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15th Day of Shevat, 5745
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18th Day of Shevat, 5745

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25th Day of Shevat, 5745

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Mesiras Nefesh / Russian Jewry

Study of Rambam One Chapter Daily

Tzivos Hashem
12th Day of Adar, 5745

Taanis Esther
13th Day of Adar, 5745

Purim, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa
16th Day of Adar, 5745

Eve of l9th of Adar, 5745

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Parshas Parah
23rd Day of Adar, 5745

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Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5745

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Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5745

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Shabbos HaGadol
8th Day of Nissan, 5745

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11th Day of Nissan, 5745

Sichos In English
Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Vol. 25 Shevat-Nissan, 5745

Purim, 5745

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  Taanis Esther
13th Day of Adar, 5745
Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa
16th Day of Adar, 5745

1. The very fact that Jews join together with similar intentions, sharing a common goal is itself reason for happiness, for then, the unity of the Jewish people is revealed.

The Alter Rebbe described Jewish unity with a parable of a father who had many sons. The fathers greatest satisfaction and happiness came when he saw his children joining together in unity, caring for each other. When one would give up his own personal interest for his brothers benefit. the father would be filled with joy.

This unity is expressed when we join together for a farbrengen, speaking words of friendship, and ultimately, decide to meet together again. Furthermore, we have joined together for a common purpose and goal.

There may be a geographic distance between us. Nevertheless, a Jew considers his soul of primary importance and his body, secondary. Therefore, even though our bodies are not in the same place, our souls are united and joined when we focus our energies on the same subject.

The concept of Jewish unity is particularly related to the holiday of Purim. Even Haman, whose claim against the Jews was that they were scattered and spread out among the nations, had to admit that they were one nation.

This concept is also expressed in the mitzvos associated with the holiday. Both Shalach Manos (presents of food sent to friends) and Matanos LEvyonim (gifts to the poor) express the oneness of the .Jews and their love for each other.

The source for this unity is the acceptance of the Torah. (An intrinsic connection exists between the latter and Purim. Our sages explain that on Purim, the Jews gave expression to the commitment they had made at Mount Sinai.)

The emphasis on unity was expressed by the manner in which the Jews camped before Mount Sinai. When the Torah described that encampment, it uses the singular form of the word camp, vayichan. Though their other encampments were characterized by strife and difference, here, the Jews joined together as one man, with one heart. When G-d saw this, He declared: Now, I will give them the Torah.

Unity is an intrinsic aspect of the Torah. Torah was given by the One G-d. Though G-d has created a multitude of worlds and realms, their existence does not detract from His unity. On the contrary, they help express that oneness as the Mishnah states: All that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in this world, He created solely for His glory.

That unity is reflected in the Torah. Therefore, it had an effect on the people receiving the Torah. Though the camp of the Jews contained millions of people, when they camped before Mount Sinai, they joined together as one man, with one heart. Furthermore, they made a common commitment. The entire nation answered together: We will do all that G-d says.

As a result, the concept of unity has become ingrained within the Jewish people. In all places, at all times, the Jews are one nation. Regardless of the geographic distance between them, regardless of their difference in spiritual level, they are united as one man, with one heart.

The particular differences between Jews does not detract from this unity. Rather, they contribute to it and endow it with a deeper dimension. This concept can be understood from a parallel in our own lives.

Every man possesses both a body and a soul, two entities that are, by nature, opposite to each other. The soul is a spiritual entity, truly a part of G-d. The body is a material organism with 248 limbs and 365 sinews. It can be seen and felt.

Mans existence depends on fusing these opposites, combining the body and the soul into a single organism with no separation between them. There is no single point in the body which is not connected with the soul.

By nature, the body tends towards material things and the soul towards the spiritual. Nevertheless, in a healthy person, they work together as a single entity with the soul becoming the predominant factor. Thus, each one complements the other.

The body cannot exist on its own. It must receive its life-energy from the soul. Similarly, the soul gives it direction and guides its behavior.

The soul also needs the body. G-d desires that our service of Him should not be confined to the spiritual realm alone. Rather, a dwelling for G-d can and must be created within the context of material existence. That is only possible when the soul is confined within the body.

For example, eating must be considered as part of our service of G-d as the Rambam writes, A wise man is recognized by the way he eats. This does not apply only on the Shabbos and festivals when eating and drinking are part of the mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos or Oneg Yom-Tov or on Purim when it is a mitzvah to eat a festive meal. Within the week as well, when a person is careful and precise concerning the kashrus of his food, makes a blessing before and after eating, and eats in order to fulfill G-ds will, then, this activity also becomes part of his service of G-d.

The same principle applies to other activities within the context of our material existence and also to our involvement with gentiles. We must serve as a light unto the nations by revealing the light of Torah.

