Yud Kislev 5707 (1946)1 [New York]

1. A house-of-holiness Jew

The ultimate purpose underlying the creation of this physical world is that the upper World of Atzilus, Atzilus HaElyon, should ascend into the quintessential Being of the Infinite One, into Atzmus Ein-Sof, which transcends any division into various levels. This ascent of the Worlds into Atzmus Ein-Sof is effected by means of the avodah carried out by the reflection of the soul,2 which is clothed in the body — through the study of the Torah, which discusses all the components of a man’s life, and through the varying ways in which the commandments are to be fulfilled at the different periods of a man’s life and at the different seasons of the year.

G‑d’s ultimate intention is that man’s life in this world be a proper preparation for eternal life, when the soul ascends by successive stages — and likewise elevates all the worlds — into Atzmus Ein-Sof, where it thereby gives rise to Divine gratification.

There is a verse that says, “And they shall make Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them.”3 Rashi paraphrases the opening words as follows: “They shall make for My Name’s sake a house of holiness.” This means that if G‑d is to “dwell among them,” one must first “make Me — i.e., for My Name’s sake — a house of holiness.”

A house-of-holiness Jew comprises three elements — his Holy of Holies, his holy component, and his mundane component. The innermost part [of the Mishkan, from which this tripartite division is borrowed] was the Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark and the Tablets; the holy part was the Heichal, which housed the table of gold and the Menorah and the inner altar; and there was the courtyard of the Mishkan, where the sacrificial altar and the basin stood. For the Mishkan (and later the Beis HaMikdash) was surrounded by a fence, the area within it being known as the courtyard of the Mishkan (or later, of the Beis HaMikdash).

When Betzalel and Oholiav had completed the Sanctuary and all its utensils, as detailed in the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu himself assembled the Mishkan,4 placed the Ark with the tablets and the jar of mann in the Holy of Holies, and hung the paroches in its place. Outside this curtain in the Mishkan, and later in the Beis HaMikdash, stood the Menorah, the table and the altar of gold; the copper altar stood in the courtyard.

The golden altar is known as the inner altar, and the copper altar is known as the outer altar. Both were surrounded by the hangings5 and the curtain of the [entrance to the] courtyard,6 or later, by the walls of the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash.

The function of a wall is to separate whatever is within its bounds to whatever is outside it. Thus, the area within the paroches was the Holy of Holies, and outside it was the holy part of the Sanctuary; outside the Heichal was the courtyard; and this in turn was surrounded by a fence that marked off the holy area within it from the mundane area beyond it.

Moshe Rabbeinu first of all constructed the Holy of Holies, where he placed — as mentioned above — the Ark with the tablets and the jar of manna, and hung the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the holy area. He then built the holy area, and placed there the table with the showbread, the Menorah and the golden altar. He hung the curtain, set up the copper altar, and then set up the pillars and the hangings of the courtyard, thus making it clear that the area within them belonged to the Sanctuary, while the area outside them remained mundane.

This was the scheme of the Mishkan that Moshe Rabbeinu erected, with all its dimensions and weights as explicitly set forth by G‑d’s command. It was G‑d’s command too that determined the order in which he erected it and in which he arranged the Ark, the table, the Menorah, the golden altar, the sacrificial altar, the basin and its pedestal.

2. Moshe Rabbeinu and David HaMelech

It will be noted that the Mishkan was built by Moshe Rabbeinu, whose soul-level — in terms of the supernal Sefiros — is Chochmah of the World of Atzilus. The Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, which is called Beis Olamim7 (“the Eternal House”), had to be built by David HaMelech, whose soul-level is the Sefirah of Malchus of the World of Atzilus. From this Sefirah, though not from the Sefirah of Chochmah, extraneous (i.e., impure) powers8 can conceivably derive spiritual nourishment. Accordingly, one of the spiritual tasks of David HaMelech was to battle against them and destroy them. He merely prepared the materials for the building of the Beis HaMikdash, by amassing quantities9 of copper, silver and gold, gems and cedar wood; the construction was permitted by G‑d only to his son, Shlomo.10

This Eternal House which Shlomo built in the wake of the preparations and the directive of his father David, was located in Jerusalem — for the Sanctuary in Jerusalem, here below, is poised to face the Beis HaMikdash which is located in the Jerusalem Above.11

In his Toras HaOlah, the celebrated scholar and Kabbalist known by his acronym as the Rama (R. Moshe, the son of the learned R. Yisrael Isserles of Cracow) gives a detailed exposition of all the particulars of the construction of the Beis HaMikdash below and of the Beis HaMikdash in the supernal worlds — in terms of this nether world, and in terms of man’s spiritual faculties and attributes.

