1. There are three different reasons for this farbrengen, from which distinct lessons, pertaining to Torah and Mitzvos, can be derived. The reasons are as follows: firstly, today is the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe Maharash (13th day of Tishrei); secondly, tonight is Motzaei Shabbos; thirdly, that it is the Motzaei Shabbos of the day which precedes the Yom Tov of Sukkos.
It is understood, though, that the main reason for tonight’s farbrengen is that today was the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe Maharash, and consequently his manner and the lessons of his leadership affect and modify the other reasons for the farbrengen, as will be explained.
2. Although the Rebbe Maharash was the successor of those Rebbeim who preceded him, it is understood that as a leader he distinguished himself by teaching and influencing those near him with ideas and ideals which were uniquely his own. Similarly, we find that “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua” and subsequently to all future generations. Although Moshe received the entire Torah, to the extent that it is called after his name (remember the Torah of My servant Moshe), yet Yehoshua later added concepts ‘,of his own.
The Medrash tells us that Yehoshua was the first of the conquerors, i.e., the first to begin the conquest of the Land of Israel, thereby informing us that Yehoshua in a distinct category was considered “first”. True, in contrast to Moshe, Yehoshua paled, as is stated, “the countenance of Moshe is like the sun, and that of Yehoshua’s was similar to the moon”. Furthermore, it is taught that the moon has no light of its own. This suggests that Yehoshua merely reflected that which was radiated to him from Moshe; yet Yehoshua was called, the leader, or the first. Similarly, any great man of Israel, especially he who follows in the footsteps of Moshe our first faithful shepherd, and is himself a leader and a shepherd of Israel, has an ideal that is distinctly his own. This unique ideal or characteristic of his relegates him necessarily to the position and title of leader.
Now, just as Yehoshua, “the first of the conquerors”, blazed the path for the other conquerors, so, too, an ideal which is distinctly related to one leader gives the power and strength to leaders who follow, including all who follow in their path, to attain that ideal in which their leader was considered the first. This is possible to accomplish since they have agreed to conduct themselves in a manner “that they taught us from his ways, and we will go in his path”, as stated by the Alter Rebbe.
Conducting oneself in accordance with this ideal also pertains to those who, for whatever reason, have not as yet chosen to follow in his path. This is true because he was a leader of Israel (and the entire world as well, since the world was created for the sake of the Jewish people) and all must follow in his ways. The difference which exists is that there are those who willingly and intellectually accept his leadership (analogous to the Creator — as “the righteous are similar to their Creator”), and there are those who follow without understanding; finally, there are also those who as yet are not willing to, but ultimately must, follow in his ways.
For Torah has stated “the leader is everything”, therefore, when we say the world was created for Israel, it is understood that this means that the world was created for their leader, for he compounds all. Furthermore, since he has revealed to the world an ideal, this ideal thereafter becomes an instruction for everyone. This ideal enhances all ideals of his predecessors, for it is taught that in spiritual matters we must continue to ascend higher.
3. Not always can one single out that ideal which is specifically linked to a certain leader. Fortunately, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory quoted a motto attributed. to the Rebbe Maharash: “The world says if one can’t go under, you should go over; and I say begin by going over.”
A Jew was created to serve his Creator; therefore, the emphasis of his life must be in learning Torah and observing Mitzvos, and that which he does in the physical and material world must be consecrated to, and done according to the manners prescribed by, his Creator. This motto and the lesson to be derived must concur with this outlook.
The lesson to be derived is that in the observance of Torah and Mitzvos one should not attempt to do the minimum and when it doesn’t suffice gradually increase his involvement. Rather, the Rebbe Maharash taught that at the very outset one should involve oneself in a way which seems beyond that which is humanly possible. This maxim and lesson is applicable and relevant, not only now, but until the coming of Mashiach, and even more so afterwards.
Both in studying Torah and in the observance of Mitzvos one must strive to reach beyond his finite and human limitations. Although most Mitzvos themselves are structured within distinct boundaries and limits:; however, there is a facet of the Mitzvos which is unlimited. This facet is the quality of their observance, and more specifically, the joy with which the Mitzvos are performed.
By adhering to Torah and Mitzvos in this fashion, all physical and worldly matters, being subordinate to spiritual matters, will naturally be affected. This includes all that which is categorized under the terms ‘the heavens’ and/or ‘the earth’. For the heavens and earth and all therein were created for the Jews and for their eventual observance of Torah and Mitzvos.
