24 Teves, The Hilulah

Just as the life of the Baal Hatanya was shrouded in an aura of holiness and sanctity, so was his passing.

Following a long, strenuous journey spanning 140 days to evade the French army, Rabbeinu finally reached relative safety in the small village of Piena, Ukriane. There, weakness overcame his travel-weary, battered body, and he fell desperately ill. Within several days, his physical condition deteriorated to the point that on Shabbos Parshas Shemos, 5513 (1813), it appeared that the holy Rebbe would not recover.

Motzaei Shabbos arrived, and the Rebbe, whose thoughts were hovering in lofty spheres, remarked unexpectedly, “Regarding havdalah, there are opinions that it is d’Oraysa, whereas Tefillas Maariv is non-compulsory. Time is short, so we must recite havdalah prior to Maariv.” Indeed, several hours later, the Rebbe returned his lofty soul to the heavens, as the greatest Torah luminary of the generation was desired beside the Holy Throne.

Following his request, the Rebbe was buried in the nearby village of Haditch. Access to Haditch was grueling, especially in the harsh Ukrainian winter when the entire region is coated in thick layers of snow and the only means of reaching the town was by sleigh. In the course of the arduous journey to Haditch to conduct the burial, the travelers reached a small inn. The Rebbe’s grandson suddenly noticed his grandfather’s body hovering in the air. At first, the young man was terribly frightened, but he swiftly grasped that something must have happened. Checking underneath the sled, he saw that it was dragging the carcass of a non-kosher animal. The remains were quickly eliminated, and the tzaddik’s body rested comfortably again on the sleigh.

The Rebbe was laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery in Haditch. Since then, throughout the past two centuries, a large crowd travels to the holy tziyun, specifically on the day of the Hilulah, to spill their souls in prayer and entreat for compassion and salvation.  In recent years, since access to the town has significantly improved and the compound has been beautifully renovated to absorb a large influx of guests, the crowds of visitors to Haditch on 24 Teves have multiplied, reaching thousands.

Weeks prior to the Hilulah, we commence eager preparations for this holy day, anticipating the arrival of thousands of visitors to Haditch. Since the regular accommodations are insufficient to accommodate the overflow of guests, we rent local lodgings and erect large tents that are heated and fully-equipped with all amenities.

On the day of the Hilulah itself, as well as during the days preceding and following it, we invite all guests to enjoy delicious meals in our heated cafeterias as well as refreshments in the coffee room, 24-hours a day, at no charge.