1. The Previous Rebbe’s adage, “Begin with the King’s word” is well known. He explained that whenever Jews gather together, they should begin their assembly with the King’s word. Whenever the title “the King” is written without a further description; it refers to G‑d, the Eternal King. Thus, the expression “the King’s word” is a reference to Torah. Whenever Jews meet they should begin with a word of Torah.

Torah is without measure. Therefore, there is a broad range of choices possible with which to begin the assembly. However, it is understood that “the word of Torah” chosen should share an intrinsic relationship to the specific nature of the gathering.

The present gathering commemorates the liberation of the Previous Rebbe from prison.1 This gathering of Jews together causes the greatest elevation and the greatest possible pleasure for the Previous Rebbe. The Talmud declares (in explanation of the statement “Our patriarch Ya’akov did not die”), just as his seed is alive, he to is alive. Likewise, the gathering together of the Previous Rebbe’s “seed” shows that he isalive.2

In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe states: “the life of a Tzaddik is not physical life, but a spiritual life; consisting of faith, awe and love.” The Previous Rebbe’s life was centered on Torah and Mitzvos and the spreading of them to all Jews. That life is reflected by the present gathering which shows that his “seed” is perpetuating his “life.”

The Previous Rebbe’s life reached its fullest expression at the time he became the Nassi — leader. Even though during his father’s life his activity was centered in the same areas as later on, he reached fulfillment when he became a Rebbe himself.3 He became Rebbe at the age of forty. Each of the following decades of his life represented a different aspect of service. Thus, it follows that “the King’s word” — the words of Torah — appropriate to the present situation is the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos that teaches “at (the age of) forty — one attains understanding; at fifty — one is qualified to give counsel, at sixty — one reaches old age, at seventy — ripe old age, ....” The beginning of the Rebbe’s term of leadership was connected with the quality of understanding. Forty years marks the attainment of understanding than can be used to give instruction.

This Mishnah does not only relate to the Previous Rebbe, but provides a lesson for every Jew regarding his actual behavior. All of our lives are divided into three different periods. Furthermore, that division can be seen on a lesser scale. Each day or year can be seen as having different stages. In that context, the level of forty years refers to the time when we attain a level of understanding that allows us to give instruction. We all pass through a period during which we prepare to be dependent on ourselves. This period is necessary; for “a person is like a wild donkey when he is born.” However, through education (and the personal effort of self-education), we reach a stage and a period of life where we can “stand on our own two feet.” We become able to give instruction and show “the deeds that should be done, and those that should not be done.”

Even if we, ourselves, lack the knowledge of which direction to follow and don’t know the proper path, we realize the necessity to ask others. In these matters, we realize that we cannot depend on ourselves, on our wills, desires, or even on those decisions that appear to make sense. Instead, we will ask others for advice. However, after receiving that advice, we can give instruction.

This level is connected with understanding. At that level, one gains an appreciation of the wisdom of his teachers, and the teacher of the entire creation; G‑d, Himself. His wisdom is expressed in the Torah. G‑d “revealed His words to the prophets” and to the sages who decide Torah law according to the Shulchan Aruch. Since they have showed Mesirus Nefesh in the study of Torah (and in carrying out Torah), they are fit to become true instructors.

The Previous Rebbe assumed leadership at the age of forty i.e. as soon as he reached the level of understanding. Similarly, we, “his seed,” should become instructors for ourselves and for others, as soon as we have the opportunity. As soon as we realize that we should not depend on our own will, and are willing to ask someone who knows Torah’s perspective, we should begin teaching.

This path leads to true understanding; the understanding the Torah implied when it referred to the Jewish people as “a wise and understanding nation.” This description separates the Jew from the non-Jew, who are different by nature. When a Jew tries to follow a non-Jewish way of life, he loses the title ‘wise and understanding.’ Furthermore, he loses respect and honor in the eyes of the non-Jews. They see that he lacks both personal strength and an individual opinion.

In contrast to this behavior, the Previous Rebbe showed an example of how one can follow the wisdom of Torah, spreading Yiddishkeit, even though the entire world is opposed to it.

Despite his imprisonment, he continued his efforts with strength and power. This behavior is perpetuated by his seed who will, in turn, teach others to follow this course of action.

