1. Chai Elul is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe; the Baal Shem Tov was born on the eighteenth of Elul, 5456 — Nachas in Hebrew — and the Alter Rebbe on the eighteenth of Elul, 5505 — Kehos in Hebrew.

The fact that this matter was publicized by the Previous Rebbe, the leader of our generation, implies that it is relevant to the service of each of us. It implies that the spreading of the wellsprings of Torah of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe as they come into expression on their birthdays — a day when their mazal — source of spiritual influence shines powerfully — must reach each and every Jew regardless of his age or background.

Though originally, the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe revealed their teachings only to a limited circle, at present these teachings have to be “spread outward,” until they reach every Jew. (A similar pattern may be seen in other aspects of Torah. Originally, they started among a small group or were limited to a specific time or place and afterwards, they spread throughout the Jewish people.)

Both the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe were Nesi’im. A Nasi combines two seemingly contradictory factors: On one hand, a Nasi is, as implied by the simple meaning of the word, uplifted above the common people. On the other hand, he seeks to convey his qualities to the people at large, lifting them up to his own level; i.e., after a person carries out his own service to the utmost of his abilities: “with all your heart and all your soul,” the Nasi lifts the person beyond his limits and boundaries, the service of “with all your might.” There is the level of completion and perfection to which a generation’s service can attain in its own right, and then, there is an added level which comes about through the influence of the Nasi.

Thus, the fact that the Previous Rebbe, the Nasi of the generation, ordered that the idea of Chai Elul be publicized implies that the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe can influence each and every Jew. Furthermore, they can elevate them to a higher rung of service beyond their individual capacities.

This also relates to the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. In order to elevate the outer reaches to a level beyond boundaries and limitations, it is not sufficient that the waters of the river that originate in these wellsprings spread outward. Rather, the wellsprings themselves must be brought to the outer reaches. There, they must be spread to the extent that it influences the very essence of the person, to quote the Rebbe Rashab:

To draw down the depth of the inner aspects of G‑d’s Torah... from the inner aspects and essence of the light of the Ein Sof to illuminate the inner aspects of our souls so that our entire essence will be devoted to Him, blessed be He, alone.

The above concept can be further expanded. Not only does spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward imply that the wellsprings must reach the outer reaches, but rather, it is precisely in the outer reaches where the essence of the wellsprings can be revealed.

It is well known that the higher an entity’s source, the lower it descends; for the ability to influence the lower levels stems from the higher potentials of the source. For example, in a person’s service of G‑d, the power of mesirus nefesh, the point beyond limitation in a person’s soul, is revealed in the power of deed, his lowest potential, a power which animals also possess. Similarly, in Halachah, in regard to some sacrifices, there are times when Torah law requires us to “compel a person until he says, `I want [to offer it].’” Though the sacrifice must be brought willingly, it is explained that a Jew’s true inner will is to fulfill the Torah’s commands. Thus, it is through this forced consent, on the surface an external act, that the Jew’s innermost will is revealed.

[We see a similar concept in the two interpretations of “with all your might” given by our Sages. The first interpretation alludes to the unbounded and unlimited commitment of mesirus nefesh mentioned above, while the second interpretation, “with all your money,” seemingly refers to the opposite extreme, the furthest removed area from a Jew’s essence. However, there is a connection between the two. In order to motivate a person to serve G‑d with his money, it is necessary to arouse the service of “with all your might,” the service of mesirus nefesh.]

Thus, we can see in Chai Elul, two opposite extremes. On one hand, Chai Elul must, as a birthday of nesi’im, elevate each Jew to an infinitely higher level of service. Furthermore, this higher level must be expressed in deed. This relates even to those who have already been influenced by the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, even those who these teachings have motivated to a service of mesirus nefesh. Even these people can ascend to a higher level of source, each one pushing himself beyond the limits of his nature. Even if before, his service was already “unlimited,” there is still room to rise to an even higher rung of service.

