1. Before each of the guests travels home, it is customary to gather together once more with no other intention except to emphasize the connection we share. This is not a farbrengen where we gather together to hear new concepts, rather the central intent of the gathering is for us to come together one more time. By gathering together on this occasion, we show how the Jews are one, not only when they are found together in the same place, but even when each individual plans to return to his home.

Nevertheless, anything which concerns Jews is also connected with Torah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah, the three pillars on which the world stands. Therefore, this gathering which emphasizes Ahavas Yisrael and Achdus Yisrael (the love and the unity of the Jewish people) will also be connected with the words of Torah, prayer (wishing each other good), and the distribution of money to be given to charity.

The present gathering further expresses the theme of unity because it is connected with the Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe. He was a Nasi, in whose person are united the entire Jewish people. The Rambam describes the Nasi as “the heart of all Israel.” The heart is responsible for the blood circulating to all the limbs of the body and afterwards, the blood returns to the heart. Similarly, the Nasi unifies the entire Jewish people.

The theme of Jewish unity is also emphasized by coming together in connection with the Previous Rebbe’s Yahrzeit (and accepting good resolutions to continue the paths of service which he taught), for the fundamental lesson which he taught was Achdus Yisrael. He sacrificed himself for each one of the Jewish people. Furthermore, even though his teachings contained profound Torah secrets, he revealed these teachings in a manner in which the practical application of the concepts could be appreciated even by children.1

In particular, these concepts are significant in regard to the Yahrzeit of a Nasi. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains how at the time of a Tzaddik’s passing, all the service which a person performed during his lifetime is revealed and “brings about salvation in the depths of the earth.” Thus, on his Yahrzeit, all his activities in regard to the entire scope of Torah and mitzvos are unified. Furthermore, as the Previous Rebbe himself stressed, all these activities should be carried out in the spirit of mesirus nefesh, a quality of service which unites all Jews.

Even though we have recited Kaddish, the fact that we gather together to continue the service which he taught us demonstrates that just as “his descendants are alive, he, too, is also alive.” This is particularly true because, as the Alter Rebbe states, “the life of a Tzaddik is not physical life, but spiritual life, faith, awe, and love.” Therefore, the fact that we have gathered together in connection with the Previous Rebbe’s Yahrzeit reflects the love and unity shared by everyone gathered here.

Even though we have gathered to part from each other, this parting strengthens the unity between us. When people are together in the same location, it is questionable if they share a connection deeper than their geographic closeness. When the geographic distance between them is great and still they remember the time they spent, this reveals the depth and truth of the connection they share. This is further emphasized by the resolutions each one has taken on regarding his activities in the year2 to come.

2. The above is also enhanced by the fact that the Shabbos which follows the Previous Rebbe’s Yahrzeit is Tu BiShevat, “the New Year of the Trees.” There are two significant aspects to trees: a) they continually grow upward; b) they produce fruit.3 [Accordingly, it is customary to eat different types of fruit on Tu BiShevat, including one of the species of fruit with which Eretz Yisrael was blessed and a new fruit on which the blessing Shehecheyanu can be recited.]

Based on the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that everything which a Jew sees or hears is a lesson in the service of G‑d — and particularly in light of the verse, “A man is like a tree of the field” — we can derive insights from these two tendencies which are relevant in our service of G‑d.

All of us, men, women, and children must strive to: a) “grow” i.e., to proceed further in our service of G‑d constantly; and b) produce “fruit,” i.e., influence our environment. Furthermore, just as the fruits we eat on Tu BiShevat are pleasant tasting, the influence we have on our environment should be positive.

Among the areas in which it is necessary to proceed and increase the attention paid to the matter is the directive, “Provide yourself a teacher.” Each individual should find a guide whom he can consult regarding his service and the increase it is appropriate for him to make. These efforts should be continuous for all aspects of Torah and mitzvos are eternal.

Also, efforts must be made to build houses that serve as a house of prayer, study, and tzedakah. In that context, a new concept may be suggested — for people are naturally attracted to new concepts and apply themselves to them with more intensity: That everyone transform their personal home into a house of prayer, study, and tzedakah. This means that each day, each person should conduct an activity in each of the realms of Torah, prayer, and tzedakah in one’s home. Furthermore, this should be done in a steady and continuous manner for a house is a dwelling in which one lives in a settled manner.

In particular, each person, man, woman, and child, should make an effort to transform his own room into a place for these activities. This is a matter which is clearly within the potential for each individual to carry out. These efforts will also help establish unity among all Jews for everyone will be involved in similar activities.4

To summarize, each one of those assembled here should decide that when he returns home, he will transform his home into a “sanctuary in microcosm,” through activities in Torah, prayer, and tzedakah.

Needless to say, in line with the lesson from the New Year of the Trees, one must also continue to increase and “grow” in these three services and also to “bear fruit,” to influence others in the surrounding environment.

To participate in these efforts, I will give each individual a dollar5 to be given to charity. May these hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption when, as the Rambam states in the Mishneh Torah whose study we have just completed, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as water fills up the sea.” Then, “the activity of the entire world,” i.e., even gentiles, will be “the knowledge of G‑d.”