1. This convention is taking place in the days of Sefiras HaOmer. Our Sages have explained the reason why we count Sefirah: When the Jews left Egypt — which was the birth of the Jewish nation, they knew that the goal of this nation and the reason for their deliverance from Egypt was to receive G-d’s Torah. As stated: “When you take out the people from Egypt, you will serve the L-rd on this mountain. Therefore, immediately they left Egypt, the Jews began to longingly count the days till the Giving of the Torah. One more day since they left Egypt meant one day closer to receiving the Torah.
This explains why, when we count Sefirah, we say “Today is two days,” “today is three days” etc. Seemingly, we should say “Today is the second day,” “today is the third day” etc. — for each day is only one day, not two or three.
However, the reason for the counting is not to know which day it is. The counting is an expression of longing, saying two days have passed, three days have passed, etc. — reckoning up all the days that have passed.
As it was then, so it repeats itself each year in a Jew’s soul. The soul, because it is a “part of G-d,” transcends time and dimension, and can therefore “experience” and “relive” events that happened in the past — the intense longing to receive the Torah. Although this longing will not bring closer the time of receiving the Torah, which will be on the 50th day regardless, nevertheless, it affects the manner in which we receive the Torah. The intense longing causes the actual acceptance to be with enthusiasm, life, and strength. Moreover, our longing evokes a reciprocal effect in the way the Torah is given — it will be in a much loftier fashion than if we did not long for it. Thus, for example, although the Torah is one and indivisible, Moshe Rabbeinu’s acceptance of the Torah was with much greater enthusiasm than the rest of the Jews.
The effect of the Giving of the Torah on the Jews was to render each and every Jew a member of the “kingdom of priests” — “You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Since the Torah is infinite, we still have much to long for — although thousands of years have passed since Mattan Torah, and the above effect (to make Jews a “kingdom of priests”) has occurred thousands of times. Through the proper longing and preparation, the effect of Mattan Torah this year will be infinitely higher than previous years.
The greatest expression of longing to receive the Torah is to conduct ourselves according to the Torah’s directives — and with life and enthusiasm, such that “every day they shall be as new in Your eyes.” This causes the acceptance of the Torah to be with the proper devotion, to fulfill all the words of the Torah “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” And, since G-d has given each Jew the ability and strength to fulfill the task given to him, it is not an onerous burden, but rather something to be fulfilled joyously. The previous Rebbe, before Shavuos, would give the blessing that the receiving of the Torah be “with joy and inner feeling.” That is, that together with joy, there should be inner seriousness and determination.
Every description in Torah is exact, including the title “kingdom of priests” bestowed upon each Jew. When we say a Jew is a kohen (priest), it means he is constantly a kohen, even when eating, drinking and sleeping. How then can every Jew be termed a “kohen?” A “kohen” means one who “ministers before the L-rd” — which seemingly applies only when a Jew prays, or learns, or performs mitzvos — but not when eating or drinking.
However, since G-d has said that every Jew belongs to the “kingdom of priests,” he has the ability to transform even his eating and drinking — to make them different than when done by one who is not a kohen.
When a Jew eats, not only does he make a blessing before and after, but in the eating itself he feels that he is thereby serving G-d just as in other mitzvos. That is, when he feels that he eats only to keep himself alive to be able to fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah. Or he sleeps so that he can be fresh to perform his service to G-d, and to fulfill the mitzvah of minding one’s health. Then, in every minute of his eating and sleeping, he is called a “kohen,” for it is also a service to G-d.
Obviously, it is not easy to always be a “kohen” — that every moment one’s deeds are service to G-d. But according to its difficulty, so is its loftiness. If it is difficult for a man, it is much more difficult for a Jewish woman. She has the awesome responsibility to strengthen and set the tone of the Jewish house — to be the “mainstay” of the home. This includes the duty of seeing to it that the home be well-kept, clean and free of dirt — especially when there are children in the house. Likewise, she is the one to take care of the kashrus of the home, and to be the “mother” — to educate her children from birth. This includes physical things — cleanliness, health etc. — and spiritual education. All these things take much time, effort, and devotion.
To carry out these things, the women must be occupied in physical matters which do not seem to have any bearing on service to G-d. Yet, G-d has crowned every Jew and Jewess with the title “kingdom of priests,” for these things too are part of serving G-d — and she must know that it is so. When she ensures the children are healthy, and cooks healthy foods for her family — it is service to G-d. Indeed, this is the principal service — to raise Jewish children, and to make the home a sanctuary for G-d, similar to the Bais HaMikdash which is the Sanctuary for all Jewry.
This is expressed in the Jewish custom that, as soon as a child is born, different verses from Scripture are hung near the child’s bed. This indicates to the child, and to the mother, that they both belong to the “kingdom of priests” since they are part of the “holy nation.”
Just as this “preparation” to the original receiving of the Torah brought about Mattan Torah — despite having just left Egypt — so too every year. Indeed, since we live in a generation thousands of years after the original receiving of the Torah, when every year saw new life and enthusiasm to receive the Torah anew — it is certain that our preparations are much easier. Therefore we can be a “kingdom of priests” in a much loftier fashion than in previous years.
2. The Alter Rebbe taught we must “live with the times,” meaning we must live according to the directives derived from the weekly parshah. This convention began on Friday of parshas Behar-Bechukosai, and ends on Sunday of parshas Bamidbar. We therefore can learn special directives from these two parshas.
The name “Behar-Bechukosai” reminds and inspires in a Jew the feeling that he belongs to the people who stood at Mt. Sinai — for “Behar” means ‘tat the mountain.” The purpose of being at Mt. Sinai is “Bechukosai,” which means “My statutes” — to receive G-d’s statutes, the Torah and its mitzvos.
