KIDDUSH LEVANA IN A GERMAN ACCENT
November 15, 2016
Menachem Ziegelboim in #1044, KIDDUSH LEVANA, Story

PART I

1:30 Shabbos afternoon, Parshas Noach 5752.

The Rebbe’s beis midrash is crowded, even though the thousands of guests who packed the room during Tishrei already went home. There are still the Chassidim who live in Crown Heights and they are gathered for the Rebbe’s weekly Shabbos farbrengen.

At the appointed time, the Rebbe entered the big beis midrash in all his glory. The crowd escorted him to his place by singing, “Zol shoin kumen di Geula.” As he walked through the crowd to his seat, the Rebbe encouraged the singing and continued to do so even after he sat down, which was atypical. Even after kiddush, the crowd continued singing with the Rebbe continuing to encourage them.

The last voices faded and the large crowd quieted down. The Rebbe’s face became more serious. He leaned forward a bit and began the farbrengen on the topic of the song that was sung.

The Rebbe said three sichos at that farbrengen with the theme of Geula, the burning issue of the day. At a certain point, the Rebbe summed up the ideas with one practical point – kiddush levana. “In connection to what was said before about a cheshbon tzedek (true reckoning), especially in connection with Geula, there should be an increase in care and hiddur in kiddush levana.”

The Rebbe expanded on the importance of kiddush levana based on what Chazal say, “whoever blesses the month on time it’s as though he welcomed the Sh’china.” The Rebbe expounded on this, saying, “The Jewish people in exile do not merit to see the Sh’china and are distanced from greeting Her, however, the renewal of the moon is a sign to the Jewish people that they will be renewed, in the future, like the moon, to glorify their Maker … When we bless the moon on time, which is a sign that we will be renewed like it, it is like we are welcoming the Sh’china.”

The crowd listened attentively. The topic of kiddush levana was not a common topic for sichos, and this time, the Rebbe went on at great length about it.

“When making a cheshbon tzedek and coming to the conclusion that it only depends on Moshiach Tzidkeinu himself, this needs to be expressed in an increase in care and hiddur in kiddush levana, ‘for in the future they will be renewed like it,’ with the true and complete Geula through Dovid Malka Meshicha, ‘Dovid Melech Yisroel, chai v’kayam.’

“More specifically – first, to be careful and make more of an effort with kiddush levana, to wear more dignified and nicer clothes, on the street, with a crowd (b’rov am hadras melech) even in those places where, until now, they were not particular about this, including care regarding the time for kiddush levana.”

The following story can serve to illustrate for us the great care that Jews took to be able to fulfill this mitzva properly.

PART II

Many days passed since the tzaddik, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Spira of Munkatch (d. 1913), became unwell. All attempts by his family to help him were in vain and his pain increased daily. Even the local doctors who were called to his bedside could not help him.

R’ Tzvi Hirsh was a big tzaddik. He was the Rebbe of tens of thousands of Chassidim and was the author of the classic Darchei T’shuva.

One day, a famous doctor from Vienna was brought to his bedside. He conducted an examination at the end of which he recommended an innovative operation. “This operation is not done anywhere except in a certain hospital in Berlin.” He said that recently a new department opened in that hospital in which complicated operations like this one were performed. This department had the most up to date equipment and a top-notch medical staff.

It was winter and it wasn’t easy for R’ Tzvi Hirsch and his family to make the trip to distant Berlin. Aside from the rigors of the journey in the freezing cold, there were many other problems, like where to stay, getting a minyan for t’fillos, and obtaining kosher food. His holy persona had its effect and the doctor himself helped to the best of his ability in obtaining the best accommodations for him. But he could not help with the halachic problems.

Those problems were not simple. In those days, very few religious Jews lived in Berlin. Most Jews in Berlin were modern and enlightened Jews who were not particularly observant. After some inquiries, they also found out that in the area where the hospital was located, there were no religious Jews at all.

But the Rebbe’s serious medical problems had to be dealt with immediately and the operation could not be postponed. So the tzaddik and his small entourage left for Berlin with unresolved concerns about the unknown future.

PART III

About ten days passed and the operation successful, better than anticipated. The team of doctors was very pleased with the results and after a few days the tzaddik recovered. Since he still needed medical supervision, his chassidim rented an entire floor of a hotel near the hospital. The hotel had sixteen floors and was one of the most modern of its time. The tzaddik was on the tenth floor.

It was the month of Shvat 5671/1911, in the beginning of the month and time for kiddush levana. However, the clouds that covered the sky did not enable them to recite the blessing over the moon. The tzaddik hoped that the sky would clear within a few days and the moon would be visible but as the days passed, the winter weather worsened. It looked as though each night the sky was darker. Snow piled up on the streets of the city, and as the days passed, the tzaddik’s face also darkened with sadness and worry.

It was the final night for sanctifying the moon and twenty-five degrees below zero. The streets of Berlin were empty.

R’ Tzvi lay in bed, in pain. It wasn’t suffering because of his illness or the operation, but aggravation over the fact that for the first time in his life he would not be able to sanctify the moon. When the tzaddik’s son saw this, he appointed someone to stand watch on the balcony in the hopes that Hashem would have mercy and the moon would appear, at least for a few minutes, before the deadline.

The tzaddik was on a hospital bed with wheels, dressed in winter outer clothes. He tensely waited for word that the moon had appeared at which time they would wheel his bed to the balcony.

It was nearly midnight. The door suddenly opened and the lookout came inside, breathing heavily in his excitement. “The skies are clearing!” he announced. The excitement infected all those present. They quickly wheeled the bed to the balcony and the tzaddik went outside. He looked up at the beautiful night sky in which a nearly full moon shone.

At that moment, the tzaddik’s son, R’ Chaim Elozor, later to become the successor and leader of thousands, felt deeply satisfied. He thought, Master of the universe, we are a small group called Chassidim. We tried so hard to sanctify the moon and surely, for our sake, You reordered the heavens in order to reveal the moon for a few minutes so we could sanctify it as You wish.

As these self-satisfying thoughts filled his heart, a strong and polished voice could be heard coming from the sixteenth floor, “Rabbosai, the moon has appeared and you are invited to go out now on the balcony and recite the blessing together.” This announcement was made in fluent German.

A minute later, to the great surprise of the tzaddik’s retinue, the sound of many voices could be heard reciting the blessing over the moon with a distinctive German accent.

The tzaddik looked at his people and they looked at one another, astonished that members of the religious community in Berlin were six floors above them and sanctifying the moon. Afterward, they learned that these people were also very particular about the mitzva of kiddush levana, and when almost half the month had passed and the moon was still not visible, they had rented a room on the sixteenth floor of the hotel, the highest floor, and had appointed a watchman to look out for the moon.

R’ Tzvi was moved to tears. He raised his hands to heaven and emotionally said, “Who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth. Who would have thought that in Berlin, the ‘enlightened’ city, and in such frigid cold, Jews would bother to rent a room on the top floor of the highest building in the city so that they could sanctify the moon?”

***

His son, R’ Chaim Elozor, would tell this story every Yom Kippur before N’ila, in order to speak well of the Jewish people.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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