Aerial View of Haditch, Ukraine – Ohel of the Baal Hatanya Z”yu

The Ohel of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder and first Rebbe of Chabad, draws hundreds and thousands of Jews from around the world to his resting place in in Haditch, Ukraine.

The Alter Rebbe, also known as the Rav and as Baal HaTanya, lived in Li’ozna and Liadi, White Russia. He authored the Tanya, a classic text of the chassidic tradition, and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, a code of Jewish law.

He passed away on 24 Teves, 5573 (1813) and was laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery in Haditch. Why and how was the Alter Rebbe buried in this city on the central-east part of Ukraine, located on the Psel River?

The story begins on Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5572 (1812), at the height of the Napoleonic Wars between France and Russia. With the French army advancing rapidly toward his hometown of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe determined to flee with his family and journey to the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk.

A wrong turn on the road brought the refugees to the small town of Piena on Erev Shabbos Kodesh, 12 Teves, 5573 (1813), where the Alter Rebbe promptly fell ill. He remained in Piena for two weeks before passing away on Motzei Shabbos Parshas Shemos.

Alluding to his wish to be buried there, the Alter Rebbe thrice whispered to his followers the name, “Haditch,” during his final moments on earth. With his passing, the Alter Rebbe’s body was indeed conveyed to Haditch, a remote town in close proximity to Piena, where it was laid to rest.

It was this episode that made the anonymous town of Haditch famous and transformed it into an integral place deep in the hearts of chassidim worldwide.

Yosef Shidler and Mendel Mish of CJ Studios recently traveled to Ukraine and filmed the holy sites. Part 2: Kever of the Alter Rebbe.

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