1. Today’s celebration is a genuine seudas mitzvah, for this festive meal is celebrating a siyum1 of “Torah derabim,” that is, Torah studied by a multitude.

It was once remarked:2 What kind of a phrase is “Torah derabim” [which literally means, “the Torah of a multitude”]? After all, the realm of holiness [whose Source is G‑d Himself] is characterizedby uniqueness (yechidus) and unity (achdus)! So how can those terms be applied to “the Torah of a multitude”?

The lesson to be learned is that one needs to infuse unity into the multitude. As everyone knows, Eisav personifies This World, whereas Yaakov personifies the Torah. Eisav’s offspring are referred to by the plural word, nefashos,3 whereas Yaakov’s offspring, even though they numbered seventy, are referred to by the singular word, nefesh4 – because Yaakov personifies the Torah, and the Torah represents unity, achdus.

Hence, [the juxtaposition of] the two words “Torah derabim” (lit., “the Torah of a multitude”) teaches that the Torah needs to be infused into reshus harabim, into the public domain.5

2. Since this is a seudas mitzvah, we must believe that people have in fact memorized their mishnayos. In contrast, when it comes to partaking of this festive meal, this is not a time for belief – just as when people are being counted for zimun, [the collective recital of the Grace after a Meal,] merely saying that one has eaten does not suffice: one must make a point of actually eating something. I would therefore have liked to taste something of what has been said.6 However, since it is hard to expect people to repeat what has already been said, I would like to tell and request each participant in the siyum to earnestly undertake to memorize the selection of mishnayos that he was given by lottery [for the upcoming year]. I don’t mean that this undertaking should be verbalized, but that they should make this commitment in their minds and hearts.

Every country has its characteristic ailment – America, too (Heaven forfend!). Over here, people are quick to be warmly enthused, and quick to cool down. Don’t take this matter lightly. Every single memorized mishnah comprises an entire world.

3. LeChayim!May the One Above grant every individual salvation and blessing and healing in all the areas that he needs. As to those who don’t feel that they lack anything – meaning that materially they lack nothing, and spiritually they are not aware that they lack anything – may G‑d grant that they should become aware that they are in fact lacking, and may He fill their lack.

4. For a few months every year, the tzaddik and chassid known as R. Hillel of Paritch used to travel about among “the colonies,” the farming settlements in Kherson. The colonists of the earliest generations were chassidim, though not chassidim from birth, and among them were scholars who had a sound grasp of the teachings of Chassidus. Their children, and their large families, were less scholarly, but they retained a deeply-rooted desire to do a fellow Jew a favor, and relished their davenen and their tradition of brotherliness.

Whenever R. Hillel visited one of those settlements, men, women and children would all go out to welcome him. As an affectionate person, he related warmly to every fellow Jew and every Jewish minor, to each of whom he would fondly refer as a Yiddish ingele, a little Jewish boy. Whenever he looked at a Jewish child, he saw only his soul – how he had been conceived in purity, how he had been brought up by his parents, and how he was therefore so precious. He was far removed from any trace of pride or lack of refinement, nor were they to be found within a radius of ten viorsts. So it was that whenever he arrived, all the men, women and children would stream out to greet him with a cordial Shalom Aleichem.

5. They all used to go out likewise whenever he delivered a maamar of Chassidus. Since he was a maskil and oved of considerable stature, it goes without saying that even his simplest maamarim were beyond their reach. Indeed, it once happened that no building in town could accommodate the huge crowd that had come to hear him, so he repeated his maamar outdoors, in the street. While speaking, he noticed that a few of the locals were crying, and gathered that these were the tears of unlettered folk who were pained by their inability to follow his train of thought.

In response, when his maamar came to an end R. Hillel reassured them: “In order for a sefer Torah to be kosher, it must be inscribed on kosher parchment, and each letter must be surrounded by its white space. A letter cannot be formed by ink and quill alone: it acquires its required shape only when it is surrounded by a white space. You can’t possibly imagine what joy is generated Above by the simple fact that Jews gather together – and it is on that ‘parchment’ that the greatest sefer Torah can be inscribed!”

