In The Middle Of The Eleventh Hour
A compilation of stories relating to the histalkus of the Alter Rebbe on Motzaei Shabbos Parshas Shmos, Chaf-Dalet Teives


The Rebbe MH"M related the following story he heard from his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz:

On the Erev Shabbos before his histalkus, the Alter Rebbe emptied his pockets (a requirement before Shabbos) of a few notes and gave them to his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek. The Alter Rebbe told him, "These will be useful to you." Some say that one was the well-known reshima beginning with the words "Nefesh HaSh’feila" (The Downtrodden Spirit).

The Rebbe asked his father-in-law what the point is of the reshima, because it didn’t have a beginning or an end. The Rebbe Rayatz laughed and didn’t answer.

Although the reshima was written before the Alter Rebbe’s histalkus, it obviously has a connection with it. It is one of the last writings of the Alter Rebbe, and may, in fact, be the last. (One of the Chabad Rebbeim, probably the Tzemach Tzedek, said that the Alter Rebbe wrote it a week before his histalkus, and the contents refer to himself since he wasn’t learning at the time and was involved with Anash in worldly matters, etc.).

At this time, the Alter Rebbe told the Tzemach Tzedek some other points, which the Tzemach Tzedek mentions in his Chassidic discourses. He writes in one of the discourses, "I heard from the mouth of my holy grandfather, the Rebbe, if I recall, on the Erev Shabbos prior to his histalkus…"


In 5691 (1931), the Rebbe Rayatz related:

The Tzemach Tzedek had a cup the Alter Rebbe had used for his final Kiddush in the village of Piena, which had leftover dried-up wine in it. The Tzemach Tzedek would place it on the table during the Pesach seider, as did his son, the Rebbe Maharash. After his passing, his wife, Rebbetzin Rivka, did so until the maid once mistakenly washed it, and then the cup was lost.


The Tzemach Tzedek described his grandfather’s histalkus:

"On Friday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, [the Alter Rebbe] traveled with his household to Krasna, and on the following Friday they fled from the French and traveled until they arrived in Piena on Erev Shabbos VaYishlach 5573 (1813). On Motzaei Shabbos Shmos, 24 Teives, around the middle of the eleventh hour, [the soul of] the holy ark, light of Israel, anointed of G-d, was taken captive and required in the Heavenly Academy. Hashem should speed the coming of our redeemer, and ‘arise and sing those who dwell in the earth,’ and [the Alter Rebbe] among them. He will let us hear wonders of Hashem’s Torah, which revives the soul, soul in a body, for the dew of Torah resurrects. Amen, may it be soon."

This note is the only source of the time of the histalkus, which was approximately 10:30 p.m.

150 years later in 5723 (1963), on this date, which came out on Motzaei Shabbos as it did back in 5573, there was a special farbrengen in 770 that began at that time. Among other things, the Rebbe mentioned this note of the Tzemach Tzedek and the time it specified.


On the night of 20 Kislev 5693 (1933), the Rebbe Rayatz related the following to his son-in-law, the Rebbe MH"M:

"The night of the histalkus, the Alter Rebbe gave his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, something he had written. This note was burned in 5617 (1857). It was not a maamer Chassidus."

The Rebbe asked, "Did it have something to do with pidyon nefesh, inyanei ha’nesius, or was it concerning the Rebbe’s household? The Rebbe Rayatz answered, "More than that."

Another source relates that on that Erev Shabbos, the Alter Rebbe gave the Tzemach Tzedek a note about inyanei rabbanus.

In a letter he wrote in 5648 (1888), the Rebbe Rashab mentioned that there was a note suggesting segulos, among them a segula for a woman whose children died in childhood, and he advises in the name of his mother, Rebbetzin Rivka, the wife of the Rebbe Maharash, that one who suffers from this should do as is written. He indicated the source of the note, as well: "They say that the tzetel (note) was given by the Alter Rebbe to the Tzemach Tzedek in Piena, leil Motzaei Shabbos, before his histalkus, and that it is from the Maggid or the Baal Shem Tov."


The introduction to the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch (signed by three rabbanim, sons of the gaon and author, z’l, the first one being the Mitteler Rebbe), relates this about the Alter Rebbe’s histalkus:

"... after many amazing wonders, we saw from him, z’l, in those days before his histalkus, his mouth did not cease reviewing [words of Torah] until the day of his passing. After he davened Maariv and said Havdala with a clear, settled mind and with extraordinary dveikus, on Motzaei Shabbos 24 Teives 5573, in a singular bond he was bound up with the Holy One Blessed Be He... he elevated his soul to Him with joy and gladness of heart. Everyone standing there could clearly see the event as it transpired, and they were amazed and awestruck by the sight."


Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Bichovsky wrote in the name of Rabbi Yaakov Henkin, who heard this quote from the Chassid R’ Yisroel Yitzchok of Rudnia, who served the Tzemach Tzedek for many years. The Tzemach Tzedek had told R’ Yisroel: "Before his passing, the Alter Rebbe said: ‘There’s reason to say that Havdala is a Biblical mitzva and Maariv is merely reshus, and since time is short, Havdala should precede Maariv.’

This explains the introduction in the Shulchan Aruch that says that the histalkus was "after he davened Maariv with the Havdala in ‘chonein ha’daas.’" Havdala with a cup of wine is not mentioned, since this had already taken place before the davening (which preceded the histalkus).


On Chaf-Dalet Teives 5715 (1955), the Rebbe mentioned that he heard that on the night of the histalkus, the Alter Rebbe had said Havdala on a cup of coffee. He had not heard this from his father-in-law; but there was a basis for this assertion since the Alter Rebbe suffered from diabetes, and they did not have the medications that we have today.

There is another story about Havdala over coffee: Rabbi Moshe Dov Ber Rivkin, a’h, wrote in 5713 that the Rebbe Rashab recited Havdala over coffee on the last Motzaei Shabbos of his life.


In a letter from the Tzemach Tzedek discussing fear, it says:

"A person should always display happiness in his body movements, because the heart is drawn according to one’s actions...and then Hashem will draw down a spirit from Above of joy and gladness of heart.

"I heard from the Alter Rebbe in Piena that this is what the Maggid said on the verse, ‘Like the appearance of a sapphire, and on the image of the chair was the image of a person…’ – according to how a person acts down here is what he will be shown from Above. That is why [the Alter Rebbe] stopped me from singing a niggun that was mara sh’chora (gloomy). I davened Maariv before his death with a niggun of mara sh’chora, and he waited until I finished and told me this."

The Rebbe MH"M related this on Shabbos Parshas Shmos 5719, Chaf-Beis Shvat, and then said, "Zol men zein b’simcha, vet men milmaaleh oich vizen aza tenua" (Be happy, for then from Above there will be a similar response).


The Alter Rebbe
A person should always display happiness in his body movements, because the heart is drawn according to one’s actions.


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