Having been together for a period of time including the auspicious days of Pesach, the "season of redemption," the time of parting is close at hand. We gather together one more time to emphasize and make clear that although we will part, we will not really be separated. Rather, having gathered with a unity of purpose, we all continue to carry out our mutual resolutions in different places.
The ultimate purpose, mission and goal of the Jewish people is to reveal G-dliness in the world and to free the world of the restrictions and limitations of exile. We then reach the fulfillment of the promise:
then I will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the L-rd to serve Him with one consent. (Tzephaniah 3:9)
The Alter Rebbe interprets the verse, "One nation in the land" (Yechezkel 37:22), to mean that through observing Torah the Jewish people bring the unity of G-d into the world, i.e. we are the "nation" which brings "oneness" into the "land." This potential infuses us with power to do "... all your deeds for the sake of Heaven" and to fulfill "In all your ways know Him...." Your deeds and your ways can be penetrated with the dedication to G-d and knowledge of G-d.
And although in the golus we are spread out among the nations of the world, we still effect unity in the world, for we are "the one nation," whose "... religion is different from all other people," and we do not observe the rituals of the kingdoms of the world, which oppose Torah, and represent the Goyishkeit [opposite of Yiddishkeit] of the world. When we act in such a manner, that we "... do not bend nor bow," then the ministers of all the states ... "raise up the Jews."
Our conduct in this manner will bring the blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the Torah says:
If you follow My laws and are careful to keep My commandments I will provide you with rain at the right time." (Vayikra 26:3)
These blessings will include all the further details of: for children, health-life and sustenance, and all of them in comfort and with abundance.
The Gemara relates that the word "Im" -- (if), at the start of the verse, really indicates a form of supplication. Now why would G-d have to plead with us to do his commandments? The knowledge that G-d commanded these laws should suffice to motivate us to action? However, we learn from this to what degree our observance "bothers" G-d. When does someone plead -- when it really matters! The Torah speaks in human language and it intends to hint to us that this really bothers G-d, and it really matters to G-d; so He pleads with us, that we should conform to, and observe His mitzvos.
This is followed by His guarantees for all types of reward in the physical life. Why? So that we will have the ability to do more and to continue our Divine service, as the Rambam says:
He has further promised us in the Torah that if we observe its behests ... and continually meditate on its wisdom, He will remove from us the obstacles that hinder us in its observance ...; and will bestow upon us all the material benefits which will strengthen our ability to fulfill the law, such as plenty, peace, abundance of silver and gold. Thus ... we will have leisure to study wisdom and fulfill the commandments.
(Laws of Repentance 9:1)
This state already represents a condition of personal freedom; freedom from the problems which tend to overpower and overburden a Jew in his service to his Maker. From the personal redemption we can move on to the communal freedom of the world, where everyone and everything will be bound to G-d, for "The world will be filled with the wisdom of the L-rd as the waters cover the sea." (Yeshayah 11:9) "For then I will turn to the peoples a pure language ... to serve Him with one consent."
Now, our goal is to effect perfect redemption and complete geulah in the entire world. It is therefore not sufficient that Jews should live only in Eretz Yisroel, they must be dispersed to the ends of the world.
Thus, Chassidus explains the Talmudic adage:
The Holy One, Blessed be He showed kindness to the Jewish people for He dispersed them among all the nations. (Pesachim 87b)
There are many good acts that must be performed in many places on the globe. By spreading us out G-d gave the opportunity to each Jew in his place to put every effort into fulfilling G-d's mission. And by unifying all our efforts -- with joy and gladness -- the complete redemption will be effected.
The unity of "all as one" works in two directions: The Jews of the diaspora need the support from the Jews of the Holy Land:
A land constantly under G-d your L-rd's scrutiny; the eyes of G-d your L-rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year. (Devorim 11:12)
At the same time, the Jews of Eretz Yisroel can learn from the diaspora Jews. In the golus, despite their position of exile, the Jews withstand all the tribulations and fulfill their mission. How much more so must Jews in Eretz Yisroel increase their enthusiasm and energy in doing G-d's will. They must realize that they are lucky to be living in Eretz Yisroel, and can therefore fulfill the mission of the Holy One, Blessed be He.
When is this unity expressed and revealed? When we gather and come together for a period of time, such as now, during Pesach, the weeks before and after, and most specifically at the farbrengens, when we are together as one, with one goal and intention. When this period comes to an end and everyone is about to return home, we meet one final time to emphasize the pervading unity so that inwardly each person will carry the inner unity to the diverse places. True unity can be attained only when each person fulfills his mission in the world. This brings the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach when the promise will be fulfilled -- "A great congregation shall return there." (Yeshayah 31:7)
There is a special emphasis in our gathering at this time, having just come from the holiday of Pesach, which recalls the birth of the Jewish people. Each year during Pesach this phenomenon recurs, so that our particular character as "one nation" is renewed and invigorated.
