1. A farbrengen on a Shabbos during the first 12 days of Nissan has a special quality. we see this in the law that during this time period Tachanun is not said. On Shabbos, when there is never Tachanun, other prayers (Av Harachamim, Tzidkoschoh) are omitted.

These changes commemorate the inauguration of the altar in the Tabernacle, and the offerings brought during the first 12 days of Nissan by the princes of the 12 tribes.

This is in itself quite remarkable. These offerings were brought only once, many years ago, and were not commanded for all generations. On the other hand, there are many other important events — which occurred constantly, or for long periods of time — for which no remembrance was established. What is the reason?

The reason is because the offerings of the princes provided the foundation and were the prototype for a Jew’s service of G‑d throughout the generations. The command ‘Make for Me a Temple, and I will dwell within it,’ includes not only making the actual structure, but bringing G‑dliness down to the world for all future generations.

Aside from the remembrance of not saying Tachanun, we also read the Torah portion of the offering of that day’s particular tribe. Furthermore, we say a prayer that contains many elements unparalleled by any other prayer. The prayer reads in part,

‘May it be Your will, L‑rd my G‑d, and G‑d of my fathers, that in Your great kindness You will shine upon the holy souls that renew themselves as ‘birds’ and sing and praise and pray on behalf of the holy people Israel...

‘May it be Your will, L‑rd my G‑d, and G‑d of my fathers, that if I, Your servant, am of the tribe of _____, the Torah section of whose prince I have recited today, then may there shine upon me all the holy ‘sparks’ and all the holy lights which are contained in the holiness of this tribe, to understand and comprehend in Your Torah and in the fear of You, to do Your will all the days of my life — I and my children and my children’s children, from now and forever. Amen.’

Among the striking elements of our requests in this prayer:

a) That there shine upon our souls ‘all the holy ‘sparks’ and all the holy lights’ of this tribe.

b) This applies not only to one particular tribe, but to all the sparks of all 12 tribes. Since the Jewish people are the purpose of creation, included in their souls are the sparks of the entire creation. Therefore, one requests the benefit of all the sparks of the entire creation!

c) This influence does not remain in a state of concealment, but ‘shines,’ i.e. has a revealed effect. This reaches the realm of action, affecting us ‘to understand and comprehend in Your Torah and in the fear of You, to do Your will...’ This includes all of Torah and mitzvos — in fact all other actions, which should be done ‘for the sake of heaven.’

d) The effect lasts forever: ‘all the days of my life — I and my children and my children’s children, from now and forever.’ We then conclude by strengthening the effect through saying ‘Amen.’

e) In spite of the fact that the prayer includes such lofty requests, it is said by every single Jew, man, woman, and child, regardless of their spiritual level.

From all this the greatness of the princes’ offerings can be understood. Their single act produced an effect which lasts through all generations and reaches every single Jew.

One might raise the objection, however, that the entire prayer is conditional. We say ‘if’ — ‘if I, Your servant, am of the tribe of _____.’ This implies that if one is not from that particular tribe, that the prayer has no effect. This would mean that the person receives only the sparks from one tribe, not from all 12! Furthermore, this would mean that only one of the 12 prayers uttered is actually correct! The other 11 times are for sure in error, since one can be from only one tribe.

The question is even stronger regarding a Kohen or Levi. At least, an Israelite, who is in doubt, can say ‘if.’ But those who come from the tribe of Levi seem to have no doubt to begin with!

This can be understood in view of the instructions of the Rebbe Rashab to his brother-in-law, R. Moshe Horenstein, who was a Kohen. He was told to say this prayer each of the 12 days, since it relates to the Kabbalistic concept of ibur. [That within one’s soul there could be an aspect of another soul from another tribe. See Tanya, end of Ch. 14. HaYom Yom, page 41, footnote 3.] He therefore was to say this prayer all 12 days, since he possibly had within him a soul from one of these tribes. Therefore, the same applies to an Israelite. We cannot say that his prayer was false on the 11 days when his tribe wasn’t mentioned, for perhaps he too has another soul within him from that tribe.

Actually, each Jew has a definite connection with each of the 12 tribes, since all of them are connected and included with each other. For this reason alone it would be proper to say this prayer all 12 days. Nevertheless we say ‘If I’m from...’ since we want to stress that tribe with which we are directly connected.

