#522 (s5768-11 / 10 Kislev 5768)

Fear and Light at "the Great Wedding"

Rabbi Shneur Zalman told his son, Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch, to go and greet Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. Rabbi Dovber blanched and said, "Father, you know how the tzadik is upset with me."

Fear and Light at "the Great Wedding"


Rabbi Dovber (the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) was blessed with eight daughters (and two sons). The second-born daughter, Baila, was the first to get married.** She was betrothed to Yekutiel Zalman, the grandson of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. This wedding, which took place in 1807 in Zhlobin, Ukraine and was attended by many hundreds of Chasidim and other guests, became known as "the Great Wedding."

The bride and her family arrived in Zhlobin a few days before the wedding, led by the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, and his son, Rabbi Dovber, later to become his successor and the "Mitteler Rebbe" of Lubavitch. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and the groom's family arrived in Zhlobin on the eve of the wedding.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman told his son to go and greet Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. Rabbi Dovber blanched and said, "Father, you know how the tzadik is upset with me because I teach Chasidic thought at length and in public! I am afraid to go to him alone."

"Please go, my son, and don't be afraid," said Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

Rabbi Dovber put on his coat, took his walking stick and went to see Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. He apprehensively entered the room and his fears were immediately realized. As soon as Rabbi Levi Yitzchok saw him, his face crinkled in surprise and displeasure. He got right to the point without greeting him, and without hiding his annoyance, as though talking to a crowd rather than to a guest.

"Are you allowed to reveal this great and wondrous wisdom? It is forbidden to speak about these secrets to people who never saw the face of our teacher, the holy Baal Shem Tov!" He pointed at Rabbi Dovber and said, "And he reveals them openly, before the masses!"
Rabbi Dovber rushed out of the room and returned to his father in great dismay. "Father, the tzadik's displeasure remains, and I am afraid."

Rabbi Shneur Zalman understood that it was important to resolve this issue before the wedding festivities began, and he went along with his son to straighten things out. The two tzadikim met and warmly greeted one another, then sat down to talk.

"Why are you so upset with my son, Berel?" asked Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok thought for a moment and then replied, "You know that this is not my prohibition, but an instruction from our Rebbe (the Maggid of Mezritch), not to teach Chasidism in public unless the speaker saw the face of the Baal Shem Tov. How could your son teach publicly such deep thoughts!"

Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied, "My son, Berel, only says what he heard from me, and I saw our master, the Baal Shem Tov."

"In a vision or literally?" Rabbi Levi Yitzchok pressed.

"When awake, of course!"

"If so, then let us hear what he has to say."

Rabbi Dovber trembled. He was being asking to do the most difficult thing of all: to say Chasidut in front of the two tzadikim.

Having no choice, Rabbi Dovber began saying a deep Chasidic discourse, and the two tzadikim sat and listened closely to everything he uttered.

Rabbi Dovber was completely immersed in what he was saying, and was removed from his surroundings as he climbed the lofty and pure spiritual heights. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok perceived the depths of razin d'razin (the most "secret of secrets" of Torah) in what Rabbi Dovber was saying, and saw with his divine inspiration that their source was in the first set of Tablets that Moses received on behalf of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, as they were before they were broken!

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok's spirit exploded with holiness until he couldn't restrain himself anymore, and he got up and wrapped Rabbi Dovber's face with a talit, saying, "Oy, G-d forbid that the fiery angels should be envious of you. Beware of an evil eye."

He then turned to Rabbi Shneur Zalman and said, "Even the great Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai didn't reach such a high and lofty source. How did your son?"

Rabbi Shneur Zalman thought deeply and it was apparent that his holy spirit was in another world. After a while he responded: "When this son of mine was born, I planned on naming him Hamnuna, after Rav Hamnuna Sava (a sage whose teachings are often cited in the Zohar), whose soul-source was in the most exalted hidden worlds. This name was appropriate for the level of my son's soul, but our Rebbe, the Maggid, appeared to me in a dream and told me to name him Dovber (the Maggid's name). So you should know that my son can reach such concealed and lofty secrets, because the source of his soul is with Rav Hamnuna Sava."

As they stood near the door, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok insisted that Rabbi Dovber have the honor of exiting first. "You have taught me," he said humbly. Rabbi Dovber deferred to his father and to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. Each tzadik gave the other the honor, and still no one was willing to step through first.

Finally, the Chasidim broke the walls of the doorway and the three tzadikim left together.
[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the version of Menachem Zeigelbaum as first published in Beis Moshiach Magazine and posted on the L'Chaim website (#898), with additional details from Ateret Malchut.]

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-25 Tishrei 1810) is one of the more popular rebbes in chassidic history. He was a close disciple of the second leader of the Chassidic movement, Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezritch. He is best known for his love for every Jew and his perpetual intercession before Heaven on their behalf. Many of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published Kedushat Levi.

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

Rabbi DovBer Shneuri [9 Kislev 1773 - 9 Kislev 1827] was the eldest son and successor to Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of the Chabad movement. The author of numerous deep, mystical texts, he is known in Lubavitch circles as "the Mittler (Middle) Rebbe."

** Editor's note:
The Mittler Rebbe's eight daughters were: Sarah, Baila (married to the grandson of the Berditover), Chaya Musya (married the Tzemech Tzedek, who became her father's successor), Devorah Leah (married the son of the Chernobler Rebbe), Brocha, Menucha Rachel (remembered until today as the "Matriarch of Hebron"), Sarah (the first daughter with the same name died at an early age), and Esther Miriam (unknown until 1990 when her tombstone was discovered in Lubavitch, Russia).

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.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

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