1. No Time to Talk. Today1 is not a time to talk, and certainly not to talk at length. This is a time to do. In this spirit, chassidim used to interpret the request, ויהיו נא אמרינו לרצון... – “May our words find favor before the Master of all things,”2 to mean, “May our avodah find favor before the Master of all things.” That is why today we have to speak in shorthand.

2. Recruiting the Body. The avodah needed today is – singing and dancing. Dancing means habituating the body, which normally derives pleasure from eating and drinking, to derive pleasure from doing a mitzvah. That is why we dance with the feet, because in that way the body soon becomes tired. The body doesn’t feel like dancing. It demands its rest; it’s been working all day. A man has worries; his spirits are low. He’d rather take a rest and lie down to sleep. However, he knows that he has to observe the regular sessions for Torah study3 that every individual has scheduled according to his situation. Without those shiurim he won’t allow himself to go to sleep. That would be out of the question. And not only are those sessions immovable. Beyond that, the body itself should demand them. One should elevate the body to the point that it demands them.

In the same way, a newly-drafted soldier finds the first few months really tough. With time, however, after he has been groomed to the role, you can tell, just by looking, that this man was once a soldier – even ten years later, when he is not in uniform and is a well-mannered gentleman. In the same way one should elevate his body to meet the requirements of the Torah, and habituate it to derive pleasure from doing a mitzvah.

3. He who Laughs Last. I know that some of you are laughing at me. “How is it possible,” you think, “that here in America people should be able to tell, just by looking, that someone they see in the street is a Yid, or a Torah scholar?”4 Even those who don’t laugh openly laugh in disbelief, deep in their heart. Nevertheless, my hope to G‑d is that soon enough people will be able to tell, just by looking, that someone they see in the street is a Torah scholar. And then they will laugh out of sheer joy.

4. A River of Fire. People sing and dance on Simchas Torah so that they will realize that they ought to be higher than they are. Even the nice, fine folk, even the very finest folk, must aspire higher…. Chassidus discusses the difference between tevilah in This World and tevilah in the World to Come. In This World, purification by immersion in a mikveh has various levels. Tevilah in the World to Come, by contrast, which means immersion in the River of Fire,5 purifies all comers.6

5. The Key to the Gates. On Simchas Torah the gates are open7 – the gates of light, the gates of blessing, the gates of success. All the gates are open, and access is attained by studying Torah.

In fact in today’s reading of Tanya,8 the Rebbe – the Alter Rebbe – entreats his chassidim to set times for the regular study of Torah.

6. A Marching Song. “The Kingdom of Heaven resembles a kingdom on earth.”9 When my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, visited a group of Jewish soldiers in Kronstadt, near Petersburg,10 one of them remarked that a battle is won not by tears but by a marching song.

On this, the Tzemach Tzedek later commented: “Now, that’s a soldier. A soldier knows only one thing and no more: his job is to obey the general. If the general gives marching orders, the soldier marches forward, even facing danger. That’s all he knows, and he marches not with tears but to the rhythm of a marching song.”

The general knows something beyond that. He, too, faces danger and he, too, goes ahead to the rhythm of the marching song – but in addition, he grasps the seriousness of the situation, and that would make him shed tears.

As for now, we have to sing. We have to forge ahead to the rhythm of a marching song.

[After those words, Anash and the temimim11 sang and danced for a long time.]

7. Angels, Men, Animals. Teachings quoted in the names of Talmudic Sages are sometimes introduced by the phrase [in the past tense], הוא היה אומר – “He used to say,” and sometimes by the verb [in the present tense], אומר – “says.” (For example: “R. Yishmael omer,” “R. Akiva omer,” and the same with another tanna, or an amora.) The Alter Rebbe in Tanya is one of the latter kind.12

In Tanya – Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 23, the Alter Rebbe uses the phrase, “as I heard from my masters.” (We once explained that when the Alter Rebbe says, “I heard from my mentor,”13 he is alluding to the Maggid of Mezritch, and when he says, “I heard from my masters,”14 he is alluding to the Baal Shem Tov and to the Maggid of Mezritch.) At any rate, the Alter Rebbe writes there: “As I heard from my masters, that if one angel were to stand in the presence of a gathering of ten Jews, even if there were no words of Torah between them, such a boundless and infinite terror and dread would then befall him [on account of the Shechinah that abides over them], that he would become utterly nullified.”

