1. At the start of each farbrengen we have the lesson of Toras Chaim — the Torah which teaches us the proper way in life — that we must start with words of blessing.

This concept finds special emphasis at a gathering connected with the Alter Rebbe, as his sons, who published his letters, began his first letter in Iggeres Hakodesh with the salutation “We begin with a benediction” (See Iggeres HaKodesh, 1).

It is customary that when two Jews meet and greet each other they say “Shalom Aleichem” and “Aleichem Shalom.” They extend to each other the blessing of peace.

The aspect of blessing was emphasized by the Alter Rebbe concerning Yud-Tes Kislev (the 19th of Kislev) when he wrote, that on the 19th of Kislev, as he was reciting chapter 55 of Tehillim and said the words, “He has redeemed my soul in peace,” he was informed of his deliverance and left the prison in peace.

Consequently, at this farbrengen, taking place on the 19th of Kislev in honor of the Alter Rebbe’s liberation, it is appropriate that we invoke the blessing of peace.

A concept which is present in one area of Torah is not necessarily limited to its own context, quite to the contrary, it should become a source from which to project the same idea to other areas of Torah and mitzvos. From the realm of Torah it may then be applied to all facets of a Jew’s life, and to all areas of worldly activity.

This approach may be more readily grasped when we deal with an all-encompassing phenomenon; when a rule is clearly set, it may then be applied in all areas.

The liberation of Yud-Tes Kislev was of such magnitude — for it was a “universal event,” thereby having a bearing on everything.

The theme of the Alter Rebbe was Torah. When he was born he was named “Schneur” which, the Baal Shem Tov explained, meant that he would unify the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah into one.

In truth, that was the accomplishment of the Alter Rebbe; he unified the extrinsic and intrinsic aspects of Torah to the degree that it permeated his being in totality. Furthermore, as “the Nasi is the whole,” through him it could radiate to all the Jewish people. This power was passed on through his sons and successors to the later generations.

Thus, in his teachings, as well as in his name, the two great lights of Torah became one. Despite the fact that none can compare to him, nevertheless, he was the Nasi and the “Nasi is the whole,” from which it follows that all who study his teachings and walk in his path will draw this power and potential to attain unity in Torah.

The Alter Rebbe himself explained and promulgated this principle, that although Chassidus originally reached only a select few, it had to spread and illuminate the lives of all Jews in a manner of true dissemination. After being liberated from Petersburg, the Alter Rebbe, himself, adopted this philosophy and guideline, as we learn from a sichah of the Rebbe Rashab recorded in Toras Shalom.

Each year, on Yud-Tes Kislev, there is a new “light” generated and radiated. For on Rosh Hashanah a new “light” brightens the world:

And every year there descends and radiates a new and renewed light which never yet shone.... (Iggeres HaKodesh 14)

On Rosh Hashanah this light emerges, and on the 19th of Kislev a similarrevelation takes place, being that Yud-Tes Kislev is the Rosh Hashanah for Chassidus. For us this new radiation brings a new awakening and enthusiasm far beyond all the awakenings that preceded it.

There is a generally accepted theory — which is erroneous — that the first revelation is the greatest and that subsequently we must endeavor to generate a revelation similar to, or as great as, the original.

From Iggeres Hakodesh however, we see, that quite to the contrary, the new revelation of light which emerges each subsequent year is such as has never shone before, and it is of a higher quality, even as compared to the original. In matters of holiness, and especially in the area of the life-force radiated during Rosh Hashanah, each year surpasses the previous year.

How do we fit into this picture.

The Previous Rebbe gave us his directive in his famous letter:

Stand together ready ... to receive the blessing of the Eternal ... which the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bestow upon you.... (Letters Vol. 4, 229)

We must stand, staunch and strong, ready to carry out in action whatever will be required of us according to the will of the giver. In this manner we will truly accomplish the goal. Furthermore, when we, as parents, make the proper resolutions, then the children will accept these resolutions as an inheritance. The action of the children will further be enhanced when the training and education given to them is in the same spirit.

Through this unified effort in disseminating Torah, Mashiach will come sooner, as the Baal Shem Tov was told by Mashiach, and as explained later by the Previous Rebbe. The Previous Rebbe also added that we must act with joy and happiness, for this was part of his name, “Yitzchok.” His other name “Yosef,” also indicated the action of adding “another” son who was previously an “acher — another.” This is the transformation of darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness.

