1. First of all, out of respect for the Jews behind the Iron Curtain, mention of them should be made (although, really it is an honor for us to talk of them). The true place of these Jews is in Eretz Yisroel, the “land which ... the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are continually upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year;” temporarily, they are behind the Iron Curtain. But Torah rules (Pesachim 85b) that “even a partition of iron does not separate between Israel and their Father in heaven.” And since Torah is master of the world, this ruling affects the actual world; and thus, very soon, they will merit the fulfillment of their wish to leave that country — which is exile within exile — and to come to our holy land, where “Israel dwells securely alone like Ya’akov.”
Because they have already completed all their service, including that of actual mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice), all Jews also will leave the exile, in the true and complete redemption, in the merit of their mesirus nefesh. Then all of us will go together to our holy land, “with our youth and our elders, with our sons and our daughters,” “a great congregation will return there.” There we will find the rebuilt Bais Hamikdosh — as the Rambam rules, that the ingathering of the exiles follows the building of the Bais Hamikdosh.
The present time, the joy of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, is an auspicious time to effect the above, for “joy breaks through all barriers” — through joy we can draw down all the blessings from above to be expressed in actual good below. This is especially so when we connect it with a joyful melody sung in Russian, for a melody is the pen of the heart.
May it be G-d’s will that all the above come about very soon — that we merit to physically see all Jews leave the exile and go to our holy land, to Yerushalayim the holy city, where “we will go up to the mountain of G-d.”
[The Rebbe began singing the melody “N’yet n’yet nikavoh.”]
2. There is a lesson to be derived from the daily portion of Chumash learned on Simchas Torah. The previous Rebbe instructed that, when the calendar is such as this year, the daily portion for Simchas Torah is the sixth and seventh of parshas Berachah. Tomorrow’s portion, which this year is Shabbos, is the entire parshas Bereishis.
Now is thus an opportune time to remind and urge everyone of the obligation to read over the Sedra — the Chumash twice and the Targum once. In regard to parshas Berachah, it is customary to do this on erev Simchas Torah. Parshas Bereishis should be read either on Friday night or on Shabbos during the day.
Because there are many lessons to be derived from today’s portion of Chumash (the sixth and seventh sections of parshas Berachah, as noted earlier), it is possible to study only two of them.
The beginning of the sixth section is (33:27): “[The heavens are] the abode of the eternal G-d.” The following verses relate that G-d, as He is in His abode Above, comes down below to be a Jew’s help. As Rashi states on this verse, “He, to Who strength and might belong, is your help.” This help extends even to the extent of preventing bad things from happening — “He shall drive out the enemy from before you.”
This is the greatness of a Jew: Even when on a low spiritual level, he is still together with the “eternal G-d.” Not only does the soul’s descent below not impinge on its bond with the “eternal G-d” (for the “descent” is only a passing-through) but through it, the soul ascends to a level higher than before its descent. Through a Jew’s service in his world, he makes the world an abode for G-d, for His Essence.
That a Jew’s bond with G-d, even in this world, is eternal is emphasized in the Maggid’s teaching on the concept of “Israel arose in G-d’s thought.” He gave a parable to a son whose form and image is etched in the father’s thought. If this applies even before Israel was created (for although in regard to a mortal man, the son’s form cannot exist before birth, it is possible in G-d’s case, for past, present and future are one to Him), it certainly applies after the Jews came into existence.
The same idea is found in the exoteric part of Torah (“niglah”). The Alter Rebbe rules that “a person has no ownership over his body at all,” for the body is G-d’s property, created by Him.
The lesson from this: A Jew, seeing the concealments of G-dliness in this world, can easily become depressed. The above teaches that he need not become so, for he is always together with the “eternal G-d.” This also helps with the idea of repentance. “Nothing stands in the way of teshuvah,” for even if in the past something needed correction, a Jew can, in one moment, fix everything — for he is constantly together with the “eternal G-d.” This quality of teshuvah (that it works in “one moment”) affects a Jew’s deeds, just as teshuvah in general helps to make a Jew’s deeds “good and illuminating.”
3. The beginning of the seventh section of parshas Berachah (34:1) states: “Moshe went up from the plains of Moav to Mt. Nevo.” We spoke on a previous occasion (third night of Sukkos) that the Maggid interpreted “Nevo” to mean “Nun bo” — fifty in it” — referring to the fiftieth gate of wisdom. On the day of his passing, Moshe attained the fiftieth gate (until then, he only possessed 49 gates).
We further explained that every Jew possesses the level of Moshe, and hence the idea of “Moshe went up ... to Mt. Nevo” applies to all Jews. This is emphasized in the conclusion of today’s daily portion (34:12), “before the eyes of all Israel” — meaning, the above concept is bequeathed by Moshe to “all Israel,” including those of whom it is said “although he has sinned, he is [nevertheless] an Israelite.” Moreover, it applies to all Jews in the manner of seeing (“before the eyes of all Israel”); and with vision, a person first grasps the overall picture and then concentrates on the component details (unlike hearing, when one first hears one word after the other, which then unfolds into the general picture).
What has this to do with Simchas Torah? All Jews received the revelation of the fiftieth gate of understanding at the time of Mattan Torah. Since Simchas Torah is the conclusion and completion of the idea of Mattan Torah, it follows that the revelation of the fiftieth gate (“Mt. Nevo”) is also associated with Simchas Torah. Furthermore, the Midrash (Shir Hashirim 7:2) states: “Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah) should really have been fifty days after Sukkos, corresponding to Shavuos (which is fifty days after Pesach)” — from which we see that the Midrash equates Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah to Shavuos, the time of Mattan Torah.
