Rabbis and simple folks, Yeshiva students along with other young Jews, public figures and Shluchim, were all uplifted together in true Chassidic style at the grand and glorious farbrengen which took place in the center of Moscow. The farbrengen was in honor of the 19th of Kislev, the day on which the Alter Rebbe was freed from harsh imprisonment 220 years ago, following the heavenly decree against spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus.
The large scale annual event took place at a spacious banquet hall in the center of Moscow, under the auspices of Russia’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Berel Lazar.
The guest speaker was the Rebbe’s shliach to New Jersey, Rabbi Mottel Kanelsky.
The Tzaddik of Leningrad and Rabbi of the Bolshaya Bronnaya Shul – Rabbi Yitzchok Kogan, the Israeli Ambassador, prominent Rabbis, and public figures, all sat together for hours basking in the joyous Chassidic atmosphere “like in the good old days”, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.
This year also marked the 120th anniversary of Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim, and the students and staff of all of Moscow’s five branches of Tomchei Tmimim were in attendance. From the first yeshiva that opened exactly thirty years ago in the Marina Roscha shul, to the newest branch which opened just a few months ago in the Zhukovka neighborhood, today it boasts hundreds of students, who together with their devoted Rosh Yeshivas, Mashpiim, teachers, dorm counselors and educators invest themselves in studying Torah, as well as going out and spreading the light to others on Fridays and erev yom tov.
The event was opened by shliach Rabbi Mordechai Weisberg, Director of the Marina Roscha Jewish Community Center. He introduced the five Yeshivas and explained about the day’s greatness. After “Dvar Malchus”, Tehillim was said. One chapter was read by a yeshiva graduate who is now the shliach and Rabbi to the city of Kostrama, Rabbi Nissan Rupo, and the other chapter was read by the son of Rabbi Moshe Tamarin, Malachovka’s shliach and Rabbi, , who is a student of Tomchei Tmimin in the Istra location.
One could hear a pin drop during the keynote address by Russia’s Chief Rabbi and founder of the many yeshivas and other educational institutions in Moscow, Rabbi Berel Lazar. He described his first visit to Russia about thirty years ago as the Rebbe’s emissary, and the difficult conditions under which the first yeshiva was opened with just a handful of students. Today it is simply miraculous that Moscow alone boasts five yeshivas, in addition to other branches of the yeshiva throughout Russia and the entire world. Tmimim can easily be identified all over the world by their intense devotion to Torah study and their avodas hatfila.
In his speech, Rabbi Lazar expanded on why this day is called “Chag haChagim”, being that it influences the deeper, hidden meaning of all other holidays throughout the year.
It took a few moments for the special guest speaker, Rabbi Mottel Kanelsky, to compose himself before he began speaking emotionally. Just a few hours before the event, he had visited the home where he was born, the cellar where he had sat and studied Torah in hiding until the age of nine. He spoke of the Jews and elderly Chassidim who lived with incredible mesirus nefesh during those difficult years. Today Rabbi Kanelsky is the Rebbe’s shliach to New Jersey and stands at the helm of numerous Torah institutions for Jewish immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. He returned to Russia nearly fifty years after he left together with his dear parents and siblings, who have all dedicated their lives to the Rebbe’s shlichus.
The crowd was also addressed by President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Rabbi Alexander Boroda, member of the Presidium of the Jewish Community Mr. David Aminov, and Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Mr. Gary Koren.
This was followed by a raffle for a dollar that the Rebbe gave along with blessings for success. It was donated in loving memory, leilui nishmas, the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Binyamin haLevi Klein o.b.m.
This year’s musical performances were by Chassidic singer Reb Yoni Shlomo, wonderchild Dudi Link, and the orchestra of Yoeli Dickman, who amazed the large crowd and brought true festive joy to them all until the wee hours of the night.
The annual event was once again very capably organized and run, by the Gabbaim of Marina Roscha’s Central Shul.
photos by Levi Nazarov