Everything mentioned above refers to the general greatness and holiness associated with the offerings of the princes. There is an additional lesson to be derived from the particular prince who offered on that day. This is similar to the Talmud’s question, ‘In which mitzvah was your father especially careful?’ The Talmud is speaking about someone who fulfilled all the mitzvos. There is nevertheless one mitzvah which is the special mission of a particular soul. It is through the careful observance of this mitzvah that all other mitzvos take on an added dimension. The same applies to each day of the 12 days of the altar inauguration. The special quality of the day, in this case of the 5th of Nissan, today takes precedence over all others.

On this day, the offering was brought by the prince of the tribe of Shimon. The simplest place to learn about Shimon — and it must be a simple lesson in order for all to be able to understand it — is where he is discussed in Chumash. In the blessings to the tribes, Yaakov said, ‘Shimon and Levi are brothers.’ This idea of brotherhood clearly points to ahavas Yisrael and achdus Yisrael.

Furthermore, we find that Shimon and Levi allude to opposite sorts of characteristics. ‘Shimon’ is related to the Hebrew word for ‘hated,’ referring to a person’s whose behavior is hated in the eyes of G‑d. The name ‘Levi,’ on the other hand, refers to closeness to G‑d.

This is the true ahavas Yisrael — where two opposites are nevertheless able to combine and become ‘brothers.’ In addition, the ‘Shimon’ has been transformed to good to the extent that mention of him even precedes that of Levi: ‘Shimon and Levi are brothers.’

This lesson can be applied internally, to the ‘Shimon’ and ‘Levi’ within oneself. One must keep in mind that even the ‘Shimon’ — i.e. the undesirable elements — within can be harnessed and used for service of G‑d.

The primary lesson, though, is in the simple sense. One must follow the Alter Rebbe’s advice in Tanya: that those who are far from the Torah should be drawn close ‘with strong ropes of love.’

* * *

2. This Shabbos follows the 2nd of Nissan, which is the yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab. Tzaddikim do not really leave the world when they pass away; all Tzaddikim put their essence into their Torah, similar to the way G‑d put His essence into the Torah. This is alluded to in the first word of the Ten Commandments, anochi. Our Sages tell us that this word is an acronym for anoh nafshi k’sovis y’hovis, or ‘I wrote and put My Soul [into it].’

We see this point stressed by the Rebbe Rashab. Before he passed away, he said, ‘I am going to heaven, but the writings I am leaving for you.’ By this he meant to say that through his writings, he himself was remaining with them, since he put his essence into his Torah.

The 2nd of Nissan also marks the beginning of the nesius of the Previous Rebbe. In the first maamar said after he became Rebbe (‘Reishis Goyim Amalek’), he gave a wondrous explanation of this point — the eternal aspect of the tzaddik’s effect on the world.

In the maamar he explains that the spiritual impurity of Amalek has no absolute value or lasting existence. This is in contrast to holiness, which, since it has an open connection with G‑d, is similar to Him in terms of its absolute and constant existence. He speaks of the fact that G‑dliness penetrates not only the lights, but also the vessels of the world of Atzilus. Furthermore, he continues, anything that G‑d designates as a mitzvah, i.e. as a fitting receptacle for holiness, also acquires this quality. Therefore, ‘The physical parchment, the wool of the tzitzis, etc...exists as an absolute existence.’

He continues by saying that with Tzaddikim, everything they use becomes absolutely holy. Regarding this he told the story of his father, the Rebbe Rashab, who after the passing of the Rebbe Maharash, entered into the room for yechidus, stood next to the table and chair, and, in effect, relived yechidus. This was brought as an example of how even the physical objects in the room had become holy. In fact, not only a table which was used directly for a mitzvah, such as for writing Torah, becomes holy, but even objects used for everyday tasks, done by the tzaddik for the sake of heaven become holy.

The reason for this is that everything holy stems from G‑d, whose Holiness is totally unlimited. It is not bound to space or time, and remains unchanged under all conditions. Fro this reason, when connected with the holiness of a tzaddik, even mundane objects become holy — and as explained in the maamar, similar to the absolute holiness of the vessels of the world of Atzilus.

This all applies even when there is no change in the object after the tzaddik’s passing. We see, for example, that in many cases, the table upon which the tzaddik studied, etc. was made into the casket in which he was buried. But even when this does not happen, and the table remains a table, it still maintains this eternal quality of holiness.

* * *

3. On the verse (Lev. 4:22), ‘A Nasi who sins...’ (Asher Nasi Yechetoh) Rashi explains, ‘This [the word asher] comes from the word ‘fortunate’; fortunate is the generation whose Nasi pays attention to bringing atonement for his unintentional sins. How much more so in the case of an intentional sin!’

