1. At the conclusion of the Orach Chaim section of Shulchan Aruch the Ramo quotes the words of Mishlei:

He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast. (Mishlei 15:15)

This would seem to indicate that serving G‑d with joy and festive gatherings (farbrengens) should be a constant practice. Nevertheless, we may look for a more direct reason for today’s farbrengen.

One reason for this farbrengen is as a follow-up to the last farbrengen when the request, suggestion and general encouragement to increase certain areas of spreading Yiddishkeit, were discussed and connected to the tenth of Teves.

The following proposals were presented:

(A) To increase youth activities by setting up more branches of Tzivos Hashem.

(B) Activities on behalf of elderly men and women should be increased, by establishing KollelLevi Yitzchok” study programs for men and “Chochmas Noshim” programs for women.

(C) Additional activities for all ages in-between the children and elders should be planned. All this shall be accomplished by establishing more Chabad Houses, which will be involved in spreading Yiddishkeit in more cities and in all areas.

It was emphasized that all these activities should be speeded up and done before the 10th of Teves.

The severity of the 10th of Teves fast has often been spoken about, for on that day the prophet tells us:

The king of Bavel had surrounded Yerushalayim on this very day. (Yechezkel 24:2)

The increase in good deeds and constructive plans until the 10th of Teves will be influential in revealing the hidden good which exists in a greater measure in the 10th of Teves (as in every fast day).

Therefore, the request was made that the reports and photographs of these activities should be sent in before the 10th of Teves. All of this information will be published in a suitable book in a beautiful format. Many reports have already been received and, hopefully, others will still arrive before the conclusion of the 10th of Teves — so that very quickly we can go to print.

The Gemara says:

“This is my G‑d and I will adorn Him” (Shemos 15:2) [i.e.], adorn yourself before Him in the fulfillment of precepts ... write it with fine ink ... a fine pen.... (Shabbos 133b)

One might think that beautiful print and ink are superficial matters and necessary only because of the limitations of the galus. The truth, however, is that: “The Torah is eternal” (Tanya ch. 17); and all aspects of Torah and mitzvos will apply also in the future, as we say:

There we will offer to You our obligatory sacrifices ... in accordance with the command of Your will. (Siddur, Mussaf Rosh Chodesh)

We must therefore say that the beautification of mitzvos is also eternal, and will apply as well in the future. It becomes an integral part of the mitzvah.

In a similar vein the Shulchan Aruch rules that: “It is a mitzvah to publicize those who do mitzvos.” The reason for this? Simply, there are people who will be moved to do a good deed only when they see that someone else also did that mitzvah. Or, they assume that they, too, will get similar public recognition.

Does this seem petty and insignificant? The truth is that it effects real accomplishment, even among those who serve G‑d on the highest level.

The Midrash says:

If Reuven, for example, had known that the Holy One, Blessed be He, would have written of him, “And Reuven heard it and delivered him out of their hand,” he would have carried Yosef and brought him to his father. (Vayikra Rabbah 34:8)

Reuven was Yaakov’s firstborn who served G‑d on the lofty level of “seeing,” as explained in Chassidus in relation to his name Reuven: “G‑d has seen....” Yet, our sages say that if he had known that the Torah was to reveal his good acts he would have made a greater effort to save Yosef.

Without analyzing the reasons why — this fact indicates the value of publicizing a good deed.

Now, since today is the eve of the 10th of Teves, we should once again encourage everyone to carry out the proposals, and those who have already fulfilled their responsibility should naturally see to improve and increase their efforts all the more. Those who have not yet done what was requested should carry it out immediately, in a manner of: “double resourcefulness” (see Iyov 11:6).

Do you ask what this has to do with “double resourcefulness”? This term is usually applied to describe the Divine service of teshuvah and here we do not speak of some negative act which needs teshuvah, as there is still time to carry out the proposals.

Let us turn for a moment to the Chassidic explanation of the importance of zealousness, as expounded in Tanya:

It is the alertness (zealousness) of our father Avraham, peace to him, that stands by us and our children for everlasting. For the “Akeidah” itself is not really regarded as so great a test in relation to the level of our father Avraham, peace to him, especially as G‑d said to him “please take your son,...” After all, there are numerous saints who gave their lives for the sanctification of the L‑rd even though that G‑d did not speak to them. However, our father Avraham, peace to him, did this with wondrous alertness, to show his joy and desire to fulfill the will of his Master. (Iggeres Hakodesh 21)

The Akeidah is one of the most powerful episodes of our past, through which we always seek to present the merits of the Jewish people before G‑d and awaken G‑d’s mercy. On Rosh Hashanah we say:

Remember in mercy this day the binding of Yitzchok for his descendants. (Machzor, Mussaf Rosh Hashanah)

And yet, the Alter Rebbe explains that the main accomplishment of the Akeidah was not the sacrifice itself, rather the zealousness with which Avraham showed his joy and desire to do G‑d’s bidding. It is this zealousness of Avraham which sustains us for all generations.