Thus, we see that the body and soul are not two separate entities, but rather, one combined whole . The differences between them complement each other.

The same applies to the differences among Jews. Each individual has qualities and potentials that his colleague lacks. When they join together, each one benefits from the qualities of his colleague. By coming together as one man, with one heart, each one reaches a higher rung of personal fulfillment.

Take, for example, the differences between priests, Leviim, and Yisraelim. Each contribute to the other. The priests bless the Leviim and the Yisraelim bring presents from their produce to the priests.

Similarly, in regard to a man and a woman. Before marriage, a man and a woman are each, in the Zohars words, half a body. Until they marry, these two halves must be totally separate from each other, with no connection between them. However, through marriage according to the faith of Moshe and Israel, they become combined into a single entity, and furthermore, G-ds presence rests among them.

On Purim, there is an emphasis on both the unity between soul and body and also the unity of the entire Jewish people as a whole. In regard to the unity between body and soul:

Chassidic thought explains the connection between Purim and Yom Kippur. The two words share the same letters. However, there is a fundamental difference between them. Yom Kippur is a solemn fast. In contrast, Purim is a day of festivities and rejoicing. The very same influences that are aroused through fasting on Yom Kippur are brought about through festivity on Purim.

The fasting of Yom Kippur is not painful for the body. On the contrary, that fasting grants us life through hunger. The body derives its life-energy through the fast. We see this in our own lives. Jews who are far from the daily observance of Torah and mitzvos come to Shul and fast on Yom Kippur. Furthermore, they derive pleasure from fasting.

If you would ask such an individual: Why? What difference is there between today and yesterday? He would respond with amazement. Of course, there is a difference, he would answer. Today is Yom Kippur, a day which G-d separated from all the other days of the year. All Jews must spend this day in prayer and are forbidden to eat. What greater pleasure is there than being involved in those activities?

However, this approach is only appropriate on Yom Kippur. Throughout the year, the emphasis must be on working together with the body. In this vein, the Baal Shem Tov interpreted the verse: If you shall see your enemys donkey, you should help him. The Hebrew word for donkey, chamor, shares the same root as the word for materialism chumrius. Our approach to our material drives must be directed towards help. Rather than attempt to break the body through fasts and penances, we should work together with the body, using its ton(lonn;P.w in nur RPrvi fP of (:

The above must lead to a practically applicable directive concerning our behavior for, as our sages taught, Deed is most essential.

First, in regard to each individuals service: The emphasis must be on the unity between the body and the soul and the realization that a person can only reach fulfillment by joining the two together. Second, in regard to our fellow man: There must be a stress on unity.

The task of making a dwelling for G-d in the lower worlds cannot be accomplished by one man alone. Nevertheless, our sages taught that each individual is required to say: The world was created for me, i.e. he must realize that he has the responsibility to bring the world to a state of completion.

How can the two concepts be juxtaposed? We must realize that we each have the potential and the responsibility to influence others and involve them in working towards this common goal.

Furthermore, our approach to our fellow Jews must be one of oneness. Above the purpose we share, there must also be a sense of unity. We must feel at one with all Jews to the point that we are personally affected by what happens to our colleagues.

We see this concept expressed in the Megillah. After Hamans decree was first publicized, Mordechai donned sackcloth. When Esthers servant asked him to explain his behavior Mordechai told him what had happened to him.

Mordechai felt that Hamans decree affected him personally. He could have rationalized that his high position in the court and family ties with Esther, the queen, would be sufficient to save his own personal life. However, when he saw that a decree was issued against the Jews, he felt personally involved. It happened to him.

The same applies regarding our own behavior. If we meet a Jew who is lacking something, we must feel that need personally. We must realize how ~-helping another Jew or a Torah institution is really helping ourselves.

This awareness will surely lead to happiness and joy. The latter is also stressed on Purim. Indeed, the rejoicing of Purim transcends that of the other festivals.

The above must begin with a Chassidic farbrengen. There, a stress is placed on both Jewish unity and happiness. When Jews from different places, backgrounds, and approaches meet together in one place, they feel how the differences between them are only superficial and insignificant when compared to the inner bond they share.

This unity brings joy. When two friends who have not met for many years see each other for the first time in many years meet, they are overwhelmed by feelings of joy. (Therefore, according to Jewish law, they are obligated to recite the blessing Shehecheyanu.) How much more so, should one rejoice when he comes together with Jews who he has never met before.

This joy, together with all the other aspects of the Purim holiday must affect our service of G-d in the year to come. Also, it will help us celebrate one redemption in proximity to another. From the redemption of Purim, we will proceed to the Messianic redemption, speedily, in our days.

2. There is an element of this farbrengen which arouses wonder: According to Jewish custom, the Purim feast is always begun during the day and continued into the night. Indeed, according to Shulchan Aruch, the majority of the feast should be held while it is still day. If so, the question should arise: Why is the Purim farbrengen held at night?

