# 421(s5766-11/13 Kislev)

Telephone from Heaven

He recalled the festive meal which was prepared every Yud-tet Kislev in his grandfather's little shul.

Telephone From Heaven

In St. Petersburg nearly a hundred years ago there lived a very wealthy man of about fifty, who had been born into a family of Chabad chasidim from Mohilev. He himself was by now not only far from the traditions of his family, but indeed far from observance of the mitzvot altogether. At the age of fourteen he had already found his way somehow to the big city where he had succumbed to the pressures of the time and the place, until eventually he even desecrated the Shabbat publicly, ate unkosher food, and so on.

Nevertheless, since his roots had been in a family of prominent disciples of the tzadikim of the Chabad dynasty, when pictures of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his grandson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the first and third Rebbes, first became available, he commissioned a celebrated artist to make copies for him, which he framed and hung in his private library.

The more he prospered, the more he became assimilated. His sons were given Russian names, they received secular education, and the only callers in his house were either Christians, or Jews like him who had forgotten their background.

One day the urgency of a certain business matter involving a local chasid demanded that he go see the other man personally at home. As he walked inside, he saw tables set as if for a festival, and the whole household, rollicking with joyful singing. Seeing his guest arriving, the host immediately rose to welcome him, ushered him into his office, and they discussed their business affairs.

That done, the guest took the liberty of asking: "Excuse me, but what is the celebration in there? Is it perhaps a family occasion, for which I could wish you Mazal Tov?"

"Yes," replied the host, "it is indeed a family celebration, a genuine simcha. Right now we are conversing by telephone with our fathers and grandfathers in the Garden of Eden. And we were so glad to hear regards from there that we decided to turn on a feast!"

The guest, of course, had no idea what he was expected to say in response to this kind of talk.
Seeing his embarrassment the host continued: "Today is Yud-tet Kislev. In Gan Eden, the abode of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, there is a great deal of rejoicing. All the tzadikim have assembled there in order to wish him Mazal Tov on the anniversary of his liberation in 1798, and on the tens of thousands of people who have become chasidim. Our fathers and grandfathers who used to travel long distances to visit the rebbes of their respective generations are there too for the big celebration, and we, their children and grandchildren, are rejoicing together with them over this festival which is both theirs and ours."

These words drove deep into the heart of that magnate. He recalled his childhood, when chasidic get-togethers, farbrengens, just like this one used to take place in his own father's house. He felt a powerful urge to join in with those happy chasidim, if only for a moment. But then again, he felt himself to be so strange and remote from their lifestyle that he could not summon the strength to express his wish. He almost felt ashamed of himself. How could he, who ate trefa food and who desecrated the Shabbat, join in with this pious brotherhood of chasidim?

The host had the sensitivity to rise to the occasion unasked, and while inviting him to join the celebration for a moment, said: "By the way, my friend, while you're in there you'll get regards from your father and your grandfather too!"

And he saw to it that his guest should feel as if -- literally -- at home.

An hour passed, two hours, three. The magnate forgot altogether that he had booked theater tickets for himself and some important officials of his acquaintance. He was drawn so deeply into the exuberance of that gathering that he imagined that he was back in his parents' home, as in his childhood. He recalled the festive meal which was prepared every Yud-tet Kislev in his grandfather's little shul. He remembered too the festive meal which his grandfather used to host whenever he came home together with his friends after a visit to his rebbe in far off Lubavitch. His grandmother used to fuss happily over the preparations for that meal, and his mother and aunts all shared in helping for the joyous occasion.

After quite some hours had passed, he finally went home. The first thing he did was take a long, long look at the two pictures in his library. Then he sat down and prayed the Maariv prayer with sobs that came from some place deep within him.

Within a few days he had bought new dishes and had made his whole kitchen kosher, and was himself well on the way to becoming a new man.


[Selected and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]

Editor's note:
This year Yud-tet Kislev falls on Monday night - Tuesday, December 19-20

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shnuer Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings


Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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