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A march
in the rain

Rabbi Yossi Goldstein at the lake in the Botanical Gardens
For Additional picture click here

The High Holidays - 1956

By Rabbi Yossi Goldstein

Every year on Rosh Hashanah it is a custom to go to a lake, a pond of water or the like and there cast away the sins which were transgressed during the previous year. In Crown Heights, Brooklyn where Lubavitch World Headquarters – 770 is located, there was no lake or the like [until years later when a well was dug in the back of 770].

Since the first year that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn arrived in New York in 1941, it became a custom to walk to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. A beautiful parade of Chassidim and along the way many others used to join in the singing of songs, a march of jubilation and joy would make its way down Eastern Parkway.

This particular year, 1957, there was a heavy downpour of rain. If you would even walk out of 770 for three minutes, you would be soaked to the bone. I remember that the hats they made in those days, the ribbons around were dyed and the ink would drip if it got very wet. So people came back with strips of ink on their faces because of the paint, which began to dissolve and go thorough the hat and through the skullcap, on to to the face and then stained the shirt.

It was a sight, everyone had a story of his own. I was walking behind the Rebbe. The Rebbe held his prayer book with him all the time, so it should not get wet.

When we all arrived at the park, besides for the big storm, the gates were closed. The one in charge of Botanical Gardens realized that no one is going to visit during the rain, so he locked the gate and went home. Not being able to enter, the words of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe became very relevant, “when you cannot go under go over!”

I watched, I was present, the Rebbe gave his prayer book to Rabbi Yisroel Duchman. Because you cannot climb and hold the book in your hand.

He then grabbed, like a little branch, a young person – athlete. He was so quick. Now we’re talking about on the high holiday of Rosh Hashana, one of the holiest days of the year. When you pray from the morning to late afternoon, also not eating until after hearing the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn). To have such strength, it’s unbelievable.

He has a special storage battery, for when you need it, he has it. And he got to the top of the wall, as he got to the top of the wall, he leaned over, rolled over the top, than turned around. It was done so acrobatically, unbelievable, then he went down. And then he signaled, nu? What are you waiting for? And then all the Chassidim climbed up, the young guys and old guys alike.

Then when we all finally arrived to the lake and finished saying the customary prayer, the Rebbe started to sing and began to make a dance. It was one of the happiest experiences that really soaked you through and through.

Then, we’re coming back to the synagogue, the Rebbe came out of his office with a big bottle of wine. He stood on a bench, and distributed some of the wine to all those who came to the park and back.


Rabbi Yossi Goldstein

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