The Rebbe's transformation of "La Marseillaise" into a Chassidic melody is a testament to the power of music in spiritual warfare. * The French national anthem, reimagined as a tool for Jewish redemption, symbolizes the Rebbe's enduring connection to French Jewry.
In the heart of Brooklyn, New York, on Simchat Torah 5734 (1973), an extraordinary event unfolded. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, introduced a new Chassidic song to the tune of "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem. This was not just a spontaneous act of creativity, but a deliberate and profound statement about the transformative power of music and its role in spiritual warfare.
The article "The Rebbe's Transformation of the French National Anthem" (Chabad .org) delves into this fascinating episode in the Rebbe's life and his unique relationship with France and its Jewish community. The Rebbe and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, lived in France for most of the 1930s and had a special attachment to the French Jewish community. In 1968, he sent Rabbi Shmuel "Moulé" Azimov and his wife, Bassie, to lead Chabad's activities in Paris.
The Rebbe's mission for French Jews was clear: to lead a spiritual revolution against the Yetzer Harah (evil inclination) and greet Moshiach (the Messiah) with joy and inspiration. He envisioned France as a bastion of G-dliness in the world.
This approach is rooted in the Chassidic tradition of subverting non-Jewish songs for holy purposes. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad, set a precedent by co-opting the tune of Napoleon's March during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. The Rebbe explained that he wanted to elevate "La Marseillaise" and use it as a tool for Jewish redemption.
The Torah verse "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Deuteronomy 6:5) is interpreted by Rashi to mean that we should use everything we have for the service of God, including things that seem secular or mundane. This is exactly what the Rebbe did with "La Marseillaise."
In conclusion, this story serves as a reminder that everything in our world can be used for a higher purpose. It encourages us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes and find ways to elevate them towards holiness. As we approach the era of Moshiach, let us remember the Rebbe's message and strive to transform our own "Marseillaises" into songs of redemption.