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Unread 01-28-2004, 08:22 PM   #1
Jude
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Whistling

The place: Brooklyn, New York, the beis Medrash of the Rebbe MH”M shlita

The time: the night of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5736

The scene: a farbrengen to mark the end of Tishrei and to say goodbye to the guests

The senior Chassidim found their places on the dais and joined a distinguished group of rabbonim and public figures. Shortly before the Rebbe entered the room, the beis medrash filled to bursting with thousands of Chassidim. When the Rebbe walked in, everybody stood up in respect. Silence prevailed in the large room and the Rebbe walked between the sea of humanity that had split in two to allow him passage. The Rebbe quickly walked to his seat. The first niggun could be heard; the farbrengen had begun.

The Rebbe spoke with intermittent breaks for niggunim. The Rebbe nodded towards the Chassidim who held cups of mashke and wished him l’chaim.

Suddenly the Rebbe raised his hand and put two fingers to his lips. Some Chassidim realized that the Rebbe wanted them to whistle and they did so. The whistling pierced the darkness that enveloped the building. It resounded throughout the beis medrash and from there it continued upward to the Heavenly Throne. And the Rebbe looked at his Chassidim with a warm and loving look.

The Rebbe encouraged the whistlers with strong motions of his hands. Other Chassidim also set aside their incredulity and joined the whistlers. Some people noticed the flash of the camera that belonged to Levi Yitzchok Frieden. He had captured the moment and the picture was publicized.

The 196th issue of the Algemeiner Journal publicized the picture of the Rebbe with his fingers to his lips in a whistling motion. The accompanying article by the editor, Rabbi Gershon Ber Jacobson, described the farbrengen. The following is a free translation (of what was originally a Yiddish article):

It may seem strange that a Chassidic Rebbe, a leader of a movement like Lubavitch, instructs his Chassidim to whistle, but that is just what happened. The Lubavitcher Rebbe put two fingers to his mouth and indicated to the crowd to whistle. To whistle at the world and at all obstacles that stand in the way; to whistle at the exile, at all questions; to whistle at difficulties and at those who laugh, who mock and ask questions about Lubavitch and its war to chase away the darkness by means of a great light …

But for those who were present at the farbrengen – the whistling wasn’t a shock. Next to me stood a Lubavitcher Chassid from Eretz Yisrael, with a long beard and a Russian-style hat, Reb Berke Chein. I know him from Russia. He’s a golden Jew, a model of self-sacrifice and Chassidic life. I asked him after the farbrengen what he was taking back with him.

R’ Chein told me that the whistling won his heart. “In Russia we were victorious over all the persecutions and imprisonment since we weren’t impressed by them and just continued our work. Mir hoben gefayft – we whistled at all the imprisonment and all the exiles, and fought and fulfilled the Rebbe’s plans. Now exactly the same thing is taking place. They are giving encouragement, the kochos and abilities to put tefillin on with Jews, to speak to them about a proper Jewish chinuch for children, to keep kosher, Shabbos, family purity. There’s no need to be fazed.

“… Nu, Hashem helped and I made it through all the suffering, the danger and fear, and I sat at the Rebbe’s table. I have the opportunity to dance and sing, and when we are ordered to whistle at the world – we whistle; and when we’re told to go through fire – we go …”


The article, with the accompanying picture of the Rebbe motioning to whistle, created a furor among Lubavitchers. Some viewed it positively, while others were critical. And there were even some who were ashamed.

Yes indeed! There was a group of Chassidim who were simply mortified by that photo of the Rebbe appearing in the newspaper. This group, comprised primarily by some Anash and tmimim who prided themselves on fighting the war for the “honor of Lubavitch,” decided that the Algemeiner had done a grievous wrong in publicizing that photo.

They sent a letter to the editor signed by one of them, which said:

Every newspaper writes articles that don’t necessarily please everybody, and often they arouse people’s ire – that’s a newspaper. But this time you crossed a moral line by embarrassing tens of thousands of Lubavitcher Chassidim when you printed the picture that showed the Rebbe whistling. Whoever I talk to is furious about it. It would be proper for you to consider public opinion.

