The Cell Big Enough For Three People?"
Compiled by Binyamin HaLevi
is what the Rebbe Rashab asked his son, the Rebbe Rayatz, after the latter
reported to him about his visit to the cell where the Alter Rebbe had been
incarcerated. * A compilation of stories for Yud-Tes Kislev
the histalkus of the Maggid of Mezritch on Yud-Tes Kislev 5533 (1772), he
took the Alter Rebbe’s hand and said, "Yud-Tes Kislev is our hilula."
The meaning of this statement is that the teachings of the "fathers of
Chassidus," the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid, were like the wellspring
itself, whereas the teachings of the Alter Rebbe explanations of Chassidus that
can be grasped by the intellect effected a dissemination of the wellspring. The
union of the wellspring itself with the wellsprings on the outside ("yafutzu
maaynosecha chutza"), required a special effort. This union was
accomplished on Yud-Tes Kislev, and this is what the Maggid was alluding to when
he said, "Yud-Tes Kislev is our hilula" – our union.
Likkutei Sichos vol. 25 p. 212.)
REASON TO FEAR
the Alter Rebbe was incarcerated, the Chassidim discovered a note in the Rebbe’s
handwriting citing the verse, "sarim ridafuni chinam, u’midvarcha
pachad libi" (princes chased me for naught, yet my heart feared Your
verse has two meanings: 1) The fear of the "princes" is "for
naught," for the true fear is of "Your word." In his humility,
the Alter Rebbe thought that perhaps he had been arrested because he hadn’t
completed some aspect of his avoda. 2) The reason why the matter is as
naught to me, even though the "princes" chase me, is because my heart
feared "Your word."
is the lesson the Alter Rebbe taught his Chassidim, and to all Chassidim of
future generations. There is no reason to fear the gentile, but if something
like an arrest takes place, one must examine his deeds.
19 Kislev 5734)
the Alter Rebbe was in jail, his teacher the Maggid and the Maggid’s teacher
the Baal Shem Tov came to him from the World of Truth. They came as souls
within bodies. The Rebbe Rayatz once visited the cell (when he was in Petersburg
in the summer of 5671- 1911), and when he returned, his father asked him if the
cell had enough room for three people!
question proves that they came as souls in bodies. And we know that when a soul
is revealed in a body it is a far greater revelation than that of a soul without
19 Kislev 5711)
THE ALTER REBBE DERIVES HIS TEACHINGS FROM
is how the Alter Rebbe responded to the question posed to him by the
interrogators about where he had gotten the information which he conveyed in his
is known that even though all wisdom is written in s’farim,
nevertheless a person must first learn from a teacher and only then can he learn
from the books on his own. That is what happened with me. When I was about
twenty years old, while in Vitebsk, I traveled to Mezritch and began learning
Kabbala from Rabbi Ber of blessed memory, who passed on over 25 years ago. Since
that time I learn on my own from many respected books, from mekubalim, Rishonim,
and Acharonim, according to my intellect and understanding. The style
of the sermons I deliver are for the most part based on the obvious and the
revealed, so that the listeners will understand it well. It is only
infrequently, by chance, that I say something simple from the wisdom of Kabbala
that can be understood and explained to someone who learned just a little of the
Kabbalistic works which are readily available. [I teach] that from which one can
derive some benefit in love of G-d and fear of Him, to keep His mitzvos
and to pray with concentration from the depths of one’s heart."
Kodesh vol. 2 p. 137)
they brought the Alter Rebbe to Petersburg, the interrogator who was the
minister’s assistant and who happened to be thoroughly proficient in Tanach by
heart asked the Rebbe the meaning of G-d’s asking Adam, "Ayeka?"
(where are you?) after the sin [of eating from the Tree of Good and Evil], for
obviously G-d knew where he was.
Rebbe answered by quoting Rashi’s commentary on the verse, but the minister
said he was familiar with Rashi. Then the Rebbe told him the famous response
(that Hashem asks each one of us where we stand, what we’ve accomplished in
the world, etc.).
Rebbe Rashab related this story at a Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen in 5648
(1887), and he added: Saying this prevented the Alter Rebbe from klos ha’nefesh
(soul expiration). For when he was brought to the Petropavlovskaya fortress and
locked in the room, he contemplated the prospect of being moser nefesh
(having self-sacrifice) for the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid,
and as a result of this thought he nearly expired. The above story prevented
this, however, for it reminded him that he still had a job to do in this world.
