16. Finding the Source of Light Within. This mode of avodah begins on Purim. As the Sages teach,1 “One is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman!’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai!’ ”

As a rule, vigilance is called for in this matter, lest there be an undesirable outcome, and “a person is always held accountable..., whether awake or asleep....”2 However, this vigilance is needed when one becomes intoxicated of his own volition, but when it is done in fulfillment of a directive of the Torah, the Torah takes responsibility that the results will be only visibly and manifestly good, both in relation to Purim itself, and also in relation to their effect on the rest of the year. [No record is extant of the continuation of this passage.]

Above all: By raising oneself to the above-described level — at which one “does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman!’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai!’ ” — one transforms the ‘Cursed be Haman!’ (that is, the matters ruled by the unholy side of the universe) to ‘Blessed be Mordechai!’ (that is, holy matters),. See sec. 12 above. sublimating “bitterness to sweetness and darkness to light.”629 And by doing so, one places himself and his entire environment in a ray of light.

(It is written [that the olives whose oil was to be used in the Menorah should be] “crushed for the luminary.”3 As noted in the maamarim of our predecessors, the Rebbeim,4 the wording of the verse is specifically “for the luminary” (rather than “for the light” or “to illuminate”). This intimates that one should endeavor to connect with and be animated by one’s own “luminary,” [for maor, meaning the very source of light, is a code-word for the innermost essence of one’s soul]. After that, the verse goes on to say, “to keep a constant light burning,” referring to the subsequent revelation of light.)

And ultimately, the above transformation of darkness to light will find revealed expression in the kind of good that is visible and manifest, with the blessings of children, health, and an ample livelihood.


17. Utilizing Secular Disciplines. As was said earlier,660 the theme of Purim is to be found in the verse, “and it was reversed.” This hints at the spiritual challenge of transforming “Cursed be Haman!” (that is, matters ruled by the unholy side of the universe) into “Blessed be Mordechai!” (that is, holy matters). An instance of this transformation was cited — the Talmudic teaching that “some of the descendants of Haman [who in turn was a descendant of Amalek, converted to Judaism and] studied the Torah in public.” A parallel instance may be observed in a recent discovery in the secular disciplines,. The Talmudic phrase used in the original is chochmos chitzoniyos — lit., “extraneous disciplines.” which answers a reasoned query or objection5 that has been raised regarding the Jewish people’s observance of the Torah and its commandments.

By way of introduction: As the Gemara records,6 “When R. Yehoshua ben Chananiah was on his deathbed, the Sages said to him: ‘How will we cope with the heretics?’ ” (Maharsha explains:7 “For he was renowned as a successful disputant against them, as in the case recorded in Bechoros 8b involving the elders of Athens.”) “R. Yehoshua ben Chananiah answered the Sages by quoting the verse, ‘Counsel has vanished from the men of understanding, their wisdom has gone stale.’8 This he interpreted as follows: ‘Once counsel has vanished from the men of understanding, the wisdom of the gentile nations goes stale.’ ” That is to say, a reasoned objection based on secular disciplines is conceivable only when a reasoned answer9 is forthcoming from the wisdom that stems from the holy “side” of the universe.

Why is this so?

Secular disciplines are needed only insofar as they can be utilized for the service of G‑d. (To quote the Alter Rebbe in Tanya:10 “[They defile the Divine soul’s intellectual faculties] unless one employs them as a useful instrument, viz., as a means of earning a more affluent livelihood with which to be able to serve G‑d, or unless he knows how to apply them in the service of G‑d”; for example, by utilizing a knowledge of astronomy to better understand the laws of the Sanctification of the New Moon, or a knowledge of medicine in order to heal one’s fellow, thereby fulfilling the command to “love your fellowman as yourself.”11 Utilizing such knowledge in this way is superior to using it merely as a tool for earning an income, for in this way the secular disciplines themselves are utilized for holy purposes.12 ) Thus, since there is no need for the secular disciplines in their own right, they have no real existence. It follows that a reasoned query or objection based on secular disciplines to which there is no reasoned answer from the wisdom stemming from the holy “side” of the universe — i.e., a query that would obscure the holy “side” of the universe — has no real existence at all. Accordingly, to every reasoned query there is a reasoned answer that comes from the wisdom of the holy “side” of the universe.

Nevertheless, even when the wisdom of the holy “side” of the universe does provide a reasoned answer, that answer merely repels and banishes the attempt to obscure the holy “side” of the universe. And, as we saw above, the ultimate Divine intent is not only that this obscurity be nullified but, moreover, that it be transmuted into holiness (this being a central theme of Purim). Hence, the secular disciplines themselves should be made use of to provide reasoned answers to reasoned objections that query the holy “side” of the universe.

