1. When many Jews gather together, especially in a holy place of prayer and Torah study, it is a very great thing. Nonetheless, such gatherings (farbrengens) are held only intermittently, associated with an event of that time — such as today, the Yahrzeit of the previous Rebbe. But, the question arises, these events are of the past, (in this case, the previous Rebbe passed on 32 years ago), and what connection can there be to the present that we should gather together in commemoration? In addition, these past 32 years have been full of many happenings, good and bad, which in normal times would have been spread over a far greater period of time. Thus, in content at least, the time period between the passing on of the previous Rebbe and today is far greater that 32 years. Yet, many Jews are still gathered here today, despite the great changes since the previous Rebbe’s passing. Moreover, every year sees an increase in the number of people attending the farbrengen, and when there is an increase in the quantity of Jews, there is an increase also in the quality. This is expressed in the Halachah that “the glory of the king is in a multitude of people” — the greater the number of people, the greater the glory of the king.
The very fact that an event causes so many Jews to gather together, and in increasing numbers every year, is an indication that it does not belong just to the past, but is relevant to the present. There are things which not only do not weaken in the progression of time, but even become better: for example “Old men take delight in old wine.” In other words, things become better or worse over time depending on the kind of thing or person referred to.
The previous Rebbe’s task and mission was to infuse life — spiritual and physical — into all Jews: with self-sacrifice he aided every Jew in every way possible. He educated and trained his followers that they too, besides themselves being exemplary Jews — “lamps to illuminate” — should also engage in the work of spreading true “life” (Judaism); and in such a fashion that those people influenced should in turn influence others.
Since the fruits of the previous Rebbe’s work continue to exist today, all those matters associated with the previous Rebbe are valid even now. Indeed, every year sees an increase in his disciples and disciples of disciples, and this ensures that not only will the previous Rebbe’s works be relevant in the future, but more fruits will be forthcoming.
This may be associated with the 15th of Shevat, Rosh Hashanah for trees. Every person is compared to a tree — “for a person is a tree of the field” — for trees too grow and give fruit. Rosh Hashanah for trees is the start of new life and vitality for them, through which new fruit will be produced in abundance, both in quantity and quality.
In the light of the above, it is understood that although it is 32 years since the previous Rebbe’s passing on, not only have his matters not weakened, but have increased — more students, more “fruit.” In quality and quantity, all his matters have gone from strength to strength. The reason for this is that the previous Rebbe raised his disciples to be as himself, not just being satisfied with their own spiritual service, but to be as a “tree of the field” — producing fruit which in turn produces fruit, etc. When the service in those things associated with a Yahrzeit are increased, both qualitatively and quantitatively, then G-d, Who pays measure for measure, gives His blessings in the same way — but many times so.
Through the general service of Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos, each day seeing an increase on the previous day, we merit to very soon see the fulfillment of the promise “The earth will be full of knowledge of G-d.” Then is hastened the fulfillment of the promise “Those who sleep in the dust will awaken and rejoice,” including the previous Rebbe, who, together with the other tzaddikim, will arise first.
2. Our Sages say that “as his seed is alive, so too he is alive.” When a person is alive, it means all of him is alive — life cannot be divided, some limbs being alive and others not. In man’s spiritual service, this means that a person’s service must be complete, he must serve G-d according to the directives of the “living Torah” with all his limbs and sinews — all must be truly alive. Scripture states that “You shall be whole with the L-rd your G-d,” and if one limb is not fulfilling its mission, the person is no more whole, but maimed. True life is when one is continually growing, not remaining static. A “tree of the field,” to which man is compared, is continually growing, continually putting out fresh leaves and fruits, etc. Man, who is superior to trees, must certainly conduct his life in such a manner.
