1. We always endeavor to find something unique about every farbrengen. This is because although the Torah commands us to treat every idea as new, when it is actually new, the enthusiasm is even greater.

Every year Parshas HaChodesh is read on the Shabbos preceding (or on Shabbos) Rosh Chodesh Nissan. The weekly Torah portion varies, however, from year to year. This year, two portions are read together, Vayakhel and Pekudei. Both of them speak about the actual construction of the Tabernacle in the desert. This is also the idea of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, for that was the day on which the Tabernacle was constructed. We therefore see Rosh Chodesh Nissan stressed both in the weekly portion and in the special portion, Parshas HaChodesh.

The main point, however, is not merely to discuss the Torah, but to derives practical lessons in how to improve our actions. Action in this physical realm is so important that it was actually the reason for the creation of this physical world — that G‑d should have a dwelling place in a lowly realm.

The practical lesson to be derived lies in the fact that Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the time for redemption. Our Sages say that, ‘When G‑d chose the world, He established Roshei Chodeshim V’Shanim; when He chose Jacob and his sons, He established the Rosh Chodesh of redemption [Nissan] — when they were redeemed [in Egypt] and when they will be redeemed in the future.’

This is therefore the time to make a tumult (a sh’turm) regarding the redemption. This involves two points: a) that the time for Mashiach as certainly arrived, and b) that this redemption must be in the literal, physical sense, not merely a spiritual one.

Both of these points were also stressed in the original redemption from Egyptian slavery. We will understand the first point — regarding the time for the redemption — by first quoting the Previous Rebbe. Regarding the passage in the Haggadah, ‘Blessed be He, Who calculated [the years] to bring about [the end of bondage],’ the Rebbe asked how this is a praise of G‑d? Since He already promised to redeem them from Egypt, obviously He had no reason not to carry it through!

The Previous Rebbe explained that G‑d derives great pleasure from the Jewish people doing mitzvos in exile. This being the case, we might expect Him to lengthen the exile as long as possible, G‑d forbid, in order to give us further opportunities to transform the world through Torah and mitzvos. It is therefore a praise of G‑d that He chose to nevertheless take the Jewish people out of exile.

This is particularly clear in light of the explanation of the AriZal, that there were 288 sparks of holiness which descended to the world from the realm of Tohu. In Egypt, they purified 202 of these sparks, as alluded to in the verse, ‘A great multitude came up with them,’ the word ‘great’ (rav) having the numerical value of 202. This left over 86 sparks (the numerical value of G‑d’s name, Elokim) remaining to purify. G‑d could have conceivable left the Jewish people in Egypt in order to transform the rest of the sparks, but since the time had come, He chose not to. So too now, He should not hold us in exile ‘even for the blink of an eye’ now that the time has come and ‘all the deadlines have passed.’

The second point — that the redemption must be in the literal, physical sense, and not merely spiritual — was also stressed in the Egyptian redemption. The Jews in Egypt had already reached a spiritual ascent even before the final redemption. On Rosh Hashanah, they had been relieved from working as slaves. Furthermore, the Egyptians having been broken by the plagues, were already begging the Jews to leave. The only reason Pharaoh could have had for keeping them was because of the special blessings Egypt had enjoyed as a result of their presence. He knew that since Jacob had come to Egypt, that the Nile River had been overflowing, bringing great wealth to the country. Certainly he would have allowed them to live peacefully in Goshen, undisturbed and essentially free.

Furthermore, even beyond this freedom they already had been given mitzvos. Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nissan they had been given the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh — the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people. Even had they remained in Egypt, they would have enjoyed the benefits of the spiritual redemption that had already begun. Nevertheless, G‑d redeemed them in the physical sense, and took them out of Egypt. The same applies now, that even the greatest spiritual benefits do not suffice — we need the final, physical redemption.

Some people might wonder: if after speaking so frequently about this people still haven’t changed their attitude and behavior, what purpose is there in continuing to speak about it!

The answer lies in the legal ruling of the Rambam that even through a single act, one could bring Mashiach. In light of this, and especially since his arrival involves pikuach nefesh, everything possible must be done to hasten his coming.

2. An additional lesson may be derived from the day in which Rosh Chodesh falls this year, on Tuesday, the third day of the week. On the third day of creation, there is double mention of the fact that, ‘it was good.’ Our Sages tell us that this alludes to the fact that it was, ‘good for the Heavens and good for the creations.’