The letter was printed in issue 198 and the snowball of protest and response continued to roll onwards.
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Unread 01-28-2004, 08:24 PM   #2
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A week later, the Algemeiner printed some letters from readers of the newspaper, who expressed their surprise over the reaction of the Lubavitchers. These letter-writers were not Lubavitchers, yet they didn’t understand what the fuss was about.

“Did the Rebbe do this privately?” wondered one writer, while another writer maintained that publicizing the picture created a great kiddush Hashem, and he said he didn’t understand what shame there was in it. “If someone ought to be ashamed,” he wrote, “it should be the misnagdim who don’t have such an esteemed leader.”

- “And we were like grasshoppers in our eyes and (then) thus were we in their eyes.” -

Some weeks went by and the topic was still a hot one. Another letter to the editor from a non-Lubavitcher, but he, unlike the earlier writers, brought a halachic source for what the Rebbe did. This is what it said in the Algemeiner, issue 202, Kislev 5736:

Lately there have been complaints among certain groups against the Algemeiner Journal and its editor, Gershon Jacobson, following the printing of an article and a photograph in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe is seen standing at a farbrengen with two fingers to his lips, indicating that he wants whistling. I don’t understand how Orthodox Jews as well as rabbonim and roshei yeshivos, express these complaints. There’s a clear psak in the Rambam at the end of hilchos Lulav (chapter 8, 14) where it says:

“It’s a mitzva to increase this simcha and it wasn’t done by ignorant people or by whoever chose to do so, but by gedolei Yisrael and roshei yeshivos and the Sanhedrin and Chassidim and zekeinim, and anshei maaseh. It was they who danced and clapped and sang and rejoiced …” Then the Rambam writes “the simcha that a person should have when doing a mitzva and with love for Hashem who commanded it, is a great avoda. Whoever coarsens his mind and apportions honor to himself and is honorable in his own eyes in these places – is a sinner and a fool … and whoever lowers himself and degrades his body in these places – he is the great one and honored one who serves with love. Dovid King of Israel said, “I would debase myself even more than this and I would be lowly in my eyes.” The greatness and respect are only to rejoice before Hashem, as it says, ‘and the King Dovid capered and whistled before Hashem.’”

This is the precise meaning of the psak in the Rambam. I think that the Lubavitcher Rebbe did just as the din requires. I am most surprised by how rabbonim and even Lubavitcher Chassidim, didn’t know of this Rambam, and strongly attacked you, the newspaper, and even the Rebbe. According to the din, you don’t need to debate with those who displayed their ignorance. It is clear that through whistling, dancing, and clapping, the leader or rosh yeshiva lowers himself to the level of the masses, but this is his greatness, as the Rambam states explicitly.


The same issue has another letter, from a Lubavitcher in Crown Heights by the name of Yosef Ben-Tzion Reitzes, who wrote that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wasn’t the first to do this. In Tanach, in Shmuel chapter 6, it describes a similar scene, “and Dovid capered and whistled with all his might …”
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Unread 01-31-2004, 09:52 PM   #3
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interesting. thanks for posting it jude. why would the lubavitchers be ashamed of something their rebbe did? especially if it was in public? :/
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Unread 02-01-2004, 07:58 AM   #4
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if a Chasid views his Rebbe as someone like himself, just smarter, more learned, more holy, but capable of messing up, just like himself, then he can be ashamed by what he perceives as his Rebbe's mistakes.

***
Nearly three months went by and it was Purim 5736. The farbrengen is remembered by many of the Chassidim as unique, for in the course of the farbrengen the Rebbe brought up some unusual topics. He spoke about putting on Rabeinu Tam tefillin starting from the age of bar mitzva, something that was not widespread at that time. The Rebbe said a sicha about shluchim in Eretz Yisrael who didn’t hesitate to move roadblocks of stones that Arabs had set up, in order to bring the simcha of Yom Tov to every Jew. And then the Rebbe delivered a sicha about whistling that will be engraved in the minds of all those who were there and will be remembered forever with the title, “A Maaseh fun Fayfen.”

