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by Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
The Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, was whisked away in the "Black Mary," a black carriage reserved for the most serious crimes of the time. It was Friday, and the Rebbe asked the officer to stop their journey until the end of the Sabbath. The officer refused, and the axle of the carriage broke. The carriage was repaired and then, one of the horses collapsed. A new horse was brought, but strangely enough the horses where not able to move the carriage. This was sufficient for the officer to understand that he was transporting an unusual prisoner. The officer requested from the Rebbe that they travel to the next village, but the Rebbe refused and they spent the Sabbath in an adjacent field.
The Rebbe was incarcerated in one of the secret cells of the Fortress of Petropavlovsk. One of the high officials, a learned man, was very impressed by the Rebbe's personality and said to him, "I have a question on the Bible, and would be most grateful for an answer."
"Ask whatever you like," said the Rebbe, "and with G-ds help, I hope to be able to solve your problem."
The official asked, "What is the meaning of the verse, 'G-d called to Adam and said: Where are you?' How is it possible that the Omniscient G-d did not know where Adam was?"
"Do you believe," the Rebbe questioned the officer, "that the Bible is timeless, and forever relevant to every individual?"
"I sincerely believe that," he replied.
"I will give you an explanation," said the Rebbe. "G-d called to 'Ha-Adam,' to 'the man.' This means, that at all times G-d calls every individual and asks him, 'Where do you stand in this world.' G-d allotted to each, a certain amount of days, each of which is to be utilized for the doing of good in relation to G-d, and in relation to mankind. Therefore contemplate: How many years have you lived already, and how much good have you done and accomplished during that time. You, for instance, have lived already...years (and the Rebbe mentioned the exact age of the official). How are you using your time?" The official was amazed by the fact that the Rebbe 'guessed his age" that he exclaimed "Bravo!"
Czar Paul I had heard so much about this "prisoner" that he disguised himself as a clerk of the courts and went to see the Rebbe. As soon as he entered, the Rebbe rose and honored him.
"You must be the Czar," said the Rebbe. "Our Sages teach us, that 'sovereignty on earth is similar to the sovereignty in heaven.' As the fear before G-d is great, so too did I feel an unusual awe when you entered. Such a feeling I never experienced with any of the officials that have come here. Therefore I concluded that you must be the Czar." The Czar left convinced that surely this man must be a saint.
A saint indeed. The Bible tells us, that "this world conceals and hides G-d." Truly righteous and spiritual giants are the windows through which we are reminded that there is more to this world than what meets the eye. There is a G-d who hears our prayers and there are miracles we can experience.
False and libelous charges had led to accusations that Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism, had committed treason against the Russian Empire. His arrest imperiled not only his own life, but also the future of the Chasidic movement. Consequently, the day of his release on 19 Kislev (this year on December 3) has become a day of great celebration and is considered the "New Year" of Chasidut.
Chasidism offers everyone personal, spiritual fulfillment, by means of attachment to G-d, spontaneous enthusiasm in Divine worship, and a sanctified life imbued in joy.
Chasidism reveals that it is possible to live a spiritual life while being in the corporeal world. Chasidut clarifies the essence and ultimate goal of all existence, to live a meaningful and illuminated life, deeply and profoundly based on the Torah.
With permission from koshercaffeine.blogspot.com
The 19th of the month of Kislev, which occurs this coming week on Monday, is the date on which Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chasidut, was liberated from prison.
Known among Chasidim as the Festival of Liberation, it always occurs in close proximity to the week when the Torah portion of Vayishlach is read. As "nothing happens by chance," we must conclude that the Festival of Liberation is alluded to in Vayishlach.
The main idea of the 19th of Kislev is spreading the wellsprings of Chasidut outward. The "wellsprings," the innermost part of Torah, must not remain at their source, but must flow "outward" and inundate even the lowest parts of the earth. Furthermore, not only must the waters of Chasidut be carried everywhere, but the wellsprings themselves must be conveyed to every single Jew, no matter where he/she is.
The 19th of Kislev teaches us the necessity of bringing the life-giving waters of Torah, and particularly the inner-part of Torah as expounded in Chasidut, to every Jew.
The name of this week's portion, "Vayishlach," means "And he sent."
