Excerpt from the Talk of the Rebbe [Rayatz]
at the Distribution by Lottery of Mishnayos to be Memorized

It is written, “I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride.”1 The Midrash2 observes that the word used is not לַגַּן, which would mean “to the garden,” but לְגַנִּי, which means “to My garden.” This suggests the word לִגְנוּנְיָא, a private meeting place, implying that G‑d has come to the place in which His Essence was revealed in the beginning, for it is in this lowly world that the Essence of the Divine Presence originally abided.

The use of the above-quoted Aramaic word, genunya, to signify a meeting place is seen in the comment of the [same] Midrash – on the verse that begins, Hayosheves baganim… (“You who dwell in the gardens…”)3 – describing groups of friends who sit together in the gardens and study Torah.

The world is called a genunya, because this world is the place in which G‑d (as it were) meets with man, “the choicest of His creatures”4 – because G‑d (as it were) “desired to have a dwelling place among the lower beings,”5 among earthly beings.

Suppose that a person learns Chassidus with a mentor, and studies Chapter 36 of Tanya with the appropriate deliberateness, and meditates upon the hishtalshelus of the worlds – that is, the chainlike scheme whereby the Divine light progressively screens itself on its way “down” from infinite spirituality to the creation of finite materiality. Suppose that he meditates also on the ultimate purpose of this hishtalshelus, as the Alter Rebbe explains it. Such a person can have a conception of why this grossly material world is the place in which the Holy One, blessed be He, meets with the choicest of His creatures, through their avodah of studying Torah and observing mitzvos.

However, G‑d’s meeting place was disrupted by the seven sinful generations – of Adam’s sin, Cain, Enosh, the generation of the Deluge, the generation of the Dispersion, Sodom, and Egypt (in the days of Avraham). True, there were seven generations of tzaddikim – Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Levi, Kehos, Amram, Moshe – who to a certain extent corrected the damage done by the seven sinful generations. Nevertheless, G‑d’s meeting place, this material world, became much grosser and coarser.

The sinful generations brought into the world an egoz (lit., “a walnut”). The letters that comprise the word אֱגוֹז are numerically equivalent to the letters that comprise the word חֵטְא (“sin”).6 And indeed, this world is metaphorically called ginas egoz7 – a grove of walnut trees, because sins can grow in it. Thus, [in the absence of a due fear of Heaven,] a kula (i.e., a lenient ruling) or a heter (here implying a borderline permissive ruling) that relates to a possible prohibition can grow to the point that the individual who invokes it actually comes to transgress a prohibitive commandment. Likewise, an instance of bedieved, something that is somehow considered passable after the event, can grow into a lechat’chilah, something that is lightheartedly regarded as if it were unquestionably permissible as a first option.

True, the world is thus a walnut grove in which sins can grow – but in principle it remains, as above, a meeting place, so that if a person truthfully wants to see G‑dliness, then by studying Torah and observing mitzvos with an awe of Heaven he can behold the workings of hashgachah peratis, specific Divine Providence.

This material world is a mixture. It is both G‑d’s meeting place and a walnut grove, and G‑d enables a person to freely choose his path in life.

The Midrash on the above-quoted phrase, “I went down to the walnut grove,” enumerates the virtues of a walnut. For example, though its shell is tough and inflexible, it has a fine kernel. So, too, even if the shell is dirty it can be washed, while the kernel always stays clean. All of these virtues are then borrowed to describe a Jew. Accordingly, the egoz, whose numerical equivalent means “sin,” can be rehabilitated – by a Jew’s inflexible resistance to any compromise that relies on halachic rulings that are, as described above, overly permissive and at best, merely bedieved. Moreover, with the power of his inner Jewish kernel, he persists in his observance of the Torah and its mitzvos – and when he does this, many sins can be washed away.

The world needs to have its air purified, because for various reasons, the air has become extremely coarsened. Putrid air causes all kinds of dangerous ailments, and it can be cleansed only by the letters of the Torah. So at every spare moment, wherever one happens to be, whether in the street or in a street car, or bus, in the store or in the office, one should repeat letters of the Torah. This should be done with the intent of cleansing the air, for the letters of the Torah protect the public and the individual.

The Machne Israel organization has undertaken the task of distributing the Mishnayos to be mastered, and then to be repeated from memory at all times and in all places in which this is permissible, with the above purpose in mind. I was very happy to be informed by the heads of that organization that this proposal has been given a cordial reception, and it my pleasure to participate in this mitzvah-gathering to mark the distribution of the Mishnayos by lottery.

Today’s distribution of the Six Orders of the Mishnah is very different from the familiar distribution of the tractates of the Gemara. Whereas those tractates are usually studied in a beis midrash or at home, the Mishnayos being distributed today will be studied “when you walk on the way.”8 Wherever they are repeated, they will light up the bond between the Jewish people and the Holy One, blessed be He.

In the Holy Tongue, the word “Mishnah” (מִשְׁנָה) shares the same letters as the word for “soul” (neshamah – נְשָׁמָה).9 No words can express the great benefit that the constant recitation of Mishnayos from memory can bring, with G‑d’s help, in protecting the community and the individual – and now, more than ever, such protection is needed by all of us, by all Jews and by our families. Moreover, no words can describe the pleasure that this recitation brings to the Creator.

May G‑d grant Jewry at large, and every individual in particular, blessings of physical life – true life, that is lived according to the Torah and its mitzvos. Let people at all times repeat the Mishnayos that they have memorized, and think about them – and G‑d will guard and protect us and all Jews from our internal and external enemies. May G‑d, with lovingkindness and compassion, rouse our hearts to do teshuvah, and ease the birth pangs of Mashiach, so that we may be among those who will be privileged to greet our Righteous Mashiach in the immediate future.