[12.]

Today is Simchas Torah. The Torah is rejoicing and everyone is rejoicing: all Jews are rejoicing with the Torah. There are people who throughout the year are not Torah-Jews. They have neither the ability nor the desire to study Torah; to be precise, they do not have the ability to study Torah because they have no desire to do so. Nevertheless, when Simchas Torah comes around, they are happy: it’s Simchas Torah!

The truth behind this is that in the heavenly worlds Simchas Torah is an auspicious and happy time;1 that is why on that day everyone is happy in this world below. Similarly, because in the heavenly worlds Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are auspicious and awesome days, in this world below they are called Days of Awe and everyone trembles with a fear of Heaven. This includes even those who throughout the year are so confused by the tumultuous pursuit of their affairs and pleasures and desires that shul and davenen are shunted aside.

However, when Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur arrive, they sober up from the confused morass into which the Evil Inclination has led them. They, too, are shaken up by a touch of awe. After all, it’s Rosh HaShanah; it’s erev Yom Kippur; it’s Yom Kippur! At this time they are reminded that they, too, are Jewish, just like all other Jews — because at this time the Luminary draws near to the spark,2 and this makes everyone wake up, just as at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead. At that time, when the Dew of the Torah is revealed, it will serve as the Dew of Resurrection.3 Similarly, to some degree, when the Luminary draws near to the spark, all those people wake up. Since what takes place in the heavenly worlds at that time is an expression of awe, people down here correspondingly experience awe. And since the auspicious time of Simchas Torah in the heavenly worlds is an expression of joy, there is a corresponding manifestation of joy in the world here below. On that day everybody, but everybody, is in jovial spirits: it’s Simchas Torah!

On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur a Jew can become a baal teshuvah, a penitent. When these days come, and even a Rosh-HaShanah-Jew or a Yom-Kippur-Jew, who throughout the entire year is surrounded on all sides by the gloom of utter evil, goes to shul, he can genuinely repent. (Genuine teshuvah means that instead of returning to one’s former foolishness4 one turns one’s back on past misdeeds, pleasures and desires, and henceforth becomes an observer of the Torah and its mitzvos.) On Simchas Torah, likewise, a Simchas-Torah-Jew can come to repent — in response to his joy, and to the closeness [which is being shown to him from above]. He can take a sip of mashke, warm up his Jewish insides, seize hold of the wooden etz chayim of a sefer Torah, and join in a rollicking dance that celebrates the Torah’s rejoicing on that day.

Torah joy is a cure for all ailments. Torah joy opens up a sinner’s heart and brain and enables him to regret his past wrongdoings and to undertake to become observant. Torah joy opens up the heart and brain of an observant Jew and enables him to come close to Elokus, to Divinity. And Torah joy helps a chassidisher Yid to cleave to His Maker exuberantly.

[13.]

A certain great Rebbe, whose soul is now in Gan Eden, was once given answers to questions which he posed at a yechidus with his Rebbe. (Because we are chassidim of the former Rebbe, through him his Rebbe is also our Rebbe and we are his chassidim.) In his answer, that Rebbe compared the dancing of Simchas Torah to the case of a father who tells his only son, “Dance before me, for through this you make me completely yours.”

When we dance, then, we become completely His. We are dancing in the atmosphere of Gan Eden. This is implied by the inner meaning of the very word Hakkafos, the exultant circuits around the table at which the sefer Torah is publicly read. This word is related to makkif, which signifies a transcendent level of Divine influence. As one circles the bimah one holds a sefer Torah, which comprises the [plain] letters of the Torah. These letters encapsulate the Atzmus, the very Essence, of the Infinite One, of the Higher Chochmah of the World of Atzilus, which remains forever unchanged: exactly as it is above, so it is also here below. And when we encircle the bimah in our Hakkafos, we are accompanied by these holy letters and by this essential light of the Atzmus of the Infinite One. This, then, is the atmosphere in which a Jew dances on Simchas Torah.

[14.]

In former generations young men were not admitted to hear maamarim being delivered by the Rebbe of their generation. They first had to be familiar at least with the Seder Hishtalshelus, at least to know all of its stations. This is what the Mitteler Rebbe’s Shaar HaYichud is all about — it explains the nature of hisbonenus and also the themes upon which one should meditate, and this entails knowing the chassidishe stations. Nowadays, when everyone is admitted, people ought to be grateful and should listen attentively.

Young men, even real insiders, were certainly not admitted to the farbrengens held among chassidim. Nowadays the doors are open for anyone who wishes to join in. The reason for the change is that we are now in the era which can hear the approaching footsteps of Mashiach.5 We are now living in the time for the fulfillment of the promise [which Mashiach gave in response to the question of the Baal Shem Tov,6 “Master, when are you coming?” He replied that he would come] “when your wellsprings will be disseminated far afield.”7 This is the era in which the teachings of Chassidus and the avodah which it inspires will (with G‑d’s help) clean up those elements of the world which are still “far afield.”