4. The manner of living beyond one’s constraints was evident in the life of the Rebbe Maharash. Primarily, it was evident in his laconic Chassidic discourses, not only to the extent that he discussed one idea very concisely (stylistically similar to the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, and the Alter Rebbe, who in his early period of leadership also delivered terse discourses), but the Rebbe Maharash discussed man and varied topics in a single discourse. The profundity of his words is evident in the discourses of his son and successor, the Rebbe Rashab, wherein a few select words of the Rebbe Maharash require lengthy explanations and prolonged elaboration. This illustrates how even the contents(quality) of his Chassidic discourse totally outreached the words (quantity) which were used to transmit them.
5. Similarly, his involvement in the world can be described as being unfestered by natural constraints.
In his personal life, the Rebbe Maharash also lived in a most affluent and wealthy way, to the extent that utensils of silver and gold, precious stones and diamonds were not uncommon to him. So much so, that even during the lifetime of his father, the Tzemach Tzedek, who was at that time the leader of the Jewish people, the Maharash lived in the aforementioned lifestyle.
The story is told by the Previous Rebbe of a Chassid who brought a large, expensive and elaborate piece of furniture as a gift to the Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach Tzedek answered, “Personally, I don’t need it. Give it instead to my youngest son the Maharash.” The Chassid complied and placed the furniture in the house of the Maharash.
The Previous Rebbe explained that although in his own home (but not in his synagogue) the Tzemach Tzedek lived very unpretentiously, to the degree that even the benches were unfinished, the Maharash, living in the same courtyard (obviously during the Tzemach Tzedek’s life) lived in a luxurious fashion. From this story it is further understood that the Maharash’s lifestyle (not only was approved by the Tzemach Tzedek, but) was even aided by the Tzemach Tzedek. As he said, “personally I don’t need it”, yet he simultaneously underscored that it should be given to the Maharash, as it fits his lifestyle.
6. This idea of going beyond one’s limitations is also bound up with Motzaei Shabbos. Motzaei Shabbos on one hand is the beginning of the work-week, as it states, “and G-d will bless you in all of your actions”, yet, on the other hand, it is the conclusion of the Shabbos. The Shabbos is a time when all of one’s labor is completed, and in a manner of delight, in all details.
In other words, we take the delight of the Shabbos and instill it into the work week. We accomplish this by drawing the delight of Shabbos into the meal that escorts the Shabbos Queen. This in turn begins the work-week, and in the way that one begins the week, so it continues into the whole week and all subsequent weeks as well.
7. When considering the third reason for this farbrengen, that tonight is Erev Sukkos, the ideal of going forward, obstacles notwithstanding, applies even more. In reference to the four species, one should seek the choicest available without consideration of cost. This applies also to the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah.
How much more so does this idea apply to Sukkos itself, the holiday that is referred to as “the season of our rejoicing”. In all holidays, rejoicing is a ‘sine qua non’ for it removes all limitations, especially on the holiday which is called the season of our rejoicing. And this rejoicing must be in a grand and unlimited manner.
8. Considering that this month of Tishrei is an all-inclusive month, this motto continues into the whole year to ensure that the year is lived in an unlimited and unrestricted fashion.
In addition, our unlimited manner of behavior will help remove all speculation and explanation why the Mashiach has not yet arrived; and negate these questions from the outset, by Mashiach’s very arrival speedily in our time.
Shortly all questions and discussions will cease, for we will go together with Mashiach to the Holy Land, a land about which the Torah says “the eyes of the L-rd are on it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” and as stated, “A large assemblage will return there”.
9. It was mentioned previously that the motto or concept of “Lechat’chilah Aribar” (to press forward, not reckoning with any obstacles) must (as all matters concerning Jews) first find expression in the learning of Torah, the observance of Mitzvos and the service of ‘birurim’ (disencumberment) in general. (E) In this service there are two distinct categories, those that the person encounters in an ordinary fashion and those that appear in the form of trials or temptations.
Since “a Jew was created to serve his Creator”, a Jew must search for the holy sparks and return them to their proper place, and build for Him thereby a dwelling place in this world. Especially considering the teaching of the Rebbe Rashab that in our generation one must utilize any and every opportunity to perform this service of birurim without questioning the order that this service should take.
Conversely, regarding those sparks which appear in the framework of temptations, not only does one not pursue them, but he attempts to avoid them, to the extent that every morning in one’s prayers, one says, “please G-d don’t tempt me”. This prayer includes all types of temptations, big or small. As the Talmud tells us, even King David had reason to regret his having asked Hashem for a test.
10. While withstanding a temptation is tougher than the routine labor of birurim, for a person must brace himself more forcefully, yet, since the true existence of the temptation is only to test a Jew, when he successfully withstands that temptation, not even an impression of that temptation remains.