So, when such a large gathering of Jews (May no Evil Eye befall them!) danced like this, especially since at the time every one of them was charged with noble intentions, just try to imagine what envy the angels must be undergoing!

Nevertheless, we have to ask them to help us, as we see from the way the Sages relate to the thrice-repeated Kadosh (“Holy”) of the angels.15 The first exclamation of Kadosh relates to the teaching of the Sages that “the ministering angels do not sing their praises until Israel sings the praises.”16 In this context, “Israel” alludes to the soul-roots of Jews in their pristine state Above. The second exclamation of Kadosh is uttered by the angels, while the third Kadosh is the praise that is sung by the souls of Jews down here below, in the course of the blessings that precede the Reading of Shema in the morning prayers. And at that time they are helped by the angels, who tell every Jew’s animal soul, “You derive from us.17 Don’t be an animal!”

[At this point, the Rebbe urged those present to resume the singing and dancing.]

8. Through the Worlds. The downward flow of spiritual energy through the Sefiros takes place via the Sefirah of Yesod. Both in the Sefiros that are within the Seder Hishtalshelus, and in the eliciting (hamshachah) of spiritual energy from above the Seder Hishtalshelus, everything passes through the Sefirah of Yesod – in order that it should thereby come down into the Sefirah of Malchus and into the Sefiros that are below it, all the way down into this physical world.

As has been discussed at various farbrengens, the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid [of Mezritch] correspond to the two levels that comprise Kesser – the Baal Shem Tov represents the level called Atik [Yomin] and the Maggid represents the level called Arich [Anpin]. The Alter Rebbe represents Chochmah; the Mitteler RebbeBinah; and the Tzemach Tzedek – Daas. Thus far I heard18 when it was said publicly. Privately, I heard the continuation, through Netzach and Hod – and further, too.19

It’s time for a niggun.

9. A Living Kaddish. The first Jewish soldiers in Russia were the ones known as Cantonists – little boys who were kidnapped and brought up as soldiers. This system began after the passing of the Mitteler Rebbe,20 at the very beginning of the nesius of his successor, the Tzemach Tzedek.

The Tzemach Tzedek21 contacted the communal leaders who gave over these Jewish children to be brought up as soldiers. Some of them had been coerced to do so, but there were also swindlers and informers. The wicked Czar Nicholas I specified that these children should be deported to remote villages, so that they would be forced to forget their Jewish identity. The Tzemach Tzedek dispatched emissaries to those places to ransom them, by having them recorded in the military records as having died – which was not so difficult to arrange, because in the course of their long trek, many of them, unfortunately, had in fact starved to death. Those emissaries were nicknamed Chevrah Techiyas HaMeisim – “The Resurrection Society.” Old R. Nachman theMeshares was one of the Cantonists. He had been seized at the age of seven-and-a-half and had been ransomed in the manner described.

Today is Simchas Torah, when one is not allowed to cause pain to oneself and certainly not to another. On the other hand one cannot remain silent. Everyone knows, without any need to spell it out, what we mean by the expression, “Our breach is as huge as the sea.”22 As the Gemara says,23 “If someone saves one Jewish life it is as if he had saved an entire world,” and conversely, “If someone destroys….” So what is the case with ten Jews, a hundred Jews, a thousand Jews, or (How hard to say!) a million Jews, whether men, women or children? We are left without millions of fellow Jews, many of them observant, Jews from the townships….

How can we replenish that loss?

By everyone taking responsibility for one Kaddish.” This thought is what should motivate us when we tell a fellow Jew: “Undertake one ‘Kaddish!’ Millions of fellow Jews have been torn away from us. Enroll a child in a school that offers kosher education, a school that teaches Torah accompanied by the awe of Heaven!”

Doing so will have a dual effect: it will sanctify the Name of Heaven, and it will help replenish that which is missing. One must speak earnestly with any and every fellow Jew, man or woman, and ask them to undertake one “Kaddish.”

10. Cultivating Yosef’s Rich Heritage. In the davenen we request,24 “Implant understanding in our hearts so that we may comprehend and perceive….” From this we see that understanding alone does not suffice: one needs understanding that will enable us to comprehend and perceive – that will open our eyes to see the soul within everything.

