In a wondrous twist of fate, Tanyas printed in Beirut during the Lebanon War 41 years ago made their way back to the Lebanon border to once again provide protection, inspiration, and hope.
From Anash Magazine – published by Anash.org
As soon as she heard that soldiers were fighting at the Lebanon border, she knew what she had to do. In her possession, she had dusted crates of treasured Tanyas printed in Beirut, Lebanon, amidst the 1982 Lebanon War, at the Rebbe’s special request. Now that our soldiers were once again fighting at the borders of the same country, there was no doubt that these Tanyas would bring them special protection.
On Simchas Torah, Mrs. Ruty Ceitlin, Shlucha to Tzfas, Eretz Yisroel, heard about the massacre in the South of Eretz Yisroel. Over 1,200 were killed, 200 taken hostage, and many injured. A day later, Hezbollah joined the war by beginning to shoot missiles at farms and cities near the Northern border. Immediately, the IDF galvanized at the border to retaliate and eliminate terrorist activities.
The news of the fighting at the border of Lebanon brought back many memories to Mrs. Ceitlin. Lebanon is more than just the name of a country for the Ceitlin family. 41 years earlier, her late husband, Rabbi Aharon Leizer Ceitlin a”h had traveled deep into Lebanon in a hair-raising operation to fulfill the Rebbe’s request.
The mission took place in 1982, amid the Lebanon War. After bloody battles, the IDF had conquered Beirut and was continuing to fight the PLO. As the war was ongoing, a message from the Rebbe came to chassidim in Tzfas: The Rebbe wanted the Tanya printed in Beirut and in two other Lebanese cities.
To enter Lebanon while the war was raging was no easy feat. The entire area was an active warzone and the IDF was not allowing civilians to enter. Efforts were made to obtain a permit, and a group of chassidim even tried simply driving in, but all their efforts were unsuccessful.
One night, after another day of failed attempts, Rabbi Ceitlin was in bed, ready to go to sleep and try again the next day. But then, something changed.
“I was unable to fall asleep. It bothered me terribly that we had spent many days trying to fulfill the Rebbe’s directive, and we had still not succeeded. What was I doing in bed?” he recalled in an interview some years later.
Despite the clock displaying past midnight, he rushed out of bed and drove to the nearest IDF base. He sped to the base and screeched to an abrupt stop at the entrance.
“I jumped out of the car and yelled at the sentry, ‘Where is the general? Quick, tell me where is the general? I need to speak to him!’ The sentry must have thought this was a real emergency, and he immediately opened the gate for me and pointed out the general’s quarters. I still can’t believe that this happened; it was nothing short of miraculous,” Rabbi Ceitlin recalled.
Miraculously, he was allowed to meet the general and was granted permission to print the Tanyas. And with much difficulty and literal mesiras nefesh, Rabbi Ceitlin and the other chassidim managed to pull it off.
Now, as tension developed in the North, Mrs. Ceitlin felt a strong desire to go up to her apartment in Tzfas to get the Tanyas that her husband printed in Lebanon 41 years prior and deliver them to the soldiers risking their lives at the border. But being near her elderly mother in Kfar Chabad she couldn’t just go there.
“I couldn’t sleep at night,’ she shared, “I knew I had these boxes of Tanyas that the Rebbe specifically asked to be printed in all of these cities and villages in Lebanon, and I felt they were meant to be there now. For 41 years, the boxes of Tanyas sat there in my husband’s office, and now was the time for them to be used.”
She picked up the phone and called her son Rabbi Levi Ceitlin, who served as shliach in Kiryat Motzkin, one hour away from Tzfas. She asked him if he could drive to her home, grab the Tanyas, and head to the border. Rabbi Levi collected his brother Rabbi Mendy Ceitlin, a mechanech and sofer in Tzfas, and together with the boxes of Tanyas they headed to Pikud Tzafon, the northern IDF command post.
Now, with the Tanyas in hand, the two brothers set out to distribute them and sign up soldiers for letters in the general Sefer Torah.
B’hashgacha pratis, the day was Rabbi Mendy’s 41st birthday, 21 Cheshvan. 41 years prior, while expecting Mendy, Mrs. Ceitlin was out doing mivtzoim in those same places during the Lebanon War.
“I recall traveling to the checkpoint where all soldiers had to pass before crossing to Lebanon,” Mrs. Ceitlin shared. “We stood there for hours and signed up each and every soldier for a letter in the Sefer Torah before he headed out to battle.”
The two Ceitlin brothers then continued to the army base at Nahariya near the Lebanon border to reach even more soldiers. When one soldier posted a picture of himself with the special Tanya to his social media, the message of hope from the Tanyas of Lebanon began to spread across social media.
Although hundreds of the Tanyas had been handed out by now, Mrs. Ceitlin could not rest until they were all given out. Several boxes remained, and their time was now. She needed to get into the high-security bases and deliver them herself.
She reached out to an acquaintance with high connections in the IDF and asked if they could arrange a special permit to visit the base with a delivery. He was able to arrange it within a day and she found someone who was willing to go along with her. On Wednesday, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, after many arrangements, Mrs. Ceitlin drove up to Tzfas and collected the final batch of Tanyas printed all those years ago in Lebanon.
Upon arriving at the base, they could not reach the officer who issued the permit. After an hour-and-a-half wait, the paperwork was approved and the precious cargo was delivered to the base.
“When I came to hand the bag of Tanyas over,” adds Mrs. Ceitlin, “I was surprised to see that the high-ranking officer was a woman and she was expecting. She was so touched that I brought the Tanyas, and was shocked and amazed at the incredible history behind them.
“I handed over the bag of Tanyas, and a huge weight rolled off my heart. I knew that these seforim had come to the place they were meant to. All those years ago, the Rebbe made sure they were printed in Lebanon in the middle of an active war zone, so that today they could be brought there.
“I am certain that the Rebbe knew all those years ago and is sending us chizuk now. With the power of the Tanays, the soldiers should score a total victory, and we should merit the geulah shleima now.”
This article first appeared in Anash Magazine – published by Anash.org.