From this we may derive an a fortiori deduction: in the case of the Akeidah, which itself was so great an accomplishment, we still accentuate the zealousness of Avraham, certainly in other cases of Divine service, which do not attain the loftiness of the Akeidah, certainly there we must emphasize zealousness!

Consequently, when zealousness is missing it is a negative situation and there must be teshuvah! Hence the aspect of “double resourcefulness” does apply here.

At the same time, it must be emphasized that despite the need for teshuvah, the main thing is to do the right action; if you haven’t yet reached the point of teshuvah don’t worry, meanwhile do what you can on the positive front.

Hurry on and eat, hurry on and drink. (Eruvin 54a)

Eventually all good actions will be raised through teshuvah, and therefore, now you must do as much as possible. This would also include contributing to the tzedakah funds of the recent weeks, from the 10th of Kislev till the 10th of Teves.

The deed is the essence:

We must use all the remaining time until the conclusion of the 10th of Teves to expand all of the activities we have spoken of. Whatever may be done on Shabbos should be done today. And in other matters we can make the good resolutions today with intention of carrying it out after Shabbos; this includes, of course, publicizing these items far and wide.

Thus, the purpose and goal of this farbrengen is that at this public gathering, in the presence of the entire community, these good resolutions should be accepted and: “They helped everyone his neighbor” (Yeshayahu 41:6). Chassidus explains that a decision made by a community is much stronger than a decision reached alone (See Heichaltzu ch. 10).

The greater quality of a communal effort is also evident in such matters as prayer. So much so, Chassidus explains, that although our teacher Moshe was the Nasi and equal to the whole community of Israel, nevertheless, when he prayed together with a minyan of Jews his prayers were more precious than when he prayed alone.

This special importance of communal action is extended in Tanya to include all Torah and mitzvos (not only prayer) as we find in Iggeres Hakodesh:

.. through the occupation with Torah and the commandments byten, expressly ... (Ch. 23)

So there is a special quality in mitzvos which are done communally. In this setting where so many minyanim of Jews have gathered a special potential and power emerges.

In the realm of time we may view Asarah BeTeves as “TenDays in Teves” not just the “tenth” day of Teves. The term “Ten Days” is the plural combination of the ten first days of Teves gathered together as a group. Here we have the communal aspect of time!

Another point comes to mind. In speaking of the many important activities that have been initiated, and that should be instituted, starting from “Ten Days in Kislev” till “Ten Days in Teves,” we should realize that all of these activities are cumulative; each must be added over and above the previous one, so that they all continue to function collectively.

The essential goal is that through all of these resolutions and activities we will reveal the ultimate intention of all of the fast days, which is to be transformed to holidays, as the Rambam writes:

All the fast days mentioned above are destined to be abolished in the time of the Mashiach; indeed, they are destined to be turned into festive days, days of rejoicing and gladness, in accordance with the verse, thus says the L‑rd of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month ... and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Yehudah joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons.... (Zechariah 8:19 — Laws of Fast Days 5:19)

So may it be for us, with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach speedily and truly in our days.

2. Shabbos has a beneficial effect on the preceding and ensuing weekdays. It also has an impact on any aspects of the day itself relative to the date of the month. Hence, today being the ninth of Teves, its theme will also be enhanced by the Shabbos.

In Megillas Taanis we find reference to the ninth of Teves as a day for fasting, although the reason is not mentioned. The Shulchan Aruch also lists the date and adds:

On the ninth of Teves; we do not know what calamity occurred on that day. (Orach Chaim 580:2)

On this statement of the Shulchan Aruch the Taz comments:

This halachah is very strange because in the Selichos prayers recited on the tenth of Teves we say that on the ninth of Teves Ezra the Scribe died. (Taz, loc. cit.)

In fact, this tragedy is mentioned clearly in the Selichos prayers:

On the ninth I was subjected to [G‑d’s] wrath with shame and disgrace ... on this day was taken away ... Ezra the Scribe. (Siddur, Selichos)

When the ninth of Teves occurs on Shabbos and fasting is not permitted, the other beneficial aspects of a fast day still do apply; it is a “time of mercy,” though it is not necessary to fast in order to engender the mercy; thus, it is more lofty.

