Stoty about Bob Dylan

From the book “REB SHLOMO, The life and Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld” by Rabbi Yisroel Besser, page 145-146.

One of the most interesting episodes in Sh’or Yoshuv history is the much-discussed encounter between the celebrated secular singer Bob Dylan and Reb Shlomo.

There was a young ba’alas teshuva who had grown close to Rebbetzin Freifeld, and when she found her match, the Yeshiva hosted asheva brachos for her. Among the guests that she invited were two colleagues from her previous life, Bob Dylan and the poet Alan Ginsberg.

The way that Reb Shlomo dealt with the visit of the pop music icon to his Yeshiva taught his boys much about his outlook on that world.

One of those talmidim recalled that day. “To us, Bob Dylan was more than just a celebrity. We lived with his music; he was larger than life and Reb Shlomo knew that. Yet Reb Shlomo called me in before the sheva brachos and informed me in no uncertain terms that there would be no adulation or admiration for the singer whatsoever.

“’This is a yeshiva he said, ‘and here we give respect to talmidei chachamim, not rock singers.’

“Reb Shlomo told me that, as a big, strong boy, I was in charge of ensuring that no reporters would be allowed in. He also instructed the bachurim that they were not to approach Dylan for an autograph. He told us that we should all say hello, we should all be polite, but nothing that smelled of hero-worship would be tolerated.”

The participants in that sheva brachos will never forget the evening. There, in the hot, crowded Yeshiva dining room, they sat for hours, Bob Dylan and Alan Ginsberg, two Yiddishe neshamos who bad been swallowed up by the decadence and hedonism of American culture.

They were mesmerized as they listened to Reb Shlomo’s speech and were moved by the stirring music of R’ Shmuel Brazil. R’ Shmuelrecalls how Reb Shlomo told him which song to play, the niggun to Libi Uvesari Y’ranenu L’Kel Chai composed by R’ Meir Shapiro, which he played for a long time.

The guests joined the bachurim in spirited dancing and ate the simple Yeshiva fare. For one glorious night, the complications and struggles of their lives were left outside in the winter night as they encountered true Yiddishkeit.

In the days that followed, Dylan came to speak with Reb Shlomo. One frosty evening, he left Reb Shlomo’s home and commented toa reporter that “it may be dark and snowy outside, but inside that house, it’s so light.”

According to testimony of the people who were involved at the time, the singer first offered to host a concert to benefit the Yeshiva, an offer that Reb Shlomo refused.

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