The Alter Rebbe stated that the holiday of Yud-Tes Kislev would become a “set festival.” To this the Previous Rebbe added, that it would be the “Holiday of holidays,” therefore anyone who lacked these powers before Yud-Tes Kislev will now be endowed by these powers and it will likewise bring the unity of “our elders and our youth, our sons and daughters.”

“Your wellsprings will spread forth” with zealousness, which will speed the coming of Mashiach, who will redeem the Jewish people with their “gold and silver” — spiritual as well as physical, as explained in Chassidus.

Then, in an instant, the land of Canaan will become “Eretz Yisrael,” and “A great company will return there,” to the Holy Land, the land where “the eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12); the complete land in all its boundaries. And, it will be expanded to include the Keni, Kenizi and Kadmoni. May all this come with the blessing of shalom — peace. The nations will peacefully ask thatwetaketheland, as it says:

And kings shall be your foster fathers and their queens your nursing mothers. (Yeshayahu 49:23)

And in one instant we will be in the Holy Land with the true redemption.

* * *

2. The world was created by the Eternal — Ein Sof (Infinite) and each part was made specifically by G‑d. This does not mean that G‑d made only the general creation and then each detail evolved, but that each part was made individually by G‑d.

As we see in the narrative of creation that first G‑d created the “heavens and the earth” and then He made each thing:

In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth ... G‑d said there shall be light, (Bereishis 1:1-3)

which is followed by the rest of the ten utterances of creation and all the details.

In this context the Baal Shem Tov explains the verse:

Forever, O’ G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens, (Tehillim 119:89)

in each created being there “stands” the word of G‑d which creates it from naught and absolute nothingness.

With this in mind, we should be able, in some way, to clearly find in each created thing the Creator who made it.

Is this not a paradox?!

G‑d the Creator is Infinite, but the creatures He created are finite. Being created by specific sayings and having definite measure in time and space, all creation is limited.

How can the two mesh?

The answer, however, is that G‑d is, after all, “incapable of any impossibility,” and despite our paradox, which comes from our limited comprehension, He can imbue the finite with the power of the infinite.

As a result, in any created matter, no matter how small, limited or insignificant, there are aspects of the Ein Sof.

All matters which we find in Torah may also be projected into a worldly context. Thus, from a single Torah thought or event you may elicit a myriad of ideas and aspects. We can find the infinite in the finite.

Similarly, in worldly matters one phenomenon may occur which brings many changes. There are certain areas which have become very clear and unclouded in recent years.

In the realm of the physical sciences for example, in recent times much has been clarified and revealed. The Zohar tells us that after the year 5600 (1840 C.E.) the “wellsprings of wisdom” and the “wonders of heavenly knowledge” will be opened, so that even the puny intellects will be able to comprehend lofty, esoteric concepts and discover hidden laws of the sciences.

This brings us to an interesting revelation. Years ago science did not put much importance on infinitesimal matter. Modern scientific knowledge now knows that the smallest particle of matter (atom) can be divided into many elemental parts which can also be divided and broken down further, into still smaller components or forces. In doing so we have reached the threshold of the greatest and most awesome power in the world: nuclear fission and fusion. If only we will it, it may be used for the good, to improve the world and assist society and mankind. Thus, man’s knowledge has revealed that even this lowly inanimate atomic particle may be used to influence and to give help to thinking, feeling people. In just a fistful of matter there is enough power (the power of the Ein Sof in the finite) to change the world for the better.

In reality of course, since we are intelligent, thinking beings, G‑d wants us to use our insight and perception to choose good, so, He put the potential for evil into this nuclear power. Which gives us the free choice of using it either for the bad or good. Man must contemplate the alternatives and think things through so that his intelligence will teach him to use this nuclear power for the good — for himself, for society and for the universe.

Similarly, in the world there are happenings which occur, from which we may project important lessons for life. In the ethical Torah writings we find the example of the reflection of the sun in a drop of water.

We all know that the sun orb is the largest object in the solar system; it is the source of immense energy and intense brightness. Yet, this giant ball of fire can be caught by reflection in the ocean. But the same giant sun orb can also be reflected, in a relative way, in a single tiny drop of water, and in it you will be able to estimate the brightness and intensity of the sun.

What does this show us?

Often, when a person makes an honest self-evaluation of his talents and abilities, he concludes that he is not much more than a drop in the ocean — this might be discouraging and he might refrain from Torah study or productive activities. Therefore, he should know that even in a drop of water he can catch the reflection of the whole sun, with all its glory, and he will be able to measure all its details; how bright it is, etc. Similarly he has the potential in his own inner self to accomplish great things.

