1. Acharon Shel Pesach is the conclusion of the festival of Pesach, and “everything follows the conclusion.” Hence the concept of Pesach is similar to the idea of “the gatherer for all the camps.” When the Jews left Egypt and traveled in the desert to reach Eretz Yisrael, they were divided into a number of divisions (“banners”). The banner of the camp of Dan traveled last, and their function was to be the “gatherer for all the (other) camps.” This means that since they were traveling behind all the other camps, then, if someone of the other camps would lose something, the tribe of Dan “would restore it to him.” If their function was to restore lost property to a Jew, then certainly if a Jew was lost (in the spiritual sense) the function of the tribe of Dan was to find this Jew and return him to the Jewish camp. Hence the tribe of Dan ensured that the camp of Israel be whole, and that every Jew would enter Eretz Yisrael together with all the “holy sparks” they possessed (analogous to returning their lost articles).
The Baal Shem Tov taught that during a persons lifetime there are 42 journeys, corresponding to the number of journeys made by the Jews in the desert till they reached the “good and spacious land.” And since the tribe of Dan performed this function during all the 42 journeys, so too is this concept relevant to a person’s entire lifetime. Likewise, it applies also to the general service of Jews throughout the generations, until the future redemption — which is similar to the time from the exodus from Egypt until entering Eretz Yisrael. The Alter Rebbe explains the purpose of these 42 journeys was to leave the level of Egypt, the concept of straits and limitations. Hence all the journeys until they reached Eretz Yisrael were part of the exodus from Egypt. Indeed, until Jews will merit the true and final redemption, they are still similar to their position during the 42 journeys in the desert before they entered the “good and spacious land.”
In man’s spiritual service, there is also the concept of “gatherer for all the camps.” Anything which is the last (similar to Dan who traveled last) has this function — to make up previous deficiencies. So too in the case of Acharon Shel Pesach — meaning the conclusion or last day of Pesach. When a Jew makes a reckoning of the service of Pesach, he may find that a moment has been “lost” in which his service was not complete. Likewise, it was possible that a Jew was “lost” who might have been brought closer to Torah.
Such a person is told not to be depressed, for Acharon Shel Pesach gives him special strength to fulfill his service in the manner of “gatherer for all the camps” — to make up for previous deficiencies of the service of the preceding days of Pesach.
A parable to this is lifting something from the ground. One lifts up the bottom (“last”) part and then automatically the top part is also lifted up. So too in our case. On Acharon Shel Pesach, the conclusion (“last”) of the service of Pesach, there is special strength to make up for and perfect the general service of Pesach.
In greater clarification:
The last of anything is on the level of “gatherer for all the camps.” This is certainly so in the case of Pesach, for Pesach is the “first of the festivals” and its concepts influence the whole year. Since Pesach is an all-encompassing general festival (affecting the whole year), it certainly possesses the concept of “gatherer for all the camps.” In general, it is the last two days of Pesach, and more particularly, Acharon Shel Pesach. In this day itself, it is the last moments after Minchah, when the concept of “gatherer for all the camps” in regard to the general service of Pesach is highly emphasized.
To elaborate further: Pesach is associated with the future redemption, as stated: “As in the days of your going out of Egypt I will show you wonders,” indicating that the future redemption will be “as in the days of your going out of Egypt.” This applies already on the first day of Pesach, as our Sages say, that had Israel merited it, the exodus from Egypt (on the 1st day of Pesach) would have been the final redemption.
Nevertheless, the idea of the final redemption is emphasized more highly on Acharon Shel Pesach, and therefore the Haftorah read then talks at length of the coming of Mashiach. This is especially so after the Baal Shem Tov initiated the special “Banquet of Mashiach” to be eaten on Acharon Shel Pesach, thus connecting Mashiach’s coming with physical matters (eating and drinking).
Yet, after all this, we see that all the days of Pesach have gone by, and we are now at the conclusion of Acharon Shel Pesach — and Mashiach has not yet come! The reason for this is that our service during Pesach was deficient: there was a moment not utilized properly, or a Jew that had to be brought closer to Judaism — and wasn’t.
In this situation a Jew is told: On Acharon Shel Pesach he has the ability to complete and rectify any omissions in past service, for it is the “gatherer for all the camps.” It is similar to the idea of teshuvah (repentance), of which our Sages said “Nothing stands in the way of teshuvah,” to the extent that it converts misdeeds to merits. And just like teshuvah, Acharon Shel Pesach can take its effect in a single moment, transcending all limitations.
