Tzipah was driving with the kids a week or so ago, and out of nowhere, my daughter said, “I love life!”
“Aw,” replied Tzipah, “that’s so sweet.”
“It’s the best cereal,” came Shoshi’s response.
Oh. That life.
* * *
Today marks a watershed day on the Jewish calendar, commonly referred to as “Yud-Tes Kislev” (the 19th day of the month of Kislev). On this day in 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was freed from imprisonment in Czarist Russia.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman – the author of the Tanya and the first Lubavitcher Rebbe – was a student of Rabbi Dovber of Mezritch, who was the student of the Baal Shem Tov. He was imprisoned, under capital sentence, on the pretext that his teachings threatened the authority of the Czar.
While the spreading of Chassidic teachings had already begun years earlier with the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s release from prison heralded a new era in the dissemination of the “inner soul” of Torah.
In honor of this auspicious day, I would like to share a story with you, as told by the Rebbe during a 1965 Yud Tes Kislev Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering).
Rabbi Schneur Zalman once wished to bless the renowned Chassid Reb Yekusiel Liepler with long life. Yet Reb Yekusiel demurred, and replied, Ober nit mit poyershe yohrn — “but not peasant years.”
Reb Yekusiel continued, “Not years of those ‘who have eyes, but do not see; who have ears, but do not hear’ — who neither see nor hear G-dliness.”
Now, how could Reb Yekusiel ask for an additional blessing? Isn’t that a bit, well, chutzpah’dik? If someone offered you a gift, would you say, “No thanks, I’d rather have something better?!”
Yet certainly, Reb Yekusiel was not asking for anything extra. Rather, he simply meant that if he would be blessed with long life, then it should be life.
As far as he was concerned, the only life was one filled with appreciation of the Divine truth within creation. In such a case, it matters not so much how many years one lives, but that one should truly be alive during those years.
Yud Tes Kislev is a time to connect and reconnect to life, and truly say, “I love life.”
The traditional greeting on this day is: Gut Yom-Tov! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year in the study of Chassidus and the paths of Chassidus.