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Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, Yud Gimmel Nissan, 5739 (1979)

Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, Yud Gimmel Nissan, 5739 (1979)

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1. In Tanya, Iggeres Hakodesh Chapter 28, the Alter Rebbe writes, “all the effort of man, for which his soul toiled during his lifetime becomes revealed...on the day of his passing.” This revelation is not limited to that one time alone, but reoccurs yearly on his Yahrzeit. Regarding the verse in the Megillah, “these days are remembered and carried out” we are told that “if they are remembered properly, relived with all their intensity, the same spiritual energies that were revealed the first time will be revealed again.” This is particularly so, when the remembrance is carried out in a holy place (both a house of study and a house of prayer), by many hundreds of Jews and in the month of Nissan1 (the month of redemption — a combination of higher levels in the realms of place, soul and time.

In the same letter, the Alter Rebbe writes that a Tzaddik’s death “effects salvation in the midst of the earth to atone for the sin of the generation.” He compares the death of a Tzaddik to the sacrifice of the Porah Adumah (Red Heifer).2 The Porah Adumah has the power to purify even the impurity connected with death, the lowest level of impurity.3 Likewise, the death of a Tzaddik arouses powerful spiritual powers that atone for the sin of the generation. For this reason, a Tzaddik’s passing is called “Histalkus.” In the Zohar, this term is often used to refer to unbounded revelations that are too powerful to be contained within the limits of the world.

This kind of revelation is associated with the upcoming holiday of Pesach. “Pesach” means “jump” — it refers to a transmission of Divine energy that transcends (jumps beyond) the boundaries of this world.4

Sometimes a Jew’s service is accomplished through regret, as expressed in the “Viduy” (confession of sins) in Tachanun. At other times — particularly in Nissan when no Tachanun is said for the entire month — a Jew can cause a spiritual turnabout without the recital of Tachanun. Since he is aided by the sacrifice of the Porah Adumah which was brought on the second of Nissan. Afterwards, on the 13th day of Nissan the Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, the above mentioned revelations come about, and “effect salvations in the midst of the earth.”

In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe writes that a Tzaddik transmits his spiritual powers to those who follow his ways. They are given the power to continue and fulfill his work — the transformation of evil to good — , by uncovering the G‑dly sparks held captive in the evil.

May we merit to carry out this service, and through it, hasten the coming of Moshiach, who will redeem the Jewish people and rebuild the Sanctuary. Then we will partake of the sacrifices.

* * *

2. The Tzemach Tzedek’s main aim in his service was to relate to and totally involve the entire Jewish people. Evidence of this can be seen in his ability to achieve unity between Chassidim and Misnagdim.5

He put a special stress on Chinuch, and stood up against the Russian government and fought their desire to change government policy. His dedication to this cause was so great that he continued to be active even when his efforts presented a tremendous risk. In all the meetings in Petersburg concerning educational policy, the Tzemach Tzedek took a role of leadership. Even though others possessed positions of greater influence, his Mesirus Nefesh (self-sacrifice) brought him the principal status among the Torah leaders.

A further sign of his efforts to relate to all Jews can be seen in his work to maintain contact with the “Cantonists” (those Jews taken into the Russian army at a young age for the purpose of separating them from their Jewish roots). The Tzemach Tzedek sent personal representatives to visit the Cantonists. He tried to redeem them if possible. Once he arranged to address them publicly.6 At that time, he delivered a Ma’amar entitled “Shema Yisroel”7 in which he explained the deepest levels of connection to G‑d, to individuals who were on the lowest rung of Jewish observance.8 Again, the Tzemach Tzedek’s Mesirus Nefesh brought him success to the point that the Russian government recognized and assisted him in his activities.

What can we learn from this example? We are living in a time when there is no opposition to the spreading of Torah. If we really want to apply our energies, we will be successful and reach every Jew. Even within the darkness of Golus, all Israel will have light9 in their dwellings. And then we will greet Moshiach, speedily in our days.

