19 Kislev: Rosh Hashana of Chassidut
Yud-Tes Kislev, also known as the “Chag HaGeulah—The Holiday of Redemption,” or the “Rosh Hashana of Chassidut,” begins tonight and continues until sundown tomorrow. On this day in 1798, the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was finally freed after spending 53 days in prison. Rabbi Shneur Zalman was the founder of Chabad Chassidut and the first Chabad Rebbe, and his freedom marked the beginning of a new era: that of the open dissemination of Chabad Chassidut. In 1796, the Alter Rebbe published the Tanya, of which Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev said, “Reb Shneur Zalman put such a great G-d in such a tiny book!”
It was also on the 19th of Kislev (1772) that Rabbi Dovber, the Maggid of Mezritch passed away, at which time he told the Alter Rebbe, who was his disciple, “This day is our yom tov (holiday).”
What mitzvah can you do today in the spirit of Yud-Tes Kislev?
It’s a 222 year old celebration. And it happens all over the world.
The 19th of Kislev, beginning at sunset on Friday evening and lasting through Sunday, Dec. 6, will be marked globally with virtual lectures and farbrengens—gatherings of people dedicated to the study of Chabad Chasidut—the mystical inner dimension of Torah study.
The 19th of Kislev, colloquially referred to as “Yud Tes Kislev,” marks the date when the founder of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745—1812) was released from imprisonment in czarist Russia. This event gave leave for Rabbi Schneur Zalman to advance the teachings of Chabad Chasidism in Eastern Europe, which would eventually be disseminated throughout the world by his successors.
The formative years of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s approach were fraught with opposition, but today Yud Tes Kislev has become the turning point for the study and lifestyle of Chasidut. In 1798 Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s contemporaries argued that the teachings of Chasidut were to be accessed only by scholars; in 2019 the argument no longer exists. Today, the thought and practice of Chabad, with its centers in 100 countries is widely shared and made accessible to every Jewish demographic.
The 19th day of Kislev, this year on Tuesday, December 17, significant to Chabad at large, has particular resonance for Chabad in Russia, where after a history of persecution, it is now free to practice, to study and to share its teachings. The Yevropeiski Banquet Hall in Moscow featured a “farbrengen” gathering this past Monday night. In scores of Jewish communities in Russia and the FSU, as everywhere else, the date will be honored with the study of Tanya, the foundational text of Chabad by Rabbi Shneur Zalman.