The Yahrtzeit Of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok In Alma Ata
yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, the Rebbe’s father, was
marked in Chabad communities around the world with farbrengens
Sunday evening, the 20th of Av. The Rebbe MH”M accorded the day great
significance and held a special farbrengen each year, during the
course of which he concluded a maseches. The farbrengen
was an expression of kibbud av for his father, who passed away in
exile on the 20th of Av 5704 (1944).
main events took place in Alma Ata, where Rabbi Levi Yitzchok is buried.
This is the fifth year in a row that the yahrtzeit is celebrated
in Alma Ata on a grand scale. About a thousand Jews filled the Levi
Yitzchok Shul in the Beis Menachem Jewish center.
the yahrtzeit in Alma Ata is especially moving. It is near the
resting place of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and in the shul named for
event was a particularly happy one this year because an announcement was
made about the opening of seven shuls in Kazakhstan and the
renovations of two additional shuls, bringing the total up to ten
shuls. This success is thanks to the efforts of the energetic
Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan, Rabbi Yeshaya Elazar Cohen.
press conference with the rav of Kazakhstan took place with
representatives of television and radio stations, as well as the print
media. It is miraculous that in the very place where the government
officials of yesteryear strove to eradicate the spark of Judaism, their
grandchildren are publicizing the greatness of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok in
all the media.
news warnings of floods and strong winds predicted for that Monday, an
enormous crowd showed up to participate in the event. The shluchim had
written a Pa’N asking that the event be successful despite the
inclement weather. Preparations for the event continued and about an
hour before the event, a miracle took place. As people arrived, the rain
suddenly stopped and the skies cleared.
before the official start of the event, hundreds of Jews came to the tziyun.
The director of the fund to aid the Jews of Kazakhstan, Rabbi Moshe
Dovid Cohen, reported that many Pa’Nim and letters of
support for the dedicated shluchim were sent by fax to be read at
addition to local Jewish residents, diplomats and ambassadors from
various countries, as well as businessmen came in honor of the baal
ha’hilula and the Jewish people. After Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen
explained the significance of the day, the head of the community of
Kazil-Arda (where Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was exiled) was invited to light
the memorial candle. As he did so, the band played Rabbi Levi
Yitzchok’s “Hakafos Niggun.”
deputy mayor of the local government noted that the event was a great
joy for the Jewish people and an historic event that contributed to the
glory of the country of Kazakhstan. He praised Chabad of Kazakhstan,
citing his awareness of their dedicated work on behalf of the Jewish
community from up close.
Israeli Ambassador in Kazakhstan and Kirgizia, Mr. Yisroel Mi-Ami, a
friend of Chabad, spoke next. Born in Kazakhstan, he expressed his
appreciation for the work of Chabad, aware of the extent of the
revolution that Chabad has wrought there.
Richard Johns, the American ambassador to Kazakhstan (who delayed his
flight to Estona, the capitol of Kazakhstan, in order to participate in
the event) was the next speaker. He said, “I am thrilled to rejoice
with you at the inauguration of a network of synagogues in Kazakhstan.
This demonstrates that within a relatively short time, the central shul
of Alma Ata has managed to spark a Jewish revolution the likes of
which has never been seen in Kazakhstan.”
success is partly due to the freedom of religion with which the
president of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nusultan Nazarviev, founded the country
shortly after the fall of communism. I am happy to see the great work
you are doing, for through a little light in the community you are
pushing away a great deal of darkness. May your work serve as good
example for all rabbis and for all countries.”
Yeshaya Cohen spoke about Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, who fulfilled mitzvos
with mesirus nefesh, and about the Jewish revolution which the
Rebbe MH”M is creating throughout the world.
activities in Alma Ata increase from week to week. Recently, the talmidim
of Yeshivas Chabad of Kazakhstan successfully concluded a long hafatza
trip extending over 20,000 kilometers throughout Kazakhstan. In the
wake of the trip’s tremendous success, Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen began
opening a string of shuls throughout the country. The
trip’s itinerary was to approach at least twenty cities within
Kazakhstan and to establish Jewish communities.
is a huge wilderness,” Rabbi Cohen told Beis Moshiach, “and
sometimes the shluchim spent days in the wilderness on wretchedly
broken-down roads and byways in order to reach a city to find Jews and
arouse their G-dly souls. They traveled in places where you really say
the T’fillas HaDerech with great concentration because there
are dangerous highway robbers. Sometimes they even kill innocent
passersby. The police don’t deal with these brigands and sometimes
they even join them. There’s no doubt that this trip, like any shlichus,
is done only with the koach of the meshaleiach.”
the Tmimim went, the local community arranged a large gathering where
the Jews gathered to listen to the shluchim. The shluchim
were warmly received and were interviewed by the media.
their brief visits, the shluchim-Tmimim Moshe Sirolnik, Moshe
Pesach Finkel, Meir Yechezkel Holtzberg, Meir Levin, Shneur Gol, and
Yaakov Leiter scouted out opportunities for hafatza in each city
and left material about Judaism, booklets, Shabbos candles, etc.
their trip, hundreds of Jews put on t’fillin, dozens of them
for the first time in their lives. Many hundreds of Jews who hadn’t
seen a rabbi in decades were amazed by the sight of the boys’ beards, tzitzis,
and Chassidic garb. They received a personal letter from the chief
rabbi in which he called on them to strengthen and unite in establishing
a Jewish community.
word got out that the rabbis had come, Jews came from their dachas, from
work, or from neighboring cities to hear what they had to say.
shluchim can relate dozens of stories about neshamos that
were ignited to Yiddishkeit. One woman, after hearing that a Jew
cannot eat non-kosher meat, stopped eating meat. It has been seven years
since she last ate meat. There was an old woman who hadn’t eat meat
for 35 years since she couldn’t obtain kosher meat. Then there was the
Jew who could only remember the HaMotzi blessing by heart, and he
asked the audience to say the bracha after him, word by word.
the shluchim went they were greeted by the local community
leaders. In Merkei, for example, which had no signs of Judaism at all,
the mayor promised the shluchim to help open a new shul
within a month. The mayor helped pay for the welcome party for the first
rabbis in Merkei.