The Rebbe told Rabbi P. to sing “Ha’Aderes V’Ha’Emuna and in the middle of the singing the Rebbe motioned for whistling. This time, many more people understood what was expected of them and the whistling intensified until the start of the next sicha which began with the words, “Azoi vi s’iz a maaseh fun fayfen” (Regarding the matter of whistling).
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Unread 02-01-2004, 08:01 AM   #5
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THE SICHA (unedited)

1) Regarding the matter of whistling, as a result of which there were those who thought that they managed to “catch” me, the proof being: I whistled, and even told others to whistle! …

“Those who ruin and destroy you will go forth from you.” I thought that those Chassidim who go and scream in public that they are the ones who sacrifice themselves in an unbelievable way, at every step – that at least they would have “bothered” to open a book and try to find a source for this behavior. In actual fact, they did nothing!

Regarding the individual who tries to attain glory at others’ expense – obviously there are no complaints against him (as to why he doesn’t look for a source etc.) for his sole purpose in sitting at the farbrengen with patient anticipation for hours upon hours – is only in order to be able to find some fault and “to attain glory at others’ expense!”

For this purpose, he is also ready to waste time for Torah study – for during the farbrengen he cannot listen to the Torah thoughts that are said, because he is completely occupied with anticipation to see whether some error will be made. Then he can waste time from Torah study tomorrow and the next day too, and go and spread it: “See, so-and-so did something that ought not to be done!”

My complaint is directed at those who did hear the divrei Torah that were said, those who don’t seek to “attain glory at the expense of others,” whose self sacrifice, apparently, should have been enough … to open a volume and study it – to find sources for it (and even a concealed source)!

Instead, as soon as word about the whistling got out – they were at a loss as to what to do and they began to whisper amongst themselves: Oy, What shall we do? There was a failure here … they [the Rebbe] indicated that they should whistle, and so-and-so is making a fuss and saying that whistling is something that, l’havdil, a sheigetz in Russia does (as it were) – and here they whistled publicly, and not only that, but they instructed others to whistle.

In other words, those who disseminated this were (not those who maintained that this is something negative, but) “from you,” i.e. those who should have merely bothered to search for a source. What actually happened was, they didn’t even bother to think about it for (as is known from the story with the Rebbe (Rashab)) his head is in galoshes.

[This term “head in galoshes” comes from a story about one of the Chassidim of the Rebbe Rashab who was extremely knowledgeable in Chassidus and whose head was constantly involved in deep Chassidic topics.

At some point, this Chassid opened a galoshes business and spent most of his time on it. When he went to the Rebbe, the Rebbe said: Feet in galoshes – that I’ve seen, but a head in galoshes? I’ve never seen that!]

Even if you’re lazy to open a volume etc. – ask! However, asking wasn’t possible either for, here too, you would have to bother to write your question about where is the source for it …

So how does he “help?” When he is asked: how is it possible that they whistled at a farbrengen, he immediately blushes and escapes… With this reaction, he demonstrates to the listener that he also thinks like him. However, what should he do when he [the Rebbe] doesn’t consult with anyone, and does as he pleases, and you must suffer… It isn’t pleasant for him to say explicitly that a mistake was made, and he must keep it choked up inside …
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Unread 02-01-2004, 06:22 PM   #6
Torah613
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Just saw the video of 10 Shvat 5732, where the Rebbe signals to whistle several times.
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Unread 02-01-2004, 07:39 PM   #7
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5732?

thought it started 5736?
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Unread 02-01-2004, 08:42 PM   #8
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Based on what?
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Unread 02-01-2004, 08:49 PM   #9
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based on the Algemeiner, the fuss that was made, the Rebbe's sicha about it, all in 5736
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Unread 02-05-2004, 11:31 AM   #10
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2) Furthermore, every human being can and does experience mistakes (it’s no tragedy … and this doesn’t insult anyone), and even among the gedolei Yisrael throughout the generations, generation after generation, we find that they are capable of erring (as we see in the Gemara, Tanach, and Chumash – and Rashi explains this for the “five year old”). Not to mention the story that the Alter Rebbe repeated from the Maggid and the Besht regarding Avrohom who was a soul in a body etc. [which is why he laughed].

