The Chasidic Tzadik Reb Dov Ber of Lubavich, son of and successor to the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. the “middle rabbi” of Chabad Chasidism, died and was interred in Nezhin in 1827. The town became a center for the Chabad Chasidim of the Ukraine.
Reb Dov Ber was known for his unique style of “broadening rivers” — his teachings were the intellectual rivers to his father’s wellspring, lending breadth and depth to the principles set down by Rabbi Schneur Zalman.
Born in Li’ozna, White Russia in 1773, he was named after the Alter Rebbe’s mentor and teacher, Reb DovBer – the Maggid of Mezeritch.
The Mitteler Rebbe assumed the leadership of Chabad in 1812 and then settled in the town of Lubavitch, which was to serve as the movement’s headquarters for the next 102 years.
In 1826, he was arrested on charges that his teachings threatened the imperial authority of the Czar, but was subsequently exonerated. He passed away on his 54th birthday in 1827, a day before the first anniversary of his liberation, Kislev 10.
Photographer Feels the Hand of Providence While Filming Ukranian Holy Site
A springtime visit to a holy site in the Ukraine turned out to be a mystical experience for a well known Lakewood photographer who traveled to Eastern Europe to capture footage of kivrei tzadikim.
CJ Studios owner Yosef Shidler and photographer Mendel Mish had already visited the burial sites of the Baal Shem Tov, the Magid of Mezritch and Rav Nachman of Breslov when the two went to Nizhyn to the tzion of the second Lubavitcher Rebbe, also known as the Mitteler Rebbe. Shidler had long dreamed of capturing still photographs and video footage of the many kevarim in the Ukraine as a way of inspiring others and connecting them to their religious roots.
Arriving in Nizhyn, a small city in the Northern Ukraine two hours from Kiev, Shidler and his crew found themselves in the midst of heavy downpours and violent thunderstorms. They traveled a few miles outside the city to the kever of the Mitteler Rov, and found that the entire area had been hit by a power outage. As Mish launched the drone to capture aerial footage, Shidler went inside the tzion to daven by candlelight. Completing his tefilos, Shidler verbalized a request to the Rebbe, explaining why he had come and asking permission to photograph the kever.
“We had left all of our lighting equipment in Kiev so when I came back in with the camera I tried fiddling with the settings to compensate for the fact that the room was almost pitch black,” said Shidler. “I pulled out my phone hoping to get a little more light and suddenly the rain started pouring, there was lightning all over the place and the candle in the room started to flicker. I got a chill up my neck and I started to get the feeling that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be there.”
Unwilling to give up on his dream of sharing the Ukraine’s rich Jewish history through photographs, Shidler approached the tzion again, closing his eyes and making a second request.
“I told the Rebbe that I wasn’t there for myself,” said Shidler. “I explained that I was doing this for people in America to see the tzion. I asked the Rebbe, b’chovd haRav, if he would allow me to take pictures for just a few minutes.”
Shidler opened his eyes and as he did, the lights came back on.
Shidler spent several minutes taking pictures and video and, feeling confident that he had solid footage, he turned to leave the kever.
“At that second, the lights went out again,” recalled Shidler. “We stayed for another hour davening, and the lights stayed off for the rest of the time.”
Shidler found himself extremely moved by the experience whose timing seemed to be too providential to be chalked up to coincidene. He feels blessed to have had the opportunity to share these mekomos hakedoshim with others.
“I guess if you are doing the right thing for the right reasons you get special brachos,” said Shidler.