By the Grace of G‑d
Third Day — twice blessed with Good
Weekly Sedra: Shemini
Nasi: Tribe of Asher
11th of Nissan, 5745
Brooklyn, N.Y.

To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere

G‑d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

Pursuing the subject matter of the letter of Erev Shabbos Kodesh Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and with the festival of Pesach now only days ahead; It is worthwhile to dwell more deeply on some points of the said letter, keeping in mind the basic principle, as emphasized therein, that the contemplation be reflected in actual practice, which — along with all matters in the realm of the good and holy — should be on the ascendancy.


The discussion in the previous letter centered on the special significance of the circumstance that this year the first day of Pesach comes together with Shabbos. This points to the aspects that are common to both Pesach and Shabbos, particularly the relevance of Cheirus (liberation)— the main aspect of Pesach, with Oneg (delight)— the main aspect of Shabbos, the common feature of both being completeness, namely that the liberation from all negative aspects, as well as the delight with the good and holy, must be complete; and “completeness” means that one is not satisfied with the minimum, nor even with almost all, but attains the fullest measure of both Cheirus and one. Anything less than that detracts not only quantitatively, but also in the quality of both the liberation and the delight.

Here the question begs to be asked — not just by way of “If your child should ask,” but also by “All of us wise ones”: Having attained true Cheirus and true Oneg in their completeness — what room is there left for the instruction of “Keeping things of holiness on the ascendancy,” and “Going from strength to strength”; especially in view of the fact that the said instruction is a continuous — one and that applies to each and all Jews, based on the prayer and instruction of the ‘‘Sweetener of the Songs of our People Israel” in the Book of Tehillim (Psalms), and cited in the Shulchan Aruch on the authority of many texts in Torah Shebe’al Peh (Oral Torah)?

The question is all the stronger in view of the emphasis on going (from strength to strength), which infinitely surpasses growth and development in the world of Tzomeiach (literally “growth,” i.e. plant life), where albeit growth is the sign of life and living (and-this applies also to mankind “For man is like a tree of the field’’), yet it is only growth in width and height and depth, but all the time remaining in the same place.

Certainly this does not compare to the category of the animal world, since an animal has the power of locomotion to go from place to place, to one that is better and higher. How much more incomparable is it to the positive locomotion of a human being, worthy of the name Adam (“man,” a term derived from the phrase adameh l’Elyon, “I strive to imitate the Supreme One”), who has been endowed by the Creator with the power and ability to change his place for a better and higher one, and still better, quantitatively and qualitatively, to the point of transforming himself into a new being; which, as often emphasized, is the essence of man’s serving HaShem, who bade him (as well as empowered him) to “Walk in His (Hashem’s) ways.”

And we are not talking here about exceptional individuals, since the instruction of “Walking in His ways,” and “Going from strength to strength” is, like all instructions in the Shulchan Aruch, incumbent upon all Jews, for we have but one Torah for all. Thus, the question becomes even stronger: Having attained Cheirus and Oneg in completeness — everyone, man and woman, according to one’s full power and perception — how is it possible in such a case (as in all matters of the good and holy) to rise higher and higher, especially in a manner of continuous motion (“going”)?


The answer to this question is hinted in the Scriptural terms Shabbos Shabboson (a “Shabbosdiger” Shabbos) and Shabbos b’Shabbato (a “Shabbos within Shabbos”). In other words, there is such a thing as a Shabbos which is Shabbos of a higher level, or, simply stated, there are gradations of Shabbos. Likewise in Oneg and Cheirus.

While Oneg Shabbos pervades all hours of Shabbos, it contains a range of experiences “from strength to strength”: At the beginning of Shabbos (on Shabbos eve) the Oneg is primarily associated with the aspect of Tishbos (“You shall rest”), namely, the restfulness and delight at being free from the labor and activities of the weekdays. This Oneg, immense as it is, is nevertheless limited and in proportion to the scope and burden of one’s weekday activities. On Shabbos morning, when the full pleasure of the relief and rest from work has already been attained, it is supplanted by a higher category of Oneg, which is associated primarily with the concept of “Shabbos unto G‑d,” leading up to the highest category of Oneg, namely Raiva d’chol Raivin (“pleasure of pleasures”) at the time of Minchah — the most sublime kind of pleasure which stands out as Oneg, even after the Oneg of raivin: a purely spiritual Oneg, without any association of any memory or residue of anything material and mundane, but purely “Unto G‑d your G‑d.” And here, too, there is the possibility of advancing, beginning with the general feeling and the basic emunah (absolute belief) in HaShem — advancing to “To know that there is a First Existence, (the Source and) the Creator of all existence,” then on to the details and minutiae of this concept in ever greater depth, reaching into the mysteries of Creation and most hidden secrets of the Torah (Pardes), and after that, to the fullest “Knowledge of HaShem as (the fullness of) the waters covering the sea.”

A further illustration of gradations in Oneg is found in the simple example of a great scholar whose greatest pleasure is to delve into intellectual pursuits; yet, when a quite new idea or concept comes across to him, his pleasure is infinitely greater than his pleasure before.