Everything must find expression in Halachah — “Torah of life” and “Torah of light.” Shulchan Aruch states that a person’s conduct must be such that “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him.” These statements follow all the previous instructions about a person’s service in prayer and Torah study, and is an all encompassing instruction for man’s general conduct during the day. “Your ways” and “your deeds” do not refer to mitzvos or even Jewish customs, but things which are a person’s own affairs — “your ways” and “your deeds.” Nevertheless, since the purpose of man’s creation is that “I was created to serve my Master,” every part of a person’s existence, even his own affairs (“your ways,” “your deeds”) must be permeated with his mission — “to serve my Master.”
So that a person may fulfill his principal task properly, everything must be performed with life and vitality. In the physical body, the principal organs are the heart and mind. But they can only fulfill their task properly when the other limbs (whose tasks are not so important) fulfill their mission fully.
So too with a Jew’s spiritual service: Each Jew has various tasks to fulfill his mission of serving his Maker. Some are more important, others less so. Nevertheless, even when he fulfills his principal task fully, he is not absolved of fulfilling his other tasks properly. This is what the Torah directs in its statement “All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” — all of a person’s matters, even those not connected with mitzvos, must be “for the sake of heaven.”
Hence, if a Jew’s task is to have dealings (not just with Jews but) also with non-Jews, or with people whose conduct is not the best, they have a sacred mission that their conduct should be in the manner of “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” — to influence these people that they too should conduct themselves “for the sake of heaven.” And if a Jew has been given such a mission, he certainly has been given the strength to carry it out fully.
In other words: A Jew cannot remain content with his own spiritual loftiness, but must influence other Jews to be likewise — the idea of spreading Judaism, Torah and mitzvos. Likewise, Jews must ensure that non-Jews keep the Seven Noachide Laws, to ensure that the world is existing constructively, not destructively. Particularly when Jews are in a country of grace and kindness, where they can conduct their lives in the spirit of Judaism without any obstacles — and indeed, the country aids people to live as they wish.
When a Jew influences a non-Jew to keep the Seven Noachide Laws, it must be emphasized that such conduct (“do not steal” etc.) does not depend on the person’s understanding, but because so G-d has commanded. This is the mission of a Jew: Besides his own personal service, to endeavor that those in his surroundings should conduct themselves in a constructive, decent manner — by showing them a living example, and in addition, by talking to them earnestly and sincerely — Then justice and true peace in the world will be effected.
Through a Jew’s conduct in this manner, we find ourselves, in these last days of exile, in the situation of “and to all the Jewish people there was light in their dwelling places.” Just as in the exile of Egypt Jews had “light in their dwelling places” (even before the exodus) through following the directives of their leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, so too in every generation when Jews follow the directives of their leaders — who in our generation is the previous Rebbe. This is the preparation to the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, when will be fulfilled the promise “Then I will convert the nations to a pure language ... to serve Him with one consent.” We merit to go out from the exile, and in the manner of the exodus from Egypt — “The children of Israel went out with an upraised hand.” And as written in today’s portion of Chumash — “Then Moshe and the children of Israel will sing this Song.” Our Sages have noted that “it does not state ‘sang’ (past tense), but ‘will sing’ (future sense); this is where we know in the Torah of the resurrection of the dead. “ In other words, in the future redemption (after the resurrection), the promise “Then Moshe and the children of Israel will sing” will be fulfilled.
3. The above applies to Yud Shevat every year. In addition, there is a lesson to be derived from the day on which Yud Shevat falls this year. The Baal Shem Tov, in consonance with the saying of our Sages that “G-d did not create anything in His world for naught,” taught that everything contains a lesson for man’s service to G-d. Hence, even the number of years since the previous Rebbe’s passing (in 5710) serves as instruction for one’s service.