On the other extreme, this influence must be “spread outward,” in a manner in which it will be extended to every Jew. The two are related for, as explained above, it is through spreading the wellsprings outward that their very essence is revealed.

Our Sages taught, “the righteous resemble their Creator.” We find that G‑d communicated His essence in the giving of the Torah. Therefore, the Ten Commandments begin with the word Anochi — an acronym for the Aramaic phrase — ana nafshi kasavis yahavis — “I wrote down and gave over My soul.” Similarly, the Tzaddikim communicated their essence in the Torah which they taught. Thus, in order to find a lesson that can be applied in deed, from the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, it is proper to look into their teachings. In particular, this applies to the teachings which they wrote in contrast to those transmitted orally.

There are no teachings which the Baal Shem Tov himself wrote down. Indeed, the collection of teachings, Kesser Shem Tov and others, which were written by his students, are translations which might have been slightly distorted from the Baal Shem Tov’s true intentions. However, there is one collection of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings, Tzavo’as HaRivosh, which the Alter Rebbe describes as having “an intention which is completely true.” Hence, we can surely find a lesson from this text that is applicable in our behavior. Surely, this applies to the very beginning of the text, for as mentioned frequently in regard to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year,” the head contains a microcosm of all the limbs of the body. Similarly, the beginning of a text contains the entire text in microcosm.

Tzavo’as HaRivosh begins with a charge that a Jew “be complete in His service, Blessed be He, with perfect service.” It can be explained that the first clause “to be complete in His service, Blessed be He” refers to the elements of service revealed by the Baal Shem Tov. The second clause, “with perfect service,” refers to the manner in which the teachings of the Alter Rebbe can enhance and complete the service inspired by the Baal Shem Tov. The Alter Rebbe lived after the Baal Shem Tov and thus, his teachings represent a progression and a chance to reach an even higher rung in the service of G‑d.

The Baal Shem Tov revealed the powers of faith and mesirus nefesh which transcend intellect. However, that revelation came only in a seminal point — indeed, the teachings related by the Baal Shem Tov were short. In contrast, the thought system of Chabad founded by the Alter Rebbe put a stress on explaining the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Accordingly, the discourses of the Alter Rebbe, not to mention the composition of the Tanya, contain longer explanations.

Thus, it can be said that the Baal Shem Tov revealed the “wellsprings of Chassidus” and the intellectual approach of the Alter Rebbe allowed those wellsprings to be spread outward, using every means and method, to every point in the “outer reaches.”

Based on the above, we can understand the relation of the two clauses of the opening teaching of Tzavo’as HaRivosh — “be complete in the service of G‑d, Blessed be He” and “with perfect service” — to the services of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe respectively.

The expression “be complete” is explained by Rashi in his commentary to Devarim 18:13 to mean: “follow Him with simple faith... Do not seek to know the future... Rather, accept everything that will happen to you with simple faith.” This relates to the Baal Shem Tov, who revealed the qualities of faith and mesirus nefesh.

The Talmud Yoma 24a interprets “perfect service” to mean “a service which is not followed by another service... but which completes the matter by itself.” This relates to the teachings of Chabad which allows Chassidus to be internalized in every aspect of a person’s being until a person is “complete.” [Nevertheless, this “perfect service” is mentioned in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov for the service of Chabad stems from there.]

On a deeper level, it can be explained that the quality of “perfect service” can be found within the teachings of the Baal Shem alone. Though it was explained that the Baal Shem Tov’s contribution was the revelation of the powers of faith and mesirus nefesh, this is not intended to mean that this faith remained as an isolated, transcendent entity. Rather, it permeated and effected every aspect of a Jew’s being. Since we are speaking of the essential point of faith beyond all division, this point encompasses a person totally.

The same applies regarding mesirus nefesh. Since this service touches the essence of one’s soul, there is no point of division. One cannot say that a person has “a little mesirus nefesh” or “a lot of mesirus nefesh.” Mesirus Nefesh is an all encompassing service, involving giving over one’s entire being and every aspect of one’s being. Everything is given over to G‑d. A parallel can be seen regarding the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings. Though they were short and concentrated, they had the depth to inspire the listeners to “perfect service.”

