichlech were served by hand – no plates, NOT so hygienic. A tape recording was made of all the proceedings, and photo-flashes were exploding all night. I sat just opposite the Rebbe, but most of the yeshiva boys preferred to stand.

The Rebbe himself was in complete charge and control. There was no chairman; the Rebbe was the only speaker. Sometimes he suggested the niggunim and he always conducted with his fist the tempo at which the niggunim were sung.

The maamar, which was preceded by a special somber niggun, took about forty-five minutes. The Rebbe also recited eight sichas of about fifteen minutes each. The maamar was a bit “tough” but the fifteen-minute talks were really good and enjoyable.

So we spent half the time singing and the rest of the evening listening to the Rebbe teach us Torah – a total of six hours.

I was particularly impressed with the Rebbe‘s talk on whether one is allowed to interrupt a man who is davening - praying to G‑d:

Prayer is most important and has to be recited with the greatest kavono – concentration and zeal. One should be careful not to interrupt anyone who is davening. A saintly person prays with very much devotion and concentration. The higher a man is spiritually, the greater would be his kavonos.

Moshe Rabeinu was on the very highest spiritual plane of all. In this week‘s parsha – B‘shalach – we learn that Moshe was in trouble. He had led the Jews out of Egypt very successfully, when suddenly they were faced with an insurmountable and impenetrable barrier, a huge expanse of water, stretching as far as the eye could see - the Red Sea. At their backs were the Egyptians, ready to strike. So what did Moshe do? He commenced to daven, to pray and cry to G‑d for help and deliverance. We can readily imagine how intense were Moshe‘s prayers; yet, what did G‑d do? He interrupted Moshe‘s prayers and told him, “Why do you come to Me crying for help? Now is the time for action. Lift up your rod (stick) and march forward, then I will be able to help you.”

A Jew has to be a vessel to accept G‑d‘s blessings. It is of no use staying at home all day and davening. That will not bring him sustenance for himself and family. He has to show himself capable, by his actions, of receiving the blessing of the Almighty. There is a time for praying and a time for action.

The Rebbe gave me great kovod. As mentioned, I had presented drinks to the Rebbe, and I was requested to come up to his table. I was seeking the best and easiest way of getting there, when I was suddenly yanked up by willing hands and had to walk on and along the table to where the Rebbe was sitting. He opened the bottle and filled his own glass with vodka, then insisted upon handing me the bottle personally “with your right hand.” He wished me “L‘chaim,” and I answered “L‘chaim v‘livrocho.” I then walked along the table back to my seat.

Toward the end of the farbrengen the Rebbe again requested me to come to the “top table.” He placed a good few pieces of cake into a bag, handed it to me, and said “Give the Baal Habosteh some and take the rest home for the children.” Overall, it was quite an enjoyable affair.

The Rebbe distributed further quantities of cake to other recipients; a niggun was commenced; the Rebbe arose from his chair, left the hall, and the farbrengen had ended. There were about six pieces of cake left on the Rebbe‘s plate. Well, talk about rugby or American football! This was twice as fast and as rough as both games combined. Was it worth it? Well, the victors - a crowd of yeshiva boys who had dragged themselves slowly to their feet from under a pile, but still clutching a minute portion of the Rebbe‘s cake - must have certainly thought so!

This farbrengen finished at 2:30 a.m., after six hours!