It is 32 years since Yud Shevat 5710. In Hebrew, 32 is the letters “Lamed” and “Bais” which spell “lev,” meaning “heart.” The heart is the source of a person’s vitality and life, as explained in Iggeres HaKodesh (Ch. 31): “The cause of illness or health lies in the extension and flow of the life-force vested in the blood of life which flows from the heart to all the limbs.... When the circulation and flow of this spirit of life is as it should be ... man is perfectly healthy. For all the limbs are bound together and receive their proper vitality from the heart
The previous Rebbe, the leader of Jewry, functioned as the “heart;” as the Rambam writes that the king (leader of Israel) is the “heart of all the community of Israel.” The king is called the “heart of all the community of Israel” because his function is similar to the heart of a person, from which vitality flows to all the body’s limbs. Thus the 32nd (“Lev” — heart) Yahrzeit of the previous Rebbe emphasizes the idea of our connection to the leader of Jewry, “the heart of all the community of Israel,” from whom flows vitality to all Jews.
All physical things are derived from the spiritual, as they are in Torah — for Torah is “our life and the length of our days.” So too with the concept of the “heart”: The first word in the Torah is “Bereishis (‘In the beginning’)” and the last word is “Yisrael.” The first and last letters of the Torah are thus “Bais” and “Lamed,” which spell “Lev — heart.” Torah is similar to the concept of a king (who is the “heart of the community of Israel”), as our Sages have said: “Who are the kings? — the Rabbis.” Since the function of Rabbis is to teach the directives of the Torah, they are called “kings,” similar to the function of a king (to direct his people) — for each Jew must fulfill the Torah’s directives. Moreover, our Sages state: “[G-d] looked into the Torah, and [from it] created the world.” From this it is apparent that the existence of the world is from Torah, similar to the limbs of the body which receive their life from the heart.
This concept is alluded to in the order of the letters “Lamed” (from “Yisrael”) and “Bais” (from “Bereishis”), which form “Lev.” “Yisrael” is an acrostic for “Yesh Shishim Ribui Oysiyos LaTorah” (There are 6007,000 letters in the Torah). Thus the “Lamed” of “Yisrael” corresponds and alludes to the concept of Torah — “LaTorah” (the last word in its acrostic). The word “Bereishis” refers to the general creation (“In the beginning G-d created”) including all the order of the worlds (spiritual and physical).
The order in the word “Lev” (“Lamed” and “Bais”) is first the letter “Lamed” (from “Yisrael”), corresponding to the concept of Torah (as explained above, that the “Lamed” in “Yisrael” corresponds to the word “LaTorah” in its acrostic). Then comes the letter “Bais” (from “Bereishis”), corresponding to the concept of creation.
In connection to the idea of Yisrael and Torah, it is now appropriate to once again urge everyone of that most important of campaigns — to unite all Jews in the writing of a general Sefer Torah through each one purchasing a letter. Particularly since very recently the first Sefer Torah has just been completed — with the letter “Lamed” of “Yisrael” (the last letter in a Sefer Torah), and a new Sefer Torah has been started — with the letter “Bais” of Bereishis.”
As above, the word “Yisrael” forms the acrostic “There are 600,000 letters in a Sefer Torah.” Since Torah is similar to a heart (as explained previously) the letter in a Sefer Torah which belongs to an individual Jew gives him life and vitality. As the previous Rebbe explains: “Every Jew has a letter in the Sefer Torah, and therefore each one has life and vitality in the Torah ... and this letter gives him strength to withstand all obstacles to the study of Torah. And besides acting as a protection, it is also the conduit through which and in which the blessing of Above in all good reaches him
Hence every Jew should purchase a letter in one of the general Sifrei Torah, and to influence others to do likewise. Each Jew may purchase his letter in the Sefer Torah written according to his custom — Ashkenazic, Sefardic, etc. Through purchasing a letter, each Jew is united with all the others who purchased letters in that Sefer Torah, and with all other Sifrei Torah, extending to the Sefer Torah which Moshe Rabbeinu wrote; for all Sifrei Torah are one. The unity thus provided is eternal, just as Torah is true and eternal.
May it be G-d’s will that very soon we merit to go with these Sifrei Torah to our Holy Land, and to learn the Torah of Mashiach from Mashiach. All Jews go out from exile with Mashiach at our head, including the Divine Presence. Our Sages, on the verse “The L-rd your G-d will return Your captives,” note that the Hebrew word for “return” is first person inclusive, meaning that G-d goes together with each and every Jew, in the manner that “He Himself must take hold literally with His hand every person (to take him out) from his place, as it is stated ‘And you shall be gathered one by one, children of Israel.’”