This can help us more deeply understand the Previous Rebbe’s explanation of the passage in the Haggadah, ‘Blessed be He, Who calculated to bring about [the end of bondage]’ which was previously mentioned. There we see a dichotomy between G‑d’s desire (which is to complete the process of purifying sparks, even if it involves lengthening the exile) and that of the Jewish people (which is to have Mashiach arrive as soon as possible). These two goals correspond to the two mentions of ‘it was good’ — G‑d’s desire to ‘good for the Heavens’ and our’s to ‘good for the creations.’ G‑d’s bringing the redemption earlier than He might have wanted to, represents ‘good for the creations’ outweighing ‘good for the Heavens.’

We find a similar consideration before the Egyptian redemption. Moshe asked G‑d, ‘Why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people.’ G‑d responded, ‘Woe to those who have been lost but not forgotten. I mourn the death of the Patriarchs...who never questioned My actions. But you say, ‘Why do You mistreat’!’

This is indeed puzzling. Everyone — certainly Moshe — can understand the importance of not questioning G‑d’s actions. Why did Moshe do so?

However, in light of the abovementioned, it is understood. One does not question G‑d’s actions because of the way things are from His perspective — ‘good for the Heavens.’ Moshe spoke from the way we perceive things — ‘good for the creations.’

But this itself is questionable: everyone understands the wisdom of placing what is ‘good for the Heavens’ over what is ‘good for the creations.’ The whole service of a Jew involves placing G‑d’s desires over our own.

The reason for this is also clearly understood. G‑d is infinite, whereas we are finite. Therefore, our perception of things will take us only as high as our finite capacity can reach. G‑d’s calculations can bring us to an infinitely higher level. It would seem that even when G‑d is willing to consider what is ‘good for the creations’ over what is ‘good for the Heavens,’ we would be unhappy. It would be better to just give pleasure to G‑d as He understands it!

The truth is, however, that one does not outweigh the other, but that both ‘good for the creations’ and ‘good for the Heavens’ become united. G‑d does not merely ‘ignore’ His considerations for those of the Jewish people, but rather His desire becomes that of the Jews. Because of G‑d’s great love for the Jewish people, when He sees their intense longing and yearning for the redemption, He changes His desire, so to speak, so that it should coincide with ours.

In the Talmud we find a similar statement: ‘Even when G‑d makes a decree, He nullifies it for a tzaddik.’ In our case we find that although there was a decree; and furthermore, one which has an explanation (i.e. the Divine enjoyment of our service in exile), He nevertheless nullified it because of the desire of the Jewish people, regarding who it is written, ‘And your people are all tzaddikim.’

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3. Among the questions asked regarding Rashi’s commentary on Chumash was one on the end of Parshas Pekudei. On the verse, ‘Moshe could not come into the Ohel Moed, since the cloud had rested on it, and G‑d’s glory filled the Tabernacle’ (Ex. 40:35), Rashi comments, ‘But another verse (Num. 7:89) says, ‘When Moshe came into the Ohel Moed’! A third passage settles them both, ‘since the cloud had rested on it.’ From here you see that as long as the cloud was on it he couldn’t enter, but when the cloud left, he entered and G‑d spoke with him.’

There is a well-known principle that Rashi comments only when the question arises. According to this, Rashi should have waited until the book of Numbers, when the contradiction becomes apparent, before reconciling the two passages!

The answer to this is that even before learning of the apparent contradiction later in Numbers, there is already a obvious question on this verse. Previously (Ex. 25:22) G‑d said to Moshe, ‘I will meet with you there and speak to you from above the ark-cover...’ If so, how could it say in Pekudei that Moshe couldn’t enter?!

A few verse later, at the beginning of Vayikra, it also says that, ‘G‑d called to Moshe, speaking to him from the Ohel Moed’! And although this verse comes after the verse in Pekudei (and Rashi would not have to explain it), it is still right in front of the student; and especially in Rashi’s days, when the Chumashim used for learning had all the parshiyos immediately following each other.

Therefore Rashi must explain the question which arises on this verse. However, in answering it, Rashi quotes the verse from Numbers, where the contradiction is most obvious — since it not only says that G‑d spoke with Moshe (which could possibly be explained by saying that Moshe stood outside), but that Moshe actually entered the Ohel Moed.