Now, when we consider a universal event — the redemption of a Nasi of the Jewish people, who taught Torah, customs, tradition for all generations to come, till Mashiach and even later, certainly we must take lessons and insights, pertinent to our daily action and behavior.

You may ask: Since man is limited he must start with one subject, not many. If a person undertakes too many projects none will be completed. Rather, he must do one thing properly and then after attaining perfection in that subject, he can then start on a second and a third.

In this instance, Torah must certainly give us a directive in order not to blunder.

What do we learn from the miracle?

Well, Torah directs us to ask the one with whom it happened, especially when the one who experienced the miracle was a teacher, who gave enlightenment and direction to many. He can certainly give us a clear directive as to what we should learn from his day of liberation.

Let us therefore see how the Alter Rebbe describes his redemption. In his letter to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev about Yud-Tes Kislev the Alter Rebbe stressed the aspect of “shalom — peace.” He speaks of the forces which brought the liberation and how the “ministers and people of the land” saw the miracles of G‑d and said “From the L‑rd has this come about: it is wondrous in our eyes.” The theme of peace is repeated several times in the letter, and he concludes with his reference to the verse “Podoh Besholom — He redeemed my soul in peace.” This is despite the Alter Rebbe’s known penchant for terseness, and especially when the letter was sent to great Torah scholars.

Thus we must analyze and emphasize every word, in order to elicit the full import and intention of the Alter Rebbe. First of all, the use of the term “podoh” — redemption. We need redemption, because we are in galus! And the redemption must be in a peaceful manner. Finally, all the ministers realized that G‑d is Master of the world and He showers miracles on this lowly world.

Let us deal with this last subject first.

The Rambam rules that at the time of Matan Torah (giving the Torah at Sinai) all Jews were given all 613 mitzvos. The Torah comes from G‑d and is eternal and its responsibilities are eternal. Among the mitzvos of the Torah we are commanded to make the world around us a better, more civilized place by teaching the Seven Noachide Laws — which are really seven general areas of jurisdiction, each including many details.

Every Jew is given this holy mission, and must work on teaching these laws to the ministers and citizens of the nations. For Moshe heard them from G‑d and he commanded us to do this.

Being a command that is connected to all Jews, we are assured that when we want to fulfill this mitzvah we will have assistance from above and we will see success way beyond our imagination.

In this country this matter has been clearly revealed to us, and we have been helped by the President of the United States who has spoken publicly, and has had his words published; that all inhabitants of our republic should fulfill the Seven Noachide Laws of G‑d. In this effort we should even expect the government to lend assistance and encouragement.

Of course, G‑d’s will must be fulfilled with “all your heart, soul and might,” even if it is tough. Nevertheless, since the President has promulgated this practice it should be publicized, for if people follow his advice in monetary matters how much more so should they take his advice in moral matters! In this sense it becomes a bit easier to encourage the gentiles to accept the Noachide Laws.

This is especially true, when we are dealing with a halachah taught by the Rambam — (whether the President realized it or not), as this is the 850th year since the birth of the Rambam and many gentile nations and leaders have paid homage and given honor to his memory in speech and actions. This gives us the added strength and enthusiasm to influence all the nations in the observance of the Seven Laws of Noach.

“I was created to serve my Maker,” and also to influence the nations of the world.

Throughout history this has always been the responsibility of the Jewish people. However in past centuries the times and condition were not opportune. The gentiles did not permit us to speak to them on these matters and often it would have created a situation of danger for the Jews.

In modern times and in this era, and especially with the help of the gentile leaders, we can teach all the peoples. Those who have worked in this area have seen great success and even honor. For when the Noachides realize that the intention is truly for the good of the gentile community, they appreciate the efforts and accept the teachings and eventually do more than requested. They also give respect to the Jews who teach them and give them assistance in matters pertaining to the Jews’ Torah and mitzvos and the needs of the Jewish people. All this will bring closer the promise which the Rambam brings, that soon Mashiach will come and,

For then will I turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the Name of the L‑rd to serve Him with one consent. (Tzephaniah 3:9)

3. Everything in the world has two general properties. Its individuality, expressed by its specific (unique — idiosyncratic) traits and limitations, and its common factors, which make it similar to many other things like it.

This principle is also true in all of man’s actions, so too in all human occurrences, and so too, in the case of Yud-Tes Kislev.

