During this past week, we celebrated the Fifteenth of Av which our Sages associated with an increase in Torah study, promising (as Rashi relates): “Whoever increases his Torah study will have his life increased.”

Torah is the true life of our people. In particular, this is evident among children whose observance of Torah is infused with vitality and enthusiasm. In this context, it would be appropriate to mention an individual who, throughout his lifetime, was able to infuse Jewish children with life and energy in Torah practice, Rabbi Yaakov Yehudah Hecht. The Previous Rebbe noted his unique capabilities and placed him in the forefront of the efforts to spread Jewish education, as head of Shaloh (Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education) which was founded by the Previous Rebbe. This involvement in Jewish education also led Rabbi Hecht to establish Camp Emunah.

The word Emunah is a feminine form of the word Emes which means “truth.” Nevertheless, it also has an independent meaning, “faith.” A person begins his service of G‑d using the potential of faith, he believes that Torah is true. Ultimately, he comes to a personal awareness and appreciation of Torah’s truth.

In this context, our Sages’ statement, “Chabakuk based [all the mitzvos] on one [foundation], ‘A righteous man shall live by his faith,’ ” takes on deeper meaning. The cornerstone and the launching point for any advance in the service of G‑d is faith.

The approach of Emunah was characteristic of its Director who was able to spark the flame of faith in countless men, women and children whom he encountered in his efforts to spread Torah and Yiddishkeit. His names, Yaakov and Yehudah,1 reflected his leadership potential. Yaakov was “the chosen one among the Patriarchs” and “the father of the tribes” and Yehudah was “the head of the tribes.”

May we be spared the pain of sorrowful thoughts, for in the immediate future, we will witness the Resurrection of the Dead. Then we will declare, “Here is Yaakov,” “Here is Yehudah,” and “Here is the Previous Rebbe and here are the Chassidim who share deep soul bonds with him.”2

The fourteenth of Elul marks the conclusion of the period of shloshim (the thirty days of mourning) for Rabbi Yaakov Yehudah Hecht (ז"ל) who was charged by the Previous Rebbe with spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit, particularly, in the field of Jewish education. He dedicated himself to this task with self-sacrifice for many years.

Everything which occurs is controlled by Divine Providence. Thus, the time of Rabbi Hecht’s passing and similarly, the occasion of the shloshim are surely connected with the service to which he dedicated his life.

One of the primary activities in which Rabbi Hecht was involved was the establishment of classes of Jewish education for public school children. Initially, various legal questions that were raised which caused difficulties in organizing these classes. Without being deterred, Rabbi Hecht dedicated himself to these activities and ultimately was successful in obtaining government permission for this project. Through these efforts, classes were established in hundreds of different locations.

Our Sages have elaborated on the importance of the education of young children, associating these efforts with the concepts of exile and redemption. Thus, our Sages state, “Jerusalem was destroyed solely because the Torah study of the children was nullified.”3 Consequently, it may be inferred that for Jerusalem and the Beis HaMikdash to be rebuilt, efforts have to be directed to this goal.

In this context, we can understand the significance of the date, the Fifteenth of Av, on which Rabbi Hecht passed away. The month of Av is associated with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. However, as our Sages emphasize, the destruction was intended so that the Beis HaMikdash would ultimately be rebuilt on a higher level than it existed beforehand. This intent is associated with an increase in Torah study which begins from the fifteenth of Av onwards4 and continues throughout the month of Elul (which is associated with the giving of the Second Tablets).

In particular, this increase should be expressed in the area of the education of Jewish children. Removing the cause for the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction, will cause the effect, the destruction and the exile, also to cease, and bring about the revelation of the Third Beis HaMikdash.

The above concepts are also alluded to in Rabbi Hecht’s name, Yaakov Yehudah. (It is appropriate to derive a lesson from Rabbi Hecht’s name for one of the campaigns in which he was involved, encouraged children to use their Hebrew names.5 ) Yaakov, includes the entire Jewish people as the Alter Rebbe explains, the soul of Yaakov, our Patriarch, included the soul of every single Jew to be born until the end of time. This is also reflected in the fact that Yaakov was the father of the twelve tribes from which the entire Jewish people stem.

To explain this concept using Chassidic terminology: Yaakov represents “the Sublime Chariot,” the level of Atzilus. However, the name Yaakov can also be divided into י-עקב, which indicates that the yud, which stands for G‑d, will be revealed within the context of eikev, the “heel,” the lowest levels.

The transition from the level of Atzilus to the rung of eikev is accomplished through the tribes. They extend6 Yaakov’s influence so that it can relate to all Jews as they exist within the context of this material world. Within the tribes themselves, Yehudah was the “foremost among the tribes,” representing the quality of kingship.7 Thus, the entire Jewish people are also referred to with the name Yehudah.

To translate the above into terms relevant to our service: Yaakov is associated with the service of Torah study.8 Yehudah grants us the potential to carry out the study of Torah on the level of deed. Thus, when Yaakov descended to Egypt, he “sent Yehudah before him to Goshen” “to establish a house of study.” For Jews in Egypt — in exile — to study Torah, they require the influence of Yehudah which is associated with the strength of a king.9

The above was reflected in the service of Rabbi Yaakov Yehudah Hecht. He sought to draw down the influence of Yaakov — Torah — to all Jews, particularly children, even those deep in exile, i.e., those attending public schools. He did this with the strength of a king (Yehudah).

There is a further allusion in his name. His two names, Yaakov and Yehudah,10 are numerically equivalent to 212, which is also the numerical equivalent of the word רבי, which means “teacher.” This is appropriate for Rabbi Hecht was the teacher of thousands of Jewish children. Furthermore, Rabbi Hecht dedicated himself to the Rebbe, the leader of our generation, seeking to express the Rebbe’s desires on the level of deed and action. As soon as he heard even a hint that the Rebbe wanted something, he set out to do whatever was required to allow that wish to be fulfilled in actual deed.

[This can be associated with the chapter of Pirkei Avos (ch. 2) which is studied this Shabbos which begins: “Rebbi would say....” Rabbi Hecht’s service involved “saying,” i.e., expressing in the world, “Rebbi.”]11 “Rebbi” is associated with Torah study as evident from his composition of the Mishnah.12

Everything which a Jew sees or hears must serve as a directive in the service of G‑d. Hence, reflecting on Rabbi Hecht’s achievements should spur each individual to involve himself in similar activities, the education of Jewish children, including those attending in public schools.

May these activities hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Those who lie in the dust will arise and sing,” when the Previous Rebbe will arise together with those Chassidim who established bonds with him. And the entire Jewish people will merit to study Torah from the best teacher, G‑d, Himself, as it is written, “A man will no longer teach his colleague because all will know Me, from the small to the great.”