How do we prepare for the Hillula (Yahrzeit) of the Previous Rebbe on the 10th of Shevat? By following his directives, of course! “Polish the buttons” he said. What did he mean? Increase your Torah study and give more charity!

On the eve of the 12th of Teves, after Maariv, the Rebbe Shlita delivered a discourse to all the assembled, in which he discussed the importance of the 30-day period of preparation before every holiday. He directed our attention and enthusiasm to start serious preparations for the upcoming auspicious day of Yud Shevat.

Young and old, men and women, student and workers, scholars and laypeople must all undertake a month of concentrated spiritual advancement, and the emphasis is to be placed on more Torah study and more tzedakah; acts of kindness, charity and good deeds, materially and spiritually. Special attention must also be directed to the increased study of Chassidic philosophy and expanded efforts to spread the fountains of Chassidus.

30 Days of Preparation

Thirty days before a holiday we begin discussing pertinent themes and prepare for the proper observance of the auspicious day. We stand now a month before the Hillula (Yahrzeit) of the Previous Rebbe, the tenth day of Shevat. The 30-day period of preparation actually began on the “day of grace,” the fast day of the 10th of Teves.

It was the Previous Rebbe who viewed our situation in the last days of the diaspora within the context of people who are preparing to greet Mashiach. And he told us to “Stand together ready...” for we have completed what is required of us, all that is left for us to do is to “polish the buttons” of our uniforms, so that we may go out and greet our righteous Mashiach with greater beauty and glory.

Certainly, in preparation for the day of his Yahrzeit we should put every effort into the fulfillment of his directives.

The Previous Rebbe explained that his metaphor to “polish the buttons,” meant to increase Torah study, fulfill mitzvos with greater care and scrupulousness, starting with tzedakah, and to be diligent and intense in prayer.

In preparing for this Yud Shevat (10th of Shevat) it is appropriate that we emphasize several specific items in which to put the main thrust of our effort and involvement. It will then be easier to see good results.

Priority: Torah and Tzedakah

My suggestion and request is that during the next 30 days everyone, young and old, should increase A) Torah study, and; B) giving charity.

More specifically:

We often subdivide the Jewish people into the two categories of Yissachar, the “scholars,” who devote themselves primarily to Torah study, and Zevulun, the “worldly people,” whose main area of Divine service is to observe mitzvos and do good deeds, especially tzedakah.

More Words of Torah

At this time it behooves each of these groups to increase their Torah study and charity. This means that business people should add extra hours for learning Torah and should be even more diligent in their study. Similarly, scholars and yeshivah students who always devote all their time to study, must now certainly increase their studies even more, qualitatively and quantitatively. This applies to the revealed aspects of Torah as well as the esoteric teachings of Torah, as developed in Chassidic philosophy and this also includes spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside.

More Acts of Tzedakah

Likewise, everyone must increase their donations to charity. Business people who always excel in tzedakah and good deeds must certainly add more and more good activities. And the Torah scholars must also see that their good deeds should grow. This effort should encompass down-to-earth physical charity and acts of lovingkindness, as well as spiritual charity, which includes doing a favor for another, materially and spiritually.

This also applies to Jewish women who must increase their study in those areas of Torah which guide them in their mitzvos and daily observances, and they must also increase their involvement in charity. This also pertains to small children, before the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah.

In order to make this effort attainable and easier1 it would be wise to associate this activity with the directives of the Mishnah, “Provide yourself with a teacher” (Avos 1:6).

Hopefully, everyone has fulfilled this Mishnaic dictum and has already sought out and found the appropriate Rav/teacher/Mashpia for himself/herself and avails himself/herself from time to time, of the advice, chastisement, attention, and tests of the Rav/teacher in all areas of personal Divine service and Torah.

Rav! Teach Me, Guide Me, Test Me!

It is therefore appropriate that the specific steps to be taken in preparation for Yud Shevat should be done in consultation with the Rav/Mashpia. One cannot decide for oneself to what degree the increase in Torah and tzedakah will be practical and attainable. For this reason the guidance of the Rav/Mashpia will be of invaluable help.

In order to measure the rate of advancement and preparation leading up to Yud Shevat, it is also appropriate that during this period of 30 days everyone should be tested three times, at intervals of ten days.

I would also request that everyone should grant permission to the Rav/Mashpia to inform me of the results of the tests. By transmitting these results to another person the one who is tested will be motivated to put greater effort into the work so as not be shamed, and instead to receive the good feeling of knowing that others know of his/her accomplishments.

Consequently, if there are people whose names will not reach me it will be understood that they have not carried out this request and have not been tested, etc.

No Exceptions!

Everyone is included in this drive, old and young, all the followers of all the Rebbeim and even those who potentially will become followers of the Rebbeim. In other words, all the Jewish people. For, as the Alter Rebbe quipped, Chassidus is the inheritance of all the Jews, and the Previous Rebbe added that now is the time for the realization of that projection.

May it be the will of G‑d that all these preparations will be carried out with great joy and gladness of heart. As we read in today’s Torah portion:

May they increase in the land like fish. (Bereishis 48:16)

This means that even in the midst of the land, in the nethermost state, one must study Torah like fish in the sea. Fish are completely dependent on the sea for their life! Also, fish multiply and increase profusely, for the evil eye has no power over them. For we are of the descendants of Yosef (the Previous Rebbe) on whom the evil eye had no power (See Berachos 20a).

We may also learn from the Torah portion of Tuesday:

Which I took from the Amorite with my sword and my bow, (Ibid. 48:22)

which Rashi explains to mean “Torah and prayer.”

The Essential Supplication: “How Long!...How Long!”

Now, this includes the important and essential supplication: “How long to the hidden end?” (Daniel 12:6) and “How long...shall the oppressor insult?” (Tehillim 74:10)

The Holy One, Blessed be He, will certainly heed our prayers and grant the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

Then “arise and sing ye who dwell in the dust” (Yeshayahu 26:19) — the Previous Rebbe will be among them, and then not only will Yaakov “be alive,” but also Yaakov will live in reality.

May we be redeemed speedily, at the start of the 30-day period, so that we may celebrate Yud Shevat together with the Previous Rebbe.

Mashiach will lead us to our Holy Land and our Holy City, Yerushalayim, to the Third Beis HaMikdash which stands built and furnished Above, and is ready to be revealed instantly; speedily and truly in our days.