Gut Yom Tov: A Little Light Pushes Away Alot Of Darkness


One of the most celebrated days for Chabad Lubavitch Chassidim comes as a result of a vicious Mesira by fellow Jews.

On the 19th of Kislev of the year 5559 from creation (1798), Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi — a leading disciple of Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch and the founder of Chabad Chassidism — was released from his imprisonment in the Peter-Paul fortress in Petersburg, where he was held for 53 days on charges that his teachings threatened the imperial authority of the Czar. More than a personal liberation, this was a watershed event in the history of Chassidism heralding a new era in the revelation of the “inner soul” of Torah, and is celebrated to this day as “The Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.”

Links: About Kislev 19

19. He redeemed my soul in peace from battles against me, because of the many who were with me. 20. May God-He who is enthroned from the days of old, Selah-hear and humble those in whom there is no change, and who do not fear God. 21. He extended his hands against his allies, he profaned his covenant. 22. Smoother than butter are the words of his mouth, but war is in his heart; his words are softer than oil, yet they are curses. 23. Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous man falter. 24. And You, O God, will bring them down to the nethermost pit; bloodthirsty and treacherous men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You.

                                                                                                                                                 (Psalm 55:19-24)


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5 Responses to “Gut Yom Tov: A Little Light Pushes Away Alot Of Darkness”

  1. WhoIsShmira? Says:

    Shomrim 6 to Mark 2 Years to Their Miraculous Victory

    It was a fight for their lives, a combined 90 years in prison could have been the punishment handed down by the courts of the State of New York had they have – Chas Veshalom – been found guilty, but have been miraculously saved from this evil decree.

    No, this isn’t a story about Chassidim resisting the persecution of the communists in Russia, or the Jews fighting the Romans in the times of the Holy Temple, this took place at 320 Jay Street in Brooklyn, NY just two years ago where a group of Jews pointed fingers at a group of other Jews, with the intention of having them locked up for as long as they could manage. But they failed.

    The 22nd of Kislev is the day that the “Not Guilty” verdict was handed down by a jury of twelve, sparing the group of six Shomrim volunteers and their families from the perils and unknowns.

  2. Matityahu Says:

    And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time—

    In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.

  3. Yehuda Ceitlin Says:

    Proud of Chabad’s ‘Criminal’ PastArizona Jewish Post

    On Dec. 3, corresponding to the Hebrew date of Kislev 19, Chabad followers around the globe celebrate the release from prison of the founder of Chabad Hasidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

    A few days earlier, Kislev 10, is named by Hasidim the “festival of liberation” as the day his successor, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, was released from prison as well.

    In fact, there are more such commemorations. It is told about a father whose son was becoming religious and was spending time in Chabad circles: upon hearing the causes for many Hasidic celebrations, the father commented, “Son, perhaps you should not be hanging out with such lawless folks.”

    My great-grandfather, Rabbi Aaron Eliezer Tzeitlin, belonged to that seemingly shady club as well.

    On Dec. 20, 1937 he was sentenced to eight years of “restorative work” in Russia’s Siberia (he ultimately died there, never to be properly buried). The counts he was convicted on explain why I am so proud of his criminal past — and why Chabad pays tribute to its rebbes’ felonious activities.

    According to the investigation file, Rabbi Aaron Eliezer was accused of being “a member of the underground group and promoted among Jewish workers anti-revolutionary propaganda against Soviet rule and its leaders.” He also “persuaded Jews to immigrate to Palestine.”

    This referred to the Torah classes he gave, the mikvah he built and the kosher food he supervised for Belarus Jews. And later, the underground synagogue and Jewish day school he operated in his home in the Moscow suburb of Mozhaysk, until the Soviet secret police finally got hold of him.

    Today it is hard to imagine living a Jewish life with the challenges our forefathers faced, or the existential dangers our grandparents confronted not too long ago.

    The options for observing Torah and mitzvot are practically laid out in front of us. In-depth learning can be done with a swipe on the iPad, communities and charities welcome involvement with open arms, Trader Joe’s carries American Kosher Beef Salami and lighting a Shabbat candle does not have to be done in a windowless room.

    Yet, the abundance of options and choices in a free society often leads to taking reality for granted.