In particular, the four Hebrew words translated as “to be complete in the service of G‑d, Blessed be He” each reveal the fundamental aspect of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings.

“To be” refers to the initial stage of a matter’s existence; in this context, to the point of faith which is the essential point for our soul powers. Also, as our Sages mentioned, use of this Hebrew term implies a lasting form of existence which does not change. This also relates to the power of faith. An idea which is accepted intellectually may be rejected if a person hears a contrary rationale. In contrast, the point of faith remains lasting and unchanged.

“Complete” refers to the concept of “perfect service” mentioned above. It also reflects a complete devotion to the service of G‑d, permeating each of a person’s 248 limbs and 365 sinews.

“In His service” refers to the service of a slave which is not dependent on the latter’s conscious choice, but rather results from his acceptance of the yoke of his master. Similarly, the “first stage of service, and its essence and its root,” is to accept the yoke of G‑d’s Kingship and commit oneself to “serving Him, and fulfilling His will in all manners of a subject’s work.” This acceptance of G‑d’s yoke becomes the fundamental point on which the totality of a person’s service is based.

[This concept is reflected in our service throughout the year. Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year, centers on the acceptance of G‑d’s yoke. Afterwards, the entire year, reflects various different types of service. Indeed, this can be implied from the Hebrew word for year — Shanah — which shares the same letters as the Hebrew for change.

“Blessed be He” — The Hebrew word for “blessing” also can be rendered as “extension.” The goal of a Jew’s service is to extend the revelation of G‑dliness until it reaches our physical world. This is accomplished by our service of extending the revelation of faith into all of our activities, even the aspect of deed.

“Deed is most essential.” The intent of explaining the contributions of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov is to allow for each individual to derive lessons regarding his actual behavior. In particular, on the Baal Shem Tov’s birthday, additional power is granted for such a service. This is especially true in the month of Elul, when “the king is in the field... and receives all in a pleasant manner and reveals a smiling countenance to all” — i.e., even when the Jews are in the field, it is there where all the formalities of the palace are relaxed and all are received in the above manner.

May the above be expressed in deed and bring about tangible blessings, for as explained in Likkutei Torah, the judgment on Rosh Hashanah deals essentially with material things. Thus, Rosh Hashanah emphasizes how each concept must be expressed in deed. This is related to Chai Elul for, as frequently explained, each of the last twelve days of the year is designated as the day of teshuvah for a particular month — and thus, Chai Elul is the day connected with Tishrei.

May each and every one be inscribed for a good and sweet year with blessings regarding children, health, and prosperity, and may the coming year include the greatest good, the ultimate and true redemption, led by Mashiach. May it be speedily in our days.

2. Also, it is appropriate to see how the new contribution of Chabad Chassidus is reflected in the texts of the Alter Rebbe. In particular, this applies to the two fundamental texts for which he is well known, the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch. (These two areas of study are alluded to in his very name — Schneur — which can be interpreted as “Shnei Or” — a twofold light, the light of the revealed Torah, the Shulchan Aruch, and Torah’s hidden light, the Tanya.

Indeed, the introductory lines of these texts reveal important lessons regarding not only the unique contribution of the Alter Rebbe, but also Chassidus in general, for Chabad is an extension of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.

The Tanya

The beginning of the Tanya is the title page, which as revealed by the Previous Rebbe, was composed by the Alter Rebbe, himself. That page begins:

The text: Likkutei Amarim (Collected Sayings)... collected from texts and Sages... based on the verse: “The matter is very close to you, in your mouth and heart, to do it.”

We see two concepts — the idea of simple, complete faith (the contribution of the Baal Shem Tov as explained above) and the concept of perfect service (the contribution of the Alter Rebbe).

