The 19th of Kislev (December 2, 2023) is when the (Rebbe) Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was freed from his severe imprisonment in St. Petersburg in 1798. False and defamatory charges led to accusations of treason against the Russian Empire for sending funds to the Holy Land, which was under the Sultan of Turkey. His arrest imperiled not only his own life but also the future of the Chassidic movement. Consequently, the day of his release was declared a day of celebration among the Chassidim.
Chassidism was founded to offer personal, spiritual fulfillment through attachment to God, spontaneous enthusiasm in Divine worship, and a sanctified life imbued with joy.
Chassidism reveals that it is possible to live a spiritual life even in a corporeal world. Chassidus clarifies the essence and ultimate goal of all beings, man’s raison d’être, man’s purpose in life: a meaningful and illuminated life based profoundly on the Bible, even in a world of smoke, mirrors, shadows, and darkness.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was whisked away in the Black Mary, a black carriage reserved for the most severe infractions of the time. It was Friday, and the Rabbi 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, but then one of the horses collapsed. A new horse was brought in, but the horses could not move the carriage. This was sufficient evidence for the officer to understand that he was transporting an unusual prisoner. Now, the officer requested of the Rabbi that they travel to the next village, but the Rabbi refused, and they spent the Sabbath in an adjacent field.
The Rabbi 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 Rabbi’s personality and said, “I have a question on the Bible and would be most grateful for an answer.”
“Ask whatever you like,” said the Rabbi, “and with God’s help, I hope to be able to solve your problem.”
“What is the meaning of the verse, ‘and God called to Adam and said: Where are you?’ How is it possible that the Omniscient God did not know where Adam was?”
“Do you believe,” the Rabbi asked, “that the Bible is timeless and forever relevant to every individual?” “I sincerely believe that,” was the reply. “I will give you an explanation,” said the Rabbi.
“And God called to “Ha-Adam,” to the ‘man.’ This means that at all times, God calls every individual and asks him, ‘Where do you stand in this world?’ God allotted to each a certain number of days, each to be utilized for the doing of good concerning God and humanity. Therefore, contemplate: How many years have you lived, and how much good have you accomplished during that time? You, for instance, have lived already… years (and here, the Rabbi mentioned the exact age of the official). How are you using your time?” The official was amazed and thrilled that the Rabbi ‘guessed his age’ and exclaimed, “Bravo!”
Czar Paul I, heard so much about this “prisoner” that he disguised himself as a clerk of the courts and went to see the Rabbi. As soon as he entered, the Rabbi rose and honored him. “You must be the Czar,” said the Rabbi. “Our sages teach us that ‘sovereignty on Earth is similar to the sovereignty in heaven.’ As the fear before God is great, I also felt 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 God.” Truly righteous and spiritually righteous saints (Tzadikim) are the windows through (their teachings, behavior, and miracles) we are reminded that there is more to this world than meets the eye. There is a God we can pray to, and there are miracles we can expect.
Chapter 81 www.rabbishlomoezagui.com