1. At a gathering which takes place just prior to leave-taking it is appropriate to discuss the theme of unity, to show that although there may be the appearance of separation, in truth we are one.

At the same time, the oft-quoted adage: “We begin with a benediction,” comes to mind, especially at this meeting which takes place soon after Yud-Tes Kislev, when we increase and intensify our efforts to spread Chassidus. The Alter Rebbe began his first letter in Iggeres Hakodesh with the salutation: “We begin with a benediction,” and we who follow in his footsteps must certainly emulate his approach of starting out with blessings.

When many Jews gather together, in unity, there is also an increase of blessings. As the verse says:

Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the L‑rd; we bless you from the house of the L‑rd. (Tehillim 118:26)

In other words, by gathering many Jews together, the blessings (the plural form “Beirachnuchem”) are increased.

The blessings of this assembly are also associated with your eventual dispersal to your respective cities and places, to spread the blessings of Torah and mitzvos. Since the dissemination of the wellsprings to the outside is itself a form of blessing, for bringing the inner teachings of Torah to the outside reveals the blessings of Torah, hence, your dispersion will spread more blessing, and in that sense it will neutralize the lack of unity when you leave here.

By beginning with a benediction we also give the impression that there is more blessing to follow, and the blessing associated with Torah is of course infinite. Yet, in each stage of blessing there is a beginning and an end. When we leave Yud-Tes Kislev and reach out with the attitude of “Beginning with a blessing,” we will accentuate that all that we have done in the area of blessings until today is only the introduction — just the beginning. From now on, in the area of goodness and blessings, we must continue to increase and ascend “to a higher grade of sanctity” (cf. Berachos 28a).

Being close to the holiday of Chanukah, these days also carry the theme of Chanukah, as expressed in the Gemara:

On the first day one candle is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased...because we promote in matters of sanctity but do not reduce. (Shabbos 21b)

No matter how many candles were kindled on the previous night, in fulfillment of the full requirement of the mitzvah, tonight there must be an increase by one, and so on, until the conclusion of Chanukah.

This, of course, serves as a model for our personal Divine service all year, to progress during the seven days of everyweek of the year, and to recognize that in all matters of holiness there is always room for improvement. So that even the “beginning” of the blessing will already see an “increase.”

Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah have presented us with the context of starting and increasing blessings, but, they also emphasize the importance of unity.

Generally, in celebrating the festivals of the year, we find a difference between Eretz Yisrael, where one day is observed, and the diaspora, where we celebrate an additional day. Chanukah, however, has eight days in Eretz Yisrael as well as in the diaspora lands. Hence, Chanukah stresses the unanimity of all Jews, of Eretz Yisrael, as well as the lands of the exile.

Rosh Hashanah is also observed for two days, all over the world. Yud-Tes Kislev, of course, is referred to as the “Rosh Hashanah” of Chassidus, and this year Yud-Tes Kislev (and the 20th of Kislev) fall on the same days as Rosh Hashanah did — Monday and Tuesday.

Rosh Hashanah has many fundamental aspects and meanings, but the Talmud states clearly that the main mitzvah of the day is the act of sounding of the shofar.

The shofar, obviously, is the horn of an animal, which seems to point specifically to the realm of action. Man acts with a combination of intellect and action but the animal functions purely in the realm of physicalactivity.

We may also study and analyze some of the aspects of this “animal horn.” The “animal” is symbolic of a Jew’s animal soul. One’s Divine service includes the responsibility to awaken within the animalsoul a desire for G‑dliness, which will eventually also greatly increase the power of the G‑dly soul. Hence, the mitzvah of shofar reveals the intensity of action on Rosh Hashanah which must reach to the essence of the animalsoul, and then attain the goal of:

That you may proclaim Me king over you. (Rosh Hashanah 16a)

The same context may be applied to Yud-Tes Kislev — Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus — for then, too, this fundamental action is stressed. After all, it was on Yud-Tes Kislev that the doctrine of “spreading the fountains of Chassidus” was promulgated, which clearly requires reaching to the farthest and lowest, through dedicated action. In man’s individual Divine service it means inspiring his bodily motor forces with the understanding of Chassidic philosophy; really reaching out!

