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True Revolution

Initially, when the Chassidic movement was introduced to the Jewish world, there were those who looked upon it with suspicion. This was shortly after the rise and fall of the false Messiah, Shabbetai Tzvi, who had raised Jewish hopes and then shattered them with his defection to Islam. The disappointment and trauma were still fresh, and people naturally reacted with great reserve to any revolutionary movement in Judaism, particularly when it was associated with the teachings of Kabbalah. They feared that Chassidism was Shabbetainism in a new guise.

Within a short time it became apparent that there was no comparison between Shabbetai Tzvi and his ilk, who in the end abandoned their religion, and the Chassidim, who introduced a greater fervor and love into observance of mitzvot. Chassidim quickly became known as those who fulfilled mitzvoth with especial zeal and piety.

Nevertheless, there was a group who persisted in waging war against the Chassidim and their growing influence. They sought to minimize the spread of the Chassidic movement by any means possible, including by direct intimidation and arrest of its leaders.

One of the steps they took in this vein was denouncing the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, to the Czar as a rebel against the Russian government. The Rebbe was arrested, and after 59 days of imprisonment he was vindicated. The day of his release, the 19th of Kislev, marked the beginning of a new era in the spread and dissemination of Chassidic teachings.


Ever since that victory on the 19th of Kislev, 213 years ago, we have come a very long way. One who follows Jewish history, particularly of that era, would say conclusively that Chassidism was victorious. The path of Chassidism was not only vindicated; it has continued to flourish to this day.

One of the key arguments of the detractors was the great emphasis that the Chassidic movement placed on prayer, at the expense (so they thought) of intensive Torah study. Today all branches of Judaism recognize the importance of prayer as the core of our relationship with G-d.

There was once a time when Chassidim were derided for their embrace of the simple, unlearned Jew – yet today every branch of Judaism recognizes the need to welcome these Jews into our midst, teach them and provide spiritual enrichment. These Jews, in turn, are a tremendous source of spiritual energy and vitality for the Jewish community as a whole.

At one time, Chassidim were mocked for their singing, dancing and exuberant joy with which they served G-d. Today these qualities are widely admired, envied and emulated.

The vindication of Chassidism as a legitimate Jewish movement began with the 19th of Kislev, 5559 (1798), but it continues until today, as the Chassidic movement grows in strength and influence.


One thing the Chassidic movement has always emphasized is the faith, yearning and anticipation for the ultimate Redemption. And this key belief, such a painful reminder of the recent Shabbetai Tzvi debacle, was one of the most bitterly contentious to the movement’s detractors. But in recent times even that has changed. The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s message, that the world is ready for Redemption and we must prepare for his coming with acts of goodness and kindness, has seeped into the Jewish consciousness and become an integral part of Jewish life.

We eagerly await the day when the prophecies of Redemption will be fulfilled in their entirety, and we will celebrate the key role that the Chassidic movement played in bringing about this long-awaited era.


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