1. A farbrengen at the close of Zos Chanukah (the last day of Chanukah is often called “Zos Chanukah” because of the Torah reading) is an unusual happening. But we have become accustomed to strange happenings in good and joyous matters.

This farbrengen is an expression of Jewish unity, for we have all gathered in the house of Torah and prayer of the Previous Rebbe, where he studied and prayed, and where he worked to reach out to bring Jews closer to G‑d and Torah. The fruits of his labors may be seen in this shul and all over the face of the earth.

By increasing joy and goodness for all, we will nullify all the negative forces — just as a bit of light drives away the darkness. (How much more so — a lot of light.) The Baal Shem Tov kindled the soul-candle of every Jew so that it radiates with the light of Torah and mitzvos. Our gathering in this shul strengthens this work today among those who follow his teachings and continue to be “illuminating lights” by increasing the light of Torah and mitzvos in the world. The light will bring an end to the darkness.

The fact that this gathering is out of the ordinary, and that I had to be the one to convene the farbrengen, lends impetus to the point that it will have a stronger impact in connection to several recent requests for more activism in spreading Yiddishkeit etc., as well as more input in publicity and enthusiasm.

My involvement and catalyst in the unusual occurrence will act as an example for others to follow in increasing their work on behalf of Torah and mitzvos. Now that we have gathered here, let us use the opportunity to increase the light in the world so that the darkness is eliminated, and salvation will come to the world (cf. Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 3:4).

This discussion of the extra effort in generating light with enthusiasm, has a special connection with the last day of Chanukah, since it is the close of the holiday.

When the Jews traveled in the desert the last tribe, Dan, was called “the one who gathered in everything belonging to all the camps” and as Rashi explains:

It marched in the rear so that if anyone of the other tribes lost anything Dan restored it to him. (Rashi, Bamidbar 1:25)

Just as there is a “last tribe” in space so too, in time, the last day (or the end of the last day) of a series of days, gathers everything together. This means that if something was “lost” during the allotted time, or was not done in the proper manner, the “gathering” day provides an opportunity to correct and remedy the gap.

Consequently, the closing hours of the eighth day of Chanukah, Zos Chanukah, can provide the chance to correct any unfulfilled aspect of Chanukah. This principle holds true in this case, when we are gathered in a shul during these final hours of Chanukah, for our good resolutions and commitments at this time will serve as a completion for anything found lacking retroactively, during the entire holiday of Chanukah.

Thus, it is now important to mention several subjects to which great attention must be attached:

1. Special activities should be initiated on behalf of senior citizens and Jewish children; as well as Chabad House programs for all ages.

2. New Chabad Houses should be established in new areas and existing facilities should be expanded.

3. More effort should be placed on spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus, by printing more Tanyas in places not yet reached, and publishing more Chassidic works.

4. Everyone should complete his/her contributions for all the appeals and funds associated with the month of Kislev: Chanukah, 19th of Kislev, 15th of Kislev, 10th of Kislev and Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

In the case of the appeals there is no need for any contemplation, if you remember that you did not give your donation, then do it. In the other matters listed above, there might be legitimate degrees of accomplishments and it may be necessary to solicit an objective opinion, to see whether your accomplishments were up to par. Make those deliberations and consider all the aspects that must be considered, and if it should take more time than you have tonight, take all the time you need so long as it brings the proper results — to increase all aspects of Torah and Yiddishkeit; for the “deed is of the essence.”

* * *

2. Since we are concluding unfinished business tonight we should go back to find the answer to a perplexing Klotz-Kashe that was raised on a Rashi, in the portion of Vayeishev.

Rashi had explained that at the time of Zorach’s birth the Torah had hinted at undesirable activities that would be perpetrated by his descendant hundreds of years later:

Corresponding to the four acts of sacrilege which Achan, who was a descendant of Zorach, committed with his hand. (Rashi, Bereishis 38:28)

The following perplexing Klotz-Kashe comes to mind:

It seems obvious that many tzaddikim had descendants who were not up to par; Zorach was not the only one. In fact, in several cases the Torah does hint to us of the future misdeeds. However, wedonotfind another case where at the birth of the ancestor, the evil deeds of his descendant will be mentioned. Why does the Torah indicate the bad deeds of Achan at the birth of Zorach!?

Let us propose an answer.

The five-year-old Chumash student knows that not all future bad deeds will be hinted at the time of birth of the grandfather. When we do find such a rare case, we must analyze it to see in what way it is unique.

