(short) - Yud-Tes Kislev
Yud-Tes Kislev, the “Rosh HaShanah of the Chassidic year,” falls
this year on Wednesday night-Thursday, Dec. 7-8. 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
THE BLACK CARRIAGE
[The Yud-Tes Kislev festival commemorates
the day of the miraculous release of the first Chabad Rebbe from Russian prison.
This story of the first 24 hours of his arrest was assembled by Ascent editor
Yrachmiel Tilles from several published sources.]
During Chol HaMoed
Sukkos 5558 (1798), a special armed officer arrived in Liozna to arrest Rebbe
Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement. Deciding that
it would be advisable at this point to fulfill the verse "Hide yourself for
a brief moment," the Rebbe slipped out of a side door. The officer returned
to his headquarters empty-handed.
Back in the house, the Rebbe decided
that if the agent were to return, he would allow himself to be arrested. Some
say that he decided this only after consultation with Rabbi Shmuel Munkes,
one of his close chassidim, who happened to be in the house at the time. Amazingly,
R. Shmuel said to the Rebbe, "If you are a true Rebbe, you have nothing to
fear by being arrested. If you are not, you deserve whatever they will do to you
(!), for what right did you have to deprive thousands of Chassidim from enjoying
the pleasures of this world?"
When the officer appeared on the day
after Simchat Torah, which fell on Thursday that year, the Rebbe did not
hide. Within a few hours he was already seated in the infamous "Black Mary,"
the carriage which was reserved by the Czarist regime for rebels who were under
capital sentence. Covered on all sides with heavy black metal panels, and with
no windows whatever, it was designed to cast dread on all those who saw it. Guarded
by heavily armed soldiers, the ironclad black carriage pulled out of Liozna on
Thursday night and clanked its fearsome way down the highway to St. Petersburg,
via Vitebsk and Nevel.
At half past ten the next morning, some six hours
before candle-lighting time, the Rebbe asked that they stop where they were until
after Shabbos. The officer in charge ignored his request. A moment later the axles
of the carriage broke. No sooner had they repaired them, than one of the horses
collapsed and died. Fresh horses were brought, but they could not move the carriage
from its place. By this time the gendarmes gathered that it would be impossible
to press on with their journey against the Rebbe's will, so they asked their prisoner
if they could detour to a nearby village, and spend the next day there. The Rebbe
refused, but did agree that the carriage be moved off the highway to an adjacent
The spot at which the Alter Rebbe spent that Shabbos is about three
miles from the village of Seliba-Rudnia, which is near the town of Nevel. An old
chassid who survived into the twentieth century - Reb Michael of Nevel
- used to relate that he knew chassidim who were able to point out the exact spot
at which the Rebbe had spent that lonely Shabbos. He himself had gone there to
see it with his own eyes. All the way there he had seen old and drooping trees
on both sides of the road, but that memorable spot was marked by a tall tree with
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe
of Lubavitch, records that when this old man from Nevel used to recall that moment
and describe the spot in full detail, he would do so with inspired excitement
and awe. And the Rebbe added that the sight of the tree did more for arousing
the soul of this chassid of a bygone age than Torah-study or prayer does to certain
Some Laws and Customs - Yud-Tes
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
* Demand to hear the whole story.
* Say "l'chayim."
* Sing along.
* 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!
Previous year's Yud-Tes Kislev