It is surely self-evident that the above concept does not imply approval (G‑d forbid) for the study of secular disciplines. To do so would be to resemble a man who endangers his life by leaping from a rooftop so that he will be able to recite the blessing made in gratitude for a miracle, in order to demonstrate that G‑d can save someone from danger by performing a miracle...! Rather, the above concept is addressed to those who, for whatever reason, have already studied secular disciplines. They should be aware that their spiritual task is not only to ensure that these studies will not interfere with their Divine service and Torah study and performance of the mitzvos, but also to utilize these disciplines themselves to fortify the practice of Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos. And after they have disencumbered themselves of the mask of shame..., they should also make use of those disciplines to disseminate the wellsprings of Chassidus far afield, until they reach even places in which those teachings might presently appear to be out of the question.

18. Forever a Mere Minority?! After the above introduction, we can now provide an answer to a classic query that has been used to challenge the cause of holiness, an answer that is based on a discovery recently made in one of the secular disciplines.

One of the objections raised against Torah-oriented conduct is the fact that “you are the smallest of all the nations.”13 This comprises two questions: (a) How can a minority be expected to hold its own against a majority? (b) Even if the minority were to succeed in resisting a majority, surely it would suffice that they themselves survive, and if so, what is the point of withstanding the pressure of a majority if after all, the minority will remain no more than a minority?

To be more specific: First and foremost, the Jewish people are a minority among “all the nations.” Moreover, Jews do not seek to attract converts.14 They do not mind if no converts are added to their ranks, leaving them as still “the smallest of all the nations.”

(True, the Gemara teaches15 that “the Holy One, blessed be He, exiled Israel among the nations only in order that converts be added to their number.” However, it is pointed out in the teachings of Chassidus16 that this is not intended to be understood literally, because the number of converts who were added to the Jewish people is utterly disproportionate to the far greater number of Jews who were exiled among the nations. Rather, the Sages are alluding to the use of material, worldly objects in the performance of mitzvos, whereby those objects are converted from materiality to spirituality.17 Now, the Sages teach18 that when Yaakov and Eisav divided up their inheritance, Eisav took This World, i.e., materiality, and Yaakov took the World to Come, i.e., spirituality. Material objects thus have no intrinsic relationship to Jews or Judaism. Hence, when one takes a material object and converts it into something Jewish, this is essentially conversion.19 )

The Jews, then, are the smallest “of all the nations.” In addition, even within the Jewish people, those who are perfectly punctilious in their performance of the mitzvos, including every minute requirement of the Sages, are a minority, compared to their brethren who are not quite so vigilant.

Moreover, the same applies to every individual Jew, including one who is as punctilious as those described above. In his life, too, the time that is devoted to spiritual things is a minority, compared to the time that is spent on material things.

Concerning the Patriarchs, by contrast, the Sages teach20 that “the Patriarchs are truly the [Divine] chariot,” because, as is explained in Tanya,21 “all their organs22 were holy and detached from mundane matters, and throughout their lives they served as a vehicle for nothing but the Divine Will.” (Elsewhere,23 the Alter Rebbe spells this out as follows: “Throughout their lives, they did not cease even momentarily [from binding their mind and soul to the Master of the universe].”) A chassidic discourse in manuscript24 adds, “even in their sleep.” This means that a Jew can bring himself to a spiritual level at which even in his sleep, when the greater part of his vitality departs and he is left with a mere “ounce of vitality,”25 he should be a “chariot” to Divinity, so that his entire being and all his affairs are spiritual and holy. With people of our spiritual status, however, the actual fact is that they do not live at that lofty level. Furthermore, spiritual concerns are in a minority, outnumbered by their material concerns.

This is even more the case in these days, in the era of exile, a time of doubled and redoubled darkness on the material plane that indicates a doubled and redoubled darkness on the spiritual plane.

As is widely known, all material occurrences ultimately derive from spiritual causes. Thus, when Jews are confronted by a physical threat,26 that is so because there is a parallel state of affairs on the spiritual plane. When that spiritual state of affairs is dangerously out of joint, G‑d forbid, physical affairs are likewise in a state of mortal danger, G‑d forbid. Thus we find in the Gemara,27 in connection with the events of Purim: “The disciples of R. Shimon bar Yochai asked him, ‘Why were the Jews28 of that generation punishable by annihilation?’ He replied, ‘...Because they bowed down before an idol.’ So they asked, ‘Does that mean that the Heavenly Court showed [the accused] unimpartial favor?!’ (I.e.,29 why were they saved by a miracle?) He replied: ‘Just as they acted as they did only for the sake of appearance,30 so too the Holy One, blessed be He, acted toward them31 only for the sake of appearance.” This means that a decree against the body reflects one’s spiritual state — but it arouses and reveals the soul’s latent powers in order to rectify that spiritual state, and as a matter of course, the physical decree is annulled.

