1. The farbrengen this Shabbos is connected with a number of factors: (a) Shabbos, (b) the Shemitah year, (c) the Shabbos which blesses the new month (Shabbos Mevarchim) (d) the Shabbos which follows Yud-Tes Kislev, (e) Shabbos Chanukah, and (f) the first day of Chanukah.

All of these concepts are connected with the unity of the Jewish people. In regard to Shabbos, there is an allusion to the connection between Shabbos and unity in the Torah. On the verse, “And Moshe assembled the people together,” our Sages explain that Moshe instituted the practice of assembling together the people in congregations so that in the coming generations, they would congregate together on each and every Shabbos.

Also, our Sages relate that Shabbos casts an aura of awe into the common people and prevents them from lying. Therefore, a Torah sage could eat together with a common person on Shabbos even though during the week, he would refrain from doing so out of fear that the food the common person served was not kosher. Thus, Shabbos is able to establish unity even in regard to eating. Afterwards, the food is transformed into flesh and blood which, in turn, has an effect on one’s character.

This aspect of unity is further emphasized during the Shemitah year which is also called “a Shabbos unto G‑d.” During the six years when work is permitted, each person is involved in his particular occupation. However, during the seventh year, these divisions are nullified. Also, the seventh year serves as a preparation for the Hakhel celebration which brings together the entire people.

Shabbos Mevarchim intensifies this unity because then, in keeping with the custom established by the Previous Rebbe, farbrengens are held. The essential point of a farbrengen is the expression of Ahavas Yisrael and the establishment of unity.

The Shabbos which follows Yud-Tes Kislev also continues this pattern. Shabbos elevates, completes, and adds the quality of pleasure to the service of all the days of the previous week. This week this also includes Yud-Tes Kislev, the holiday of holidays, connected with the revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s mystical secrets) to the extent that they can be grasped and comprehended. For this to be accomplished, it is necessary that the highest aspects of the Torah, the level of Yechidah, must be drawn down. This, in turn, arouses the Yechidah, the essential point of the soul, which is shared in common by every Jew.

This unity is also related to Shabbos Chanukah which commemorates the dedication of the altar and the dedication of the Temple which was a festive occasion attended by many Jews. The quality of joy and celebration enhance the aspect of unity.

In particular, the quality of unity is associated with the first day of Chanukah. The Torah reading of the first day describes the dedication of the altar and the sanctuary through the sacrifices of the Nesi’im (the princes of each tribe). The Midrash explains that since all of the Nesi’im joined together and shared the idea of bringing these sacrifices of dedication, each one offering the same sacrifices, G‑d considered it as if each one brought the sacrifice on the first day.

Thus, this Torah reading emphasizes the unity that pervades the Jewish people even in regard to the dimensions of their service where they differ from each other. In general, there are two aspects of Jewish unity: a) the unity which stems from the essential G‑dly core of the soul which is shared by all Jews; this unity is not dependent on our service; b) a unity which is established while taking into consideration the particular differences between the Jewish people, their various individual potentials, and the service performed by each of them.

An example of the latter level of unity can be seen in the Haftorah read on Chanukah which describes Zechariah’s vision of the Menorah. The Menorah is a symbol of the entire Jewish people. Each Jewish soul is a candle as Proverbs 20:27 states: “The candle of G‑d is the soul of man,” and the Jewish people as a whole can be described as the Menorah.

The Menorah includes the totality of the Jewish people from the greatest of the Tzaddikim (the flowers of the Menorah) until those on the lowest levels (its base). Similarly, the Menorah has seven shafts, each reflecting one of the seven different paths in the service of G‑d that exist among the Jewish people. Nevertheless, the Menorah is a single entity, beaten out of one block of gold and not joined together from different pieces. A similar unity is seen in the human body, which combines many different organs and limbs and yet is considered a single entity.

Similarly, the twelve tribes reflect twelve different paths of service. Thus, though the sacrifices of the different Nesi’im were identical, each offered these sacrifices with different intentions. Thus, these sacrifices emphasize how unity is established among Jews even though they are different and distinct individuals.