Toras HaOlah was one of the works of haskalah and avodah that the highly intellectual early chassidim used to study.

3. The avodah of prayer

In the diary in which I noted the teachings that I was fortunate enough to hear from the mouth of my father, a detailed entry dated 5657 (1897) records a talk of his on the avodah of chassidim in prayer.

Chassidus, he explained at that time, is a subject for intellection and comprehension that the Alter Rebbe revealed and formulated mainly for the sake of the avodah of prayer. The Alter Rebbe taught his disciples — as too in his footsteps did the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek, who crystallized the Chabad approach to divine service — that chassidim, irrespective of their standing in the scholarly comprehension of Chassidus, ought to engage in avodah.

Without a doubt one should study Chassidus and become engrossed in comprehending it. But the core and root of everything is the avodah of prayer — prayers and Tehillim that spring from a warm and contrite heart and soar aloft, where they arouse Divine compassion and elicit material and spiritual salvation.

And if one is to be a servant of G‑d in accordance with the guidance — and the blessings — that our holy forebears, the Rebbeim, have given chassidim, one has to start off with actual, practical avodah. Let me therefore pass on to you very briefly what is recorded among my notes on this subject.

The dedication (or: inauguration) of the inner altar is distinct from the dedication of the outer altar, and the dedication itself may be either inward or outward, general or particular. Dedication of a general kind is epitomized in a Shulchan Aruch Jew, in an individual who observes all the requirements of the law; this is the avodah of the outer altar. The dedication of the inner altar is the dedication of chassidim.

To be sure, the avodah of the sacrifices (on the outer altar) and the avodah of the incense (on the inner altar) are both the avodah of chassidim. The difference between them is the difference between avodah in the mind and avodah in the heart, excitation in the mind or excitation in the heart.

Among chassidim, avodah in the heart has always occupied pride of place. Avodah in the mind is merely a preparation for it, for “the brain by nature rules the heart,”12 but it is the avodah of the heart that constitutes man’s main spiritual task. And this indeed has traditionally been the characteristic approach of chassidim: the participants in a chassidisher farbrengen would later feel its repercussions in their avodah of prayer, and in their endeavors in the refinement of character.

In the course of the deep-seated education that my father gave me in my very youngest years, he told me that the recounting of chassidic stories readies a person in a general way for positive character traits, and primes him to become an oved HaShem, a servant of G‑d.

My father distinguished at length between two kinds of hatavah, or readying — the preparation of the lamps [of the Menorah] and the preparation of the incense. The incense offering was not merely the burning of a bunch of spices on the [golden] altar. One had to know which were its eleven ingredients, what quantities were required of each, which of them had to be pounded, and which had to be ground. In preparing the lamps [for the Menorah], too, one had to know how to make a wick, and of what substance, and in what kind of a vessel to pour the olive oil. And if the preparation was appropriate, the result was worthy of being called light that illuminates.

Stories told about tzaddikim provide such preparation. Sacrifices require that one slaughter, or suppress,13 one’s own Evil Inclination.

4. What matters is one’s after-davenen

The kernel of one’s davenen is the after-davenen — the kind of man one looks like after one’s prayers, whether that man is a chassidisher Yid, a chassidisher layman, or a chassidisher storekeeper. And one’s after-davenen depends on one’s before-davenen. After one’s davenen there is a Shulchan Aruch Jew, who knows how to get up, how to sleep, and how to eat, [whereas] inward education teaches one how to live [one’s inner life].

5. Yud Kislev and Yud-Tes Kislev

Yud Kislev is when a chassid is born; Yud-Tes Kislev14 is the time of his circumcision.

The birth takes place between Yud and Yud-Tes Kislev; it begins on Yud Kislev. A chassidisher farbrengen is the birth of a chassid.

6. Toiling with oneself, toiling with another

I was unable to let the opportunity pass, and not tell the temimim this teaching that I heard from my father. Let it not remain in the realm of academic comprehension. What is needed instead is practical avodah, toiling with oneself and toiling with another — setting everything else aside, and laboring in actual avodah.

May G‑d grant that one derive joyful satisfaction from Jewry at large and from chassidim in particular — materially and spiritually, so that material growth will give rise to spiritual growth. When that happens, materiality will become a gateway to far-reaching revelations — in accordance with the wishes, past and present, of our forefathers, the Rebbeim.