The farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Bo took place four days before Yud Shvat — the anniversary of the passing in 5710 (1950) of the Rebbe Rayatz, the saintly Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn נ"ע. On this occasion, the Rebbe Shlita spoke of the ultimate purpose for which souls descend to this world, which is one of the dominant themes of the Previous Rebbe’s farewell maamar (entitled Basi LeGani).

Speaking in particular of the souls of women, the Rebbe Shlita referred to the joyful emphasis with which the Rebbe Rayatz encouraged the education of women and girls; to the prerogative of women in being the first to welcome the Shabbos into every Jewish home; and to the fact that this is done by the kindling of lights, which carry well-known connotations of tranquil joy and spiritual enlightenment.

Some of these subjects as well as others discussed at that farbrengen are summarized in the present Essay.

Descent for the Sake of Ascent

The phrase, “As a rose among the thorns,”1 refers to the soul as it descends into this material world, and on a larger scale, to the existence of the Jewish people within exile. For both the soul and the Jewish people, this involves a formidable descent, a descent fraught with danger. At times, the path of life appears to be obstructed by brambles: events sometimes occur which our limited human intellect cannot comprehend. Paradoxically, however, it is through this very process of descent that both the soul and the Jews ultimately climb to their most complete level of perfection.

This is not to imply, heaven forbid, that the world is in itself evil. Quite the contrary, “I have come into My garden”2 is used as an analogy to describe the return of the Divine Presence to this world. This indicates that the world is G‑d’s own garden, a place which grants Him pleasure and satisfaction. Nevertheless, we are often unable to perceive this positive quality. And this reflects the task and mission with which the Jewish people have been charged. Holding aloft “the lamp of a mitzvah and the light of the Torah,”3 they illuminate the world and reveal the good which is concealed within.

Women as Luminaries

In particular, this quality is manifest in those mitzvos that are associated with producing actual light, for example, the kindling of Shabbos candles. The visible light which they generate reflects how every mitzvah, and in a wider sense, every positive activity a Jew performs, such as a friendly word or an act of kindness, increases the G‑dly light within the world.

The mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles has been entrusted to Jewish women;4 it is they who draw G‑dly light into the home and introduce the atmosphere of Shabbos and holiness.

On a cosmic scale, the world has been described as G‑d’s dwelling5 — His home, as it were, and the Jewish people, as His bride. Developing these analogies: Just as the Shabbos candles are lit before the actual commencement of the Shabbos, our present performance of mitzvos in exile kindles the light that will illuminate the world in “the Day which is entirely Shabbos, and rest for life everlasting”6 — the Era of the Redemption. This connection also highlights the role of Jewish women, for the prophecies associated with that age7 point out the superior qualities which Jewish women possess.

Eternal Life in this World

The eternality which will characterize the Era of the Redemption is likewise reflected in every Jewish soul. This applies not only in regard to the soul as it exists in the spiritual realms where it enjoys eternal life in the radiance of G‑d’s presence,8 but also to its expression in our physical world.

In this spirit, our Sages state in regard to our Patriarch Jacob,9Yaakov... did not die. Just as his descendants are alive, He is alive.” The same concept applies in regard to each of Yaakov’s descendants, the Jewish men and women of all subsequent generations. When a person’s children continue the positive activities which characterized his own life, then even after that person’s passing, he or she is alive. For that life has activated a dynamic which continues to produce positive changes in the world in the generations to come. And there is also a reciprocal effect: the positive activities performed by one’s children can compensate for any time by which a person’s life may have been cut short. Even when a mother is now in the World of Truth, the daughters whom she brought up, and her sons likewise, can replenish the Divine service which is now lacking, and which ordinarily would have been completed by her.10

The Pinnacle of Our National History

The eternality of the Jewish soul within the context of our material world will be fully expressed in the Era of the Redemption, when the souls of all the Jews of all generations will be resurrected.11 Here too the analogy of a wedding can be used to described the unification of the body and the soul.

The ultimate Redemption of our people and of the world at large is not a remote promise. On the contrary, the Jews of our generation have been granted complete atonement and are now at the highest pinnacle ever of our national history. All the Divine service necessary to bring about the Redemption has been completed. All that is necessary is that we open our eyes and perceive that the Redemption is indeed a reality.

Our Sages state12 that the tzaddikim of all past generations will arise in the early stages of the Redemption, before the resurrection of our people as a whole. Surely, this applies to the Previous Rebbe, the leader of our generation. Since he never perceived himself as a private individual and dedicated himself totally to the welfare of his people,13 it can be understood that he will share this privilege too with the members of his generation,14 particularly with those who dedicated themselves to disseminating his teachings and furthering the outreach activity which he inspired. And at that time, we will proceed together to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash, where the Kohanim will offer sacrifices celebrating “our redemption and the deliverance of our souls.”15