Rashi of course only cites the details of Achan’s sacrilege, which in some way illuminates the story in Vayeishev. But Rashi does leave the door open to the teacher to fill in the other details of what took place.

The five-year-old Chumash student reads in Rashi that:

The word “yad” — hand — is written four times corresponding to the four acts of sacrilege which Achan...committed...the four things which he took.... (Ibid.)

Why was Achan’s sin so severe that it is mentioned at Zorach’s birth, because it adversely affected the entire Jewish nation. Being so despicable, the Torah hints at his sin now. If his sin had only affected himself or his family, Torah would not have tainted his grandfather — but when the entire nation suffered that is different!

Does this explanation suffice? No!

There are other cases of sins that affected the entire nation and nevertheless they did not taint the grandfather’s birth! Take the example of Yeravam ben Nevat who caused all of Israel to sin and at (his ancestor) Ephraim’s birth — nothing is mentioned!

Here the five-year-old Chumash student asks: Why not mention the righteous descendants (of Zorach) as well as the evil offspring? Or, don’t mention either and let one balance the other! This is simplelogic!

And it also answers our dilemma. If there had been one tzaddik whose good deeds had positively affected the entire Jewish nation then he would have been mentioned together with Achan — or they both would have been ignored. In the case of Yeravam ben Nevat this is true; there were great tzaddikim, of his tribe, who helped the Jewish people as much as Yeravam ben Nevat hurt them. But in the case of Zorach — although there were tzaddikim among his offspring — not one was of the calibre that he influenced the entire nation for the good. In that context Rashi must tell us that Zorach was a tzaddik but he had a grandson who hurt the entire Jewish people and he did not produce a tzaddik who could help them in an equal way.

* * *

Another subject that needs completion is the Siyum (completion of the Talmud) of Yud-Tes Kislev. The customs of completing the Talmud in a year may include only those tractates which have Mishnah and Gemara, or it could also include those tractates which have only Mishnayos. In the first case the last tractate would be Niddah and in the latter case it would be Uktzin.

There is a Siyum of the Rebbe Maharash which deals with the beginning of Berachos: “From what time may one recite the Shema in the evening? From the time that the Kohanim...” (Berachos 1:1).

Why connect the saying of Shema to Kohanim? Since they are the ones who bestow the blessing of peace, the law is associated with them. This connects the beginning of Talmud with the conclusion for there we find in the last mishnah of Uktzin:

R. Yehoshua ben Levi said: In the World to Come the Holy One, Blessed be He, will make each righteous person to inherit 310 worlds, for it is written: “That I may cause those who love Me to inherit ‘yesh’ (310) and that I may fill their treasuries.” R. Shimon ben Chalafta said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, found no vessel that could contain blessing for Israel save that of peace, as it is written: “The L‑rd will give strength unto His people: The L‑rd will bless His people with peace.” (Uktzin 3:12)

On this mishnah the Rebbe Maharash asked a question: We know that R. Shimon ben Chalafta (a Tanna) lived before R. Yehoshua ben Levi (who was considered by some to be an Amora), why does the Mishnah quote R. Yehoshua ben Levi first?

The answer is that the teaching of R. Shimon ben Chalafta serves as an explanation for the teaching of R. Yehoshua ben Levi.

Sometimes when G‑d bestows great benevolence it is beyond the capacity of the recipients to absorb the abundant good (cf. Taanis 23a). Now, when G‑d wants to bestow a reward on one tzaddik of 310 worlds of goodness, as taught by R. Yehoshua ben Levi, certainly here there will be a problem of how to absorb all this benevolence. Therefore the Mishnah teaches us the saying of R. Shimon ben Chalafta, to explain that when G‑d bestows the blessing of peace it creates a vessel for all the blessings, and the recipient can absorb even 310 worlds. This is the gist of the “Hadran” (conclusion study) of the Rebbe Maharash.

It may also be applied in our Divine service. We constantly speak of increasing Torah and mitzvos. A Jew might ask: “How can you demand of me to increase my Torah study, where am I to find the time? After all, at the present I am also utilizing every available moment.”

This person is so assiduous that he never allows a moment to slip by and be wasted! To this person we say, take a lesson from the promise of “310 worlds.” Normally, even the blessing of one world would have been too much — but when G‑d transmits the blessing of peace He enlarges and enhances the capacity to absorb all the abundant blessing.

In a similar manner when you make the firm decision to increase your study of Torah, G‑d will give you the proper vessels to absorb more benevolence (Torah).

How do we explain this in realistic terms? The concept sounds very nice but what about the actual time?! Where do you find it?