Similarly in the concept of Cheirus: When a slave is liberated from slavery, especially the kind of forced hard labor from which our Jewish people was liberated by the Exodus from Egypt; an exodus, moreover, “with an upraised arm” — it is surely a true “strength” in the realm of Cheirus. Yet, there still remained the lingering fear that the Egyptians might pursue them with a view to forcing them to return to Egypt and slavery — a fear that actually turned out to be well founded. However, after Kerias Yam Suf, (red sea), when they saw the Egyptians perish in the sea, and with it perished the thought of ever being enslaved by them again, the Jews experienced a greater “strength” in Cheirus than before; and continuing from strength to strength — to a greater and deeper Cheirus at Mount Sinai, when they were told by Hashem, “You shall be unto Me a treasure (and even more ) a Kingdom of Kohanim (G‑d’s servants) and a Holy Nation,” and going to still greater strength when they received the Torah.


From what has been said above, it will be more clearly understood how the concept of going from strength to strength applies in the realm of Avodas (serving) HaShem, where the first “strength” is — “Turn away from evil,” namely the inner liberation from the ways of Mitzrayim, evil in actuality; so that when faced with a test, one has the strength to control oneself and not do anything evil, not only in deed and speech, but neither also in thought. There is, however, a greater “strength” in turning away from evil, when any idea of evil is altogether negated and does not come into consideration at all, because the person has already attained the level of — “You shall love Hashem your G‑d with all your heart” — “With both your inclinations, so that the evil inclination is not only subdued and controlled, but it has been sublimated, so that, together with the good inclination, it, too, participates in his Ahavas HaShem. And between the said two planes in the realm of “Turn away from evil” there are many gradations to advance from strength to strength in Ahavas HaShem and Avodas HaShem and reaching still higher and higher.

Similarly, there is the process of advancing from strength to strength in the realm of “... and do good.” HaShem, the Source of all blessings promises: “Walk in My statutes... and I will give you” all blessings. When a Jew walks in G‑d’s ways from strength to strength, for “the sake of the reward,” HaShem will give him all material and spiritual blessings in a generous measure; a greater strength — the blessings are not an end for their own sake, but only in order to make it easier for him his advancement in the fulfillment of the Torah and Mitzvoth. In other words — his desire for the reward of “children, health and sustenance,” and in a generous measure — is in order to transform all this into spiritual and to advance from strength to strength to the point of “Beholding the pleasantness of HaShem” and striving still higher for the “strength” of the Alter Rebbe (author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch) who, quoting and interpreting the verse מי לי בשמים ועמך לא חפצץי בארץ (“Whom have I in Heaven beside You, and what is there on earth that I desire beside You!”)— ecstatically declares that his wish and delight are not blessings of Heaven nor the blessings of the earth, nor anything and everything that is only עמך — “beside” HaShem — for he desires only HaShem Himself!

Such aspiration is on the level of that Avodah quoted by the Rambam in the concluding sentence of his great Opus Mishneh Torah, to the effect that in the days of Mashiach all ma’adanim pleasures) will be considered “like dust,” since the desire and preoccupation of the (inhabitants of the) world will be “only to know HaShem.”

And, of course, in the knowledge of HaShem there are infinite gradations, beginning with יסוד היסודות ועמוד החכמות, etc. — “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdoms is to know that there is a First Existence,” etc. — which is the opening sentence of his Opus, all the way to the level of the fullest measure of “knowledge of Hashem like the waters covering the sea” — which is the concluding sentence of his Opus.

All the more so (the “going”) since the capacity and perception are not the same in all individuals, nor the same even in the same individual at all times, but ever desiring and striving to rise higher and higher, as mentioned above.

Likewise also in the realm of Avodas HaTefillah (prayer), where there are very many gradations of Kavanah (Concentration) and Dveikus (devotion) in the various categories of service, whether it is in the category of a servant appealing to a master or that of a son looking up to his father, the devotion of a son who is an “infant” or one who is wise and knowledgeable. And in the same person, too, one’s capacity, as mentioned, is not the same from prayer to prayer and from day to day, and even in the same prayer there is the ascent on the “ladder” of prayer — the “Ladder standing on the earth and reaching into Heaven” — from Modeh ani to the Shema (the point of Mesirus Nefesh — self-sacrifice), and so forth.


May HaShem grant that every one of us, man and woman, “with our young and our old, with our sons and with our daughters,” in the midst of all our people Israel, should — to reiterate the prayerful wish in the previous letter — utilize in the fullest measure the strength that HaShem gives everyone “from His full, open, holy and ample Hand,” to attain the fullest measure of Cheirus, freedom from any and all anxieties and distractions, together with the fullest measure Oneg, especially having the double strength derived from Shabbos, Shabbos b’Shabbato, coupled with Zman Cheiruseinu, reliving the experience of the “Revelation of the King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He, in all his glory and might, Who delivered them,”

And immediately thereafter, as in those days, begin to count the day of the Sefirah with a yearning for that blessed day “To serve HaShem on this mountain,” namely, to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai; with the devotion as when the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai; it should be so, as a “new” experience indeed, and in the fullest measure, at the end of Sefirah, at the Festival Shavuoth, to steadily advance from strength to strength (from the gracious spontaneous Divine Revelation on the Festival of our Freedom, coupled with Sefirah) through one’s own efforts ever higher and higher), into the ultimate strength of the perfect world order to come after the Geulah through Mashiach Tzidkeinu.

And immediately thereafter, reaching the ultimate state of perfection, in accordance with the promise of HaShem, with which the Rambam concludes his Mishneh Torah: “For then I will transform the nations (of the world) to “clear language” to call upon Hashem, and to serve Him with one consent, and the “Knowledge of HaShem as (the fullness of) the waters covering the sea.”

With esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho in all above and for
a Kosher and joyous Pesach,

/Signed: Menachem Schneerson/