Thus, figuratively speaking, every Jew, (even a Bar Mitzvah age boy,) can reach a level of “at the age of forty — understanding.” He can attain true understanding; which is the awareness that we cannot depend on our own will and must follow the will and wisdom of G‑d as it is expressed in the Shulchan Aruch.

This behavior will thereby cause the Previous Rebbe genuine pleasure and will serve to be the preparatory stage for the future redemption. We will proceed from the redemption of Yud-Bais Tammuz to the true and ultimate redemption. We will greet Moshiach speedily in our days.

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2. The Previous Rebbe ascended the position of Nassi at the age of forty. As a Nassi, he worked to influence his generation to follow his course of action to the fullest degree possible. Such action are alluded to in the statement, “the leader is fitting to his generation, and the generation fitting to its leader.” Therefore, the Nassi will try, with self-sacrifice, to elevate his generation and bring them up to his own level.

The sacrifice demanded of a Nassi can be explained by the parable of a father and a son. When a father wants to lift the son up to his level, he must first bend down and lower himself to the level of the child. A Nassi stands higher than his generation to the point where his level parallels that of a king. The book of Kings relates how Saul, the first king of Israel, was “from his shoulders and upward, taller than any of the people.” Chassidic thought stresses that not only his head, but also his shoulders were taller than the entire nation. He stood on a level that totally surpassed them. Nevertheless, he descended and became king over them.

The nature of the response from the people that is due to a Nassi or a king can be understood by a comparison to our relationship to the King of Kings, G‑d, Himself.4 G‑d’s will must be accepted completely with Kabbalas 01 and Mesirus Nefesh. It must permeate through all levels of a Jew’s5 personality. Therefore, at the time of the ten commandments, G‑d told the Jewish people, “Accept Me as King and afterwards I will give decrees for you to follow.”

A similar approach is required in relation to a physical king “one who makes gestures before a king” may be sentenced to death. Such an act shows that one’s acceptance of the king is not complete. Therefore, it is punishable by death. The entire existence of the country and all of its inhabitants stem from the king. They are connected with the king through Kabbalas 01 (acceptance of the yoke) and derive their very existence from that bond. If the bond is broken (through a lack of Kabbalas 01) that existence is not maintained; thus the subject ceases to live.

Since the king is, by nature, exalted above the level of his subjects, the only means in which they can relate to him is through fulfilling his decrees. Therefore, Kabbalas 01, total acceptance of the king’s will, is fundamentally necessary for the existence of this connection.

This concept allows us to understand why the Jews declared “Na’aseh V’Nishmah” — “We will do and we will listen,” at Mt. Sinai. “We will do” refers to the commitment to carry out G‑d’s will. “We will listen” implies a process of reason and understanding. The Jewish people placed their commitment to follow G‑d’s will before their understanding. They agreed to follow G‑d’s will before they knew what He would command them to do.

The above represents a genuine Jewish approach. A Jew will not question what G‑d’s command is, consider it, and see if it is acceptable to his own opinion. Though, there are those who (particularly when placed in a difficult situation,) will demand an explanation before they commit themselves to action. This course of behavior runs contrary to the nature of a Jew, representing the approach of a Tzadduki.

The Tzaddukim rejected the teachings of the sages. Their basic approach can be explained by an analysis of their name. The word Matzdik (related to Tzadduk) means to justify oneself. The Tzaddukim justified and rationalized their behavior. They, controlled by, self-love, could not understand commitment beyond the realm of intellect. Therefore, one of them argued that the Jewish people should have placed “Nishmah” before “Na’aseh.” First, they should have heard G‑d’s command and then if it seemed reasonable, endeavor to carry it out.

How is it possible to think that way? If one knows that a command comes from G‑d, how can one make his acceptance conditional on his understanding? How can the limited understanding of a human being be expected to grasp G‑d’s infinite wisdom? However, self-love brings about such an approach. It causes one to follow his own will and desires, and lets one’s personal understanding govern one’s life. Such a person will consider Mesirus Nefesh out of the question. He will justify himself and explain to others how a person is governed by rationality, and thus his behavior can not be rash. He is not directly opposed to G‑d’s will. He is merely asking that he be given the time to think, and come to the decision that G‑d’s will is understandable.