We can go further and say that the connection to the fiftieth gate is emphasized more on Simchas Torah than on Shemini Atzeres. “Shemini” means the “eighth,” emphasizing its connection to, and continuation of, the preceding seven days of Sukkos. In contrast, Simchas Torah is a completely separate concept, emphasized by its separate name.
True, of Shemini Atzeres it is said “On the eighth day, it shall be a day of assembly for you,” which our Sages explain by a parable to a king who, after giving a large feast for all his citizens (referring to the festival of Sukkos, on which sacrifices were offered on behalf of non-Jews also), made a “small feast” only for himself and his beloved one (referring to Shemini Atzeres — which is for Jews only). This shows that Shemini Atzeres is disassociated from the seven days of Sukkos. Nevertheless, the idea of a “small feast” applies only when a “large feast” exists to which it can be compared — the feast of the seven days of Sukkos for all the people. Thus, there is a connection between the two.
Moreover, the very fact that our Sages had to emphasize that “it shall be a day of assembly for you” means “it shall be for you alone and not for strangers with you” indicates that some connection, however tenuos, does exist between them for if not, there would be no need to dismiss it. Of profound knowledge, for example, one does not say that it cannot be physically touched — for since there is absolutely no connection between the spiritual intellect and the physical hand, it would be absurd to even have to deny that there is a connection. Thus, since of Shemini Atzeres it is necessary to state “for you alone, and not for strangers with you,” it shows some association between them — even if only a negative one (that it is not for strangers). Simchas Torah, however, is the idea of “Israel and the King alone together” — without any mention of “strangers, “not even in a form of dismissal.
The above is also expressed in the difference between the joy of Shemini Atzeres and that of Simchas Torah. The former is associated primarily with the fulfillment of the mitzvah of rejoicing on Yom Tov — that “there is no joy without meat and wine.” The joy of Simchas Torah is mainly associated with Torah. Furthermore, in Torah itself, the joy of Simchas Torah is connected with the essence of Torah, transcending comprehension (and therefore we dance with the Sefer Torah covered by its mantle, not permitting study) — the idea of pure commandment, faith and mesirus nefesh.
Furthermore, the joy of Simchas Torah (the joy of Yom Tov), is a mitzvah; and mitzvos are associated with physical objects — to the extent that they have a connection to the nations of the world, who also possess mitzvos (the Seven Mitzvos of Noach). The joy of Simchas Torah, however, is associated with Torah, which has no connection whatsoever with non-Jews. Indeed, a non-Jew who learns Torah is punished with death, for the Torah is “poison” to him (unlike Jews, for which it is “our life”) .
In the light of the above (that on Shemini Atzeres it is necessary to negate the possibility of non-Jews, whereas on Simchas Torah, it is “Jews and the King together alone”) we can understand why the revelation of the fiftieth gate of understanding belongs to Simchas Torah more than to
Shemini Atzeres: The fiftieth gate of understanding is a very lofty matter — a separate concept, divorced from the previous 49 levels (and therefore Moshe only merited to attain it on the day of his passing). Therefore, in regard to Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, although both in general are associated with the revelation of the fiftieth gate on Mattan Torah, it belongs more to Simchas Torah — for it too is a separate concept, divorced from the previous days.
We can go further, and say that the revelation of the fiftieth gate on Simchas Torah is greater than that on Mattan Torah: Although the joy of Simchas Torah is purely spiritual (the essence of the Torah), it nevertheless permeates the physical body, to the extent that one dances with one’s feet, the lowest part of the body. The spiritual becomes the essence of the physical.
This is similar to the distinction possessed by the description of G-d that “there is nothing aside from Him” over the description that “there is nothing else.” “There is nothing else” negates the existence of the entire world — and since it is necessary to negate it, this shows there is an existence — but it is negated. “There is nothing else aside from Him” means that only “aside from Him” there is no other existence, but with Him, the world does exist — that the true existence of the world is G-dliness.
This idea of “there is nothing else aside from Him” (which is the first verse said before Hakofos) is expressed in the joy of Simchas Torah: pure spirituality permeates and forms the true existence of the feet.
The above is also expressed in the Torah reading of Simchas Torah, when immediately after concluding the Torah, we begin anew from the beginning. The conclusion is “Moshe went up ... to Mt. Nevo” — the revelation of the fiftieth gate which is immediately followed by, and extends to, the beginning: “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, not only is the revelation of the fiftieth gate “before the eyes of all Israel,” but, through their service, Jews extend this revelation to the world (“heavens and earth”).
At Mattan Torah, the revelation did not allow for the world’s existence, as our Sages have noted, that “at the time of Mattan Torah, a bird did not twitter ... an ox did not blow.” On Simchas Torah, the revelation penetrates the very existence of the world, to the extent that the world itself rejoices and dances — “The heavens relate the glory of G-d.”
May it be G-d’s will that all the revelations of Simchas Torah be revealed below in the world. Simply put, that G-d’s blessings for all necessities — children, life and ample sustenance — material and spiritual needs together, be bestowed. And in such a way that the whole year be one of light — which is Torah — and one of blessing.