Contact Us

Yartzeit of Tzemach Tzedek, Yud Gimmel Nissan, 5742 (1982)

Yartzeit of Tzemach Tzedek, Yud Gimmel Nissan, 5742 (1982)

 Email

1. The thirteenth of Nissan is the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Tzemach Tzedek. The Alter Rebbe writes that on a yartzeit “all the toil of the person which his soul worked in during his lifetime ... is revealed and illuminates from above to below ... and effects salvations in the midst of the earth.” “Effects” indicates that the revelation of the “salvations” is felt even in the lowest level of deed. “In the midst of the earth” refers to the lowest level of the earth. “Effects salvations in the midst of the earth” thus means that a yartzeit the revelation of the wonders affects actual deed on the lowest of levels. As the Alter Rebbe continues to explain, that its purpose is “to atone for the sin of the generation, even for the sins which come from the basest levels of evil.”

Although this effect happens on the 13th of Nissan every year without any effort on our part — for since “these days are remembered and kept,” it is an auspicious day in its own right — nevertheless, we must make “vessels” to receive this revelation. Even the revelations of the future era need something similar to a “vessel” — which will be our complete self-nullification. Likewise, Mattan Torah, which was similar to the future revelations, needed the vessel of complete self-nullification.

But, all is not clear: The effects of Mattan Torah reached the entire world, as our Sages say, that an ox did not bellow and a bird did not chirp during Mattan Torah. Similarly, in the future revelations, “a wolf will live with a lamb.” But we cannot say animals made a “vessel” for these revelations. How then was there such a revelation even for the animals?

However, since the world was created “for the sake of Israel” — and therefore all things belong to Israel — when Jews become “vessels” for these revelations, it affects the entire world.

In greater clarification: That a wolf will dwell with a lamb means the animals must change their nature. This change is caused by the revelation of “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd.” This is seemingly impossible, for there is too vast a gulf between the revelation of G‑dliness, and animals, to say that the former will affect the latter. This gulf is vaster than that between the intellectual and the physical. It would be ridiculous to describe the profundity of a concept by saying that one cannot even touch it with one’s hand. Thought and touch are so different that they cannot even be compared — let alone to describe the profundity of a concept in terms of touch! Yet, the power of thought and the power of touch both belong to a person, and the same life-force is in both the head and the hands. The difference between the revelation of G‑dliness and animals is greater still, for although animals receive their life-force from G‑d, it cannot be compared to the life-force of people, and certainly Jews. Yet we say the revelation of G‑dliness will cause animals to change their nature!

We must therefore conclude that animals are affected by the revelation of G‑dliness only because they belong to Jews. Although a person’s belongings are not part of him — but merely belong to him, nevertheless, the Baal Shem Tov explains that anything which belongs to a Jew contains a spark of holiness which must be elevated by the spark of holiness within a Jew — the soul, the “part of G‑d Above.”

Since in the future, Jew’s ownership of the entire world will be revealed — for the world was created “for the sake of Israel” — it follows that everything, including the “wolf” and the “lamb,” will belong to Jews. Therefore, just as the future revelation of G‑dliness will affect Jews — for they are a proper “vessel” for it, so too it will affect animals — similar to belongings which contain a spark of holiness within every Jew.

To return to our point: Since we must make a “vessel to receive the highest revelations of the future, we certainly must make a “vessel” to receive the revelations of a yartzeit, which “effects salvations in the midst of the earth.”

The proper “vessel” for this is engaging in spreading Judaism and Chassidus even in the “midst of the earth.”

Conduct in the manner of “effects salvations in the midst of the earth” was emphasized by the Tzemach Tzedek, whose Yahrzeit it is. The Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe worked to have decrees against Jews annulled by sending representatives to the government, etc. The Tzemach Tzedek, however, travelled himself to Petersburg to annul such decrees — the idea of “effects salvations in the midst of the earth.” Although he too could have sent representatives, he nevertheless made the effort to go there himself.

Thus, when we must make a “vessel” to receive the revelations from the yartzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, the best vessel is service in the manner of “effects salvations in the midst of the earth.”

2. In practical terms: The previous Rebbe said that in our times there is a special mission to spread Judaism “in the midst of the earth” — to Jews on the lowest level, those who are Jews in name only. Although a Jew may reckon that when he goes to such Jews — to the “midst of the earth” — he may be influenced adversely, and therefore he calculates it is not worth the risk, nevertheless, the previous Rebbe, knowing this danger, still instructed to go there to bring all Jews to Judaism.