4. The portion of Tehillim for the tenth day of the month expresses the idea of song. The first chapter near its close states (55:18): “He has delivered my soul in peace,” and the last chapter of the daily portion ends with (59:17,18) “1 will sing of Your might ... To You, my power, I will sing.” This applies every year, since every year the same daily portion of Tehillim is said on the previous Rebbe’s Yahrzeit — the 10th of Shevat. In addition, the idea of song is also expressed in the daily portion of Chumash unique to this year — the fourth section of parshas Beshallach. This section is the Song of the Sea, sung by Moshe and the Jewish people at the miracle of the splitting of the sea — “Then Moshe and the children of Israel sang this Song to the L-rd.”
Chassidus (in the Maamarim of the Rebbe Maharash) explains the greatness of joy in service to G-d. In general, man’s service is divided into three parts: Torah, prayer, and deeds of loving kindness, consonant with our Sages’ saying: “On three things the world stands” (world meaning the world at large and the “small world which is man”) — on Torah, on prayer, and on deeds of loving kindness.” in general, service must be with joy, as it states: “Serve the L-rd with joy.” In particular, this refers to the service of prayer, as our Sages state: “What is service of the heart — it is prayer.” But in broader outline it refers to man’s general service of “I was created to serve my Maker,” that service necessitating joy — “Serve the L-rd with joy.
Likewise, Torah study must be with joy, as the Talmud states: “The Divine Presence does not rest where there is sadness ... but in the midst of joy of the mitzvah ... and likewise with a matter of Halachah.” In the same vein, mitzvos must be done Joyously, as for example, tzedakah should be given graciously.
Since joy breaks through all bounds, when a person’s service is performed with joy, all limitations are broken, and his service is perfect. A person’s service can be limited by his intellect etc., and thus reaches only to the level of “with all your heart and all your soul.” But the peak of one’s service is when it is beyond all limits — “with all your might.”
May it be G-d’s will that very soon we merit the Tenth Song of the future redemption, with the coming of our righteous Mashiach. And since the revelations of the future depend on our service now during exile, the proper preparation for the redemption is service with joy. The service beyond all limits elicits G-d’s blessings in abundance, in children, life, and ample sustenance. Then we merit the fulfillment of the promise “When Pharaoh sent out the people” — from the final exile. And just as in the exodus from Egypt more than 600,000 Jews went out — including the elevation of the ‘sparks of holiness;’ so too in the exodus from the final exile, we take with and elevate the ‘sparks of holiness’ from every place. This certainly means the exodus of Jews themselves, all of them, including those who are as children that are captives among the non-Jews (i.e. those who do not keep Torah and mitzvos only because they know no better) as stated: “Even if your dispersed will be at the furthermost parts of the world (literally and also spiritually), from there the L-rd your G-d will gather you, and from there He will fetch you” — in the true and complete redemption, speedily in our times.
5. The Alter Rebbe, on the verse “in all that we call to Him,” explains that the plain interpretation of this verse is that “to Him” means to G-d Himself, and not to His attributes. The Alter Rebbe emphasizes that this is its plain meaning, unlike that of the Pardes and the Baal Shem Tov, who explain that “to Him” refers to those levels which have an association with the order of descent of the worlds.
The Alter Rebbe’s regard of the Pardes and the Baal Shem Tov, was of course, of the highest degree; nevertheless, he interprets the above verse differently. Moreover, he first quotes their interpretation, and then emphasizes that its plain meaning is otherwise.