And even to think about this itself, he has to exert himself … and he doesn’t have time for this since his head is in galoshes! So what does he do? He goes in the street in great embarrassment, and thinks about how to get out of this “tzara” and how he can find someone with the nerve to come over and tell me that this wasn’t right of me to do …

Some months have gone by since, and in the meantime I thought that finally someone would wake up (and find a source) but in actual fact, it hasn’t happened. They haven’t gotten out of their galoshes yet!

3) Therefore, there’s a source for whistling in Tanach (an explicit pasuk in Tanach), in Gemara (an explicit sugya), a Gemara in meseches Chulin, a Gemara which is studied in yeshivos and kollelim!

Although this sugya is in the Agadata part of meseches Chulin, this too was said to Moshe on Sinai! Therefore, before learning a section of Agadata you have to say the bracha, “who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah!

And we learn in Gemara Eiruvin that whoever says, “this teaching is nice and this teaching is not nice” [regarding different teachings within Torah] loses his connection to Torah, and the Torah has nothing to do with him!

As was said a number of times, the precision of the wording, “this teaching is not nice” – indicated that we are not speaking of someone who says, “this is not a teaching.” Rather, he concedes about the teaching itself; it’s just that he differentiates and says, “this teaching is nice” since he can engage in exegetical construction etc. However, with Agadata – he maintains – this is nice for those who learn an Ein Yaakov shiur between mincha and maariv; people incapable of innovating in halacha, Rambam, Tosfos, in a sugya, etc. and therefore – (why not…) - they join a shiur in Agadata.

When you tell him: it says in Tanya (Igeres Ha’Kodesh, end 23): We learn that “Agadata … most secrets of the Torah are hidden within it” (in addition to the good middos that are learned from it) – he says: it says that in Tanya, and so, it pertains to those who learn Tanya…
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Unread 02-05-2004, 11:34 AM   #11
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4) And so, Hashem helps, and from the Agadata, it becomes a psak din in the Rambam! But after nobody grasped that this is a psak din in the Rambam – I lost patience, and I found someone who instructed that this be printed in the newspapers.

However, even after the psak din in the Rambam was publicized – I asked so-and-so (who was previously a Chassid, but then, although he remained religious, shana u’pirash [one who learns and abandons his learning] from his Chassidus, and you know the rule, shana u’pirash kasha mi’kulam [whoever learns and abandons his learning, is more of a problem than anybody else]) how he can come with complaints when it’s an explicit psak din in the Rambam! His answer was, this halacha was written by the Rambam for yichidei segula – singular individuals!

I asked him – what do you mean? In the same Rambam it says, “it’s the Principle of principles and the Pillar of Wisdom to know that there’s a first Existence” (and the Rambam ends with, “as it says, ‘G-d is one’”), and so if he can say that this halacha was written by Rambam for “singular individuals” – why shouldn’t someone else come along and say that the first halacha in Rambam is also for singular individuals?

Especially when the beginning of Rambam, in hilchos Yesodei Ha’Torah, is not studied in yeshivos (for better or for worse, that’s the way it is), for they learn the later chapters which talk about Kiddush Hashem etc. (and other topics in the Rambam), but not the first chapters, and certainly not the first halacha in the first chapter!
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Unread 02-09-2004, 06:27 PM   #12
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5) But this psak din is brought in the Rambam (not in the halachos that are not learned in yeshivos but) in hilchos Lulav (which are studied), and within these halachos, at the end of hilchos Lulav (and the rule is, “everything goes according to the conclusion”):

In the Rambam he brings the pasuk, “and Dovid capered and whistled,” which goes on to state right there in the pasuk (so there’s no need to look at Rashi ... for it’s explicit in the pasuk itself) that this behavior was the behavior of “one of the reikim-empty folk!” Dovid behaved this way when it was a situation having to do with a mitzva and simcha shel mivtza!

In our situation, when the whistling was going on, there were Jews present whose faces made it clear (there was no need to read their minds) that from here-on-in they’d have increased enthusiasm (in religious matters and) in the fulfillment of practical mitzvos. (I don’t know whether in one mitzva, two or three – and “every man should know himself”) and so – in such a case, the Rambam paskens that you need to behave exactly as Dovid did, who behaved (not only in a way of ordinary “capering and whistling,” but) in a way of “capering and whistling with all his might!

