1. Today is Tes Kislev, the birthday and yahrzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe. The fact that the Mitteler Rebbe’s birthday and yahrzeit fall on the same day is unique. Similarly, it is unique that the day of his redemption, Yud Kislev, follows in direct succession.

We find the concept of a tzaddik passing away on his birthday mentioned in regard to Moshe and in that context, our Sages say, “The Holy One, blessed be He,... fills up the years of the righteous from day to day.”

This statement is, however, problematic: On the surface, how does the fact that a tzaddik’s years are complete from day to day reflect that his spiritual service is complete? The essence of a tzaddik’s life is his spiritual service and the physical setting in which he carries out this service is secondary. Indeed, we see that most tzaddikim do not pass away on their birthdays.

This question can be resolved as follows: The ultimate perfection of a tzaddik’s lifework is when his spiritual achievements are reflected within the context of our material world, to use our Sages’ expression “Just as they are perfect, their years are perfect.”

The ultimate purpose of every Jew’s service is to refine his body and material environment to the extent that they do not obscure his spiritual service. Instead, all the material aspects of his being should reflect and reveal his spiritual qualities. Thus although a tzaddik’s fulfillment stems from his spiritual qualities, this fulfillment should also be expressed within the context of the tzaddik’s material existence.

Since our material environment is based on the coordinates of space and time, the fulfillment of a tzaddik’s service is reflected in the fact that, on this material plane as well, it is obvious that his life was “full.” This is expressed in the fact that his birthday is on the same day as his yahrzeit.1

Our Sages relate that this phenomenon was manifest in regard to the Patriarchs (Rosh HaShanah 11a regarding the month) and in regard to Moshe (regarding the day). Since these individuals laid the spiritual foundations for our people, the ultimate perfection of their spiritual service was also reflected in the material world. Similarly, in regard to the Mitteler Rebbe, since he was the leader of his generation, equivalent to Moshe our teacher, his years were perfect in a physical as well as in a spiritual sense.

2. All the days of the year have a connection with the portions of the Torah which are read at that time. It follows that there is a connection between these unique dimensions of the Mitteler Rebbe’s life and the parshiyos, Vayeitzei (which is read on the day of his birthday and yahrzeit this year) and Vayishlach (which we begin reading in the Minchah service).

We find that the majority of the Torah’s focus on Yaakov’s service takes place in an undesirable environment. As the Torah relates in Parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov is forced to leave Eretz Yisrael and go to Charan, a city whose very name is associated with the arousal of G‑d’s wrath. There, he lives with Lavan, an undesirable individual. And it is precisely in such a habitat where Yaakov marries and raises his family, laying the foundation for the Jewish people of all future generations.

Furthermore, even after Yaakov left Charan and set out for Eretz Yisrael, his journey was fraught with difficulty, involving a confrontation with Eisav. Seemingly, the story of the life of Yaakov, the select and chosen of the Patriarch’s, should center on activities in the sphere of holiness.

The above can be explained as follows: Our Sages taught that “the deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for their descendants.” Thus, the narrative of Yaakov’s involvement with Lavan contains lessons for each one of his descendants in regard to their involvement in the world at large.

Yaakov’s descent to Charan serves as an analogy for the descent of the soul into the body. Each Jew’s soul is pure, “an actual part of G‑d from above.” It descends from Beer Sheva, the Sefirah of Binah of Atzilus to Charan, the Sefirah of Malchus and more particularly, to Malchus as it brings into being the worlds below it including our material world. The latter are filled with influences which conceal G‑dliness to the extent where a Jew can be possessed by fear.

The intent of this descent, however, is that a Jew overcome these concealments caused by the material world and establish a Jewish home. This is done through the service of Torah and mitzvos performed by a Jew as he exists within the context of the material world. In these efforts the material nature of the world must be made subordinate to its spiritual content as the body is subordinate to the soul.

It is through this descent into the body that the soul reaches a higher level itself. This process is alluded to by the words vayeilech Charanah, “he proceeded to Charan,” i.e., it was the descent to Charan which allowed Yaakov to “proceed,” to advance spiritually.

3. The Torah continues, “He encountered the place. He slept there because the sun set and he took from the stones of the place and put them around his head. And he laid down in that place.” Figuratively, this passage can be interpreted as follows:

When a Jew’s soul descends to the material plane to encloth itself in a body in this world which conceals G‑dliness, it has an effect on him. The concealment of G‑dliness in the world2 causes a Jew to “lie down.” When a person lies down, his head and his feet are on the same level. When a person stands, and even when he sits, his head — i.e., his intellectual faculties — are raised above the rest of his body. In contrast, when a person lies down, all the parts of his body are on the same level. To apply this concept in the above context: The concealment of G‑dliness in this material world, particularly in the present age of ikvesa diMeshicha, the era directly preceding Mashiach’s coming, causes the revelation of a person’s conscious powers to be hindered to the extent that one’s head and feet are on the same level.

