11. Today is the 144th celebration of by far the most festive2 of the joyful chassidic festivals. And we are gathered here today during an agonizing time for the world at large, especially for Jews, and in particular for those who observe the Torah and the mitzvos. This is a time of anger Above. Those who study or have studied Torah, as well as those who have merely heard of the passage beginning “R. Yochanan said…” in Tractate Gittin,3 and the midrashim and other teachings of the Sages in Midrash Eichah, can have a mental picture of the current situation.

Every teaching that one studies or hears should create a mental picture, as indeed it does in every perceptive mind, and every Jew by definition has that perception, by virtue of his soul.

This is a furious time in the Heavenly Court. [In response to the accusatory angels], the millions of letters and words of Torah that have been studied, and the millions of letters and words of Tehillim that have been recited, are presenting the case for the defense, and are creating a great stir Above.

Our era resembles the era in which Yirmeyahu prayed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, cried out to Moshe Rabbeinu, the Faithful Shepherd, and pleaded with Rachel, who laments the lot of her children.4 The difference is that in his time, the issue was a neglect of the sacrificial service, whereas today, the issue is the neglect of taharah, the laws of family purity.

The heart of every Jew is intact, but it is veiled. This is the era of the birth pangs of Mashiach that our Sages foresaw. Everyone can see “the Mighty Arm”;5 it impacts everyone, without exception.

The laws of mourning rule that the observance of a festival overrides the practice of mourning. So now let us say Gut Yom-Tov. May the merit of the protagonist of this festival6 guard us, so that G‑d will wreak a great miracle for the rescue and protection of the Jewish People.

2. [The Rebbe Rayatz instructed the sheliach tzibbur, R. Shimon Leib Grinberg, to read the prayer beginning Av HaRachamim; the prayer beginning MiSheBeirach composed by the Rebbe for the welfare of the country; and a prayer beginning MiSheBeirach for the welfare of Jews in general and for the young Jewish soldiers serving on all fronts. Throughout all those prayers the Rebbe stood, whispering them together with the sheliach tzibbur, word for word.He then said:]

King David said: “From all my teachers I have learned.”7 In this spirit the Gemara8 cites a verse, “He teaches us by the beasts of the earth,”9 and teaches how everything, whether good or its opposite, exists in order to teach a lesson. We have thus been surrounded by teachers! From everything around us one can observe the intent underlying the creation of man and of the world, both for the benefit of the body and for the elevation that the soul gains from it. This applies both to Torah matters and to instances of hashgachah peratis, specific Divine Providence. As can be plainly observed, many people have arrived at teshuvah by virtue of an instance of hashgachah peratis.

The world of Torah includes a variety of students and likewise of teachers, who include a teacher of little children, a Gemara teacher, and a rosh yeshivah, each of whom plays only one role. A teacher of little children cannot teach those who need a rosh yeshivah, and a rosh yeshivah cannot teach those who need a teacher of little children. The Alter Rebbe, however, opened a gate that allows a person to learn from everyone – except that one has to know what to learn and how to learn it. This applies even to the obligation to joyfully accept [apparent misfortune],10 which then becomes manifest good,11 because in fact bad things, too, are good – and the current situation, too, must be accepted joyfully.

3. This is the era of the birth pangs of Mashiach. The illness is known, and knowing the illness is itself half a cure. The Sages already foresaw these birth pangs 1500 years ago, and they also knew the secret of the Redemption.

One should picture what is being done to our brothers and their families overseas as if it was happening to oneself. A brother is being killed by a bloody knife in his heart, and one should picture this as if it were happening (G‑d forbid) to himself, and such a thought ought to restrain one from eating and drinking for pleasure, from dressing for the sake of appearance, and so on.

How can a man sit and eat calmly when he knows that his brother is expiring for want of a piece of bread? How can he preen himself when he knows that his nephew is walking through the snow naked and barefoot, collapsing from pain, while he himself is taking his time over an ice cream or a square meal and dressing up in all his finery? So what does he do? He pokes his hand into his pocket and gives a coin for tzedakah. However, that tzedakah box is a death box. Since “giving charity saves one from death,”12 he tosses a coin into the death box, and the death he leaves for someone else – whereas in truth, charity should be given with sensitivity, while feeling the other’s need.13

4. The Prophet Yonah ran away from G‑d, even though he was a prophet and had been blessed with prophecy by virtue of the sheer joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah.14 Nevertheless, he thought that he could hide himself from G‑d, so he ran away to a ship. There he fell asleep, and didn’t know that the ship was foundering. Everyone had meanwhile thrown their baggage overboard as he slept, until the captain shouted: “What are you doing there asleep?”15

American Jews have jumped onto a ship and have landed in a very nice country, where they have fallen asleep without realizing that the ship is in danger. Why are they waiting until the captain wakes them up?

