On Shabbos Chof Av — the 20th of Av — yahrzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson נ"ע, father of the Rebbe Shlita — the Rebbe, Shlita directed several of his talks to the theme of joy. In deference to a large group of visitors from the West Coast, the Rebbe expounded on the expanded joy of a farbrengen with “new faces.”

In connection with a fund-raising cruise planned for S. Monica, California, the Rebbe discussed the moral lesson to be gleaned from the experience of sailing at sea and the importance of serious meditation on the salient points. The deep insight and profound analysis provided by the Rebbe illuminate this interesting subject.

The Joy of the New

When “new faces” join us at a farbrengen we all experience a unique and expanded joy.

We may draw an analogy from the halachic ruling in the case of the Sheva Berachos — the seven benedictions which are recited (after Grace) through the festive post-wedding week. The rule is that when a “new face” is present the seven benedictions are recited, for human nature is such that “new faces” bring new joy.

Similarly, when two friends meet after a long separation their reunion evokes great happiness:

When one meets his beloved friend and rejoices and draws satisfaction from seeing him, if he has not seen him for 30 days he shall recite the blessing Shehecheyanu [“who has granted us life”]. (Alter Rebbe’s Siddur, Order of Blessings 12:11)

We must deduce that the joy in this case is so great that it is revealed, for Shehecheyanu is only said when we see and feel the joy.

So, too, in our case, meeting with fellow Jews whom we have not seen for some time, “new faces,” increases our rejoicing manifold.

The joy is compounded because we can openly and clearly show and express the emotions of unity that we feel.

This revealed unity is an important point — for inherently and intrinsically Jews are always united. Essentially they are one because of their souls, more so because of Torah, and especially through mitzvos which are common to all Jews. A 13 year old boy puts on Tefillin just as Moshe Rabbeinu did, a three year old girl lights a Shabbos candle just like the candle kindled by the Matriarch Rivkah at the age of three, and the Matriarch Sarah, before her — who’s candle burned from Friday to Friday. This spiritual unity always exists.

When Jews meet in one place and their unity is revealed and expressed for all to see, then they experience greater joy.

This is all the more powerful now when their gathering has a unifying spiritual theme. For they have come together in connection with the holiday of the 15th of Av and the ensuing Shabbos and with a religious commitment to increase Torah and tzedakah. In this case the spiritual and material unity is enhanced manifold.

A Cruise for Torah

I have been informed by several of these guests that they are planning to hold a dinner (for the benefit of further expanding Torah and Yiddishkeit) on an ocean cruiser. The Baal Shem Tov taught we must learn a lesson in Divine service from everything we see and hear — there is something to be learned from a cruise on a boat, in addition to the purpose of the trip which will include Torah and tzedakah. That which is holy must permeate all aspects and every detail — so that each detail is holy. Thus, in the cruise itself there is a lesson to be learned.

The normal domicile of man is on terra firma — sailing off to sea is something new and different, a bit out of the ordinary. Since the sea is not the normal dwelling place of man one must travel on sea by a ship which offers protection and provides for the person’s needs while at sea.

And yet, going out to sea is always bound up with danger, so that when we alight on solid ground again one must offer thanks through the blessing of HaGomel. As we read in Tehillim:

Those who go down to the sea in ships.... Let them give thanks to the L‑rd for His kindness, and [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man. (Tehillim 107:23-31)

What do we learn from this in our Divine service?

The Soul on the Sea of Life

Going down to sea is symbolic of the descent of the soul to the physical world and its journey through life. For this world is compared to the stormy sea filled with “many waters.” These mighty waves are referred to in Shir HaShirim:

Many waters cannot extinguish the fire of this love, nor rivers wash it away, (Shir HaShirim 8:7)

on which the Alter Rebbe lends amplification:

The “many waters” are the tribulations of earning a livelihood and the mundane thoughts in all worldly matters.... Despite all these problems they cannot extinguish the love...the hidden love which exists in every Jewish soul by its very nature and which radiates from its G‑dly soul. (Torah Or, beg. Noach)

What course must one follow to be saved from these perilous waters? Go down to the sea in a ship! The good ship of Torah and mitzvos. On these ocean liners the Neshamah will chart a safe course through the stormy sea and reach its destination in peace.

Torah and Mitzvos your Lifeboat

This then is the lesson to be gleaned form an ocean cruise — observing Torah and mitzvos is an absolute prerequisite to your existence. Just as you can exist at sea only if you are on a sturdy ship, so too, can you journey through life, only on the lifeboat of Torah and mitzvos.

From another vantage point. When one encourages another Jew to study Torah or observe mitzvos he is not only giving him/her good advice, he is actually telling him how to stay afloat and alive. If someone is drowning, G‑d forbid, pulling him on your boat is not just doing him a favor it is saving his life.

The Pleasure of it all

Another point.

Cruising on a boat also has the aspect of leisure and pleasure, it is not something which is absolutely necessary. Those who will join the cruise will choose to do so for the sake of having a good time.

The analogue of this facet of the cruise adds another facet to the observance of Torah and mitzvos. For not only do we observe Torah and mitzvos because it is our lifesaver — but we also find great pleasure in our Torah and mitzvos. This is the level of serving G‑d out of love.

While this lesson is sound advice for all Jews, in all walks of life and at all times, it is especially appropriate to mull over these thoughts when one is actually participating in a cruise, for the novelty of the experience engenders a deeper contemplation on the intrinsic essence of the occurrence and the desire for satisfying meaning and purpose. More common phenomena, although they should be truly thought provoking, fail to arouse serious meditation, because of their regularity and commonness.

If one would contemplate on the return of his/her soul in the morning — having gone to sleep tired and worn out to wake refreshed with the return of the soul — he would recognize this happening as a gift of G‑d who gives us life every morning. This thought should awaken a rush of love for the Holy One, Blessed be He. Remembering that this soul is pure and holy — will enhance this feeling much more so. Yet, by its regularity and daily reoccurrence one is not impressed and is not moved by this wonder.

This Thought Must “Sink” in

The novelty of sailing on a ship should awaken a new awareness, to think and contemplate — and this sensitivity should be utilized to mull over the theme of “going down to sea” in its spiritual sense as we discussed, and as is clearly understandable.

Most important of all, when the participants return to dock and alight on dry land, where civilization moves on and where they must go on to carry out their own missions in life, let them act in accordance with this idea and let them take this lesson to heart. It should be seen and felt, that Torah and mitzvos are things which affect their whole existence and bring the great pleasure of service out of love.

Spread the word to others!

Let them exalt Him in the congregation of the people. (Tehillim 107:32)

And let them influence others — the non-Jewish people of the world — to see G‑d’s wonders and observe those commandments dictated to them by Torah, the Seven Noachide Laws.

This should also effect an increase in spreading Torah and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside.

May this discussion of the salvation of the few, lead to the ultimate salvation, through our righteous Mashiach. Then we will increase all aspects of Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos and we will be redeemed in a revealed manner immediately and truly now.