We begin with the blessing relating to a gathering of many Jews: "Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance." (Amidah)
When we gather with a unified will and single purpose, "all of us as one," we then merit a special increase in the blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He -- "Bless us our Father"! What's more, the blessing is revealed and illuminates everything and everyone "with the light of Your countenance."
By stressing that our unity brings more blessing from G-d, this indicates that a special effort is necessary to effect the unity of "all of us as one." Especially as by nature we are separate beings.
The Holy One, Blessed be He, created the human species in a manner that, "The mind of each is different from that of the other." Each has a different outlook in life and although they all may be based on the "Torah of life," there are many legitimate paths of Torah.
This diversity of Jewish outlook has always existed in the Jewish people. Ya'akov, our Patriarch, had twelve sons, the twelve tribes, who all followed the teachings of their father and were all righteous. Nevertheless, each walked a different path in their daily Divine service.
This diversity continued after all the tribes entered the Holy Land and were given their inheritance in areas that matched their lifestyle, natures and occupations: agriculture, business or study. Later, in the era of diaspora, when the Jews were "... dispersed among the nations," (Pesachim 87b) in different countries and places, the diversity continued in their outlooks in life and Divine service.
Appropriately, we do gather from time to time, "all of us as one," to emphasize the common denominator and central point which unifies us: the mission of G-d to disseminate goodness, righteousness and propriety to the whole world. We accomplish this by being a living example to the nations of the world in the role of:
The branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which to take pride, (Yeshayah 60:21)
as a Holy Nation related to the Holy G-d. G-dliness must be revealed in the world so that it will be evident that: "The L-rd shall be One and His Name One." (Zechariah 14:9)
Highlighting our diversity will not cause division. On the contrary, each individual will contribute from his or her personal experiences, so that each may learn from the other. One may show how to serve G-d while being involved in business. Another may indicate how to serve G-d while serving in an important position. Certainly all aspects will include the path of Torah study. Thus, all who participate in the gathering learn from one another. "Who is wise, he who learns from everyone." (Avos 4:1)
And when G-d sees our resolution and our unity to fulfill His mission, this engenders more joy and satisfaction by the Holy One, Blessed be He.
It is analogous to the joy and nachas which parents experience when they see their children increase their good action through copying one another and through healthy competition with each other to excel.
As Scripture assures us, "If you follow My statutes and are careful keep My commandments," then G-d will give us "rain at the right time," the blessing of prosperity in all areas of our needs -- so that we will be able to observe His commandments, in comfort and health, to their fulfillment, and bring the revelation of G-dliness in the world.
At this gathering we will find the special themes pertinent to Jewish women and girls from this day and from the sections of Torah assigned to this day. For the Baal Shem Tov taught that we must learn from everything we see or hear. This adage of the Baal Shem was not a new concept -- it is a basic philosophy of Judaism -- but the Baal Shem further expanded and disseminated the concept.
It is a basic principle of our faith that every being and every happening is created by G-d for a purpose, for a favorable purpose; for G-d is the essence of goodness. So the purpose of what we see or hear is for a positive reason, to be utilized for a good goal -- first and foremost to increase our Divine service.Jewish women understand this perfection for they are always careful that in their homes everything and every place is properly utilized. They are meticulous in their care that everything in their homes should be perfectly clean and perfectly beautiful. Not only in the guest room does this apply, but in every room and in every corner of every room.
The Jewish woman is also careful to bring spiritual perfection to her home -- that it should be a Jewish home where the Holy One, Blessed be He, will say: "I will dwell among them." It is the Jewish woman who effects this purity and holiness in the family by seeing to it that all aspects of the family home and the family life are permeated with Yiddishkeit. As the Mishnah says: "Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven." (Avos 2:12)
This Jewish mother, who senses this power in her own nature, can easily see how it is true in the case of the Holy One, Blessed be He, the Creator and designer of the universe. Everything He does is for a good purpose and goal. Thus, from every aspect of this gathering we can garner a lesson in our Divine service.
What is the significance of the period of days of this N'shei uBnos Chabad Convention: Friday, Shabbos and Sunday?
In the life and the home of a Jew, Shabbos takes the role of the crowning glory of the week. It is the holiest day of the week, and its holiness pervades even the normally mundane aspects of the day. The meals of Shabbos are special. As the Talmud relates:
We have a certain seasoning, called the Shabbos, which we put into it, and that gives it a fragrant odor. (Shabbos 119a)
Making Kiddush before the meal also adds more sanctity to the Shabbos repast.