Dovid was wearing an eifod bod (white linen apron) since he was the king, and at the time he knew that people were watching him from the windows to see how he behaved. When people expressed surprise to him about his behavior, he didn’t say he didn’t behave that way, but said explicitly, “and with them I am honored.” This is how the honor of a G-d fearing Jew is supposed to be expressed!

6) However, even after the source was publicized in the newspaper, those people didn’t get up the nerve to look in the Rambam and to answer those who had questions. Why? Again, because their heads are in galoshes!

Apparently there’s no choice but to put the answer in his mouth (as it says, “that which he will place in his mouth” ) and to tell him: please listen; when you meet so-and-so, tell him, “shalom” first and “aleichem” afterwards… And then you have to ask him how he’s doing, and then – wait a little bit and see - if he says such, then you need to respond thus, and if he says differently, then respond like this… And then – if the galoshes have not intervened, then he’ll manage to announce the answer, at least to parrot it…but in the instance that the galoshes did intervene, he’ll get confused and mix up the questions and answers, and you know the results…
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Unread 02-11-2004, 02:55 PM   #13
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7) Back to our topic:

As I said, the halachos of Lulav in the Rambam (where he brings this psak din) are also not learned (as) often, but leis man d’palig (nobody argues) meseches Chulin must be learned…

Therefore, in meseches Chulin it quotes the pasuk in Trei Asar which explains that when the Geula comes, Hashem will personally take out the Jewish people from galus. The pasuk goes on to say that the way He will gather the Jewish people is “I will whistle to them,” and the commentators explain in Trei Asar that this means that Hashem will whistle to the Jewish people!

Obviously, we’re not trying to copy Hashem (ch’v) but still, in the Gemara there it explains and brings the story of a bird that whistled. The bird was the Ruchama bird and its whistle raised the possibility that it was a sign of the impending Geula. There were those who thought that this was the whistle that the pasuk is talking about! Then they learned that this bird is a fraudulent mimic and its whistle is not the desired whistle. In other words, it was a side issue that proved that this wasn’t Hashem’s real whistle.

In any case, what we get from this explicit Gemara is that Hashem’s whistle is not a spiritual whistle which will only be heard in the eighth heaven (or the seventh)…but a whistling that we will hear with ears of flesh! And that this whistle may also be heard from a bird, all the more so from “one of the empty folk,” and all the more so by an adam m’Yisrael!

From this we understand in our situation: we know the Chazal that says, “honor the mitzvos for they are My emissaries.” Therefore, it’s understood and obvious that you cannot whistle merely for pleasure… However, when there’s an inyan of simcha shel mitzva, when there’s a chance that one person present will have a “Geula” (along the lines of what it says in the Gemara in Chulin) from his yetzer hara (“his yetzer overcame him”) even in one mitzva, then it’s a mitzva to whistle on the doubtful possibility. And even on the remote possibility, and even for 100 doubts!

8) Regarding the complaint that there’s someone who likes attaining glory at others’ expense, and he’ll take advantage of the whistling in order to go and speak negatively etc. In addition, this person will present his complaints to those people whose heads are in galoshes, as a result of which they’ll be utterly confused and won’t know how to answer: not alef, not beis, not gimmel, and not dalet (for this is not their inyan) …

Because there are people whose behavior isn’t proper - for this there’s a need to do away with something which is connected with (and can be mekarev) the Geula?! …And especially when we actually see it (then and today, and with Hashem’s help you’ll see it also at other farbrengens shel mitzva) – that by whistling the standing and position of some Jews changes in at least one mitzva, and afterwards – “one mitzva draws another mitzva” etc. And in certain instances, there are Jews who, through the whistling, experience a fundamental change from one extreme to another!
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Unread 02-18-2004, 11:42 AM   #14
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9) The wonder is all the greater when we’re talking about Chassidim (in addition to what was said before, which also pertains to any Jews):

The whistling took place around Yud-tes Kislev, and at the farbrengen that took place then, we spoke about the holy letter that the Alter Rebbe wrote when he came to Petersberg. Among other things, he wrote: “Do not whistle at them [the misnagdim] ch’v.” You know what the Rebbe, my father-in-law added to this – an addition that you don’t have to bother to search for and find. And you don’t have to strain your brain, and you don’t even need to ask your friend because the addition is printed on the spot, after this letter, in its place (see Sefer Ha’Toldos Admor Ha’Zakein p. 216)! He added that his father [the Rebbe Rashab] told him, “See, it’s an indication that there is also holy whistling!”