The very name of the text: Likkutei Amarim (Collected Sayings), itself combines two contradictory ideas: On one hand, it emphasizes how it is not an original composition, but rather a collection of ideas previously formulated by “texts and Sages.” This reflects the first stage of a person’s service when he must rely on “texts and Sages” to direct him in his service of G‑d.

Nevertheless, it can be understood that the work is not merely a collection. Rather, the Alter Rebbe was able to concentrate and take out the essence of these teachings until a new work was composed, a work fit to become “the written Torah of Chassidus.”

The expression, “based on the verse: `The matter is very close to you...’” teaches:

a) That one’s service must have a basis in the written Torah.

b) That the service of G‑d is “very close” to a person and within his potential. He need not struggle to accomplish it, but rather, the manner in which each individual was created is such that this service is “very close” to him.

The verse continues “`...in your mouth and heart, to do it,’” showing how this service is expressed in every aspect of an individual’s personality “your mouth” — speech, “heart” — thought, “to do it” — deed. The Alter Rebbe concludes “...with the help of G‑d, Blessed be He,” implying that not only is there the contribution of man, but also, the assistance afforded by G‑d.

These two ideas are also related to the beginning of the text itself:

Tanya — We have learned — [at the conclusion of the third chapter of Niddah], [the soul] is given an oath, “Become a righteous man.”

It begins with a quotation, emphasizing that the foundation is laid on previously accepted teachings. Nevertheless, this begins a new book which outlines a path intended to lead a person to “perfect service.”

Similarly, the word “Mashbi’in” — “is given an oath” — reflects two seemingly contradictory points. The simple meaning of an oath implies making a commitment that transcends the limits of intellect, a promise to fulfill G‑d’s will regardless of the nature of one’s own personal desires.

In addition, the Tzemach Tzedek explains that the word can also be interpreted as “Masbi’in” — “is made full” — implying that the soul is given all the powers necessary to enable him to fulfill his mission in this world in a complete manner, performing “perfect service.”

The oath is also twofold: “Become a righteous man and do not become wicked,” implying the observance of both positive and negative commandments.

Shulchan Aruch

The introduction to the Shulchan Aruch was composed by the Alter Rebbe’s sons. Thus, the Alter Rebbe’s own composition begins with the first law. The first law which appears in the published text of the Shulchan Aruch is from the second revision of that text (including four chapters). It states:

Yehudah ben Tema said: “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion to carry out the will of your Father in heaven.”

The Alter Rebbe begins by quoting the name of the author of this statement, a very unusual practice for the Alter Rebbe in the Shulchan Aruch. Indeed, this revised version differs from the original text in two aspects:

a) it quotes the author’s name;

b) it includes all four clauses, while the first edition only contains the clause, “and strong as a lion.”

It is possible to explain that these two changes parallel the concepts of complete faith (the first phase of service, the contribution of the Baal Shem Tov) and “perfect service” (the ultimate perfection of the service, the contribution of the Alter Rebbe).

The name, Yehudah, refers to the service of Hoda’ah — acknowledgement of G‑d. This is the first stage of service, corresponding to the recitation of Modeh Ani in the morning. This acknowledgement expresses one’s faith in G‑d.

Afterwards, one proceeds to “perfect service,” as expressed in the four directives mentioned in the halachah. They, in turn, correspond to the four letters of G‑d’s Name and combine to produce “perfect service.”

One might ask: Since as explained above, both the service taught by the Baal Shem Tov and that taught by the Alter Rebbe stress these two points of complete faith and “perfect service,” what is the difference between them? Why is it explained that the teachings of Chabad brought the Chassidic movement to a state of perfection that it was unable to reach beforehand?

This question can be resolved as follows: Even though the point of complete faith revealed by the Baal Shem Tov contains within itself the potential for a totally complete service, that potential is not expressed, it has not “spread outward.” Though the power of faith can effect the totality of human potential, it does so without influencing the nature of a person’s other powers. Since it touches the essence of the soul, it can effect a person in his totality. However, it is revealed as essence without spreading out to the other powers.

