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Crown Jewels

In the upcoming week, on Thursday, the 19th of Kislev, the Chassidic movement will celebrate the liberation of its founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Rabbi Schneur Zalman spent 53 days in a Czarist prison in St. Petersburg before his release on the 19th of Kislev.

Why was Rabbi Schneur Zalman imprisoned? There are two reasons, the mundane and the spiritual. The mundane reason is that he was slandered to the Czar as a traitor. He used to collect money to send to the Jews in Israel, which was then controlled by Turkey. Since Turkey and Russia were at odds, this was reported to the Czar as support of his enemy, the Turkish sultan. However, Rabbi Schneur Zalman viewed his imprisonment in a completely different light.

As he explained it, in heaven there was a kitrug (complaint) issued against him for his dissemination of Chassidic teachings. These teachings were too holy and lofty to be taught to the masses. Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the first to teach Chassidic concepts in a form that could be understood by the average mind. Because Rabbi Schneur Zalman violated the ban against spreading these sensitive teachings to the public, the imprisonment was decreed upon him from Above.

Why, indeed, did Rabbi Schneur Zalman choose to do what he did? Why did he reveal the teachings of Chassidism in a form that could be understood by the public? Rabbi Schneur Zalman answers with a parable:

There was a king whose son fell ill, and his conditioned worsened from day to day. The best doctors were consulted but none could save his life. Finally one doctor offered hope for a cure: If the king would crush his crown jewel, stir the dust into water and give a few drops to his son to drink, there was a chance that the boy would be spared.

The doctors warned the king that this cure was not guaranteed. His son’s condition was so bad that he might not even be capable of swallowing the potion. However, this was the only cure that offered even a slight hope.

The Rebbe explained that the ailing son is the Jewish nation, which has become spiritually ill over the course of the long exile. The crown jewel is the teachings of Chassidism, which is the only hope for the spiritual revival of the Jewish people. Teaching and publicizing the teachings of Chassidism is like taking the crown jewel and crushing it into a potion. The crown jewel itself is being removed from its lofty place and degraded. However, to the King, the One above, this sacrifice is worth it for the hope of saving the Jewish people.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s liberation on the 19th of Kislev gave him the green light to continue teaching Chassidism in public, and even to expand on his teachings. He realized that his approach had been vindicated. From that point on, Rabbi Schneur Zalman taught Chassidism in a manner that far exceeded his previous teachings.

Over the course of the generations, the dissemination of Chassidism has intensified. Many books filled with Chassidic wisdom and insight have been published and studied by people around the world. In particular, our generation has seen an explosion in the spread of Chassidic teachings, via many recovered manuscripts as well as through modern technology such as radio, satellite, fax and internet. This has allowed many more people to have access to the “crown jewels,” the teachings of Chassidism.

The 19th of Kislev, the day designated as the “New Year of Chassidism,” is an excellent opportunity to join a circle of people studying the Torah of Chassidus, which prepares us for the imminent revelation of Moshiach. When G-d offers you a taste of his crown jewels, who can refuse?

   
 

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