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Emanuel radiated light. He had a mystical quality about him, a kind of otherworldliness. In his presence, you felt like you were in a whole other dimension of reality. Never a dull moment, always an adventure. Every day was Purim. Every night, Simchat Torah.

Tragically, Emanuel’s life was cut short. He is survived by his loving wife and four beautiful children.

Shortly after Emanuel’s passing, I shared his story — and this song — with a videographer friend in Melbourne. I wanted to shoot a music video as a memorial of sorts for Emanuel. The story and project resonated deeply with my friend, and he generously took on the project as a pro bono job. We chose our location, a beautiful bushland property near Dalyesford, Victoria, where I’d gone camping with my bandmate Zev Gelber. We had an amazing full afternoon on set, drinking l’chaims, learning Torah inside a teepee, playing music in the winter rain. As the sun set, we built a massive bonfire and jammed out the outro niggun while jumping over and through the fire. It was all captured in stunning slow-motion HD at 2000 frames per second. It was nothing short of epic.

I waited eagerly to see the first draft of the edit, but my videographer friend had gone cold. I heard nothing. A few weeks later he called me, devastated. The entire footage had became corrupted. It was impossible to recover. He even paid out of pocket for a team of people to work on the hard drive remotely from a lab in Europe. There was nothing that could be done.

He is a high-end wedding videographer, and this had never ever happened to him before. He was heartbroken. And so was I.

Then I realized that Emanuel, somewhere out there in the universe, was pulling the strings. I really felt his presence in the footage being unusable. The band and film crew had a magical day, as close to perfect as you could get. I felt we could never have a day with that kind of energy again. At the same time, I was getting the sense that Emanuel wanted us to have the day in our memory etched as a moment in time, not recorded on film, but lived in our conciseness.

Two weeks before making aliyah, we reshot the music video at another location. This time it was summer. The bushfire danger was high so we couldn’t light a fire. Instead we took a different direction with the video. Nature shots, trees, warm light. For the outro niggun that closed the song, we jumped into a creek.

In this chain of events too, I felt Emanuel. It occurred to me that maybe he wanted to be remembered differently than what we had planned on, the footage we had shot. Rather than the cold of winter and a raging fire, he chose to be remembered in the light of summer and the calm of water. It’s just a thought, I’ll never know.

I will forever regret not being closer with Emanuel toward the end of his life. Sure, we lived in different states, so we didn’t really have a chance to see each other, but I could have called him more often. Our last conversation remains vivid in my memory. He went on one of his legendary stream-of-conciousness monologues and told me an very elaborate parable by the Baal Shem Tov. I don’t remember all the details. It was about kings and queens, suffering and melancholy, about love and divorce. The parable was hard to follow, and seemed to defy logic, but at the end of the parable everything became clear. It was once of those stories that only make sense in retrospect.

That was the last time I spoke with Emanuel. It was a mystical moment, a taste of prohpecy. In his last words to me, it was as if he knew that his time was running out. The parable was more like a prayer than a story. Perhaps one of the deepest prayers a human being is capable of making:

“Master of the world, promise me that one day, I will be able to make sense of everything you have made me endure.”

This song and video are dedicated to Emanuel Krassenstein. May his memory be for a blessing.

LYRICS

I’m just hanging on
By the loosest thread
If you let me go, I’ll fall down low,
fall down low, my friend
Am I the only one who still believes in you
If you let me go, I’ll fall down low,
fall down low, my friend

Lift up your hands and hold me
Tell me that you’re here
and if you’re out there, show me
give me a sign
‘Cause I’m feeling alone, my friend
feeling alone, my friend

It doesn’t matter where you are
I feel your presence from afar
you comfort me when I’m in pain

I call out softly to your name
I call out
to you, to you, to you

Lightning crashes on my hill
burning out my deepest will
tears are streaming down my face
searching for some sacred space

I call out to you, to you, to you
I call out to you, to you, to you

NIGGUN