Today’s reading of Chumash is the third parshah of VeZos HaBerachah.25 One ought to study the whole sidra, but especially from Tuesday’s reading onward. One also ought to study the first three parshiyos of Bereishis, but especially the third parshah.26

The third parshah of [VeZos Ha]Berachah begins:27 “And concerning Yosef, [Moshe Rabbeinu] said, ‘His land is blessed by G‑d….’ ” On these words Rashi comments: “In all the inherited lands of the tribes, no tract of land was so filled with all kinds of good things as the land granted to Yosef.” [These good things are either spelled out, or hinted at, in the verses that speak of the blessings bestowed upon Yosef. For a start:] The above verse goes on to say that Yosef’s land was “richly endowed with dew from Heaven,” and, as the Sages teach, “Dew is never withheld.”28 The provision of rain, by contrast, is sometimes opposed by accusatory voices in Heaven. Thus we see, as the Midrash comments on the verse,29 “And a mist rose from the earth,” that “as soon as mortals humble their stiff necks, rain falls.”30 One of Yosef’s blessings that appears elsewhere31 includes the phrase, [ben poras] alei ayin, which Rashi understands to mean that Yosef’s graciousness will abide upon the eye of every beholder. In those words the Sages see a hint of the phrase, olei ayin (lit., “over the eye”), meaning that Yosef’s descendants will be elevated beyond the reach of the Evil Eye.32 And yet another blessing speaks of “the abyss that crouches below.”397 Rashi explains that subterranean moisture is present everywhere, and irrigates the land of Yosef from below.

[So much for the blessings of Yosef in Zos HaBerachah. The other passage to be focused on today is] the third parshah of Bereishis, which begins by saying, “And Adam gave names [to all the animals…].”33

The Midrash34 teaches that the angels asked the Creator, “This man [whom You have created]: What manner of creature is he?” And the Holy One, blessed be He, answered: “His wisdom is superior to yours.”

[How was this wisdom demonstrated?]

The name of an entity indicates the nature of its vitality. Adam had the wisdom to give every entity serious consideration, for better or for worse. Knowing its Heavenly root, he was able to give it the name that was exactly appropriate, neither understating nor overstating.

(Even though there were so many kelipos in existence, no force was able to make Adam stumble, except for the crafty serpent35der kluginker, “that smart little guy.”36 )

We were speaking of names and, as we were saying, Yosef’s land was blessed with all kinds of good things.

Chassidim at large, and temimim381 in particular! Help cultivate the richly-blessed soil of Yosef’s heritage.37 That soil contains everything, but if it’s not cultivated, it yields nothing. It must be cultivated – and then it will surely produce all kinds of good things.

11. Be a Shulklaper. We spoke once about the work of a shammes,38 which is to wake everyone up. Whether a particular individual wants to be woken up or not, the shammes does his job. He knocks on the shutters and wakes him up, because in truth that fellow is willing – except that he is asleep, so he needs to be woken up.

Let me urge Jews in general, chassidim in particular, and especially temimim – every individual – [to assume the role of a shammes] by committing himself to work with self-sacrifice in the cause of Torah. This should be done immediately, today, Simchas Torah, and not delayed until tomorrow. America must become a haven for Torah, without any compromise. People should be in the street as they are at home. Not as one is during davenen39 – but just as one is at home, so should one be the same when in the street, so that so-and-so will be recognizable as a Yid.

12. Guidelines for Outreach. [The Rebbe Rayatz addressedthis talk to the temimim who were present.]

Temimim! You are strong. You can accomplish a great deal. You have no idea what capabilities you have. One must keep in mind, however, that one should speak to a fellow Jew only in a spirit of kiruv, in a warm and friendly manner. There are some people who are active, but their style is coarse. Chassidus has a term for everything, and in this case, that style recalls the middos of Tohu,40 [albeit] after the beirur.41 (These middos constitute one of the three states of Tohu – the oros (“lights”) of Tohu, the middos (“attributes” or “vessels”) of Tohu, and the nitzotzos (“sparks”) of Tohu.)

[Rather,] outreach activity should be done with no showy trappings,42 and always in a spirit of kiruv.

Temimim! As time goes on, I grow fonder of you. That speaks well of where you stand, but you could be far higher. What you are now is not yet the innermost nucleus of what you could be. Every one of you ought to toil to disseminate the study of Torah in a spirit of yiras Shamayim, and in the cause of kosher schooling. Your study sessions in nigleh and Chassidus must be vigilantly observed, and likewise with your endeavors in self-refinement43 at particular times in the course of davenen. However, in your free time you must work to disseminate the study of Torah in a spirit of yiras Shamayim. You should be steeped in that role.