Every year on Yud-Tes Kislev tens of thousands of Jews gather to increase their observance of Torah and mitzvos; in this sense it is similar to all other auspicious days in the Jewish calendar.

On the other hand, the 19th of Kislev also has certain special aspects which make it stand out from the other special days of the year.

We find this phenomenon also in the case of the three major holidays of the year. For, while they are all included in the term “Moadim Lesimchah — Festivals for rejoicing” which is their common theme, yet each one is different. One is called Season of our Freedom, while the others are known as, the Season of our Rejoicing, and the Season of the Giving of our Torah; in this sense each is very unique.

When you search for the practical lesson from this phenomenon you must take into account the specific aspect as well as the common general factors.

The question however is, which is first?

We are aware of the halachic principle that one cannot think two thoughts at once; certainly two actions cannot be done by one person at one time. Similarly, when we draw a lesson from some happening, sometimes the general theme is first, and sometimes the specific lesson takes precedence.

Here, on the 19th of Kislev we must also take from the Alter Rebbe a clear directive in this order of preference.

In his first letter where he discusses the redemption, we find that he refers to the day of redemption as a day when “G‑d’s Name was sanctified publicly,...in the eyes of rulers and nations” — even the gentiles, sons of Noach. Certainly a most general and universal application.

On the other hand, we know of other letters of the Alter Rebbe, as well as other published essays, which discuss many individual customs and specific subjects. In the letters at the end of Tanya, for example, we find the Alter Rebbe’s discussion of tzedakah and the study of the complete Talmud.

So we see that the first letter of the Alter Rebbe dealt with general subjects and his later letters were more specific. Still we can assume that he included all later matters — by way of inference — in his earlier correspondence. We have in the earlier letters, in a concealed form, what was later revealed.

In the later letters we find that the Alter Rebbe writes about the importance of tzedakah — and the learning of Talmud and prayer.

Where do we find these three acts referred to in a hidden way in the earlier letters?

When the Alter Rebbe refers to the words “Podoh Besholom — redeemed with peace” — he was also including the Talmudic interpretation of the verse — that it refers to Torah, tzedakah and tefillah. This would seem to be a weighty mission, to do all this, yet Torah says that every Jew has the ability:

I do not ask ... but in accordance with their means. (Bamidbar Rabbah 12:3)

When Torah commands and gives us a mitzvah it is certain that Torah also gives us the potential and ability to do the mitzvah. As the Gemara says concerning the mitzvah of mezuzah: G‑d gave him a house and then commands him to affix a mezuzah.

Here we must introduce another important theme in an individual’s Divine service. Torah teaches us “I have worked hard and have been successful” (Megillah 6:2).

A Jew, by his determination to do G‑d’s will, can open new conduits and develop new powers.

Therefore, in the case of charity, for example, if he has not enough money to redeem his pledge or if he would like to give more than he has, and G‑d sees his good intentions, Torah says that he is given the additional ability. And his good intention is connected with the action as the Gemara says: “Good intention is combined with deed” (Kiddushin 40a).

He had the good intention and G‑d brought the action to his hands and gave him the ability to do it. Nevertheless, it is considered that the good desire and the act were both initiated by him and he is rewarded for both.

As in tzedakah so too in Torah.

A Jew hears that on this great day, the 19th of Kislev, the Alter Rebbe was redeemed, and all the ministers and gentiles saw the miracles and gave assistance. This is not just a nice story, but a source of strength. A moment ago he could not accept upon himself more Torah study. He thought he did not have the time or the ability — but suddenly, at this moment he makes the resolution that no matter what — he will add time for more learning. Then G‑d gives him the ability to actually do it, because of his determination, and it comes with ease.

So too regarding prayer.

He thought that he could not find the time for prayer with a minyan; after all, he must work long hours to earn the money he will need to give to tzedakah, and therefore he is too busy in his business. Knowing that prayer with a minyan is important, what does he do? He follows the esoteric interpretation, to unite his ten soul-powers and reach a state of: “My entire being shall declare” (Tehillim 35:10), a level of concentration and devotion of prayer, as the Kuzari and Zohar write concerning swaying during prayer. By making a determined resolution he will find the wherewithal to pray daily with a minyan.

In all of these areas, G‑d gathers these actions together and a new creation emerges. Yesterday he may have had a rabbinic dispensation to do only so much, in tzedakah or Torah or prayer. Today he is able to accomplish “with all your might” above normal measure; after meditating on “And you shall love,” he is uplifted above his limitations and he can do much more. He now rises higher.

