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Chai Elul (the 18th of Elul)

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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On the 18th of Elul, we celebrate the birthdays of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, was born in 1698 in Okup, a small town in the Carpathian Mountains of Poland. In the early 1700s he formulated the approach of Chassidut, stressing the importance of serving G-d with joy and warmth, humility and love of your fellow, and the necessity of having a Rebbe – a holy person who guides his followers in their spiritual journeys. After his passing in 1760, many of his disciples established their own Chassidic courts. They all followed the Chassidic tradition, but each Rebbe developed a unique approach to Chassidut, emphasizing a different aspect of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman (affectionately known as the “Alter Rebbe”, "The Old Rebbe"), creator of the Chabad branch of Chassidut, was born in Liozna, Belarus, in 1745. He was a student of Rabbi DovBer of Mezritch, the primary successor of the Baal Shem Tov, and after Rabbi DovBer’s death in 1773, Rabbi Schneur Zalman established the Chabad movement. Chabad is an acronym for three Hebrew words (Chochmoh, Binah, and Daat) which mean intellect, understanding, and knowledge. Chabad Chassidut emphasizes the importance of studying and understanding the esoteric parts of Torah –which include concepts such as G-d, the purpose of Torah, and the uniqueness of the Jewish soul.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s magnum opus, the Tanya, serves as the basic text of Chabad Chassidut. He also authored the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, a universally accepted codification of Jewish Law.

These two luminaries were both born on the same date, the 18th of Elul. Elul is a month of Teshuvah, a month of “renewing our marriage vows,”as a nation with G-d. It is a time to reignite the spark in our relationship with G-d. The number 18, has the numerical value of “Chai,” the Hebrew word for life. Studying Chassidut, and living a life of Chassidut, breathes new “life” into Elul, and into our relationship with G-d.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Jewish "Labels" » Chabad
Chassidism » Chabad
Chassidism » Chassidic Behavior
Holidays » Chassidic Holidays

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Chassidut
The teachings of the Chassidic masters. Chassidut takes mystical concepts such as G-d, the soul, and Torah, and makes them understandable, applicable and practical.
Tanya
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Elul
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.