The service of Acharon Shel Pesach can be divided into two: Firstly, those matters able to be done on Acharon Shel Pesach itself; and in addition, those things which can be done only after Havdalah (after Yom Tov) — the resolution for which is made on Acharon Shel Pesach. Examples of the former are the “Banquet of Mashiach,” drinking 4 cups, rejoicing on Yom Tov, etc. Examples of the latter are going out to seek Jews who are “lost,” to return them to Judaism. The resolution to do this must be made on Yom Tov, and not pushed off for later.
One must know that the very fact one must seek Jews who are lost is his fault, since he didn’t do it earlier. Had he done so earlier, this other Jew would have been sitting at the “Banquet of Mashiach” and he wouldn’t have to go look for him!
In the good resolutions made on Acharon Shel Pesach, one must ensure that one’s “good thoughts” are true according to Torah — and then there is hope they will be carried out. Otherwise, he will completely forget about them.
When the “good thought” is proper, then “G-d attaches a good thought to deed.” There are several interpretations of this:
1) G-d sends him a deed consonant to his “good thought,” meaning, that even though “good thought” is proper, it may be that fulfilling it is not possible — and therefore it is necessary for G-d to send man the opportunity to fulfill it in deed.
2) “Attach” in Hebrew is “Metzaraf” which is from the root “tziruf” and “zichuch,” meaning rectification. Although the “good thought” is not perfect, G-d rectifies it.
3) After there are the two things of the “good thought” and the “deed,” G-d attaches the two together to make it a perfect whole.
This then is the lesson from Acharon Shel Pesach: Pesach is associated with the idea of redemption — of oneself, one’s fellow, and of Jewry in general. This idea is effected through the service of every Jew. When deficiencies occur, Acharon Shel Pesach gives one the opportunity to rectify the situation. And through the service of Jews we speedily merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
2. The above concept of Acharon shel Pesach being the “gatherer for all the camps” of the service of Pesach is applicable to all generations. Nevertheless, it has particular emphasis in our generation, the “footsteps of Mashiach,” since it is the last generation of exile, similar to the “heel” (footstep) being the last part of a person. Thus this generation corresponds to the concept of “gatherer for all the camps” — of all generations. Just as on the days of Pesach the coming of Mashiach is emphasized specifically on Acharon Shel Pesach — despite the association of the redemption with the first days of Pesach as well; so too in regard to all generations, the future redemption has greater connection with the generation of the footsteps of Mashiach – although Mashiach could have come in previous generations.
In greater clarification: Our Sages relate that when the cow of a certain Arab bellowed once, they knew that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed. When it bellowed a second time, they knew the redeemer of Israel was born — i.e., Mashiach was born immediately after the destruction. Since he was born then, it follows that his conception was nine months before the destruction. This answers why Mashiach was born the moment after the destruction, although G-d “prepares the healing before the affliction.” But since Mashiach was conceived nine months before the destruction, G-d indeed prepared the healing before the affliction. From this we understand that the coming of Mashiach and the future redemption could have been immediately after the destruction.
But all is not clear. How could the redemption have occurred immediately after the destruction when the “redeemer of Israel” was only a one-day old baby? However, the concept of Mashiach is that he is the level of “Yechidah” of Jewry — a level which transcends all limitations including time and space. Hence, although Mashiach would have been a one-day old baby, it is no contradiction to the redemption, for it is in a manner that completely transcends time and place.
An example: The Midrash states that at the beginning of creation, the “mazalos traveled shortly and quickly.” Likewise, growth happened very quickly, as the Midrash says, that when a baby was born, his mother would send him to bring a knife to cut the umbilical cord.
So too in the future redemption: If such was the situation at the beginning of creation, that a new born baby could fetch things, certainly in the future redemption, when the world will be in a state of perfection, the fact that Mashiach would only be a one-day old baby would not hinder the redemption. Understandably, the world will be completely different in the times of the redemption, transcending nature. For example, our Sages say that a woman will give birth every day, and the Tzemach Tzedek explains the pregnancy will only last 9 hours. Likewise, in the haftorah of Acharon Shel Pesach, it states that in the future “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, ... and a little child will lead them.” Animals which today even an adult cannot control will in the future be led by a little child.
To return to our point: Although Mashiach’s coming could have been immediately after the destruction, nevertheless it is at the end of exile, the generation of “gatherers for all the camps” of all generations, which is the right time for Mashiach’s coming. When a Jew thinks about this, it causes him to increase in all things associated with Mashiach’s coming — Torah and mitzvos. And when a Jew increases in his individual service, to the extent of effecting his own personal salvation, through this the redemption of all Jewry is effected.