We are also in the days of Sefirah (counting) which connect the "season of our freedom" with the "season of the giving of our Torah," through the emotions of longing and yearning for Torah. Each year, this experience once again renews our interest, appreciation and desire for Torah, so that on Shavuos we reach a new level of "All of you will become G-d's servants (serve G-d) on this mountain." (Shemos 3:12)
We find an additional quality this year in the counting of Omer because of the setting of the Jewish calendar. The mitzvah of Counting the Omer is given to us in the form of counting seven complete weeks starting from the second day of Pesach. The Midrash says:
It is written: "Seven weeks shall there be complete." When are they complete? When the Levitical watches of Yeshua and Shechaniah are not between them. (Midrash, Koheles 1:3)
The commentaries explain:
When Rosh Chodesh Nissan falls on Shabbos then the first day of Pesach will be Shabbos and the counting of Omer will begin at the end of Shabbos, then the weeks will be complete just like the six days of creation. [Each week of Sefirah will start on Sunday and end on Shabbos.]
The seven weeks of Sefirah are always full weeks, but when they occur in perfect weekly cycles, as this year, then they have a special perfection.
How does this apply to our Divine service of Sefirah?
Chassidus teaches us that the term "Usefartem" -- "you shall count" is etymologically related to the word "clear" or "bright." When the Torah directs the Jew to "count," it is telling us to make every day shine with the clarity and brightness of a G-dly light, which is generated when a Jew lives his life in accordance with the mission of the Holy One, Blessed be He. Add to this the aspect of perfect weeks, when the attributes are lined up exactly as in the six days of creation: Sunday -- kindness, Monday -- severity, etc., and you have the extra, bonus power to illuminate the world with the perfect brightness.
Today is Tuesday, which introduces and adds the theme of double good -- "good for heaven and good for the creations." The unity of heaven and earth can be effected in this way. When we combine the attributes of love of G-d with love of fellow Jew, it unites us as one, and it will affect all aspects of the world.
There is also a connection to today's section, in the portion of Shemini:
Fire came forth from before G-d and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on the altar. When the people saw this they raised their voices in praise and threw themselves on their faces. (Vayikra 9:24)
The presence of the Shechinah became so manifest that the supernal light penetrated and influenced the physical matter; the people spontaneously praised and exalted the Holy One, Blessed be He, with such intensity that "they threw themselves on their faces."
This teaches us and empowers us to emulate that phenomenon and effect the revelation of G-dliness, to the point of saturation of the physical. "But," you say, "the responsibility is immense. How can one succeed in dissolving all the layers of concealment, all the restrictions of the world, and truly uncover the G-dly light?"
Go back to today's section and read the last verse:
To teach the Jews all the statutes which G-d taught them through Moshe (Vayikra 10:11)
The Jews were given an abundance of Torah and mitzvos. Because "G-d wants (L'zakos) to make us meritorious," the word "L'zakos" also means "clarify," therefore, "He gave us Torah and mitzvos in abundant measure."
Having many mitzvos, each Jew has the opportunity to be more diligent or careful in certain particulars. Here too, we find the word "Zahir" -- "careful" which again means -- bright and clear. His soul is especially illuminated with the light of this mitzvah and thereby he effects brightness in all his life.
Furthermore, by uniting all the Jews "as one," the individual luminaries interact and supplement each other to generate a perfect brightness encompassing "all the laws."
Now, do you see how, through this unity, an intensity can be reached, which evokes the G-dly light in all creation?
What about our teacher Moshe?
Moshe was "the faithful shepherd" and there descends, in every generation, sparks from the soul of our teacher Moshe, peace unto him, and they clothe themselves in the body and soul of the sages of that generation, the "eyes" of the congregation. (Tanya chapter 42)
Thus there is a continuity from Moshe to the leaders of each generation, till the previous Rebbe, the Nassi of our generation.
The previous Rebbe proclaimed and disseminated the call: "Stand ready all together": G-d's blessings for success in all matters of Yiddishkeit are ready and waiting for us.
We must "stand" firmly, "ready" and "united" to fulfill G-d's mission and illuminate the world. Then we will see blessings in our work; it is all ready and waiting. Along with the blessings we will also be "ready" for the true and complete redemption. Our waist is belted, shoes on our feet and staff in hand. At a moment's notice that, "Moshiach is here," we will dance out to greet Moshiach.
This is indicated by the last words of the verse, "through Moshe." [Just as Moshe gave us the abundance of Torah, so too in each generation the leader directs us to fulfill Torah and thereby to bring Moshiach.]
The theme of this verse "to teach the Jews ..." is similar to the purpose which the Rambam sets out for himself in his Introduction to Mishneh Torah, to make all of the Oral Torah clear for small (young) and great (old). Now that we have concluded the first cycle of Rambam study and have begun the second cycle in proximity to the Rambam's birthday, his day of "ascending fortune," it has certainly added strength to the continued study of Rambam for all of us.
