The End Of Stalin
A farbrengen in "770" is a multidimensional experience.
The Rebbe is noticeably more intense just before delivering a maamar, formal chassidic discourse. In the middle of singing a chassidic niggun, his face becomes extremely serious, and everyone immediately changes the niggun to begin the traditional chassidic melody sung before maamarim.
In the very first years of the Rebbe's leadership, these signs were even more noticeable.
In particular, the Purim farbrengen of 1953 stands out in the memory of many chassidim.
At the beginning of the farbrengen, the Rebbe delivered a maamar.
As usual, his deep concentration was visible throughout the entire prelude. After the maamar, the Rebbe delivered several addresses punctuated by chassidic song.
The farbrengen increased in intensity, continuing well past midnight.
At this late hour, an elder chassid Reb Shmuel Levitin approached the Rebbe with a sincere request for a blessing for the welfare of the Jews in Russia.
Quite unexpectedly, after answering Reb Shmuel, the Rebbe showed visible signs of delivering another maamar.
This was most unusual, as the Rebbe had never delivered two chassidic discourses during a single farbrengen. As the chassidim stood in anticipation of the maamar, the Rebbe related the following story:
"After the fall of the Czarist regime, general elections were held in Russia. The Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Sholom Ber Schneersohn, instructed his followers to exercise their right to vote. The Rebbe's message was spread throughout the chassidic community.
One chassid, a devout man who spent most of his time in pursuit of spiritual matters, was totally uninvolved in the country's politics. Nevertheless, he was prepared to carry out this directive as readily and intently as any of the Rebbe's other biddings.
"He immersed himself in the mikveh, girded his gartel (prayer belt) and proceeded to the polls. He was not familiar with the procedure, and did not even know for whom to vote. Luckily, he met other chassidim at the polls and they instructed him. With earnest concentration, the chassid adjusted his gartel and solemnly cast his ballot.
"As he glanced around him, he noticed many excited voters cheering for their candidate, shouting 'Hoo-rah! Hoo-rah!'
The chassid thought that the chanting might be a required part of the voting procedure. Fearful that he might offend others or draw attention to himself if he refrained, he also joined the chanting.
"Hoo-rah is the Russian version of our familiar "hurray," but in Hebrew the words 'hoo rah' mean 'he is evil.' So the chassid chanted, 'hoo rah' along with the others, his intention being that he (the voters' hero) is evil."
With this the Rebbe concluded the story. The crowd in "770" also began to chant, "Hoo rah, hoo rah."
After the farbrengen there was much discussion among the chassidim regarding the unexpected maamar and the preceding story. Everyone sensed that it was somehow related to events taking place somewhere behind the Iron Curtain.
Soon afterwards, the news hit the headlines. The infamous Russian ruler Stalin had suffered a fatal stroke.