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Publisher's Foreword

Rosh HaShanah

The Fast of Gedaliah

The Ten Days of Teshuvah

Yom Kippur

Sukkos

Simchas Torah

Yud-Tes Kislev

Chanukah

The Tenth of Teves

Yud Shvat

The New Year of Trees

The Fast of Esther

Purim

Pesach

Sefiras HaOmer

Pesach Sheni

Lag BaOmer

Shavuos

Yud-Beis Tammuz

The Three Weeks

Elul

Chai Elul

Glossary and Biographical Index

Timeless Patterns In Time
Chassidic Insights Into The Cycle Of The Jewish Year
Adapted from the Published Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Shlita


Publisher's Foreword

by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger Edited by Uri Kaploun

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Foreword to Volume I

Time as a Spiral

Time is often conceived of as a linear sequence of events; each moment, although connected to the past, represents a new response to reality. In Jewish thought, however, time is seen as a spiral. Its forward progression is modulated by set patterns, recurring cycles that help determine the varying tone and pitch of our weeks, months, and years.

The dual nature of time is echoed in the Hebrew word for "year" - shanah, which is related semantically to the root meaning "repeat", but also to the root meaning "change". In other words, the cycle of recurring spiritual influences that constitutes a Jewish year is modified from year to year, as new dimensions of those spiritual influences are heard - familiar themes with novel rhythms.

Highlights Within the Cycle

Prominent within the annual cycle are the festivals and fast days prescribed by the Torah and by our Sages and Rabbis. On a practical level, these dates represent a departure from routine. Our holidays are days of joyful celebration, and they are also holy days, beckoning us to inner growth and development. Every holiday represents a different mode of spiritual expression, inspiring a different dimension of our bond with G-d.

Every holiday has a body and a soul. The commandments and customs of each holiday are its body; the breath of life is infused into this body by the soul of the holiday, the spiritual message it conveys.

Not Only History

Though all the Jewish holidays commemorate events in our national history, they enable us not only to recall these experiences, but also to relive them. At the same time every year, the very same spiritual forces which brought about the event commemorated by a holiday are again potently expressed. Thus the Fifteenth of Nissan, the date of our Exodus from Egypt, remains eternally "the season of our freedom," and the Tenth of Tishrei, the day on which G-d forgave the sin of the Golden Calf, is "the Day of Atonement" for all time.

The essays in these volumes are adaptations of the published talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita which highlight the respective spiritual messages of the holidays. These essays are intended to show the connection between the historical significance of these days and their eternal relevance to our current divine service.

Holidays of the Future

We have also included essays on the spiritual significance of the communal fast days, for their observance too conveys messages of personal development. Recalling the spiritual deficiencies which brought about the calamities commemorated by these fasts is intended to inspire us to turn to G-d in teshuvah, to upgrade the content of our daily lives and the quality of our interpersonal contacts. Furthermore, these dates too will ultimately be festivals, for in the Era of the Redemption, "all the [commemorative] fasts... will be transformed into holidays, and days of rejoicing and celebration."[1]

Chassidic Festivals

In 5662 (1901), the urgent communal needs of Russian Jewry detained the Rebbe Rashab in Moscow. He was thus unable to join his chassidim in Lubavitch in celebrating Yud-Tes Kislev, the anniversary of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi's liberation from prison. By way of compensation for his absence, he sent a historic letter[2] to his chassidim in which he refers to Yud-Tes Kislev as "the Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus."

The Rebbe's letter resounded not only among his followers,[3] but talk of it also spread beyond chassidic circles. A certain scholar mentioned it to the celebrated halachic authority, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, and added mockingly, "The Mishnah speaks of only four kinds of Rosh HaShanah,[4] and now the chassidim have gone and added a fifth...."

Reb Chaim Ozer replied: "They, at least, are constantly growing."

Accordingly, this work includes essays on chassidic festivals celebrated in the Lubavitch community. However, the potential for growth alluded to by Reb Chaim Ozer has led to such a proliferation of chassidic holidays, that one can literally fulfill the verse,[5] "A good-hearted person is always celebrating." After careful consideration, it was decided to include only four of the more prominent chassidic festivals: Yud-Tes Kislev, Yud Shvat, Yud-Beis Tammuz, and Chai Elul.

Patterns Within a Greater Cycle

Although each of the festivals conveys a unique message, the fragrance of each one lingers on and flavors those which follow, because they represent patterns within a greater cycle.