3. Yud-Gimmel Nissan is one of the four days of preparation before bringing the Pascal sacrifice. This factor is still relevant. Even after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh, each of its services has a parallel in our present worship of G‑d. When the Bais Hamikdosh was standing these days were used to prepare for the offering of the Pascal sacrifice. Today, we should use them to prepare for our own Pesach — our jumping out of Egypt, leaping over all our boundaries and limitations.

Furthermore, the service of preparation possesses an advantage over the service of Pesach itself. In the process of preparation the impact of man’s effort can be seen. Man’s most powerful energies are expressed by his power of free choice. This power is brought out to a greater degree by the preparation before the Pascal sacrifice, then by the sacrifice itself. The sacrifice is a Mitzvah. Since each Jew possesses a natural desire to carry out G‑d’s will, we are all drawn towards its fulfillment. However, no such influence is present during the preparation for the sacrifice. We have to rely on our own energies and our own choice to carry out this service.10

* * *

4. The Sefer HaChinuch calls belief in the Exodus “the great cornerstone and strong pillar of our Torah and our faith.” Many Mitzvos are instituted to recall these miracles. Shabbos11 serves as an example. In the Kiddush, we explain that it was instituted “as a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.”

This same concept is brought out by the 78th Psalm.12 The Psalm begins “Give ear to Torah — (See) how G‑d established a witness (Mitzvos) is Ya’akov and appointed Torah in Israel.” Immediately thereafter it recalls “the wonders G‑d performed,” how “before your ancestors He worked miracles in the land in the land of Egypt.” The Psalm continues to elaborate on the Exodus at great length, showing its importance in Torah life.

The Exodus is so powerful an influence that even the Messianic redemption is dependent on it. What brings about this dependence? The Alter Rebbe writes that the Messianic redemption is dependent on our service now in the time of Golus. That service, in turn, is dependent on the recollection of the Exodus. Then we saw open miracles, a clear sign of G‑d’s control of the world. That revelation gives us the strength to believe even now, when we see no revealed signs of G‑d’s control, that he has given us the power to fulfill Mitzvos and bring about the final and complete redemption.

That redemption is also alluded to in the above Psalm. It concludes “(He) chose Dovid (progenitor of the Moshiach) my servant and took him from the sheepfolds13 and brought him to be a shepherd of Ya’akov, My people.”

5. The recitation of Tehillim (Psalms) is a great Mitzvah that all Jews, both men and women are able to fulfill. (In fact, in previous generations the recitation of Tehillim by women was greatly stressed. In one of his letters, the Tzemach Tzedek tells his wife how he was saved from prison by virtue of her Tehillim.) The Previous Rebbe greatly stressed the value of the recitation of Tehillim by simple Jews.

There are some who don’t appreciate the value of saying Tehillim. They think that complex Torah study is the only way to serve G‑d.14 We must show them the importance of Tehillim and in general popularize the concept of saying Tehillim. We must reach out to those who cannot appreciate the depth of Torah and show them how to express their feelings through Tehillim. Then, through reciting Tehillim they will reach a level of full Torah observance.

In fact, both elements are present in Tehillim itself. On one hand, Tehillim are hymns of praise to G‑d. On the other hand, it is one of the twenty-four books of the Written Torah.

The Talmud relates how Dovid HaMelech hung his harp over his bed so that at midnight when the north wind blew it would awaken him. It continues and connects the same concept with the Exodus from Egypt and Moshe’s promise “Then spoke G‑d, ‘at midnight I will go out in Egypt’.” Midnight represents the fusion of two halves of night. Likewise, it served to fuse two opposite movements — death for the Egyptians, and salvation for the Jews. Afterwards, the Jews left Egypt with haste. Similarly now in the last days of Golus our work must possess the quality of haste, as the Rebbe Rashab explained “Now our service is grab and eat, grab and drink, not a pattern of slow, step by step growth.” This service will lead us to the Geulah when, just as they were redeemed in Nissan, so will we be redeemed in Nissan, and Dovid My servant will be king over them forever.

6. Chinuch (Education) must be a daily process. The Baal Shem Tov taught that from everything we see and hear we can take a lesson in the service of G‑d. We have the choice to ignore these lessons, but if we train our eyes, we will be able to see G‑dliness in everything.