At any rate, as was stated above, in the present time and state of affairs — during the doubled and redoubled darkness of this era of exile — spiritual concerns are overshadowed by material concerns.

In light of all the above, the question arises: Since “you are the smallest of all the nations” — and not only of all the nations, but also within Jewry and within every Jew, spiritual concerns are dwarfed by material concerns — what is the point of battling for the loving and punctilious observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, when in the final analysis they remain a minority?

19. Splitting the Atom. The answer to this question is provided by a recent scientific discovery663 relating to the atom.

In earlier times it was commonly thought that quantity was finite, and quality was proportionate to the finite limits of quantity. Accordingly, to secure a prodigious result one would require an extreme quantity of matter.

In recent years, however, scientists have discovered663 that quantity is not the determining factor: there is no need for extreme quantity. Rather, the major concern is to unlock all the quality that is to be found in the quantity, to reveal and manifest the energy that is latent in the quantity — and then even a miniscule quantity can produce prodigious results.

In brief: it was discovered that splitting the atom into minute particles can produce sufficient energy to produce results that were formerly held to require an extremely great quantity of matter.

That is to say, the determinant is not the quantity of matter in question, but the exhaustive utilization of the quality to be found in even the minutest quantity of matter. Moreover, this utilization is made possible by splitting that matter into particles that are even minuter. This division divests the matter of its initial identity — of its ego, so to speak — and that is what enables a miniscule quantity of matter to accomplish great things.

True, because this discovery was made in one of the extraneous disciplines that stem from the unholy “side” of the universe, it was first used for annihilation and destruction; in the course of time, however, it will no doubt be applied to beneficial construction.

At any rate, one can already derive a lesson from the above: One should not be overawed by the fact that “you are the smallest of all the nations,” because once one discovers the power that is hidden in that seeming smallness — that is, the power of self-sacrifice, meaning the nullification of one’s ego, like the splitting of the atom — the minutest quantity, in fact one single atom, can transform an entire city and conquer an entire world.

20. One Man Alone. The above concept, [that the power latent in a single atom can transform an entire city and conquer an entire world,] is exemplified in the Divine service of Avraham Avinu, the first Jew.32

It is written, “Avraham was one man,”33 utterly alone. The whole world was against him, as is also seen from the following teaching of the Sages. Concerning the generation that built the Tower of Babel,34 the Torah says,35 “The whole world had one language and a united cause.” On this the Sages teach:36 “They said sharp words against two subjects that are referred to as echad (‘one’) — against ‘the L‑rd our G‑d, the L‑rd is One,’37 and against ‘Avraham was one man.’ ”38

Elsewhere, his isolated situation is hinted at in the epithet, Avram HaIvri (אברם העברי)— “Avram the Hebrew.”39 Since the root עבר means “side,” the Sages explain that this name signifies that “the whole world was on one side, and he was on the other side.”40

Nevertheless, though he was one solitary man, “he took possession of the land,” as the above-quoted verse goes on to say.41 He conquered the world while he was still alone, for the verse speaks of him in the singular, not of his descendants. How he did this is stated in the verse,42 “He called there upon the name of G‑d, L‑rd of the world.” [On the non-literal level of interpretation known as derush,] instead of the verb vayikra (“he called [upon the Name of G‑d]”) the Sages read vayakri (“he caused [the Name of G‑d] to be called upon”). Hence, “Avraham Avinu caused the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to be called upon in the mouth of every bypasser.”43 Not content that only he had become aware that G‑d is L‑rd of the world, “he thereupon stood up and proclaimed [this] aloud to the world at large,”44 convincing everyone he met, including the Arabs around him, to likewise proclaim that “G‑d is L‑rd of the world.”

21. Think Big. The lifework of Avraham has a parallel in the Divine service of every Jew.

Even when one finds himself utterly alone (just as “Avraham was one man”) in his community or in the broader environment and sees no possibility of bringing those around him close to the Torah and its commandments, he should realize that he has been endowed with the requisite strength to do so. It is his responsibility to introduce his community and his environment to the Torah and its mitzvos, so that they become fully G‑d-fearing Jews, and eventually, chassidim as well.