Like the cycle of the Jewish year, the composition of this text too synthesizes a variety of contributions, especially those of: Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, who skillfully adapted the texts from their Hebrew and Yiddish originals; Uri Kaploun, whose editorial expertise enhanced their presentation; Rabbi Aharon Leib Raskin, who supplied many of the references; Yosef Yitzchok Turner, who is responsible for the tasteful layout and typography; and Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director of Sichos In English, whose piloting and encouragement at every stage of the project transformed it from dream to reality.

In Anticipation of the Ultimate Celebration

In a discussion of the nature of time in his commentary on the Torah,[6] the Ramban sees all of history as culminating in the Era of Redemption, "the day which is only Sabbath and repose for all time."[7]

We also make mention of the Era of Redemption at the conclusion of every essay in this book. This is not merely a stylistic device in keeping with our Sages' advice[8] to conclude any work with a positive theme. Our decision to conclude with the theme of Redemption reflects the manner in which the Rebbe Shlita has concluded his talks throughout the years, particularly in recent years. And his evoking of the Redemption is not merely a figure of speech: all of his endeavors are directed to precipitating the coming of Mashiach.

May the study of the present work further the fulfillment of that purpose, and hasten the coming of the time when G-d will "enable us to arrive at other festivals and holidays..., celebrating in the rebuilding of Your city and rejoicing in Your service,"[9] with the coming of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.

Chai Elul, (1993)
Birthday of the Baal Shem Tov (1698)
and the Alter Rebbe (1745)

In Dedication

To the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita, who for 91 years has dedicated his life to making the Redemption a reality. May G-d grant him the health and well-being to see that mission to its conclusion, and may we and the entire Jewish people join in celebrating the Redemption in the immediate future.

Foreword to Volume II

This volume concludes the series of essays, adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita, which highlight chassidic insights into the cycle of the Jewish year. The essays in the present volume begin by explaining the Fast of Esther and the holiday of Purim, and conclude by explaining the month of Elul and the holiday of Chai Elul.

Herein lie important lessons for our divine service. We must perpetuate the exuberant joy of Purim, for "The happiness with which a person should rejoice in the fulfillment of the mitzvos... is a prominent [element of our divine] service."[10]

The conclusion of the year marked by the stocktaking of the month of Elul is also relevant throughout the year, for, as highlighted in several of the essays in this volume, we are living in a unique period: the conclusion of the era of exile and the dawning of the light of Redemption. In that context, Chai Elul takes on unique significance. For it is through the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, whose birthdays are celebrated on Chai Elul, that we can both anticipate and precipitate the coming of the Redemption.

On Pesach, we conclude the first portion of the Seder with the prayer that G-d "enable us to reach other festivals and holidays that will come to us in peace." Our Rabbis interpret this as a reference to the Redemption, for the holidays of that era will be "other", different in nature from the holidays of the present time. May the insights indicated in this volume enhance our celebration of the holidays of the present era and help bring us to the holidays of the Redemption in the nearest possible future.

Yud Shvat
The anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz in 1950
and the day on which the Rebbe Shlita succeeded to the leadership
of the Chabad-Lubavitch chassidic movement 5754 (1994)
May this be a year of outstanding miracles

In Dedication

To the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita, who for 91 years has dedicated his life to making the Redemption a reality. May G-d grant him the health and well-being to see that mission to its conclusion, and may we and the entire Jewish people join in celebrating the Redemption in the immediate future.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Taaniyos 5:19; cf. Rosh HaShanah 18b.

  2. (Back to text) An English translation of this letter appears in Sefer HaMinhagim (English edition; Kehot, N.Y., 1991), p. 153.

  3. (Back to text) Kuntres U'Maayon (Hebrew edition only; Kehot, N.Y.), p. 25.

  4. (Back to text) Rosh HaShanah 1:1.

  5. (Back to text) Mishlei 15:15. Significantly, it is with this verse that the Rama chose to conclude his discussion of the festivals (in his Gloss to the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, sec. 697).

  6. (Back to text) In his commentary on Bereishis 2:3.

  7. (Back to text) Tamid 7:4.

  8. (Back to text) Cf. Rama in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 138:1.

  9. (Back to text) From the request which concludes the first half of the Pesach Haggadah.

  10. (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Lulav 8:15.


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     Sichos In English -> Books -> Festivals -> Timeless Patterns In Time

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