When do we prepare for Shabbos? On Friday! The efforts that we expend on Friday in preparation for Shabbos connect the Holy Shabbos to the other days of the week, which is evident even more so on Sunday. Why do we say Havdalah Shabbos night? -- because if not, the radiance of Shabbos would just continue into the following week, because Sunday has the connection and ability to carry it forward. So we stop and say Havdalah. The holiness of Shabbos can radiate into the week only in a manner of Havdalah -- separation.
The mother of the home uses Friday to make all the necessary preparations for Shabbos. At her side her young daughter assists her, dreaming of the day when she will grow up and also become a Jewish mother.
Lighting the candles before nightfall, the Jewish woman (and girl) ushers in the Shabbos day with pleasure, honor, and peace.
Do not think that the woman does only the physical preparations for Shabbos, for the essential holiness of Shabbos itself is also created by the woman by initiating the Shabbos with candles. Similarly, the other aspects of Shabbos are introduced by the Jewish mother.
During the week when the mother makes sure that her home is permeated with the spirit of holiness stemming from Shabbos, then it is she who carries the Shabbos onto the future.
The point is clear. A convention of Jewish women and girls has as its main theme the strengthening of activities and themes connected to women. That is why it was scheduled for Friday, Shabbos and Sunday. Preparation for Shabbos, day of Shabbos, and continuation of Shabbos all emphasize the role of women.
Let us go a step further. The goal of the convention is to take the "Shabbos" atmosphere that hovered over the convention and generate it throughout the following days of the year, when all the participants will return to their respective homes. Here we may understand that each day in the future should be like a Shabbos, that blesses a week full of days after it.
It is appropriate that in the study schedule of Sefer Hamitzvos of Rambam for these three days the mitzvah studied is that of Shabbos:
By this injunction we are commanded to recite certain words at the commencement and the end of the Shabbos, mentioning in them the greatness and high dignity of the day ... is contained in His words (exalted be He) "Remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy," that is to say, commemorate it by proclaiming its holiness and its greatness. This is the commandment of Kiddush -- sanctification....
The Rambam adds another point:
... and also: Sanctify it on its coming-in and sanctify it at its going-out, referring to the Havdalah, which is part of the remembrance of the Shabbos enjoined upon us. (Ibid)
Is this not a bit surprising? To sanctify it on its coming-in makes sense, to proclaim the new holiness that makes its entrance, but how do we sanctify it by Havdalah when the Shabbos leaves?
Being forced to make Havdalah emphasizes the complete holiness of the day. If you don't cut it off it would continue to give holiness to the rest of the week.
So, on the one hand, the Shabbos continues to imbue the future days with sanctity, but it must be only after reciting Havdalah. This raises the holiness of Shabbos in our eye, "Sanctify it at its going-out."
In the section of Mishneh Torah designated for study on Friday and Shabbos, the Rambam discusses this same mitzvah, to remember and sanctify Shabbos by Kiddush and Havdalah. It then discusses the manner of honor and pleasure of Shabbos: the food and candles and set table, etc. The Jewish woman plays the major role in all of these aspects of the holiness and honor of Shabbos.
In Minchah of this Shabbos we started to read the portion of this week, Bemidbar. The section for today, the beginning of Bemidbar, speaks of G-d's command to Moshe to count the Jewish people:
G-d spoke to Moshe.... Take a census of the entire Israelite community ... You and Aharon shall take a tally of them by their divisions. Alongside you there shall be [one] man from each tribe, [and] he shall be the head of his paternal line. (Bemidbar 1:1-4)
G-d's great love for the Jewish people comes across here in a startling and amazing way. Counting the population -- a census -- is done in every country of the world, as well as here, in the U.S.A. Who does the counting? Usually the census-takers are average individuals who would do nothing more important, or perhaps were previously unemployed. After all, you need no great intelligence for this job. You go from house to house and check off on your chart the number of people in the household, their ages, jobs, etc. This information is later transmitted to the higher-ups who are responsible to collate, calculate and tally-up all the figures.
And yet, the Jewish census had to be conducted by Moshe and Aharon, assisted by the Princes of the Tribes! Ponder this for a moment. Moshe, our teacher, who received the Torah from G-d, who led the Jewish people and taught them Torah, was here directed to drop all his important involvements and to go and count the Jews! Walk from tent to tent and check off how many family members had reached the age of twenty!