The previous Rebbe was a greater tactician than us, and certainly in regard to spiritual matters. Moreover, he could see the future, whereas we see only the present. In addition, a person may be blinded by personal motives — even spiritual ones. Thus, since the previous Rebbe said that today’s mission is to influence Jews who are in “the midst of the earth,” we must certainly fulfill that mission.

It follows, then, that the proper “vessel” to receive the revelations of the yartzeit (“effects salvations in the midst of the earth”) is the work of spreading Chassidus even in “the midst of the earth.” This is done with joy and a good heart. The previous Rebbe noted that when soldiers go to battle, they go with a “march of victory.” The “army of G‑d,” which goes in the mission of the previous Rebbe, must certainly go with a “march of victory.”

When we do so, we can be sure (if we follow instructions implicitly) that our mission will be successful. But we must know that success comes not from “my strength” but from G‑d.

3. The above applies to any yartzeit, in any month. It is emphasized more strongly when the yartzeit is in the month of Nissan. Nissan contains the letter “nun” twice, which stands for “Nisi Nisim,” “miracles of miracles” — the idea of “effects salvations in the midst of the earth.” Moreover, this year the 13th of Nissan follows Shabbos Hagodol, on which a great miracle happened. Further still, 13, in Hebrew numerology, is the word “echad,” “one,” which indicates the unique nature of the Tzemach Tzedek’s yartzeit.

The yartzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek on the 13th of Nissan, which “effects salvations in the midst of the earth,” is a proper preparation to the exodus from Egypt on Pesach.

Torah tells us that “In every generation and every day a person must view himself as if he went out today from Egypt.” To “go out” from Egypt means one was in Egypt — and then leaves. But how can this be so, when every day one recites Shema which relates the exodus from Egypt. How can he now be in Egypt — and therefore leave it?

However, when a Jew is ready to help another Jew who is in a spiritual “Egypt,” “in the midst of the earth” — to go down to “Egypt” to free his fellow Jew — it means he is in “Egypt.” Thus service in the manner of “effects salvations in the midst of the earth” is the proper preparation to the exodus from Egypt — for only when he goes to help another Jew in the “midst of the earth” is he in “Egypt” — and can then fully “go out” from Egypt.

A Jew will be ready to go down into “Egypt” to help his fellow when he considers deeply and strongly the urgent necessity of this type of service — and then does it such that he is truly there (in “Egypt”).

This is illustrated by a story concerning the Mezritcher Maggid. The Maggid used to learn together with a friend. After a while, his friend became a businessman. But being of a stature befitting a friend of the Maggid, his whole interest still lay in prayer, Torah, Mitzvos; and his wife took care of the business (as was customary in those days). When, however, it was necessary to travel to far-off places to purchase merchandise, the friend himself would go, for it was not seeming for a woman to do so. Thus this friend of the Maggid would at certain fixed times of the year travel to Leipzig to purchase merchandise. When he would return from his journey he would give the merchandise to his wife, and he would return to his Torah studies.

When the Maggid and his friend met some time after the friend had become a businessman, the friend noticed that the Maggid took a far lengthier time to pray than he did. He asked the Maggid: He, the friend, also prays according to the devotions of the Arizal, and he also thinks and meditates before prayer. Yet his prayer takes much less time then the Maggid’s. Why, he asked the Maggid, does your prayer take so much time, especially when the extra time could be utilized for Torah study?

The Maggid answered him with a parable concerning his friend’s travels to Leipzig to purchase merchandise. Traveling to Leipzig and back takes a large amount of time, during which the friend cannot learn properly. Why, asked the Maggid, is it necessary to waste so much time travelling? It would be better to remain at home and think that he is traveling — that now he has reached this train station, then the next, and so on until he thinks that he has reached Leipzig. Then he should think that he purchases the merchandise, and is traveling home. Obviously, thinking that one is traveling takes far less time then actually traveling. Why then, asked the Maggid of his friend, don’t you just think that you are traveling to Leipzig, and then you can study Torah in the time saved?

His friend told him such a suggestion was naive and unworldly. What good will all the thinking about traveling to Leipzig do, when he must actually have the merchandise (to sell, so that he can make a living)? Just thinking about it at home will not procure the merchandise — he must actually travel to Leipzig and get it.

