It is customary to gather together one final time before everyone returns to his home land. The purpose of this gathering is to gather extra strength to more fully carry out our individual missions upon arrival.
There is a general mission incumbent upon everyone equally to fulfill Torah and mitzvos; to make one's home into a sanctuary for G-d; and furthermore to do all of one's actions – even when they are not directly involved with mitzvos "for the sake of Heaven." This means that even where no mitzvah is directly involved, the action still must be done with a goal of increasing holiness. In this way, one brings holiness down to the world, and even brings holiness to the physical body which performs the act.
Although the body is already holy, as the Zohar says, "their bodies are holy," nevertheless this holiness must be revealed. This must reach the extent that even non-Jews recognize the difference between the Jew and the non-Jew, even in matters in which they seem to be identical.
When a Jew takes a drink of water, for example, he is not merely quenching his thirst. He says the blessing, shehakol ni'hiyoh bid'varo ("all things came to be through His word"), showing the recognition that at that moment, it is once more brought into existence through an act of G-d. In this way, a Jew has the power to reveal holiness in the world. The same applies when each one returns home; that each individual, through fulfilling his individual mission, draws down G-dliness, transforming that part of the world.
If this applies to an individual, how much more so when a group gathers together, in a holy place and for a holy purpose – the revelation of G-dliness is greatly increased. This is even more true when the express purpose of gathering together is to minimize the effect of the later physical separation. The souls of all Jews are already connected, and only the bodies are separate. When the bodies become even more separated by physical distance, it is possible that the unity will become weakened. By gathering together, we give added stress to this physical unity, so that it will last even in the face of physical distance. On the contrary, the distance will cause an even greater unity, for each one will constantly think of the other, and yearn for the day that they will once more unite.
The main point is, of course, that upon returning home, each one takes additional strength to carry out his mission. This must include influencing the local inhabitants to increase in ahavas Yisrael and to make their dwellings into miniature sanctuaries. They must in turn affect others, until all Jews are reached.
The time in which we are gathering provides an additional stress on the idea of unity. Since we were together on holidays, when work is forbidden, the differences caused by the different fields of work disappeared. Pesach places special stress on unity, as we see that families traditionally gather together for the Seder. In addition, we begin the Seder by inviting in all the needy – "Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat," etc. We also include all the four categories of sons, and conclude the Seder with "Next Year in Yerushalayim!" Since the exile was caused by a lack of ahavas Yisrael, the return to Yerushalayim clearly indicates an increase in ahavas Yisrael.
An additional stress on unity can be seen from the fact that this is a Shemittah year. When people are working the land, each has a different task and comes into contact with a different set of people. When all this ceases during Shemittah, the similarity between everyone comes to the forefront. All are involved in making the year "a Shabbos for G-d," and the spiritual force which connects us all receives even greater emphasis.
This is one of the reasons why Hakhel follows the Shemittah year. After a year of unity through the observance of Shemittah, we can reach an even deeper level of unity through Hakhel.
This theme of unity also explains why charity is always distributed at gatherings of this sort. The inner goal underlying the mitzvah of charity is that of unity; for through giving charity the rich and the poor are brought closer together, to the extent that they become one. Furthermore, when everyone is given the "mission" of giving the money to charity upon arriving home, it shows an absolute trust that they will fulfill the general mission of Torah and mitzvos mentioned above. This resolution has the effect of weakening the spiritual darkness which exists in that place, even before the charity is actually given.
This is also connected with the daily portion of Rambam, in which he lists the "ten things" that a man must give a woman when he marries her. It is significant that the Rambam does not just list the ten things, but writes explicitly the number "ten."
Ten indicates a state of completion, as we see that a minyan is composed of ten Jews – a "holy congregation." We also see that the entire universe came into being through "Ten Utterances." The Zohar connects this with the Ten Commandments – that through fulfilling the Ten Commandments with all their details, one reveals that the universe came into existence through G-d's word (the Ten Utterances).
The Rambam writes that we should try to derive a lesson in serving G-d from all laws of the Torah. G-d and the Jewish people are compared to a man and wife; therefore the ten things which a man is required to give his wife correspond to what G-d gives the Jewish people. In particular, G-d provides us with the necessary strength to reveal that the physical world is dependent on His Ten Utterances.
People sometimes experience difficulty in determining how exactly to carry out the good resolutions they have made. However, since the Torah is called "the Torah of light," it provides the illuminating guidance necessary to show the way.
Since we are meeting on the 24th of Nissan, this guidance can be found in what the Torah tells us about this day. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 91a) relates that,
On the 24th of Nissan those who wanted to steal the land were removed from Yehudah and Yerushalayim. [This happened as follows:] Africans came to accuse the Jewish people before Alexander the Great saying, "Canaan belongs to us, as it is written (Numbers 34:2), `The land of Canaan and its boundaries'; and Canaan was our ancestor!"
Gevihah ben Pesisa told the Sages, "Give me permission to argue against them before Alexander the Great. If they win, you can say to them that they have defeated a simple person. If I win, you can say that the Torah of Moshe was victorious." They gave him permission, and he argued the case, saying, "What is your proof?" They answered, "From the Torah." He answered them, "I will disprove you from the Torah: It is written, `Cursed is Canaan; he shall be a slave to his brothers.' When a slave acquires something, who does he belong to, and who do the acquisitions belong to? Furthermore, for many years you have not served us!"