    The rabbinic sage Ben Zoma observed, “How many labors Adam carried out before he obtained bread to eat! He plowed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound, he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground, and sifted, he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me.”

    The key to securing our commitment to Jewish ideals and tradition is perhaps gratitude.

    If we must learn to be grateful to those who provide for many of our physical needs, then we must surely learn to appreciate those who provide for our spiritual ones, as Rabbi Lazar Gurkow points out in his new book, “Reaching For G-d.”

    When we observe the Torah, we validate not only our mandate but also the millions who sacrificed much to attain and preserve it, Gurkow says. Conversely, when we abandon the Torah, we betray not only our mandate but also our ancestors’ many sacrifices.

    What the farbrengens (Hasidic celebrations) remind us is that if our rabbis back in the 1800s could endure imprisonment in Czarist Russia for keeping the faith, how difficult can it be for us? King David implores in Psalm 34: “Taste it, and you will see that G-dliness is good.” Today, you can do so much more than taste.

    –Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin is development director of Chabad of Tucson and associate rabbi at Congregation Young Israel of Tucson.

  4. WhoIsShmira? Says:

    Meshichistim lost their claim to Chabad 18 years ago and lost their claim to 19th of Kislev three years ago, when they tried to lock up 6 innocent Jews based on a blood libel.

    Not one meshichist opened his month in protest. In fact they were all praying that they would be victorious in their Mesirah.

    Three years ago 5770 on 19th of Kislev they were still in the process of falsely testifying against the Shomrim Six.

  5. Shomrim Six Says:

    What gave the Shomrim Six the strength and encouragement to to deny “the plea deal” and in turn face judgment? What pushes the Shomrim/Hershkops to do the Chesed that they do, with the Mesiras Nefesh they do it with?

    A few mouth before they were send down to trial, a book on grandfather, Yitzchak Menachem Mendel Lies was published.

    Presenting a chapter related to trial, imprisonment and finally freedom.

    -6 –

    Years of Imprisonment & Forced Labor

    I came to the Yeshiva in Vilna during a good and thriving period. I hoped to quickly become adjusted and get back into my learning. Clearly the Yeshiva had been in a dreadful state for a period of time. However, we tried to continue to carry on with the סדר of the Yeshiva as much as possible. To uplift the situation, one of the older תמימים asked me if my father, HaRav HaChassid Reb Chaim Meir Lis, would come to Vilna as ראש ישיבה.

    As I explained in the first chapter, according to the instructions of the Frierdiker Rebbe, my father served as the משפיע in the Yeshiva in Warsaw and the influence he had on the students was well known. His chassidic image was dignified and also well recognized. Since the students knew that my parents were moving about in different places, they suggested that my father come to Vilna. He would serve as ראש ישיבה, and, thus, come by a safe place for himself and his family from the horrors of war.

    After considerable thought, I realized that the Yeshiva was, in fact, appropriate for our family and my father would also have an honorable position appropriate for one of his stature. The proposal so captivated me that I decided to fulfill their request and steal back across the border into Russia to bring my father and family to Vilna. I had to go in person since there were no phones or mail. I received a sum of money for the voyage from the faculty of the Yeshiva and only a few days after my arrival at the Yeshiva, I was on my way back to Russia.

    I knew that my parents had a plan to leave Matzuv and go toward L’vov. I headed towards that vicinity hoping to find them. Thus, I found myself, once again, trying to cross the border, but this time exactly in the opposite direction. However, the Russian soldiers spotted me and, yet again, I was arrested.

    The Russian soldiers put me together with a group of detainees who were being guarded under the watchful eyes of many soldiers. Since this was in no-man’s-land, without a proper prison, they held us somewhere in a bathhouse “אושמנקה מורובנקו”.

    We remained here for a few days awaiting a trial. I remember that every night, in the middle of the night, a warden would enter the room and would announce – in other words, he wouldn’t say the name of the prisoner whom he was looking for, he just announced – who is here whose last name begins with “ל’” (for instance). All those with their family name beginning with that letter said their name and when the warden heard the correct name, he would say: “Oh yes. סאביערייש איז וויעשצאמו (gather your stuff and follow me)”. And then he was taken to be interrogated. Obviously this was intended to disturb the other prisoners.