This unity was expressed on the first day of the dedication of the Sanctuary when the Nesi’im made a common decision to offer their sacrifices. Furthermore, it seems that if G‑d had not specifically desired that the sacrifices be offered on separate days, they would have all offered their sacrifices on the first day. Furthermore, G‑d gave the command that they be offered on separate days on the first day, emphasizing how all the tribes were of equal importance before Him.

Thus, we see the joining of two opposites: the differences of each sacrifice as emphasized by the different days on which they were offered; the unity between them as reflected by the command given on the first day, the day in which all the Nesi’im joined together. Similarly, when the sacrifices were offered, though each Nasi offered his sacrifices on a separate day, G‑d considered it as if all the sacrifices were brought together on the first day.

The explanation of the concept is as follows: The source of all unity is G‑d’s ultimate simplicity which transcends all division. However, the ultimate intent is that this unity be expressed and be reflected within the world of division. We cannot remain satisfied with an expression of unity that transcends all particular differences. Rather, each particular element of existence must express this essential unity.

We see an example of this concept in the life of each individual Jew. Our Sages relate that while an infant is in its mother’s womb, there is a candle lit over its head and it is taught the entire Torah. When he emerges into the world, an angel comes and taps its mouth to cause it to forget the Torah it has been taught. Nevertheless, Chassidus explains that the Torah which the infant was taught leaves a powerful impression in the child’s soul that enables the light of the Torah to illuminate the child’s soul after the soul becomes enclothed in a body.

Torah is G‑d’s wisdom and will. Therefore, because of its transcendent nature, it would not be possible for it to be grasped by a human being were it not for the preparatory stage in which it was studied by the soul before being enclothed in a body.

The child is taught the entire Torah, just as on Mount Sinai, the entire Torah, including every idea that will be developed by an experienced Sage, was given to the Jewish people. Thus, our sages explained how the entire Torah was included in the Ten Commandments, more particularly, in the first commandment, and even more particularly, in the first word Anochi and that word’s first letter, the Alef.

The ultimate intent is that each particular Torah concept should be grasped individually. However, when these particular concepts are dealt with individually, they should be permeated with the sense of essential oneness that permeates the Torah as it was given in its totality. Thus, when a child learns “Kametz alefaw”, there should be an association with the “Kametz Alef” of the word Anochi, which includes the entire Torah as it stands above any particular matters.

To relate the above to the concept of Jewish unity, the essential oneness of the Jewish people that stands above all particular divisions must permeate the individual aspects of each person’s service. A practical expression of the above concept is associated with the days of Chanukah and Yud-Tes Kislev.

[The two holidays share a connection. Thus, we find that on the third day of Chanukah, the Alter Rebbe returned from Petersburg to Vitebsk where he was able to meet with Chassidim for the first time after his release as described by the Previous Rebbe in Likkutei Dibburim.]

Also, there is a conceptual connection between the two holidays. Yud-Tes Kislev marks the beginning of the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus, the essence of Pnimiyus HaTorah, outward. Oil is used as a metaphor for Pnimiyus HaTorah. On Chanukah, the mitzvah involves taking the Menorah, which is lit in commemoration of the miracle involving oil, and kindling it, at the entrance to one’s house to illuminate the outside. Furthermore, each night, one must add more light which parallels the activity of “spreading” that involves reaching beyond one’s original position.

Oil represents “the essence of all things,” the point above particular division. Therefore, it is found in all things, for the essence is found everywhere. We see a parallel to this concept in two halachic rulings regarding oil. On one hand, our Sages teach oil does not mix with other liquids. On the other hand, they state that oil permeates through all things.

Similarly, the holidays, Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah, teach that the aspect of Pnimiyus HaTorah, which is represented by the metaphor of oil for it is the essence of Torah, must permeate into all the particular aspects of our lives, into deed and action, affecting the “outside”. The most remote and distant points should be permeated with the revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah.

