Shlomo Carlebach's ancestors comprised one of the oldest rabbinical dynasties in pre-Holocaust Germany. He was born January 14, 1925 in Berlin, where his father, Rabbi Hartwig Naftali Carlebach (1889-1967), was an Orthodox rabbi. The family fled the Nazis in 1931 and lived in Baden bei Wien, Austria and by 1933 in Switzerland before coming to New York City.
Carlebach emigrated to Lithuania in 1938 where he studied at a yeshiva. In 1938 his father became the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jacob, a small synagogue on West 79th Street in New York's Upper West Side. Carlebach came to New York in 1939 via Great Britain. He and his twin brother Eli Chaim took over the rabbinate of the synagogue after their father's death in 1967.
Carlebach studied at several high-level Orthodox yeshivos, including Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, New York, and Bais Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. His voice and musical talents were recognized quite early during his days in yeshiva, when he was often chosen to lead the services as a popular Chazan ("cantor") for Jewish holidays.
As is engraved on his tombstone, he became a devoted hasid of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. From 1951-1954, he subsequently worked as one of the first emissaries (shluchim) of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, until he departed to form his successful model for outreach, reaching hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide.
In 1972 he married Elaine Neila Glick, a teacher. They had two daughters, Nedara (Dari) and Neshama. Neshama Carlebach is a songwriter and singer with a substantial following who has written and sung many songs in her father's style.
Carlebach died suddenly of a heart attack on 20 October 1994 while traveling on an airplane to relatives in Canada. Seated next to him was the Skverer Rebbe's gabbai; they were singing the Rebbe's favorite melody, Chasdei Hashem ki lo Samnu ["G-d's lovingkindness does not end"].
Carlebach was very close with many famous hasidic rebbes, including the Amshinover Rebbe and Bobover Rebbe. He is regarded as one of the most successful kiruv personalities of the 20th century, reaching many Jewish souls through his music, storytelling, and teaching.
From the teachings of Reb Shlomo:
REBUKE YOUR FELLOW MAN IF YOU SEE HIM DOING WRONG
If you see someone doing wrong, you have to tell him. You have to tell him. You have no right to remain silent. If someone sees his friend walking in the wrong path, it is a mitzva to talk to him, tell him he is doing wrong, but it has to be done in private. Don't tell someone in public that he did wrong, because if you do, you are transgressing about fifteen laws. The G'mora says it's very easy to keep Shabbos, very easy to put on t'fillin, but Rabbi Akiva says the hardest thing is to tell someone when he is doing wrong. Rabbi Akiva was very holy, and he said, "I don't know if there is anyone in my generation who would know how to rebuke." You have to do it in a way that he listens to. Rabbi Tarphon said there is no one who knows how to receive rebuke either.
Both are really hard things to do. Before you tell him what he did wrong you have to tell him, "I am saying it to you because I am really your friend, I am concerned. It is not that I can't stand sin, like a missionary, that I want to abolish sin in the world. I really care for you, and it hurts me that you did wrong." Say to the person, "I don't want to change you. I'm not putting you down on a couch and analyzing you. I care for you, and it seems to me that you did wrong, so can you tell me why?"
Then he can tell you, "I know I did wrong. I'm sorry, and I probably won't do it again." Or he can tell you, "I didn't do wrong. You are wrong, because you don't know the whole story."
In any case, there has to be communication. What is communication for? Why did G-d give us the power of speech? The Torah is very strong on communication. I have the right to hate someone who did wrong, but if I didn't tell him, I'm transgressing. If the person accepts what you tell him, it is good; if not, tell him a few times. If he says, "I don't want to hear you; I don't want you to talk about it to me anymore,"then you don't have to grab him, tie him to a chair; you don't have to be drastic. Talk to him like a human being.
The Torah wasn't given to the angels. G-d gave the Torah to human beings. There is such a thing as hating; what can we do? Moishe Rabbenu came up to Sinai, and the angels were complaining to G-d, "Why are You giving the Torah to Moishe? Why aren't You giving it to us?" G-d said to them, "There is no hatred between you, so you don't need the Torah. They need the Torah below, because there is hatred in the world." So the Torah says if you hate someone, you have to talk to him. Imagine, if every anti-Semite took the time to talk to one Jew there would be less killing in the world. If everyone followed this one thing: if you hate somebody, talk with him, make contact with him, it would be a different world. If you want it to work, it will work.
The G'mora and Maimonides both say that if I see someone doing wrong and I don't tell him, then I become a partner in the sin. The G'mora says if I see the people of my house are doing wrong, and I don't tell them, I become a partner. If I see the people of my city doing wrong and I'm not raising my voice, I'm becoming a partner in what the city is doing. If the whole world is doing wrong, and I'm not speaking up, then I'm becoming a partner in the sin of the whole world.
This is one of my favorite stories. Once I was visiting my cousins in Belgium, and when they invited me for dinner, they said because of me they would eat kosher. So I come to see what is going on there, what they are going to be feeding me. "Because of you it will be really strictly kosher. We know you don't eat ham, so we bought horsemeat." What if I take out a bible, because you have to tell people when they do wrong. "Sit down you dirty sinners. You know horsemeat isn't. . ." Naturally this does not go. It says to rebuke, and that is not the level of rebuking. They don't know anything, so you can't rebuke them. It says you have to tell them in such a way that they know you care for them. If I say, "I am here for Shabbos, and it makes me uncomfortable that you don't keep Shabbos,"that means I don't give a damn about their Shabbos, just about my own. It is a very delicate thing.
The truth is, most of the time people know when they do wrong, they just don't have the strength not to do it. When you tell people they are doing wrong in a good way, it gives them strength not to do it again. The Mittler Rebbe says it suddenly becomes like two souls against one evil. If I'm too weak to overcome my evil, the minute someone tells me it is like two fires against one darkness. But it is hard to know how to tell people in a good way.
A Niggun is a Chassidic melody, often wordless and repeated several times, which is intended to express and stir one’s soul. Considered a path to higher consciousness and transformation of being.
The Story of the Krakow Niggun
Carlebach performing ''Krakow Niggun''