This is also expressed in the beginning and end of the parshah. It begins “The L-rd spoke to Moshe at Mt. Sinai,” and ends “These are the mitzvos ... which the L-rd commanded Moshe at Mt. Sinai.” Thus we already derive a lesson connected to that elaborated on above — the will and longing to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. And this longing must be translated and come to fruition in actual deed.
This theme is sounded in the slogan adopted for this conference: “Give her praise for her accomplishments, and let her deeds laud her at the gates.” This verse was said by King Shlomo (Mishlei 31:31). Although at the beginning of the chapter in which this verse is found, King Shlomo says “Who can find a wife of excellence?,” nevertheless, at the end of the chapter (our verse), he says one can find such a wife — and she is praiseworthy not just for her thoughts and speech, but for her accomplishments and deeds.
We also derive a lesson from parshas “Bamidbar,” which means “wilderness.” The lesson from this applies especially to the times of exile, which is like a “wilderness” — it is not the proper place of a Jew, which is our Holy land. Thus, when Jews were exiled from our land, G-d gave a Jew the ability to transform his home into a miniature Sanctuary, and to transform his surrounding into “Eretz Yisrael.” The name of this parshah, “Bamidbar Sinai,” thus teaches that we must transform the wilderness of exile into “Sinai.”
This lesson is also associated with the idea that each Jew is a “kohen.” “Eretz Yisrael,” our Sages say, is called thus because “it wants (“Rotzeso”) to do the will of its Creator.” The name “Yisrael” was bestowed upon Yaakov “because you have struggled (“Soriso”) with G-d and men and you have won.” “Eretz Yisrael” thus symbolizes service to G-d with self-sacrifice and mastery over all difficulties.
This is also the meaning of the Tzemach Tzedek’s saying “Make here (outside Eretz Yisrael) Eretz Yisrael” — that wherever a Jew may be, he should always be ready to do G-d’s will. This is the service of a “kohen” (as explained previously) — wherever and whenever a Jew may be, he is always a “kohen” and serves G-d.
When a Jew transforms his home into “Eretz Yisrael,” he merits all G-d’s blessings. As the verse states concerning Eretz Yisrael: “The land which the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are constantly upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” G-d’s watchfulness and benevolence will constantly rest upon this house the entire year.
This is alluded to in parshas Bamidbar Sinai. Every Jew is in a “wilderness,” for his soul, which is a part of G-d above, has descended into a physical body, which is a “wilderness” compared to the soul. The purpose of this descent is “Sinai.” This “wilderness” must be totally permeated with the idea of “Sinai” — with receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Torah was given to the Jewish people, men and women, to the extent that a new-born baby also possesses the Torah — “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov;” and a heritage belongs to the heir as soon as he is born.
This brings us once more to the point emphasized above, that every Jewish mother has the mission to bring children into the world and to educate them in a manner befitting “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Since a child receives his privileges as a Jewish child as soon as he is born, it follows that it is an extremely great merit to bring yet more children into the world.
3. Our Sages say there are three partners in a person: the father, the mother, and G-d. The third “partner,” G-d, possesses wealth and health, and therefore will ensure that the birth of another Jewish baby will not cause financial distress, and certainly not health worries.
Thus every Jewish woman has the merit to fulfill the mitzvah “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” And, since she can rely on G-d, the third partner, to provide the father, mother and children with all their necessities, she fulfills this mitzvah joyfully and good-heartedly.
This is done in the manner of “Fill the earth and subdue it.” Women due not allow their surroundings (the “earth”) to influence them; instead, they transform the world into a dwelling place for G-d.
This is the lesson from “Bamidbar Sinai:” The soul descends into a body — into a “wilderness,” and it must transform the body into “Sinai” — a body whose deeds are service to G-d. Through this all Israel, which went into exile, is redeemed from this “wilderness,” and the redemption comes. As the Rambam rules: Every Jew, man or women, who does one good deed — “her accomplishments” and “her deeds,” tilts the entire world to the meritorious side, and causes for himself and them redemption and salvation.
We see, then, that a Jew should not think that through a deed of his he cannot affect the whole world. For the Rambam rules that a person should exert all effort to do even one good deed — for through this, he can bring the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
From all the above we see the great merit and responsibility of a Jewish woman. She can merit to be crowned with the title of a member of “the kingdom of priests,” when she serves G-d even in everyday physical things.
You will surely carry out all the good resolutions you have undertaken; and make more resolutions, for there is no limit to good. First and foremost, your main responsibility is in educating even the youngest children. Particularly, that children should spend their summer in a camp permeated with the fear of G-d. This provides health for children, both physical and spiritual. Likewise, you should engage in the campaigns special for women — Shabbos lights, kashrus, and family purity.
4. Another lesson derived from today comes from its portion of Tehillim. Today, the 24th of the month, we say those chapters which comprise the whole Hallel. This emphasizes how each Jew must praise G-d (“Hallel” — “praise”) every weekday for having been given the sacred mission of making this world a dwelling place for G-d.
Moreover, Tehillim was first said and written by King David, who said them as “the Sweet Singer of Israel” — i.e. in the names of all Jews in all generations. Hence, when a Jew reads Tehillim with the same fervor and enthusiasm they were said originally, he inspires the reading of these Tehillim by David, King Mashiach.
May it be G-d’s will that all the resolutions undertaken be fulfilled in their entirety. And, with our saying Hallel, we merit very soon to say Hallel when Mashiach comes. He will come on “the clouds of heaven,” which is one of the greatest miracles — the miracle of the immediate redemption of the Jewish people — and such a miracle obligates us to say Hallel.