The above applies both in regard to the “outside” from the perspective of one’s own service, i.e., spreading out from the essence of the soul to intellect and emotion and descending further to thought, speech, and action and the “outside” in a simple sense, spreading Chassidus to the most far removed of places.

This concept is emphasized by this Shabbos which follows the celebration of Yud-Tes Kislev. It is the first day of Chanukah, and is distinguished by a Torah reading that emphasizes the theme of unity. In particular, the days on which Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah fall this year further emphasize the concept of drawing down the essential oneness into all the particulars.

Yud-Tes Kislev fell on the first day of the week, a day which the Torah describes as “Yom Echad” — “one day”, rather than “Yom Rishon” — “the first day.” This alludes to the fact that it was “a day which G‑d was alone in His world.” No other creations and no concept of division existed.

In contrast, Shabbos, the day on which Chanukah is celebrated, represents the completion of the creation of the world with all its particular elements. Based on the principle that “the last in creation” is “first in thought,” it follows that there is a connection between the two. In terms of the present year, Yud-Tes Kislev represents the revelation of the essence of the Torah, the level of Yechidah. Chanukah celebrated on Shabbos represents the revelation of that essence at one’s doorway, i.e., showing how Pnimiyus HaTorah permeates through every aspect of one’s experience.

We can derive the following lesson from the above: The Yetzer Hora might try to convince one that the completion of the service of Yud-Tes Kislev should be expressed in locking oneself up in a corner and giving oneself over entirely to the study of Chassidus, or, as a gesture of Ahavas Yisrael, making a farbrengen where deep Chassidic concepts can be explained. The above teaches us that Chassidus should be drawn down into every particular element of existence, “outside,” into the most remote reaches. Even though such activity is the “last in creation,” it is “first in thought”; i.e.,:

a) In order to spread Chassidus to these remote places, one must draw down the highest levels of thought, the aspect of simple oneness described above.

b) That spreading Chassidus in these remote places is indeed, “first in thought” for G‑d’s intent in the creation of the world was to have “a dwelling place in the lower worlds.”

Thus, though a person will surely receive a full reward for locking himself in a corner with Torah, G‑d’s ultimate intention is for him to go out to the remote reaches and spread “the light of Torah (including Pnimiyus HaTorah) and the candle of mitzvah” in these places.

Within the context of the above, attention should be paid to a matter of immediate concern, Mivtza Chanukah: Wherever Jews live, large Menorahs should be lit to publicize the Chanukah miracle and an effort should be made that every Jew light candles in his home. Indeed, it should be publicized that one cannot fulfill his obligation by attending the public Menorah lighting and one must light candles in one’s own home. May this also allow everyone to illuminate his soul with the light of Torah and also, light up the entire public thoroughfare, increasing light every day.

The above is also relevant to women for women are also obligated to light Chanukah candles and they also had a part in the Chanukah miracle. They must also take part in Mivtza Chanukah (in a modest manner of course) and also in the activities to illuminate every place with “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah,” in particular, those mitzvos which are relevant to Jewish women, lighting Shabbos candles, Kashrus, and Taharas Hamishpachah.

The above is also related to the campaign to expand the existing Chabad Houses and to establish Chabad Houses in every place. As explained, Chanukah is associated with the dedication of the Temple and thus, shares a tie with every miniature Temple, i.e., house dedicated to Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness.

May the activities mentioned above hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption and may we merit to witness the kindling of the Menorah in the Temple. May it be speedily, in our days.

2. As mentioned above, women are obligated to kindle Chanukah lights because they had a share in the Chanukah miracle. Indeed, our Sages state that the Chanukah miracle, “came about because of a woman.” Therefore, this is an appropriate time to hold a pegishah of Jewish women to strengthen their commitment to Yiddishkeit, Torah, and mitzvos.