What real action should we concentrate on? Unity, connected with the verse,

He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me; for there were many that strove with me. (Tehillim 55:19)

The theme of unity is quite apparent in this verse, which binds together the “many” to be “with me” in a state of “peace” — harmony and wholeness. It also relates to the three things enumerated in the Gemara in connection with this verse: “occupied with the study of Torah, Gemilus Chassadim and prays with the congregation” (Berachos 8a), which all increase unity and peace.

So, when we gather in unison before leaving, the simple physicalproximity represents our alliance, as well as the unifying attitudes and resolutions. When everyone returns home and carries with him/her the commitment to continue the common activities leading to common goals, then it becomes evident that the present unity is truly essential and intrinsic. Thus at this time the elements of unanimity should predominate, to be carried forth from here.

Actually, when you return to your respective homes the unity of “He has redeemed my soul in peace...for there were many...with me,” will be enhanced. How? The goal of going out and reaching out is to redeem the lost “sparks of G‑dliness” that are in exile all over the world, as well as to redeem the “lost souls” of distant Jews who are far from Yiddishkeit and spread all over the globe. Thus the true “redemption in peace” will only be accomplished by spreading out all over the world. This will effect our true unity with Dovid, King Mashiach. As the King Mashiach promised the Baal Shem Tov that the Master will come when the fountains of Chassidus spread to the outside.

The individual lesson which everyone should garner for this period is to follow the teachings of Yud-Tes Kislev, that each and everyone should increase and improve the three areas of Torah, acts of charity and prayer with the congregation — for it is on these three pillars that the world stands.

At the same time there is an important lesson to be gleaned from the days of Chanukah: to illuminate the outside of the house with the candlelight, to increase the illumination daily, and to see to it that common practice accepts the original teaching for the “extremely zealous” — for each household member to start with one candle and add one candle every night of the holiday.

In order to add strength to the mission that each one of you accepts, we will conclude with the mitzvah of tzedakah which “is equivalent to all the other religious precepts combined” (B. Basra 9a). This will engender G‑d’s benevolent radiation of strength in all areas of our Divine service.

I, too, will share in this “mitzvah mission,” and in your mitzvah by giving each of you a dollar bill. May your zealousness speed the true redemption, when all aspects will reach completion: the whole nation, the complete Torah and mitzvos, together with the complete land. And may the deliverance of Yud-Tes Kislev lead to the true, inner, and complete redemption of every Jew through our righteous Mashiach. May he come, and redeem us and lead us, upright, to our land, speedily and truly in our days.

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2. Bar-mitzvah is a general and essential theme in the life of a Jew, for on this day he begins a new epoch in his life. He becomes a “man” with intelligence, and the responsibility to observe all the mitzvos. This is similar to the day of nationhood of the Jewish people, or as the Zohar states about the day of bar-mitzvah: “I have this day begotten you” (Tehillim 2:7).

The parents and family members who have raised and educated the bar-mitzvah boy take no small share of this happy day, for they deserve credit for their input in bringing another Jew to the Jewish people.

Since each person is compared to a “whole world” (cf. B. Basra 11a) this acceptance into the community of Israel also adds something to every Jew, and certainly helps weigh the scale of judgment towards the side of merit, for himself, the Jewish people and the entire world — and all the spiritual worlds — to the point that it will precipitate the true and complete redemption.

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When a boy reaches his bar-mitzvah around the time of Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus, it emphasizes the importance of the essential and intrinsic aspects of Torah and mitzvos — which are closely related with the essence of the Jewish soul.

Being just before Chanukah, it introduces the themes of “steadily increasing,” and “promoting matters of sanctity” (cf. Shabbos 21a). So, when the bar-mitzvah occurs near Chanukah this makes sure that all his aspects of Torah and mitzvos will always increase.

