The kinus hatorah takes place each year on the day following yom tov (May 18th this year). Many prominent rabbonim and roshei yeshivos prepare complicated pilpulim that they then deliver.

The rabbis bring to the shtender (podium) a pile of Talmudic volumes. They really need to know their subject well, for they can expect to receive – and will get – many questions on their “thesis” thrown out at them by the audience.

I have a longstanding chazoka of addressing this event. Quite a few years ago the Rebbe insisted that I (participate and) speak at this function. Rabbi Mentlik, the organizer, always makes sure that I speak for a few minutes.

I obviously am not trying to compete with the exceptionally high standards set by the other speakers. I usually begin my remarks with a word of Torah followed by excerpts I read from My Encounter with the Rebbe. The bochurim, in particular, eagerly look forward to my address.

The kinus commences at 3:30, so by the time I am usually asked to speak, it is about 6 o’clock, and the audience is quite ready for some lighthearted interlude between the heavy orations to which they have been listening. All I bring with me to the podium are a few notes and one of my diaries from which I read excerpts. The bochurim always listen to my address intently and with rapt attention. Many congratulate me and tell me how much they enjoy my talk.

The Rebbe’s latest campaign Neshek (women – and even young girls – lighting Shabbos candles) was by now in full swing (it was initiated by the Rebbe a half a year ago) so I used that as the “Torah” theme in my address.

In next week’s parsha, Behaaloscho, we read about the kindling of the menorah. Rashi explains that the three wicks on either side of the central shaft were turned to face the middle. This was, as Rashi explains it, in order that people should not say G‑d needs the light [of this menorah].

If the Almighty does not need this light, for whose benefit was it?

The benefit accruing from performing this mitzvah is to the direct advantage of those who perform it.

The lighting of Shabbos candles presents a tremendous spiritual benefit to the woman or girl who lights them. There is also a profound psychological effect on all who participate in this meritorious deed.

Mrs. Esther Sternberg is the chairperson of the Neshek campaign in New York. They issued a brochure that quotes the Zohar, “When a woman lights the Shabbos candles, this ensures long life to members of her family. She will also be blessed with children who will illuminate the world with Torah.”

The brochure also stresses the importance of lighting the candles before Shabbos has commenced. It is amazing how many people never realize that by lighting the candles during Shabbos, they are actually desecrating instead of honoring Shabbos.

Rabbi Binyomin Klein’s wife, Leah, told me a story resulting from the neshek campaign.

A woman worked for the post office and her shift included Friday evenings from 5:00 until midnight. She telephoned Rebbetzin Klein and explained that she wanted to light the candles (at home) but felt it was hypocritical to then leave for work. She was asking a shaila (halachic question): should she light the candles in time before sunset and then

go to work, or should she only light the candles after she came home from work?

Leah consulted with Rabbi Dvorkin, who replied that the answer was an emphatic “no” to both instances.

The woman was disappointed, but after thinking it over for a short while, she blurted out, “Yes, the rabbi is right.”

She has now switched her Friday night shift to Sunday.

Mrs. Sternberg has many stories to tell. It is unbelievable how quickly the momentum of this campaign has built up. A local rabbi asked for one hundred candlesticks. Within three weeks he had taken more than 400 additional sets.

A “Neshek kit” – candlestick, brochure and calendar – was sent to a young girl in the Midwest. Hundreds of families from that area are now “bentching licht” because of one little girl’s spontaneous act. Up until this moment, the committee has supplied 160,000 candlesticks throughout the USA!

With this we can understand Rashi’s assertion that the Almighty does not need the light. The women themselves who “bentch licht” – and their families – are the ones who reap the benefits. When a family is inspired to gather together for a Shabbos meal because of the Shabbos candles, this reward is even more poignantly demonstrated.

Now we know why the Rebbe is constantly urging us to concentrate our efforts in order that every young girl and woman adopt this splendid custom of lighting Shabbos candles, thus ensuring the continuation of our Jewish heritage forever.

After these prefatory words of Torah, for the next thirty minutes or so, I read excerpts from one of my diaries, which all present thoroughly enjoyed.