The Medrash tells us about Abraham that on his way to sacrifice his son Yitzchok, a river appeared in his path. Abraham in his eagerness to arrive at the proper place, water or not, jumped into it an continued on his way. After this act of self-sacrifice the river immediately disappeared. The river was merely a test.
11. This itself gives a Jew strength to withstand all temptations, together with the knowledge that the true and living Torah expects this from him and that he is guaranteed by that Torah that he is capable of fulfilling its request.
Although he sees obstacles, he must realize that they are but a test and that he must resist them with the required strength and determination. Remaining steadfast in his ways, he will surely see that the obstacles were only imagined ones observing that all signs of them have disappeared.
This, then, is the lesson to be derived. When in a given situation, a person is acting beyond his capabilities which itself is proof that he isn’t involved in the routine labor of birurim, he should realize that he is being tested. By withstanding the test, he will attain a level beyond which he is normally capable of through his regular service, for this act of birurim is of the highest order.
The aforementioned is also connected with the following verse: Praise the L-rd, all you nations; extol Him, all you peoples. For His kindness was mighty over us, etc.” When a Jew stands ‘mighty’ in his service of the L-rd, the L-rd compensates him accordingly and shows all nations that “His kindness is ‘mighty’ over us”, to the point that the nations of the earth praise and extol Him for it. Furthermore, they even praise the Jews themselves, “Blessed are you, amongst all nations”.
This concept of the nations praising the L-rd has a special significance to the holiday of Sukkos, when Jews sacrificed seventy bulls, corresponding to the seventy nations of the world. As the Medrash explains, “Had the seventy nations known what the Bais HaMikdash accomplished on their behalf, they would have surrounded it with armies to assure no harm would befall it”. So, too, in a spiritual sense, that spiritual Bais HaMikdash resides within each one of us.
12. To conclude with a topic which is relevant now, the campaign (of going around with and the dissemination) of the four species and of Sukkos the campaign of charity, including spiritual charity, and that campaign which supercedes all Mitzvah campaigns, the “campaign of Loving Jews” in a manner of “And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”.
The main objective is for the aforementioned to be manifest in action, in a manner of “Lechat’chilah Aribar” and in turn Hashem will help us to attain this level. We transcend all considerations and limitations of our exile, and we dance into our “our season of rejoicing” of the true and complete redemption through Mashiach, speedily in our times.
In conclusion, we should all supplement our study of Torah and observance of Mitzvos. We must also encourage and promote their observance among all Jews, in particular, among those Jews who find themselves in houses of healing (hospitals) or prisons.
I would also suggest that during the days of Chol HaMoed (between Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres) those assembled here should visit the communities and cities outside New York to assist the people there in rejoicing during the festival. They should also establish a “Gemilus Chessed” fund or assist in and expand an existing fund. These actions, the learning of Torah in the aforementioned places and the strengthening of Tzedakah via the Gemilus Chessed, will, G-d willing hasten the coming of Mashiach, so that we spend Hoshana Rabbah together with Mashiach and Eliyahu HaNavi in Jerusalem.
- (Back to text) This lesson is relevant to all who have heard it,-since one must use everything in his experience to enhance his service of the Creator especially considering that this adage was proclaimed by a Jewish leader, and a Jewish leader after him publicized it.
- (Back to text) which are of unparalleled importance to his Chassidim in maintaining their link to their Rebbe.
- (Back to text) Personal life in this context is relative to his communal and civic involvement. But as previously stated, his conduct, one publicized, is abstracted from its subjective dimensions & is to be considered a comprehensive mode of behavior applicable to everyone.
- (Back to text) Erev Sukkos, the day preceding Sukkos, includes all four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, as stated in the Medrash (Error) and often mentioned.
- (Back to text) Editors note on the service of disencumberment (birur): The doctrine that every good act contributes to the purification of matter, separating the good from the evil, thus gradually eliminating the latter, since evil in its pristine state cannot exist. The culmination of the process will usher in the Messianic era, when all the ‘sparks’ (nitzutzim) of holiness which were scattered throughout the physical world will have been restored.
- (Back to text) of whom it is said “my heart(evil inclination) is void within me”.
- (Back to text) In regard to the tenth and final time he was tested.
- (Back to text) To rationalize that he isn’t capable is the doing of the evil inclination, using whatever means possible. A Jew cannot allow himself to become discouraged.
- (Back to text) The definition of the word “nays”, usually translated as “miracle”, can also mean “uplifted”, as stated in Isaiah, “I will lift my flag (nessi)”.
- (Back to text) This passage is quoted from the Torah, which itself has been translated into all languages. This shows that it is relevant to all nations.
- (Back to text) As the Alter Rebbe writes in the Shulchan Aruch, that rejoicing during Chol HaMoed is considered a positive precept.