A shaliach, an emissary (from the same root as vayishlach), is a person who is dispatched in the sender's stead; moreover, "a person's emissary is just like him." In other words, when an emissary is sent to a certain place to carry out his mission, it is the same as if the sender himself has made the journey.
This concept of "spreading the wellsprings outward" is expressed in the word "vayishlach," the name of our portion. The wellsprings must not stay at their source, but must be sent ever outward to reach as many people as possible.
The concept of Vayishlach exists in every age and in every generation.
G-d "sends" the soul down from the celestial spheres to be enclothed within a corporeal body, to enable the person to serve G-d within the context of the physical world. This shlichut (mission) began with Adam and Chava (Eve), and is continued by their descendants.
The phenomenon of sending emissaries has existed throughout the generations. We find that many Torah giants sent shluchim to carry out various holy missions.
The concept of shlichut was further emphasized by the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidut and his spiritual "descendants," especially Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his successors; they, in turn, entrusted every Jew with the holy mission of "spreading the wellsprings outward."
In fact, the Previous Rebbe declared that shlichut is the unique mitzva (commandment) of our generation. Every Jew must be a shaliach to spread the wellsprings of Torah and Judaism wherever he or she goes.
Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 25
A Butterfly and Divine Providence
In the fall of this year, Rabbi Yehoshua and Gitty Appell, directors of the Malchus Center at Ohr Chaya in Jerusalem, Israel, were returning to Israel after a visit to New York. When they landed in Ben Gurion Airport, they approached the dispatcher for a company that provides shared rides from the airport to Jerusalem. The airport was quiet at the early hour and the dispatcher directed them to a mini-van that was slowly filling with passengers. The driver told them that he would not be going to the area of Jerusalem where they lived. Not wishing to create a scene, the Appells returned to the dispatcher but he insisted that they should go in the van and the driver would have no choice but to take them where they wanted to go.
The very next passenger to board was a young Israeli by the name of Yoav who had just arrived from Barcelona. He was now returning for four days to visit his parents, since his father had fallen ill.
Before the young man even sat down he turned eagerly to Rabbi Appell and said, "Rabbi, tell me a Torah thought."
A rabbi can never refuse such a request, and since they had both just landed in Israel, the first topic that came to mind was to explain the higher level of Divine Providence that G-d exercises with regard to the Holy Land. The Torah describes Israel as "the land over which the eyes of G-d are watching from the beginning of the year until its end." This meant, said Rabbi Appell, that G-d watches over Israel far more directly than over the city and country from which he had now come.
The young man listened carefully but hastened to express his disagreement. "Statistically at least as many people are hurt in attacks in Israel as in other lands, probably many times more," he protested. "In fact my best friend was killed in a terrorist attack. Where was the Divine Providence there?"
The rabbi explained patiently that not every time can we see the reasoning behind G-d's ways, but we could be sure that it was all part of G-d's plan. Rabbi Appell then quickly thought of a story that would illustrate his point and related the following story to Yoav. "Ten years ago two of my wife's friends, Mrs. Wishnefsky and Mrs. Kaplan went to visit a family that had at that time lost a son in a terror attack on the Number 14 bus in Jerusalem. During their visit they met the younger brother of the victim, Guy, and had heard from him an amazing account.
Guy told them that on the day his brother had been killed, he had been on a bus on a school trip in the north of Israel. He had dozed off in his seat and had a dream. In his dream he saw his brother Roi clothed in white. Roi told him that he was leaving this world now and that he wanted Guy to be a support to their mother and grandmother who would take the news very badly. Roi told his sibling where to find some valuable items that he had hidden away and then he said he would be visiting his family home during shiva (the week of mourning) in the form of a butterfly.
Guy awoke from his dream in a state of confusion. Just then one of his friends on the bus asked the driver to turn on the radio to listen to music and exactly at that moment regular programming was interrupted to report a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. By the time Guy reached his mother, she was already on her way to the hospital after the police had called her.
At the beginning of the week of shiva, a butterfly flew into the house and rested on a family portrait. The butterfly stayed in that spot the entire week. When the shiva ended, the butterly flew up to the third floor of the house and rested for a moment on Roi's bed before leaving the house, never to be seen again.