With this introduction let us approach our custom of dividing the Talmud and studying it during the year and then making a siyum on Yud-Tes Kislev, as well as our custom of making good resolutions in the area of tzedakah.

A complaint has been lodged with me. It argued that when many Jews gather together it is clear that they are not all on the same level in Torah study. When details of Talmudic Law are discussed it is certainly beyond their ken. Therefore, if a siyum is taught which delves into the fine details of Talmudic minutiae, there will be many who will lose the general thought and idea.

Consequently, the argument continued, when there is a farbrengen of a special group, of one type, then a siyum in greater detail may be spoken, for all will follow, but when there are many types together, why mention all the details, it will be beyond the ability of many of the assembled. Better to discuss general themes! As far as the details are concerned, those who are truly interested may peruse the published material to find the fine details. They will be able to do so at their leisure without being pushed and without worrying about having to sing a merry tune on the 19th of Kislev.

Recently, in addition to a siyum on Talmud we have also been studying the Rambam, and the Previous Rebbe also introduced the custom of studying Tanya daily so as to complete it each year on the 19th of Kislev.

Regarding the siyum on the Talmud there are many customs. Some say that the study should be only of those tractates which include Gemara — from Berachos till Niddah. Others suggest that we should include the tractates of Mishnah which have no accompanying Gemara, in that case we would add the tractates till Uktzin. Recently, others have included also a siyum on Talmud Yerushalmi. We may also include the custom instituted by the Previous Rebbe to complete and start the Book of Tanya; and now we also have the study of Rambam.

However, in the time of the Alter Rebbe we find in the historical sources that the study as it was practiced then, and continued for many years, started from the tractate Berachos till Niddah.

In this connection we will see the way,

The beginning is tied to the end and the conclusion is bound up with the beginning. (Sefer Yetzirah)

We will see this in the beginning of Berachos:

From what time may one recite the Shema in the evening? (Berachos 2a)

And at the end of Niddah:

The Tanna d. Eliyahu [teaches]: Whoever repeats halachos every day may rest assured that he will be a denizen of the world to come for it is said: “Halichos of the world is his” read not “Halichos” but “Halachos.” (Niddah 73a)

We also find in the Rambam:

The purpose for which the whole Torah was given is to bring peace upon the world, as it is said, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Mishlei 3:17). (Laws of Megillah and Chanukah 4:14)

The “peace” of Torah is found and is most evident in Halachah, for in the discussion and debate of Torah it often takes on the characteristics of Torah “war”! In the dialogue of Torah some opinions rule kosher and tahor, while others rule the opposite, and it may take on the aspect of a war. And although each side wants to know the true will of G‑d, and each functions for the sake of heaven to reach the true halachah, it is still a conflict. And we need the special help of the Al-mighty — the Name of G‑d is “Peace,” — to bring peace and the final halachic ruling. For this reason the teacher of halachah is the one who brings peace — there must be a clear halachah, which becomes the ways of the world, in the world.

In this context let us see the first mishnah — “From what time may we recite the Shema in the evening?” What is “evening”? When the light of G‑dliness is not seen. When there is darkness in the world then we must say the Shema, which proclaims, the unity of G‑d, and during the Shema all of ones senses and organs must be concentrated in devotion. One may not wink an eye or gesture a sign with his hand — especially during the first verse.

The Shema must also come down to your children and be placed on the doorposts; all material matters. Likewise the love of G‑d will cause peace and harmony between your two inclinations. This expresses the true service of the Divine, also out of love. Thus, in the Shema, after making G‑d king in the four corners of the world and the seven heavens and earth, and accepting the yoke of heaven, then it comes down to the heart, and as far as the mezuzos of the house.

Thus in the Shema we see the connection of the beginning with the end: the Shema with halachos.

How do we describe the time of Shema? When the Kohen (who had to be more careful about being tahor) became tameh; he must then refine himself and become tahor. This is the way he makes preparations for Shema. So we are taught, that when a Jewish person (the Kohen) for whom it was important to be tahor becomes tameh, and then he purifies himself and becomes tahor; that which was tameh is now tahor.

And in the mishnah about reciting the Shema the halachah is taught in the singular form, for each person has the ability to do it.