This strength and this responsibility have surely been entrusted to every Jew whom G‑d has blessed with the privilege of being brought up by a chassidically-sensitive father, and with the privilege of having seen the Rebbe — that is, my revered father-in-law, [the Rebbe Rayatz,] who is the head45 of this generation until the coming of Mashiach — and heard from him a few words of Torah, or perhaps more than a few words. For those words are engraved in his memory. In fact, even if he does not remember them, those words are engraved in the memory-brain of his Divine soul.46

To be more specific, a lone chassid in this situation should not be content with ensuring that those around him do not slip (G‑d forbid) to a lower level of observance; he should not be content with bringing them to observe the requirements of the Code of Jewish Law;. In the original, Shulchan Aruch. he should not even be content with motivating them to conduct their lives beyond the letter of the law.47 He should realize that he is also expected to introduce his entire environment to the light of Chassidus and to the Luminary within Chassidus.

Since he himself was shown the light of Chassidus and the Luminary within Chassidus, he should see to it that they should likewise be appreciated by all those around him. And since this is what is expected of him, he has no doubt been endowed with the capacity to do it.

22. Who? Me?! Some people have a query. In these times of ours, we are living in the doubled and redoubled darkness of the [generation that can already hear the approaching] footsteps of Mashiach.125 We don’t begin to resemble the revered elder chassidim, nor the chassidim who lived in the early years of Chassidus, and certainly not the men of stature in the hoary past. The darkness is thickening, while the generation is ebbing. Yet despite the growing darkness and the declining generation, we are expected at this time to bring about the coming of Mashiach?!

This query is answered in the Book of Koheles:48 “Do not say [...] that the early days were better than these, for not out of wisdom did you ask thus.” The verse does not say that the above query is not a valid query: it says that “not out of wisdom did you ask thus.”

The Supernal Wisdom of the Creator determined the sequence of generations in the world, and decided who should live in each generation. (Thus we learn that “the Holy One, blessed be He, showed Adam each generation and its mentors.”49 ) Hence, since we were placed in the present generation, we have most certainly been provided with the ability to deal with the tasks of this generation.

In the generation of Avraham Avinu, no commandments were given apart from the Seven Noahide Laws and the mitzvah of circumcision.50 Incidentally, this is hinted at in the above-quoted phrase, “Avraham was one man” (אחד הי-ה אברהם). As my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], said one Purim,51 the letter ches (ח) in the word echad (אחד) in this verse alludes to the Seven Noahide Laws and to the mitzvah of circumcision.52 The rationale: In relation to the period in which Avraham was still solitary, before the Giving of the Torah and even before the birth of Yitzchak,53 it is inappropriate to expound the letter ches in this verse as alluding to the seven Heavens and the earth.54 For concerning the time that he was the world’s sole believer, one cannot say that the presence of the Master of the Universe was revealed and known throughout the seven Heavens and the earth. Hence the above interpretation, that the letter ches in that verse alludes to the Seven Noahide Laws and to the mitzvah of circumcision.

At any rate, the very fact that that early era was given only those eight commandments demonstrates that their fulfillment sufficed at that time to rectify the world. In our times, by contrast, when the darkness has thickened and the generations have declined, when one observes what goes on in a world of doubled and redoubled darkness, and when every individual knows what his own spiritual level is really like, at first glance one does not see a feasible means of transforming the world “from bitterness to sweetness and from darkness to light.”629 This only proves that we are required to work harder, and if so, we have assuredly been endowed with the unique strength that is called for — the power of self-sacrifice.55

True, the revealed faculties of the soul have become weaker in our era, the generation that can already hear the approaching footsteps of Mashiach.125 The power of self-sacrifice, by contrast, which is one of the soul’s latent faculties, surfaces particularly at the most unpretentious spiritual levels (metaphorically called the “heels”) of the Jewish people — in ordinary people, as in this generation of ours.56

Accordingly, when an individual going out to the world is empowered by self-sacrifice, there is no reason to be overawed by the fact that he is, [as a microcosm of the Jewish people at large,] “the smallest of all the nations,”57 because he knows that it is within the capacity of a single Jew to impact an entire community or society, so that in due course they become fully G‑d-fearing Jews — and chassidim.

23. Purim: Only Once a Year. An individual in this situation may still argue that from a rational viewpoint, it does not seem possible that he should translate his potential resources into actuality, rousing his latent strengths to the extent that will enable him to affect an entire community.