For an answer to this question let us look to Torah Or where we find an explanation of the Alter Rebbe that:

Righteousness (tzedakah) exalts a nation” (Mishlei 14:34) — through fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedakah his mind and heart are refined a thousandfold.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains that this is not hyperbole but, realistically his mind will become 1000timessharper and it will comprehend in one hour what previously took 1000 hours to understand!

Of course one must strive and work for understanding. As R. Chaim Vital wrote of the AriZal, that he sweated profusely when he diligently studied Halachah because he realized that he had to purify and remove the “kelipah.” How much more so must we sweat and toil to study Torah. Yet, when one gives tzedakah he raises his abilities a thousandfold. You will now have 999 hours free to study more, as compared with the moment before you gave the tzedakah!

This is the blessing of peace — the manifold absorption of blessings and manifold absorption of Torah. [This is why R. Akiva entered the Pardes and exited peacefully, because he entered “with peace.”]

In our daily Divine service this is accomplished by the order of starting with prayer before study as well as the practice of giving tzedakah before praying; which will bring the blessings of peace.

During the period of the galus we are like a crownprince who has been exiled from his father’s table. His longing and desire to return home is overwhelming and every moment seems to him like a year.

Of course, despite the delay we have the assurance of redemption, just as the Torah tells us concerning our Patriarch Yaakov: “Yaakov arrived safely” (Bereishis 33:18), after being exiled to Charan.

Now, our redemption depends on our repentance, we must return to the Holy One, Blessed be He; and although we can find certain satisfaction in exile yet we call out, “How long! The galus must end!”

Let us dance out of the diaspora with our youth and our elders, our sons and daughters, the complete nation with the complete Torah and mitzvos and we will come to the Holy Land, where “The eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” And it must be in a manner that all will see that Eretz Yisrael is ourland — we will not need the nations of the U.N. to decide, rather all will admit that this is the land of our fathers.

* * *

3. Having suggested that this point in time serves as the “gathering day” for all unfinished themes, we should direct our attention once again to the discussion of the Alter Rebbe’s question to the Maggid and the Baal Shem Tov, whether after “Yud-Tes Kislev” he should continue to spread the teachings of Chassidus. The response of the Maggid and Baal Shem Tov was that he should increase his efforts in teaching and disseminating Chassidus after his impending release.

From a halachic viewpoint we explained that at that time the Alter Rebbe’s question was legitimate because there was genuine danger from the tyrannical Czarist regime, which did not want to destroy the Jewish religion, but did have a selfish interest in stopping the Alter Rebbe’s work. Additionally, the Maggid and Baal Shem Tov appeared to the Alter Rebbe in physical form, for which reason he was able to address a halachic question to them. All this was clear within the context of plain, down to earth Halachah.

However, a question still remains from the vantage point of the esoteric teachings of Torah.

Let us review for a moment the incident that had occurred years earlier, in the time of the leadership of the Maggid.

One of the disciples of the Maggid once found a manuscript of a Chassidic discourse in the dirt. The shock of this apparent desecration engendered an intense negative feeling on the part of that disciple, who felt that Chassidic philosophy had been made too readily and easily available to all the scholars. His powerful challenge to the Maggid’s approach caused a sudden flurry of heavenly accusations and denunciations against the leadership of the Maggid.

The Alter Rebbe sensed what had happened, and when he saw the disciple holding the manuscript charge into the study-hall of the Maggid, with anger and criticism written all over his face, he stopped him in his tracks, calmed him down and told him a parable. In this way he was able to neutralize the criticism and accusations, and save the Maggid.

He told the tragic story of a crown prince who had become deathly ill and no cure could be found for his ailment. It was however discovered that a particular precious gem had the healing powers needed to cure the dying child. This rare gem existed only in the coronation crown of the king, and it served as the centerpiece at the apex of the crown, being the most splendid and beautiful of all the gems of the crown. Without that gem the crown would lose its glory and preciousness.

After removing the gem it would have to be ground into a fine powder and dissolved in an elixir which could then be administered to the prince. If the sick child would swallow the medicine he might be saved. While this discussion of the procedures went on, the condition of the child deteriorated to the point that the doctor could no longer be sure whether the liquid would penetrate the boy’s sealed lips and whether the sacrifice of the stone would be worth it. This was the king’s dilemma.

Despite the mounting odds, the king ordered that the crown be broken open, and the gem ground down to make the medicine; for it would be worth all the sacrifices if only one drop would enter the child’s lips and save his life.