The sequence of Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah also carries a special lesson:

The basic Divine service of a Jew must start with down-to-earth action. As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya:

..the hand which distributes charity to the poor...or the feet which carry a person towards the performance of a commandment. (Tanya ch. 23)

From the level of action one may rise to the ultimate revelation of the essence of his soul. Now, Yud-Tes Kislev will symbolize the initial stage of simple and practical action — spreading the wellsprings to the outside — but this is followed quickly by Chanukah, the theme of increasing and rising in the Divine service, to the state of the essence of the soul. And since the essence of the soul — the “unique one” — is bound up with the soul of Mashiach — it will clearly speed the coming of our righteous Mashiach.

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With this theme of action in mind it is understandable that in recent times it has become customary to increase donations to charity on the bar-mitzvah day. If the birthday falls on Shabbos then the charity should be given before and after Shabbos. This adds inspiration in all areas of the mitzvos, before and after the birthday. It is also advisable that the parents and relatives should increase tzedakah on the bar-mitzvah day.

The bar-mitzvah boys should also carefully observe all the other customs of the bar-mitzvah, including the study of Psalm 14 in Tehillim, and the relatives should also do this, which will bring an increase in G‑d’s blessings to all, and especially in the matters relating to the bar-mitzvah. Similarly in the mitzvah of hoping for G‑d’s salvation all day, which will speed the ultimate redemption, and then we will be able to fulfill the mitzvos in their fullness.

We must prepare ourselves during the period of galus, especially during the period of the “footsteps of Mashiach,” and on the day when another Jew becomes responsible for Torah and mitzvos — we gain the additional merit to leave the galus with joy and gladness; the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our time.

So that I may share in this great joy — which is compared to the joy of a wedding (cf. Zohar Chodash 10:3), I will give each of you a dollar bill and make you “messengers of a mitzvah.” You should add your own money to mine and donate it to charity on the bar-mitzvah day.

May G‑d grant that all of these charities will combine to engender the blessings of “tzedakah” from G‑d in all matters: the greatest “charity” being the true and complete redemption; that Yaakov’s request to dwell in tranquility will come true, with the exodus, and we will come to dwell in the land of our fathers, the Holy Land, may it be rebuilt speedily in our times.

Then we will merit to join in the rededication of the Third Beis HaMikdash, built by Mashiach, or delivered prefabricated from heaven — in either case — may it come in reality — with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

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3. When a groom and bride establish a new home on the foundation of Torah and mitzvos, then Torah assures us that this home will be “an everlasting edifice.”

The new family will bring newness to the Jewish people and to the whole world. So much so, that it will affect the ultimate wholeness of the world in the days of Mashiach. As we say in the Blessings of the Wedding:

Let there speedily be heard in the cities of Yehudah and the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride.... (Siddur)

And G‑d will certainly bestow appropriate blessings upon the young couples from His “...full, open, holy generous hand” (Siddur), in an abundant manner. Thus, all opportunities should be utilized in preparation for the wedding, to bring forth the “everlasting” abode. Remember, your merit is great for you will improve the whole world. And certainly you will merit great success in all these matters.

It is customary that on the wedding day the groom and bride and parents and family increase their donations to tzedakah in merit of the groom and bride. Good resolutions also bring good results and good blessings in connection with the preparation for the wedding and certainly the wedding itself; may it be with great happiness and blessed life, physical and spiritual, combined.

May this joy of the groom and bride increase the joy of the Jewish people, and as joy pierces the barriers — may it pierce the restriction of the galus and bring the redemption closer.

To participate in your simchah and in your tzedakah, I will give each of you a dollar bill, which you should donate, with an addition of your own money, to charity on the wedding day.

And, as “Charity is great in that it brings the redemption closer” (B. Basra 10a), this act of tzedakah will bring the redemption closer: first the personal deliverance — so that there will be no trouble in the wedding preparations — and the wedding itself. There should be the commitment to make an everlasting edifice, which will also be a “gathering house for the sages” where the Shechinah will dwell. Thereby we will speed the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash, with the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people — the general deliverance. The true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach speedily and truly in our time.