For me, this is the seventh day since my Providentially-guided feet first trod American soil – in order to make America (with G‑d’s help) a haven for Torah that is studied with the awe of Heaven, in the spirit of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in the village of Lubavitch. Today is also the seventh day since it was resolved to found that same Yeshivah in America, and the seventh day since it was in fact founded.

The Sages teach1 that “all sevenths are cherished.” Shabbos, which is the seventh day and the most cherished day, is “the seventh” at two diverse levels. On the one hand, Shabbos is sanctified automatically.2 On the other hand, in certain situations a person “counts six days and then observes Shabbos.”3 The two cases are very different. The automatically sanctified Shabbos is G‑d’s gift to us, the Jewish people. In the words of the Sages,4 “A precious gift I have in my treasure house; its name is Shabbos.” The other kind of Shabbos, which is observed after someone counts six days, is a mortal’s Shabbos. Nevertheless, the principle that “all sevenths are cherished” also applies to that Shabbos, just as it does to the Shabbos that is sanctified automatically.

Accordingly, at this time, after six days’ work in establishing the Yeshivah, I am savoring the cherished quality of this seventh day. Praised be G‑d for what has been accomplished in these first six days. In an auspicious hour, the cornerstones of what will hopefully be the grand and successful building of Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch Yeshivah in America have been laid.

I am not only satisfied but gratified with the students who have enrolled in it, because mere quantity has no place in G‑d’s Torah and in the Jewish faith. Thus, echad hayah Avraham – “Avraham was one man.”5 Our father Avraham, the first Jew, was one man alone – but he was an echad-Jew. His thoughts constantly focused on HaShem echad – “G‑d is one,”6 and everywhere he spoke about HaShem echad – “G‑d is one.” This is what echad hayah Avraham really means – that his entire essence was the concept of echad.7 And from that sole, echad-focused individual there issued a multitude made up of numerous individual Jews, each of whom possesses Avraham Avinu’s treasury of [belief in G‑d, Who is] echad – one.

[It is written,8 “Your beginning will be small, but in the end you will be very great.”] On this verse the Baal Shem Tov comments: Small beginnings are a precondition for the end to be great. The Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch Yeshivah in America has opened as a small beginning – without noise and fanfare, in a very little shul, and with only several students. I am utterly certain, nevertheless, that in a relatively short time – in the merit of my holy forebears and with their blessing, together with the prayers of our holy nasi, my revered father – the end result of the Yeshivah will indeed be great. Not only will its students raise aloft the banner of Torah scholarship and of Torah students in America and Canada, but beyond that, this Yeshivah will set the tone for the previously existing G‑d-fearing Yeshivos.

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A person’s intention (thekavanah) in his avodah, and the ultimate outcome (the tachlis)9 of his avodah, are distinct and separate. This subject is thoroughly explained in one of the maamarim that were written in the course of [my] eighty-one painful days in the gehinnom called Warsaw. Its theme is that the focus of a person’s avodah should be his intention while doing it; the result of that focus is the help given from Above for the avodah that he invests in fine-tuning that intention.

In Tractate Berachos,10 Rava teaches: “The ultimate intent of Torah study11 is teshuvah and good deeds.” When a person is studying, the noble intention motivating his avodah should be that the wisdom of the Torah should impact him. He is then helped from Above to attain the desired result, which is teshuvah and good deeds. Hence it is this avodah, which focuses on his intent, that enables him to reach the lofty level of fulfilling that ultimate purpose.12

[Now, that person’s intent is a mortal echo of its spiritual source, which is G‑d’s intent13 in giving the mitzvos.] In both cases, the intent is both all-embracing and specific. Thus, as the Alter Rebbe writes concerning G‑d’s intent in giving the mitzvos, from one aspect the Will and the power of the Commander are equally present in all mitzvos, while from another aspect each mitzvah has a specific intent, according to its individual character. Parallel to this, G‑d’s intent in creating man and sending a soul down into a body is likewise both all-embracing and specific. His all-embracing intent is that the soul should light up the world with the light of the Torah; His specific intent is that every individual soul should carry out its unique life-task.

[Echoing this dual Divine intent,] every individual soul has its own particular mission14 that it is obligated to carry out in This World. At the same time, all of that person’s activities in Torah and mitzvos illuminate him by means of the particular mitzvah or task for which G‑d dispatched his soul to This World.