A Jewish approach is entirely different. The initial stress is on Kabbalas 01. Understanding does follow (after Na’aseh comes Nishmah), but the first step is the acceptance of G‑d’s command. That acceptance cannot remain a mere intellectual appreciation, but must be brought down to deed and action. Afterwards, it leads to understanding. In fact, deep commitment and self-sacrifice, lead to a quicker and a more profound understanding.

This concept explains a statement of the Previous Rebbe. He declared that one of the differences between the wisdom of Torah and the other forms of wisdom is that to achieve Torah wisdom, one must be committed to the fulfillment of Mitzvos. In other fields, one can become a great authority yet live contrary to the dictates of one’s knowledge. For example, a doctor may know how to heal others and give them proper advice. However, his own will and desires may be too strong to overcome, and may lead him away from the proper path of behavior. However, his own lack of discipline does not affect his knowledge. He will still remain an expert in his field.

In Torah, the opposite is true. Our sages declared: “If one merits it becomes a drug of life. If one doesn’t merit it becomes a drug of death.” Based on this explanation, the Previous Rebbe opposed the policy of stressing understanding before deed. He explained his position with a further explanation. When someone is hungry, he asked, “does he first go and try to understand in detail how the digestive system works and how eating food will make him satisfied?”6 Such behavior is ridiculous, and no one would consider doing so. Likewise, in regards to Torah and Mitzvos, in order to understand Torah one must begin with Na’aseh, — the fulfillment of Mitzvos.

3. This concept is connected to the principle “at the age of forty one reaches understanding” described above. In the explanation of that concept, as well, it was explained how one must not rely on his own intellect but rather begin by studying under a teacher (who had, in turn received from his own teacher). Then, he must be tested and receive Semichah. Only afterwards he is fit to give instruction.7 Likewise, when the Previous Rebbe was forty, he began giving instruction. He gave directives on what activities were necessary. For example, to spread Torah and Mitzvos he would send individuals away from their homes to far away corners of the world.

After the period of “at the age of forty — one reaches understanding,” one comes to a higher level “at the age of fifty — one becomes fit to give counsel.” The Previous Rebbe also reached this level at that age. While in Russia, it was not possible to give counsel. Counsel is dependent upon reason, and the situation-in Russia, did not allow for reason. The approach of Mesirus Nefesh was necessary and Mesirus Nefesh runs contrary to the approach of reason and intellect. However, when he left Russia8 and began his efforts to spread Yiddishkeit in Latvia and Poland, his efforts did not require Mesirus Nefesh at all times. In many cases, the situation called for a rational approach i.e. giving counsel.

After the period, he reached the level of “at the age of sixty — one becomes old.” The Talmud explains that the Hebrew word for old — Zakayn — stands for the words — Zeh Shekanah Chochmah — he who has acquired wisdom.” Even though one attains “understanding” at the age of forty, it is surpassed by the level of Zakayn. The expression “who has acquired wisdom” implies that the individual has become the owner and is in control of wisdom. At this level, the Previous Rebbe advanced and increased his service of spreading Yiddishkeit, and was able to create and inspire an entire camp of the “hosts of G‑d” who followed his path.

At this stage, the majority of the Previous Rebbe’s activity was centered around involving his students in these efforts. He, himself, was much less involved in the actual efforts themselves. He also took part in these activities personally, but to a much lesser extent than previously.

Afterwards, he reached the level of “at seventy — ripe old age.” Our sages declared “Rise before someone who has attained ripe old age.” While sitting implies comfort, standing represents a state of self-nullification. Therefore, prayer is recited standing. Our sages commented (in Shemonah Esray) one must stand as a slave before his master. This is related to the Previous Rebbe’s passing. At that stage, one is unable to sit i.e. remain within one’s comfort, one must stand, reach a level of self-nullification.

As mentioned above, we can see how these periods are stages, reflected in our own lives. The first stage is “at forty — one attains understanding” we realize that we must learn from a teacher.9 Even a Bar Mitzvah youth (and a young child) can attain this level. He knows he is Jewish and he realizes he must follow Shulchan Aruch. Therefore, he is fit to give instruction. His life is based on the Torah “your wisdom and understanding” and not on his personal knowledge. After following this course of behavior for a period of time, we can attain the level “at the age of fifty, one is fit to give counsel.” We can rely on our intellect to give counsel to ourselves and others. Helping others enhances one’s own knowledge. In the preface to Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that when one learns with someone on a lower level “G‑d illuminates the eyes of both” i.e. the teacher gains knowledge as well. This allows us to “acquire wisdom” and progress to a level where we reach ripe old age — a level where others must stand before him.