[Having relayed his narrative about R. Hillel, the Rebbe Rayatz now concluded:] You can’t possibly guess what tumultuous waves are made in Heaven by an assemblage of people to celebrate the siyum of the memorization of mishnayos, for not only their bodies are foregathered here, but also their nefesh and ruach.

6. For Shabbos, Parshas Vayeira, 5632 (1871),7 when my revered father turned twelve, the numerous visitors to Lubavitch included rabbanim, businessmen, some wealthy individuals and regular chassidim. As always, a certain time was set aside for receiving them at yechidus, which usually added up to several hours. The visitors included three renowned names: R. Shneur Zalman Zlatopolsky from Kremenchug, HaRav R. Shneur Zalman Neimark from Polotzk, in the oblast of Vitebsk, and HaRav R. Leib from Nevl, in the same region.

There were so many arrivals that meeting the Rebbe Maharash at yechidus used to be difficult.

On Sunday, 21 MarCheshvan, my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, told his attendant, R. Leivik, that he would not receive any visitors at yechidus that evening. Instead, R. Leivik was instructed to tell the three above-named chassidim that they should enter the Rebbe’s study because there was something he wanted to discuss with them. R. Leivik was also instructed to see to it that the Rebbe was not interrupted at that time.

When those three elder chassidim entered the study of the Rebbe Maharash, they found that my father was already there. After my grandfather had the six lamps lit, he told them: “For me, this is a joyful day. Rashab” (to whom he referred by his acronym, just as the Tzemach Tzedek had done at my father’s bris) “completed the Six Orders of the Mishnah.”

The sons of the Rebbe Maharash generally completed their memorization of the Six Orders of the Mishnah when they turned thirteen, but my father did so when he turned twelve. The three visitors did not know that this was the date of my father’s birthday.

My grandfather went on to say: “The Baal Shem Tov did not propose that people should commit mishnayos to memory; for him it sufficed that people should recite Tehillim by heart. The Maggid additionally had his chassidim memorize Shiras Haazinu,8 and the Alter Rebbe expected the members of his family to memorize the entire Mishnah.”

My grandfather then delivered a [new] maamar of Chassidus for the three elder chassidim, which is extant in manuscript [and has since been published]. It cites the closing paragraph of the entire Mishnah,9which says that “R. Yehoshua ben Levi said: ‘In the Time to Come, the Holy One, blessed be He, [will grant every single tzaddik 310 worlds]…’“ This is followed by a teaching of R. Shimon ben Chalafta – which is surprising, because R. Yehoshua ben Levi was younger than him. True, R. Yehoshua ben Levi was a disciple of Rabbeinu HaKadosh,10 and according to one view he ought to be accorded the more authoritative status of a tanna [rather than of an amora]. The question nevertheless remains: Why is R. Yehoshua ben Levi cited before R. Shimon ben Chalafta, who was older than him?

The solution is that the teaching of R. Yehoshua ben Levi speaks of the Divine revelation in the Time to Come. And what enables us to be worthy of experiencing that revelation? The answer – peace – is provided by R. Shimon ben Chalafta, who teaches: “The Holy One, blessed be He, found no vessel that could contain blessings for the Jewish People other than peace!”

That maamar of the Rebbe Maharash goes on to speak of: peace among the heavenly hosts;11 the bond between the Divine soul and the Holy One, blessed be He; peace among the earthly hosts;12 and the link between the animal soul and the Divine soul.

After concluding his maamar, my grandfather told his listeners: “I would like to relay to you a number of narratives,” and proceeded as follows:

“R. Moshe, the Alter Rebbe’s son, was born in the month of Tammuz in the year 5539 (1779). (He was eleven years older than the Tzemach Tzedek.) The Alter Rebbe was a particularly punctual person, and by 7:00 a.m. his chassidim had finished davenen and were waiting for the bris [of R. Moshe] to take place. Hours passed, and by midday the bris had not yet begun. Eventually, a stranger wearing a fur jacket and dressed in white entered the beis midrash, with a sack on his shoulders and a staff in hand. A fur jacket was surprising in the [summer] month of Tammuz, but anyway, as soon as he walked in, the Alter Rebbe stepped out of his study and approached the stranger. As soon as he had greeted him with ‘Shalom Aleichem, R. Betzalel,’ he had the bris begin without delay.

