August 6 — Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
August 6 — Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
First Reading Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
As I watched: Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. The court was convened and the books were opened. As the visions during the night continued, I saw: One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.
Second Reading 2 Peter 1:16-19
Beloved: we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Gospel Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Transfiguration rather than the 18thSunday of Ordinary Time. Normally the Transfiguration is a Feast and occurs during the week and many people don’t even know that the Feast has been celebrated. But when this Feast falls on a Sunday, it takes precedence over the Sunday of Ordinary Time.
This Feast of the Transfiguration invites us to look at the mystery of Jesus Christ, living among us. This Jesus is truly God and yet truly human. At the time of His baptism and then at the time of the Transfiguration, the Divine breaks through and a voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son.” The Baptism of Jesus is the beginning of His public ministry, but it is also a baptism into death, a baptism into our human condition, a baptism into the will of the Father. The Transfiguration echoes that baptism: it is a preparation for the death of the Lord, a preparation to see Him die in our human condition, a preparation for his complete accepting of the will of His father.
The first reading today comes from the Book of Daniel. We are given a vision of heaven that is full of imagination and images and symbols. Daniel is one of those who could see the Son of Man and know that a Savior was coming. The Prophets in general were able to see that God’s love for His people would require a Savior to come. What that would mean was not yet clear. What was clear was the sinfulness of humanity and the love of the Father. Just as in the Transfiguration, we have the divinity of Jesus breaking through into our human situation, so also the Prophets could see that God must once again break into our human condition to draw us to Himself.
The second reading comes from the Second Letter of Peter and teaches us that the Transfiguration is given to us so that we can know the power and the majesty of the Lord Jesus. The declaration from the Father, “This is my son,” is unique and helps all believe that truly, Jesus is God and has come to save us.
Today’s Gospel is from Saint Matthew. We should note that the Transfiguration was experienced by Peter, James and John—not by the other Apostles or disciples or followers of Jesus—not even by Mary His Mother. Peter will be placed by Jesus as the head of His followers. James is the first to die for Jesus. John is the disciple that Jesus loved. Jesus does not always share with us his reasoning about why He does things and so we are invited to wonder—as surely did the other followers of Jesus. And even though Jesus tells these three not to share the vision with anyone until He, Jesus, has been raised from the dead, surely the others were aware that something had happened. We can try to imagine what answer these three would have given when the others asked: what happened up there?
For us, the Transfiguration draws us deeper into the mystery of Jesus. Our faith and the practice of our faith must rest on our belief that Jesus, fully human, is God. God breaks through into our human history once more in Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is not that God sent another Prophet or another Anointed one. It is that, yes, but this Prophet, this Anointed One, is God Himself, present in our human condition, One like us in all things but sin. God loves us!
Your brother in the Lord,
Rebbe Naftali Tzvi Labin of Zidichov
Rebbe (Hebrew: רבי) or ,is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word rabbi, which means “master, teacher, or mentor”. Like the title “rabbi” it refers to teachers of Torah or leaders of Judaism.
In common parlance of modern times, the term “The Rebbe” is often used specifically by Hasidim to refer to the leader of their Hasidic movement.
Terminology and origin
The Yiddish term rebbe comes from the Hebrew word rabbi, meaning “My Master”, which is the way a student would address a master of Torah. It was an honorific originally given to those who had Smicha in the Pharisaic and Talmudic era. Since vowels were not written at the time, it is impossible to know historically whether it was pronounced rah-bee () or r-bee (). The English word rabbi () comes directly from this form. In Yiddish, the word became reb-eh ()—now commonly spelled rebbe (—or just reb (). The word master רב rav [ˈʁäv] literally means “great one”.
The Sages of the Mishnah known as the Tannaim, from the 1st and 2nd centuries of the common era, were known by the title Rabbi () (for example, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoy). Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the leader of Jewry in Mishnaic Times, was simply called Rabbi (), as being the rabbi par excellence of his generation.