Temimim, wherever they find themselves, should create an environment.

Businessmen should also devote themselves utterly to the cause of Torah. When they do this, they will see the fulfillment of the promise44 that “if a person occupies himself with Torah, his mundane affairs will prosper” – literally.

13. Only with Kiruv. [The Rebbe Rayatz then turned to one of the temimim and told him:] You’re not taking this matter seriously – in two respects, both with regard to today’s need for action in view of the prevalent situation, and also with regard to what you personally can accomplish. But be that as it may, all activity must be carried out only with an approach of kiruv, and all controversy and bickering must be utterly avoided.

[In this spirit,] the Baal Shem Tov once stepped out of his room and told his disciples: “If someone’s fellowmen are pleased with him, this indicates that G‑d is pleased with him.”45 The entire Holy Brotherhood was shaken up by this reminder.

[So, too,] the Alter Rebbe demanded of his disciples that they should invest effort in avodas halev, refining their character traits. Though he had serious opponents, he warned his chassidim either to utterly refrain from speaking with them, or to speak with them with kiruv, in a friendly manner.

A hint of this attitude was expressed once at a farbrengen, in a [free and creative] interpretation of the Aramaic teaching in the Kabbalah, Leis smala behai Atika – literally, “There is no Left Side (i.e., no Gevurah, no judgmental sternness,) in [the level of Elokus called] Atik Yomin.”46 Since one of the meanings of the Hebrew word lehaatik is “to move something aside,” someone read the above Kabbalistic teaching and in it detected a lesson in avodah, namely: If you want to remove something, such as an undesirable behavior, from yourself or from another, you cannot do that by means of an attribute deriving from the Left Side [such as Gevurah, judgmental sternness].

Without going into details at this time, what matters most when speaking to someone in the course of outreach is to demonstrate the truth and to bring him close to it.47 And when we say “to demonstrate the truth,” we mean – to borrow the Alter Rebbe’s phrase in Tanya48 the perfect truth, for that is what will bear fruit.

14. Keeping Heaven Waiting. In the days of the Alter Rebbe there were two minyanim in Liozna, one in his home and onein the courtyard. Once, at the end of Simchas Torah, it had already been announced in the indoor minyan that the time had come for Maariv and people had started saying VeHu Rachum.

At that moment the Alter Rebbe said that they should not yet begin Maariv, “because my mechutan49 has not yet completed Minchah, and in Heaven they’re waiting for his VeHu Rachum. True, that is not our routine,50 but we ought to start with my mechutan’s VeHu Rachum.

The above episode I heard from the well-known chassid, R. Avraham, who heard it from the venerable R. Moshe Vilenker.

15. A First Class Deal. [The Rebbe Rayatz now turned to Reb Sh. Z.51 and said:] You were once a businessman. When businessmen want to buy new merchandise and pay up their old debts, they commonly pay something in cash for the new goods, receive the rest on credit, and write out a promissory note. So both parties are happy, the wholesaler and the customer.

We, too, have paid something in cash – namely, the avodah of the month of Elul, the days of Selichos, Rosh HaShanah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah, Yom Kippur, the days of Sukkos, and Simchas Beis HaShoeivah – and now, on Simchas Torah, we are receiving goods on credit.52

And since it is said of the Torah that “its goods are superior to all other goods,”53 of course we should be happy. So let’s start a niggun.

16. A Sweet Year. [After the niggun the Rebbe said:]May the One on High54 grant all of Israel a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually, and may all the blessings that we have wished for ourselves be fulfilled.

17. Starting Today. [After the Grace after Meals, the Rebbe added:] It is written, “They went to their tents happily and with joyful hearts.”55 When a Jew left the Beis HaMikdash for home (“to their tents”), he left happily and with a joyful heart.

[Likewise,] when we take leave of each Yom-Tov, whatever we have committed to do should last throughout the entire year. Whatever we resolved today to undertake, we must remember and actualize all year round. After a person has ordered a new garment in honor of a certain Yom-Tov, whenever he later wears it he recalls that it was tailored in honor of that Yom-Tov. In the same way, throughout all the avodah of the forthcoming year, one should recall today’s solemn resolves. Whatever needs to be done should be done immediately, today, and not deferred for tomorrow. So let us start with “my mechutan’s VeHu Rachum….”

A gutn Yom-Tov!