May1 G‑d grant that people should conduct themselves according to the Torah.

One might ask, what is the point of such a request? Yet in fact it is a meaningful request, because when a particular law is studied in the Shulchan Aruch, what is commonly studied is only its basic text2 and the commentary of Rama,3 whereas the commentaries entitled Baer Heitev and Pis’chei Teshuvah are often not given due attention. The same applies to the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, and even more so to its Kuntreis Acharon.4 In fact, however, all of the above are essential components of the Torah,5 in the spirit of the Talmudic teaching that numerous halachos “were forgotten during the days of mourning for Moshe Rabbeinu” but were restored by halachic argumentation.6 Likewise, “Every teaching that a seasoned scholar will one day propose was already taught to Moshe at Sinai.”7 So, too, “He who studies Torah in order to teach, is given the opportunity to study and to teach, and he who studies in order to practice, is given the opportunity to study and to teach, to observe and to practice.”8 Observance means actual practice, so people need to know, in detail, “the practice that they are to follow.”9 Thus, as is well known, for a person who is truly G‑d-fearing there is no such concept as a hiddur mitzvah, the scrupulous embellishment of a mitzvah,10 because [for a person who is truly G‑d-fearing] every such embellishment is an integral part of the mitzvah. Hence the above request: [“May G‑d grant that people should conduct themselves according to the Torah”].

* * *

The Sages teach that King Achaz [of Judea] was so called because he seized (אָחַז) the synagogues and Houses of Study to ensure that the Torah should not be studied in them.11 In response, the Prophet Yeshayahu declared: “So long as ‘I am here, with the children whom G‑d has given me,’12 Torah study will survive by virtue of them.”

This means that he believed that by Divine Providence, G‑d would bring salvation, as is implied by his name, יְשַׁע יָ-ה – יְשַׁעְיָה. One might well ask: Is it remarkable that a prophet should believe in Divine Providence?!

[It is written, “Three times a year all your males shall appear [lit, ‘shall be seen’] before the L‑rd your G‑d in the place that He will choose.”13 ] On this the Sages teach, “Just as one comes to be seen, so too does he come to see.”14 This implies that just as when they came to be seen, they brought something with them [such as festive sacrifices], so too, when they came to see, they took something home with them – for this is a positive characteristic of seeing something.

[Now, what one sees and takes home depends on whether] a beautiful picture is being observed by a connoisseur of art or by someone who is ignorant in that area. The expert may have reservations that moderate his exuberance, whereas the layman is so overawed that he is transfixed by it, and that wondrous awe is what he takes home with him. The same is true of the revelation of Elokus in the Beis HaMikdash. Everything there was defined in terms of the dimension of space. For example, a vessel that was not constructed according to its specified dimensions was invalid. Nevertheless, in the Beis HaMikdash, space transcended the limits of space. One example: “The space occupied by the Ark was not part of the dimensions” of the Holy of Holies in which it stood.15 Another example: “When [the thousands of pilgrims in the Beis HaMikdash] stood, they were crowded, yet when they prostrated themselves, they had ample space.”16

There are other examples, too – because from G‑d’s perspective, the spiritual realm and the material realm17 are exactly the same. As to those who think that Elokus is ruchni, spiritual – that is false. Defining something as ruchni implies limitation, whereas as far as G‑d is concerned, ruchniyus and gashmiyus are the same. This means that for the people in the Beis HaMikdash, [the above-described transcendence of the dimension of space] removed the covering from their spiritual eyes,18 and they began to see what they ought to see.

This was brought about by Yeshayahu “and the children whom G‑d has given me.” These were the children whom he taught kometz-alef – o,19 and whom he told of the innate kedushah of the letters of the Holy Tongue.20 That is what removed the veil from people’s spiritual eyes.21

* * *

Every government has its own currency, which it sometimes changes. Our currency today ismesirus nefesh, self-sacrifice. Even for such causes for which one is not obligated to give one’s life,22 one should take action to the point of self-sacrifice – because that is the currency which is valid today.23

A person’s desire should be focused entirely on Torah, and not (G‑d forbid) in an opposite direction –and the impact of a person’s will was discussed above.72 The question of whether or not a person’s will is counted Above as action is relevant with regard to reward and punishment, but in principle, wherever a man’s will is, that is where he himself is, totally. That is why a person’s desire should be focused entirely on Torah. In the World Above, the fact that G‑d’s potential to do something has not yet been translated into action does not detract from His completeness;24 this is not the case in the World below, with relation to a mortal’s unfulfilled potential.25 Nevertheless, with regard to one’s will, the will is completely the same as the action.