[15.]

The time has now arrived for all Torah scholars — regardless of partisan considerations, and including even those who used to be called misnagdishe Torah scholars and those who study in the various nonchassidic yeshivos — to study the teachings of Chassidus and to engage in avodah in the spirit in which Chassidus demands. Opposition to Chassidus no longer exists. The epithet misnaged must be made completely out of bounds; with us there is not and there should not be anything divisive.

There is and there should be diversity in nussach, in prayer rites. The various prayer rites are gates which correspond to the Tribes of Israel and to the variety of prostrations in the Beis HaMikdash. These in turn correspond to the thirteen gates in the future Beis HaMikdash8 (May it be rebuilt speedily and in our own days!). Hence the diversity in nussach — the nussach of the AriZal, and nussach Ashkenaz (hence the name Ashkenazim), and so on.

When it comes to Torah and mitzvos, however, there are no differences of nussach. All those who are committed to the study and observance of the Torah, regardless of the diversity of their prayer rites, should join together in the avodah of Torah and mitzvos which have become revealed through the teachings of Chassidus. The doors are open for those who study Torah and who observe its commandments; the doors are open for Jews at large, for those whose Jewish spark draws them to wherever Jews are to be found, to wherever Jews rejoice on Simchas Torah.

[16.]

Shemini Atzeres comes at the culmination of the preparatory plowing, such as fasting, that is undertaken during the month of Elul. Then come the days of Selichos, when less of the night is spent on sleeping and more is spent on studying. (When a fulltime scholar wants to embark on the study of a new tractate he draws up an account — as indeed he should, for it is, after all, Elul — as to how the past eleven months have been spent.)9 Next comes the stage of sowing, Rosh HaShanah, when every moment is so precious that little time is left for eating and sleeping. Next comes the stage at which the seed rots [before sprouting]: this is the fast of Yom Kippur, with its pleasure of not eating.

Let me recount a little episode that teaches the meaning of education. When I was seven-and-a-quarter years old, my father called for me on erev Yom Kippur and said: “Tonight you may not eat; tomorrow morning until twelve you should not eat; after twelve — as you like.” He then explained me the meaning of eating on Yom Kippur, and added: “But if you want to eat you must ask no one for food; just come to me. I’ve prepared water and food and syrup for you. If I’m in the middle of Shemoneh Esreh, wait a little. Don’t ask anyone for food but me.”

That year I fasted, and the next year it was already self- understood.

When in the course of the above story the Rebbe [Rayatz] mentioned the words “my father,” he interpolated the following remark:

“Regarding my father I do not say Nishmaso Eden (‘His soul is in [the Garden of] Eden’); firstly, because I am no writer of addresses.10 Besides, for me my father has not passed away.”

[17.]

Sukkos is the stage at which the winds — from the heavenly storehouse of winds — blow upon plants while they are still embedded in the ground. Shemini Atzeres is the stage at which farmers can tell by looking at the tiny stems what kind of harvest awaits them — not as to quantity, but as to the satiety it grants, for this may be present or otherwise, irrespective of quantity.

We know of the process of sprouting because it is discussed in the Zohar. Moreover, Chassidus explains what this signifies, both in relation to the [time-related] subjects of avodah throughout the year, and in relation to the [ongoing] avodah in the soul of man.

If someone were to ask me how people at large conduct themselves on Rosh HaShanah, I would not know the answer. I only know what took place in Lubavitch, in the “Higher Garden of Eden” and in the “Lower Garden of Eden.” I’m sure everyone remembers how we once explained that with the chassidim of the Alter Rebbe, the room in which people waited and prepared themselves before being admitted to meet him at yechidus was known as the “Lower Garden of Eden,” while his study was known as the “Higher Garden of Eden.” For them, the Rebbe and Chassidus was a fulfillment of the blessing of the Sages, “May you behold your future World11 in your present life!” This was their life and this was their Gan Eden in this world — and that is how things are with chassidim who have a true bond of hiskashrus with their Rebbe.

Shemini Atzeres is the time of abundant blessing. By dancing [with the Torah] on Simchas Torah one elicits and draws downward intrinsic and unexpressed Divine delight from its state of latency within the Infinite One. Joy makes a person clap his hands; extreme joy makes him dance. That is, it permeates him and envelops him all the way down to the soles of his feet.

[18.]

