Devar Torah

Wednesday, 28 November, 2012 - 11:45 pm

A Long Distance Fabrengen
What a Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen can accomplish

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

“Yud-Tes Kislev is a day to farbreng together, resolve to establish times to study Torah and Chessidus, and follow the ways and customs of Chassidus, with true love and friendship” (Hayom Yom).

A 'lost soul' finds himself at a Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen, as described by the Previous Rebbe on Acharon shel Pesach, 1934:

In the city of Petersburg there once lived a wealthy man who was born into a Chassidic family in the Mohilev region. At the age of fourteen, he left his community and moved to the big city of Petersburg. There he succumbed to the pressures and pleasures of the time and place, until he eventually desecrated Shabbos, ate treif food, etc.

Nevertheless, he maintained some interest in Chabad. When the Alter Rebbe's portrait was first publicized, he commissioned a famous artist to make a large copy of it, as well as a portrait of my great- grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek. He prominently displayed the paintings in his library, adjoining his study.

Years passed, and his business prospered. The Jewish names he gave his children at birth were soon replaced by Russian names. His extravagant house- hold pursued the pleasures of the world with passion. His social circle was comprised mostly of non-Jews, or assimilated Jews who had forgotten their roots.

One day, in the winter of 1892, he had to visit the home of a local Chassidic merchant regarding a business matter. Coming in, he saw the rooms filled with people sitting around festive tables and everyone was singing joyously. The heartwarming scene reminded him of his childhood years at his parents' home.

The host immediately rose to welcome his guest and ushered him into his office, to discuss their business. The Chossid had known this man's parents, and was aware that he had strayed very far.

When their business was done, the guest asked:

"Excuse me, but what occasion are you celebrating today? Do I owe you a Mazel Tov for a family event?" "Yes," replied the host, ''we are indeed celebrating a family simchah. We were just talking long distance with our parents in Gan Eden. We were so glad to hear good regards from them, that we have gathered to celebrate."

Seeing the perplexed look on his guest's face, the host continued: "Today is Yud-Tes Kislev, the day of the Alter Rebbe's liberation. There is a great celebration right now in the Alter Rebbe's abode in Heaven. The Tzaddikim have assembled there to wish him Mazel Tov on his liberation and the growth of Chassidism. Our parents and grandparents who used to travel long distances to visit the Rebbes of their respective generations are also joining in the celebration. We, their children and grandchildren, are rejoicing together here, joining them up there, celebrating this holiday."

Hearing these poignant words, the guest felt like joining the farbrengen for a while. Feeling strange and distant, he was ashamed to do so. How could he, who ate treif food, join these pious people?

Reading his guest's mind, the host invited him to join the celebration, saying: "By the way, my dear friend, while you're here,' you will get regards from your father and grandfather, too ... " The host did everything to make him feel at home.

A seudas Mitzvah is always a wonderful occasion among Chassidim, especially a seudah held in honor of Yud-Tes Kislev, which is celebrated in cities and towns around the world. This celebration was being held in the very place where the miracle of liberation had occurred. This farbrengen happened over 40 years ago, when the elderly Chassidim (including Reb Yitzchok and Reb Zalman Rubashov) who had known the Chassidim and misnagdim who were present at the first Yud-Tes Kislev, were still alive. This Yud-Tes Kislev feast was thus celebrated with exceptional joy and enthusiasm.

Several hours passed. The guest forgot entirely that he had reserved theater tickets for his friends and himself. So absorbed was he among his Chassidic brethren, that is seemed to him that he was back in his parents' home.

He recalled the festive Yud-Tes Kislev dinners that were served in his grandfather's little shul, He also remembered the special dinner which his grand- mother, mother and aunts used to prepare when his grandfather came home from visiting the Rebbe in Lubavitch. Recollections from his youth now sprang to life. He fondly recalled Reb Boruch Asher the melamed, the Chassidic teacher of his childhood.

He stayed at the farbrengen for several hours. In 1897, a friend of mine told me that when this man came home from the Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen, he walked straight into his library and recited the Maariv prayers with heartbreaking sobs of sincere regret that came from deep within him.

Within a few days he bought new dishes, kashered his kitchen, and became a new person.

Some people turn to repentance through a pogrom or because of a harsh dictator such as Haman. But why wait for hard- ship? Repentance can better be aroused by a loving farbrengen, or by memories of a true Jewish home. Better through kindness than through suffering, G-d forbid.

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