We see a similar case on Yom Kippur. The avodah — service — of the Kohen Gadol in the Holy of Holies needed special preparation: a unique person did a unique service on a unique day in a unique place. He needed special preparation for seven days. Yet we made him tameh and then made him tahor! — (to negate a false view of Torah) and in this way we bring about a unity of all Jews. For in the person of the Kohen all Jews are represented.

When the Alter Rebbe studied the first mishnah of Berachos with Reb Avrohom the Malach, son of the Maggid (they studied Gemara and Chassidus together), the Alter Rebbe translated the words “Mayaimosai” — as a matter of halachic time — “From what time may we recite the Shema” — the usual translation of the mishnah. But the “Malach” taught the Alter Rebbe the esoteric meaning. He said that the word “Mayaimosai” means, that one must recite the Shema out of “fear.” The preparation for the unity of G‑d must be trembling and fear, and only then may the Shema actually enter the physical realm of time — when the Kohanim go in to eat their terumah.

This will lead to a world in which the Jews are not bothered by non-Jews, or other worries. These are the promises of the Torah, for the Jew makes the physical matters spiritual and then adds more Torah and mitzvos. This becomes a preparation for the future, for as on Erev Shabbos, we must taste the food of Shabbos, so too we must now “taste” the coming redemption by “spreading the wellsprings.” As the Rambam says: All Jews will be involved only in the knowledge of G‑d.

The one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the L‑rd ... and attain an understanding of their Creator to the utmost capacity of the human mind, as it is written: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd, as the water covers the sea.” (Kings and Wars 12:5)

4. In the study of Rambam for this day — as it is divided to be studied three chapters a day — we deal with the general as well as detailed differences between an ox which is in the category of “tam” — “innocuous” and one which is a “muad” — “forewarned.”

We find in the teachings of the Rambam the general rule of Torah, which also applies to the details of the halachos of Torah:

.. These laws serve to suppress man’s natural tendency and correct his moral qualities. And the greater part of the rules of law are but “counsels from old” from Him who is “great in counsel,” to correct our moral qualities and to keep straight all our doings. (Laws of Substituted Offerings 4:13)

In other words, the Rambam rules in each case of law, that we must follow those halachos which will “correct our moral qualities,” in thought and feeling, as well as “keep straight — all our doings,” in action.

This approach will certainly hold true in this case which deals with the many details of the differences between muad and tam.

In the teachings of Mussar (moral ethics) and in Midrashic literature the subject of tam and muad is symbolically connected with a person’s Divine service and especially with the condition of the animal soul. This concept is also quite logical and understandable for the animal soul is presumed to be in the condition of tam. All Jews are seen in the general good presumption, chazakah, of being “innocuous,” they all stem from: “Yaakov was a perfect man (tam)” (Berachos 25:27).

Then, there is the condition of one who has been influenced by his evil impulse and he is not a tam, for his conduct is not so “perfect.”

These human idiosyncrasies devolve and the same differentiations appear anthropomorphically in an animal: first the ox was a tam and then it changed to become a muad.

In these chapters of Rambam, he deals with all the details of tam and muad. In certain cases although the animal was already in the category of muad nevertheless through a minor change it can revert back to be a tam once again.

When deducing an ethical teaching from a halachic discussion we must always first be well-versed in all the details of the plain meaning of the case at hand before we approach the ethical principle.

As we discussed in the case of the halachah concerning the time for reading the Shema, before we can learn the inner meaning of the mishnah we must first learn the time of the reading of Shema and then we may learn the esoteric meaning that Shema must be preceded by the proper attitude of fear — etc.

In describing the differences between tam and muad we find a novel approach in the Rambam. The differences will not apply to the damage done — there is no difference in the damage — we are interested in the rulings on how to assess and pay the damages. In the laws of the payment, the halachah rules that the owner of the muad animal must pay the full amount of the damage — which is as it should be and is quite logical and in a sense this is similar to the law in all other cases of damages.

However, when we look to the ruling for the tam we find that the owner does not pay the full cost — rather only one half.

When a tam causes damage it is considered as an unnatural occurrence and the owner is not held responsible. However, he is not completely exonerated, but must pay half damage, as a form of penalty.

This difference between tam and muad is very basic and fundamental, and it expresses itself in several details. The tam pays only from the value of its body — the muad pays from any source. The muad pays the full damage and the tam only half, and the tam will only pay if he is accused and convicted on the testimony of witnesses. If the owner of the tam admits that his animal did the damage — then, being a penalty, he is freed from paying.

