The Sunday night farbrengen was due to commence at 8:30. Mendel Katch told me that he was not going to crush and struggle for a seat. He would arrive at 8:00 and stand at the back. If the Rebbe wanted him, he would call him to come forward; otherwise he would be happy in the back. We did arrange to meet at 770 at 6:00, from where we would leave for dinner.

When I arrived at 770 I found the place transformed. We could feel the excitement in the air, even though it was two-and-a-half hours before the Rebbe would enter.

Instead of using just over half of the hall, as for a normal farbrengen, the entire place was now full of benches, tables and bleachers reaching to the roof. It looked – l’havdil – like a football stadium. Television cameras seemed to be everywhere. In fact, eight television companies were present, including one each from Israel and France. Closed-circuit TV sets were arranged for the women’s department, and one was placed outside in the courtyard for the anticipated overflow crowd. The “technical room” was full of TV monitor sets and telephones and, already, hundreds of people were reserving their places by sitting or standing in their spots.

The Rebbe was still at the ohel.

I found Mr. Katch all right; he was securely seated at a very good spot. Shmuel was also standing at his favorite place, where he had been since five o’clock.

I then went to the restaurant and purchased deli sandwiches, and brought them back for all of us. I then sat down at my place. At 7:00, Mr. Katch left to pick up additional provisions.

We were sitting near Rabbi Gerlitsky of Montreal who told us the following story:

A girl from Canada wished to go to a seminary to study. The Rebbe asked her to submit a list of seminaries which she was interested in and the Rebbe would choose one for her. When the Rebbe received the list, he added Gateshead, England, to the list and told her to go there. [Ed. note: this is not a Lubavitcher seminary.]

At a subsequent yechidus, the Rebbe asked her whether she had any problems. She answered “no.” The Rebbe remarked that it was unusual for a girl of 19 not to have problems in this day and age. The Rebbe said he hoped she would always have no problems. Incidentally, on the Rebbe’s advice, she is now at Gateshead for a second year.

By eight o’clock over 2,000 people were present. The atmosphere was electric! Everyone was happy and in good spirits. “Von, Two, Tree, Testing. Von, Two, Tree, Testing,” could be heard as the sound system was being prepared. Then we all commenced singing the new niggun, which had been composed especially for this occasion. We had all learnt the new niggun on Shabbos, the day before. It was to the words of “b’cho Hashem,” which is the first posuk of chapter 71 in Tehillim, the Rebbe’s new kapitel. This went on non-stop and with liveliness until 8:30 promptly.

Normally the Rebbe enters the services or a farbrengen in complete silence. I generally like the idea of our Rebbe entering and leaving with a happy tune, but I would not always push that. But I considered that, at least on this special occasion, the Rebbe should be sung in. When the Rebbe walked in, the usual shushing and shushing went on, ordering the yeshiva boys and others assembled to stop until the Rebbe would be seated, because of which the singing almost died away. I, of course, ignored the shushing and continued singing. I like to think that my little contribution, (a little more hoarse maybe) did help to revive the singing until the Rebbe had sat down.

The Rebbe was in a very happy mood, smiling and laughing, particularly to some young men who had just left the Soviet Union. Quite a few scores of Russians were present; they were new arrivals and they were now living at Nachlas Har Chabad, in Israel.

The place was jammed tight with crowds outside too. I reckon 3,000 people were present.

After the first sicha, we again all sang the new niggun. I jumped up, pulled up Katch and Perrin, and we danced. Soon, everyone was singing and dancing. The place looked like a huge yo-yo, up and down, up and down; it was terrific. It was especially impressive when the Rebbe increased the tempo. I will frankly admit that when the Rebbe started the second sicha I was relieved and very thankful to sit down again and rest. I had reached my limit. It was good though, very exhilarating.

The Rebbe spoke of the importance of the age of 70, quoting tefilah l’Moshe (Tehillim 90) and other sources. He remarked, “One did not have to look at one’s passport to realize one’s age.” Some people seemed always young, whilst others aged more quickly. (Thank G‑d the Rebbe looks and acts young. We hope that he will live to 120 years).

The Rebbe compared the natural human birth to the Exodus from Egypt. In the first instance, a human body was taken from inside another human body, the mother. In the second case, a small nation was taken out completely from another larger nation. The Rebbe also mentioned the birth of Adam and thus of all mankind.

As usual, the Rebbe pointed out the vital role that Jewish women play – and have always played – in the life of the Jewish Nation.

When Pharaoh brought in his evil decree that all Jewish male babies be thrown into the River Nile, the parents of Aaron and Miriam decided to set an example to the rest of the Jewish people by getting divorced, ensuring no more Jewish children being born. Miriam, who was only five years old at that time, pleaded with her father Amram, who was a leader of the Jewish people in Egypt, not to take such drastic action and play into the hands of Pharaoh.

She said, “Pharaoh’s decree was only against the boys, whereas Amram’s ruling was against the girls too. This was a policy of despair and lack of faith.” Miriam prevailed. She and all Israel were therefore blessed with the birth of her brother Moshe Rabeinu.

The Rebbe suggested that every woman today should show her husband a bentcher after a meal and point out to him the words he has been uttering, with their translation into a language that he understands, so that he should know and realize that it is not because of good work of his strong arms, or the result of his clever brain that he has achieved success, but that everything comes from our Heavenly Father.

During the farbrengen, the Rebbe pointed out the absurdity of the various groups who nominate a “Man of the Year.” In Yiddish, a man is called “mentsch”. The Rebbe asked why is he a mentsch for only this year. If he was not a mentsch last year, and will not be a mentsch next year, then this year too, “iz ehr nisht kein mentsch (he is not a mentsch)!”

One could have accepted the Rebbe “taking it easy” and retiring now that he has reached the age of seventy. Instead the Rebbe gave us all instructions that every Lubavitch branch should expand and establish additional organizations. The Rebbe requested that in honor of his entering his 71st year, that at least 71 additional foundations and organizations be established before his next birthday!

It was a real freilicher farbrengen, with lots of ecstatic singing and dancing for joy and with happiness. The Rebbe ended the farbrengen at about two in the morning and walked out to the singing of the new niggun.

On the way out, a barricade collapsed in the crunch, and hundreds of people who were on the bleachers began falling. Some almost fell upon our dear Rebbe! There was a sudden hush. Thank G‑d some strong men formed a protective circle around the Rebbe and he was not touched. After the human surge ended, the Rebbe immediately continued on his way out, and – almost without missing a beat – waved on the singing as usual.

We later escorted the Rebbe to his car, singing as usual, when suddenly the Rebbe stopped and asked for someone by name. The Rebbe wanted to give him a lift home!