Words are hard to find when trying to convey the meaning of the 19th of Kislev - the Rosh Hashanah of Chasidic life and wisdom. Everyone knows that the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was exonerated and liberated from Czarist prison and his Chasidic movement vindicated on this day in 1798.

But why the intensity of the celebration? Why proclaim a new Rosh Hashanah? He had powerful enemies, they slandered him to the authorities and had him arrested on charges of fomenting revolution, and a great miracle happened and he was found innocent. Does that call for a festival for all eternity?

So let's put it in modern terms.

In the beginning, G‑d created Zoom.

G‑d invited two guests to His first meeting. Adam joined the meeting, then Eve. They chatted affably with G‑d, who was enjoying Himself immensely. 

Then, the meeting was hacked. A snake Zoom-bombed the meeting and hijacked the conversation. Shockingly, Adam and Eve engaged with him, and the meeting Host couldn't believe it. Disappointed with His guests and feeling frankly uncomfortable in His own meeting, He threw the snake out, turned off His own camera and muted Himself. 

But He did not leave the meeting.

Adam and Eve implored Him, "Please, turn on your camera! Please, unmute Yourself!" But to no avail.

Many, many more people joined the meeting and soon there were millions of people chatting and conversing, but G‑d remained invisible and muted. People saw the dark window and knew that G‑d was watching and listening, but slowly He became more and more irrelevant until everyone had completely forgotten that the meeting had a Host and Who the Host was.

Then, one day, to G‑d's incredible delight, the following notice appeared: "Moses is joining the meeting." And to the happy shock and disbelief of all the meeting participants, the Host unmuted Himself and turned on His camera. It was a historic moment in history. G‑d spoke to Moses, and then to everyone, and everyone saw and heard.

But it didn't last. Moses and G‑d went into a breakout room and when they didn't rejoin the meeting for almost forty days, people gave up on them. Someone told an inappropriate joke questioning the Host's existence, and as the crowd burst out laughing, G‑d and Moses rejoined the meeting. It was the most awkward moment in the history of mankind.

Many people were kicked off the meeting and once again, G‑d muted Himself and turned off His camera.

The meeting carried on and on, for 3,300 years, with the Host silent and hidden. Leader after leader, Tzadik after Tzadik, prophet after prophet, joined the meeting, reminded the people that the Host was listening and watching, and warned them not to forget. Once in a while, G‑d turned on His camera for an instant, a flash. Those who caught sight of it were moved by it, but most people missed it. And G‑d remained muted.

Things grew progressively worse. For every person who took the Tzadik seriously, ten people laughed at him and the people who believed him. They cyber-bullied the believers, mocking them for believing that the meeting had a purpose and a Host with a serious agenda. The believers endured unbelievable torment and slowly stopped speaking up, and the meeting spiraled into chaos.

Then, to G‑d's great delight, a notice appeared on the screen: The Baal Shem Tov is joining the meeting. The Baal Shem Tov was a dear, dear friend of the Host and in his unique and special way, he began asking G‑d about the possibility of turning on His camera. And G‑d did. In a flurry of sublime kindness and miraculous acts, people's eyes were opened to the reality of G‑d's existence. In their mind's eyes, they beheld the kindly countenance and the fatherly love. They couldn't hear, but they could see. They didn't hear the message, but they now felt the warmth. 

And then, on the 19th of Kislev in 1798, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi joined the meeting. And when that happened, the Host unmuted Himself.

Now, everyone heard the Host's voice and what He had to say. They heard His plan and His vision. They heard Him speak of his deep desire to be with them and to be comfortable among them. G‑dly wisdom, both intelligent and emotional, streamed forth like never before. In a short period, people had gone from ignorant and lonely to connected and beloved; from gloomy and hopeless to inspired and so, so happy. 

There was so much Divine information forthcoming that it was all compiled in a great, small book called "The Tanya."

Rabbi Shneur Zalman's descendants - the Schneerson family - pushed forward in his tradition. The next frontier would be to end the virtual meeting and bring everyone together in-person with no more distancing. And that quest continues to this day. 

But even as that quest continues , the day G‑d unmuted Himself remains a giant, meaningful holiday celebrated with warm and happy Farbrengens, retellings of the timeless stories of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, gifts to the poor, and commitments to increased study and observance.

And whenever a person is going through a dark time, and feels like telling G‑d, "Turn on your camera and unmute Yourself!" they can open the Tanya and find solace.

So it's clearer now. The Rosh Hashanah of Chasidut, Kislev 19, is the day G‑d unmuted Himself. Imagine what kind of holiday we'll make when the virtual meeting ends and the in-person reunion starts! I can't wait.

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

Rabbi Eli Friedman
Chabad of Calabasas 


The 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev is celebrated as the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.” It was on this date, in the year 1798, that the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), was freed from his imprisonment in czarist Russia. More than a personal liberation, this was a watershed event in the history of Chassidism, heralding a new era in the revelation of the “inner soul” of Torah. On this day in 1772, 26 years prior, the “Maggid of Mezeritch” returned his soul to his Maker. Before his passing, he said to his disciple, Rabbi Schneur Zalman: “This day is our yom tov (festival).  Read more . . .

  Click here to learn about Yud Tes Kislev