The rule of suspended payment of penalty applies generally in all cases of admission of liability and it is applied here. When does the owner of the tam-ox pay the half damage, only when he is found guilty based on testimony of others.

We know that the Rambam advocates that we must seek the reasons for Torah laws; certainly here we are dealing with a case of property damages in which we should be able to have a clear logical understanding. Thus the question arises, what is the reason, that if he confesses to the damage done by his beast, he is freed of paying the half damage? On the other hand, when the animal was a muad, even if the owner admits the liability he must still pay?!

In the sources that discuss the meaning of the mitzvos, this rule is discussed and rationalized in the following manner. The owner of an animal that causes damage is penalized for acting against G‑d’s will — not in order to make up the loss of the damaged one. If he had to satisfy the other’s loss he would have to pay the full amount! Just as in the case of stealing he must return the item he stole. Here, however, we do not consider it to be a normal damage, the animal was a tam and the owner should be freed from blame. Why must he pay at all? Well, he should have watched it — but it was a tam?! Still he should have guarded the animal in a minimal fashion that one guards a tam! So we penalize him for not being more careful. The penalty is only half the damages. Whatever the case, he is not paying back the loss to the victim, rather he has to face the judgment of the court, which punishes him for causing the damage. And he is fined half the assessed loss. When he admits the liability he is not punished, because he recognized his guilt and is sorry.

Here we are faced with a new problem. Why should the victimlose when the owner of the tam-ox admits guilt?

Agreed that he is penalized by the court and the court then transfers the money to the victim — but why should the victim lose when the perpetrator admits his fault? Is this justice? Just because he took the initiative and did teshuvah and came forth to admit his guilt before he was accused — should the other lose?!

The explanation for this may be found in the letters of the Alter Rebbe where he discusses damages and guilt. Why can one person hurt another? Actually a person cannot cause damage to another on his own initiative. Only when there is a decree from Above that someone is guilty of punishment can he be damaged by another. The criminal actually has no right to hurt someone else. As the sages describe it “he killed a ‘dead’ person.” If so, why is the criminal punished? The answer is that he is punished for his free-will evil choice to do bad. Who asked him to be the emissary of G‑d for an evil act — “G‑d has many messengers.” For this reason the criminal is judged and punished. Using the same logic we can now ask why should the victim lose if the perpetrator does teshuvah and admits his crime? If he deserves to get half a loss because his property was damaged by a tam-ox — he should get it in any case. His repayment also was decreed by G‑d — that’s why his animal was gored by a tam — so that he should only get half the value — but let him get it!

The same theory is applied in the laws of personal damage (not by chattel). The Alter Rebbe explains that when one person inflicts pain or suffering on another person it must have been ruled above that he must suffer that pain, shame, etc. The paradox is, why make the perpetrator ask forgiveness — if everything is from Heaven, then he must only ask forgiveness from G‑d for choosing him to be the messenger of evil and hurting his friend by doing something against the will of the Torah. Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch rules that when one hurts his friend he must ask forgiveness of his friend. Why? The victim was certainly deserving and would have gotten the pain in any case. And G‑d has messengers of all types and levels. Why must he ask forgiveness? He should have to deal only with G‑d.

The explanation is, that when you are really sorry, and also express your regrets, and ask forgiveness, you minimize the pain of the victim. If you caused the suffering and you have the ability to bring comfort to your friend, Torah says that you have an obligation to do so. If not you are causing more pain! New pain!

However, when we deal with the case of a penalty assessed by the Beis Din and the admission which the accused can make in front of the Beis Din, we are talking of a situation where the victim does not come into the picture — he may not even know about the entire proceeding. The guilty party may address the Beis Din and make his confession and they will rule that he does not have to pay and then no payment will be given to the hurt party. And since “G‑d has many messengers” this is a sign that the hurt party had to lose. If, on the other hand, the accused does not admit his fault and the Beis Din assesses a penalty of half the damage, then they will take the payment and forward it to the victim. This is a sign that the victim was not destined to lose.

An ordained Beis Din has the guidance and Providence of Heaven and cannot make a mistake in judging the case.

Where do we find this same rationale in other areas of Halachah of damages?

The rule of punishment of “scheming witnesses” will apply only, when on the basis of their false accusation, the defendant was found guilty but the verdict was not yet carried out. If the defendant had already been punished by the time we discover the falsehood of the accusing witness, they are then not given the punishment they demanded for the accused.

Why is this so? Should not reason dictate the exact opposite rule, if they are punished for trying to hurt an innocent defendant, how much more so should they be punished if their evil scheme was actually carried out by the Beis Din?

