(short) - Yud-Tes
Yud-Tes Kislev, the “Rosh HaShanah of the Chassidic year,”
falls this year on Sat. nite-Sun. Dec. 5-6. 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
A TALE OF TWO STORIES
Yrachmiel Tilles (from Ascent Quarterly
Yud-Tes Kislev, the "Rosh HaShanah of the Chassidic year,"
falls this year on Sat. nite-Sun. Dec. 5-6. 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.
three events are not unconnected, as we shall see by examining two interesting
episodes in the history of the Chassidic movement.
One day during Rabbi
Shneur Zalman's imprisonment, he was "visited" by the Baal Shem Tov
and the Maggid. He asked them for the spiritual explanation of his arrest. They
explained that a serious accusation had been brought against him in Heaven for
revealing secrets of Torah, intensified by the publication of the Tanya. When
he then queried if that meant he should cease, they responded that at this point
not only must he not stop, he should continue with increased effort.
is an amazing story. However, some students of Chassidic annals find a contradiction
between this story and another episode that took place a generation previously,
when Rabbi Shneur Zalman was a young disciple in the court of the Maggid.
Pincus of Koritz, a distinguished disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and a spiritual
giant in his own right, objected to the Maggid's public expositions of the "inner
dimensions". Once, when he visited him, he found a page containing notes
on a Chassidic discourse of the Maggid's lying on the ground. He was incensed.
His ire aroused a heavenly accusation against the Maggid which was only neutralized
when Rabbi Shneur Zalman appeased Rabbi Pincus with his now-famous parable.
was a king who had an only child that became deathly sick and fell into a coma.
The royal physician announced that there was only one hope. If the prince could
be made to swallow a few drops of a special medicine, perhaps it would help. The
main ingredient of this remedy was the ground-up particles of a certain precious
stone. The jewel was so rare, however, that there was only one in the entire kingdom:
the central and most beautiful gem of the king's crown.
told the king not to risk destroying the crown, because the chances of success
were much too small. Without the slightest hesitation the king dismissed them,
exclaiming, "If the prince doesn't survive, of what value is the crown?"
two stories seem to clash. Given Rabbi Shneur Zalman's successful defense of his
master, isn't the seemingly identical charge against him decades later a clear
case of double jeopardy?
The key is to isolate two different approaches
to the study of the mystical teachings, each of which is an outgrowth and embodiment
of one of two justifications for the spread of this study in our times.
Chaim Vital (1543-1620) wrote in the name of the Holy
Ari of Tsfat, that the spread of the hidden wisdom is indispensable for two
reasons: to overcome the increasing spiritual darlness of the modern environment,
and to help usher in the Era of Moshiach. For the first purpose the best approach
is to search the literature for those sparks that impact meaningfully for you
- or in terms of the parable, to assimilate a few drops. The latter purpose, however
- to prepare for and elicit the Messianic redemption - mandates a more explicit,
detailed knowledge than the first, scanning approach. Here the goal is not illumination
but saturation - until "the world be full of the knowledge of G'd as the
waters of the sea cover their bed of earth" (Maimonides, Mishnah Torah
(end), from Isaiah 11:9).
Now the two stories can be understood in sequence,
resolving the apparent contradiction. The "crown prince" parable effectively
defended the "spark-gathering" approach. The second accusation, a genetation
later, was not a repetition of the first; rather it focused on the intellectual
explicitness of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's public teachings.
are, of course, important and necessary. However, the imminent arrival of Moshiach
would seem to add emphasis to the attainment of deep, full knowledge of Torah's
inner dimensions. A great way to begin on this Yud-Tes Kislev, is with
the new cycle of daily Tanya study.
Some Laws and Customs - Yud-Tes Kislev
What to Do on Yud-Tes Kislev
* 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."
* Make a good resolution in connection to Torah-and-mitzvot.
* Start on your resolution.
* Check out Tanya and HaYom
* Give extra tzedakah ("charity")
* Try to help
a fellow Jew.
English sources for the historical events of
* Arrest and Liberation (Kehot)
of Chabad, vol 2 (Kehot)
* Treasury of Chassidic Tales on the Festivals
Chag Samayach - Have a joyous holiday!