We know that the day of passing of a tzaddik encompasses lofty qualities. The Alter Rebbe describes this in Tanya:

All his doings, his Torah, and the Divine service which he served all the days of his life.... It becomes revealed and radiates in a manifest way from above downwards at the time of his passing ... and effects salvation in the midst of the earth. (Iggeres Hakodesh 27,28)

When we speak of Ezra the Scribe, this process is even more intense. For the Gemara states that he was worthy that the Torah could have been given to the Jewish people through him; thus, he was compared to Moshe our teacher.

So when his yahrzeit occurs on Shabbos all of these aspects take on added importance, and we should be motivated to stronger activity in all areas of Torah and mitzvos. If he was worthy enough to give us the Torah certainly he encompassed all aspects of Torah and mitzvos.

Being that the ninth of Teves is the eve of the tenth, it also enhances our work in those matters discussed earlier in connection with the tenth of Teves.

May we merit by virtue of our good deeds and resolutions that the fast days be transformed into days of rejoicing, with the coming of our righteous Mashiach and the complete redemption.

In connection with today’s Torah reading Chassidus explains, that normally, in the order of the spiritual worlds, Yosef symbolizes the higher level which radiates life-force to Yehudah (Malchus — royalty). When Yehudah approached Yosef (Vayigash) he was preparing the ground for the future when the two will unite in true unity.

This thought is beautifully expressed in the Haftorah:

Son of man, take a stick and write on it, “For Yehudah and the children of Israel his companions”; then take another stick and write on it, “for Yosef, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel, his companions.” Join them together into one stick, so that they are one in your hand.... Behold, I will take the stick of Yosef, which is in Ephraim’s hand, and the tribes of Israel his companions, and put it together with the stick of Yehudah, to form one stick, so that they are one in My hand.... My servant Dovid will be king over them.... (Yechezkel 37:16-29)

As Torah Or explains it:

In contemporary times Yosef is above Yehudah ... Yosef is associated with the ten tribes of Israel ... so he has more tribes than Yehudah.... But in the future time when Yosef and Yehudah will be united in true oneness ... then Yehudah will rise above Yosef ... therefore “My servant Dovid will be king” over all Israel.

From this we see that the Torah reading deals with the preparation for that future time while the Haftorah actually speaks of that time.

So may it be — by studying these concepts in Chassidic philosophy the reality will materialize and the time will come that Dovid will be king over all of Israel, with the coming of Mashiach, truly in our time.

* * *

3. Let us study a verse from this week’s portion with Rashi’s commentary:

Do not be afraid to go to Egypt, (Bereishis 46:3)

on which Rashi says:

[G‑d said this to him] because he was grieved that he was compelled to leave Eretz Yisrael. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

There are several points to ponder:

(A) The narrative of Yaakov’s fear of going to Egypt and G‑d’s response “Do not be afraid” seems simple enough even for the five-year-old Chumash student to comprehend. Why must Rashi elaborate on the point?

(B) Rashi’s commentary skirts or contradicts the gist of the matter. (1) Scripture says that G‑d reassured him “Do not be afraid.” But Rashi says that Yaakov was grieved. These are distinctly different emotions. (2) Scripture says, “Do not be afraid to go to Egypt,” while Rashi says that Yaakov was grieved because he had to leave Eretz Yisrael! Again, a very different emphasis!

(C) The five-year-old Chumash student remembers that in Lech Lecha he had studied a Rashi explaining the verse, “Now here is your wife! Take her and go!”:

Not as Avimelech who said to him “Behold, my land is before you”: but he (Pharaoh) said to him: “Go and donot stay here” for the Egyptians are greatly addicted to lewd-living as it is said, “And whose issue is like the issue of horses” (Yechezkel 23:20) [the passage deals with the immoral practices of the Egyptians]. (Rashi, Bereishis 12:19)

Thus, Rashi established that the Egyptians were addicted to immorality from the times of Avraham till the times of Yechezkel! This would clearly indicate that Yaakov’s fear of going to Egypt was presumably based on the negative character of Egyptian life; even Pharaoh felt it necessary to warn Avraham not to stay in Egypt!

Consequently, why does Rashi shift the emphasis of Yaakov’s grief to the aspect of leaving Eretz Yisrael, when the simple meaning of the verse seems obviously to refer to the degenerate life style of Egypt.

(D) Looking at the picture from another vantage point, if Rashi felt that Yaakov’s fears were related to leaving Eretz Yisrael why would it be necessary for G‑d to reassure him: “Do not be afraid”? Yaakov had already spent 20 years out of Eretz Yisrael in the home of Lavan. While he was there he had studied Torah and observed mitzvos and raised righteous children. Why must G‑d reassure him at this point not to be afraid to go into exile?