Jews who razor their beards are transgressing five commandments by not differentiating between a depilatory cream and a razor, and are thereby stabbing the heart of Jewry five times. They go to the park and desecrate the Shabbos, whether out of ignorance or by not caring, but either way they are publicly desecrating the Shabbos. There are Jewish women who go out on Shabbos to buy freshly-baked goods, as if eating yesterday’s pastries is unthinkable. They thereby imperil their own health, as well as the health of their husbands and children, leading to suffering and operations [and worse].

Fathers and mothers and sisters who desecrate the Shabbos and do not observe the laws of family purity ought to be told that they are [endangering the lives] of their children and siblings. The angels created by the tefillin, tzitzis and Shema Yisraels of the soldiers advocate for them in the Heavenly Court – but confronting them, the prosecuting angels drag in the fathers and mothers who desecrate the Shabbos and the sisters who do not observe the laws of family purity – so that even the benevolent Angel Michael is hard put to speak up in their defense.

The children are really tzaddikim, especially considering the education that they have been given, but [their lives are being endangered] by their parents who desecrate the sanctity of Shabbos.

Fathers, mothers, sisters! By observing Shabbos and the laws of family purity, you will be saving your children. Teshuvah is required of every Jew, each according to his individual standing.

People should go out and visit one house after another, to urge parents and grandparents to enroll their children and grandchildren in kosher Talmud Torah schools. Those who enroll children in treife Talmud Torah schools should realize that they are abandoning them (G‑d forbid!) to apostasy. The treife teachers who do not observe Shabbos or put on tefillin or lead a kosher lifestyle are just like missionaries. This should be publicized.

In fact this work ought to be the task of Agudas HaRabbonim, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis. They should have enlightened their fellow Jews about education in general and kosher education in particular. There will no doubt come a time when they will wake up from their deep slumber, and with a heavy heart they will lament what they neglected by having been asleep.

One must explain to everyone what the real situation is – explain, not argue. A person who desecrates the Shabbos should be told: “What do you want from my life? Okay, suppose you don’t take responsibility for yourself. (Besides, in fact you don’t have the last word even about yourself, because there have been stronger men than you, yet today they are in a place you wouldn’t want to know about...) But even if you don’t take responsibility for your own life, realize that the conduct of every individual impacts the entire community. The present era is like the time of an epidemic!”

5. I had considered not celebrating this year’s Yud-Tes Kislev, but for a reason that cannot be shared, and also because for many years a seudah has been held on this date, I decided otherwise.After all, [there is a chassidic adage that] joy bursts through obstacles,16 so may G‑d grant that in the merit of the protagonist of this festival,6 and in the merit of all the righteous Rebbeim, an arousal to do teshuvah will find its way to every Jew.

As to all the words of mussar that have now been said: Even though all Torah matters are good, and even a temporary arousal to teshuvah has value, what matters is that these words should be brought down into actual practice. There must be teshuvah, without waiting until the captain wakes people up.

Rabbanim, shochtim and regular householders should organize into groups and let everyone know what the current situation really is. The first ones to go out and disseminate this truth ought to be the Torah scholars and the yeshivah students. They should join the ranks of Machne Yisrael17 and do whatever needs to be done. They should realize that this is not only a question of fortifying the practice of Yiddishkeit, but of saving the Jewish People.

6. [After the Grace after Meals, the Rebbe said:] “A kingdom on earth mirrors the Kingdom in the World Above.”18 The way things are in This World, that is how they are in the World to Come. It is obvious that in the World Above, today’s Yud-Tes Kislev is a sad one. All the tzaddikim in the Higher Gan Eden and in the Lower Gan Eden are sad, just like those who are now in This World. May G‑d take away everyone’s tears and grant all Jews an arousal to do teshuvah.19