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Where Do You Stand?
by Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
The Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, was whisked away in the "Black Mary," a black carriage reserved for the most serious crimes of the time. It was Friday, and the Rebbe asked the officer to stop their journey until the end of the Sabbath. The officer refused, and the axle of the carriage broke. The carriage was repaired and then, one of the horses collapsed. A new horse was brought, but strangely enough the horses where not able to move the carriage. This was sufficient for the officer to understand that he was transporting an unusual prisoner. The officer requested from the Rebbe that they travel to the next village, but the Rebbe refused and they spent the Sabbath in an adjacent field.

The Rebbe was incarcerated in one of the secret cells of the Fortress of Petropavlovsk. One of the high officials, a learned man, was very impressed by the Rebbe's personality and said to him, "I have a question on the Bible, and would be most grateful for an answer."

"Ask whatever you like," said the Rebbe, "and with G-ds help, I hope to be able to solve your problem."

The official asked, "What is the meaning of the verse, 'G-d called to Adam and said: Where are you?' How is it possible that the Omniscient G-d did not know where Adam was?"

"Do you believe," the Rebbe questioned the officer, "that the Bible is timeless, and forever relevant to every individual?"

"I sincerely believe that," he replied.

"I will give you an explanation," said the Rebbe. "G-d called to 'Ha-Adam,' to 'the man.' This means, that at all times G-d calls every individual and asks him, 'Where do you stand in this world.' G-d allotted to each, a certain amount of days, each of which is to be utilized for the doing of good in relation to G-d, and in relation to mankind. Therefore contemplate: How many years have you lived already, and how much good have you done and accomplished during that time. You, for instance, have lived already...years (and the Rebbe mentioned the exact age of the official). How are you using your time?" The official was amazed by the fact that the Rebbe 'guessed his age" that he exclaimed "Bravo!"

Czar Paul I had heard so much about this "prisoner" that he disguised himself as a clerk of the courts and went to see the Rebbe. As soon as he entered, the Rebbe rose and honored him.

"You must be the Czar," said the Rebbe. "Our Sages teach us, that 'sovereignty on earth is similar to the sovereignty in heaven.' As the fear before G-d is great, so too did I feel an unusual awe when you entered. Such a feeling I never experienced with any of the officials that have come here. Therefore I concluded that you must be the Czar." The Czar left convinced that surely this man must be a saint.

A saint indeed. The Bible tells us, that "this world conceals and hides G-d." Truly righteous and spiritual giants are the windows through which we are reminded that there is more to this world than what meets the eye. There is a G-d who hears our prayers and there are miracles we can experience.

* * *

False and libelous charges had led to accusations that Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism, had committed treason against the Russian Empire. His arrest imperiled not only his own life, but also the future of the Chasidic movement. Consequently, the day of his release on 19 Kislev (this year on December 3) has become a day of great celebration and is considered the "New Year" of Chasidut.

Chasidism offers everyone personal, spiritual fulfillment, by means of attachment to G-d, spontaneous enthusiasm in Divine worship, and a sanctified life imbued in joy.

Chasidism reveals that it is possible to live a spiritual life while being in the corporeal world. Chasidut clarifies the essence and ultimate goal of all existence, to live a meaningful and illuminated life, deeply and profoundly based on the Torah.


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