(E) G‑d concludes His consoling words to Yaakov with the promise “... for it is there that I will make you into a great nation” (Ibid.). Does this logically assuage Yaakov’s fears and grief? Could not G‑d also make him a great nation in Eretz Yisrael?!

In seeking an explanation for these ponderations an additional “Klotz-Kashe” emerges:

When did G‑d speak these placating words to Yaakov? If we follow the sequence of the verses we will see that G‑d spoke to Yaakov after Yaakov had alreadydecided to go to Egypt and in fact had already started his journey! For Yaakov had said:

It’s too much! My son Yosef is alive! I must go and see him before I die! (Ibid. 45:28)

and then,

Yisrael began the journey. (Ibid. 46:1)

Then in verse 46:2 G‑d appears to Yaakov, and speaks to him in 46:3.

Does this make sense? Why should G‑d appear to him at this point and console him with the words “Do not be afraid”? It should have been told to him earlier, before he made the decision to go!

Because of this perplexing observation Rashi realized that when G‑d said, “Do not be afraid” at a point when Yaakov was already in the midst of his journey, the real meaning of G‑d’s words were “do not be grieved.” If Yaakov had felt fear he would have hesitated to leave. However, now he wastraveling, albeit reluctantly. So Rashi says that G‑d’s words come to mitigate Yaakov’s misgivings about going.

You may still ask, why was Yaakov not afraid of Egypt’s immorality?! The answer is so simple and obvious that Rashi need not forewarn it.

When Yosef suggested that Yaakov should come to Egypt he had informed him that the land of Goshen would be set aside for settlement of the family of Yaakov, separated and away from the Egyptian people, culture and mores.

In discussing the feeling of “fear” on Yaakov’s part it might be relevant to note, that in Eretz Yisrael Yaakov had to fear the schemes of Eisav. We see later that when they returned to Eretz Yisrael to bury Yaakov in the cave of Machpelah Eisav protested, and it was necessary to send Naftali back to Egypt to bring the contract signed by Eisav relinquishing his birthright (Sotah 13a). So in Eretz Yisrael Yaakov had the legitimate fear of Eisav, but in Egypt under the protection of the viceroy, his son Yosef, there was nothing to fear!

Thus, when Yosef sent the wagon train to bring Yaakov and his family to Egypt Yaakov thought over all of these considerations and realized that there was nothing to fear. He began his journey, but his heart was heavy, because he was leaving Eretz Yisrael.

Here we are faced with a second “Klotz-Kashe” — why did Yaakov grieve? Avraham too, had to go to Egypt when there was a famine in Canaan, and in Yaakov’s case there was no chance that any problem similar to Avraham’s would occur, since his son was viceroy, and he was to settle in Goshen!

Yaakov’s misgivings were based on the realization that he was leaving permanently. If he were only going temporarily, to wait out the famine and then return, he would not have fretted. Avraham had gone to Egypt only for the duration of the hunger. But with Yaakov we find him musing: “I must go and see him beforeIdie.” In Yaakov’s case he realized that he was going into permanent exile, so much so, that G‑d had to promise him: “And I will also bring you back again.” Rashi interpreted: “Here he promised him that he would be buried in the Holy Land” (Ibid 46:4).

Now, what is the impact of the words: “for it is there that I will make you for a great nation.” Clearly this is not a reason for going to Egypt, it could have been accomplished in Eretz Yisrael too, rather it is a promise of a different nature.

Living in Goshen as a small family tribe there would be the slight possibility of assimilation into the larger, surrounding nationality and culture. This bothered Yaakov and for this reason G‑d reassured him that eveninEgypt he would grow into a greatnation.

This was not a realfear — for it did not make him stop his plans — but G‑d realized that it was a hidden anxiety so He promised him, that even his farfetched fear would not materialize.

Concerning our observation that Yaakov had already experienced galus and why the need at this point for reassurance. We must say that quite to the contrary, his earlier stint in exile had sharpened his desire to live in Eretz Yisrael, the land of his fathers.

Having experienced the suffering of exile and then returned with the hope of settling and living at ease in his homeland it was naturally very distressing that he should have to leave his homeland again and go into the diaspora. He certainly “grieved.”

Today, in our times we can commiserate with Yaakov, for this is the cry of every Jew who wants to dwell in tranquility in the land of his fathers: “How long!?” He has no interest in the skyscrapers of New York, why does he have to be in a foreign land? Why in exile? So he grieves and cries out “How long?” He wants to dwell “where his fathers had lived,” through the true and complete redemption of our righteous Mashiach.