1. Scholarly Depth. The well-known chassid, R. Pinchas Reizes, was once directed by the Alter Rebbe to study Gemara in scholarly depth1 for two hours every day.

2. Lighting Up the World. One of the teachings that R. Pinchas Reizes heard from the Alter Rebbe, and recorded in writing, was an interpretation of the phrase in the Gemara,2 “We are day workers.” In Chassidus, “day” (yom) is a code word for revelation. Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe taught, “Our work is to light up the world.”3

Once we know that “day” (yom) is a code word for the revelation of Divine light, we can explain the statement of Rav Yosef regarding Shavuos: “If not for what this day has brought about, how many Yosefs would there be in the marketplace!”4 That is to say, “If not for this revelation …” That is how the message is understood in the light of Chassidus. And how else can this statement be understood?

3. Our First Day at School. A Shavuos farbrengen is not only part of the joy of Yom-Tov; it also celebrates a mitzvah.5 Just as a festive seudah is held to celebrate a little child’s first day at cheder, today all Jews are beginning to attend cheder, so today’s farbrengen is also a simchah shel mitzvah.

[The Rebbe then directed that everyone present should be given wine over which to say LeChaim.]

4. From the Stove to the Street. The awareness of “what this day has brought about” is relevant not only to an individual person, such as Rav Yosef; rather, it should be applied in all areas, and indeed should call for mesirus nefesh for the sake of Torah. Young married Torah scholars should make it their task to arouse a love of Torah study. They should be assertive. They should not huddle weakly near the stove, but should go out in the streets and cultivate a love of Torah study.

Being assertive does not mean being abrasive, but being firm and clear in one’s own mind, because householders in shul always come up with a challenge: “Who appointed you to talk?” (For example, if a gabbai stands up and complains that congregants converse during the repetition of Shemoneh Esreh or during the Torah Reading, someone is sure to say, “Who appointed you to talk?” Besides, it can even happen that in fact the gabbai himself also converses at such times…) At any rate, the answer to such a challenge is “what this day has brought about” – namely, the Torah, for the Shulchan Aruch rules that conversation at such times is forbidden.

5. Ignorance cannot be Ignored. Yeshivah scholars should scorn ignorance and reduce it. When we say that the opinion of an ignoramus should not be taken seriously, we do not mean that one should look down upon those sincere but unlettered folk who for various reasons never had the opportunity to learn; on the contrary, they ought to be cherished. The people who should be criticized are those who have the opportunity to study Torah but do not. In business, they are able to contrive all kinds of bright ideas, but when it comes to Torah study, they claim that their head cannot cope with it. That cannot be. Those who support Torah scholars should be esteemed and respected for doing so, but at the same time they should be taken to task for not setting aside fixed times for their own Torah study.

6. Monetary Priorities. Mesirus nefesh does not mean – as people commonly think – physical self-sacrifice, but self-sacrifice in one’s actions.

Self-sacrifice can be expressed in one’s money, body, or soul. Even though a man may have toiled and sweated to earn his money, the monetary kind of self-sacrifice is not so weighty because, after all, “There’s a wheel that turns in the world”6 – people’s fortunes rise and fall.

For an example of self-sacrifice with regard to money, consider the mitzvah of tzedakah. This is not meant to be fulfilled by first ensuring that one possesses all kinds of luxuries and only then giving tzedakah. Rather, the situation should be judged, such that one first takes for himself whatever he needs, and then gives away the remainder for tzedakah. Those who imagine that their numerous rooms and numerous servants are intended for themselves are mistaken.

The subject of tzedakah (charity) and mishpat (judgment) is discussed in the maamar of Chassidus that appears in the [current] issue of HaKeriah VehaKedushah, dated Sivan, 5705 (1945).7 There, a distinction is drawn between Avraham Avinu and Yaakov Avinu. Concerning Avraham it is written, “so that they will observe the path of G‑d and do deeds of tzedakah and Mishpat”8 first tzedakah and then mishpat. Concerning Yaakov it is written, “For Yaakov, You have wrought mishpat and tzedakah”9 first mishpat and then tzedakah. Avraham Avinu was “generous with his money, body, and soul,”10 and he arrived at that level by his own efforts. That is why in his case, tzedakah precedes the mishpat, which is the judgment that should precede the giving of tzedakah. Yaakov Avinu, by contrast, already had this as a heritage from Avraham Avinu. That is why in his case, mishpat precedes tzedakah: he had already subjected his giving of tzedakah to the appropriate judgment.

