This week was the yahrtzeit of the legendary shliach Rabbi Leibel Kaplan of Tsfat.
Rabbi Kaplan was sent by the Rebbe to Tzat in the summer of 1973, and quickly took to the task of building a school system, outreach programs and dozens of mosdos throughout Tsfat.
After the Yom Kippur War, when Israel’s Representative at the UN, future President Chaim Herzog, lamented to the Rebbe that more shluchim were needed to boost public morale after the war, the Rebbe replied “I just sent you a young general,” speaking of Rabbi Leibel Kaplan’s unique abilities.
Rabbi Kaplan’s first specific task was to rebuild the collapsed Tzemach Tzedek Shul in the Old City of Tsfat. The Tzemach Tzedek had purchased the shul for his chasidim well over a hundred years before, and asked that chasidic life in Tsfat focus around the shul. The shul had recently fallen apart and Rabbi Kaplan was entrusted with restoring it.
The shul went on to host kollel yungelite for decades sinc,e and was eventually entrusted by Rabbi Kaplan to fellow shliach of the Rebbe, Rabbi Gavriel Marzel, who was given oversight of the shul and all Chabad activities in the area. In addition to building and maintaining a large and vibrant Chabad House, they also oversaw all the Chabad area activities. This included a wide array of programs for children, tourists and residents of all ages. The Marzel’s also oversaw the renovation of the Shul, bringing it to a whole new level when the Rappaport Family Foundation, led by Reb Avrohom and Rechyl Rappaport OBM of Toronto, Canada, sponsored the complete renovation of the entire shul and kollel in 5765 (2005).
During the remodeling, an area of the land that had not been part of the initial restoration was explored. Rabbi Marzel was surprised to find a bor (halachic gathering) of pure mikveh water that had been dug out and used as a mikvah generations before. The water had been covered with great care and was still clean despite having laid hidden for decades. He is now in the process of restoring this special and holy mikvah, one that will have significance to chasidim, and Jews in general, throughout the world. Tsfat in general, a city of purity, spirituality and Divine service, is a fitting place for such a mikvah.
Many miracles have happened in the shul and for the community. When all six Torah Scrolls were stolen in 2012, the thieves’ hiding place was discovered by 3 kids playing in the area and the Torahs were returned safely, with the entire city coming out to celebrate this open act of Divine Providence.
The shul that the Tzemach Tzedek founded and which carries his name continues to be a beacon of Torah light, with classes in Chasidus by noted mashpia Rabbi Schneur Zalman Gafni, classes in halacha by renown author and expert Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein and many more.
The campaign to restore the mikvah is of spiritual and historic importance to Chabad chasidim the world over and is an active piece of Jewish history. The Tzemach Tzedek Shul and Kollel is turning to the public to finally complete this last phase and bring the Rebbe’s vision to full fruition. Each person who is interested in taking part can donate at https://chabadtsfat.com/our-mikvah-project/ or go directly to the mikvah donation page here.