Yesterday at this hour I wasn’t sitting idly, and now we’ve been sitting here for a couple of hours. You probably find this hard to understand. So do I. After all, the need for order applies to sleeping, too. Well, there is a verse that applies in the life of every Torah scholar: חֶלְקִי ה' אָמְרָה נַפְשִׁי — “G‑d is my portion,12 says my soul.” There are times at which the soul speaks. It happens that one toils unsuccessfully to grasp a subject, and then when he is asleep and his soul ascends on high the explanation is revealed to him. To such a time does this verse apply.

At a loftier level than this, when a person is asleep and his soul ascends on high and replenishes itself with life,13 he is made aware of the innermost depths of the subjects that he has studied and the G‑dly concepts on which he has meditated during davenen and the like. This, however, is granted to him as a kind of reward.14

Have you ever been at a near-deserted railway station on a dark night? The stationmaster walks around and dispatches each carriage to its destination, one to this province, one to that. Now, since “the World Above resembles15 the world below,” when people are asleep at night and their souls ascend, angels are to be found all over the place, and the Angel Michael dispatches each soul to its appropriate palace. If someone meets a friend in the course of the day and suggests that they go out together to collect a few rubles for a needy acquaintance, and they carry out their plan, the angels at night bring those two souls together and send them off to the Palace of Tzedakah.

Likewise, if someone studied Torah in the course of the day, they send him off to the Palace of Torah. To this time, as was explained above, the verse applies: “G‑d is my portion, says my soul.” That is to say, a formerly obscure concept is now clarified for this person. An example in the Gemara involves an exposition by Rava16 on the verse, “Will you set your eyes17 upon it?” (This is explained in the maamar of Shemini Atzeres,18 5691 [1930].)

At any rate, as we were saying, yesterday I wasn’t sitting idly. So if we’re spending time sitting here today, then let’s conclude with brass tacks.

What are you counting on? On whom are you relying? Chassidim have to do their own work: everyone has to toil for himself. There has to be the “service of the heart” — the avodah of davenen. The preparation for this is three or four hours of concentrated study, and those who are involved in in-depth study know that in order to have three such hours you have to study at least five or six hours.

[19.]

The renowned tzaddik, Reb Nachum of Chernobyl,19 became fat from [his sheer delight in saying the response] Amen, yehei shmei rabbah.... This we see with our own eyes: when one observes a Jew studying Torah, the very sight does good for one’s physical heart and body. If I were to sit in the midst of a hundred Torah scholars, then if a person normally needs, say, a pound of bread a day, I would need no more than a quarter, and if a person normally needs half a pound, then for me an eighth would suffice.

I would like to be a simple Jew — but in the sense that our forebears, the Rebbeim, understood the term. Michl Tcherbiner, for example, was an unsophisticated yishuvnik who used to visit Lubavitch from his nearby village. Once, as he was standing at Selichos not far from where my father [the Rebbe Rashab] stood, tears gushed from his eyes as he prayed for Divine forgiveness. My father envied him. My father was a handsome man, yet his cheeks sagged from envy when he later remarked that he envied the way Michl out there in his lone cottage gets up at two o’clock in the morning to say Tehillim.

[20.]

My brother Jews, listen! One can still seize the opportunity and return to G‑d in teshuvah! The inscription in the Heavenly Book The inscription in the Heavenly Book: Cf. Tractate Rosh HaShanah 16b. is made on Rosh HaShanah; it is signed and sealed on Yom Kippur; the Records of Life are taken out on Hoshana Rabbah; but they are not removed from the Divine Palace until Shabbos Bereishis.

The Rebbe Rayatz now turned to address the great multitude that had meanwhile assembled:

Let it be known that if there are people present who (G‑d forbid) do not put on tefillin and do not observe the laws of family purity, let them not take part in my Hakkafos. Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden after the Sin — because the soil of Gan Eden and the air of Gan Eden cannot bear any sin. Our Sages teach that “When ten Jews sit together20 and engage in the study of Torah, the Divine Presence is to be found among them.” Likewise, where there is a group of chassidim whose souls are bound with [the Rebbeim,] the fathers of the world, they constitute the air of Gan Eden. People who do not observe taharas hamishpachah and who do not put on tefillin are not to participate in my Hakkafos — they cannot share my makkif — unless they undertake to observe these mitzvos from this day on.

It is written, קֵץ שָׂם לַחשֶׁךְ — “[G‑d] has set a limit to darkness!”21 Even darkness has a limit. You young men who are swept along with the storms of this world, as you run after worldly things you forget about practicing Yiddishkeit. You forget about tefillin, Shabbos, and taharas hamishpachah. Your minds are preoccupied in the anxious pursuit of a livelihood. Life’s tempests drive you off course; they blind your eyes. And that is how you allow a slice of your lives to pass by!