The Sages of the Talmud known as the Amoraim, from the 3rd, 4th and early 5th centuries, those born in the Land of Israel, are called Rabbi (); those born in the diaspora are known by the title Rav ().
Today, rebbe is used in the following ways:
- Rabbi, a teacher of Torah – Yeshiva students or cheder (elementary school) students, when talking to their Teacher, would address him with the honorificRebbe, as the Yiddish-German equivalent to the Hebrew word Rabbi (רַבִּי rabi [ˈʁäbi]).
- Personal mentor and teacher—A person’s main Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva teacher, or mentor, who teaches him or her Talmud and Torah and gives religious guidance, is referred to as rebbe (), also as an equivalent to the term “rabbi”.
- Spiritual leader—The spiritual head of a Hasidic movement is called a rebbe (). His followers would address him as “The Rebbe” or refer to him when speaking to others as “the Rebbe” or “my Rebbe“. He is referred to by others as the Rebbe of a particular Hasidut. In Hebrew, a hasidic rebbe is often referred to as an AdMoR, which is an abbreviation for Adoneinu, Moreinu, veRabbenu (“Our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi”). In writing, this title is placed before the name of the Hasidut, as in “Admor of Belz”; while the title Rebbe comes after the name of the Hasidut when used as an adjective, as in “Lubavitcher Rebbe”, “Amshinever Rebbe”, and every rebbe of every Hasidic Dynasty. In the Litvishe world, when not referring to a hasidic rebbe (), the word can be pronounced “rebbee” (). Sephardic Jews can pronounce it as “Ribbi” (). The Lubavitcher hasidim have a tradition that the Hebrew letters that make up the word rebbe () are also an acronym for “Rosh Bnei Yisroel”, meaning “a spiritual head of the Children of Israel“.
An ordinary communal rabbi, or “rebbe” in Yiddish, is sometimes distinct from a “Rav” (, also pronounced “Rov” by Jews of Eastern European or Russian origin), who is a more authoritative halakhic decider. A significant function of a Rav is to answer questions of halakha (corpus of Jewish law), but he is not as authoritative as a posek. The short form “Reb“ is an honorific for Orthodox Jewish men, who are most likely to have profound knowledge of the Talmud and Torah, as opposed to Reconstructionist, Reform or Conservative Judaism. Originally, this title was added to the names of Jews at the time of the schism with the Karaite sect, as a sign of loyalty to the original rabbinic tradition, known today as Orthodox Judaism.
As a rule, among hasidim, rebbe () is referred to in Hebrew as “Admor” (pl. admorim), an abbreviation for Hebrew “Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabeinu“, meaning “our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi”, which is now the modern Hebrew word in Israel for “rebbe”.
Hasidim use the term “rebbe” () also in a more elevated manner, to denote someone that they perceive not only as the religious leader or nasi of their congregation, but as their spiritual adviser and mentor. “The Rebbe” or “My Rebbe” in this sense is a rav or rabbi whose views and advice are accepted not only on issues of religious law and practice, but in all arenas of life, including political and social issues. Sometimes a hasid has a rebbe as his spiritual guide and an additional rav for rulings on issues of halakha.
Hasidim use the concept of a (non-hasidic) rebbe in the simple sense of rabbi, as the Yiddish-German equivalent to the Hebrew word רַבִּי rabi [ˈʁäbi]. For example: “I will ask my rebbe (), rabbi () Ploni (so-and-so), for advice about this personal matter.”
The hasidic rebbe
A hasidic rebbe () is generally taken to mean a great leader of a Hasidic dynasty, also referred to as “Grand Rabbi” in English or an ADMOR, a Hebrew acronym for Adoneinu-Moreinu-veRabbeinu (“our lord/master, teacher, and rabbi”). Outside of Hasidic circles the term “Grand Rabbi” has been used to refer to a rabbi with a higher spiritual status. The practice became widespread in America in the early 1900s when Hasidic rebbes began to emigrate to the United States and was derived from the German Grossrabbiner.