A little while later, the family went to a kabbalist to ask him to help them understand what had happened. The kabbalist told the family who are descendents of the Chida, Rabbi Yosef David Azulai (1724-1806), that Roi was a reincarnation of the Chida's father. Roi's life had been short because the soul of the Chida's father only had a few corrections it needed to make in this incarnation.
The kabalist also showed the family how each family member was mentioned by name in Psalm 23. (Roi was 22 years old when he died, i.e. in his twenty-third year. It is cusomtary to recite daily the chapter of Psalms corresponding to the years of one's life.)
Rabbi Appell concluded the story to his travelling companion by highlighting that often we can see the hand of Divine Providence at work even at a time of devastating loss which we cannot begin to fathom. Yoav, who had originally doubted the possibility that G-d could be active at a time of loss, suddenly seemed overcome and shaken by the story he just heard. He kept saying again and again "I'm in shock!" Rabbi Appell thought perhaps Yoav just needed a few minutes to digest what he had heard. Now it was Yoav's turn to speak, haltingly.
"The victim of that attack, Roi, was my good friend," he said. "It was his loss I had referred to when I challenged your belief earlier. This is the first time I am hearing all the details."
Now the two had much more Divine Providence to reflect upon: The choice of the reluctant driver for their trip; Yoav's request for a Torah thought, Rabbi Appell's choice of topic, and the choice of that one story from many to illustrate his point - in the land that G-d's eyes are upon constantly!
Translated and adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
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19 Kislev, 5711 
On the occasion of Yud-Tes (19th) Kislev, the anniversary of the liberation of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, I take this opportunity to send you greetings and good wishes.
This day, as you are surely aware, does not commemorate a personal triumph of a great teacher and leader, for with its founder the entire movement and teachings of Chassidism received a new lease on life.
The Chabad movement experienced birthpangs by far more acute than any movement would normally expect. To the same degree its triumph showed all the more clearly that it was the victory of Truth brought about by Divine Providence.
If in those days, some 150 years ago, the full impact of Chassidism upon Jewish life could not be envisaged by all, it is now quite evident that Chassidism has been a vital necessity for our entire people.
My father-in-law, our late Lubavitcher Rabbi of sainted memory, wrote in one of his latest circulated letters dated 10th of Kislev (the anniversary of the liberation of Rabbi Dov Ber, the son of the founder, who, like his father, was persecuted for his leadership and dissemination of Chabad Chassidism) that Chassidism is not an exclusive philosophy for any particular group, but a way of life for all our people, young and old.
The custom, practiced by many, of observing the anniversary of an important event in their life, has a deeper explanation in our sacred books. It is based on the idea that the same spiritual forces which were operative at the time of the original event reassert themselves at the time of the anniversary. It is therefore an opportune time to benefit from those forces and revelations.
In this light we observe Yud-Tes Kislev. And although all of us - and I feel sure that I can include you among us - are still grief-stricken for our revered Rabbi of sainted memory, we know that the dissemination of the teachings of the founder of Chabad, the hero of the occasion, must not be relaxed. Now, more than ever, we must appreciate our responsibility to spread the light of Chabad far and wide so that it permeates every aspect of Jewish life. Whoever knew my father-in-law of sainted memory, even slightly, can have no doubts that this is his will and testament to us.
- (Back to text) This letter was written within the year of passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe
19th of Cheshvan, 5733 
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of your forthcoming Dinner celebration on the 20th of Kislev. It is significant that the event will take place one day following Yud-Tes Kislev, the historic anniversary of the release and vindication of the Alter Rebbe [the "Elder" Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman], founder of Chabad. Moreover, the 19th of Kislev will this year also mark the 200th Yartzeit anniversary of the illustrious Maggid of Miezricz, whose disciple and successor the Alter Rebbe was.
Anniversaries in Jewish life are observed for the purpose of their instructive significance, so that each and every one of us can learn from and be inspired by the life and work of our great leaders of the past, and translate this inspiration into actual deeds in our daily life and conduct.
The two great luminaries, the master and his disciple and successor, led consecrated lives, dedicated to the material and spiritual betterment of Jews and Judaism. Their selfless dedication knew no bounds. Furthermore, they set out from the beginning to involve the masses, for their love of a fellow Jew embraced all Jews. They laid particular stress on the education of the young, both the young in years as well as the young in Jewish knowledge and experience, and instilled this spirit in all their numerous followers.
