On this Tish B ‘Av I thought it would be appropriate to post Extracts from interviews with Reb Shlomo Carlebach in South Africa which was prepared by Alon Teeger.
Why – because that from the time of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (The Temple), the world is need of Fixing.
This is being published in in memory of Scott Leavitt – Chaim Yitzchak ben Avraham a young man who passed away suddenly this past Shabbat Chazon. Scott was on the board of the Shlomo Carlebach Foundation. Scott was a sensitive and caring young man and The Teachings of Fixing the World is an important part of who he was.
Interviewer: Reb Shlomo, you go around the world giving people your blessings, spreading joy and bringing happiness. That’s exactly what you do. Why can’t everyone go around giving the warmth and happiness to others, like you do?
Shlomo: First of all most people have it but they are afraid to show it. They are scared to show love and to give others some joy and happiness. You see what it is, it’s takes a lot of guts to love a person before I’m sure they’ll love me back. But really, you don’t even have to ask a person their name. It’s enough to love another person just because he or she is created in G-d’s image. Most people think that you have to invite people to your house. But the greatest thing is, if my heart is open, it’s like my house. I invite every person I meet by just opening my heart to people.
Interviewer: Where did you learn this from?
Shlomo: I don’t know! I had the great privilege to come from a great and long line of illustrious rabbis. My father was a very special rabbi. He put into us so deep, that we are not permitted to pass someone on the street without saying some good words to them. My father would walk down the street and everyone just wanted to talk to him.
Interviewer: You go all over the world meeting people and playing for them. When were you in Russia?
Shlomo: I had the privilege of being in Russia in 1972 when it was really, really heavy. It was the lowest hell, lowest hell. And then I had the privilege of coming back in 1988 and it was just at the crossroads. The most unbelievable thing happened. We were invited by the Russian Government because they needed money for the Armenian earthquake and we donated the money. In all the concerts we played for 53000 people. The Russian Government made a lot of money because they charged a fortune for tickets. It was mobbed, mobbed, mobbed. There were Jews non-Jews, civilians, soldiers, generals and there was so much love in the air, so much love in the air.
Interviewer: I want to make it clear to the listeners – you are an Orthodox rabbi in the true sense of the word. You travel around the world spreading joy and oneness. But for you it’s not only a Jewish occasion. You talk to all people – am I right? You also want to touch and make non-Jewish people happy and to bring them close to G-d?
Shlomo: You talk right to my heart. When I began working for the Lubavitcher Rebbe he told me one thing. ‘Whenever you’re somewhere, don’t leave until you have completed what you went there to do. And let nothing stand in your way.’ And you know, this has changed my life in a million ways. Anyway, my shitah is, if I’m invited, I’m going and I’m playing. I’ll tell you something else. I was once invited by one of the top Black people in New York, for a New Year’s party. You know, when a Jew invites me to a New Year’s Party I’m not going because it’s not our Yomtov. So with this brother, it’s his New Year – so he invites me, I’m going. And they have all those top rock bands. It was a big party in New York attended by all the top of the top Black community and humble me. It’s already 4:30 in the morning and my host says to me, ‘You have to stay, because I promised everyone that you will sing for us later.’ I say, ‘Listen I’m going. Believe me all the musicians here are so good, I’m not gonna make myself crazy.’ He says, ‘No Shlomo, you have to stay.’ Ok, at about 4:30 my host, who is one of my people, brought in some candles. Everybody sat on the floor and I began singing ‘Boi Beshalom’ (come in peace.) Very softly. It was awesome. We sat on the floor till 11:30 and you know their harmony is the best, so I realised that our music is good merchandise. I’ll tell you the truth, it hurts me when I hear people talking badly about Jews, it hurts me the same way when I hear Jews talking badly about other people because we are all princes. As much as we do have our differences, we are all G-d’s people made in G-d’s image.
Interviewer: You are not a psychic or a faith healer into reading auras, fortune telling or anything like that?
Shlomo: Basically in our tradition we are not permitted to go to a psychic. According to us you shouldn’t even know the future because the future is absolutely in G-d’s hands. What we can do is pray. What the world needs most is for people to be close to each other. Maybe it’s special to read auras but it’s more important, more special, to be close to other people at that moment. The world is getting better. What is stopping the progress of the world are the people who are stuck in their yesterdays. In the bible if you want to do something good it always says ‘ve-ata’ – right now. That means: forget about anything from yesterdays. Life is too short. After you fix the world you can talk about yesterday.
Interviewer: That’s not so easy.
Shlomo: It’s the hardest thing in the world. You know what it is! One part of me I have to make a living. I have to make money but this is not the real soul. The way G-d created the world is that I have to work to make a few rubles. But I wasn’t born just to make a few rubles. For that I could have stayed in heaven where there are no expenses. So I came to the world to do something. You know in our tradition, I’m sure in every tradition, besides having a calling for what I have to do with my life, there is also something else – What do I have to do this moment. And a person has to be aware of both. Sometime what I have to do this moment contradicts with what I have to do with my whole life, and that takes even more guts to do. So let’s hope we’ll do it! You see we are afraid of emptiness. So today I don’t have it yet, and if I give up my yesterday’s, so where do I stand? So it takes a lot of guts, a lot of inner strength to believe that right now I can relate to you. You know when I meet Germans, I can sit there and say, Oy Vey! Do you know what your grandfather did to my grandfather? You know I was twice in Poland and it was like after the Messiah had come. There was so much love between us because I didn’t say one word about yesterday. On the contrary, I told them that, because yesterday was so bad, can you imagine how good we have to make today?
I’ll tell you a good story. A lot of times I play in prisons. One time I’m playing and the prisoners begin dancing. I stop and say to the head man there, I say listen, I insist that the guards also dance with us because we need to make the world a better place. If it’s just the prisoners dancing it’s the same old world. The prisoners told me that this one guard is really a cruel woman and when it came to dancing with the prisoners she hesitated – holding back like an iceberg. I said to her, listen you are holding up the redemption of the world by not joining in. She reluctantly holds the hands of the other prisoners and suddenly a few minutes later I see she puts her arms around the prisoner’s shoulders – Just like two women, two human beings. You think that after the dancing she just grabbed her gun? No, she spoke to the prisoners, probably for the first time in her life.