In one of the maamarim that the Alter Rebbe delivered to the students of Cheder Alef15 in the year 5536 (1776) – in those days his maamarim were short – he said: “Every soul has a shlichus to fulfill down here in This World. That is the comprehensive purpose for which the soul descended into the body. Moreover, every soul has a particular mitzvah and a particular middah, a particular character trait, which it is obligated16 to correct and perfect.17 This obligation explains how Rav Yosef could have asked Rav Yosef the son of Rabbah,18 ‘In which mitzvah was your father most vigilant?’ After all, as we are taught,19 ‘Do not sit and weigh [the relative standing of] the Torah’s mitzvos!’ The answer is that [since zahir, the word for ‘vigilant,’ also means ‘luminous’], Rav Yosef was also asking, ‘Which mitzvah illuminated him most?’ – for that mitzvah would be Rabbah’s particular mitzvah.”

Every individual’s intention, his particular kavanah, is his personal “gateway to G‑d.”20 In the words of the Zohar,21 “This is the gateway for ascent.” Now, a gateway serves both for entry and for exit. Thus, each individual’s kavanah is the gateway through which all the mitzvos that he observes, all the Torah that he studies, and all the positive character traits and ahavas Yisrael that he expresses, – all ascend to G‑d via that gateway. And the downward flow of Heaven’s blessings, both spiritual and material, is drawn down to him through that same gateway of his personal kavanah.

An elder chassid by the name of R. Abba Persohn22 once relayed something that he had heard from his father-in-law’s father, R. Ze’ev Velvel Vilenker, which he in turn had heard from his revered brother, R. Moshe Vilenker, as follows:

“Around the end of the year 5537 or the beginning of the year 5538,23 when the Alter Rebbe founded Cheder Beis, he would sometimes enter the beis midrash in which the young married and single students studied. From time to time he would share with us an inspirational teaching24 – and one of those teachings of his would open a doorway from chayah-yechidah25 to naran.26 The impact of that teaching was not transient: it was engraved forever.

“Thus it was that one day he walked into our beis midrash, took a seat on a bench at the side, and was soon in a state of rapture, dveikus.27 After some time he opened his holy eyes and said:

Shema Yisrael – Fellow Jews, hear and perceive! [The Sages teach that] the word Bereishis [which comprises the letter beis (“two”) and reishis (“the first”) implies that G‑d created the world] for the sake of two purposes – for the sake of the Torah, which is referred to in a verse as reishis,28 and for the sake of the people of Israel, who are also referred to in a verse as reishis.29

[The Alter Rebbe now added a Kabbalistic insight to the continuation of that verse:] bara Elokim30 (“G‑d created”) implies that He created [the world] in order to place the First Tzimtzum31 on a firm footing – to reveal the ultimate purpose underlying the self-concealment signified by the Name Elokim. And that purpose is, that as a result of mortal avodah, the infinite Ein-Sof light that preceded the Tzimtzum should be drawn down to This World.32

“That teaching infused the students present with a deep-seated vigor – both in their studies, which is the purpose for which all souls come down here, and in each individual’s personal tasks in avodah.”

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I have no delusions about the hard work of founding a Lubavitcher Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in America. In Poland, and even in Lithuania, a Torah scholar and a yeshivah student were recognizable as such even by their outward appearance. They were not embarrassed, and didn’t hide their distinctively Jewish face. In America and Canada, by contrast, where Torah scholars and yeshivah students do whatever they can to make their outward appearance match everyone else’s, where some rabbis hide their Jewish face and some yeshivah students are embarrassed by their Jewish face, wearing tzitzis and peyos and a beard is a veritable test. This makes it extremely difficult to found here a Lubavitcher Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah. Nevertheless, I am certain that the truth will prevail.

My holy forebears of sainted memory – my father, my grandfathers, my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek, the Mitteler Rebbe and the Alter Rebbe – did not travel to America. It fell to my lot to come to America, in order to found this Yeshivah here, but with me those holy forefathers have arrived, including its nasi, my revered father. It is they who will conduct the sacred work. It is they who will prosper the path of its students, teachers, mashpi’im and administrators, securing for them outstanding success, both spiritually and materially.

Dear children! You ought to be happy that you have been privileged to have the great merit of being students of this holy Yeshivah. May G‑d grant His blessing to you, and likewise to your future fellow students, that all of you will embody the fulfillment of the wish expressed by our holy nasi, my revered father – that “whoever sees them will recognize them as the seed blessed by G‑d.”33