The redemption applies to all Jews, as the future redemption will be “as in the days of your going out of Egypt.” Just as every Jew was redeemed from Egypt, without one Jew being left there, so too in the future “none who are dispersed will be lost from Him.”
3. The special connection of this generation to the future redemption has nothing to do with the idea of reckoning dates for Mashiach’s coming, since the Tzemach Tzedek frowned upon the idea of reckoning dates. Hence, they ask, how can one say this generation has more relevance to the future redemption — is this not similar to reckoning dates?
The answer is that reckoning dates for Mashiach’s coming was relevant only in the early generations, when it was possible to speculate if the redemption will be “in its appointed time” (when Jews “do not merit it”) or such that “I will hurry it” (when Jews “merit it”). But as for our generation, our Sages have said that “all the reckoned dates have passed, meaning that we do not need any more calculations, for “it is only dependent on teshuvah.” And just as teshuvah happens in a moment, so too the redemption can happen at a moment’s notice. As the Rambam writes: “When a person does one mitzvah he tilts himself and the whole world to the meritorious side, and causes redemption and salvation for himself and them.” That is, the future redemption depends on the addition of “one mitzvah” by a Jew! Hence we see that the above has no connection with reckoning dates.
Yet all is not clear. How can we say our generation has a greater association with the redemption, when our Sages have said that each generation is on a lower level than the preceding one? Moreover, how can one action bring the future redemption? What connection is there between the slight tilting of the scales of justice to the complete and true redemption.
However, Torah greats bring the example of a dwarf who stands on top of a giant. Although he is a dwarf, his position on the giant allows him to see further than the giant. So too in this case: The early generations were “giants;” and our generation is but a dwarf. But since our service follows their service (the dwarf on top of the giant), it is specifically the service of our generation which brings the redemption — “The work bears the name of he who finishes it.”
This also answers why it is our generation that has the merit to stand on the giant — for it is G-d’s will that the people of today were born in this generation.
Since it is our generation that has a greater association with the future redemption, we must make greater efforts to achieve it. The Talmud explains that the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred. Therefore our service must be the eradication of this by conducting ourselves in the opposite fashion Ahavas Yisrael, love of a Jew. In addition, there must be special efforts in spreading Chassidus, for Mashiach told the Baal Shem Tov that he would come “when your wellsprings spread forth to the outside.”
4. Although it is now Acharon Shel Pesach, it is still necessary to engage in the “Pesach Campaign.” In the days prior to Pesach, it was necessary to make sure that all who needed the necessities of Pesach had them. If there are some who did not receive assistance, and therefore had to borrow the money, it is necessary to help these Jews pay their debts after Pesach.
Besides help in physical needs, one must also help spiritually — the dissemination of Judaism and Chassidus. Just as one can rectify deficiencies in the supply of physical needs (by helping pay debts, as above), so too in spiritual needs. This is the idea of Pesach Sheni. If a Jew could not offer the Pesach sacrifice in its proper time, he has the opportunity to make up for it on Pesach Sheni.
In practical terms, we must increase in all activities of spreading Judaism and Chassidus, beginning with the Mitzvah Campaigns: Shabbos lights, Kashrus, Torah, Ahavas Yisrael, Tefillin, Mezuzah, Tzedakah, House full of Jewish books, and Family Purity.
5. There are special lessons to be derived from today’s portion of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya.
The central point of today’s portion is that “occupation in the Torah and commandments and prayer is also a matter of Mesiras Nefesh (actual surrender of the soul), as when it leaves the body at the end of seventy years, for it no longer thinks of bodily needs ...” Together with this, there is also the distinction that accrues from the body. The lesson from this is as follows: In general, the service of Mesiras Nefesh is during the recital of Shema and the silent prayer (“Shemoneh Esreh”). While this serves as the foundation for the entire day’s service, the actual service of the rest of the day is not openly with mesiras nefesh (but on a lower level). Today’s portion of Tanya emphasizes that the service of Torah and mitzvos is also “actual mesiras nefesh” — i.e. not only is mesiras nefesh the “foundation” for general service, but service itself is also a matter of mesiras nefesh. And since a Jew is engaged all day in matters of Torah and mitzvos — for even in secular matters he conducts himself such that “all your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him” — it follows that a Jew is in a state of mesiras nefesh the whole day.