And this was in the time of the Alter Rebbe, who despite bringing about the beginnings of Geula through the beginning of the inyan of “spreading the wellsprings outward” – the time for Geula hadn’t yet come!

And he concludes there, that even though there’s whistling of holiness, the Alter Rebbe warned that in his time it still wasn’t the right time for this, and therefore – “don’t whistle at them ch’v”. The point being that you don’t whistle at another Jew, but against the yetzer hara – fayf un fayf, biz vanet m’vet im farfayfen - whistle time after time, until you whistle him out!

And so, the only reason that those who seek their friend’s shame can grab on to this and complain is only because those on the “inside” are in galoshes, and they didn’t get the fact that this Igeres Ha’Kodesh was mentioned deliberately and at the time of Yud-tes Kislev.

Especially, when in the Igeres Ha’Kodesh itself, it mentions whistling explicitly, that despite the fact it doesn’t mention the positive angle there, but the negative in it, still, after the question arises, why was it necessary for the Alter Rebbe to negate the inyan of whistling among his Chassidim? The answer is obvious (even not in a way of question and answer) – that there is obviously a whistling of kedusha, and his purpose was only to clarify when to whistle – only when the inyan of “spreading the wellsprings outward” begins, and not “at them!”

10) Here I must clarify regarding myself: we know the prayer of R’ Nechunya Ben Ha’Kana when he entered the beis Medrash, as it’s related in meseches Brachos – “When I enter I pray that no mishap occur through me.” And so, since even now there are those people who are listening to things with this pupose (to attain glory through the shame of others r’l), I must negate and clarify, that first of all, their sin of bittul Torah is not on me and not on my neck. Especially, bittul Torah for a purpose that is the opposite of Torah (to attain glory through the shame of others)! …And another negation and clarification – if only I would never “fail” in other matters, aside from whistling …

Especially when the whistling was (not a mistake but) deliberate, a plan that actually worked to arouse and reveal the good that is hidden in a number of Jews. An additional success, when the evil remains only within that person who attains glory at others’ expense, at least by his not publicly announcing that he loves to catch a Jew in a mistake and publicize it! …And then, there’s hope that with time, he’ll do teshuva, and also stop publicly announcing that he doesn’t think that the Rambam paskened a psak din in his Yad Ha’Chazaka for the masses, but for “singular individuals” … something which is in the category of “a breach that has no end to it (r’l)! …

11) May we soon merit the whistling of kedusha (in a way permitted by the Alter Rebbe), as whistling of kedusha is a good thing (not on Shabbos and Yom Tov ch’v, and not whistling for no purpose, but) when there’s a good chance that it will arouse others (and himself) to an increase in good and holiness and Torah and mitzvos, as mentioned earlier.

The main thing is, Hashem should not consider the situation as it is now but should be satisfied with the additional good thought, good word, and one good deed. As the Rambam paskens, in a psak that is directed (not only at special individuals but) at all Jews – that every person, through one deed, one word, one action etc. – “inclines himself and the entire world to the side of merit and brings salvation and rescue (other versions say, “success”).”

Through this we shall soon have the fulfillment of the promise of “on that day He will whistle,” that Hashem will whistle and thereby, “I will gather them” – all the Jewish people from all ends of the earth. [As it says] “And you will be gathered one by one,” in a way that no Jew will remain in galus, and He will bring them to our holy land, and with kindness and mercy, and soon.

***
When the Rebbe left the farbrengen, he met Gershon Ber Jacobson, the editor of the Algemeiner Journal. The Rebbe slowed down and said with a big smile, “You caused me to say the sicha.”
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