On Shabbat afternoons, once the services in the Rebbe’s study-hall had finished, thousands of people remained behind to eat their Shabbat meal there. Everyone would try to make sure that they got the best seats, and there would be great anticipation as they waited for the farbrengen to begin.
The farbrengen is a unique concept within Chabad Chassidut. It is a fusion between words of Torah and Chassidut, commentary and thought, interspersed with singing and saying “lechaim” with the Rebbe. Chabad Chassidim await these occasions eagerly, because it is such an inspiring, uplifting spiritual experience.
When the Rebbe entered the hall and took his place, he would make Kiddush on wine and the crowd would start to sing. Then, silence would reign as the Rebbe started to speak. He spoke pleasantly, without faltering, or any rhetoric. The crowd would listen intently, and would always find what he had to say inspiring and heartwarming.
Such farbrengens could go on for three or four hours, and during the festivals they sometimes lasted as long as seven or eight hours. The subjects discussed by the Rebbe were an entire world, including the weekly Torah portion, concepts in Jewish law, new commentaries on various complicated ideas in all aspects of the Torah, timely answers to various disputes, and more.
As Shabbat went out, the “chozerim,” people who are blessed with a good memory and a deep level of understanding, would transcribe what had been said during the farbrengens, including the sources on which the Rebbe based his words. These transcriptions were then sent into the Rebbe, who would read them and add his annotations and any additional sources.
These transcriptions were then published in booklets, thousands of copies of which were distributed to the Chassidim, including those who had not attended the original farbrengen. At the end of the year, these booklets were bound into four volumes.
Apart from giving over his teachings at these public farbrengens, the Rebbe also wrote many books. Even today, only a fraction of his writings has been published, and together these comprise dozens of volumes containing a treasury of divrei Torah, Chassidus, commentary, and analysis.
Today, the Rebbe’s works are found in every Jewish home. Torah scholars around he world continue to collect the Rebbe’s writings and publish many works representing his worldview.
Even in history, it is hard to find a Torah luminary whose spiritual work encompasses such a broad scope as that of the Rebbe. It is not for nothing that he is known as the greatest expounder of Torah among the recent generations.