There was once a chassid called R. Artshe11 Rubinstein from Berezina, who sold goods on commission. He used to say, “I bring merchandise for Berezina, and that provides for my family, too.” (That sentence he inherited from his grandfather, a cousin of my father-in-law’s mother.) He used to travel to Lubavitch to see the Tzemach Tzedek. He was no scholar, but in the giving of tzedakah he was remarkable. On weekdays he would eat dark bread and herring, and ate white bread only on Shabbos, but for guests he always had white bread. He used to say, “With me, tzedakah shouldn’t be asked for, but demanded.” The Tzemach Tzedek once remarked about him, “I’m envious – that such a neshamah should have such levushim!”12

Either way, monetary mesirus nefesh is relatively easy. Yet even physical mesirus nefesh, whereby one harnesses the body for the sake of another, is also not the ultimate form of mesirus nefesh. The real expression of mesirus nefesh is spiritual self-sacrifice – specifically for the sake of awakening the dormant Jewish nucleus in another.

What I am demanding of Torah scholars and yeshivah students is that they apply mesirus nefesh to arouse in others a love of Torah study, and to disseminate the teaching of Torah together with the awe of Heaven, because without that, such study is worthless. It is like trying to make the delicacy called kishke by taking a length of intestine and stuffing it with flour and fat, but without first having cleaned it out. The result will not only ruin the ingredients, but will also, begging your pardon, be inedible and malodorous.

Torah must be studied only when accompanied by yiras Shamayim, the awe of Heaven.

7. To Love Torah. Those who teach in yeshivos should not merely teach their students how to study: they ought to instill in them a love of Torah, so that they will relish it. The same applies to those who teach little children alef-beis and reading. This appeal is addressed to all yeshivah teachers, though mainly to those who teach at the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah, because the other rosh yeshivos are like a samovar. Just as when you open its tap, water flows freely, so too, with them – you just open the tap and lectures of all kinds flow freely....

8. A Constant Fire. There is an obligation both “to learn and to teach.”13 Not only is it a mistake to argue that teaching retards one’s learning. Quite the contrary: teaching in fact enriches one’s learning.14 The Sages tell us that “all Torah study that is not accompanied by work will ultimately cease”15 – and Torah-work is the task of [disseminating] the light of Torah.

I am addressing you, the temimim: Make every effort, with mesirus nefesh, to learn and to teach! Thus, “a constant fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it must not be extinguished.”16 It’s not enough to teach little children how to say Modeh ani; when they walk down the street, let them repeat to each other the narratives from the Torah that they have learned. Through this the father will be upgraded and the mother will observe her obligations. Even in chassidishe families, where the womenfolk are devout, such little children introduce light – because as a rule, the awe of Heaven needs to be aroused from time to time.

9. Setting Ego Aside. What shall I tell you? I love you all deeply, but my heart is sore: Why weren’t you in Russia? Local temimim lack the ability to set themselves completely aside. True, there’s friendly love, there’s hiskashrus, and there’s Chassidus, albeit in varying degrees. However, what is lacking is – setting one’s ego utterly aside and taking initiative. In every area, every directive has to be spelled out: please do this or please do that. If one wants to dispatch someone somewhere, that chassid imagines that perhaps out there he won’t be shown enough respect. I ask you: what are such considerations worth?

The temimim in Russia do have the ability to set their egos completely aside. Benzion Shemtov, for example, traveled around at the risk of actual mesirus nefesh in order to do fellow Jews a favor, and not only material favors.

Over here, about ten yungeleit are active in disseminating Torah, and when a hundred are needed, they’re not available. In Russia and in Eretz Yisrael, such people are available.

If only the local temimim were as they ought to be, by now there would have been thousands of students and gifted learners, and by now the blessing of the Alter Rebbe would have been fulfilled – that one man shall become ten thousand.

I hope, and I am certain, that with G‑d’s help this blessing will yet be fulfilled.

10. Solid Scholarship. Adult Torah scholars ought to focus on erudition, and this ought to be the topic of their conversation. They should toil not only to acquire a knowledge of the Torah, but also to uncover innovative insights in Torah – not airy and baseless reasoning17 and peripheral arguments, but innovations that draw on the truth of the Torah.