Furthermore, since the world is “filled with kelipah, [forces which are] actually contrary to G‑d,” Yaakov became afraid and was required to “take from the stones of the place,” to protect himself from wild animals. Nevertheless, this descent brought about the revelation of a higher level, causing a unity between the soul and the body, and elevating the soul to a higher level than before.

To elaborate on the latter concept: “The place” refers to the Beis HaMikdash. A question arises: During the 14 years in which Yaakov studied in the House of Study of Shem and Ever, he did not sleep. Similarly, during the 20 years, he stayed in Lavan’s house, he did not sleep. Why was it that of all places, it was at the place of the Beis HaMikdash that Yaakov lay down to sleep?

This forces us to conclude that there is a positive dimension in lying down. As mentioned above, standing or sitting upright indicates that a person’s conscious powers control his existence. In contrast, when a person lies down, there is no difference between the more elevated dimensions of his existence and the lower ones.

In spiritual terms, although normally this would imply a descent, a lowering of the level of one’s higher, spiritual powers, it can also be interpreted in a positive manner. It can be appreciated as a reference to the revelation of G‑d’s essence, a level which is above all particular qualities and simultaneously, reflected in all of them. In relation to this level, the head and the feet are on the same plane.3

This level of connection can continue even after a person arises from sleep and stands on his feet. Although his conscious powers will assume control, he will still recognize the fundamental equality that stems from a connection to G‑d’s essence. Thus, through the descent a Jew experiences in this world, he can: a) reveal how the material cannot obscure the spiritual and quite the contrary, it is a vehicle for the express of the spiritual; b) reach a level above all limitations through which he can establish an equation and unity between the material and the spiritual.

These concepts were reflected in Yaakov’s sleeping at the site of the Beis HaMikdash. Precisely, because this was the place of the revelation of G‑d’s essence,4 he was able to lay down. And while he lay down, he dreamt of a ladder with its base on the earth and its heading in the heavens, i.e., the fusion of the physical and the spiritual. This in turn motivated Yaakov to promise to dedicate a tenth of all of his resources to G‑d, i.e., to connect his physical possessions with G‑dliness.

Based on the above, we can also explain why Yaakov “took from the stones of the place and placed them around his head.” As mentioned above, Rashi explains that he did this because he desired to protect himself from wild animals. On the surface, this is difficult to understand: A stone cannot protect one from a wild animal, for it is inanimate. The animal can easily climb over it.

The intent, however, is to focus on the allegorical message of stones, e.g., strength and power. Yaakov surrounded himself with a rockbed of spiritual power, the power of the light of the soul. This generated the potential for security despite the dangers around him. When the light of the soul is revealed, the darkness and concealment of the world is not a factor.

{The Torah mentions the rocks as being placed around Yaakov’s head, because the light of the soul is revealed in the intellect which is located in the head (and from there it spreads to the other limbs).}

Similarly, the stones represent the lowest form of existence, inert matter. The descent into the realm of concealment alluded to by such beings, awakens the essence of the soul and allows for the expression of its inner power. Therefore the stone associated with this service serves as an altar and the basis of “the house of G‑d,” i.e., the revelation of the world as G‑d’s dwelling.

Thus we see that Yaakov tapped essential energies in carrying out the service associated with the descent to Charan and indeed, it is through this descent that he was able to uncover these essential energies. And therefore, it is in this environment that he set out to establish his family.5

Parshas Vayeitzei describes the individual service carried out by Yaakov, the unification between his body and soul and his efforts to establish his family. This is complemented by Parshas Vayishlach which describes Yaakov’s service in refining the world at large as alluded to in the mission of the angels he sent to Eisav. Chassidic thought explains that Yaakov represents the realm of Tikkun, a structured order for the revelation of G‑dliness. In contrast, Eisav represents the realm of Tohu, the powerful sparks of G‑dliness that fell into materiality and must be elevated. Yaakov thought that Eisav had completed that service and that it would be possible to unite the powerful light of Tohu with the broad potential for reception (keilim) of Tikkun. Through this union, the light of G‑d’s essence which transcends both Tohu and Tikkun would be revealed. Eisav, however, was not prepared and this union was postponed until, as alluded to in the Torah reading, “Saviors from Mount Zion will ascend to judge the Mount of Eisav.”