Other farbrengens begin late at night, 9:30 P.M., in order that they do not disturb the Seder, study schedule, of the Yeshivah which continues until that hour. In this way, the Yeshivah students can study until the last moment of the Seder. However, that rationale does not apply on Purim when the Yeshivah Seder is suspended anyway. If so, it would seem appropriate to begin the Purim farbrengen earlier as required by Shulchan Aruch.

One of the reasons for beginning at this hour is to enable everyone to hold their own Purim feasts with their families. In this way, these feasts can be extended into the night; there is time for each individual to fulfill the Shulchan Aruchs directive to become drunk on Purim. Afterwards, when these feasts are concluded, everyone can assemble together for a communal farbrengen.

However, this rationale itself raises a question. On Purim, we are obligated to become drunk to the point that we do not know, both from the perspective of the spiritual service implied and, similarly, on a very basic human level, the difference between Cursed be Haman and Blessed be Mordechai. Each Purim feast, and surely, the communal Purim farbrengen share that common goal.

After a person has reached the point of not knowing, in his own family Purim feast, what value is there in assembling together to merely repeat this service? Once a person has already reached the commitment to G-d above his knowledge and intellect symbolized in this mitzvah, where can he go? What higher rung can he aspire to?

The answer to these questions lies in the principle that within this unbounded commitment itself, there are a number of different levels. The tractate Berachos concludes with the statement: Torah sages have no rest, neither in this world or in the world to come, as it is written: They shall proceed from strength to strength. They never remain content with their present level, but rather, constantly seek to advance in the service of G-d.

Who are the sages to which that statement applies? Each and every Jew, as the Talmud continues quoting the verse: All your children shall be students of the [Torah of the] L-rd. Each Jew is a student of the Torah. Even if he does not comprehend the meaning of the verses he is reading, as long as he is reading verses from the Written Law, he is permitted and obligated to recite a blessing, for he also is a student of the [Torah of the] L-rd.

Thus, each Jew must constantly desire to proceed from strength to strength, making constant advances in the service of G-d. (There is an alternate version of the text in Berachos which substitutes the word tzaddikim for the words Torah sages. According to that version, the above concept surely applies, for as Pirkei Avos states: Your nation are all tzaddikim.

The concept of proceeding from strength to strength also applies regarding service which transcends the limits of reason. It is explained that the words, vchol modechah, with all your might, in the Shema, can also be interpreted to mean in all situations. A person rises above his own self. Therefore, regardless of whether he is granted positive or seemingly negative circumstances, he continues to love G-d with an unbound commitment.

However, here too, a problem is implied: A person recites the Shema in the morning and reaches this level of unbounded love. In the evening, he recites Shema a second time. Why? Is this merely a repetition?

Chassidic thought explains that, on the contrary, he can continue to proceed in this service as well. The commitment which previously was above his grasp and reach can become internalized and the concept of beyond the reach of intellect can tsko an a now and broader definition.

The above concept can be explained within the context of the service of Ahavas Yisrael. On the most simple level, we can comprehend the command Love your fellowman as yourself, according to the explanation offered by the Talmud Yerushalmi: Each Jew is not an individual entity, but rather part of a much larger whole. Therefore, loving ones fellow Jew can be compared to the right hand helping the left.

An understanding of this concept will motivate a person to sacrifice himself for his fellow Jew out of the realization that, in fact, the latters benefit is important to him as well. They are like limbs of the same body. On the surface, this commitment appears to be unlimited.

Nevertheless, even such devotion to ones fellowman will be limited in nature. Our own self-love also has bounds. We see that a person will restrict himself in certain matters even if he knows that his own interests will suffer as a result. Similar limitations will also exist in our relationship with others.

However, when a person meditates on the G-dly source of all Jewish souls, he will realize that his love for his fellow Jew is not merely a matter which affects him personally. It is of consequence to G-d, Himself. Such an awareness will surely spur a truly unbounded commitment to his fellow .Jews welfare.

The following example also illustrates how there are levels with an unbounded commitment:

A person may sacrifice himself and all the pleasures of our world to devote himself entirely to Torah and mitzvos in order to attain a portion ; n tho world to come

On the one hand, this may appear as an unbounded commitment. On the other hand, it is really nothing more than a good bargain. Anyone can understand that it is worthwhile to give up this world for the world to come. What is true self-sacrifice? Giving up everything, even the world to come. for the sake of serving G-d.

Thus, we see that even when speaking of an unbounded commitment, there is a possibility to proceed from strength to strength. After a person reaches mesirus nefesh, he must internalize that level of commitment, transcending the limits of intellect.

