Thursday, January 14, 2010

28th of Teves, The Vigor of Shabbos in Skver

The 28th of the month of teves is a day of thanksgiving in Skverer communities worldwide. It was on this date that the second Skverer Rebbe, Reb Dovid'l (1848-1919), as he was affectionately known, survived a great fall and a number of serious bodily injuries. A seudah hoda'ah (meal of thanksgiving) is held by Skverer chassidim on this date.

The Rebbe made his residence in Skvira, and later in Kiev after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. The following story takes place during one the Rebbe's visits to the Romanian city of Kishinev. Interestingly enough, Kishinev in Romanian means "water" or "flowing water," and the story happens to take place in a mikvah (ritual bath). Although reserved and understated, in the style of Skverer chassidus, Reb Dovidl's influence was great. Upon his first visit to Kishinev he made so many new chassidim that they began work on a Skverer shtiebl a few days into his trip.

During a subsequent visit one shabbos the Rebbe had been up late into the night learning. He suddenly felt the urge to go to the mikveh. As he was still somewhat unfamiliar with the mikveh he had to feel his way around at the top of the stairs in the pitch dark. Trying to find his way he tripped and went tumbling down the entire flight of stairs, and landed straight in the mikveh with a great splash. A non-Jew who lived next door to the mikveh was awoken, and he wasn't very happy. He figured that an animal must have been wandering about in the darkness of night, and fallen down the steps to the mikvah. He grabbed a long stick and made his way there. As he approached the water he saw only a vague form, and began prodding and jabbing this form with the stick. The form in the dark only splashed around, but would not make its way out of the mikveh. So he began to poke and prod even harder. The Rebbe at this point was practically unconscious, and lying face down in the water, finally let out a scream. Upon realizing that this was, in fact, a human being, this non-Jew helped lift the Rebbe out of the water, and apologized profusely. He helped him up the stairs, apologized again, and bid him goodnight. The Rebbe, beat up and barely able to walk, then realized: he hadn't toivled (immersed) properly. He made his way back down the stairs in the dark, and went into the mikveh, this time with the proper kavanah (holy intentions).

Shabbos day was one remembered well by the chassidim of Kishinev. The Rebbe was inordinately fiery, and his davening was exuberant. His energy and enthusiasm at the tish were beyond his normal capacity. All was well.

After shabbos the Rebbe began to have pains, and a doctor was summoned. During the examination the Rebbe collapsed to the floor, and fell unconscious. With broken bones and wounds to the body the Rebbe would spend the next few months in bed. He would, however, survive. What the doctor couldn't figure out was how he made it standing from the night before, never mind his energy at davening, his words of Torah, and the tish. It was only for the sake of shabbos that the Rebbe was able to leave his physical body behind.

In a related incident, Reb Asher of Pshedborz, father of the Yid Hakadosh of P'shischa, passed away on a Friday in the year 1798. Since the funeral took place just before shabbos, the Yid Hakadosh, Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, spent shabbos in Pshedborz. Gedolim, talmidei chachomim, machers, and the rest of the town came out to lay eyes on Reb Yaakov Yitzchak. And over shabbos they could not believe what they saw. Hours after his father's passing, Reb Yaakov Yitzchak's face was radiant! He conducted himself Friday night as he would any other shabbos throughout the year. He presided at the tish, his face alight. He gave over glowing words of Torah, and led the zemiros. And on shabbos day he davened with a fiery passion. He was b'simcha throughout the day, and the chassidim became annoyed. After all, his beloved father, their beloved Rebbe, had passed away just the day before. It is known that one is forbidden to mourn on shabbos, but dancing and singing to boot? The end of shabbos came, and someone recited havdalah. As the chassidim began to sing "hamavdil," Reb Yaakov Yitchak fell off of his chair and began to wail. He pulled at his hair and banged on the ground. He lay four hours prostrate on the ground in his grief. It was only then that the locals began to get a glimpse of just who the Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, the Yid Hakadosh, was. It was all for the sake of shabbos.

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