The moral of this parable, as explained by the Alter Rebbe, pointed to the need for administering large doses of Chassidus to the weak crown prince — the Jewish people — with the hope that it would revive them from the deep coma of the galus and if along the way some “medicine” would fall to the ground it was worth the sacrifice.

With this parable in mind we must return to the original question:

Why did the Alter Rebbe ask the Maggid and Baal Shem Tov what to do? We have previously answered two facets of the question: that the Maggid and Baal Shem Tov came as real people and could be queried, and that the question was based on the assumption that the Czarist regime was notintent on eradicating Jewish observance. In such a situation one did not have to undergo martyrdom. However, the most fundamental problem still glares us in the face: “Whatwillbedonetosavethecrownprince?!” Did the Alter Rebbe seriously think that he had a choice?

Years earlier in the lifetime of the Maggid the Alter Rebbe had already proven that the prince (Jewish people) was so sick that only the crushed gem of the crown (Chassidus) could save him. This life-giving medicine was still necessary in the time of the Alter Rebbe just as much as then. How could the Alter Rebbe even have harbored a question in the matter?!

We may also assume that the condition had probably worsened, and that all efforts had to be made to save the life of the prince — certainly he had to grind the stone! And maybe the child could still be saved.

To answer this paradox let us preface with another ponderation.

The Maggid and Baal Shem Tov informed the Alter Rebbe that in fact his incarceration was as a result of a heavenly decree based on supernal opposition to his work in teaching and spreading Chassidus.

Question! This accusation had been leveled at the time of the Maggid and had been defused at that time by the Alter Rebbe himself! What new phenomenon or activities had been initiated by the Alter Rebbe which precipitated a renewal of the old accusations to the point that the heavenly court gave them credence and the Alter Rebbe had to be arrested?

The answer is that there was a fundamental change in the manner of teaching Chassidus between the era of the Maggid and the time of the Alter Rebbe, especially after the publication of the Tanya in 5557.

What was the difference? When we study the works of the Maggid as compared to the Alter Rebbe’s works we will find that the Alter Rebbe introduced the study of Chassidus in the manner of “Chabad” — wisdom, understanding and knowledge. By pursuing the point of initial enlightenment (wisdom) and following it through the comprehension of deep and broad understanding (Binah) till you attain the intense awareness of knowledge, the philosophy and science of Chassidus becomes his “flesh and blood.” In fact, we see distinctly that the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid serve as conceptual starting points for the in-depth study to be found in Tanya.

Even the Alter Rebbe’s style of maamarim generally developed and evolved over the years from short, pithy and highly concentrated concepts to elaborate and broadly developed, deeply understood philosophies.

In other words, a new approach was crystallizing and incubating — Chabad philosophy.

Now we may understand that it was this newly developed approach to Chassidus on the part of the Alter Rebbe — of broad understanding and comprehension of Chabad — which precipitated the spiritual antagonism and accusations against the AlterRebbe, despite the fact that all complaints against the Maggid had been assuaged.

This point bears some elucidation:

When the Alter Rebbe presented the parable of the sick prince to defend the Maggid he indicated that one drop of elixir would be sufficient to revive the prince. This was analogous to the revelation of Chassidus in short, terse apothegms. The Maggid had taught Chassidus in this format and these “drops” of G‑d’s inner wisdom had the potency to resuscitate the prince. And it worked!

When, however, the Alter Rebbe developed the broad intellectual approach, this engendered opposition (spiritual and terrestrial) — after all, the short potent drops were enough, why elaborate?!

In its earthly form the accusations took on the context of a Czarist complaint that the teachings of Chassidus opposed the regime of the Czar. In this setting the Alter Rebbe had to question the Maggid and Baal Shem Tov. Since he was faced with the threat of Czarist punishment (G‑d forbid) was there a justification for martyrdom? The question was notabout the Maggid’s system of Chassidus, it concerned the AlterRebbe’snewsystem of Chabad! To save the prince, even a drop would have been enough. Here they were feeding him bucketfuls.

We must apply this in our actions.

We cannot claim that the Maggid’s directive to the Alter Rebbe does not apply to us. In the area that we, as students of Chassidus are able to expand the knowledge of Chassidus, each and every chassid is bound by the Maggid and Baal Shem Tov’s answer, toincreasetheknowledgeofChassidus.

Why, the Rambam rules very clearly that:

In that era...Israelites will be very wise, they will know the things that are now concealed and will attain an understanding of their Creator...for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd as the waters cover the sea. (Laws of Kings 12:5)

The Rambam is referring to Chassidus!