In contrast, the service of Chabad concentrates on changing and elevating all of a person’s potentials within their own particular contexts, spreading the “wellsprings” — the potential of faith — “outward” — until they effect the totality of man and the world around him.

Thus, the Modeh Ani, which expresses the service of faith reflecting the Baal Shem Tov’s contribution, is:

a) the foundation on which the totality of all service rests; and

b) has a direct effect on deed, immediately leading to a person’s washing his hands and reciting the morning blessings.

Nevertheless, the ultimate expression of a Jew’s commitment is to encompass the totality of his service and the totality of the world around him, revealing G‑d’s intention in creation, to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds, not only in a single private chamber, but throughout the totality of existence.

This is alluded to in the name Baal Shem Tov — lit. “Master of the good name.” “Shem” — Name — refers to the Torah. Master of the Name implies that one becomes a master of Torah, and in this manner, a master of the entire world created through the medium of the Torah.

“Master of the good Name” — implies that this quality is expressed in revelation throughout the world, causing the definition of good in the world to follow its definition in Torah with the good of Torah being revealed in the world.

The fullest expression of this comes through the “complete service” inspired by the teachings of Chabad. The ultimate expression of that service will be in the third Temple which will be built by Mashiach.

Mashiach will personify the yechidah, highest spiritual potential, of the Jewish people. The level of yechidah has two aspects. On one hand, it transcends all division. On the other hand, it finds expression in every element of existence. Thus, Mashiach will lead the entire world to its perfection revealing “perfect service,” i.e., as explained above, a service that will not be followed by another service for every element of existence will be permeated with the knowledge of G‑d, with the complete and ultimate redemption led by Mashiach. May it be speedily in our days.

3. The Previous Rebbe established the practice of ChitasChumash, Tehillim (Psalms), and Tanya daily. It follows that the daily study sections assigned to today, the eighteenth of Elul, can provide lessons relating to the birthdays of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.


The portion of Chumash connected with the present day has an open connection to the month of Elul for it includes the verse “and the L‑rd, your G‑d, will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants.” The Hebrew words in this verse form an acronym for the name, Elul, and alludes to the service of teshuvah.

The Previous Rebbe stated, “Chai (literally, “the life of”) Elul introduces vitality to all aspects of Elul.” “Life” is not a factor added on to a person’s being or a particular quality, but rather, his entire being. If a body is entirely complete, but lacks life, it is not missing only one element, but rather its most essential element.

Accordingly, we can conclude that the service of teshuvah alluded to by the above verse receives additional power on Chai Elul. Similarly, we can associate the above with the contributions of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe as alluded to in the phrase “to be complete” and “perfect service” described above.

That connection can be explained with the preface of another question: As explained above, the verse, “and the L‑rd, your G‑d, will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants,” form an acronym for the word Elul. Nevertheless, the words, “G‑d, your L‑rd, will circumcise,” on the surface, the essence of the verse, are not included in that acronym.

This difficulty can be explained as follows: The service of Torah and mitzvos, particularly, with the emphasis of Chassidus is intended to bring about bittul — “self-nullification.” Here, the intent is not that man ceases to be an entity, for then, there is no aspect of service. Rather, he ceases to exist as an independent entity and exists only as an extension of G‑d.

This is also related to the unique potential of the month of Elul when “the king is in the field.” When a person is in the presence of the king, he does not feel his individual existence at all. Elul teaches us how even in the field — as opposed to within the palace of the king — it is possible to feel the presence of the king. As explained above, this motivates bittul, a lack of self-consciousness. Chai Elul, “the life of Elul,” introduces vitality into this service, allowing bittul to be carried out with energy and vitality.

Therefore, the acronym for the month of Elul mentioned above begins with the word “es.” “Es” has no meaning in its own right. Rather, its linguistic purpose is to introduce other words. Thus, it alludes to the quality of bittul mentioned above.