The reason for this is that the plain meaning (that “to Him” means to the Essence of G-d Himself) is understandable and relevant to all Jews. For when a Jew prays to G-d, and he has no knowledge of the kavannos (deeper meaning) of the prayers (in regard to the “ Sefiros, “ order of the supernal words etc.), his prayer is directed “to Him” — to G-d Himself. And even for unique individuals who do know the ‘kavannos,’ the true concept of prayer in its fullness is precisely when it is directed “to Him” — to the Essence of G-d. As one of the Torah greats said: “I pray according to the knowledge of the child” as a child who directs his prayers to G-d Himself.
Not every Jew has knowledge of the esoteric, nor can every Jew understand such deep concepts; but every Jew can pray directly to G-d. Prayer must be in the manner of acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, “as a servant stands before his master,” and in this aspect, all Jews are equal. When people stand before the king as a servant, differences between great and lesser ministers disappear. From the viewpoint of their self-nullification to the king and acceptance of his kingship, their individual qualities are of no importance.
This is the reason why the Alter Rebbe brings the plain meaning after quoting the interpretation of the Pardes and the Baal Shem Tov. In this way, he emphasized that the plain meaning is relevant not just to those who have no knowledge of the ‘kavannos, but also to those who do. Hence the Alter Rebbe emphasizes that while there does exist a different interpretation (that of the Pardes and the Baal Shem Tov), nevertheless, even those who are on such lofty levels, will, after proper meditation in the interpretation of the Pardes and Baal Shem Tov, reach the highest level of all — the Essence of G-d (the plain interpretation of “to Him”).
This concept, that the plain meaning in reality expresses the peak of perfection, is expressed in the concept of “deed is the essential thing” — the idea of Halachah. In general, there are two aspects in a mitzvah
1) the actual deed, and
2) the meaning and intention behind the mitzvah.
Although “a mitzvah without meaning is as a body without a soul,” nevertheless, “the deed is the essential thing.” Hence, even if one has the loftiest thoughts about a mitzvah, if he does not actually do the mitzvah he has not fulfilled his obligation. Conversely, even if the meaning behind the mitzvah is missing, one has still fulfilled his obligation in performing the mitzvah just with the deed.
The difference between the actual deed and the meaning behind the action is that the latter varies between individuals (dependent on their knowledge etc.), whereas all Jews are equal in the actual deed. Hence, the dictum “deed is the essential thing” is similar to that elaborated on above, that the peak of perfection is reached in the plain meaning of “to Him,” to G-d Himself — which is applicable to all Jews equally.
The greatness of actual deed is emphasized in the Maamar of Yud Shevat, which speaks of the service in the Mishkan and Bais HaMikdash. To implement G-d’s desire that “I will dwell within them,” He commanded of Israel “They shall take for Me an offering from every man whose heart prompts him ... gold, and silver, and brass etc.” Through this will be fulfilled “They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell within them.”
Jews took physical things (gold, silver etc.), and through utilizing them to build a sanctuary, effected that G-d should dwell within them — the drawing down of His Essence below. However, before the actual building of the Mishkan, all its matters existed in spiritual form, as Rashi comments “G-d showed him (Moshe) a Menorah of fire.” Nevertheless, Jews were still commanded to build the Mishkan from physical things specifically. It was specifically through this that G-d’s Essence could be drawn down to this world.
So too in man’s service to G-d in this world. A person’s service must be with physical things specifically — “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him.” In general, Torah “is not in heaven,” and Halachah belongs to this world.
Not only was the Mishkan made of physical things, but its materials came from the loot taken from Egypt and at the splitting of the sea; it was made not only of physical things, but of the most corporeal that belonged to Egypt. Jews converted these most gross things to mere physical objects, and from them they made a vessel for the Divine Presence — “They shall make Me a sanctuary; Me — for My Name.”
This is the service of Jews. To remove the veils that conceal the truth, to destroy the concealments and to reveal G-dliness, to show that the existence of everything comes from the True Existence — G-d. When the concealments are removed and destroyed, then the G-dliness that is revealed is as “the superiority of light which comes from previous darkness.”