Although education is stressed throughout the entire year, a unique emphasis is placed on education during Pesach. Pesach is considered the birth of the Jewish nation.15 Just as a child’s education begins directly after birth, the education of the Jewish people as a whole, begins on Pesach. To bring out the point more powerfully, many of the customs of the Seder night are connected with education.

In Torah, we see that a day is often set aside to emphasize a certain quality: Pesach — Freedom, Shavuos — Torah, Sukkos — Joy, etc.16 Even though these qualities are important throughout the year, one particular day is totally dedicated to their expression. Just now, the delegation has returned from Washington where a day of education was declared.

May this day bring the Gentiles to a more complete performance of the Seven Mitzvos and the Jewish people to a greater connection with Torah. May the prophet’s promise — “and kings will become your servants” — be fulfilled, and with their aid complete our mission of refinement of the world and bring about the Messianic redemption.

Footnotes
1.
Nissan is related to the word “Nais,” usually translated as miracle. However, Nais has another meaning, “lifted up.” Both miracles and the month of Nissan are “lifted up,” raised above the normal rules and limits of nature.
2.
The Porah Adumah was unique among the Bais Hamikdosh offerings. The other offerings were inside the Bais Hamikdosh’s courtyard, whereas the Porah Adumah was brought outside the courtyard. On the other hand, the Porah Adumah had a greater power of atonement. None of the other offerings could affect such low levels of impurity.
3.
This is a level so low that when Hashem taught Moshe about it, he (Moshe) turned white.
4.
The Midrash on Shir HaShirim derives a similar concept from the verse, “skipping over mountains, jumping over hills.” “Mountains” refers to the Patriarchs and “hills” refers to the Matriarchs. Now, after the Torah has been given, each Jew can attain spiritual heights that “skip and jump” over the levels of even those spiritual giants.
5.
The attempt here is not to qualify one of the Rebbeim as different from the others. On the contrary, we cannot differentiate between these spiritual giants. However, history shows that in the time of the Tzemach Tzedek unity came about among the Jewish people.
6.
The Russian government brought the soldiers together in fulfillment of the promise “and kings will become your servants.”
7.
The Ma’amar is printed as an addendum to the pamphlet “The Tzemach Tzedek and the Haskalah Movement.” It contains deep lessons that can contribute depth and intensity to our Torah study.
8.
The Talmud describes a level called “Tinuk sh’Nishba” — “a child captured by the Gentiles.” These soldiers were on an even lower level since they were grown up (trans. note: and matured under the Gentile’s influence).
9.
Our work in spreading Torah will increase our own light as well. Then G‑d will “enlighten both their eyes.” Even the teacher will gain a greater intensity of Divine light.
10.
This principle did not apply in Egypt, when the selection of the Pascal sacrifice was itself a Mitzvah. However, after the Exodus, the selection is considered merely a preparatory step for bringing the sacrifice.
11.
It is curious to note that Shabbos is considered a remembrance of the Exodus. On the surface, it is related to the creation of the world and not to the miracles of Egypt. In fact, throughout their enslavement, the Jews were never forced to work on Shabbos. Shabbos was such a powerful force that even Pharoah recognized its importance.
12.
Trans. note: The Baal Shem Tov initiated the custom of reciting the Psalm that corresponds to the years of our life. The Rebbe began reciting the 78th Psalm this Yud-Alef Nissan.
13.
Both Moshe and Dovid began their lives as shepherds. After they had shown their merciful natures, G‑d selected them to be the leaders of the Jewish people.
14.
The Talmud describes how Dovid made a special request from G‑d that the recitation of Tehillim be considered as valuable as the deepest Torah study.
15.
Note the lengthy comparison in Yechezkel Chapter 16, explained in length in Yud-Alef Nissan Sicha, Section 4 (p. 7).
16.
Sukkos is called the season of our (plural) joy — referring to the joy of G‑d, “G‑d will rejoice in His creations” and the joy of the Jewish people, “Israel will rejoice in its Creator.”
A free translation from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
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The life and times of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)
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