“The Alter Rebbe accorded him the envied privilege of carrying the child to the Chair of Eliyahu.13 Immediately after the bris, when the words bedamayich chayi! are said and the infant is given a drop of wine from the goblet, the Alter Rebbe instructed R. Betzalel to give the infant a taste of the wine with his finger, according to custom.

“After the bris, the chassidim clustered around him, eager to know who was this stranger for whom the [Alter] Rebbe had held up the proceedings. The stranger only said, ‘I am Betzalel’ke14 the Shepherd.’ They tried to tackle him again in the evening, but in the meantime he had vanished.

“When they later told the Alter Rebbe what they had asked and what he had answered, he replied: ‘True, for the last forty years he has been a shepherd in a village near Shventzian. He has a thorough mastery of both the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, as well as of Sifra and Sifri, Tosefta and Rambam. That said, the light of the neshamah that is revealed within him was sparked by the fact that he had memorized the entire Mishnah – because מִשְׁנָה has the same letters as נְשָׁמָה.’“

[After the Rebbe Rayatz concluded his above account of the events surrounding the bris of R. Moshe, the Alter Rebbe’s son, he concluded that segment of his address at the Siyum HaMishnayos as follows:] After my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, went on to share further oral traditions involving the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek and himself, he told the three elder chassidim, “Very well, now you may leave.”

7. After they left my father also intended to leave, but my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, detained him and said: “I want to reveal something to you. Listen carefully.

“The last of the Six Orders of the Mishnah is Taharos, the laws governing ritual purity. That means that one should strive to arrive at a state of purity. The last tractate in the Order of Taharos is Uktzin,15 two of whose final mishnayos16 speak of honey – beehives and honeycombs. From this we learn that by studying mishnayos one can attain a state of purity. However, even after a person arrives at that point, he must keep in mind that there still remains an oketz, an [inedible] stem, just as it is present even in fine and edible fruits. [That, too, needs to be sweetened, and the avodah that is now required is accomplished through the refinement of one’s thoughts. Hence,] the three chapters of this tractate speak of hechsher, which [in this halachic context] means [additional] refinement through thought.

“And even if one has already passed that stage of avodah, the mishnah [in the last chapter]17 that speaks of the halachic status of a beehive [conveys a further directive for one’s avodah, as follows]: Once a person has attained a state of taharah, purity, and has even sweetened the tough ‘stems,’ he is liable to be warmed by a sweet feeling, a feeling as sweet as honey. Let him therefore remind himself [of the warning] that ‘you shall burn no leaven18 nor any honey as a fire-offering to G‑d.’19 They cannot be offered as a sacrifice. A person who is a sourpuss and a person who is oversweet are both unacceptable. A sourpuss is constantly sour – sour by day, sour by night, sour on Shabbos and Yom-Tov and weekdays. You can also have someone who is oversweet. He is always sweet – morning, day and night, sweet to himself and sweet to others, on Shabbos and Yom-Tov and weekdays. However, one must keep in mind that neither that which is entirely sour nor that which is entirely sweet – that is, neither a sourpuss nor a sweetie – can be an acceptable offering to G‑d.”

8. It was the custom of our Sagesto preface their Torah discourses with a teaching in honor of whoever was hosting the occasion.20

An achsanya, a lodging place, is a makkif, an all-surrounding environment. Chevrah Mishnayos Be’al-Peh (“The Society for the Memorization of Mishnayos”) operates within the makkif – that is, under the auspices – of Machne Yisrael. This is not the time for a lengthy description of the little-publicized activities of Machne Yisrael, or of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. Even the more-widely-known Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah with all of its branches is not evaluated in proportion to its achievements. However, this is not the time to speak of them, because “one joyous occasion should not be mixed with another.”21

For the last 27 years I have been active in the public arena, that is, from the year 5677 (1917). In fact that began in 5652 (1891),22 at the time of the Extradition from Moscow,23 but from that time until 5655 (1895) I only heard about activities for the good of the public but was not yet actively involved in them. However, from 5677 (1917)…24

9. Workers for the public goodinclude some who work and don’t talk [about their good deeds], some who work and talk, some who talk but don’t work, and some who talk and work. Back in Russia, people used to work but not talk, and some people used to work and talk. In Lubavitch, people used to work but not talk. As to the other upright people who worked and talked, they publicized their activities in order to muster the requisite people and funds. In Lubavitch there was no shortage of people nor of funds. The same was true of the esteemed R. Chayim Brisker and R. Chayim Ozer,25 who worked together with my revered father.