Today one ought to say to the Torah: “I swear to you by a solemn oath that I love you. I will dedicate myself utterly to you, and you will reveal yourself to me.” I don’t mean that the oath should be verbalized audibly. It should affirm – as with a solemn oath, though in one’s thoughts – that “I dedicate myself to you utterly, and I beg that you should reveal yourself to me.”

* * *

[At this point the Rebbe referred briefly to] a nighttime vision [in which he heard a teaching] on the verse in Mishlei 4:13: “Hold fast to instruction; do not let go; keep it, for it is your life.” [The message was that this verse alludes to the] 248 [positive commandments and the] 365 [prohibitive commandments].

* * *

[The Rebbe then said:] In the realm of thought, nothing can intercept.26 Some of the students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah are already in American waters, some are setting out for America, some are in Shanghai, and some are [still] in Poland and Russia. [The Rebbe then said LeChaim! and added:] We are together with them.

[At this point the Rebbe called a bachur (Z. G.)27 by name and told him to see to it that three niggunim now be sung. That bachur was to lead the singing, and he was to be joined by all those who were able to do so. The Rebbe then “bought three dances.”28 One was for the alumni of the yeshivos in Lubavitch and Otvotzk, one was for the students of the American branch of Tomchei Temimim, and one was for the students of Achei Temimim.29 Before the first hakkafah the Rebbe instructed the master of ceremonies to make the following announcement: “Alumni of the yeshivos in Lubavitch and Otvotzk! Stand up, arise, and please come here!” – that is, near the Rebbe. They danced in a lively circle, to the rhythm of the above-mentioned singer and all those present, and the same procedure was repeated for the students of the American branch of Tomchei Temimim. The third dance was similar, except that the students of Achei Temimim were to be divided – first one circle for the older students and then another for the younger ones. The Rebbe was in a very happy frame of mind, particularly during that last dance. He then said:]

What is needed now is to purify the atmosphere, and I want to turn to you with a request. I find it hard to use a different expression, but for the last twenty years30 chassidim have known that in plain words, “request” means an order, or a mission. The question of who it is that gives the mission is immaterial, so you can consider this in terms of whatever expression you choose, whether as a request, or an order, or a mission. The meaning is all the same: the task is to refine the atmosphere by memorizing a tractate of Mishnayos, or a seder of Mishnayos,31 or Pirkei Avos,32 or some chapters of Tanya. Then, whenever one is walking down the street, or traveling in a truck or a subway or a bus, one should think through those letters of Torah, from memory. (It goes without saying that one should be take all necessary precautions to avert any mishap, G‑d forbid.) Doing so purifies the atmosphere. Whoever does this will receive help from Above this year, in a remarkable abundance that is visibly beyond the norms of nature – in the area of children, or of health, or of livelihood. Whoever does not do this is not immune to earthquakes and lightning and thunder.

G‑d has two ways to refine the atmosphere. One is by means of earthquakes and lightning and thunder – but that approach stems from the Divine Attribute of Gevurah, stern justice. The other is by means of the letters of the Torah – and that stems from the Divine Attribute of lovingkindness and compassion. [The Rebbe added that he had no intention of scaring people (G‑d forbid), or of saying anything that might sound like the opposite of a blessing. These were simply the two sides, the Yes and the No, just as there are positive commandments and prohibitive commandments.]

[The Rebbe then said:] We really should arrange for suitable people to walk about in the streets and think upon letters of Torah. That would [spiritually] protect not only souls, which are the ultimate purpose for which all the worlds were created,33 but would also protect even the tangible worlds34 – that is, the walls and the streets – from bombs.

[After saying LeChaim, the Rebbe added:] May G‑d grant a year of life, a year of peace, a year of light and of Torah, a year of tranquility, a year of imminent Redemption!

* * *

R. Pinchas Reizes recounted that the Alter Rebbe entrusted the responsibility of guiding the young chassidim to the Mitteler Rebbe, who fulfilled his task by teaching them the learned intricacies of the haskalah of Chassidus. As is well known, the Mitteler Rebbe was able to inspire a mere stick to become an atzmi.35 Observing this, [his uncle,] the Maharil,36 shared his pleasure with the Alter Rebbe, who gave no answer, but later delivered a maamar whose themes were ahavas Yisrael and the refinement of one’s character attributes.37 When the Mitteler Rebbe heard that maamar, he made the refinement of middos the main focus of his teaching. Soon after, the Alter Rebbe visited that group on a weekday, which was unusual, and said: “It is written, ‘And you shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart…’38 G‑d is willing to forego the obligation to love Him, out of His love for the Jewish people!”