We find that on the holidays of Purim and Pesach as well, women are obligated to perform the mitzvos. Women are obligated to hear the reading of the Megillah because they had a share in the miracle. Indeed, the miracle came about through the efforts of Esther. Similarly, women are obligated to drink four cups of wine at the Seder because they had a share in the miracle. Indeed, “it was due to the merit of righteous women that our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.”

There is a twofold aspect to the involvement of women in these miracles: their “having a share in the miracle” and their causing the miracle to happen. In regard to Chanukah, the military victory was achieved primarily because of the activity of Yehudis, a woman. However, the miracle of Chanukah had more far reaching implications than the military victory and in regard to those, women only had a share in the miracle.

Similarly, the essential aspects of the salvation of the Jewish people on Purim came about through Esther’s activities. However, there were others involved in the Purim miracle, as implied by the verse, “and Esther carried out Mordechai’s instructions” and therefore, as a whole, women only had a share in the miracle.

In regard to Pesach as well, though it was the modesty of Jewish women and their efforts to raise a generation of Jewish children who were “the army of God” that brought about the redemption, the redemption itself had manifold ramifications and, thus, in totality, women only “had a share in the miracle.”

The Baal Shem Tov explained that the Mishnah, “One who reads the Megillah limafrayah does not fulfill his obligation,” can be interpreted: One who reads the story of the Megillah as a historical narrative that happened many years ago and does not relive it as a present day happening does not fulfill his obligation. The same applies in regard to the miracle of Chanukah. One cannot view it as a story of the past, but rather a process which repeats itself each year.

This concept is expressed in each of the three blessings recited over the Chanukah candles. The first blessing relates how G‑d “has commanded us (we, ourselves) to light the Chanukah light.” The second blessing describes how G‑d “worked miracles for our ancestors in those days, in this time” which allows for the interpretation that the miracles wrought for our ancestors “in those days” are repeated “in this time.” Surely, this is true about the third blessing, Shehecheyanu, which praises G‑d for “allowing us to reach this season.”

The connection between the present time and the previous eras is more powerful in the present generation since most of our souls are reincarnations of the souls of previous generations.

To conclude with points that can be applied in practices by Jewish women: The days of Chanukah are special days which should be used to increase “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah.” In regard to women, this refers to the three mitzvos: lighting Shabbos candles, Challah (and in a larger sense, the totality of Kashrus) and Niddah (Taharas Hamishpachah) whose first letters form an acrostic for the word HaChayim — “Graciousness.”

Also Chanukah is associated with Chinuch (“education”). Indeed, the Hebrew words share the same root. Women play a major role in the education of children, particularly, in the early years of a child’s life when the bulk of a child’s experience revolves around his mother.

Also, women should, needless to say, in a modest way, involve themselves in the service of spreading Torah outward. Indeed, we see that in certain matters, women have greater powers of persuasion than men.

May these activities bring the fulfillment of the prophecy: “And You, G‑d, will light up my darkness,” with the coming of the Messianic redemption. May it be speedily in our days.

3. The daily portion of the Mishneh Torah deals with the mitzvah of lending to a fellow Jew. In regard to this mitzvah, a clear distinction is made between Jews and gentiles. The Rambam clearly states that the mitzvah to lend money applies to “the poor of Israel.”

Similarly, it is forbidden to demand repayment of a loan from a Jew who does not have the means to repay, while the Rambam considers it a “positive commandment” to demand repayment of a loan from a gentile. Also in regard to charging interest, we are forbidden to charge a fellow Jew interest. However, “it is a mitzvah” to charge a gentile interest. One could understand why it is permitted to charge a gentile interest — after all, charging interest is normal business practice and the gentile willfully gives it. Nevertheless, the expression, “it is a mitzvah” raises questions.

The answer to these questions revolves around the command “bal tashchis” — not to cause financial loss. Since a Jew could profit by charging interest and it is acceptable business practice to do so, failing to do so is considered bal tashchis. Similarly, since the failure to collect a loan on time will cause a Jew a loss of money, it is forbidden and, on the contrary, it is a mitzvah to collect it.