On this basis, we can understand the relation of this verse to the contributions of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe mentioned above. The quality of bittul reflects the Baal Shem Tov’s contribution. The heart, the word leiv mentioned in the above verse, is the medium which spreads bittul throughout one’s entire personality as, in a physical sense, the heart spreads vitality throughout the body. The word levav implies spreading this Bittul beyond oneself to one’s surrounding environment. This ability to spread the influence of bittul relates to the contribution of the Alter Rebbe.


Psalms is intrinsically related to the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. Psalms are prayers. Though they are included in the realm of Torah study, they represent the aspect of prayer in Torah study. Our Sages explained that King David was able to prevail that G‑d would consider a Jew’s recitation of Psalms equivalent to the study of the more complicated sections of Torah.

This relates to Chassidus for one of the major contributions of Chassidus was the service of prayer. The Alter Rebbe’s service was essentially one of Torah as implied by his name, Schneur, which alludes to a twofold light as explained above. However, the inner light of Torah relates to the aspect of prayer in Torah mentioned above.

In particular, a connection can be found between the section of Psalms recited today and the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. Today’s section of Psalms begins “Shir Mizmor,” meaning a song through which one (David) pours out his heart. This relates to the contribution of the Baal Shem Tov who taught the expression of the essential qualities of the Jewish soul.

The conclusion of today’s portion of Psalms: “Blessed be the L‑rd for all eternity, Amen and Amen,” refers to the expression of G‑dliness within time and space. It mentions the “footsteps of Mashiach,” alluding to the time when the higher quality of light that comes from the transformation of darkness will be revealed. Thus, it is related to the service of the Alter Rebbe. [In particular, the repetition of the word, “Amen” refers to the twofold light revealed by the Alter Rebbe.]


[It is worthy to mention the efforts to print the Tanya in all Jewish communities throughout the world. Three thousand different printings have already been published. May the efforts continue until “there is light (the twofold light of the Alter Rebbe) in every Jewish settlement.”]

Today’s portion of study begins:

Now, all this is only by way of allegory for this all applies to the rational soul, which is the lower one in man and derives from kelipas nogah. But, in true fact, in the higher Divine soul, which is a part of G‑d above, all the attributes... are [directed] to G‑d alone.

The content of this chapter centers on the explanation of the concept “from my flesh, I will perceive G‑dliness;” how a person can comprehend some aspects of the heavenly sefiros for they illuminate his soul which incorporates them. Today’s lesson explains how this concept only applies in regard to the rational soul, however in the G‑dly soul all attributes “are [directed] to G‑d alone.”

The connection of the above to Chai Elul can be explained on the basis of the principle that the Tanya was divided into daily portions of study in an exact manner by the Previous Rebbe. Hence, even though on the surface, the beginning of the section appears to relate to that of the previous day, the fact that it was included in today’s portion can be understood to allude to the contributions of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, whose birthdays are celebrated this day.

The mention of the rational soul together with the animal soul alludes to the fusion of the two, the work of the soul together with the body, refining it and elevating it — as opposed to breaking the body — which was the contribution of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. In particular, there are two stages of this service, the point of bittul which includes the entire body — the contribution of the Baal Shem Tov, and the expression of that bittul, in a particular way throughout the entire body which is the contribution of the Alter Rebbe.

Meditation on all the above should bring vitality into all the aspects of the month of Elul, and bring about the revelation of “I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me,” another acronym for the word Elul. Then, we will proceed to the Messianic revelation where we will dance together with the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. May it be speedily in our days.

4. The Rebbe Shlita concluded the farbrengen with a call that attention be paid to:

a) providing needy families with their holiday needs and taking care of the many guests who come for Tishrei;

b) enrolling children in Torah schools;

c) opening new Chabad Houses and expanding the existing Chabad Houses;

d) printing the Tanya in every Jewish community.

The Rebbe Shlita concluded the farbrengen by giving dollars to the Tankists to distribute to each of the assembled to give to charity.