Thursday, January 05, 2006

ONCE UPON A CHASID: Inseparable Souls (Vayigash)


Tevet 5, 5766 * January 5, 2006


Parshat Vayigash

- His soul is bound with his soul (Genesis 44:30)

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Inseparable Souls
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In 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was imprisoned by the czarist government on charges fabricated against him and the Chassidic movement.

When he was brought before his interrogators, the first question they asked him was: "Are you of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov's people?" Rabbi Schneur Zalman later related that he knew that if answered "no" he would be immediately released; nevertheless, he refused to disassociate himself from the Baal Shem Tov.

His 52 days of imprisonment in the Peter-Paul fortress in Petersburg were the most agonizing days of his life. He was forced to explain the basic tenents of Judaism and Chassidism to the coarse Cossack minds of his questioners. He wept when he was asked "What is a Jew?", "What is G-d?", "What is the relationship of a Jew to G-d? Of G-d to a Jew?" - to hear these questions issuing from their vulgar mouths tore his heart to shreds.

One question in particular caused him great pain. It was Rabbi Schneur Zalman's custom to interject the expression "af" in his prayers, as did the Baal Shem Tov. His enemies misconstrued this to mean that he was beseeching the Almighty to pour His wrath ('af' in Hebrew) upon the czar and his government. To explain to the Russian officials the Baal Shem Tov's customs and his lofty reflections during prayer was torture to Rabbi Schneur Zalman's soul.

Here too, Rabbi Schneur Zalman could have satisfied their queries with all sorts of answers. But his connection with the Baal Shem Tov, whom he called his 'grandfather in spirit', was so dear to him, that he refused to disclaim it in even the slightest detail, even if only for appearances sake.


Featured Audio Class on

Vayigash - Joseph's Leadership Role
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The lesson from Joseph: the strength and ability to be a leader and sustain society not just physically but spiritually as well.

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