When Jews gather together, the unity of the Jewish people is emphasized.
It should also be self-evident that this focus on unity will also be true when the assembly takes place just prior to the departure of the assembled. At such a conclave there is a greater need to invigorate the prevailing unity, for it must stay in effect even after everyone has left and returned to his/her respective place.
All Jews, men and women, young and old, even a newborn infant are all unified under the heading "one nation." This unity is associated with "One G-d," through "One Torah."
If so, the unity of the Jewish people spans all the generations, past present and future, just as Mattan Torah convened all the Jewish souls of all the generations. This unity is not affected by the fact of geographical dispersion to the four corners of the world. We are still "one nation on the earth."
Having created the universe for His glory (cf. Avos end ch. 6) the diversity of existence will not preclude a pervading unity -- everything that exists has one and the same goal -- to bring glory to G-d. Is there a stronger form of unity than this?
When Jews proclaim: "Shema Yisroel -- Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One," we declare that the diversity of the seven heavens and the four compass points are all superseded and united by the unity of the Alef, the One G-d. G-d's Oneness is superimposed on the cacophony of creation when a Jew transforms his home to a "mini-sanctuary," inviting the Holy One, Blessed be He, to dwell within the Jewish heart and home.
If all this seems a bit abstract there are times when Jewish unity is more clearly evident. For example, when many people leave their homes and assemble for an extended period of time in one place for one goal, to strengthen and increase the fulfillment of the G-d-given mission, that we conduct our lives according to the Torah. And, when this gathering takes place in a synagogue and Torah center, then the diversity and dispersion is no longer important. The main thing is "One nation in the land."
The fact that Jews are spread all over the world lends greater importance to their unity when they join together. Every place, every country, every area of the four corners of the world has its own particular nature, customs and qualities. When a Jew who hails from the west meets a Jew who hails from the east they bring with them their individual idiosyncrasies based on their country of origin. When they join together, each one will influence his friend, and transmit to his friend, some of his local traits and unique qualities. This mutual enrichment will bring both friends closer to perfection and to greater unity.
How much more so when many Jews gather from many places, certainly here the resulting community incorporates all the qualities and achieves complete perfection. For everyone contributes of his/her nature and abilities and one perfects the other with Ahavas Yisroel and Jewish unity.
Having gained from the diversity of backgrounds and hometowns it should be obvious that when everyone returns home the unity will not be lessened. The reason for the temporary dispersion is also to reunite again later, spiritually as well as physically, in thought, speech and action.
Peace is a greater blessing because it serves as the conduit and vessel for all of G-d's bountiful blessings. Our gathering reiterates that the diversity that exists in no way infringes on the underlying unity and peace, and therefore we may expect that G-d's blessings will be increased and everyone will receive G-d's blessings from "His full, open, holy and generous hand." This also includes the ultimate blessing of the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
Within this context of unanimity at the time of dispersal we should also analyze the custom of giving travellers money for charity, thereby appointing them "messengers of a mitzvah."
Tzedakah is "equivalent to all the other religious precepts combined." (B. Basra 9a) It also reinforces the theme of unity, for it creates a bond between giver and receiver. In fact, the difference between giver and receiver (rich and poor) is only for the purpose of establishing that relationship between benefactor and beneficiary. Even more than that: "The poor man does more for the master of the house than the later does for him." (Vayikra Rabbah 34:8)
For this reason, when we want to express unity in a real way, we connect it to an act of charity by making everyone a "messenger of a mitzvah," by giving everyone the same sum of money. When everyone returns home and distributes the charity there, we have a reemergence of unity in real common action that itself expresses unity.
The Gemara says that the dispersion of the diaspora also reflects an aspect of G-d's charity for the Jewish people. No doubt, this is because it allows us to advance to the redemption.
The place and time of this assembly also carry certain important qualities. This is the place where the previous Rebbe prayed and studied and worked during the last ten years of his life -- the holiness of the place is still manifest.
We gather at the end of the month of Tishrei. During Tishrei we advanced from level to level, from Rosh Hashanah through Simchas Torah, and then on to radiate the joy to the entire year ahead. At this gathering, in this place and time, we gain new strength to reinforce the unity of the Jewish people in carrying out the mission of the Holy One, Blessed be He, throughout the year. In this manner the blessings of G-d will be bestowed with greater intensity, for a Kesivah Vechasimah Tovah, a Gmar Cha-simah Tovah, for a good and sweet year in a revealed way, together with all manner of blessing and success. And may it all extend through the entire year, ever increasing and including the assistance from above for us to carry out all of the good resolutions accepted during the month of Tishrei.