* * *

All Jews are waiting for Mashiach, but people forget about the great judgment that will then take place. At that time, no excuses will help. There’ll be no way to smuggle one’s way through. Let that word of warning suffice.

* * *

The first time that the students of Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch took their meals together on Pesach was in 5666 (1906).39 On the last day of Pesach, when they invited my father to join them, he told R. Shaul Zislin40 to bring together all the menagnim,41 to determine the order in which the niggunim were to be sung, and to lead the singing. My father remarked at the time that a niggun is a thing of beauty, and it summons up the beauty in the soul. He added that orderliness in a niggun is its crown of beauty, and that the task of the lead singer is to see to it that all the chassidim present should sing a niggun as it is meant to be sung.

[Having described that occasion, the Rebbe Rayatz now told the above-mentioned Z. G. that he should lead the singing at the current farbrengen, and instructed him to start and lead the singing of a heartfelt niggun. After the student did as he was told, the Rebbe said:] That niggun is appropriate after a person has already cultivated himself to the point of being a mensch.42 What is needed now is a niggun that will spark a person to become a mensch.

[As they sang a lively melody, a chassid from Nevl43 got a few friends to join him in a dance. Observing this, the Rebbe said:] Souls are superior to angels. Before angels sing G‑d’s praises, “they grant each other permission,”44 as if to say, “Would you be so kind as to join me?” or “Excuse me, sir, but…” Only after that do they all proceed “together, all as one.”121 Souls are different: from the outset they are together, all as one. It was with good reason that the Mitteler Rebbe used to say, Halleluhu beNevl – “Praise Him in Nevl…!”45

* * *

It is written, וְיֵקַר פִּדְיוֹן נַפְשָׁם – “the ransom of their soul is dear.”46 When a person comes to pay a debt, it should not be demanded too insistently; rather, a soul should be redeemed in such a way that the person in whom it is lodged remains intact.47 He can secure this by thinking through words of Torah. Doing so brings light into his mind. When one wakes up in the morning with a verse of Chumash in his head, or other words of Torah, his day is entirely different. The same is true if he wakes up in the darkness of night, pours neglvasser over his hands, and meditates on words of Torah.

* * *

It is written, “For the L‑rd your G‑d is a consuming fire.”48 Elokus is likened here to fire, because Elokus is apprehended via warmth. The Element of Fire is the least tangible of the Four Elements, and does not combine with any of the other three. Water descends to low levels; Earth, intrinsically, is below; whereas Fire ascends, and connects with nothing except with matter that can be consumed.

Elokus is warmth; kelipah is frigidity. Elokus can be intercepted by nothing except for a screen of iron. (It was recently discovered that sounds in the atmosphere are inaudible if they are enclosed in a box of iron.) Now, in the Holy Tongue, the word for “iron” is barzel, and its component letters (בַּרְזֶל) have the same numerical value as the letters that spell עֲמָלֵק, for Amalek signifies doubts in one’s faith. [Moreover, the component letters of עֲמָלֵק in turn have the same numerical value as the letters that spell safek (סָפֵק), which means “doubt.” Hence:] Heresy also cools the ardor of a fellow Jew’s faith.49

Beyond that, on a subtler level [than outright heresy], it is also heretical to say, “Is it such a marvel that Elokus can [wreak miracles]?!” Saying this is an expression of the kelipah of Amalek, and it drags a person down to the lowest spiritual depths. (This can be regarded in either of two ways – either that the individual himself descends to the lowest spiritual depths, or that he raises up those depths to himself.)

In contrast to the cooling spoken of above, Elokus is warmth, like fire – and fire connects only with that which can be consumed. In the analog, this means that access to Elokus is attained by means of bittul, by nullifying one’s ego.

[The Rebbe urged those to partake of mashke, saying:] Throughout the year one must not drink mashke; today one ought to do so.

[He added to a certain individual:] Taking mashke today will save taking medicine throughout the whole year.

[In the midst of the meal Mr. M. Z. entered, and Reb M. D. R. remarked: “His bones are fine, but the flesh is no good.” Hearing this remark, the Rebbe commented:] Concerning this the Baal Shem Tov taught us long ago how to look and where to look...

[To a young chassid called A. P. the Rebbe said:] “When you’re doing deliveries with your truck, you can achieve much more by thinking of words of Torah than is achieved by a prominent scholar with his innovative teachings on Tractate Yevamos50 but you should always have with you a Chumash and a Tanya.”