This applies to all Jews, as the beginning of today’s portion of Tanya states: “the union of the soul with, and its absorption into, the light of G-d, making them one, is what every Jew truly desires with all his heart and soul — because of the natural love hidden in every Jewish heart to cleave to G-d ...” However, this hidden love must be revealed. And when a Jew does so, his service is permeated with mesiras nefesh; and even when engaging in secular matters it is with mesiras nefesh. Not only does he intellectually recognize that “every Jew truly desires” this with “all his heart and soul,” but it permeates his whole essence — feelings as well as intellect.
This year, Acharon Shel Pesach falls out on Thursday of parshas Shemini, the Torah portion of which talks of the difference between sacrifices which are “holy for generations” and those which are only “holy for a particular time.” The difference between them is that the latter are more severe in their halachic requirements than the former — they need greater vigilance against undesirable things than the former.
In man’s service to G-d, there are things which are on the level of “holy for generations” — service which has been fixed from generation to generation; and those which are “holy for a particular time” — a new mission and service that was not present in previous generations. Of the former, since it is not a new service, but one in which a person’s father, grandfather etc. were also engaged, there are no special hardships involved. But when it is a service that is “holy for a particular time” — a new service — the Yetzer Horah sets special difficulties in front of a person, telling him it is an extremely difficult service with little chance of success. Hence greater vigilance is needed for such a service.
The severity of a sacrifice that is “holy for a particular time” in our parshah was expressed by the fact that it could not be eaten, but had to be burnt. In man’s service to G-d, the eating of a sacrifice by its owners corresponds to service from which the body and animal soul also derive pleasure. For example, the mitzvah of having delight on Shabbos is expressed in eating fat meat and old wine. More generally, it is associated with the service of “when you will walk in My statutes” through which one merits physical rewards — “I will give your rains in their appointed times.” Such a service is possible when it is “holy for generations,” since it does not have any special difficulties attached.
In the case of “holy for a particular time” however, since special vigilance is needed that nothing bad attach itself to this type of service, one cannot think of the bodily pleasure that may eventuate, but must invest all efforts in the service itself. He must leave all other matters and concentrate only on this. For example, the service of baalei teshuvah (repentees) must be with extra vigilance, although usually (“holy for generations”) such extra caution is unnecessary.
The above has a special connection to the service of Acharon Shel Pesach. We explained that the service of Acharon Shel Pesach is associated with the future redemption, and that it has particular significance in our generation. It follows that our generation has a special new service, “holy for a particular time,” — the need to prepare ourselves to receive Mashiach. This service was not as relevant 10 years ago, for example — the proof being that Mashiach didn’t come. Nowadays it is extremely relevant, for Mashiach is coming very, very soon, since “I wait for him to come every day.”
Thus the need of the hour of Acharon Shel Pesach of the year 5742 is to prepare to receive our righteous Mashiach, both by service with oneself and by influencing others. Since it is a service on the level of “holy for a particular time,” it demands greater vigilance against things that are contrary to Torah and mitzvos. In other words, although in a service of “holy for generations,” regular service, it is possible that a good part of the day be spent in other things, the service of “holy for a particular time” is a service that is limited by time and therefore takes precedence over everything else.
Today’s portion of Tehillim is the same in all years — the 106th and 107th chapters. Chapter 106 begins with “Praise the L-rd, offer praise to the L-rd for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting.” The chapter continues to mention the miracles performed in the exodus from Egypt, and ends with “He caused them to be pitied by all their captors... Save us L-rd our G-d and gather us from among the nations
This chapter then talks of the exodus from Egypt, and the times of exile that followed, until the generation of the footsteps of Mashiach when “the concept of “He caused them to be pitied by all their captors” is effected even while still in exile. Then we come to the future redemption — “Save us ... and gather us from among the nations.”
Chapter 107 talks of the four categories of people who are obligated to acknowledge the miracle performed for them — those who travel over the sea, travel in the desert, a sick person who is healed, and one released from prison. The previous Rebbe explains that because of the vicissitudes of the exile, these four categories also exist in the spiritual sense. And when a Jew is helped by G-d to perform his service in exile despite its difficulties, he has a special obligation to give thanks to G-d — “Praise the L-rd, offer praise to the L-rd for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting.”
The four categories of people of whom this chapter speaks must give thanks to G-d by offering a “thanksgiving sacrifice.” And our Sages say that in the future redemption (associated with Acharon Shel Pesach), all the sacrifices will be abolished, except for the thanksgiving sacrifice.
This is the connection of Acharon Shel Pesach to the portion of Tehillim said then. The exodus from Egypt (mentioned in Ch. 106) is the preparation and strength for the future redemption — meaning that very soon the exile will be finished and we go from Ch. 106 to Ch. 107 where it talks of the thanksgiving sacrifice that will be the only sacrifice in the future redemption.