A number of things are puzzling about this Rashi. First of all, why does Rashi bring such an explanation that seems to have little to do with the simple sense of the verse? Other commentaries do explain this phrase in its simple sense, but Rashi — who specializes in ‘the simple meaning of Scripture’ — brings a drash apparently unrelated to the verse.

Secondly, why does he say, ‘fortunate is the generation’? The verse speaks about the Nasi, not the generation!

The explanation lies in determining Rashi’s question on the verse. Rashi’s student is not puzzled regarding the meaning of the verse. This is easily understood, as pointed out by the other commentaries. The question arises when this verse is viewed in the context of the other commands which are mentioned. In all of them, the word asher is not used; instead it says ‘if (im) a kohen...’ ‘if the congregation ...’ and so on. The question therefore arises, why is this verse different? But the question is not on the meaning of the phrase, but on the expression used in the phrase.

Therefore, Rashi’s explanation has nothing to do with the translation of the verse, since that is self-understood. He speaks about the generation (which is not mentioned in the verse) and about how fortunate they are (which is also not directly referred to). And there is no question as to why his explanation does not relate directly to the verse, because that wasn’t his question in the first place.

It is also customary to discuss the daily portion of Rambam, and to try to derive a practical lesson in living our daily lives. The laws of chametz and matzah immediately allude to the two types of service performed by a Jew: keeping away from unholy things (similar to chametz) and doing good things (similar to matzah). The ultimate level is to transform the bad so that it too becomes good. This is indicated on the holiday of Shavuos, when a meal offering of chametz is brought. The rest of the year, all meal-offerings had to be matzah. However, once one has gone through Pesach and the Counting of the Omer, one has the ability to transform kelipah into kedushah. Therefore, one must bring chametz instead of matzah.

There is a discussion among the later commentaries as to whether the idea of ‘making a fence around the Torah’ is strictly of Rabbinic origin, or an idea we see even in laws which are m’d’oraysa. In these laws, we see an example of the Torah itself ‘making a fence.’

Unlike even the most severe prohibitions, the Torah prohibited even to have chametz in one’s possession. The Ran (Rabbeinu Nissim) explained the reason for this: since people are accustomed to eating chametz the entire year, the Torah made an especially severe prohibition in order to make sure people do not make an error. We see clearly that the Torah itself ‘made a fence’ around the prohibition of eating chametz by prohibiting even the ownership of chametz.

This leads us to the idea of nullifying the chametz of the entire world, i.e. the exile. This was stressed by Torah giants throughout the ages. we see that the Rambam, R. Saadia Gaon, and many others established kitzin, times when Mashiach should have come. Then in the days of the Previous Rebbe, he announced the keitz of 5703. Nevertheless, all these dates have passed and Mashiach has still not yet come!

All of these Torah greats, and all of the Rebbeim are demanding, how long must we wait? And since this has been written into the Torah, the Torah itself also demands to know, ‘how long?’

The only possible answer to this is the arrival of Mashiach. We can no longer find excuses and explanations for G‑d’s not bringing Mashiach! From where do we derive that we have the right to demand Mashiach so strongly? From a story which happened with the Previous Rebbe. Once a great Torah scholar came to visit the Previous Rebbe, and they began to discuss the Holocaust. The person said ‘certainly G‑d must have had a reason; certainly everything was just...’ The Previous Rebbe answered, ‘don’t find excuses for G‑d.’ From this we see that although we certainly have perfect faith in G‑d’s wisdom and justice, we still must do our utmost to ask for and demand the immediate redemption.

* * *

4. In conclusion, it is a proper time to once more mention the importance of making every Jewish home into a ‘miniature Sanctuary’ of Torah, prayer, and good deeds. This has a special connection with Pesach, when G‑d saw the holiness of Jewish homes and therefore ‘passed over them.’

In particular, the children’s’ rooms should be made into ‘miniature Sanctuaries’ through having a Chumash, Siddur, and charity box for each individual child. And since Pesach is approaching, each should have his or her own Haggadah, as we have mentioned in the past. In this way, the children will be intrigued to ask many questions, including the Four Questions, which, as explained in the writings of the AriZal, correspond to the four worlds.

The main thing is that G‑d should finally answer the big question of the entire Jewish people, and bring us out of exile with the arrival of Mashiach.