Afterwards, we continue to progress until we reach the level “at one hundred it is as if one had died and passed away from the world.” At this level, all the worldly things have no control over us. We become conscious of G‑d who controls the world. Then, through Torah, we become one with G‑d and continue to progress in the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Mitzvos for many years (as our sages Gittin 28a remarked “once one has lived so long, he will continue living). Then we will merit to greet Moshiach who will bring about an age where there will be eternal life.

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4. When the Previous Rebbe was released from prison Yud-Bais Tammuz 5687, the Chassidim and the Jews in general felt great joy. The Previous Rebbe gave specific orders not to provoke arguments or disagreements.10 The Chassidim attempted to minimize the publicity of the event. The telegram that was sent to the Chassidim in the different cities notifying them of the Rebbe’s release was signed “Beli Pirsum” — two Hebrew words that mean — without publicity.

The above situation prevailed in Russia. However, now we live in a free country (and a generous country). There are no obstacles that prevent us from the study of Torah or the fulfillment of Mitzvos. G‑d saw that we are living in an orphaned generation that is confronted with a double and redoubled darkness. Therefore, he reduced the challenge facing us. He placed us in a country where we could wear two pair of Tefillin, wear our Tzitzus hanging out, etc. We are not faced with the scorn or ridicule of the non-Jews as the previous generations have encountered. On the contrary, when a Jew follows Yiddishkeit fully without shame, he receives honor and true equality from the non-Jews. This is the true path to gain their respect. One need not hide one’s Judaism, expressing it only 3 days a year or at home. There is no need to hide the name ‘Avraham’ behind the name ‘Abraham’ or ‘Michael’ behind ‘Michael.’ When the non-Jews see that “the name of G‑d is called upon you,” — this will give the Jews true respect. Therefore, a Jewish farbrengen and a time of rejoicing can be held with publicity, and this publicity will enhance and not detract from the Jew’s stature in the eyes of the world.

Nevertheless, something should be done to recall the “Beli Pirsum” of the first Yud-Bais Tammuz. However, there are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia. They have held Yud-Bais Tammuz farbrengens “Beli Pirsum.” They have the true feeling for Yud-Bais Tammuz and have committed themselves with Mesirus Nefesh bringing its lessons into daily life. They have carried out the aspects of Yud-Bais Tammuz that must be “Beli Pirsum.” We must adopt an opposite course of behavior, celebrating Yud-Bais Tammuz with much publicity and much joy. This joy will eventually cause the breaking of the iron curtain (as our sages declared “Even an iron curtain cannot separate between Israel and their father in heaven,” and we will join with them in an eternal Simcha — the rejoicing that will accompany the Messianic redemption. Then, the fast days of the coming three weeks will be transformed into holidays. May that time come speedily in our days.

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5. There in an issue, which is connected with the physical and psychological health of many Jews, that demands attention. It is quite possible that these words will have no effect. Nevertheless, the health of a Jew is such an important matter, that efforts should be made even when there is not a sure chance of success.

This issue is the idea of meditation. Meditation has its roots in the very beginning of the Jewish heritage. The Torah commentaries explain that Avraham and the other patriarchs chose to be shepherds so that they could spend their time in solitude. Their lives were not simple, physical lives. On the contrary, they were totally given over to the service of G‑d to the point where they are called “G‑d’s chariot.” [That metaphor was chosen because just as a chariot has no will of its own and is totally controlled by its driver, similarly their lives were totally controlled by G‑d.] They chose a profession that would allow them to live such a spiritual existence. Therefore, they become shepherds, spending their days in the fields, in solitude, rather than becoming involved in the hub-bub of life in the cities.

The same holds true today. There are certain aspects of psychological health and tranquility that can be attained by taking oneself out of contact with the hub-bub that surrounds oneself. By retreating into solitude, (not necessary leaving the city,) and by withdrawing into solitude for a period of time, one may attain psychological health and peace of mind. This behavior will strengthen one and protect his mental health. This process involves taking oneself away from the hub-bub and tumult of the street, and meditating on an object that brings about peace of mind.