Exiled from Russia and arriving in various European countries, I observed in addition the two latter levels [of the four above-listed levels] in communal work, namely, those who talk and work, and those who talk but don’t work. There are people who, when they talk, think about actually doing something, except that the little they eventually do is out of all proportion to their talk. And some of those who are at the level of talking, but not working, already had no intention of working when they were talking.

Arriving here, in America, I observed that there are only people who talk but do not work, and even when they talked they had no intention of working. There are also those who neither talk nor work: [the current challenges] arouse in them neither a thought nor a mention.

We have now, Baruch HaShem, entered our fifth year. The three “years of orlah26 were difficult. We had to batter our way through a wall of iron, a mechitzah shel barzel, and, as everyone knows, the numerical value (the gematria) of the letters that spell בַּרְזֶל equals the numerical value of the letters that spell עֲמָלֵק, Amalek.27

[After the three years of orlah,] the fruit of the fourth year is called kodesh hilulim,28 “produce that elicits joyful praise” – and “hilulim” has two meanings.29

10. I want to raise a very important subject. A batch of good-for-nothings have banded together and are desecrating the reverence due to the Torah.30 They are seeking to tear out the Torah’s etz-chayims, the two rods that hold its parchment scroll in place – and by “etz-chayims” I mean yeshivah students.

Although Jews are a minority in this country, everyone knows that they have a big share in the war effort, financially and also physically. That is what the Torah prescribes – that if one lives in a country that is conducted as it ought to be conducted, one is obligated to help that effort.

There is a law in this country that yeshivah students are exempt [from conscription], so the above-mentioned individuals come along and abuse the reverence due to the Torah. This initiative affects not only the yeshivah students: it won’t (G‑d forbid) harm them. The bigger issue here is the desecration of the reverence due to the Torah. In their eyes, a student of Tomchei Temimim, or of Torah VaDaas, or of Tiferes Yerushalayim, or of R. Chayim Berlin’s Yeshivah,31 doesn’t qualify [for the exemption], whereas a student at one of the houses of apostasy who studies at the seminary of Schechter or of Wise can qualify to be called a rav. The kosher yeshivos are burdened with questions: Was a student’s grandfather a rav, or his father, or his uncle?

Those who are responsible for this predicament are the rabbis – including the pious and G‑d-fearing rabbanim – for not protesting vigorously. When even a person who desecrates Shabbos or who consumes treife food is confronted by a determined plea to salvage the reverence due to the Torah, he is deeply affected.

Fellow Jews! You must remove this stain, this major abuse of the Torah. As long as the present decree remains, you and your wives and your children are in peril. You are all responsible for the above. People should get together and loudly protest this (G‑d forbid!) evil decree.

The newspapers don’t want to write about this subject. Even if they were to be paid they would not publish such a protest. Drawing strength from the merit of my holy forebears, and from the Torah, I hereby appoint you all to be walking newspapers. Tell all the people you know and all the people you don’t know – in Yiddish, and where needed, in English – about the desecration of the honor of the Torah that is being committed by that little group.

I am confident that “our side will prevail.”32The schoolchildren of the Torah-chadarim33 and the young yeshivah students will no doubt lend the older students of the yeshivos and mesivtos34 the strength to voice their public protest forcefully. On this matter I am addressing you, the temimim, in particular, and I am certain that you will safeguard the respect due to the Torah, to Chassidus, and to avodah.35

May the One Above grant that the decree will be annulled, and that we will be privileged to witness the coming of our Righteous Mashiach, speedily.