1. Chanukah is an unusual Yom-Tov: it celebrates a victory in battle. Now, Jews haven’t got a gift for battles. Their gifts surface in a “Torah-battle,” [in the vigorous tussle of a Talmudic debate].1

The body of a Jew is precious, like the soul. In fact, the Gemara teaches that “if one saves the life of a single Jew, it is as if he saved an entire world.”2 Although mortal reason cannot understand how a single life can equal an entire world, this concept can be understood in the light of a teaching of the Sages, in Avos deRabbi Nasan:3 “Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created its equivalent in man.” The world is a big body and a man’s body is a small world, a microcosm. Thus, when it comes to rectifying the world, then even though the body of a Jew is precious, Jews do not refrain from battling their bodily instincts4 when there is a question of self-sacrifice for the Torah. For example, even though “Avraham was one man alone,”5 he was prepared for self-sacrifice in order to make Echad – the One G‑d – widely known in the world.

Avraham Avinu’s self-sacrifice was different from that of R. Akiva, [who sought self-sacrifice]. R. Akiva used to pray: “When will I be given the opportunity to fulfill [this mitzvah to love G‑d with all my soul,6 which I am commanded to do even if He takes it from me]?”7 Avraham Avinu did not seek self-sacrifice. He knew that there existed a Nimrod who incited the whole world to rebel against the Holy One, blessed be He,8 so he put his life at risk9 in order to make His Divinity known in the world.

2. The Greeks knew that Jews are “a wise and understanding nation,”10 who must be fought in an unconventional way. They therefore offered the wise and understanding nation an alternative kind of wisdom, which was opposed to the wisdom of the Torah. They had no objection to the mitzvos that mortal reason can grasp, such as the obligation to honor one’s parents, or the prohibitions against robbery, theft or murder. The goal of their battle against the Jewish people was “to make them forget Your Torah and to transgress the statutes of Your will.”11 The first phrase, “to make them forget Your Torah,” means to make them forget that this is “Your Torah,” G‑d’s Torah. The focus of the second phrase is, “to transgress the statutes of Your will.”12 In response, Mattisyahu and his sons went out with their [spiritual] swords, namely: “Whoever is for G‑d, come here!”13 and Shema Yisrael…!” And, thank G‑d, they were victorious.

One should know that mitzvos14 are “the statutes of Your will.” Even things that the law permits must be observed vigilantly. The beard should not be shaved. Tzitzis should be without embarrassment. And in general, one should be identifiable as a Jew.

There are prominent authorities who have ruled that one’s beard may be removed by chemical means, and their ruling is halachically valid. However, on their shoulders lies the responsibility for those who [wrong-headedly] cite that ruling to support their failure to distinguish between that permission – and the five-fold prohibition to shave with a razor.15 One’s conduct should be sensitive to the fact that [all] the mitzvos are “the statutes of Your will.”16 One should remain aware of a phrase in the first paragraph of the Code of Jewish Law:17 “One should not be embarrassed when confronted by scoffers.”

3. When we were in Russia, whoever was active for the cause of the Torah lived in dread of actually losing his life. In advance of the well-known gathering,18 the chassidim were warned that whoever was caught there would be arrested – and the rabbanim who came here from Russia, especially HaRav [Shmuel] Levitin, know full well what arrest signified in Russia. At that time I told the chassidim present: “There will come a time when people will long for these days!19 We have to grasp whatever opportunity we have. To tell another to give his life for Kiddush HaShem20 – that one may not do. To seek Kiddush HaShem oneself – that one should not do. I am prepared for it, and you should each do as you understand...”

This is a time at which one should seize the opportunity. Until now this has been a period of exile, but the One Above says, “You may come only so far!”21 The Holy One, blessed be He, doesn’t want to wait any longer: either the path to teshuvah, or… – I don’t want to say the opposite. The Sages teach that “a Jew, even though he sinned, is a Jew.”22 That teaching – “even though” – no longer applies.23 He is born a Jew, and must remain a Jew.

With what did my ears sin, that they should have to hear the following words?

A certain Jew comes along and asks me for a blessing on personal matters. Now, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t write prescriptions. I give a blessing in the name of the Torah and in the merit of my holy forebears. So I ask him: “If you come to me and believe in me, why don’t you believe in the Master of the Universe and His mitzvos?”

He answers: “Here in America there are mitzvos whose expiry date has passed.” That’s what he heard from his rabbi.

What words are these – expired mitzvos?! The Torah and the mitzvos are eternal at all times and in all places!

The treife Talmud-Torahs,24 the treife rabbis, the treife teachers… The parents who send their children to such teachers are sending them to apostasy, G‑d forbid! It would be better for those children to be taught by a non-Jew than to be taught by such teachers.

The atmosphere in America is gross. In Russia, where we had with us three hundred chassidim who sacrificed their lives for the Torah, the atmosphere was not as gross as it is here.

4. I would like these words of mine to be heard from one end of this country to the other. I am carrying out the mission for which we were sent to America, without controversy. I know that in whatever I do I have opponents, but with G‑d’s help we are accomplishing what we need to do. We don’t want to convince anyone, and that includes the Talmud Torah principal who doesn’t observe Shabbos. Just as one cannot induce the Angel of Death to refrain from killing, so is it impossible to persuade the principal that Chumash should be taught intact,25 as it ought to be taught.

People need to know that if one must teach other subjects (i.e., secular subjects26 ), this is only out of necessity. On no account should such an hour be pampered. As to those who vacillate, sometimes this way and sometimes that, let them realize that the sea did not split immediately. First of all, someone has to leap into the sea. One should not be fazed by anyone, whether he is a member of the Covenant or not. It must be made clear that when it comes to Torah and mitzvos, we have no bosses. All yeshivos should be helped, but only those that teach in a spirit of the awe of Heaven.27 The work must be undertaken without trying to curry favor with anyone.

What I ask of you is not only money. That will come anyway. “The windows of Heaven have opened,”28 and stacks and stacks of money will pour forth. What I do ask of you is Jewish fortitude. Fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers! Send your children to a kosher Talmud Torah school, where alef-beis is taught in the traditional manner, as kometz-alef – o.29 Nowadays, thank G‑d, there are plenty of kosher Talmud Torah schools. This is the era in which we need the real “guardians of the city” – the little children in the Torah schools.30

5. This date, the fifth Chanukah light, is a chassidisher Yom-Tov, a date on which chassidim were released from imprisonment. The Alter Rebbe was released on Yud-Tes Kislev,31 and the chassidim who had been imprisoned with him were released on the fifth day of Chanukah. There is a message here, and even though it may be known, it needs to be pointed out, namely: By the example of their self-sacrifice, those chassidim cultivated fine character traits.32 A chassidisher Yom-Tov is thus a Yom-Tov not only for chassidim: it is also relevant to Jews at large.

6. That which could not be done until now in America, we have accomplished: anyone can see what several temimim – students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah – have achieved.

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The One Above will assuredly accept our prayers and tears and fasts. May He arouse everyone to a complete teshuvah, and may we soon be privileged to greet our Righteous Mashiach, Amen!