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, is regarded by Hasidim as the first Hasidic rebbe.During his lifetime he was referred to mainly as “The holy” rather than as “Rebbe”, and his disciples were “magidim” or “preachers”, such as the Magid of Chernobyl or the Magid of Mezritsh.
The first “rebbe” to be known as such was the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson, Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh, who was referred to as “The Rebbe” during his lifetime. After him, those who rose to positions of leadership and their successors began to be called rebbe. The title gradually came to suggest a higher spiritual status.
Each Hasidic group refers to its leader as “the rebbe”.
Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, also known as the Maiden of Ludmir or the “Ludmirer Moyd”, was the only female rebbe in the history of the Hasidic movement; she lived in the 19th century in Ukraine and Israel.
Relationship of hasidim to their rebbe
Rebbe as tzadik
According to Maimonides, a tzadik is “one whose merit surpasses [his/her] iniquity”, and every person can reach the level of a Tzadik. According to the Tanya, a tzadik has no evil inclination, and only a select few predestined to attain this level can attain it. According to Kabbalah (and particularly the hasidic understanding of Kabbalah), the world is sustained on the “shoulders” of Tzadikim Nistarim, divinely predestined exceptionally righteous people in a generation. Nobody has knowledge about who was such a tzaddik, even one of these exceptionally righteous people would not know that they really are such a tzadik. These people are understood to have perfected their personal service of God to such an extent that they become literally and physically aware of God. These righteous people’s perception (of both spiritual and physical, not to mention temporal matters) transcends the apparent boundaries of existence.
However, a hasidic rebbe is generally said to be a righteous person, called a “tzaddik“. Furthermore, a rebbe is said to be able to affect divine providence, and a rebbe is said to be able to “see the future”, or at least have strong insight into the life and trials of another.
As a result, hasidim in some hasidic circles seek their rebbe’s advice for a variety of concerns: spiritual, physical, and even business concerns. Furthermore, many people seek the blessing (bracha) of a rebbe (and a hasid will specifically seek the blessing of his own rebbe) for anything from minor (and all the more so major) physical troubles, to grand spiritual concerns. Many famous and common stories of a rebbe’s intervention involve women who successfully seek a rebbe’s blessing for fertility so that they can conceive after having been barren for many years.
Kabbalah describes an extension of Moses in each generation, alternately identified with the Tzadik of the generation, and the potential Jewish Messiah of the generation. In Hasidism, each person’s soul essence relates to the level of Moses.
In some movements the hasidim believe that their rebbe is the “tzadik hador” (tzaddik of the generation) and would regard any thought that detracts from his perfection and holiness as heresy. Other sects lessen this idealization to some degree or another. Since many rebbes are sons-in-law or students of other rebbes, it makes sense that they would view themselves as subordinate to those other rebbes. Nonetheless, their hasidim remain loyal to them because of their special loyalty, a family connection, or a belief that a specific tzaddik or Nasi HaDor (although others might have greater spiritual stature) connects best with one’s soul. For example, the Kosover Rebbe makes yearly pilgrimages to the Tosher Rebbe. Nonetheless, his followers remain very loyal to him.
Rebbe as conduit
Unlike rabbis or non-hasidic rebbes in other Jewish movements, hasidic Judaism considers a ‘hasidic rebbe’ to be a conduit between Jews and God.On the basis of traditional Kabbalistic concepts and terminology, Hasidic philosophy bridged deveikut, a Jewish concept referring to closeness to God, to the hasidic rebbe, embodying and channeling the Divine flow of blessing to the world, because Creation is dependent on the continuous flow of Divine lifeforce, without which it would revert to nothingness.