The same spirit of love, responsibility, and dedication animates all those who are associated with the Chabad-Lubavitch educational activities in the present day, reaching out to our fellow Jews everywhere.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the "Alter Rebbe" and the "Baal HaTanya," was born in Liozna, White Russia on Elul 18, 1745. In 1764 he traveled to Mezritch to study under Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezritch. For 20 years he labored on his magnum opus, Tanya, in which he outlined the Chabad philosophy. First published in 1796, Tanya is the book upon which the writings and oral teachings by seven generations of Chabad Rebbes are based. He passed away on 24 Tevet, 1812 and is buried in Haditch, Ukraine.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Sunday we will celebrate the 19th of Kislev (known as "Yud Tes Kislev"), the Festival of Redemption of the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Imprisoned on false charges of anti-government activity, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was released after 52 days of incarceration and interrogation, in the year 1798. His liberation vindicated Chasidic teachings, and established Chasidut as the primary way to prepare the world for Moshiach.
Lesser publicized is that the Alter Rebbe, as he was called, was subjected to a second confinement two years later, when he was summoned to Peterburg to appear before a government commission. This second imprisonment, which took the form of house arrest, was also the result of slander against the Chasidic movement. Again the Rebbe was found innocent of all charges, and was freed by the decree of Czar Alexander I.
The first public observance of Yud Tes Kislev was held in 1801, when thousands of Chasidim came to celebrate with the Alter Rebbe in Liadi. On that occasion, the Rebbe delivered a Chasidic discourse on the verse in Psalms, "G-d has redeemed my soul in peace." (By Divine Providence, this was the verse the Rebbe had been reading in prison at the exact moment he was informed of his release.) Before delivering the discourse, the Alter Rebbe sang a famous Chasidic melody to the words "You are my G-d and I will praise You; My L-rd, I will exalt You."
Yud Tes Kislev has ever since been celebrated as the Chasidic "New Year," with festive gatherings of family, friends and acquaintances. It is a particularly auspicious day to rededicate ourselves to Torah, deeds of kindness, and prayer.
As the Rebbe wrote in a telegram to Chasidim a few years ago: "May you be inscribed - and may that inscription be sealed - for a good year in the study of Chasidut and in Chasidic ways of conduct."
Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem... (Gen. 33:18)
The great sage Rashi explains that "in peace"- shalem - is to be interpreted as whole. Jacob came to Shechem whole: in body because he was healed of his limp; in wealth since, though he gave a large gift to appease Esau, he lacked nothing; and in his Torah [knowledge] because he did not forget any of his learning during his stay in Laban's house. Rashi explains this to mean that Jacob was sound in body, his wealth was intact, and his Torah-observance was uncompromised. We learn from Jacob to always strive for excellence in all areas of our lives. Even a person whose primary path in the worship of G-d is through practical mitzvot - charity and good deeds - should also strive to be perfect in study.
Now, let my master go ahead before his servant, and I will move at my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my master, to Seir. (Gen. 33:14)
Jacob promised to visit Esau at his home in Seir. However, he never went to Seir. Did Jacob lie? No. For he will go in the days of Moshiach, as it is says (Obadiah 1:21): "And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau."
And You said, "I will surely do good with you" (Gen. 32:13)
Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov used to say: "Master of the Universe! Everything You do is most assuredly good, but there is a good which is immediately apparent, and a good which does not seem to be so at first. May it be Your will to bestow upon us only that type of good which is immediately revealed!"
When the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism) remained in Russia after Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk went to Israel, the Rebbe began to spread his teachings over the vastness of Russia, sending rays of the light of Chasidic philosophy to every city and town. At first he had very few Chasidim, and the Chasidic movement was quite limited in scope, but day by day its light was revealed and people came to Liozna to investigate for themselves.
The Volper had shabby clothes and a persistent smell of vodka about him. He was tall and skinny, and had prominent cheekbones, but his most distinguished feature was the sparkle in his eyes. He was known simply as the Volper; nobody knew his first name. The few who did know him also knew that the Volper was a prodigious Torah scholar who used to be a student of the Maggid of Mezritch. He had shared a bench with the great Chasidic luminaries, such as Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, Rabbi Zushe of Anipol and his brother Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, and even with the youngest of the group, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Together they had absorbed Torah and Chasidic teachings from the great Maggid.
