Eulogy for Reb Shlomo Carlebach
Eulogy for Reb Shlomo Carlebach

I believe that I will not have fulfilled my duty if I do not speak for many who need to beg for forgiveness from HaRav Shlomo Carlebach. We did not relate to him with enough respect,

His was a soul from the world of nobility and purity, the world of awe, of melody, and of intimacy with the Divine.

we did not value him sufficiently, we did not guard the honor which he never sought but to which he was truly entitled.

I ask forgiveness and pardon in the name of those who are present here and in the name of the many who should have been present here but did not come. They will come to value this great soul who moved among us: a soul from the world of nobility and purity, the world of awe, of melody, and of intimacy with the Divine.

Perhaps the name Carlebach is not familiar to the young among you, but those of us who are older know his roots: he came from one of the most aristocratic families in the world of Torah, the world of Judaism before the Akeda, before the Holocaust.

[R. Shlomo] belonged to all worlds, even though sometimes it appeared he belonged to none.  More than once, when we’d meet on an airplane, it seemed that he had no ally but his guitar. But he belonged to all worlds. He was a true ben-Torah alongside R. Aharon Kotler of Lakewood Yeshiva, who today stands ready to greet him, he was a household member in the home  of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who today stands ready to greet him. [R. Shlomowas also a Bratslaver, and, no doubt, Rabbi Nachman rejoices today that this great soul has arrived on high.

I see Shloimele in Russia, before any of us had the chance to get there where souls were being lost at the murderous pace of a thousand a day. Then this young man showed up with his guitar. They’d [not] seen anyone looking like this - a beard and sidelocks, a fringed garment. From these encounters came the song that the whole Jewish world knows: Od Avinu Chai (Our Father still lives). [Shlomo] came to them as if to tell them: The people of Israel lives! Why?  Because Our Father lives. They didn’t understand  his words, but they understood his soul. No dictionary is needed for the language of feelings. They absorbed [R. Shlomo's] language more than they did our rabbinic speeches,  the language of the heart.

You all just sang Mizmor leDovid, a Psalm of David. More than twenty years ago, I had the honor of hosting [R. Shlomo] until four in the morning in my house in Tel Aviv. He said to me, Yisrael, you are a child of the Holocaust. I want to sing you a melody and there, on the spot, he composed a melody  to the words of one verse in Psalms: “Even though I walk

They didn’t always understand his words, but they understood his soul.

in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” This is what sustained [R. Shlomo] all over the world: on the campuses of Berkeley;  the campuses of England, France, Austria, Germany, South Africa, and Australia; in places so far-flung that the name of Israel was barely remembered there. R. Shlomo stood up and returned so many people to the embrace of Judaism and helped so many turn back from disoriented lives.

I remember the first time he appeared at Zion-America House, which at the time still had no roof. He began with the song Essa Einai (I lift my eyes to the mountains), and we answered him with Shomer Yisrael (Guardian of Israel, guard the remnant of Israel). It was a period of terrorism and loss, but he sang Yisrael, Betach BaHaShem, Ezram uMaginam Hu (Nation of Israel, trust in the Lord; He is [Israel's] help and shield). He made us all take a leap into the holiness of the Sabbath with his Sabbath melodies, and today we accompany him into the day that is all rest and peace, to the life of eternity.

R. Shlomo was a great soul, a quintessential soul. Only once in a generation does such a soul appear. Who knows whence it is drawn? From the higher worlds, perhaps.

There are four species used on the Sukkot (Tabernacle) holiday: the Etrog (citron), the Lulav (palm branch) , the Hadas (myrtle), and the Arava (willow). Their initials spell out Aaleh (I shall ascend). [R. Shlomo], today you have ascended.

The Hadas is an interwoven branch. Three leaves in a row emerge from the stalk at the same spot. The three leaves are three hearts, the three loves which we have been commanded to attain.

First, Veahavta et Hashem Elokecha (You shall love the Lord your G-d)  Second, Veahavta leReacha kamocha (Love your neighbor as yourself) . Third,  Uverachta et Hashem Elokecha al haaretz hatova asher natan lach  (Bless the Lord your G-d for the good Land which He has given you),  the love of the Land of Israel.

[R. Shlomo], you were a wise Hadas, whose sweet fragrance was widely diffused. You were a Hadas who possessed all three leaves, and all of them grew intertwined from the same root that is in all of Israel. [You had] a powerful love for the Holy One, Blessed be He, boundless love of Torah, and an unparalleled love for the Land of Israel. R. Shlomo’s love of Israel, love for every grain of dust of the Land of Israel was because he was connected to every letter of Torah, to every soul in the nation, and to every clump of earth in the land.

Today, as accompanied by your good name you go to the higher world, surrounded by the love of your friends, your students, and people who esteem you, the clumps of earth of the Holy Land that you so love will sing sweetly for you.

Like your prayers at the Western Wall, your Friday nights at the Western Wall,  it is into

Every song, every letter, every note, is a testimony to the great soul whom we were privileged to know.

your own Sabbath eves singing  Rav lach shevet (Cease your dwelling in the vale of tears, come arise from the ruins), and Mikdash Melech ( Temple of the King) that you are entering today in the higher worlds.

May your pure, refined soul be intertwined in eternal life.

You had a soul seen once in many generations, it had the power to sustain many souls in Israel.Your songs are your living, ongoing monuments, unlike a stationary tombstone.  The entire Jewish world for generations to come will be a melodic memorial  for you, as it is written “I shall give him an eternal name which cannot be cut off”. Every song, every letter, every note, is a testimony to the great soul whom we were privileged to know, the soul of HaRav Shlomo Carlebach, may he be eternally blessed.