This concept can be applied to the service of becoming drunk, i.e. of rising beyond the restrictions of intellect, on Purim. Though a person goes beyond his limits to the point where he does not know..., afterwards, he can still proceed to a deeper level.

There are people who become drunk after drinking a small cup of wine. Others need a larger quantity. Similarly, there are people who rise above themselves after a short amount of meditation. Others require longer concentration. Within one individual, there can also be two levels. Even though he has reached a joy which transcends intellect, he can come to a higher level.

This is the intent of holding the Purim farbrengen at this hour: Surely, everyone carried out the mitzvah of the Purim feast in a full measure, reaching the level of not knowing. Nevertheless, at this gathering, everyone is given the potential to reach an even higher level.

The concept also applies in the realm of tzedakah: There are those for whom giving eighteen dollars is true self-sacrifice. In contrast, there are others for whom giving eighteen thousand dollars does not come close to that service. (See Kesubos 66b in regard to Nakdimon ben Gurion.)

The same applies in regard to spiritual tzedakah, helping other Jews. A person may be in the position to help others advance in Yiddishkeit. However, he may feel that doing so will compromise his honor and position.

He must realize that he is obligated to help that individual and to do so immediately. (See Yoreh Deah 247:1 for a description of the consequences of delaying charity.) He must be willing to do so with self-sacrifice without thinking of himself.

(He need not fear that doing so will diminish his honor. On the contrary, his reputation will be enhanced.)

To return to the concept of Purim, each of us has the opportunity of reaching a higher level of unbounded joy. This, it turn, will hasten the true day, the rejoicing that will accompany the Messianic redemption. May it come speedily in our days.

3. There is an additional aspect of the Purim festival which requires mention. The Megillah states: These days of Purim will never pass from among the Jews and their memory will never cease from their descendants. Based on this verse, our sages commented that even in the Messianic era when the performance of all the 613 mitzvos will be nullified. the observance of Purim will remain.

That statement requires explanation: How can the observance of mitzvos be nullified? The Rambam writes that all the 613 mitzvos will remain for eternity. This applies not only to their study, but also to their actual performance.

The Alter Rebbe resolves this difficulty explaining that, in this instance, the word nullified means lose importance. As a candle is not noticed in bright sunlight, similarly, the brilliance of the Messianic redemption will obscure all other light.

The festivals will be celebrated in the Messianic age, but they will not be regarded as unique. At present, they are days of rejoicing. In the Messianic age, the everyday happiness will be so great that this added joy will not be considered significant.

Thus, we can see the power of the Purim celebrations. Even in the overwhelming joy of the Messianic age, the rejoicing of Purim will be important.

Why is the joy of Purim so great that even when the joy of the other festivals will be nullified, the joy of Purim will remain? The answer lies in the verse quoted above. The emphasis on the remembrance of Purim was placed on their descendants, the Jewish children.

The obligation to fulfill the 613 mitzvos, including the festivals, is incumbent only on adults. In contrast, the mitzvos of Purim must be fulfilled by young children as well.

The above is intrinsically connected to the Purim story itself. Hamans downfall began when he met three children coming from their Torah studies. He asked them to quote the verses they were learning and each one recited a promise of salvation. When Mordechai heard these verses, he was overjoyed.

Why are you so happy? Haman asked him.

I just received assurance that your decree will not succeed, he answered. Mordechai saw that it was the Torah study of the Jewish children which would ultimately annul Hamans decree.

The Baal Shem Tov explained that our sages prohibition against reading the Megillah, lmafreiah, backwards, can be interpreted to mean: Dont read the Megillah as a story which happened then. Relive it as if it is happening now.

In that context, the Purim holiday should impress us with the need to devote our energies to chinuch, the education of Jewish children. In this way, we will perpetuate the observance of Purim and the totality of our Jewish heritage and nurture the power necessary to defeat our peoples enemies.

4. The Rebbe, Shlita spoke about the importance of the efforts to correct the Law of Return to require halachic conversions. He emphasized that though this decree has lasted for over 15 years, the efforts to correct the situation should not be slackened. It is over 15 years that they are destroying the Jewish nation.

Each individual should use whatever influence he has to help correct the situation. If he knows a rabbi, community leader, or government official, he should try to impress him with the need to change the law.

5. The Rebbe stressed the importance of spreading the campaign to study the Rambams Mishneh Torah and, in particular, the conduction of Siyumim at the conclusion of the yearly cycle of study and celebrations in connection with the Rambams birthday.

He emphasized that even the gentile countries in which the Rambam lived: Spain, Morocco, and Egypt have organized celebrations in connection with the Rambams birthday for this year marks the 850th anniversary of the Rambams birth. If gentile nations have decided to honor the Rambam, the Jews should surely do so; the greatest possible honor being the serious study of his great work.

  Taanis Esther
13th Day of Adar, 5745
Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa
16th Day of Adar, 5745
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