The primary point of a Jew’s service then is in the area of deed. Notwithstanding the loftiness of meditating on the reason of the mitzvos etc., it is demanded of a Jew that he perform mitzvos in actual deed. For example, to actually put tefillin on his physical hand, thus making his hand a receptacle for the fulfillment of G-d’s will. Through this, Jews fulfill G-d’s desire of making this physical, corporeal world a fit dwelling place for Him.
As explained previously, a Jew’s service must be such that “You shall be complete and perfect with the L-rd your G-d” — that his entire existence be permeated with G-dliness. Hence it is not sufficient for only his heart and brain to be filled with Judaism, but all his limbs must be permeated with and show their connection to “the L-rd your G-d.” For through Torah, Jews and G-d become one, and as the Baal Shem Tov explained, the inherent love of G-d to every Jew is as parents to their only child born in their old age.
This is why Jews are called “the one nation on the earth.” The Alter Rebbe explained that even while Jews are “on the earth,” in worldly matters, and even in exile, they still reveal the level of “one” — the L-rd is one — “on the earth.” Then we merit the fulfillment of the promise “to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Al-mighty,” such that “I will convert the peoples to a pure language ... to serve Him with one consent,” in the true and complete redemption, speedily in our days.
6. Although Jews are “on the earth,” they are still “one people.” Although in exile Jews are “spread and dispersed among the nations,” they still reveal the level of “one” in the “earth” — they reveal the concept of “G-d is true for eternity,” and that G-d is the Creator and master of all, continually investing His creation with its life-force. To bring down this level of “one” into the “earth,” a Jew’s service must be in the manner of oneness — unity, where all his actions are consistent — “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him.” When his service is in such a manner, a Jew is at peace with his soul, and he is not pulled in conflicting directions. There is no need for battle between the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Horah (Good and Bad Inclinations), for he has already defeated the Yetzer Horah, and his service is in the mode of “the one nation” who serves the “one G-d” through the “one Torah.”
The service of “one nation on earth” is connected with the unity of all Jews, the “one people.” Notwithstanding the differing levels between Jews postulated by Torah itself (“heads of tribes” to “water11water carriers,” the 12 tribes, Kohanim, Levi’im, Yisraelim, etc.), there is one thing which unifies all Jews into one entity, making them the “one people.” It is explained in Tanya (Ch. 32) that the souls of Israel are “of a kind and all have one Father.” Hence, their division into different categories is secondary to their main existence — “all of a kind and having one Father.”
This is the same concept found at the Giving of the Torah, where it states: “And Yisrael encamped there opposite the mountain.” “Encamped” in Hebrew is the singular tense, meaning the Jews were “as one person with one heart,” and it was their unity which prompted the Giving of the Torah.
The choice of the Jewish people by G-d is connected with the choice of Eretz Yisrael by G-d. Our Sages say: “When G-d created the world, he divided the land ... and chose Eretz Yisrael ... and chose the people of Israel for His portion ... and let Yisrael who have come into My portion inherit the land which has come into My portion.” In other words, Eretz Yisrael was given by G-d to the Jewish people; as G-d is eternal, so too Eretz Yisrael was given as an eternal heritage to the Jews. Hence love of a fellow Jew leads to love of Eretz Yisrael, and the unity of Jews leads to the unity and fullness of the land (i.e. all of it belongs to Jews). Therefore, consonant with the clear Halachah, it is prohibited to concede any of the land to non-Jews, for concessions of lands vital for security is prohibited by reason of pikuach nefesh.
It is only when we conduct ourselves according to the Torah’s directives that we can arrive at a true peace; and then we will not need to engage in warfare to defeat our foes, but instead “All the peoples of the earth shall see that the Name of the L-rd is called upon you and they shall fear you.”
In connection to unity of Jews, it is once again timely to urge everyone once again to do their utmost to unite all Jews by each one purchasing a letter in a Sefer Torah. Each Jew who purchases a letter unites with all the other Jews who have purchased letters in the Sefer Torah, and also with all other Sifrei Torah — for all the Sifrei Torah are one concept.