    Sunlight did not reach this place. We figured out the time according to the schedule of the food distributions. Breakfast and supper was each at a specific time. When the warden would announce that we had to sleep, we knew what time it was. Besides this, we were obligated to go on an “outing” every day in the yard. Each one of us went out separately with a guard. It was during this time that I managed to daven; that the davening should be done in a clean place.

    During one of these excursions, I needed to go to the bathroom. I asked the soldier where to go since there weren’t any bathrooms. He didn’t know what to answer me at first, but then he told me to go into the field and return. I did as he suggested and went out to the open field. Suddenly, I realized that no one was paying attention to me and, in reality, I was free. I was able to go anywhere. I didn’t hesitate more than necessary, and, quickly began to run, trying to distance myself from the ‘prison’ as much as possible.

    I covered approximately 2 km when I suddenly remembered that I left my תפילין in the hands of the Russian soldiers. I said to myself: “רבונו של עולם, I don’t have תפילין. How can I continue without תפילין? If I manage to escape, how will I put on תפילין tomorrow?” I felt that I could not continue without my תפילין in my possession and I decided to turn back… what will be, will be.

    I had an additional reason for returning: When I had escaped across the border, a frum Jew, with the name Karp, was with me and we were arrested together. I was afraid that after my escape was discovered, the Russians would find Karp guilty of being a collaborator in my disappearance.

    I turned back and sat down near the group of detainees. No one noticed that I was gone and no one noticed that I had returned. After some time we were brought to trial and accused of attempting to smuggle ourselves across the border. When I stood on trial, I was declared guilty of being a Polish spy, trying to discover the strength of the Russian army. This was the main charge against me. The Russian judge ruled that I had to sit five years in prison in accordance to paragraph 58 in Russian Law; that was the most severe sentence.

    Once again, I returned to my cell and, for eight months, alternated among various Russian prisons. During this entire period I was not given any respite. Every few weeks I would be transferred from one prison to another, mainly by foot, so I would not become comfortable with any one place.

    These eight months in the prisons passed with great hardships, mainly because of the idleness and lack of activity. What was there to do? Nothing! I remember that one of the wardens once asked me what I did in the cell from morning to evening. When I was silent and didn’t answer, he declared in contempt: “Yes. You eat breakfast and wait for lunch and from lunch wait for supper; that’s your whole occupation”.

    The cells in the prison weren’t small. They were big rooms containing sixty beds to a room and as many prisoners. It is self understood that the relationship amongst the detained was very important. I made a strong effort to become friendly with as many of the prisoners as possible. I, thus, had their respect. They called me “Rebbe’le”.

    I will describe an event where I earned the protection of the prisoners.

    When the soldiers began to discuss the labor camps where we were expected to be sent, and about the hard labor that we would be “זוכה” to, one of the prisoners (a Jew from Vilna who wasn’t frum) stood next to me and laughed at me: “דאס רעבלע וועט קענען ארבעטן?” (“This Rebbe’le will be able to work?”) Then he proceeded to curse and swear, ר”ל. I was able to withstand myself being humiliated, however, the cursing of הקב”ה hurt me very much. I just couldn’t restrain myself. I approached this prisoner, pulled him to his bed, and I climbed onto the bed after him (since he was much taller than me). I “honored” him with a ringing slap and I warned him that he shouldn’t dare continue to speak like that. Obviously he wanted to take revenge on me, but the גוי’שע prisoners separated us and warned him that if he would touch me, they would kill him.

    Throughout the time in prison, I was wary of the smelly soup and the other “provisions” we received, so I ate only bread and sugar.

    After eight months, I was part of a large group of prisoners who boarded prisoner trains heading towards a labor camp in Siberia. The difficult voyage took more than two months; I remember the suffering to this very day. The carts were tightly closed and we weren’t able to leave them even once during the entire two months. The food was given in measuring utensils; approximately 300g of bread a day, and sometimes a small box of smelly, salty fish. There was barely anything to drink. The prisoners did their private business in the corner of the cart, without even a pail.