The Torah’s statement “Behold I have set before you life and good, death and evil” applies in all matters. Every facet of life can be used in a positive way or in an opposite direction. For example, the sun, the moon, and the stars are necessary for life of earth. They bring about manifold goodness. However, they also have been worshipped as false gods. One might ask (as the Talmud asks): “Since they have been worshipped as false gods, shouldn’t they be destroyed? However, should G‑d destroy the world because of the foolishness of the idol-worshipers?” The same concept applies in regard to meditation. Though essentially goad, meditation can also be destructive. There are those who have connected meditation to actually bowing down to an idol or a man and worshipping it or him, bringing incense before them etc. The cults have spread throughout the U.S. and throughout Israel as well. They have called it by a refined name “transcendental meditation” i.e. something above limits, above our bounded intellects. However, they have also incorporated into the procedures the bringing of incense and other practices that are clearly “Avodah Zara,” the worship of false gods.

Since we are living within the darkness of Golus, many Jewish youth have fallen into this snare. Before they became involved with this cult, they were troubled and disturbed. The cult was able to relate to them and bring them peace of mind. However, their meditation is connected with Avodah Zara, burning incense and bowing to a Guru, etc. Since the aspects of idol worship are not publicized, there are those who have not raised their voices in protest. They don’t know if such a protest would be successful and since no one has asked them, why should they enter a questionable situation. However, while they remain silent, Jewish youth are becoming involved in “Avodah Zara,” worship of idols. That sin is so severe that the Torah declares one should forego his life before accepting their worship. Furthermore, this plague is spreading, involving both youth and adults alike.11

A program must be organized to spread Kosher meditation. There are those who argue against such a step. They question its propriety maintaining that Kosher meditation might lead to non-Kosher meditation. Their argument can be refuted. It is opposite the spirit of Yiddishkeit, and particularly opposite the spirit of Chassidus, to withhold help from anyone. If someone is in need, one must help him. If someone does not realize that he requires help, the need to help him is even greater.

However, that is not the question at all. There are Jews who have already fallen into this snare. The simplest way to draw them away from it would be to provide them with a Kosher alternative. We are clearly obligated from the Torah to do so.12 (If not as a Mitzvah in its own right as a part of the Mitzvah “love your neighbor as yourself.”)

Others will argue — such a practice will lead to “Bitul Torah, the neglect of Torah study.” Since many of those who will seek meditation are not involved in a Torah lifestyle, the concepts that relax them and put them at ease when meditating are not necessarily connected with Torah. Though a Kosher topic of meditation will be chosen, it will not necessarily be connected with Torah. Hence, such a practice causes a neglect of Torah study.

This argument is also faulty. These people are sick and must be healed. They should be given a Kosher method of treatment instead of being forced to use means that are connected with Avodah Zara.

Two conditions must be taken into consideration: 1) meditation should only be used by those who need it. A healthy person doesn’t need meditation. On the contrary, if he begins to meditate he will hurt his psychological health.13 The only meditation that all should carry out is one which is part of one’s service to G‑d, for the Shulchan Aruch states that before each prayer one must meditate on “the greatness of G‑d and the humble state of man.” However, that meditation is done with a fixed time and a fixed intent. Its goal is not to calm one’s nerves. 2) The meditation must be based on a Kosher idea or a Torah concept e.g. Shema Yisroel, the meanings of the prayers. Thus, this will bring one to an awareness of the greatness of G‑d and the humble nature of man.

Also, since as in all treatments, the healer gains a certain amount of control over his patient, we must take care that the professional who is leading the meditation have a clear and well defined knowledge of what is permitted according to the Shulchan Aruch, what leads to Avodah Zara, etc.

In addition, the professional must be conscious that meditation shares a parallel with other medical remedies. Drugs and medicines are only valuable if given in a limited amount, and are detrimental to one’s health if taken over-excessively. Someone, who is dangerously ill should take meditation in order to be cured. However, once he is cured, to persist in taking the remedy is harmful. Similarly, in regard to meditation, the measure in which a person is exposed to it must be regulated. This principle is expressed by the Rambam who writes, that if someone is overindulgent in a certain direction he will be healed by taking extreme steps in the opposite direction. However, after the influence of his initial behavior has been counteracted, he should return to a middle path.