Since we are in a leap year, there are additional powers bestowed upon us to enable us to accomplish our Divine service during the 13 months of the year. Being called a "Shanah Te-mimah" (complete year) indicates that in this year all aspects reach completion and perfection, in relation to the community and the individual. May we attain liberation in all personal areas -- not to be hampered by any problems -- and may we reach the true and complete liberation of all of Israel, when we will all be taken to our Holy Land and to Yerushalayim, the Holy City, which connects and unites Jews. And to the Temple Mount, the "Holy mountain," and the Third Bais Hamikdosh, the eternal edifice with the eternal redemption.
At the close of the month of Tishrei we read the portion of Bereishis from which we may glean some message in connection with this theme: "In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth." All the beings of heaven and earth were created in a way that G-d would be satisfied with their existence: "G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good." (Bereishis 1:31)
While everything was created to be "very good," it rests in the arena of man's action to develop that perfection of existence. G-d gave us this power and called man "comparable to the One above," which means that he is given G-dly powers beyond limit, from above, with which to carry out G-d's mission and effect perfection in the world. Then all will see that the creation is truly "very good."
This involvement in perfecting the world must be initiated with G-d's blessings of children, life, health, and abundant sustenance. We have already been blessed with a Kesivah Vechasimah Tovah, may it spread and bless all the days of the year in a revealed manner of blessing, with fullness and completeness.
At the close of Bereishis we read that "Noach found favor in G-d's eyes." There are times when a Jew feels isolated and alone -- it appears that he is the only one who is actually working for the important goals of life, no one seems to be assisting him. This often leads to despondency, for he feels that he cannot make it alone! Take heart from the words of Torah! Your role is to give G-d "Nachas" (Noach), pleasing above and pleasing below, and therefore so long as you assume your role even before you start to actually do anything -- you find "favor in G-d's eyes."
Then, when you actually follow up with thought, speech and action you will certainly be blessed with success, as G-d perceives it, from His full, open, holy and abundant hand. The portion of Bereishis also leads into Noach, which reminds us that every Jew may be seen as righteous.
In today's reading portion we find: "This is the book of the chronicles of man." This means that every Jew has a book, the Sefer Torah, which teaches him how to conduct himself, to be compatible with the chronicles of the Supernal Man. When one follows in the path of G-d he is given the power to be like the Divine. At the same time when he conducts himself properly then his life becomes a book of instruction for others, his children and grandchildren forever.
Mesushelach's birth is also discussed at the close of today's portion, to show us that the Holy One, Blessed be He, bestows upon every Jew the potential to attain the levels of the great tzaddik, like Adam and Mesushelach. And G-d will give every Jew long life, like the years of Mesushelach, who lived longer than Adam, since now we have received the Torah and can accomplish good and important acts.
At the close of the Rambam section for today we find:
If one who was rich said, "I take upon myself the offerings of this leper," and the leper was poor, he must bring on his behalf the offerings of one who is rich, since the means of him who vows suffices for this. And if one who was poor said, "I take upon myself the offerings of this leper," and the leper was rich, he must bring on his behalf the offerings of one who is rich, since he who vowed was liable for the offerings of one who is rich.
(Laws of Atonement Not Complete 5:11)
The sacrifice of the metzora (leper) was of the category called "rising and descending," meaning that each person was allowed to offer a sacrifice relative to his financial ability. The wealthy had to bring the expensive animals and the pauper could offer an inexpensive sacrifice. This seems to follow the rule that demands from us only according to our capabilities. (See Bemidbar Rabbah 12:3) So, in material sacrifices, and so, too, in Divine service, each person is responsible to bring close to G-d that which he has the ability to do.
Now, when the pauper said, "I take upon myself the offerings of this metzora," and the metzora was rich, the pauper must pay for a rich man's sacrifice. Two surprising points come to light: (A) One Jew has the power to undertake the responsibility of another. Not only when the first cannot meet his commitment but even when the first can, and is wealthy, another Jew may assume and undertake his debt and bring his offering. (B) When a pauper undertakes a rich man's debt he must pay at the rich man's rate! But if he had been the payer for himself, he would only have to pay for the sacrifice of a poor man. Now he must pay more than his ability!?