Stop a moment, young men, and think a while. You are going to be older one day. What will come of you? What will come of your children? You are without scholarship; you are ignorant of basic laws; you and your wives do not know what may be done and what may not be done. People’s heads are engrossed in their everyday lives. People are running after creature comforts, and forgetting about their souls.

Surely every man should look ahead and consider what will happen ultimately. Ultimately things will no doubt turn out well; so are we promised, כִּי לֹא יִדַח מִמֶּנּוּ נִדָּח — “For none of them shall be thrust away.”22 Ultimately everyone will return to G‑d in teshuvah. However, this can happen in either of two ways. Either G‑d grants a man an abundance of good things, or (Heaven forfend!) suffering. Even when a man is thankfully young, he should keep in mind that people reach their final resting place at a variety of ages. May G‑d grant all our people everywhere long days and years — but, after all, our days are “like a passing shadow.”23 People are obliged to put on tefillin and observe the laws of family purity. When people observe Yiddishkeit they have kosher and healthy children. If you enrol them in proper chadarim24 where they are taught kometz-alef — o, they will bring you endless joy. You yourselves too will enjoy long life, and you will know that after your lengthy days you will be survived by kosher Kaddeishim25 and kosher grandchildren.

Those who undertake to put on tefillin and observe the laws of family purity may remain here for Hakkafos, and together we will rejoice in the Torah’s joy. May G‑d grant all of us, together with the entire House of Israel, a healthy and successful year both materially and spiritually.

[21.]

The Rebbe Rayatz then stood up and said aloud:

“There is an extension of Moshe26 in every generation.” Moshe Rabbeinu loved his fellow Jews. He cherished not only a Jew’s nefesh, ruach and neshamah, which goes without saying, but his body as well.

The body of every Jew is precious to me, and for that reason I hereby announce again: If there are people here who do not observe the laws of family purity, or who do not put on tefillin, let them not be present at my Hakkafos, because it can put them in jeopardy, and one doesn’t play games with life-threatening situations.27

Those who switched off the electricity and turned it on again evidently follow the opinion of those who argue that this is permissible on Yom-Tov. This opinion is utterly mistaken: to do this is forbidden. What they intended by their action is of no interest. As to their real, deep intention in doing what they did, I am (with G‑d’s help) not afraid of it. Jews are under the jurisdiction of the Holy One, Blessed be He; they are not dependent on the whims of flesh and blood.

Even to those who think that they believe in nothing whatever (G‑d forbid!), I am obliged to say that they should be careful. One shouldn’t take life-threatening situations lightly. Better to take heed and to leave safe and sound. As to those who are staying here for the Hakkafos, no doubt they are now making a commitment to conduct themselves as they should.

Many of those present thereupon assured [the Rebbe] that they now undertook to do this. He then resumed his seat and [turning to his chassidim] said:

All these young men should now please be treated to a drop of mashke with a bite of refreshments. We are now brothers.

[22.]

The verses commanding the Kohanim to bless the people28 conclude with the Divine promise, וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֲכֵם — “And I shall bless them.” This is explained in two ways:29 (a) G‑d promises to fulfill the blessing which the Kohanim give the people [i.e., “And I shall bless them”]; (b) G‑d promises to bless the Kohanim [i.e., “And I shall bless them”].

I am the son of my father, the grandson of my grandfather, and the greatgrandson of my greatgrandfather. (In all cases a person’s posterity is an extension of his own essence, as was recently discussed [in the maamar of Rosh HaShanah];30 how much more is this true of holy seed.) In this capacity, I give my blessings to you all, and to all Jews all over the world, for a good and a sweet year.

Here, I am entering into a covenant with you. Everyone of you should participate in a public study session and should endeavor to set up public shiurim. Everyone should have a fixed time every day for study.

Let me tell you a little secret about what is called for this year. Everyone should memorize, letter perfect, the first twelve chapters of Tanya, preceded by the Compiler’s Foreword31 which begins, “To you, [worthy] men, do I call.” Then, when one is preparing to retire for the night, and when one rises in the morning, and wherever one goes about, one should review them in speech and in thought.

At this point Reb M[ordechai Cheifetz]32 the shochet walked in, and told the Rebbe Rayatz that he brought a message from the women who were waiting for Hakkafos. They had heard everything that had been said, including all the warnings, and they testified that they were permitted to be present during the Hakkafos. In response, the Rebbe Rayatz relayed his blessing:

May those who have sons and daughters bring them up, together with their husbands, to the Torah, to the wedding canopy, and to a life of good deeds. As to those who have not yet been blessed with children, may G‑d gladden their hearts and the hearts of their husbands with healthy, good children. The women should organize a society to strengthen the observance of the laws of family purity. And may G‑d bless His people Israel with every kind of material and spiritual good.