There are general guidelines for establishing a program of Kosher meditation. It is necessary that we do not close our eyes and return to our daily lives, thinking, what does meditation have to do with me? What contact do I share with the youth and adults that have fallen into this snare? We must realize that there are many in the United States, who have become involved. In Israel, many centers for meditation have been opened. Even in Yerushalayim, the holy city, such a center has been established. I, myself, received a brochure from such an institution. It was professionally produced, containing pictures and a description of how in Yerushalayim, a center for meditation has been set up. They purchase American addresses, and send them this brochure. It makes a powerful impression and arouses curiosity. Thus, we can see how serious the situation is.

In view of this situation, psychologists, psychoanalysts, etc. have a holy duty to advance their knowledge of meditation, and work to develop a Kosher program. Furthermore, since we live in a country in which publicity plays a large role, efforts must be made to publicize the treatment in the broadest means possible.

Furthermore, this treatment should not be connected with any side issues. There are those who maintain that meditation must be connected with the secrets of Torah. Meditation on the secrets of Torah is very important, particularly in the present age when the Wellsprings of Chassidus must be spread outwards. However, the subject at hand is different. There are Jews who are involved in “Avodah Zara,” worship of false gods, who must be saved. This is the first priority. If one begins by teaching the secrets of Torah, it is extremely likely that the majority of them will not respond. Even the few who might show an interest should be separated from “Avodah Zara” first.

It is a necessity for everyone to be involved in this. However, if a novice would begin learning meditation immediately, it would take a long time before he could master the subject. Instead, one should turn to a psychologist and attempt to interest him in the matter. He should be told that thousands of Jews are being drawn into the worship of idols, bringing incense, believing in Gurus, etc., and how he has a holy duty (and since he also has a personal desire) to heal people, it is necessary that he extend himself into a field related to his own — meditation. In a short time, he will be able to master the techniques necessary for this treatment, since he already has had practical experience helping such people.

This aspect, if publicized correctly, will be immediately successful. It will be able to save those who stand at the crossroads. Their intent is not against Torah. If given the choice between a permitted treatment and a forbidden one, they will choose the permitted. Then, this success, will attract those who have already become involved with the forbidden practices.

We cannot sit and wait practically until someone asks to be helped. We have to approach those who are afflicted and speak their language, without mixing in any other Mitzvos. Our object should be merely the Mitzvah of healing their troubled psyches.

Each one of us knows such a doctor. We can interest a doctor in such activities, and he will find a way to attract those who have fallen into these snares.

These efforts are most important. Our sages declared: “One who saves a Jewish soul saves the entire world.” In this case, there are thousands of souls that must be saved. There will be critics. However, the very first chapter of Shulchan Aruch opens with the command “Don’t be embarrassed before those who mock you.” Rather than be affected by these doubts, we can proudly save many Jewish souls returning them to their source; sound in mind, and sound in body.

And then, through this effort of saving Jewish souls we will proceed to the future redemption. In all the other exiles, the redemption did not involve the entire Jewish people. However, the Messianic redemption will reach every Jew. The prophet Isaiah (27:12) declares: “You will be collected one by one” from Even the furthest extremes of Golus. These efforts to draw Jews away from the Golus of “Avodah Zara” will help hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy. The Talmud states that all the appointed times for Moshiach’s coming have passed, and everything depends on Teshuvah. When the Jewish people do Teshuvah, they will immediately be redeemed.

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5. Trans. note: The Rebbe Shlita noted that the three weeks of mourning are approaching. He asked that the laws of the Construction of the Sanctuary be studied during that period. He explained, that our sages have stated, that the study of these laws is considered tantamount to actually building the Temple.

Furthermore, he stressed that since Yerushalayim was destroyed because of wanton hatred as epitomized in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, it is proper at the present time to stress the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel. Our Ahavas Yisroel should be boundless, extending to, in the Baal Shem Tov’s words, “a Jew whom we have never met.” Also, it should lead us to involvement in the other nine Mivtzoim. Through these efforts we will motivate the Teshuvah that is necessary to bring about the Messianic redemption.