On the anniversary of the Alter Rebbe’s birth, Chai Elul, every chassid would want more than anything to be closer to the Baal Hatanya and Shulchan Aruch, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liado (זצוקללה”ה נבג”מ זיע”א).
In ordinary times, the most natural thing to do would be to purchase plane tickets and fly to the Holy Tziyun of Haditch. In the last year and a half, however, spontaneous flights of that nature are the last thing to come mind… what with repeat PCR tests, quarantines, special travel requirements, and above all else a map of countries changing color status multiple times each week, flights become exceedingly difficult.
Since this reality is unavoidable, we sat down for a special interview with the man who has the honor of connecting tens of thousands with the Alter Rebbe each year. This is Rabbi Shneur Zalman (Shushu) Deitsch, the Haditch Tziyun and Chabad House manager.
“For us, you are the Alter Rebbe’s guests, it doesn’t matter if you’ve arrived here physically or if you’re simply with us in spirit, either way we’re commited to providing you with warm hospitality!”
How has the past year been for you at the Holy Tziyun?
“Baruch Hashem, we’ve been blessed with increased activity. As you know, a chassid always aspires to be in motion and to make progress – there’s always room to make improvements and expand your efforts. This year, we were able to renovate the Holy Tziyun itself, for the many visitors who come year. The work included fencing around the ancient cemetary, and renovating the walkway down to the Tziyun in order to provide visitors with maximum comfort and safety. Our main highlight is, of course, establishing the women’s Mikvah Freida named after the daughter of the Alter Rebbe who is also buried here.
“As you know, apart from our operations in the Tziyun for those who come from outside of Haditch, we also serve as a Chabad House for the town’s local Jewish population and for Ukranian Jews, in general. Gd willing, on Chai Elul, we’ll hold an inauguration ceremony for the mikveh!”
Actually, the Tziyun hospitality is only one part of your extensive operations at the Chabad House?
“Exactly. Even the hospitality itself is often incorporated into chassidut outreach activities – for example, throughout the year we hold seminars for Jewish youth groups from all over the Ukraine, in cooperation with the many Chabad Houses scattered throughout the country. Even student groups from the Land of Israel and the United States of America come here as part of their journeys in the footsteps of the Great Chassidic Leaders. You can say wholeheartedly that these are life-changing visits. They do Chasidit Hitvaadut, events, they study the Torah as a spiritual preparation for visiting the Tziyun and when they arrive to the holy place, it makes a deep impression in their souls!
G-d willing, after the holidays we intend to open here a yeshiva focused on the teachings of the Alter Rebbe – the sound of Torah will resonate through Haditch and will spread its light throughout the whole of the Ukraine.”
On the previous Chai Elul, we were in the midst of the COVID crisis and thought that next year it would already be ancient history; however, we now find ourselves again in the same story… how do you address the pandemic in such a place?
“You know, a true chassid looks to all matters in the world to understand what Hashem wants from him and what is his special shlichut. In dealing with COVID, the difficulties made it especially clear for us that this is not the time to stand aside or hibernate, but rather to help every Jew who now need us even more. In the past year, we have also sent hundreds of food packages to Jews who live around the area (even those within tens of kilometres of Haditch), including those who were in quarantine or were otherwise ill. On the Holidays, we made sure they had their spiritual Holiday needs met so they could fulfill the mitzvot and customs and properly feel the Holiday spirit. I can’t describe how moved people are that in the midst of these uncertain times and the fears of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, others are thinking about and worrying about them.”
Over the past few years, it seems that the character of Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi has become an aim for all Jewish communities. Is that just something we’re feeling, or is there something really big happening here?
“That’s exactly right! The Alter Rebbe’s way is the guide for tens of thousands of Jews, from all sectors around the world. If it’s people who cling to the teachings of the Alter Rebbe’s Shluchan Aruch and it accompanies them daily – in their homes, their businesses, their prayers, and in every place. And, certainly, the great awakening to learning Chassidut has brought about the fact that today, Jews from all communities and backgrounds study Tanya regularly – an even on a daily basis, more than ever. Studying the Tanya is living the spirit of the Alter Rebbe. And From here, the place where the Alter Rebbe’s spirit dwells 365 days a year.
In this way, in the place where the Alter Rebbe’s light dwells 365 days a year, we call to everyone who holds our holy Rebbe dear to their heart: the extensive operations of the Tziyun and Jewish outreach amount to great sums every year; that’s why we do the annual fundraising on Chai Elul for the benefit of the Haditch Tziyun’s Chabad House.
Please open your hearts and take part in our activities here as much as you can. Every contribution enables us to host another Jew, to teach more Torah, to ensure another people fulfills mitzvot, and spreads more light throughout the area. The names of all donors will be mentioned in blessings made in the Tziyun on that glorious day, and of course, the Alter Rebbe would bless them for k’tivah v’chatimah tovah l’shanah tovah umetukah!
To take part in the Chai Elul fundraising: https://www.charidy.com/cmp/haditch