1. Before each person returns to his own home, it is customary to gather together to strengthen the unity among those who are journeying. This, in turn, will strengthen the unity of each Jew with the Jewish people as a whole.

At such a gathering, there are matters of general relevance which are appropriate whenever Jews depart after any holiday and there is also a particular lesson connected with Yud-Tes Kislev.

In regard to the matter of the general relevance: Our Sages teach that while an infant is in its mother’s womb, it is taught the entire Torah. This is intended to prepare the soul for its descent “from a high roof to a low pit,” from its ultimate spiritual heights to enclothe itself in a body within this physical world to fulfill the mission with which it was charged by G‑d. Before this descent, its connection with G‑d is strengthened by its being taught the entire Torah.

In microcosm, this process is reflected in different stages within one’s mission in this world. Each Jew has a particular mission, to illuminate the place in the world where Divine Providence has brought him and make it into a dwelling place for G‑d. On the verse, “And when you will go to the place which the L‑rd, your G‑d, chose to cause His name to dwell there,” the Baal Shem Tov explains that when a Jew goes to a specific place, he does not go there on his own; it is Divine Providence which brings him there. The intent of his being sent there is not to earn a living, for G‑d is able to grant him sustenance anywhere, but rather, because he is intended to draw light into the place, “to cause His name to dwell there.” Since a Jew is committed to the service of G‑d, he willingly accepts his being sent to this place with happiness and joy.

Nevertheless, from time to time, many Jews who were sent to different places gather together in one place to strengthen themselves in carrying out their particular missions. This place, the place where the Previous Rebbe spent the last ten years of his life in this world, is unique. “Holiness does not move from its place.” The Previous Rebbe is still drawing down mercy and blessing for all those who follow in his path. Indeed, his influence at present exceeds the influence he had while his soul was contained within a physical body. Thus, gathering together once more before each individual departs on his mission is intended to strengthen the unity among us.

Furthermore, this unity is to be continued by each person when he returns to his home. Not only will the journey not cause any separation, on the contrary, it will strengthen the bonds of unity. For example, when two close friends or two brothers part, the physical distance strengthens the feelings of love and the yearnings each one has for the other. This example is aptly chosen for, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, from the standpoint of the soul, all Jews are really like brothers. This unity will be a proper vessel to accept G‑d’s blessings as we say, “Bless us, our Father, all as one.” This will, in turn, aid in the fulfillment of the mission with which G‑d has charged us.

[The portion of the Mishneh Torah which is studied in connection with the present day contains a halachah which relates to the concept of G‑d granting blessings to allow for the fulfillment of our mission in the world. The Rambam deals with the laws governing the hiring of workers. The employer is obligated to allow the workers to eat from the produce with which they are working. In certain communities, he is obligated to provide his workers with food and he is obligated to pay his workers on time.

On the verse, “He tells His words to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel,” our Sages commented that G‑d fulfills Himself all the mitzvos which He commands the Jewish people. Thus, since each one of us is a “worker,” charged by G‑d with the task of illuminating the world, it follows that He is obligated to provide His workers with all their needs while they are fulfilling this mission and also, to pay them their full reward in the Messianic age.]

Even though the people gathered here are a comparatively small number when compared to the entire Jewish people, nevertheless, each individual Jew is “an entire world,” and a group of ten Jews is “a holy congregation.” Thus, the unity of all those gathered here increases the unity of the Jewish people as a whole.

This is particularly true when this gathering is held in a synagogue, a place that is intended to fuse many different people into a single communal entity which G‑d regards highly, as our Sages explain, G‑d will not refuse the prayers of a community. Furthermore, this synagogue is also used as a House of Study and also, as a place where tzedakah is given. Thus, it joins together the “three pillars on which the world stands.”

The unity established here prepares the world for the ultimate unity that will be realized during the Messianic redemption when the Jews will all return to Eretz Yisrael.

2. There is also a unique lesson connected with a gathering before departure that is associated with Yud-Tes Kislev. Yud-Tes Kislev is associated with the Alter Rebbe’s redemption. The Alter Rebbe’s imprisonment represented an exile within exile. Even while at home, the Alter Rebbe was in exile, in the diaspora, and then he was taken to prison. Nevertheless, despite this great descent, he was redeemed in a manner of peace as emphasized by the verse, “My soul was redeemed in peace,” which he was reading at the time that he was redeemed.