One answer to this troubling paradox is that when the Beis Din carriesout a verdict they have the guidance of Heaven and cannot make a mistake! G‑d would not allow it!

Therefore, although the witnesses are scheming men — somehow their evil intention brought to light some other reason for which G‑dwanted the accused to be punished. In reality, the defendant really was guilty and deserving of the punishment — therefore we can no longer punish these evil witnesses with their own medicine.

We may transpose this example to the case of the tam-ox. When the owner of the ox does not confess his crime and the Beis Din rules that he is guilty and must be fined half the damage, this is a sign that the victim had to get the money. On the other hand, if he confesses and does teshuvah he does not pay — a sure sign that the victim had to suffer that loss. The ordained and qualified Beis Din will not make an error.

In the Divine service of the animal soul we similarly have the case of tam and muad. When a small change occurs in the muad and he does teshuvah, in that split second of change — even if he was previously on the level of a complete rasha — an evil person, when he changes and repents with the genuine feeling of teshuvah he reverts to the level of tam. Just as we mentioned earlier in the case of the ox. No matter how he acted previously, no matter how strongly his evil impulse dominated him, if he makes a change — even before returning the item he stole, he becomes a tzaddik again, and even higher than he was previously.

A tam may be likened to a tzaddik, but if he was a muad and then converted himself to be a baal teshuvah the change places him on a level that even the tzaddik cannot reach.

As the Rambam explains:

Before he calls I will answer. Today, the same individual (having repented) is closely attached to the Divine Presence.... He cries and is immediately answered, as it is said: “And it shall come to pass that before they call I will answer.” (Rambam, Laws of Repentance 7:7)

In a sense this is the situation of all the Jews in the diaspora. Why are we here? because of our sins.

But because of our sins, we were exiled from our land and driven far away from our soil. (Siddur)

And even the righteous man in galus is in this category. Therefore every Jew in the diaspora must do the opposite of sin — teshuvah. How can the righteous be considered to be sinful. Chassidus explains that sin (chet) can mean “missing,” defective or lacking something. As in the verse:

.. I and my son Shlomo will always be lacking (chataim). (I Kings 1:21)

In our Divine service we are required to serve G‑d “with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (Siddur, Shema).

Now, the tzaddik may serve G‑d will all his heart and soul, but still miss some intensity on the level of “all your might” — which the Gemara equates with not fulfilling G‑d’s will! This is the problem for the tzaddikim today. And even those who live in Eretz Yisrael are also in galus, as the Rambam rules that there is no comparison to being in Eretz Yisrael when the Beis HaMikdash stood and in the time of exile.

So the ingredient that is necessary for everyone is teshuvah.

Here we may consider the analysis of the Rogatchover Gaon on the concept of a baal teshuvah.

In the Laws of Kiddushin we find that if a man says “I betroth you on the condition that I am a tzaddik” and we know that he was not — nevertheless he might have had a feeling of repentance at that moment and the betrothal could be binding.

There is another case of one who declares “I betroth you on the condition that I am poor” and we discover that he is rich. In this case the betrothal is not valid. — But why? If she accepted a pauper certainly she will be glad to marry a rich man. But the Rogatchover explains that she could argue, that she is not ready to comply with the possibly eccentric demands of the wealthy.

If so, asks the Rogatchover, a sinner may be likened to a spiritual pauper and a tzaddik to a spiritual rich man, but a baal teshuvah is veryrich — and perhaps when she discovers that he became a baal teshuvah at the moment of the betrothal declaration — she may notwant someone who is so holy, just as in the case of the pauper who was really rich!

The answer is that one cannot leap from darkness to brilliant light in one step. Therefore as the baal teshuvah rises from rasha to baal teshuvah we see his moves as going step by step through all the levels from rasha to tzaddik, and then to baal teshuvah. At that split second that he attains the state of tzaddik, before reaching baal teshuvah, his Kiddushin is binding, and a split second later when he becomes a baal teshuvah (rich man) the Kiddushin is not invalidated.

The case of the fiscal pauper who betrothed the woman is not the same because he was really rich all along so she did not accept the Kiddushin.

Being in the galus we cry out to G‑d “for we hope for Your salvation every day,” and as the Radak says, that this is our obligation; so we ask G‑d — why has Mashiach not come yet? We have no complaints, we just refer to the reality.

May Mashiach come speedily and in our time.