Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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Shaliach for Shlomo

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

jewish-music-carlebachI heard the following beautiful story on Purim, first hand from one of the participants.  The story can be told from two sides, here's the one I heard it from...

Over a decade ago, a Jewish investment banker's career blew out.  A few bad decisions, bad trades and his high 6 figure income, his Porche and high living lifestyle was gone in a day.  He knew he was Jewish, but his Judaism was limited to a basic family seder and Rosh Hashana services.

His name is Shlomo ben Naftali, and he plays the guitar to relax.  Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l fans may note the name is the same as Reb Shlomo's, but it's not the same person.

Looking for a little meaning in life, he wandered into the New York Jewish scene, and found himself one Shabbos morning in the Carlebach Shul in Manhattan.  They welcomed him warmly and even called him up for Hagba (the lifting of the Torah after reading).  On hearing his name, Shlomo ben Naftali, they all ooohed and aaaahed.  At the time he didn't know why, and didn't even know what they were calling him up for.  This was after Shlomo Carlebach's passing - he never had the opportunity to meet him.

A short time later he found himself headed to yeshiva in Israel.  After learning for a number of years, which also included learning Shlomo Carlebach's music as an informal aside, he found himself teaching at the Diaspora Yeshiva.  He had a small apartment with a balcony in the Kever Dovid HaMelech courtyard, 2 floors up.

One day he had a particularly hard day teaching in yeshiva.  He didn’t feel he was getting through to the students nor that the material was speaking to him.  Frustrated, he marched home after the day, had a bit to eat and drink and made his way to his little balcony with his guitar to relax as the sun set over Jerusalem.

He began strumming his guitar and a Shlomo Carlebach song came to mind.  He played quietly to himself for a bit when suddenly a voice shouted out from above “SHLOMO, you promised to sing for me, I CAN’T HEAR YOU”.  Wow, he thought, who is that?  Who did he promise to sing for?  Ok, so he played and sang louder.  Again came a shout, “SHLOMO, I can just about hear you but my kallah can’t.  SING LOUDER!”  He started getting a little annoyed, ‘boy this guy is demanding’ he thought.  So, a bit angry actually, he played and sang at the top of his lungs thinking ‘maybe this will make the guy go away’.  As the song finished the voice shouted out “THANK YOU SHLOMO!!!”

He chalked it up to another strange Jerusalem occurrence and went inside.

About 10 years later he was in the Old City for Shabbos and visited a rabbi and rebbitzen that had become renowned for their Shabbos hospitality, commonly having over 50 people at their Shabbos table (still true today).  As they sang Shabbos zemiros (songs) at the Shabbos table, the rabbi said “let’s sing my favorite song” and started the Shlomo Carlebach tune that our Shlomo from the story sang many years before.  After he finished, our Shlomo said “Let me tell you a story about that song.  About 10 years ago I was teaching at the Diaspora yeshiva, came home one night upset and played it on my balcony.  Suddenly a voice shouted out from above “SHLOMO, you promised to sing for me, I CAN’T HEAR YOU…”.

The rabbi turned to him and said, “That was ME calling out!  You see, some years before I went to Shlomo Carlebach and asked for a bracha (a blessing) to find my kallah (to find my marital partner in this world).  Shlomo Carlebach gave me a blessing and promised he would sing at my engagement.  A few years later I met Shlomo Carlebach again, in the last few months of his life as his health was deteriorating.  I reminded him of his promise and he repeated, ‘don’t worry, I will sing at your engagement’.  A few months later he passed away and I cried both for our loss and thought to myself ‘I guess he won’t be fulfilling his promise’.”

The rabbi continued, “I occasionally was drawn to the roof of Kever Dovid HaMelech, where I would beseech Hashem to help me find my kallah.  I promised if I did I would open my home to every Shabbos guest I could find.  After meeting my wife, I took her up to the roof of Kever Dovid HaMelech and told her of my promise, asking if she would accept such a life with me.  She readily agreed and I immediately asked her to marry me.  She didn’t hesitate a moment, answering yes.  At that second I thought of Shlomo Carlebach and his promise to sing at my engagement and shouted out ‘SHLOMO, you promised to sing for me…’.

…And indeed, Shlomo ben Naftali did sing a Shlomo Carlebach tune for him and his kallah at that very moment.

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