HaSichos 5698, p. 249-250)
WITH A SMILE
the questions that the Alter Rebbe was asked in prison, all of which he
answered, there was a question about something quoted at the end of chapter one
of Tanya ("all the good the nations do they do for themselves," and as
it says in the Gemara on the verse, "v’chesed l’umim chatas"
[the kindness of the nations is a sin], for all the acts of charity and kindness
the gentiles do they do only for the sake of self-aggrandizement"). The
Alter Rebbe did not answer this question; he just smiled. By not providing an
answer based on intellect, and instead dismissing the question without offering
an explanation, and even laughing at it the person sees and understands that the
question itself is not appropriate.
19 Kislev 5729, 5739)
THE MISNAGED’S HOME
the Alter Rebbe left prison he was mistakenly brought to the home of a Misnaged
(one opposed to Chassidus), who caused him to suffer with his questions, etc.
(Afterwards, he said that the three hours he spent at the Misnaged’s home
were more difficult than all the time he had spent in prison.)
the Chassidim realized the mistake, they came to fetch the Alter Rebbe, but he
asked to be allowed to remain there and drink a cup of tea, as the man had
prepared it for him.
this way he expressed the idea of "tov la’briyos" (good for
mankind; literally: created beings). Briyos are those who have no good
quality other than that they were created by G-d. The Misnaged had made
the Alter Rebbe suffer, and wanted him to feel as he had before being released,
something which is completely irrational. Furthermore, the Misnaged even
thought he was doing a good thing, which is the idea of those who confuse
darkness for light, and nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe treated him in a manner of
19 Kislev 5738)
Kislev in the year 5560 (1799) was the first year the Alter Rebbe publicly
celebrated his redemption. A large crowd of Anash gathered in Liozna, and
the Alter Rebbe said a maamer Chassidus which began with the words,
"Baruch sh’asa nissim lavoseinu, ha’Baal Shem Tov v’Rabbeinu HaRav
HaMaggid, ba’yamim ha’heim, Purim V’Chanuka, bi’zman ha’zeh, Yud-Tes
Dibburim 1, p. 41)
ON YUD-TES KISLEV
those participating in the Yud-Tes farbrengen of 5653 (1892) with the
Rebbe Rashab, was a Chassid who had particularly enjoyed one of the thoughts the
Rebbe had expressed about chibuv mitzvos (love of mitzvos).
Yud-Tes Kislev it is customary to eat kasha. (In Lubavitch they called it
"black kasha" and they explained that it was to remember the food the
Alter Rebbe ate in prison. The Rebbe Rayatz related in the name of the Chassidim
who brought the Alter Rebbe a bucket of water and bread, that this is what he
ate. On Shabbos they brought him beer or mead.) Every country has its favorite
food, and in Lithuania it was kasha.
the Jew heard about a love of mitzvos with taanug (pleasure), he
ate the kasha with gusto. When the Rebbe noticed that the enjoyment of what he
had said had been transferred to the food, which was eaten with pleasure and not
the way a Chassid is supposed to eat, he said, "You forgot you are eating
explained that the brain of that individual had enjoyed the explanation of chibuv
mitzvos, and this led to a natural pleasure in eating kasha. But the person
eating did not sense it since he was occupied with what he had heard. That’s
why the Rebbe reminded him to remember he was eating kasha.
HaSichos 5698, p. 250-1)
is how they celebrated Yud-Tes Kislev in Lubavitch in 5663 (1902):
assembled a special arch in honor of the Rebbe Rashab. They lit 613 candles and
placed them by all the windows. When the Rebbe left his house and was on his way
to the beis midrash, the large zal, for the farbrengen,
they pulled a special string and immediately all the candles were ignited.
Tamim, R’ Nota of Pahr, sat above the arch. In the middle of the courtyard
stood HaRav HaTamim R’ Shaul Dov Zislin as the conductor. On the other side
stood HaTamim Shmuel Katzman, who signaled the singers to begin. Then R’ Nota
sang his famous song.