Answered the Maggid: You are right. And now you can understand why it takes me such a long time to pray ...

So too in our case. To help a friend who is in “the midst of the earth,” it is not enough to think about the necessity of doing so, but one must actually go to the “midst of the earth.” Only then can he take out the Jew from there.

The above is emphasized in the section of the sacrifices brought by the princes of the tribes at the dedication of the Mishkan, recited on the 13th of Nissan. It talks of the sum total of the sacrifices brought by the princes in the previous twelve days.

The Alter Rebbe writes that there is a difference between the dedication before the princes actually brought their sacrifices and afterwards. Before they actually brought the sacrifices, it was only in potential. Afterwards, it was in practice — when it was a “pleasant odor to G‑d,” “a pleasure before Me that I commanded and My will was done.”

Another lesson from the section of the sacrifices brought by the princes is that a Jew must know that he is not alone, but is together with all the 12 princes — “all of you as one.” This is emphasized in the section following the princes’ sacrifices (also said on the 13th of Nissan), which talks of “When you kindle the Menorah.” The seven lamps of the Menorah correspond to the seven categories of Jews. The menorah had to be lit such that “the seven lamps shall shine toward the center of the menorah” — indicating unity of Jews.

Thus, a Jew must know that what is important is that the work be done, and he should not think that he, specifically, is the one who alone is doing everything. He must know and feel that he is a part of the Jewish people, united with them in serving G‑d.

When his service is in such a fashion, “the lamp of G‑d which is the soul of man” illuminates in him together with all the lamps of the menorah of all Jewry. Then, since each lamp is kosher, the whole menorah is kosher — and the whole world is illuminated.

4. We mentioned in a previous farbrengen (Yud Aleph Nissan) that the Congress of the U.S.A. passed a proclamation, approved by the President, enacting a Day of Reflection on Yud Aleph Nissan (11th of Nissan). This day is to be set aside to reflect on the purpose of creation — which is to fulfill the Seven Noachide Laws, consonant to the Ten Commandments.

The Rambam rules that every Jew is commanded to influence non-Jews to keep the Seven Noachide Laws. And, continues the Rambam, the Jew must explain to the non-Jew that the reason for this obligation is not because it is a logical, understandable thing necessary for a peaceful, orderly existence, but because so they have been commanded by G‑d.

The same thing has been enacted now by Congress, when they associated the need to reflect on the Seven Noachide Laws with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are definitely from G‑d, and one keeps them because he has been commanded so by G‑d. If we were talking of simply not stealing etc., a person might think he should not do these things because otherwise society could not exist. But the Ten Commandments are kept because they are from G‑d.

The difference between keeping the Seven Noachide Laws because they are from G‑d, or because logic dictates so, is seen from past experience. When they were kept only because of logic — it didn’t last very long. When they were kept because G‑d commanded them — they remained permanent.

So too in the proclamation just enacted by Congress. The enactment says that since there are the Ten Commandments, and there are the Seven Noachide Laws, a person must reflect on them. Therefore a special day has been designated for all Americans to do so.

The Jew who requested this proclamation only asked that a day of reflection be set aside, mentioning the Seven Noachide Laws. The non-Jew himself added the most important point — that it is based on the Ten Commandments from G‑d accepted by all.

There is a lesson in this for a person’s service to G‑d. If a non-Jew can publicly proclaim and publicize a ruling of the Rambam, a Jew must certainly constantly remember his connection with the Giving of the Torah! The proclamation reminds each Jew that all his deeds (even in business dealings, etc.) should be based on the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, it can sometimes happen that even when a person acts fairly in business, it is because of other reasons — a good reputation, fear of the law, etc. The proclamation reminds a Jew that he should be honest because G‑d has commanded him to be honest.

In addition to the efforts made to have this Proclamation issued, efforts should be invested in less superficial things — increasing in publicizing new Torah thoughts. This will hasten the coming of our righteous Moshiach, when he will teach all Jewry Torah, speedily in our times.

A free translation from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
The life and times of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)
About the Publisher
Sichos In English
Sichos in English has published hundreds of volumes of Chassidic books on Chassidism and its way of life. They can be reached by writing Sichos In English 788 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11213 or calling 718.778.5436.