The trip to Eretz HaKodesh that didn′t take place
This week the Jewish world marks the opening events of 200 years since the demise of the Teacher of Israel, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Ba′al HaTanya and founder of Chabad, who passed away on the 24th of Teves, 5573.
Rabbi Yosef Hartman, a descendant of Rabbi Schneur Zalman and award winning religious educator, relates of the Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi′s journey to Israel.
Rabbi Yosef Hartman
"We are going to the Holy Land with Alter Rebbe." The rumor spread by word of mouth among the members of the large family. In the month of Iyar, 235 years ago, they packed their belongings to make the long and tedious trip, hired carts and horses and left Liozna to the city of Mohilov, located near the Dneister River. Among those traveling with Rabbi Schneur Zalman included his brothers, Rabbi Yehuda Leib and Rabbi Moshe and their families, and some of the students.
Many of the students begged the Rebbe not to desert his flock. However, he answered them, "my life takes precedence." He had always wanted to go to our holy land to advance to new heights in the service of the Creator with superior purity and holiness.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman wanted very much to join the holy Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Rabbi Abraham Kalisk, who headed the great journey to Israel. For about three weeks the Alter Rebbe was delayed in Mohilov, on his way to Eretz Yisroel.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk urged him to heed his disciples′ pleading that he should not be leaving them and stay in Russia. He reminded him that the Maggid of Mezrich appointed him to continue the leadership of the disciples and promised that he will succeed in everything he does. It is known that for a whole week the Alter Rebbe was talking for hours with his friend – and Rov, the Tzadik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. Only after begging, he reluctantly agreed to give up and continue the leadership of followers in Russia, and returned to the city Liozna.
In the Merit of Tzedaka for the Holy Land
Rabbi Schneur Zalman did not join the journey to the Holy Land, but was a great supporter of the Chasidic community which was established in the country, and urged tens of thousands of followers to support the tzedaka of the Land of Israel.
He founded the "Collel Chabad" which distributed the donations collected throughout Russia, to the communities in Yerushalayim, Tveria, Chevron and Tzfas. In those days, the Holy Land was under Turkish rule. The Government of the Russian Czar had been warring with the Ottoman Turks.
Money sent to Israel was holy grounds for his arrest, which was interpreted by the denunciation of his opponents as support of the enemy. Subsequently, he was arrested and sent to prison in the capitol city, Petersburg.
When he was released on the "Day of Redemption "- Yud Tes Kislev, he wrote a letter to the famous tzaddik, Advocate of Israel, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. "From G-d it was right for us to pass on our thanks to the Holy Land and its inhabitants, and she stood for us, and we will at any time opportune provide us with deliverance and welfare ...."
24th of Teves: His Passing
Rabbi Schneur Zalman passed away while escaping from Napoleon. Rabbi Schneur Zalman suffered greatly from Napoleon′s temporary victories, the destruction and devastation that his soldiers caused to the Jewish communities, and the loose atmosphere that he tried to impart to the Jews.
On Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Shmos, the eve of the 24th of Teves, after reciting the Maariv and Havdala prayers with a clear mind, the Rebbe returned his soul on High, and was buried in the city of Haditch. An "Ohel" was built on the grave site with a shul adjacent. Thousands visit the holy site on his yohrtzeit and during the year, and are the recipients of many spiritual and material blessings.