Thousands of people gathered this past weekend at the gravesite in Haditch, Ukraine, of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder and father of the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic group which became a worldwide phenomenon affecting the lives of millions and known to almost every Jew, on the 199th anniversary of his death.
Among the participants in the public celebration of the Rebbe’s life were the Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine Rabbi Moshe Azman, the chairman of the United Torah Judaism faction and a member of the Jerusalem City Council Rabbi Yaakov Halperin, and Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan from Russia. Arutz Sheva's Russian language website reported that despite the cold and harsh winter weather, a bar mitzvah and a wedding were held as well.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who was also known as Baal HaTanya [writer of the Tanya] for authoring the much-studied book of Hassidic philosophy called the Tanya, passed away 199 years ago on the 24th day of the month of Tevet, as he and his family were fleeing Napoleon’s army.
The Rebbe fell ill in the village of Pena and died two weeks later. He was laid to rest in Haditch.
He was a direct descendant of the Maharal of Prague, the great scholar also known for creating the 'golem of Prague", and was a student of the Maggid [inspiring orator] of Mezeritch, one of the five disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hassidism.
Some of the other holy works written by the sage, who was also called the Alter Rebbe [Rebbe Hazaken in Hebrew, meaning the elder rabbi] are the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and the Sidur Torah Or written according to prayer services of the revered 16th century Tzfat mystic, the Ari Z'l.
“The Rebbe wrote that on the day of his death his work and his teachings, for which he worked his entire life, become greater,” Rabbi Binyamin Ze’ev Halevi, head of the Torat Emet Yeshiva in Jerusalem, told Arutz Sheva. “So each year, on the day of the hilula (public celebration in memory of a rabbi –ed.), his work and his teachings grow and grow.”
Rabbi Halperin noted that among the Jews who came to participate in the hilula one could find not just Chabad hassidim but also Jews from all walks of life.
“They come to pray, to ask and to be blessed on this holy day,” he said. “There were many cases in which in one year Jews came to ask for something and the next year they came to say thank you to the Rebbe.”
Rabbi Halperin added, “We’re asking, here on this holy day, that the Rebbe say good things up in heaven on behalf of the people of Israel and Klal Yisrael. The people of Israel need redemption, everybody knows and hears it. May the entire people of Israel have redemption by building the Holy Temple and by the coming of the Messiah. Amen.”