Hasidic followers of a rebbe
Given a rebbe’s physical awareness of God, and the rebbe’s transcendent perception of Godliness, many hasidim take special care to observe the specific and sometimes minute practices of their rebbe. Even things that seem mundane may nonetheless be seen by hasidim as incredibly significant. For example, Lubavitcher hasidim frequently shape their fedoras to match the way that the Lubavitcher Rebbe shaped his hat-which was more flat than many others. Many Skverer hasidim (of the Skverer Rebbe in New Square) wear their peyos identical to those of the Skverer Rebbe. While hasidim do not always follow the specific practices of their rebbe, the rebbe is able to create practices that may be specific and unique to his hasidim. For example, Rabbi Aaron Roth (Reb Areleh, as he was called) the first rebbe of Shomer Emunim, told his hasidim to pause frequently while eating their meals in order to keep them from overindulging. A hasid will usually love his rebbe like a close family member, if not more so. The degree and nature of this belief varies, however, depending on the movement.
Functions of a hasidic rebbe
There are some functions which are exclusively the domain of hasidic rebbes:
Others are not exclusive to Hasidic rebbes, but are often an important part of their role:
- Participating in family celebrations of the hasidim, such as weddings and brisim (circumcision ceremony)
- Performing mitzvos, etc. in the presence of their hasidim, such as kindling the Chanuka lights and drawing water with which to bake matzos
- Leading the prayers on Shabbos, Holy Days, and other special occasions
- Delivering learned or inspirational discourses (in Chabad Hasidut, this is one of the main roles of a rebbe)
- Build educational, social and religious institutions 
A rebbe has times when Hasidim (and other petitioners) may come for a private audience. A kvitel (Yiddish for “note”, plural kvitlach) is a note with the name of the petitioner and a short request for which the rebbe is asked to pray. The formula in which a person’s name is written is one’s own Hebrew name, the son/daughter of one’s mother’s Hebrew name, such as Shimon ben Rivkah (Simeon the son of Rebecca). Hasidim believe that rebbes read supernaturally “between the lines” of a kvitel, and in every Hasidic movement there are numerous anecdotes relating how the rebbe saw things that were not written in the kvitel. In most Hasidic groups, the kvitel is written by the rebbe’s gabbai (secretary), however sometimes the petitioner writes it on his own. Usually, but with some exceptions, a pidyon (redemption) of cash is customarily handed to the rebbe under the kvitel, but this is not obligatory. This is considered to be the conduit through which the blessing is given, and a redemption for the soul of the petitioner. (“A gift makes its receiver glad” is given as an explanation: a blessing only comes from a joyous heart.) It is also customary to tip the gabbai, although this too is not obligatory.
Tish and farbrengen
The Bostoner Rebbe feert tish, lit. “runs [a] table” in his synagogue in Beitar Illit
A rebbe conducts a tish (Yiddish: פֿירט טיש: feert tish, literally, “to run [a] table”) or a farbrengen—a communal festive meal with highly mystical overtones—on Shabbat and other occasions. At a tish, the rebbe distributes shirayim (lit. remnants) to the Hasidim seated at or gathered round the table. When a gathering similar to a tish is led by a rabbi who is not a rebbe, it can be referred to as a botte (esp. amongst groups from Romania) or sheves achim
||Chumash: Noach, Sheini with Rashi.
|Tehillim: 119, 97 to end.
|Tanya: (And that is (p. 535) …dust, and water. (p. 537).
The interpretation of the verse, “Forever, O G-d, Your word stands firm in the heavens.”1 (Tanya II:I and IV:25) is quoted by the Alter Rebbe in the Baal Shem Tov’s name although that interpretation is found in Midrash Tehillim, as quoted in Likutei Torah in the maamar Ki bayom hazeh yechapeir. But the Alter Rebbe had a special reason for this: It was on the second day of Creation when G-d said: “Let there be a Heaven,”2 and it is this utterance which “stands firm in the Heavens.” Associating the quotation with the Baal Shem Tov was to be an eternal memorial that the Baal Shem Tov was born on the second day of the week,3 on the eighteenth (chai) of Elul.