In 1856, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (known as the Tzemach Tzedek) sent his son (and eventual successor) Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn to St. Petersburg on matters of communal concern.

The night before Rabbi Shmuel left, his father said to him, “In 1843, when I was summoned to the rabbinical conference in St. Petersburg, I went to pray at my mother’s grave in Liozna. She told me that due to her self-sacrifice for her father and for Chassidism, she was granted entry to the heavenly palace of the Baal Shem Tov. She asked the Baal Shem Tov to pray for me, and to provide something to help me withstand the enemies of Chassidism.The sons of the Patriarch Jacob were not harmed by the Canaanites, because “the dread of G‑d was upon the cities around them . . .”

“The Baal Shem Tov answered her: ‘Your son knows by heart the Five Books of Moses, Psalms, and Tanya (a primary chassidic text). We learn from the Torah that the sons of the Patriarch Jacob were not harmed by the Canaanites, because “the dread [in Hebrew, chitat] of G‑d was upon the cities around them” (Genesis 35:5). The three consonants of the word chitat are the first letters of the Hebrew names of the three books: Five Books of Moses—in Hebrew, Chumash; Psalms—in Hebrew, Tehillim; and Tanya. One who is thoroughly acquainted with every letter in them is granted the spiritual strength to shatter any obstacles that could prevent the revelation of holiness.’

“Therefore,” the rebbe instructed his son Rabbi Shmuel, “wherever you may be, whether in government buildings or with government ministers, recite a chapter each from the Five Books of Moses, Psalms, and Tanya.”. . . all the plans of our opponents collapsed, and Torah-true Judaism triumphed

Many years later, when Rabbi Shmuel recounted this experience to his son (and eventual successor), Rabbi Sholom DovBer, he added: “It was a wonderful prescription. With the first three chapters of the Five Books of Moses, three psalms from the Book of Psalms, and three chapters of Tanya, all the plans of our opponents collapsed, and Torah-true Judaism triumphed.”

Surely it is worthwhile to follow the Baal Shem Tov’s heavenly advice and study Chitat—a section of the Five Books of Moses, Psalms, and Tanya—every day.


Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, and supplemented from other oral sources.

Copyright 2003 by R. Yerachmiel Tilles, Ascent of Safed. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Ascent of Safed.