    Despite all these horrors, I tried hard to keep my head above water and keep track of the days. Every day I made a note to myself of what day it was so that, as much as possible, I could try to honor and enjoy the Shabbos; obviously there weren’t any means with which to do this appropriately.

    We waited for the day when we would finally reach the camp, mainly just to be able to leave the train. Finally the day arrived, but life didn’t become easier for us. We came to a camp in Siberia called “וורקוט לאגר” (Varkut Lagger) – an area where the sun doesn’t shine for many months during the year. The frost in this area was unbelievable – with temperatures dropping sometimes to 50 degrees below zero. However, the cold did not prevent our supervisors from sending us out to work; unless the temperature dropped to minus 40.

    The day after we arrived, we were already sent out to work. The primary work done at this remote and far out place, during the years I spent in the camp, was building a line of railroad tracks. This area could not be reached by train and the Russians were interested in developing it.

    If there were no trains, how did we manage to come to this forsaken place? We traveled with prison carts until Kotlas, the closest city to this area, where we continued by ship for 4 days and then went by foot for another few days. The trek went on for hundreds of kilometers in the frost; an arid and really dark, dreadful frost. The city of Kotlas had big food warehouses from which we equipped ourselves with food – mainly toast. A specific brigade carried the food sacks on their backs until we arrived at the labor camp.

    When we reached our destination, we first built a temporary camp. As I mentioned earlier, the following day we already started to work. Each brigade received an area of 2 – 3 km to build and continue the tracks. When the work was completed in one part, the camp was moved to the next area to continue the tracks. Each similar camp had about 100 to 500 prisoners.

    This track was designated for a train line between Kotlas, a city of prisoners, and Varkota, a city with a gold mine, since the Russians hoped to promote the production of gold.

    Food was a severe problem because supply vehicles weren’t able to reach this area. Only once every while would a supply truck achieve to bring food or mail. We were cutting trees in the forest and using the logs to build a roadway wide enough to accommodate only one vehicle. Every 10 km we doubled the width for a short stretch to enable an oncoming vehicle to pass; otherwise it would not have been possible because of the mud.

    Since the ground was muddy, many of the trees in the forest couldn’t withstand the winds and from time to time collapsed on top of the prisoners, killing them instantly. The danger was stronger for those who made their way walking between the trees.

    Although this work was hard and extremely risky, ב”ה, I was able to keep up, even though I wasn’t from one of the stronger prisoners. The גויים used to say: “This little one can uphold himself better than the rest of us”.

    Building a train track in this area was much harder than any other place – not only because the temperatures were tough, but also because the ground was saturated with water. There were surfaces that did not have any earth, only mud. What were we to do? We would dig in the ground about 4 meters deep until we removed the mud and finally found solid earth. We would then fill the ditch with regular sand that we chiseled off the mountains in the area. We leveled the ground and only then were we able to begin building the actual tracks.

    The work also entailed bringing dry sand from the mountains which were at least 2 km away. We transported the sand in wheelbarrows, pushing them across wooden tracks which we previously prepared. In the winter, when the ground was covered with hard ice, we were forced to break through the ice with pick axes and remove the top portion of the frozen ground in order to reach suitable dry earth.

    I explained in a “dry” fashion the hard work that we did, but the physical and spiritual hardships were really very brutal. During this entire period I didn’t put on תפילין because the soldiers took them away from me. I often thought of the irony… I ended up here because I didn’t want to escape without my תפילין and, here I am, living many long months without תפילין…

    Of course, I often thought about my parents – how were they faring? Were they spared the sufferings of war? Where were they at this time? I also thought a lot about the Frierdiker Rebbe. Where was the Rebbe now? What was he doing? During real challenging moments, I would envision his holy image.

    Being cut off from the world brought about an unrelenting worry. I knew a really big war was taking place, but I did not know that millions of Jews were being killed. From time to time, it would enter my mind that maybe the whole world had ended and I was amongst the few remaining – not a very positive thought for the state of mind. Amongst us were גויים who prayed constantly that the Nazis would defeat the Russians, hoping they would reach us and free us from this difficult work.

    Today it is clear that this exile in the depths of Russia saved me and thousands of other Jews from the claws of the cursed Nazis, ימ”ש, but since we were unaware of it at that time, our morale was very low and embittered.

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