It is important to note that the Rambam’s description of what will be, “In that era,” applies not only to the actual time of Mashiach, but also to the era preceding Mashiach.

Follow this reasoning:

Regarding the days of Mashiach, the Rambam writes (based on Sanhedrin 91b):

The sole difference between the present and the Messianic days is delivery from servitude to foreign powers. (Laws of Kings 12:2)

This seems to be an incomplete projection, for a bit further in Laws of Kings he states:

In that era...the one occupation of the whole world will be to know the L‑rd. (Ibid. 12:5)

Think about these words for a moment! Can you imagine a greaterdifference in the world than this?! All involvement and occupation will notbe in worldlymatters but only in “knowingtheL‑rd”! A truly cataclysmic, apocalyptic metamorphosis!

Yet, the Rambam states that the onlydifference will be “no servitude to foreign powers”?!

The only possible explanation of this paradox is that the more drastic changes will take place gradually, before Mashiach comes, in a naturally phased-in process. In the era preceding the advent of Mashiach there will be emphasis on the knowledge of the L‑rd by studying Chassidus, in the system of Chabad, to truly know G‑d. Therefore the difference that will be attained when Mashiach comes will only be the dissolution of foreign hegemony.

When we look to the first chapter of Mishneh Torah we will find this same principle. As the Rambam presents it to us:

The basic principle of all basic principles and the pillar of all sciences is to know (realize) that there is a First Being, who brought everything into being. (Laws of Basic Principles of the Torah 1:1)

Thus the Rambam required comprehensible knowledge of G‑d, including the concept that all existence receives life from the Creator at all times. These principles were developed, expanded and explained by the Alter Rebbe, based on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, as we find in the beginning of Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah.

This is the foundation of all the commandments of the Torah, as it says:

Know the G‑d of your father and serve Him with a perfect heart. (I Divrei HaYamim 28:9)

In other words, by having the knowledge of G‑d and G‑dliness through Chassidic philosophy and proper meditation you will bring forth the attributes of love and fear of G‑d, which provide the basis for observance of all the mitzvos, positive and negative, of the Torah.

May G‑d grant that all Jews attain this knowledge of G‑d through Chassidus while we are still in the galus, close to the advent of Mashiach. And then in a split-second we will merit the era of “the sole occupation...the knowledge of G‑d.” Through the stages of the Messianic times, speedily and truly in our days with joy and happy hearts.

4. Having discussed the siyum of the Talmud based on a maamar of the Rebbe Maharash we may also apply the same framework to a siyum (Hadran — an exposition that connects the end with the beginning of a tractate) of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah.

A) The Talmud starts with the letter “Mem” and ends with a “final Mem” (closed Mem).

B) The Talmud concludes with the subject of “peace” and begins with the rule about the Kohanim who bless the people with the blessing of “peace.”

These two thoughts will also apply to Mishneh Torah: A) Mishneh Torah begins with a “Mem,” either because the name of the book is Mishneh Torah, or because the Rambam quotes the verse “Meshoch Chasdecha....” The last word in Mishneh Torah ends with a “final Mem.”

B) The conclusion of Mishneh Torah speaks of the knowledge of G‑d and the beginning discusses the knowledge of G‑d.

Also, the first principle discusses that the First Being is the source of all life and the close speaks of all the world realizing only the knowledge of G‑d.

Another general point about Mishneh Torah. The number of chapters in Mishneh Torah as we know it, is 1000, although in several sources the number is set at 981 or 982. This is because some changes were made in the chapters (by the Rambam himself). The number of halachic sections however is set at 83; as the Rambam himself writes in his introduction. What is the significance of 83?

In the Talmud we find:

“I will remove (machalah, i.e.) sickness from the midst of them” (Shemos 23:25). It was also taught: Machalah means gall and why is it called machalah! Because 83 different kinds of illness result from it but they are all counteracted by partaking of bread dipped in salt followed by a pitcher of water. (B. Kama 92b)

This reference to bread and water is symbolic of Torahlearning — the spiritual bread and water. Thus, by studying the Halachic rulings which are found in the 83 sections of the Rambam, one can neutralize and cure all maladies.

And since it is a Torahcure, it even prevents the sickness from coming.

This will certainly increase the study of Rambam, along with all other areas of Torah study, and may this all bring the fulfillment of the promise recorded at the close of the Rambam:

For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd, as the waters cover the sea. (Yeshayahu 11:9)