The question begs to be asked: Here we are dealing with a category of offerings that Torah designated could vary according to the financial capability of the petitioner. Why then should the poor man be forced to go beyond his ability? Yet we see that he is obliged to do so. This teaches us -- when such a case occurs -- that G-d gives the ability to the poor man to fulfill the pledge and to afford a rich man's sacrifice.
An amazing lesson evolves from this rule: Even when the circumstances indicate otherwise, when a Jew undertakes a good deed the prospects are certain that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will grant him the wherewithal to accomplish his goal! Even though logic would be very skeptical.
Here we may introduce the Talmudic dictum as explained by Chassidus: "Good intention is combined with deed." This means that when you plan to do a good deed which might be beyond your grasp, G-d combines several events by Divine Providence so that your desire will come to fruition.
We saw an example of this phenomenon by the Previous Rebbe, when the publication of the complete set of Tzemach Tzedek needed a sponsor. A person came forth to the Previous Rebbe and although he was far from being rich he offered to pay for the entire publication.
The Previous Rebbe blessed him and he did become wealthy. So he accomplished his desire to pay for the printing and he was blessed with many more riches. All this took place after he had made the pledge, for at the time when he made the commitment he had not had the ability for this undertaking.
When we stand together, about to travel apart, -- it now seems that our goal of unity is unattainable. Therefore, we must take to heart this lesson, that when we decide to carry forth the unity despite our physical dispersion, then the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bless our sincere aspirations with success and we will continue to experience the true unity. In that state of unity we will merit the greater blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He, with the light of His Countenance.
I will give each of you money for Tzedakah and appoint you "messengers of a mitzvah," which will bring closer the liberation, and effect greater unity, and the ultimate blessing of the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Moshiach, speedily and truly in our time.
May G-d help and bestow success on every Bar Mitzvah celebrant, the parents, brothers and sisters and all their relatives -- a unique blessing for the Bar Mitzvah -- in addition to all the blessings mentioned earlier.
May the Bar Mitzvah take place in a good and auspicious time and may it be a good beginning to increase all matters of Yiddishkeit starting with Torah and mitzvos; going from strength to strength. This will lead to the true and complete redemption.
It is proper and good that on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, the Bar Mitzvah boy should give charity from his own money, and if the birthday occurs on Shabbos then it should be given before and after Shabbos. Similarly, his parents, and also his brothers and sisters, should give tzedakah on the Bar Mitzvah day.
The merit of tzedakah is very great and especially when it is performed by a young person just at the time when he becomes responsible for mitzvos and good deeds.
The study of Psalm 14 in Tehillim should also be carried out by the Bar Mitzvah boy on his birthday. At this time he will infuse all his actions with joy and gladness and he will merit G-d's blessings in his Torah study and observance of mitzvos in an ever increasing manner.
In stressing the importance of unity I will give each of you an equal amount, which I hope you will give to tzedakah with the addition of some money of your own. And may this mitzvah bring you a successful year, especially in Yiddishkeit. Also a year of redemption in an individual and communal sense. By adding another responsible Jew to the roster, we bring closer the true and complete redemption of the Jewish nation -- may it come speedily and truly in our time.
May G-d bless each of you among all of Israel in all your needs -- physical and spiritual -- and both combined.
In addition to all the blessings mentioned earlier, may you be blessed with the special blessings associated with the wedding: the preparations for the wedding should be with outstanding success, in the spirit of Torah and Chassidus, and growing from strength to strength. The marriage itself should be an everlasting edifice based on the foundation of Torah and mitzvos and you should be blessed with sons and daughters who will be involved in Torah and mitzvos. May it all be with great abundance, in children, life and health and abundant prosperity.
It is customary on the day of the wedding, prior to the chupah (ceremony) that the groom and bride should donate money to charity in merit of the wedding. It is also appropriate that the parents do likewise.
May this all be done with joy and glad hearts and since joy pierces all restrictions, it will burst any limitations on the blessings and will evoke G-d's blessings beyond any limitations, for all your needs.
May there be much success in preparing the wedding, and in the wedding, and the "eternal edifice" should be a home where sages assemble, faithful to G-d and His Torah.
And may this speed the promise which we pronounce in the Seven Benedictions.
Let there speedily be heard in the cities of Yehudah and in the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride. (Siddur p. 410)
Every wedding in the time of the golus provides another preparation for that promised time, and especially when we associate the wedding with acts of charity, which brings the redemption closer.
I will participate in your great joy by giving each of you a dollar bill -- equal to all -- to emphasize Jewish unity. And may this charity increase G-d's blessings and speed the redemption.