Thus these two Torah readings reflect the service of refining and elevating the material nature of the world, making it a fit recipient for G‑dly light. In this manner, it will be revealed how the world is G‑d’s dwelling. The ultimate expression of this will be in the Era of the Redemption when “the glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see together that the mouth of G‑d has spoken.” I.e., the flesh, a person’s actual physical being, will perceive the creative power G‑d invested in His creation. Furthermore, “a stone from the wall will cry out,” and reveal its inherent Divine potential.

The potential for this revelation is activated through our service of Torah and mitzvos, for it is the Torah and its mitzvos which bring about a unity between G‑dliness and the world. More specifically, this unity is revealed through the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah, for these teachings unite the hidden, transcendent light of G‑dliness with the hidden, transcendent potentials possessed by the Jews. This gives them the strength to make the world a vessel for the revelation of G‑dliness.

In particular, this is accomplished through the teachings of Chabad Chassidus, because these teachings allow this G‑dly knowledge to be internalized within the grasp of human intellect. Furthermore, the potential is granted from these concepts to spread outward and permeate the world at large.

In this context, we can appreciate the uniqueness of the month of Kislev. Just as the third month of the summer, Sivan, is associated with the giving of the revealed Torah, the third month of the winter,6 Kislev, is associated with the giving of Pnimiyus HaTorah. Thus this month contains several prominent dates in the history of Chassidus, Yud-Tes Kislev (the yahrzeit of the Maggid and the Alter Rebbe’s holiday of redemption7 ), Yud Kislev (the Mitteler Rebbe’s holiday of redemption), and Tes Kislev.

Similarly, these concepts share a connection to the holiday of Chanukah whose celebration centers around the miracle of the oil in the Beis HaMikdash. Oil is a metaphor for the Torah’s mystic secrets. Also the practice of placing the Chanukah Menorah “at the outside of the entrance to one’s home” reflects the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward.

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4. Within the revelation of the teachings of Chassidus emphasized by the month of Kislev, there is a unique dimension to the teachings revealed by the Mitteler Rebbe. Chabad Chassidus is based on a systematic conceptual structure. Each one of the Rebbeim made a unique contribution to this structure.

Within the scope of this system of thought, the Alter Rebbe’s contribution can be associated with the quality of Chochmah, the seminal spark of intellect. In contrast, the Mitteler Rebbe’s teachings are characterized by the movement of Binah, which represents a thrust towards elaborate explanation and definition.8 This draws the teachings of Chassidus more closely into the conceptual framework of the world.

This fusion between Chassidus and the world established by the Mitteler Rebbe is alluded by that title itself. “Mitteler” means “intermediary,” a connecting bridge. The Mitteler Rebbe connected the teachings of the Rebbeim who preceded him with those who followed and on a more general scale, the union of spirituality with physicality.

(The union between the physical and the spiritual was reflected in the Mitteler Rebbe’s person. The Tzemach Tzedek said of him, “If my father-in-law’s finger was cut, Chassidus would flow out and not blood.” I.e., the blood is the life-force, and the Mitteler Rebbe’s blood was Chassidus.)

Based on the above, we can appreciate the uniqueness of the fact that the Mitteler Rebbe’s birthday and yahrzeit fall on the same day. As mentioned above, this demonstrates how one’s spiritual qualities are reflected within the context of the material world. Since the Mitteler Rebbe’s service focused on unifying the physical and the material, it is appropriate that this phenomenon be associated with him.

The above also allows us to understand why the Mitteler Rebbe’s holiday of redemption, Yud Kislev follows directly after his birthday and yahrzeit. The latter reflect the fusion of spirituality wand physicality within the context of his individual service. His day of redemption continues the expression of these qualities in the world at large. Just as the Alter Rebbe’s day of redemption represented a victory over forces which opposed the spread of Chassidus, so too, the Mitteler Rebbe’s redemption represented a greater and more encompassing victory for the expression of Chassidus in the world. Ultimately, these redemptions will lead to the ultimate expression of G‑dliness in the world which characterize the revelations of Mashiach.

[The Rebbe Shlita spoke extensively about the imminence of Mashiach’s coming. These statements were published in the essay “Open your Eyes and See.” The Rebbe concluded the farbrengen with directives to hold farbrengens in every Jewish community for Yud Kislev and Yud-Tes Kislev and to spread the observance of the Chanukah holiday including the custom of giving Chanukah gelt.]