[At the Yom-Tov meals, the Rebbe was concerned by the heavy cough of Rabbi A. A., a chassid from Baltimore, and said:] May G‑d send you a recovery! You ought to harness your talents to involve people in Torah study. This, however, should be done not with middos, with stern emotion, because [such] middos are abrasive, but with calm intellect, showing closeness.

[By way of illustration, the Rebbe said:] While working at carpentry for medical reasons, my father used to use a file, a tool that tears surfaces open; in contrast, there is a larger tool, [a plane,] that makes surfaces smooth. I, too, [the Rebbe added with a smile,] was once a carpenter,51 so I’m familiar with these tools. The latter tool can also produce a very fine film. It can serve as a metaphor for avodah with placid intellect, showing closeness.

On this subject, a certain Rebbe once said to another Rebbe at yechidus: “The difference between avodah via middos, and avodah via intellect, is that middos are abrasive, whereas mochin work through closeness.”

Instead of being satisfied with the fact that one is working on himself, one ought to make efforts to bring a fellow Jew close to Torah and mitzvos. This can be done only through closeness, so that that person is drawn closer to oneself. Doing so is an instance of gemilus chassadim begufo – doing a kindly act by personal exertion, for the sake of disseminating Torah study among others. Every individual ought to make a point of drawing at least five others to Torah study.

[The Rebbe now directed that those present should rise and sing the Alter Rebbe’s renowned Niggun of Four Themes, and that its fourth theme be sung five times. After it had been sung with intense feeling, he directed that those present should sing the well-known niggun whose Russian words begin with Nyeh zhuritzi khloptzi.]

[The Rebbe then said: Avraham Avinu loved his fellow man] “with his money, with his body, and with his soul.”52 [Likewise, in one’s personal avodah:] “With one’s money” means that one should give a fellow Jew an interest-free loan. “With one’s soul” means that one should engage in Torah study personally, and not consider that one can discharge his obligation simply by teaching another. [The Rebbe added with a smile:] (After all, everyone is as fond of himself at least as he is fond of another…) And “with one’s body” means that one should invest effort in guiding a fellow Jew.

* * *

When one buys something on contract, there’s no lowering the price, especially if one is buying on credit, [or, in the Holy Tongue, “buying by hakkafah”]. Today, [Simchas Torah, the time of Hakkafos,] is the day on which one receives [Heaven’s blessings] on credit for the whole year, so the price has to be paid. And the price is – mesirus nefesh for the Torah and Yiddishkeit.

There were times when everyone studied Torah, and those who were unable to study independently used to listen in to the scholars who led group study sessions in shul. In every shul, against the south wall at the side, there always stood a long table at which people were always learning. Here in America, however, that holy table is no longer to be found. Here the mizrach isn’t a mizrach,53 the west wall isn’t a west wall,54 and that south side isn’t a south side.

No words exist that will enable one to express himself. Here, people have forgotten everything. A Jew ought to belong to a brotherhood of people who are into studying Torah, not to a brotherhood of people who are into dying… One should belong to a brotherhood that is alive. Even if it is argued that membership of a burial society has the benefit of “reminding a man of the day of his death,”55 a man also needs reminders to fulfill other obligations that take precedence. Besides, in this country even this “reminder of the day of death” is a business. And in addition, each member is convinced that dying is only for some other guy, not for him…

In brief: a Jew should belong to brotherhoods of Torah scholars, brotherhoods that are alive. He himself should study, and he should also see to it that others too should study.

* * *

Every country has its characteristic trait that calls for correction. Here in America that dominant characteristic is – the arrogant pride of a mere mortal in the power of his wealth.56 This is reflected in the local idiom, “He’s making a living.” This phrase is widespread because people don’t know that there is a verse in the Torah that says, “Not by bread alone does a man live; a man lives on every utterance of the Mouth of G‑d.”57 It is widespread because only one person in a thousand studies a parshah of Chumash with Rashi, and only one in a hundred reviews the weekly Torah reading by saying every verse twice in the Holy Tongue and once in its Aramaic translation. People therefore don’t know that such a verse exists. And even if they do know of that verse, they don’t know what it means; they continue to think that whatever a person achieves is all thanks to his own efforts. This does not mean (G‑d forbid!) that they are lacking in faith, for the Name of Heaven is freely heard from everyone’s mouth.58 It does mean that such a person has a bloated, self-centered perception of his own worth.59 He is brazenly proud of the power of his wealth. And that trait ought to be banished.

* * *

A G‑d-fearing scribe should be commissioned to write a special sefer Torah, to be taken out to greet Mashiach. This should not be delayed, so that it will not be too late.60

* * *

May G‑d grant that all the requests made by the Jewish people throughout the world be fulfilled speedily, and in generous abundance, both materially and spiritually.