The Mitteler Rebbe explains that this verse implies that even when a Jew is faced with the trials and tribulations of exile, G‑d redeems him with peace, neither war, nor even a show of force, i.e., the mobilization of an army, is necessary. In terms of our spiritual service, this implies that even the service of prayer is not necessary. Rather, all one needs to do is occupy himself with the study of Torah and the performance of the mitzvos and the difficulties of exile will be nullified without effort.

Also, peace is “a vessel which contains blessing,” and draws down G‑d’s bountiful blessings in regard to all things for every Jew wherever he is to be found.

A similar pattern can be seen in the Torah portion connected with the present day which describes the sale of Yosef as a slave in Egypt. Yosef was forced to descend from level to level until he was imprisoned, from one exile to an even further one. Nevertheless, ultimately, he became the ruler of all Egypt, controlling every aspect of the functioning of that country.

The lesson we can take from this is that when a Jew behaves as a Jew should, as he can learn from the behavior of Yosef in Egypt, he is given control of his entire surroundings. No one is able to disturb his observance of the mitzvos, nor is he lacking in any of his needs. In order to allow him to carry out his service of Torah and mitzvos, all matters that cause worry, for example health problems or those involving earning a livelihood, are removed from him as explained above.

This is also related to the holiday of Chanukah which is approaching. The Chanukah lights should be placed “at the entrance to one’s house, on the outside,” and should be kindled after sunset. This implies that even if one is in a situation of darkness, in the public thoroughfare where Judaism is an unknown matter, he has the potential to light up the darkness with “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah.”

Furthermore, each day, additional light is added. Not only does one add more light to his own surroundings, he brings more light into the entire world around him. Even if on the previous night, he did not succeed in illuminating the entire public thoroughfare, he does not give up and adds more light on the following day.

This is also connected to Yud-Tes Kislev because illuminating the darkness outside one’s home parallels the service of spreading the wellsprings outward which began on Yud-Tes Kislev.

All of the above is further emphasized this year, because it is a Shemitah year. In the Shemitah year, all involvement with agricultural work ceases. Therefore, there is more time for Torah study, prayer, and the fulfillment of mitzvos, and more time to meet with other Jews and become concerned with their affairs and thus, strengthen the unity of the Jewish people.

Even in the diaspora where the laws of Shemitah are not fulfilled in the simple sense, the spiritual aspects of these laws still apply. For example, the prayers were instituted in place of the sacrifices. Thus, even when it is impossible to actually offer the sacrifices, the spiritual service associated with the sacrifices is paralleled by our service of prayer and this service can bring about the closeness and connection to G‑d which was achieved through the sacrifices.

If each Shemitah year is “a Shabbos unto the L‑rd,” this surely applies in a year in which Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos. Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, includes and controls all the days of the year in a manner similar to the way the head includes and controls the functioning of all the other limbs of the body.

This is further emphasized by another somewhat unusual occurrence this year, when both the first and the last day of Chanukah fall on Shabbos. This further enunciates the lesson that this year must possess a Shabbos-like quality. One must feel, as one feels on Shabbos, that all one’s work is completed. All a Jew is required to do is, through his service of Torah and mitzvos, provide the vessel and G‑d will fill it with all that he needs.

To conclude with suggestions for practical action: The days between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah are particularly fit to increase all aspects of Yiddishkeit, Torah, and mitzvos. Furthermore, this can be done in a spirit of rest, pleasure, and happiness. Although we are still in exile, wherever a Jew has been exiled, G‑d goes into exile with him and gives him all the blessings, including the blessing of peace, and the ultimate blessing, the coming of Mashiach, when we will merit to see the kindling of the Menorah in the Temple.

The way to prepare for that revelation is — as implied by the verse, “I will dwell among them” interpreted to mean “among each and every one of them” — for each Jew to make his house a miniature Temple, i.e., his house will be permeated by the spirit of Yiddishkeit and Torah, and from it, light will spread out to the entire world.

May the above be carried out in a Shabbos-like manner and may this usher in the age which is “all Shabbos and rest forever,” as we proceed from the redemption of Yud-Tes Kislev to the ultimate and complete redemption led by Mashiach.

We will conclude by distributing a dollar to each person which he should give to tzedakah at home and may this tzedakah bring closer the redemption. May it be speedily, in our days.