(short) - Yud-Tes Kislev
Yud-Tes Kislev, the “Rosh HaShanah of the Chassidic year,”
falls this year on Wednesday night-Thursday, Dec. 10-11. It is the yartzeit
of Rabbi DovBer (c.1700-1772), the “Maggid” of Mezritch, successor to the
Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder of the Chassidic movement; the anniversary
of the miraculous release of the founder of the Chabad dynasty, Rabbi Shneur
Zalman (1745-1812), from Russian prison in 1798 on charges of treason; and
the publication date in 1796 of his famous book of Chassidism (and Kabbalah,
psychology and ethics): Tanya.
(long) - Yud-Tes Kislev
THE BLACK CARRIAGE
[The Yud-Tes Kislev festival commemorates the day of the miraculous
release of the first Chabad Rebbe from Russian prison. This story of the
first 24 hours of his arrest was assembled by Ascent editor Yrachmiel
Tilles from several published sources.]
During Chol HaMoed Sukkos 5558 (1798), a special armed officer
arrived in Liozna to arrest Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder
of the Chabad movement. Deciding that it would be advisable at this point
to fulfill the verse "Hide yourself for a brief moment," the
Rebbe slipped out of a side door. The officer returned to his headquarters
Back in the house, the Rebbe decided that if the agent were to return,
he would allow himself to be arrested. Some say that he decided this only
after consultation with Rabbi Shmuel Munkes, one of his close chassidim,
who happened to be in the house at the time. Amazingly, R. Shmuel said
to the Rebbe, "If you are a true Rebbe, you have nothing to fear
by being arrested. If you are not, you deserve whatever they will do to
you (!), for what right did you have to deprive thousands of Chassidim
from enjoying the pleasures of this world?"
When the officer appeared on the day after Simchat Torah, which
fell on Thursday that year, the Rebbe did not hide. Within a few hours
he was already seated in the infamous "Black Mary," the carriage
which was reserved by the Czarist regime for rebels who were under capital
sentence. Covered on all sides with heavy black metal panels, and with
no windows whatever, it was designed to cast dread on all those who saw
it. Guarded by heavily armed soldiers, the ironclad black carriage pulled
out of Liozna on Thursday night and clanked its fearsome way down the
highway to St. Petersburg, via Vitebsk and Nevel.
At half past ten the next morning, some six hours before candle-lighting
time, the Rebbe asked that they stop where they were until after Shabbos.
The officer in charge ignored his request. A moment later the axles of
the carriage broke. No sooner had they repaired them, than one of the
horses collapsed and died. Fresh horses were brought, but they could not
move the carriage from its place. By this time the gendarmes gathered
that it would be impossible to press on with their journey against the
Rebbe's will, so they asked their prisoner if they could detour to a nearby
village, and spend the next day there. The Rebbe refused, but did agree
that the carriage be moved off the highway to an adjacent field.
The spot at which the Alter Rebbe spent that Shabbos is about three miles
from the village of Seliba-Rudnia, which is near the town of Nevel. An
old chassid who survived into the twentieth century - Reb Michael of
Nevel - used to relate that he knew chassidim who were able to point
out the exact spot at which the Rebbe had spent that lonely Shabbos. He
himself had gone there to see it with his own eyes. All the way there
he had seen old and drooping trees on both sides of the road, but that
memorable spot was marked by a tall tree with luxuriant foliage.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Lubavitch,
records that when this old man from Nevel used to recall that moment and
describe the spot in full detail, he would do so with inspired excitement
and awe. And the Rebbe added that the sight of the tree did more for arousing
the soul of this chassid of a bygone age than Torah-study or prayer does
to certain chassidim today!
Some Laws and Customs - Yud-Tes Kislev
What to Do on Yud-Tes Kislev
* Go to your favorite Lubavitcher's house, or with him or her to the
party he is attending. If you don't know one, get in touch with the
nearest official Chabad person.
* Demand to hear the whole story.
* Say "l'chayim."
* Sing along.
* Make a good resolution in connection to Torah-and-mitzvot.
In the day:
* Start on your resolution.
* Check out Tanya and HaYom Yom.
* Give extra tzedakah ("charity")
* Try to help a fellow Jew.
English sources for the historical events of Yud-Tes
* Arrest and Liberation (Kehot)
* Philosophy of Chabad, vol 2 (Kehot)
* Treasury of Chassidic Tales on the Festivals (Artscroll)
Chag Samayach - Have a joyous holiday!
The ASCENT staff
Previous year's Yud-Tes Kislev