The Volper however, had unique qualities which set him apart from the others. After the Maggid finished speaking, the other students would go over to the Volper to hear him repeat the Maggid's teachings. When he spoke, everything was clear and his audience would be completely overcome.
Nobody knew what led to the Volper's downfall. At some point, he began drinking excessively. He even began to frequent bars. He did not speak about himself. Wherever he went on his wanderings, his mouth would spew forth pearls of Torah and wisdom, even the deepest secrets of Torah. The more he drank, the more the "secret came out," the secrets of Torah. People who did not understand him mocked him.
One day the Volper arrived in Liozna in White Russia, where he went to the local study hall. The Alter Rebbe was there with his Chasidim and outstanding students, and he was saying a deep Chasidic discourse. The Volper sat in a corner, and in a rare moment of seriousness and lucidity, he rested his head on his hands and listened closely to the Rebbe's teachings. Nobody paid him any attention at all.
When the Alter Rebbe had concluded, he left the study hall and went home. The Volper also left the study hall, backpack on his shoulders, to continue his wanderings. Before leaving though, he hiccuped loudly and proclaimed with a peculiar smile, maybe one of pain or longing, "Ah, we all ate from one bowl, but he got all the gedichte (the thick portion of the soup)."
Word got around, until the Alter Rebbe was told what had been said. "That was the Volper," the Rebbe said. "If I knew he was here, I would have tried to get him to stay with us so that he wouldn't wander any more."
The Volper continued his wanderings. The Volper arrived in Vilna, a large city full of Torah scholars. Nobody paid him any attention. He entered a hostel where he got a warm meal. Then he removed a bottle of vodka from his worn satchel and poured himself a big glass.
The poor drunkard settled down in his place and went to sleep by the warm oven, while mumbling secrets of Torah. He quoted from works of Kabala and concepts from the innermost teachings of Torah, and every so often he burst into drunken laughter.
Reb Yudel stood nearby and listened closely to the drunk. Reb Yudel was a highly esteemed Torah scholar. He was a close student of the Vilna Gaon, and merited a seat of honor in the study hall. At first he thought his ears were deceiving him, but then his amazement continued to grow. He realized that the drunkard was an outstanding scholar, conversant in all aspects of the Torah.
Reb Yudel stood there and listened until the drunkard let forth a snore and nearly fell asleep. Reb Yudel shook him by the shoulder. "Tell me dear brother," he said in his ear, "where did you get all this from?"
The Volper cocked an eye at him, and Yudel suddenly saw the mysterious sparkle in his eyes. It scared him a bit and he edged away. "Ah, ah... You want to know where I got this from?"
Reb Yudel nodded his head silently. He was too shocked to utter a word.
"N-n-no!" whispered the drunk. "I can't tell you now. But if you want Torah such as this, go to Liozna where you will find peace for your soul."
Reb Yudel reeled backward in dismay. He knew good and well who was in Liozna, for he was one of the greatest opponents of Chasidism and its proponents. Yet the drunkard's words entered his heart, and a fierce battle was waged therein. "If this drunk knows so much, what does the Rebbe himself know?!" he wondered. A few days passed until he resolved to travel to Liozna to learn from the Alter Rebbe. He knew he had a lot to learn.
Like other great scholars, Reb Yudel finally arrived in Liozna, where he became an outstanding Chasid of the Alter Rebbe, and a great scholar in Chasidic teachings. The Rebbe eventually sent him to Liepelei to serve as rabbi of the city and to bring the light of Chasidut to the people living there.
By Menachem Ziegelboim. Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
The theme of Yud Tes Kislev is closely connected with the future redemption by Moshiach, for the redemption of Yud Tes Kislev resulted in the "bursting forth of the wellsprings, to the outside," which is a prerequisite to the final redemption. This "bursting of the wellsprings...," the widespread study of the inner core of Torah, must be assimilated by the intellect, and must be made comprehensible, even to the simplest Jew, for the simplest Jew will be redeemed from exile as well. With the final redemption, all Jews will be redeemed and will take with them all of the "holy sparks"that are now in exile.
(The Rebbe, 19 Kislev, 1977)