The answer is that his work should begin in the superrational Purim spirit discussed above, whereby he serves G‑d in a way that “does not know [the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman!’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai!’ ” and whereby he casts off his awareness of self].. See sec. 15 above. Thus, even when his reason does not understand how his project can materialize, he should approach it with the resolute certainty that there is no acceptable alternative. Being generously aware of the needs of others, he should become involved in his whole community, being certain that since he has been charged with this responsibility (even though his reason cannot grasp it), he must honor it. And then he will certainly find appropriate ways and means — rational ones — to influence the community as a whole.

After all, the obligation “to become intoxicated until he does not know the difference” applies only on Purim. Throughout all the other days of the year, by contrast, one’s activities must be steered rationally — though the superrational spirit of Purim leaves its positive and lasting impression on one’s rational endeavors throughout all those later days as well, as the Alter Rebbe teaches.718

To apply this more specifically to our subject: An individual’s arousal during Purim to work with a whole community, even though he does not know how he is going to do it, empowers him after Purim to find and know the appropriate ways and means to do so. For example, he will act in “pleasant ways,”58 for “words spoken softly by wise men are heeded.”59 His steps will be gradual and orderly — not merely in order to forestall any deterioration (G‑d forbid) in his environment, but moreover to make it flourish into a community that is G‑d-fearing, then fully observant, and eventually chassidic.60

The same sequence should be followed by any person with regard to his own private tasks in Divine service.61 When he is expected to do something in this field that he cannot rationally conceive as feasible, he should approach it with a superrational leap, in a way that “does not know.”718 That done, he will later find a suitable means of doing what he has to do — in a rational manner. For example, it was said earlier that those who have already studied secular disciplines should utilize them for holy purposes.62 Here, too, even though one may not rationally grasp how he can do this, he should resolve once and for all that this is what he will in fact do. Once that resolve is behind him, he will already find a suitable — and rational — way of executing it.

Concerning such cases, in which a difficult task has been placed on someone’s shoulders and he perceives it as an irrational expectation, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once said that if one cannot find a way to undertake that task, he should [request help from Above by] reading a chapter of Tehillim.

24. Ministerial Etiquette. This strategy — that one should begin with a superrational leap — may be learned from the account in the Megillah of how Mordechai responded to the need to annul Haman’s decree.

When he heard of it, “Mordechai rent his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes..., and cried out loudly and bitterly.”63 Now, as my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], pointed out one Purim,64 Mordechai was one of the ministers of state and “sat at the royal gate.”65 If so, as soon as he heard of the decree, surely he should have put on his top hat, stepped into the royal courtyard, and begun lobbying to have the decree annulled. Yet instead of that, he put on sackcloth and ashes and cried out loudly and bitterly?!

People would not consider that response problematic if we were talking of the humble beadle of the local shul, or an unsophisticated yeshivah student, or an ordinary little old man of 80, 90, or 100. Being impractical and old-fashioned,66 he wouldn’t know what to do and wouldn’t think of any alternative, so he would no doubt head for the local beis midrash and cry out loud....

But Mordechai?! Being a minister of state, familiar with the official procedures of how to approach the king, surely — according to the Code of Jewish Law706 — he should have endeavored to have the decree annulled by natural means, by lobbying in the royal court. Yet instead of that, unabashed, he puts on sackcloth and ashes and cries out loudly and bitterly?!

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], explains Mordechai’s surprising response as follows.

If this was an issue that did not deeply matter to him personally, and he dealt with it only in his official capacity as a lobbyist on behalf of his brethren, he would have conducted himself as is expected of a lobbyist, with meticulous attention to official etiquette, top hat, and all the rest. He would be embarrassed to appear otherwise. But this was an issue that did deeply matter to him personally; in fact a question of life or its opposite, G‑d forbid; a question that touched the innermost essence of his soul. Such an issue leaves no room for calculations or considerations of any kind. Thus his immediate response was to put on sackcloth and ashes and cry out loudly and bitterly. Only later came the time to weigh what would be the most effective strategy according to natural means.

To restate this as in the metaphor used above,. See sec. 23 above. Mordechai began to act in the superrational Purim spirit of “not knowing,” whereby he transcended rational calculations; only later came the stage of “knowing,” at which he followed the dictates of reason.

Indeed, as a result of his crying out loudly and bitterly, not only was the decree annulled, but Haman’s scheme “was reversed, and the Jews got their enemies in their power.”67 [Interpreting the verse in the Hebrew original at the non-literal level of interpretation known as derush], it is taught in the teachings of Chassidus68 that the Jews were given this added power by their enemies, for those enemies were transformed to the holy “side” of the universe; their darkness was overturned69 to light. Thus it is written,70 “And many of the peoples of the land became Jews.” Not only did they not oppose the Jews: their conversion in fact made the Jewish people increase.

