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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Week 12 (Book 4): The Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut

12 And it came to pass, as she prayed long before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth.         


PROVERBS: Chapter 12

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuz (18th of Kislev) and Rebbe Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch (19th of Kislev)

Week 12 is the week of Yud-Tes Kislev. The verse from the story of Channah is about her increased/extensive prayer, and of how Eli, the Kohen Gadol watched (lit. guarded) her mouth. The story behind of Yud-Tes Kislev begins with a heavenly decree against the Alter Rebbe for revealing the secrets of Chassidut, which manifested itself in his physical imprisonment for 53 days, due to bogus charges of treason against the Czar. During those days, the Alter Rebbe was visited by the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch (whose yahrzeit is on Yud-Tes Kislev), and the Alter Rebbe was told that not only was he absolved of the heavenly decree, but that he should increase his teaching and revealing of Chassidut. With the approval now from his masters, who “watched” the Alter Rebbe’s mouth, the Rebbe’s approach to teaching Chassidut became much more expansive. Chassidim refer to the difference in approaches as “before Petersburg” and “after Petersburg,” the place of his imprisonment.

The Pirkei Avot adjective associated to this week is that Torah makes him fit to be “pious,” in Hebrew, Chassid. Yud-Tes Kislev is known as the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut. Channah’s behavior in the above story is extremely pious.

Chapter 12 of the Book of Proverbs continues to contrast the actions of the righteous and the wicked. The qualities of being righteous (Tzadik, last week’s) and being pious (Chassid) are quite similar. The main difference is that the Chassid goes above the letter of the law in order to please the Creator. There are more than a few examples of qualities associated with a Chassid in Chapter 12:

2. A good man will obtain favor of the Lord, but a man of evil devices will condemn.(...)
10. A righteous man has regard for the desire of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.(...)
26. The righteous is more generous than his neighbor, and the way of the wicked will lead them astray. (...)
28. In the road of charity is life, and [on] the way of its path there is no death. 

As mentioned in the past weeks, the contrast between the righteous and the wicked is one of the main themes of Chanukah. The above verses also draw a contrast between the Alter Rebbe and those that slandered him and caused his imprisonment.

As mentioned previously, Yud-Tes Kislev is the day of the liberation of the Alter Rebbe, and is called the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut. This week contains two yahrzeits very much associated with the Chassidic movement in general, and with the Alter Rebbe in particular.

The 18th of Kislev is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuz, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. He was also a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, and one of the most prominent rebbes in the times of the Alter Rebbe. In fact, when the Alter Rebbe was freed on Yud-Tes Kislev, he wrote to Rabbi Baruch describing the great miracles that occurred at the time.[1] The Alter Rebbe was also once challenged by Rabbi Baruch, to whom he is said to have replied, "You may be his grandson in a physical sense; I am his grandson in a spiritual sense."[2]

As also mentioned above, Yud-Tes Kislev is the yahrzeit of the Maggid of Mezritch himself. The Maggid also is quoted as saying: "Rebbe Zalmanyu [the Alter Rebbe] has the feelings of a son. I was like a son to my Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov, and he is like my son."[3]

The Maggid of Mezritch was the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. It goes without saying that he was a tremendous genius and authority in both the hidden as well as the revealed aspects of the Torah. His disciples (other than the Alter Rebbe and Rebbe Baruch of Medzhibuz) became the leaders of the Chassidic movement, such as Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk and his brother, Rav Zusia of Anipoli, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk; Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Rebbe Aharon of Karlin, Rebbe Shmuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg and his brother, Rebbe Pinchas Horowitz of Frankfurt, and many others.[4]

The following account also illustrates just how great the Maggid’s role was in the Alter Rebbe’s redemption:

When the Maggid was on his deathbed, 18 Kislev 1772, the Maggid's son, Rebbe Avraham the Malach, was by his side, along with Rebbe Yehuda Leib HaCohen and Rebbe Schneur Zalman...

...He then turned to Rebbe Schneur Zalman. "Zalmanyu," he said, "give me your hand. You will remain alone, you are for yourself - you have your own way. You will need a lot of help from Heaven. I will yearn for you very much, and G-d willing, I will save you from all your troubles."

According to the Chabad tradition, he also said to him before his passing: "This day is our Yom Tov (festival)."

Other yahrzeits this week include those of Rabbi Baruch son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager of Vizhnitz  (the “Imrei Boruch,” 20th of Kislev) and  Rabbi Yochanan Twersky (the 5th Rebbe of Rachmastrivka, 20th of Kislev), and sometimes Rabbi Yochanan Perlow son of Rabbi Yisrael of Stolin-Lutzk (21st of Kislev).

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