And the explanation which Rashi brings answers all the apparent contradictions, both before and after this verse.

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In my father’s commentary on Zohar, he quotes the statement, ‘They merit in this world and they merit in the world-to-come,’ and points out that the phrase ‘they merit’ is repeated (instead of just saying, ‘They merit in this world and in the World to Come’). The reason he gives is that the Zohar wishes to stress that they merit in each world independently.

The question on this, as well as on many other passages in the Zohar, is that the statement seems obvious. We already know from the Mishnah, and say in the morning blessings, ‘These are the precepts, the fruits of which man enjoys in this world, while the principal [reward] remains in the World to Come...’ What is the Zohar adding?

The answer lies in the phrase, ‘the fruits of which...’ This indicates that it speaks of a sort of reward which is inferior to the ‘principal reward’ which is reaped in the World to Come. The Zohar comes to add that there is a reward in this world equivalent to that of the World to Come.

4. At the present time there are certain obstacles which impede the peaceful spread of Judaism in general — and the wellsprings of Chassidus in particular — throughout the world. As the well-known Midrash puts it, even after the ‘evil force’ was eradicated, there still remained a slight trace of evil, ‘a blood spot on the water’s surface.’

One really shouldn’t be concerned about this in the least, because certainly Torah and the forces of holiness will triumph in the end. However, since there are those who are concerned, it is proper that we take concrete steps to nullify these negative forces. An auspicious time for this is Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan, in which there should be added stress placed on Torah, prayer, and charity. In particular:

Torah: additional Torah study, particularly in works of the Previous Rebbe, and preferably in discourses relating to Purim or Pesach.

Prayer: additional recital of Psalms. In addition to the portion in the monthly cycle, Psalms from the weekly cycle should also be said.

Charity: additional charity, in an amount corresponding to the value of at least one meal (as explained in Iggeres HaTeshuvah). Ideally, it should be given to institutions associated with Nasi Doreinu, the Previous Rebbe.

The above should be publicized, with stress placed on the fact that all men, women, and children should participate. The shluchim (emissaries) should also be notified, and should meet together in order to determine how to add on in this regard.

[In connection with the above, the Rebbe discussed the Talmudic statement that, ‘If your teacher resembles an angel of G‑d, then strive to learn Torah from him, and if not...’ He continued by discussing the three signs given by the Torah by which one can recognize a Jew.]

The Talmud says, ‘This nation has three signs, they are merciful, bashful, and generous.’ The Rambam also brings these three signs, but in a different order: ‘bashful, merciful, and generous.’ We see an obvious difference: that in the Talmud, ‘merciful’ comes before ‘bashful,’ whereas the Rambam reverses the order.

The reason for this difference is that the Rambam customarily explains things in a way which can apply to everyone equally. In contrast, the Talmud speaks primarily to those on a higher spiritual level.

First, the order of the Rambam: Generosity itself is not a sign of Jewishness, for descendants of Ishmael are also generous. However, their generosity is an unholy one, given only for purpose of self-glorification. A feeling of mercy can also be a result of arrogance; such as when a person feels pity on someone because he as not as great as himself!

Generosity and mercy are only signs of a Jew when preceded by bashfulness, which a sign of humility and bittul. Therefore, the Rambam place bashfulness first.

The Talmud speaks to person on a higher level, who would never experience such an arrogant type of pity. He might feel real pity, but the very recognition that the other person is on a lower level might indirectly arouse a feeling of arrogance. The Talmud therefore follows by advising a deep feeling of bittul.

The Previous Rebbe once told a story of what happened on the boat as he was returning from his visit to Eretz Yisrael. When, on the boat, he heard of the pogroms which had transpired in Chevron, he was so adversely affected that he developed a severe kidney ailment. The well-known Dr. Wallach of Jerusalem was on board, and he administered medical treatment until the Rebbe was finally cured.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Wallach came to the Rebbe to ask for advice on how to make amends for his transgression. When the Rebbe asked, ‘for what?’, he replied that since the Rebbe was a public figure needed by all Jews, certainly G‑d would keep him healthy. The only reason G‑d made him sick was because he — Dr. Wallach — was on the boat! If he had not been there, obviously G‑d would not have made him sick in the first place! Therefore, he concluded, he caused (rather than cured) the Rebbe’s ailment.

It is this deep sort of shame, that which follows a feeling of mercy, that the Talmud refers to.