25. A Superrational Leap. From this we learn a lesson for the entire year. After all, concerning the events of Purim it is written that “the memory of them will never be lost:”71 they continue to impact the whole year that follows.

Now, it goes without saying that one’s endeavors in avodah72 should be conducted according to the dictates of reason. They should begin, however, in the superrational Purim spirit of “not knowing,” as discussed above. This approach is highlighted in the fact that every day’s avodah begins with the words,73 Modeh ani (“I gratefully acknowledge...”), which express one’s superrational submission to the Creator.

In plain words: When a task is demanded of someone, his own reason is not a factor — whether he does understand or does not understand — and matters of “Cursed be Haman!” or “Blessed be Mordechai!” are all the same to him. He simply has to know that he is “obligated to become intoxicated until he does not know the difference,” that is, to fulfill that obligation by transcending rationality.

When one’s avodah begins at this level (of “not knowing”), the subsequent, rational stages of his avodah (at the level of “knowing”) will be incomparably superior. Furthermore, suppose there are issues in one’s life that appear to obscure the manifestation of holiness, in the spiritual and/or the material sphere; and suppose he can see no reasonable (“knowing”) possibility of their ever being transformed to holiness, and can only hope that they will cease to obscure it. Even in such a case, by tackling his avodah with a superrational leap (“not knowing”), he can affect those issues, too, so that not only will they cease to obscure holiness; not only “will they respond Amen against their will”;74 but beyond that, they will be transformed to such an extent that they will advance the cause of holiness.


26. Why Keep the Others Waiting? [At this point in the farbrengen, the Rebbe poured a little mashke from his goblet into the cups of several of the chassidim. When all the others present requested the same, the Rebbe proceeded to pour some mashke from his goblet for them all.75 To some of those who filed past, the Rebbe addressed a personal message. For example, to a certain chassid called Yitzchak, the Rebbe said:76 ]

The Divine service that characterizes the Patriarch Yitzchak, after whom every Yitzchak since that time is named, is digging wells. As explained by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz],77 digging is needed only in order to remove the obstructing layer of stones and soil. Once that is done, the water that was there all along is revealed. There is no need for any new action; just the removal of obscuring factors. By analogy, in the realm of avodah: Within every Jew there is a wellspring of life-giving waters, that is, the soul that is bound to G‑d. All he has to do is to remove whatever obscures it, and then that innermost G‑dly soul stands revealed.

And just as this applies to working with oneself, so too it applies to one’s endeavors when reaching out to a fellow Jew.

Suppose one encounters a fellow Jew — which is obviously not merely coincidental, but engineered from Above for a purpose — and this person does not yet observe the Torah and its commandments. All one has to do is to clear away whatever hides and veils his Divine soul, and then it comes to light. Once this soul, his bond with G‑d, is revealed, as a matter of course he will begin to observe the Torah and its mitzvos, such as tefillin, Shabbos, and so on.

Now, in order to succeed when working with another, one first has to work on oneself; after his principles impact his own life, they will also impact another’s.

And all this activity also serves as a conduit for blessings of success in whatever area of one’s life that it is needed.

[The chassid being addressed said that he would have to wait until he had worked on himself, and then he would be able to work with others. To this the Rebbe replied:]

Mashiach can’t wait.... One has to do both: to work on oneself and at the same time to work with others.

[Then, to a certain chassid whose name was Yosef, the Rebbe said:]

The name Yosef comes from [the words of Rachel]:78 יוסף ה' לי בן אחר — “May G‑d add another son for me.” As interpreted in the teachings of Chassidus,79 this alludes to a chassid’s obligation to reach out to a fellow Jew who outwardly appears to be “another” (אחר), an outsider, so that he will become a loving “son” (בן) of his Father.

This obligation applies to one’s work on oneself, for it may appear to someone that he himself has the spiritual status of “another,” an outsider. It also applies to working with a fellow Jew, who outwardly appears to be in that situation: one has to reveal his true identity — that in fact he is a “son.”

[To another chassid the Rebbe said:]

We explained earlier80 that every Yom-Tov elicits and activates its distinctive spiritual theme for the whole of the coming year. For example: Rosh HaShanah energizes a Jew, throughout the coming year, in his acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven;81 Yom Kippur — in repentance;82 and Purim — in [the superrational leap of faith, beyond knowing, that Chassidus calls] “not knowing.”83 Empowered by this superrational approach, one can transform an entire community of people, motivating them to follow the path of the Torah and its mitzvos, and illuminating their lives with the light of Chassidus.