At the conclusion of today's section in Rambam we find:
He who plants a tree near the altar or in any part of the Temple Court, whether the tree belongs to a species that does not bear fruit or is one that produces edible fruit, and even if he had planted it to adorn the Temple and to enhance its beauty, is punished with stripes, as it is said, "Thou shalt not plant an Asherah of any tree near unto the altar of the L-rd your G-d." (Devorim 16:21) The reason for the prohibition is that it had been the custom of idolaters to plant trees by the side of the idolatrous altar so that people might assemble there. (Laws of Idolatry 6:9)
Essentially this means that if a Jew wishes to plant a tree for the noble purpose of gathering Jews to serve G-d and to attract them closer to Yiddishkeit, or to add beauty to Jewish observance, he is told that the Torah has prohibited this act. Since it was the custom of idolaters, it is hated by G-d!
This teaches us a profound lesson. If the evil inclination or a non-Jew should propose to do some act in order to bring beauty to Judaism and attract many more people to Yiddishkeit but the particular act is something which has become a custom or ritual of the gentiles, you are forbidden to do it.
Although your intention is pure, and ostensibly you have no other way of attracting certain people, and certainly "G-d is concerned mainly with the intention of the heart," nevertheless, something which has become the practice of idolaters is against the will of G-d. It is despised by G-d, and utmost care must be exercised not to fall victim to misguided ideas and plans. Go back to basics: fulfilling the mitzvos and learning Torah is the greatest beauty.
Therefore, the inner sanctuary, in the heart of every Jew, and the spiritual sanctuary, in the home of every Jew, must be conducted in a manner which will bring beauty and splendor to the Sanctuary and to G-d. Simply, a person's actions and intentions should be devoted to observing Torah and mitzvos in a manner of "hiddur," splendor, which will also bring unity and devotion to G-d.
This unity will lead to that time, described by the Rambam, when there will be no more jealousy and hatred -- but unity and cooperation -- "together as one."
Every Jew certainly merits immeasurable reward for his good deeds. Even the "distant" Jews are full of mitzvos like a pomegranate, and every Jew is considered to be in a state of merit and propriety. Thus every man, woman and child possesses the great riches of Torah and mitzvos and the great rewards from His full, benevolent and holy hand. The Alter Rebbe writes in Torah Or:
We find that Nevuchadnezer walked three steps for the honor of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for this G-d gave him the universal monarchy for three generations. Certainly there is not a Jew in the world who has not honored G-d at least in a similar manner, therefore he is worthy of all the benefits of this world.
Now compare Nevuchadnezer's three steps with the "Modeh Ani" of a small Jewish child. Do we know what Nevuchadnezer thought while he strode those steps?!
The shining mind and heart of the Jewish child, whose mother has instilled and imbued in him a warm and deep feeling for faithfulness and Yiddishkeit, says "Modeh Ani" with true, pure Jewish feeling. While still in his crib he heard the lullabye, "that Torah is the best merchandise." There is no comparison between the "Modeh Ani" of the small child and the steps of Nevuchadnezer. Hence, even this small child has a tremendous amount of reward waiting for him.
Yet, when we come to G-d we ask not only for the reward but also for tzedekah -- charity -- relative to the ability of the benefactor! And even if we, the recipients, do not realize what we lack, G-d should bless us with His great kindness.
How do we merit that G-d should relate to us in a manner of tzedakah? -- when we give tzedakah. Thus, with your cooperation we will fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah. Each of you should, upon returning home, contribute the dollar which you receive here to tzedakah in your home city.
May it be the will of G-d that each and everyone shall complete his Divine service with joy and gladness of heart so that even in the diaspora the Jews have light.
In these last moments of golus, "Here he stands behind our wall, watching through the windows, peering through the crevices." (Shir Hashirim 2:9) The previous Rebbe said the wall is "cracked and smashed." This "look" of Moshiach, gives us the power and energy to complete all the preparations necessary to receive our righteous Moshiach.
Standing so close to redemption makes us realize that the separation between us is not for long, for we will soon meet: "With our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters" (Shemos 10:9), "Their silver and gold with them" (Yeshayah 60:9). This verse is to be understood literally and figuratively: valuables and "good deeds." In this way we will all rise to the land:
A land constantly under G-d your L-rd's scrutiny; the eyes of G-d your L-rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year, (Devorim 11:12)
with true and perfect comfort and freedom, both spiritual and physical. And we will come to the complete Holy Land: "When G-d expands your borders as He promised you," (Devorim 12:20) to include the land of all Ten Canaanite Nations.
May we go to greet our righteous Moshiach with joy and glad hearts speedily and truly in our time.