HaSichos 5705, p. 42-43)
CELEBRATION IN ZHLOBIN
Rebbe Rayatz relates in his journal about a Chassid by the name of R’ Aharon
Shlomo, a Chassid of the Alter Rebbe, who lived in Zhlobin in the Mohilev
district. This Chassid was replete with blessings for his righteousness in
general and his upstanding ways in particular, so they nicknamed him R’ Aharon
Shlomo der Libber (the Beloved), for he was good to all and kept away
from any position of authority; he busied himself with Chassidus and davened at
length. They said about R’ Aharon Shlomo that he was one of the singular
individuals among the Alter Rebbe’s Chassidim who fulfilled his will and
warning to speak neither good nor bad with regard to the Misnagdim, for
he never spoke of this.
Yud-Tes Kislev, R’ Aharon Shlomo would provide huge meals for all the shuls
in town, and thanks to his good and upstanding conduct, some Misnagdishe families
in Zhlobin became Chassidim and took on the nusach of the Alter Rebbe. In
the Chassidim HaChadashim Shul they held a huge meal on Yud-Tes
Moshiach issue #64, p. 12)
OTHER THAN LEARNING TORAH
Chassid R’ Nachum Goldschmidt, a’h, described the Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen
of the gaon and mekubal, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, in
Yekaterinaslav. R’ Levik would expound his teachings throughout the night. A
large crowd came to hear him, and he would speak for hours without a break about
deep matters, and would connect them to kabbala, nigleh, and Chassidus.
He would drink a great deal of mashke, and would explain, for example,
why, according to kabbala, the Alter Rebbe was freed on specifically this
day and not another.
the children of Yeketrinislav would have a feast on Yud-Tes Kislev, but it was
held on a different night so as not to interfere with the Rav’s farbrengen.
A few days before Yud-Kislev, they collected money for their farbrengen.
The Rebbe shlita was in charge of the money. He was the leader of the
children, as he was the firstborn. They cooked kasha and arranged a meal; it was
a great celebration.
was the only day of the year that the Rebbe shlita would do something
other than learn Torah.
Melech, p. 152)
IN MY REJOICING"
5658 the Rebbe Rashab said there were three versions of the Alter Rebbe’s maamer
about Yud-Tes Kislev, where he refers to those who will rejoice in his
one: I will remove him from meitzar (straits) to merchav (expansion).
two: I will remove him from the realm of the material to the realm of the
three: I will remove him from hell.
Rebbe Rashab said that all these versions are true. The first refers to going
out from Bria to Atzilus, the second refers to going out from Yetzira
to Bria, and the third from the world of Asiya.
Tzemach Tzedek explained that by saying, "samach b’simchasi"
(rejoice in my rejoicing), the Alter Rebbe was referring to anyone who "halt
zich an dem Rebben’s kliamke" (holds on to the Rebbe’s doorknob).
And this refers to Torah and avoda.
HaSichos 5699 p. 315)
FROM THE DESCENDENTS
the early emigres of Anash to New York was a Jew by the name of Shmuel
Eliezer Katznelson (who later shortened his name to Nelson), who was a grandson
of the famous gaon, R’ Boruch Mordechai of Bobruisk, a great Chassid of
the Alter Rebbe. R’ Shmuel Eliezer was well-to-do, and every year he was
involved in arranging the Yud-Tes Kislev celebration in a restaurant this being
America with meat and fish, etc., for he said that he had heard in the name of
his grandfather’s father, the gaon, R’ Baruch Mordechai, that the
Alter Rebbe had said: Whoever participates in my simcha, will merit to
see nachas from his descendents.
Livnei Yisroel p. 119)
the Yud-Tes Kislev celebration of 5702 (1942), the Rebbe Rayatz said:
Chabad Chassidim have a custom, a custom of the Alter Rebbe’s Chassidim, that
on Yud-Tes Kislev we say, "gutt Yom Tov" before and after Maariv,
and throughout Yud-Tes Kislev when Chassidim meet in shul or on the
5703 the HaYom Yom was printed for the first time. At the end, the entry for 18
Kislev says: "Gutt Yom Tov, l’shana tova b’limud ha’Chassidus v’darkei
ha’Chassidus teichaseivu v’seichaseimu" (Good Yom Tov, may you be
written and sealed for a good year in learning Chassidus and the ways of