King Alexander told them, "Give him an answer." They replied, "Give us three days," to which he agreed. After unsuccessfully searching for an answer, they ran away, leaving them behind planted fields and vineyards.
The point of this story is that the claim was answered by the Torah itself, and therefore anyone is capable of giving the answer. One does not go with his own personal strength, but rather with the G-dly assistance of the Torah. This is similar to Rashi's commentary on the very first verse in the Torah. The non-Jews claim that they are the majority and they are stronger, and therefore have the right to take Eretz Yisrael, and take charge of all physical matters.
The yetzer hora makes a similar claim to a Jew. It admits that matters which are clearly in a religious vein, such as prayer and Torah study, must be done as the Torah commands. But in physical matters such as eating, drinking, and making sure that your children will have a job in the future...these things, says the yetzer hora, should be done according to the non-Jewish world.
This is the lesson to be derived from the story mentioned above. When non-Jewish influences try to impinge upon a Jew's devotion to G-d – even in physical matters – he should remember that the Torah gives him the authority and the power to chase them away completely. Furthermore, in the story they ran away and left behind the "planted fields and vineyards," indicating that they leave behind even additional strength enabling Jews to carry out their holy mission.
May all the above be carried out in a way befitting the month of Nissan. The word Nissan contains twice the letter nun, and the Talmud explains that this indicates double miracles – the letter nun symbolizing neis, or miracle. May G-d grant miracles to each and every Jew in their physical matters – and even in their spiritual matters, by giving additional Divine assistance.
May G-d bestow His blessing upon each and every one of you among all the Jewish people, and grant you success in all your endeavors.
May all the preparations for the wedding take place in joy and gladness, with much abundance and success, in a Jewish, Chassidic manner. May the wedding take place in a good and auspicious time and may the marriage be an everlasting edifice built on the foundation of Torah and mitzvos.
Certainly, you will increase your good resolutions to build your homes so that they will be filled with Torah and mitzvos, for G-d assures that when you make your home a sanctuary, by making your hearts an abode for the Shechinah, then the Shechinah will dwell in your homes.
When a groom and bride undertake to build their "sanctuary" home together, then all the ten blessings referred to in the marriage benedictions are bestowed upon them – just as G-d bestows those blessings on the Jewish people who are compared to a groom and bride. Every new Jewish home established on the foundation of Torah and mitzvos receives the blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He, connected with "the seven marriage benedictions," and G-d assures us that all Jews are capable of benefiting from all these blessings with joy and gladness.
The celestial benedictions are increased even more so when you add your own initiative, with more energy than you receive from Above. This will also increase G-d's blessings.
The preparations, the wedding and your future lives, for many long and good years, should all be pleasant and beneficent and may each day clearly be filled with love and friendship embodied in all the ten terms used to describe the harmony of married life. And as the conduct of all aspects of your lives will be according to Torah and mitzvos, then all the blessings and guarantees of the Holy One, Blessed be He, will apply, and they will be bestowed with great abundance, materially and spiritually.
And all these aspects together will speed the wedding of the Holy One, Blessed be He – as it were – and the Jewish nation. At Mattan Torah we made the "engagement" with G-d and at the time of the imminent redemption there will take place the actual marriage.
Then will be heard in the cites 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)
with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
The coming redemption will also be speeded by the good resolutions connected to the preparations for the wedding, the wedding itself and the days following the wedding.
It is customary that on the day of the wedding the groom and bride should increase their donations to charity and also increase observance of all mitzvos, and especially the commandment to make the Jewish home a Mini-Sanctuary.
From this Mini-Sanctuary may we proceed very soon to the great Sanctuary of the Jewish nation, especially as this is connected to tzedakah which speeds up the redemption. May all the good deeds speed the redemption so that we will not be detained even a split second, and we will really "hear, in the cities of Yehudah and the streets of Yerushalayim, the sound of groom and bride," and all the additional joys mentioned in the seven benedictions.
They will all come to reality with the true redemption through our righteous Moshiach, which will also come sooner because of our involvement in Torah and mitzvos, and especially the good resolutions of the groom and bride pertaining to their future life together, with joy and gladness, which will be established on the foundation of Torah and mitzvos – and which will permeate their daily life. This reveals the blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He, mentioned in the seven benedictions which merits you more joy, and increases the joy of the Jewish people, for the joy of groom and bride is the joy of the Jewish people.
I will also make each of you a messenger of a mitzvah to give a dollar, and more, for tzedakah. Let me hear good tidings of your everlasting edifice on the foundation of Torah and mitzvos, and of future sons and daughters who will be involved in Torah and mitzvos, with joy and overflowing abundance.
May you merit the ultimate abundance, when G-d will expand the boundaries of our Holy Land, with the complete and true redemption through our righteous Moshiach, which will encompass all Jewish people in an expression of Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity (which also speeds up the redemption), with G-d's blessings, from His full, open, holy and abundant hand.