Yud-Tes Kislev 5784

Holiday # 5 (336) Yud-Tes Kislev 5785 Shabbat, Dec. 2
Historical Background (short) Historical Episode (Long) Laws & Customs

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(short) - Yud-Tes Kislev

Yud-Tes Kislev, the “Rosh HaShanah of the Chassidic year,” falls this year on Wednesday night-Thursday, Dec. 7-8. 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 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 empty-handed.

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

At night:
* 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 Kislev
* 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

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