I had the opportunity to meet Ben Zion Chroman many times in Beijing on Shabbos during the past two years. I always will remember his intense concentration and kavana in his tefillah, especially Shmoneh Esrei. At the Shabbos meals he just loved to sing the Carlebach niggunim. His favorite melody was “Kol haolam kulo gesher tzar me’od, ve-haikar lo lefached kla,” meaning “This world is just but a narrow bridge and there is nothing to fear.” He would start singing in a very low melodious voice, which would get louder and stronger as he repeated those words with such emotion from the depth of his neshama, getting all present at the table to join in with him.
It was apparent to me that he loved all Jews even though he was a Bobover chassid with a streimel. Rabbi Teitelbaum, who used to sit opposite him at the Shabbos table, would be enthralled by his chaver’s sweet voice and join in as well with all the niggunim. It so happens that I grew up in Far Rockaway, NY, where I davened in Kehilas Yaakov by the Sulitzer Rebbi, the grandfather of Rabbi Teitlebaum, and where my parents still daven. I am sure that both kedoshim gave their lives while singing “ve-ha-ikar lo le-fached klal.”
Hashem yinakem damam…
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