And thus we will gather in the Holy Land, the holy city, Yerushalayim, and in the Bais Hamikdosh.
When your homes become "mini-sanctuaries" you make the preparation for the real Bais Hamikdosh, and it speeds the establishment of, the Third Bais Hamikdosh, which is standing "prefabricated" and ready -- it needs only to be revealed here in this world -- may it come soon with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
May G-d assist and grant success to each of you among all of Israel, in all your needs -- material and spiritual.
In addition to the earlier blessings may you be blessed with success in your Torah studies, which will then overflow as a "cup of benedictions" with all manner of blessing.
Since action is of the essence you should increase your diligence and effort in the study of Torah -- the revealed and esoteric aspects -- the "body" and "soul" of Torah, and introduce the appropriate enthusiasm to unite "body and soul" into one Torah entity.
Your approach must be one of toiling and straining to study -- for then you are guaranteed by Torah that "when you work hard you will be successful," and attain your goal. There is, after all, a duty on every Jew to study all of Torah and to strive to make progress in Torah. When the effort in Torah study follows this pattern then your success is beyond the input, for then you "find" success, just like someone who "finds" a great treasure which he did not plan on having it -- it is beyond the effort.
When you will but accept this attitude and make these resolutions, "The Holy One, Blessed be He, combines the good intention with the deed" and helps you fulfill your goal by giving you exemplary mashpi'im, for the study of esoteric wisdom, and outstanding Rosh Yeshivos, for the study of exoteric Torah knowledge. May you then attain the stature of students who make their teachers wise, and your instructors will be able to say:
I have learnt much from my teachers...but from my disciples more than from them all. (Ta'anis 7a)
It goes without saying that this blessing for success in study encompasses also the blessing for success in the ultimate "greater" aspect of study: "Study is greater, for it leads to action." (Kiddush 40a) This includes the halachic (or applied, practical) aspect of Torah, as well as the actual action, the resultant meticulous observance of mitzvos.
At the same time, the blessing also includes the aspect of being "illuminating lamps." When you bring the flowing fountains of Torah to the "outside," you effect "growth and blossoming" in all places in the world.
May G-d grant that through your Divine service in all these areas, diligent study and dissemination of the wellsprings to the outside, you will merit, together with your Rosh Yeshivos, mashpi'im, teachers and counselors to greet our righteous Moshiach, and to study Torah with Moshiach, for he will teach all the people.
Toil in Torah also has a connection with Moshiach, for hard work in Torah eventually brings the unexpected "finds" in Torah. Similarly the prophet says:
I have found My servant David. (Tehillim 89:21)
This is the greatest and most valuable "find!" The Talmud also interrelates these matters:
Three come unawares: Moshiach, a found article....
The Tractate Sanhedrin deals with the rules and framework of the Supreme judicial body in ancient times -- but as it is to be studied by everyone it also provides the link to all Jews. For the Sanhedrin had to be the source of teaching for all Jews. So much so that in Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah it states:
The members of the Sanhedrin were required to attach iron chains to their waists and visit all the towns of Israel.
Here you have the classic example of spreading the wellsprings of Torah. Don't wait till someone approaches you with a question, go out and teach the people.
In the Lurianic writings we find reference to the iron (B'R'Z'L') chains. It associates the term B'R'Z'L' to the four wives of Ya'akov, Bilhah, Rochel, Zilpah and Leah, who gave birth to the twelve tribes of Israel.
When the soul of the "Congregation of Israel" unites with the Holy One, Blessed be He -- the result is offspring of greater understanding and depth in Torah. This diligent Torah study also creates the proper preparation for good Shiduchim (matches) and the eventual establishment of proper Jewish homes, which will be gathering places for the sages.
All this will speed the coming of Moshiach and the promise:
And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as at the beginning. (Yeshayahu 1:26)
Just as Torah study brings the redemption, so, too, tzedakah. I will therefore make each of you an "agent" for the mitzvah of tzedakah and may this mitzvah mission help you carry out your other missions and may you all merit to be messengers of the Supernal Being and bring David King Moshiach, of whom the Gemara says, "his Torah study brought him great pleasure." And may you merit to be illuminating lights, to spread the fountains to the outside, and see the ingathering of all Israel to Eretz Yisroel and there, to Yerushalayim, the Holy City and to the Holy mountain, and the Bais Hamikdosh "a great company shall return there."