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.