In order to impact their lives, one must begin by working on himself — though one should not wait until that work has been completed.

The Mitteler Rebbe made this clear in his response to a chassid who shared his fear at yechidus, that if he continued teaching Chassidus in public, he might become an egotist. The Mitteler Rebbe told him: “No matter if you become an onion — but you keep on teaching Chassidus!”84

What matters is to begin working on oneself, and that earnest beginning suffices to enable one to work with others.


27. Fire vs. Fire. [At this point, after the farbrengen had continued for an unusually long time, the Rebbe said:]

According to the law, the fourteenth day of the twelfth month has come to an end, and we have begun the fifteenth day of the month — Shushan Purim, which is celebrated in Shushan, and in [certain other ancient] walled cities.

To understand this from a mystical perspective:

It is taught in Torah Or85 that the name Shushan (שושן) “is related to the liturgical phrase, Shoshan emek ayumah (שושן עמק איומה) — ‘a rose of the valley, overawed.’86 This in turn echoes the phrase, keshoshanah bein hachochim (כשושנה בין החוחים) — ‘like a rose among the thorns,’87 [a metaphor for the people of Israel, languishing amidst harsh exiles].... The rose is essentially red, but when affected by fire88 (not physical fire, G‑d forbid, but a holy, spiritual fire — an ardent love of G‑d that consumes the fire of an alien love fuelled by the forces of evil89 ), the rose is whitened (meaning that expressions of Divine benevolence90 become manifest, both in the spiritual sphere and in the material sphere).... This means that as a result of the Medean exile,91 the souls of the Jewish people were chastened.... [The Divine Presence92 ] is described as “awesome,” suggesting strength of purpose in shielding [the souls of Israel] from the forces of evil.”93 (This includes not only those “extraneous” [i.e., evil] forces in the full sense, but also any influences which — relative to one’s current spiritual status — may be described as “thorns.”)

The name Shushan is thus a code word for the predicament of the Jewish people in the era of exile, particularly in recent generations, and even more so since the passing94 of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], when the state of the “rose of the valley, overawed,” has become even lowlier.95

Yet even in this predicament, one is granted strength from Purim — Shushan Purim — whose theme is the superrational leap beyond knowing, [that Chassidus calls] “not knowing the difference.”728 [This leap is necessary,] because if one functions according to plain reason, one will inevitably be overawed by the mire that surrounds him and his environment. The only remedy is to cast off one’s awareness of self and to rise to a level that transcends plain reason — like the superrational nature of casting lots. [For “these days were called] Purim on account of the lots” (Heb.: pur) [that Haman cast].96 Moreover, the teachings of Chassidus explain97 that the lots of Purim are related to the lots cast on Yom HaKippurim (יום הכפורים).98 Indeed, since the letter kaf in that word can also serve as a prefix meaning “like,” the very name of that day can be understood to mean, “a day [merely] like Purim.”99 Purim itself, therefore, is even more certainly [a time to rise to a level that transcends plain reason].100

This spiritual task continues now, too, on the fifteenth of the month, when Purim is celebrated in [certain ancient] walled cities. This task relates also to “a walled city” as a metaphor in the context of one’s Divine service. The Sages teach101 that the phrase “I am a stone wall”102 alludes to the Torah. In terms of one’s personal service, this phrase thus hints at the vigilance of a person who surrounds himself with a protective barrier of Torah study and the awe of Heaven, in order to set limits even to permissible desires. In the words of the Alter Rebbe,103 ‘What is forbidden is forbidden. And what is permitted is dispensable.’ In other words, it goes without saying that forbidden things are out of the question. The same applies even to desires for permitted things, for they are governed by the obligation to “sanctify yourself within that which you are permitted to do,”104 and that obligation is a positive commandment explicit in the Torah.105 Yet beyond that, within those permitted activities one must set bounds. This is what is alluded to by the “stone wall” spoken of above.

As was said earlier, [a superrational leap beyond knowing, that Chassidus calls] “not knowing,” leaves its imprint on one’s [regular, rational activities called] “knowing,” throughout the entire forthcoming year. As a result, one’s avodah is then carried out not only at the level of iskafya, [the subjugation of one’s potentially darker thrusts,] but also at the level of is’hapcha, [the transformation of darkness to light]. This transformation is hinted at in the verse [that speaks of Haman’s scheme]:106 “It was reversed, so that the Jews got their enemies in their power.” And thereafter,107 “For the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor.” So, too, G‑d helps every individual with all that he needs, both spiritually and materially.

