#154 (s5761-01 / 27 Elul 5760)
THE SAGA OF DEVORAH LEAH
That year on Shavout, when the Alter Rebbe was speaking during the farbrengen about the Baal Shem Tov, everyone felt an intense foreboding.
THE SAGA OF DEVORAH LEAH
That year on Shavout, when the Rebbe was speaking during the farbrengen about the Baal Shem Tov, everyone felt an intense foreboding. The Rebbe was deep in thought. His eyes were closed, tears fell on his cheeks. From the seriousness of his mood, everyone understood that the Rebbe was praying to awaken heavenly mercy on all of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings and students.
The Rebbe's work for 18 years of educating and guiding the Chabad Chassidic movement had awakened a heavenly accusation and the Rebbe was in need of strong defendants to arouse mercy. Before Rosh HaShanah of that year, he had sent special messengers with a pidyon petition to be read at the graves of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch. He also sent one to the Rebbe of Chernobyl, Rabbi Nachum. Afterwards, the Rebbe told the Chassidim that this year they will be in need of extra help.
(The Rebbe seated at his desk, his head bent over resting
on his arm, sighing. He gets up and begins to pace back and forth.)
(Music as Devorah Leah enters.)
A good fruit-bearing tree requires cultivation and care for 30 years in order to bring it to its optimum fruitfulness. It is now 30 years since the teachings of our Master, the Baal Shem Tov were firmly planted by my master and teacher, the Maggid of Mezeritch, and grew into a Tree of Life. Now the adversary threatens to destroy it all.
The Maggid forewarned me of difficult times, and promised to come to my aid. He appeared to me recently, but his face was overcast, an ill omen. I want to live! Indeed, this is the duty of every man, according to the Torah. Yet, more precious to me than life is my obligation to cultivate this tree so that it continues to give its fruit until the coming of Moshiach.
DEVORAH LEAH: Father!
Rebbe! How can this be? Your life has been devoted to the teachings of the holy
Baal Shem Tov, spreading and explaining them with total self-sacrifice for the
redemption of the Jewish people. I will help you! There has to be a way! G-d Al-mighty
will help us.
NARRATOR: Devorah Leah
realized the gravity of the situation, and sensed that her father's life was in
danger. For several days she kept her anxiety to herself.
DL: The time has come
to enact my resolve by stating it before a Beis Din, an official rabbinical
court. (Turns aside) Please call for Rabbis Moshe Meizels, Pinchas Reizes,
and Moshe Wilenker. It is most urgent.
(The three exchange glances.)
speak among themselves:)
SECOND CHASSID: Perhaps the Rebbetzin Devorah Leah knows why the Rebbe has secluded himself in his private room and no one has been admitted, not even any of the Rebbe's closest inner circle of Chassidim.
MW: She is indeed very agitated. She must know something of extreme gravity! The Rebbe's condition is definitely a result of the slander from the opposition and the split among the Chassidim.
THIRD CHASSID: Rebbetzin Devorah Leah knows more than we know and it is absolutely necessary to fulfill all of her conditions.
(Devorah Leah bursts into tears. The three Chassidim
become deeply moved.)
DL: First you must all swear to me by the most stringent Torah oath which has no absolution, that you will do whatever I ask of you, without any reservations, even if it be a matter of life and death.
MW (sorely distressed): Such a matter must be reconsidered in a calm atmosphere and with due deliberation.
2 CHASSIDIM (one shakes then nods his head while the other speaks):
(The three Chassidim lift
together a large book.)
DL: Then I make the three of you a Beit Din to rule on the situation in accordance with the law of The Torah. In the wake of the intrigue which has cast a shadow over the relationship between the Chassidic leaders in the Holy Land and my saintly father, and due to the persecution from Vilna, the present situation is grave in the extreme. From what I have heard from Father, the consequences could be frightful, G-d forbid.
(The three Chassidim display great distress and
(Festive table set with loaves, honey, apples,
pomegranates and wine.)
(Devorah Leah comes. The Rebbe begins to bless her to be inscribed
and sealed for a good year.)
(interrupting her father): L'shana tova tikatev v'tikatem.
NARRATOR: On the 2nd day of Rosh HaShanah Devorah Leah became acutely ill.
(After Rosh HaShanah. Cup, wine, candle and spices
for Havdalah are on the table.)
see them speaking but do not hear. Then
DL: My last wish, dear father, is that you yourself will educate and guide my only son.
RSZ: I promise you, my daughter, your son Menachem will be my comfort, your comfort, and comfort for all Israel.
NARRATOR: The day after Rosh HaShanah, on The Fast Day of Gedalia 5553 (1792), Devorah Leah passed away, clear minded to the last second. Two hundred years later we live for what she died for. May we merit the fulfillment of her prayers for the coming of Moshiach and the complete redemption, NOW!
[Adapted by Shulamit and Yrachmiel Tilles from the biography, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Nissan Mangel, Kehot), and first published in Ascent Quarterly #29.]
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.