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Wednesday, 18 Kislev 5778 / December 6, 2017

Jewish tradition, over 3,000 years old, informs us that G‑d not only created the universe but taught His creatures how to live in it. This Divine teaching is the Torah, G‑d’s “user’s manual” for the world.

The word Torah in Hebrew means “instruction.” In its broadest sense, it refers to either the totality or any part of G‑d’s teachings. Specifically, however, it refers to the teachings that G‑d communicated to humanity through Moses. These teachings took the form of a written document (the “Five Books of Moses”: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and its interpretation (the “Oral Torah”).1

After Moses’ death, the Jewish people’s successes and failures in fulfilling the teachings of the Torah in their land resulted in the expansion of the Written Torah to include books of the Prophets2 and the Writings.3 Nonetheless, the Five Books of Moses remain the primary repository of G‑d’s teachings. They are complete by themselves, containing all the legal and homiletical material necessary for humanity to live as G‑d intends. The Prophets and Writings form an essential complement to the Five Books, but add no new legal or philosophical content.4

Inasmuch as the Torah embodies G‑d’s instructions concerning how we are to live our lives, it is essential for everyone to be conversant in the Torah’s text and teachings. Moses instituted the practice of reading publicly from a Torah scroll on Sabbath and Festival mornings as well as on Monday and Thursday mornings.5 In order to complete the reading of the whole Torah in a year, the Torah is divided into 54 sections. Since the Jewish calendar comprises both regular and leap years, two sections are sometimes read on the same Sabbath. Moses further instituted that the Torah reading on the Sabbath be divided among seven people. For this purpose, each of the 54 sections were divided into seven sub-sections.

The teachings of the Chasidic movement, founded by Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov (1698–1760), revealed how the Torah describes the connection between G‑d and creation in general and each individual in particular. In this spirit, the founder of the Chabad branch of Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyadi (1745–1812) once told his followers to “live with the times,” by which he meant to live throughout the year with the section of the Torah that is studied at the time.6 Thus, the law and lore of the Torah is studied not only as legal and historical information, but also personally, as if we are experiencing the spiritual growth processes implicit in them. In this way, the Torah becomes our own personal story; the chronicle of our developing relationship with G‑d. Rabbi Shneur Zalman also instituted the practice of studying each day the corresponding sub-section of the weekly Torah section.7 In this context, Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s exhortation to “live with the times” came to mean not only living with the Torah-section of the week but with the sub-section of the day.

In addition to continuing to develop the teachings of his predecessors, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe,8 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, devoted considerable time to elucidating both the basic meaning of the Torah’s text and the Torah’s inner lessons. In his public discourses, his private audiences, and his voluminous correspondence, spread over the 44 years of his public leadership, the Rebbe demonstrated how the Torah’s teachings are eternally relevant and applicable to every aspect of life, even those that have come to existence only in modern times.

This book contains a concise insight from teachings of the Rebbe or his predecessors for each of the seven sub-sections of the 54 sections of the Torah – one for each day of the week, for the full year of Torah study. Of course, in order to know which insight to read for any given day, the reader will need know what section of the Torah is being studied that week. Any Jewish calendar, as well as numerous online resources, can provide this information.

Thus, the impact of the insights presented in this book will be felt to the greatest extent when the reader reads each insight on the day it is meant to be read, rather than by reading the book, say, cover to cover, or by browsing through it. Since the Rebbe emphasized certain key lessons repeatedly, seeing them alluded to over and over again in the Torah, these lessons are also highlighted numerous times throughout this book.

We have prefaced each weekly section with a short summary of the entire section, and each daily sub-section with a synopsis of the content of the Torah’s narrative leading up to the verse being expounded. For the chronology provided in these synopses, we have used the traditional Jewish reckoning of time, i.e., from the creation of the world, and the Jewish months. A table of these months and their approximate correspondence to Gregorian months is given in the appendix.

We have given the sources for each insight in published Chasidic texts. We should point out, however, that in many cases we have fleshed out the original sources with material culled from other sources in the Rebbe’s teachings.9 Also, we have presented the Rebbe’s or his predecessors’ teachings often in a somewhat “digested” form, i.e., the way the teachings have spoken to us and how we think they could speak to the reader. Whenever anyone attempts to convey another person’s thoughts in his own words, he runs the risk of inadvertently distorting them; we hope this has been minimal in our case.

Our goal of providing insights that would be accessible to the widest possible readership has precluded many of the Rebbe’s profound insights, simply because doing them justice would have required more space. We hope that the glimpse that this work provides will inspire the reader to seek further and deeper knowledge of the Rebbe’s empowering teachings.

We further hope that this work inspires its readers to live with the Torah’s ultimate message, as highlighted by the Rebbe: to actualize the Messianic imperative to make this world into G‑d’s ultimate home.

The Oral Torah was also eventually written down, and is preserved principally in the Talmud and Midrashim. The Talmud (“learning”) consists of the Mishnah (“repetition”), the basic compendium of Jewish law and lore, recorded by Rabbi Yehudah the Prince in the second century CE, and the Gemara (“completion”), which elucidates the Mishnah with the help of the extra-mishnaic material Rabbi Yehudah did not include in the Mishnah, and which includes many more teachings. The process of elucidating the Mishnah took place both in the academies of the Land of Israel and those of Babylonia, and thus there are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. A Midrash (“exegesis”) is a compilation of teachings derived by comparing and contrasting Scriptural passages. There are both legal and homiletic Midrashim. The Babylonian Talmud includes much midrashic material, while the midrashic teachings of the academies of the Land of Israel are recorded separately, in the Midrash Rabbah series.
Comprising the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Comprising the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
See Torah Or 60a–d. It is therefore taught that “had the Jewish people never sinned, there would have been no need for any books other than the Five Books of Moses and the Book of Joshua” (Nedarim 22b).
Soferim 10:1–2; Megilah 3:6; Bava Kama 82a; Megilah 31b; Y. Megilah 4:5; Mishneh Torah, Tefilah 12:1; Kesef Mishneh ad loc. The custom of reading the beginning of the following Sabbath morning’s reading on the Sabbath afternoon was instituted by Ezra (ibid.).
Sefer HaSichot 5702, pp. 29–30; HaYom Yom, 2 Cheshvan.
Sefer HaSichot 5702, p. 27; HaYom Yom, 19 Tevet.
Lubavitch is the name of the town in White Russia where the Chabad movement flourished. The various branches of the Chasidic movement are usually known by the name of the locale in which they developed.
In accordance with the Talmudic sages’ statement that “the teachings of the Torah are poor in their place but enriched in another place” (Yerushalmi Rosh HaShanah 3:5).
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (11 Nissan 1902–3 Tammuz 1994) became the seventh rebbe of the Chabad dynasty on 10 Shevat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century, a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah, and fluent in many languages and on scientific subjects. The Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet, having sent thousands of emissaries around the globe, dedicated to strengthening Judaism.

Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, author and anthologist, and is editor-in-chief at Chabad House Publications of California. He is the author and translator of Apples from the Orchard, gleanings from the writings of the Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1534–1572) on the Torah, and is the author and editor-in-chief of the Kehot Chumash produced by Chabad House Publications, featuring an interpolated translation of the Torah with commentary adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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Chassidim never say farewell, for they never depart from each other; wherever they are, they are one family
  –Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (Hayom Yom, 10 Adar II)