Of course, he could not possibly have done the entire job by himself, so he was authorized to draft Aharon, the second most respected Jew, and then the Princes of the Tribes, to assist him! Notwithstanding the fact that this job could have been done by anyone -- G-d wanted the most respected Jews to count the Jewish people.
An explosive lesson must be gleaned from this story! When we speak of the Jewish family, even the mitzvah of counting -- ostensibly the simplest act -- takes on great importance. You are fulfilling G-d's command to count the Jews. Put on your Shabbos garments and enter the tent with the intense feeling of devotion to G-d, speak with dignity and respect, ask your questions, and move on. This must be done by the most distinguished leaders of the Jewish people.
Concomitantly you will gain new respect for every single Jew, for you will recognize that the soul of every Jew is, "Truly a part of G-d." This will effect a new unity between the counters and the counted, "all of us as one" -- and it will bring additional blessings from G-d.
Jewish women and girls give heed to this phenomenon! Everything connected to the Jewish home and family is of paramount importance. Even the mundane census is holy! Consequently, every aspect of the home must truly fit in with this lofty evaluation. Everything must be infused and permeated with holiness and Yiddishkeit.
For example, an essential matter which depends on the Jewish mother is the children's education. Do not for one moment think that Jewish education is the same as universal education, but in Jewish subject matter. There is an essential distinction for we deal with Jewish children who are bound up with the Holy One, Blessed be He.
What about eating and drinking? This is another matter which depends on the Jewish mother. All children eat and drink. But Jewish children must be educated to say the berochah before and after eating, and when they eat they must recognize that the food was actually created for them by G-d. Their intention in eating must be to make a healthy body and soul to serve G-d.
Similarly, in every aspect of domestic life connected with the training of the children they must be infused with the spirit of holiness as is fitting a Jewish home. Even their census was so important to G-d that only Moshe and Aharon could count them.
Presently we are in the period of Sefirah, between the "Season of Our Freedom" and the "Season of the Giving of Our Torah." Regarding Pesach the Gemara relates:
As the reward for the righteous women who lived in that generation were the Israelites delivered from Egypt. (Sota 11b)
In other words, the Exodus of all the Jews, including Moshe and Aharon, depended on the merit of the righteous women. While still in Egypt they imbued their families with holiness and Yiddishkeit. They raised "Tzivos Hashem," who were the first to recognize G-d!
When we turn our attention to Shavuos, we know that in preparing for the giving of the Torah at Sinai, Moshe was directed by G-d to speak to the women first. Certainly they made the best preparations and made sure that Mattan Torah was approached with the proper enthusiasm.
What is the eternal lesson? As the days of Sefirah go by and we approach the holiday of Shavuos, Jewish women should realize that just as they generated the power and merit for the Exodus in the days of yore, they have the power to bring the redemption now. Let them take an example from those faithful mothers to raise their children and households to recognize G-dliness, and in this manner they will prepare this generation for the "Season of the Giving of Our Torah," again.
So may it be that we make these preparations for Torah, as the previous Rebbe expressed it: "To receive the Torah once again with happiness and glad hearts and in an intrinsic and intense way." The Ten Commandments should penetrate the intellect of the mind and the emotions of the heart and influence all aspects of thought, speech and action.
Thus, we will create a "Torah Year" and a "Year of Light"; for "Torah is light," preceded by the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach:
As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt I will show him (them) wonders.
Another essential point: each one of the participants in the convention should return home and tell of the good accomplishments and resolutions of this week, which will certainly encourage others to follow suit.
And when the Holy One, Blessed be He, will see that more Jews are increasing their involvement in Torah and Yiddishkeit, He will increase His blessings to us for all our needs. As the verse tells us:
If you follow My statutes and are careful to keep My commandments, I will provide you with rain at the right time ... and lead you forth with your heads held high. (Vayikra 26:3-13)
The Jewish people will merit to leave the exile with "our youth and elders, sons and daughters," and joyously go to greet Moshiach and go to the Holy Land, "the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year." (Devorim 11:12)
We will then have the complete nation and receive the complete Torah with perfection, inwardness and joy.
I will distribute dollar bills for tzedakah which will complete the three aspects of Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chassodim, on which the world stands.
On the bills of our country it says, "In G-d We Trust," to show that one should not imagine that success and happiness depends on the dollars, but in faith in G-d.
Regarding the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, everyone should take care to see that all the children attend the services and hear the reading of the Ten Commandments on the "Season of the Giving of our Torah." And may the entire year be blessed with "light," and redemption, with happiness and glad hearts.