Now, the Holy One, blessed be He, is the very essence of goodness, and “it is in the nature of one who is good to be benevolent.”108 However, as it is written,109 You are indeed a G‑d Who conceals Himself” — and this He does in order that people should search for Him. When one seeks Him wholeheartedly, by studying Chassidus and also by contemplating one’s own lowliness, G‑d allows Himself to be called forth and revealed without concealment, even in the earthly here and now.110 Thus it is written,111 “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”112 And this He does from His “full, open, holy and generous hand.”113


28. Getting Out of Yourself. [Towards the end of this farbrengen, in the course of which the Rebbe said LeChaim many times, he said:]

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once told me that on the last Simchas Torah of his father, the Rebbe Rashab, in this world, in the year 5680 [1919], he asked his father to deliver a chassidic discourse for him. The Rebbe Rashab answered that he would do so, provided that his son first drank some mashke. The Rebbe Rayatz retired to his room and drank a glass of arak, but in order that it should not blur his focus, he immediately regurgitated it. When he returned to his father’s study and reported that he had fulfilled the condition, his father delivered a chassidic discourse for him. His father then told him that he should “get out of himself and become quite different....”

[The Rebbe concluded:] Everyone must get out of himself and become quite different, every individual according to his particular situation. Some people think that if they go out in the street and their beard isn’t rolled up, or their tie isn’t precisely placed according to the dictates of the local custom, they can hardly be defined as human beings.... Let them get out of themselves! Similarly, everyone needs to get out of himself, each according to his personal situation. This includes his avodah in holy matters, such as the way in which he studies Torah and observes the commandments. In these areas, too, one must strive to get out of himself and become quite different.

[The Rebbe asked those present to sing the niggun that begins, Kol bayaar,114 and related that after the farbrengen of the Rebbe Rayatz on Purim in the year 5687 [1927], Reb Yankel Zhuravitzer115 sat on the floor and sang this niggun.]

29. His Soul is in Me. [Resuming the theme of “getting out of oneself,” the Rebbe now referred to himself and to the nesius, the mantle of leadership that lay heavily on his shoulders.116 Among his remarks, which were interspersed with weeping, were the following:]

“Who am I, and what am I...? I don’t know why I am being wearied, why you have been tied to me and I have been tied to you.”

[Continuing along these lines, the Rebbe turned to one of the elder chassidim nearby and said:]

We learn that at the dedication of the Second Beis HaMikdash, “the elders who had beheld the First Beis HaMikdash... wept.”117 As for you, who were a chassid of the Rebbe Rashab and of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], it shows fortitude on your part that you are not weeping.... Things were different in the case of [the passing of] the Rebbe Rashab: his only son was there to fill his place. But now?!

[A number of elder chassidim approached the Rebbe and said that the chassidim did not want to hear words of this kind. One of them said aloud: “You are the Rebbe, in one continuous chain from the Alter Rebbe!”118 He then asked the Rebbe to pour him a drop of mashke, explaining that he wanted to receive mashke “from the Alter Rebbe!” The Rebbe smiled, and acceded to his request.

[Among the Rebbe’s further references to the bonds of hiskashrus to himself, were the following:]

It seems that you [chassidim] have no alternative, and that I too have no alternative.... I’m not bowing out.... I’m only a conduit; chassidim should be bound to the Rebbe [Rayatz]; I’m only a substitute in one respect.

After the passing of the Rebbe Rashab, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once said119 that he did “not refer to him with the [customary] phrase, ‘his soul is in Eden.’ Why say ‘his soul is in Eden,’ when it is easier and better to say, ‘his soul is in me?’

[The Rebbe concluded:] So, too, with regard to the Rebbe [Rayatz]: I do not say “his soul is in Eden,” but “his soul is in me.”

30. The Last Purim in Exile. [The Rebbe asked that the Alter Rebbe’s Niggun of Four Themes should now be sung, to be followed by Nye Zhuritzi Khloptzi. He then said:]

I would like to give a blessing to you all, and also to myself.

As I once heard from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz],120 it is conceivable that one should write a pidyon121 for oneself that is addressed to oneself. And this is certainly true if the pidyon is presented at the holy resting place of the Rebbe, our holy mentor.

The blessing that I would like to give you all, and to myself as well, is that the blessing given on Purim by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], in one of the last years of his life in this world — that this be the last Purim in exile — be fulfilled this present Purim!

[The Rebbe concluded:] And may the Rebbe Shlita122 lead us to greet Mashiach!