Weekly Chasidic Story #1171 (s5780-34/ 24 Iyar, 5780 / May 18, 2020) Next week

Four Layers Of Moon And Handkerchief

The chances to recite the Sanctification of the New Moon prayer seemed slim; the sky was covered with thick clouds, the moon was not sufficiently visible.

Connection: Seasonal - Iyar 29 (this Friday), is the 170th yahrzeit of the Primishlaner Rebbe.



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Four Layers of Moon and Handkerchief

On Saturday night, 9 Kislev 5712 (Dec. 8, 1951. the Lubavitcher Rebbe had just finished praying Maariv in "770" (Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn NY -- Lubavitch/Chabad World Headquarters). He went out to the street with his chasidim to recite the Kiddush Levanah ("Sanctification of the New Moon") prayer. However, the chances of being able to accomplish this appeared to be very slim, because the sky was covered with thick clouds, and the moon must be entirely visible for this prayer to be said.

The Rebbe turned towards the assembled crowd and related a story from the time of the Rebbe Rashab.

"Once, in [the village of] Lubavitch [in White Russia], the last possible night for Kiddush Levanah arrived (for after that it would be a full moon), yet the moon was not visible. The worried chasidim wrote a note of request about this and submitted it to the Rebbe Rashab.

"The Rebbe Rashab came out to the courtyard with a handkerchief in his hand, and began to tell a story to the chasidim that gathered around:

"'The chasidim of the great tzadik Rabbi Meir of Premishlan once submitted a letter to their Rebbe when the moon was not visible for Kiddush Levanah. Reb Meir'el (as he was affectionately known) came out holding a handkerchief and said:

"'When the Jewish people were in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt, surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, how could they see the moon through the clouds in order to perform Kidush Levanah?

"'He explained: Moshe Rabeinu would go out, followed by the entire nation, wave his handkerchief back and forth, and the clouds would part….

"'Reb Meir'el demonstrated with his handkerchief what Moshe Rabeinu would do, and to everyone's great astonishment, the clouds immediately parted and the whole moon became visible!

"The Rebbe Rashab related this story to his Chassidim, and also demonstrated with his handkerchief how Reb Meir'el had done it. The miracle happened again, the clouds parted and the moon became visible!"

When the Rebbe concluded the story, he turned to the chasidim around him and said: "If there are Jews here that can do similar things, perhaps we will be able to do Kiddush Levanah tonight."

One of the chasidim, Rabbi Y. G., couldn't restrain himself and exclaimed: "The Rebbe!"

The Rebbe responded to him with a smile, "My job is only to tell the story."

The Rebbe then said, "I'll be back soon", and he left to make Havdalah for his mother, Rebbetzin Chanah, who one street away.

It turned out that unlike with Moshe Rabeinu, Reb Meir'el of Premishlan and the Rebbe Rashab, this time there was no need to even wave the handkerchief. By the time the Rebbe returned a few minutes later, the skies were already clear, and the Rebbe and the chasidim revited Kiddush Levanah together.

Source: Toras Menachem, Motzai Shabbos Vayeitzei 5712. Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the English translation of ??? (I don't remember; does anyone recognize it?)

Editor's note: An anonymous subscriber e-mailed to inform me
"I remember this story from many years ago (40+), and Rabbi Menachem-Ze'ev "Wolf" Greenglass from Montreal was there. It was Rav Greenglass who waved his handkerchief and the clouds cleared. He always said that he did it on the Rebbe's behalf, but after that he was called 'the Rebbe's Kabbalist."

Connection: Seasonal - Iyar 29 (this Friday), is the 170th yahrzeit of the Primishlaner Rebbe.

Biographical notes (in order of appearance):
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson [may his merit protect us: 11 Nissan 5662 - 3 Tammuz 5754 (April 1902 - June 1994 C.E.)], became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law's passing on 10 Shvat 5710 (1950 C.E.). He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century C.E. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.

Rabbi Sholom-Dovber Schneersohn [of blessed memory: 20 Cheshvan 5621 - 2 Nissan 5680 (Oct. 1860 - April 1920)], known as the Rebbe Reshab, was the fifth Rebbe of the Lubavitcher dynasty. He is the author of hundreds of major tracts in the exposition of Chassidic thought. In 1915, after 102 years of four Chabad rebbes living in Lubavitch, he transferred the center of the movement to Rostov-on-the-Don.

Rabbi Meir of Premishlan [of blessed memory: ? - 29 Iyar 5610 (? - May 1850 C.E.)], lived in abject but uncomplaining poverty, yet exerted himself tirelessly for the needy and the suffering. His ruach hakodesh (prophetic spirit) and his ready wit have become legendary. He wrote no works, but some of his teachings were collected and published by his chasidim after his death.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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