Where Every Jew is Family

Freedom for a Jewish Hero!


Accusations were made and evidence was gathered.  After extensive interrogation, he was put in prison for too long.  Accused of treasonous activity on behalf of Israel, he was finally set free and we can all rejoice as one Jewish people.

No, I’m not referring to last week’s release of Jonathan Pollard, but the release of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (or the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad movement) 217 years ago on the 19th of Kislev (or Yud Tes Kislev, as it’s called, being celebrated this Tuesday).

It was a very tumultuous time in Russia.  The Ottoman Empire was threatening Russian sovereignty.   Since Israel was under Ottoman rule, the Russians had an extra eye on the Jews.  So, it wasn’t to difficult to hand over some trumped up charges against the Alter Rebbe to the Russian government.  The Alter Rebbe was known to raise money for the poor Jews living in Israel and this got twisted into a charge of sending financial support to the Turks.

After being in prison for 53 days, he was finally released as the charges were demonstrably false.  But those 53 days in a Russian prison in 1798 were probably much worse than the 30 years Mr. Pollard spend in US federal prisons.

A famous story is told of his time in prison:

While imprisoned, the Alter Rebbe was visited by the souls of his teacher, the Maggid (preacher) of Mezritch and Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement.  When he asked them why he was in jail, they told him of the great tumult he was causing in heaven due to his dissemination of the secrets of the Torah through the teaching of Chassidic philosophy.   Naturally, he asked if he should stop teaching chassidism.  They responded that not only should he continue, but that he should do even more, as the heavenly court will acquit him of all charges.

After his release, he gave longer and more detailed explanations of deep chassidic insights into the Torah and amassed a tremendous following.

I feel that there are at least two important lessons from this story.
1. When something “negative” happens to us, we should realize that it’s coming from above and take it to heart as a lesson for improvement.
2. If we’re doing something good, then no matter what obstacles may be thrown up, we must rededicate ourselves to do even more good when those obstacles have been removed or worked through.

I give you all a blessing that this Yud Tes Kislev be uplifting, inspirational and helps you rededicate yourself to doing even more mitzvot. If you would like help in choosing a mitzvah to take on in honor of this momentous occasion, please email me and I’d be glad to help.

~Rabbi Yossi Madvig

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