1. The essential aspect of every farbrengen is, as implied by its Hebrew name meaning ‘gathering,’ that Jews come together. This term itself emphasizes that differences exist: Before the gathering, the participating individuals were not together and, after the gathering, each will return to his own personal life. Nevertheless, despite these differences, during the farbrengen, all are united as one.

This relates to a fundamental concept: G‑d created each man different from his colleagues: The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) emphasizes how even though all men were created in the likeness of Adam, the first man, there are no two men whose features are exactly alike. Similarly, the Talmud (Gittin 23a) relates how all men differ, ‘in their voice, their appearance, and their thoughts.’ Indeed, halachic decisions are made on the basis of these differences. Similarly, the Zohar speaks of ten different categories of Jews as implied by the verses in Devarim 29:9-10: ‘Today, you all stand before the Lord, your G‑d, your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders....’

Nevertheless, II Shmuel 7:23 also describes the Jews as ‘one nation in the world.’ In many aspects, the entire Jewish people is considered as a single entity. In this context, the Talmud Yerushalmi describes the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew with an analogy of two hands of the same body.

Each of the limbs of the body is a separate entity. Indeed, there are certain aspects of Torah law which emphasize the distinct importance of each limb. Nevertheless, all the 248 limbs and 365 sinews are considered as a single organism. Thus, when one limb comes in contact with ritual impurity, it is the entire body and not only the single limb whose ritual status is affected.

Similarly, the entire Jewish people are considered as a single unit, an essential point in which a person cannot find a beginning or an end. This quality is expressed in a farbrengen when many Jews gather together in a synagogue with one purpose and goal. This fuses them into a single entity.

Because of the unity established at a farbrengen, it possesses a great quality. Indeed, the Alter Rebbe related that ‘the power of a Chassidic farbrengen is greater than the power of the angel, Michael.’ Michael is one of the primary angels and yet, the power of a Chassidic farbrengen surpasses his power.

Though Michael is one of the angels of G‑d’s chariot, he is distinct and different from the other three angels of the chariot. In contrast, a Chassidic farbrengen emphasizes the quality of unity. This is particularly true when the farbrengen is held during a time characterized by unity.

Time was also created by G‑d during the six days of creation. Each moment of time is a unique event, separate from the moment before and afterwards. Indeed, philosophically, time is identified with change. Nevertheless, Torah controls every aspect of the world. Thus, it has the power to fuse different elements of time into a single entity; for example, the festivals. They are referred to as ‘seasons,’ a name which relates to time and change. However, all the days of a festival share a common quality to the extent that the Rogachover Gaon questions whether the days of a festival are considered distinct days with common laws or are they considered as a single point. Thus, the oneness of this particular time adds to the oneness of the Jewish people.

This is particularly true in regard to a farbrengen held in the four days preceding the holiday of Sukkos for these days are permeated by a unique aspect of oneness. The explanation of this quality of oneness is found in Torah for Torah is the source of oneness throughout the world.

More particularly, in Torah itself, the source of oneness is Halachah. The other aspects of Torah leave room for division based on the different intellectual thrusts of each Sage. In contrast, Halachah does not leave room for such differentiation. All Jews must follow a single unified practice.

The Rebbe Maharash whose yahrzeit is commemorated tonight explains this concept in relation to the two different names for G‑d, Elokim and Havayah. The former is a plural form, relating to the aspects of G‑dliness that manifest themselves in a world of multiplicity. This relates to the realm of Torah study that leaves room for differences of opinion as our Sages frequently commented: ‘These and these are [both] the words of the living G‑d (Elokim).’

In contrast, the name Havayah is associated with unity. It is referred to as ‘the unique name,’ ‘the essential name,’ and it relates to a level of G‑dliness that transcends the concept of division. It also relates to the realm of Halachah as the Talmud (Sanhedrin 93b) comments on I Shmuel 16:18 ‘The L‑rd (Havayah) was with him,’ — ‘the Halachah follows his opinion.’

Thus, to discover the unique aspect of oneness which unites these four days it is proper to look into the Shulchan Aruch. Furthermore, since today is associated with the Rebbe Maharash, it is appropriate to look into the Shulchan Aruch composed by his predecessor, the Alter Rebbe.

The Alter Rebbe mentions two points in regard to the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos: a) They are days of rejoicing commemorating Solomon’s dedication of the Temple; b) ‘It is a mitzvah to... build the Sukkah in its entirety immediately following Yom Kippur after leaving the synagogue [as our Sages advised:] ‘Should a mitzvah come to your hand, do not postpone it.’ Since ‘the entire Sukkah’ should be built ‘immediately after leaving the synagogue’ after Yom Kippur, it follows that these four days share a common quality, the presence of a Sukkah in preparation for the fulfillment of the mitzvah in the seven days that follow.

To summarize, there are two aspects that characterize these four days: happiness and Sukkah. Not only do these two aspects unite these four days into a single unit, both of these aspects themselves are connected with oneness and unity.

With regard to happiness, the Rambam writes that true happiness is expressed when a person invites others to share his rejoicing. ‘When a person eats and drinks, he must also feed the convert, the orphan, and the widow, otherwise... this is not the happiness associated with a mitzvah.’ Thus, we see that happiness is associated with oneness.

This concept can be explained as follows: Men are different, each with their own pattern of thought. However, ‘happiness breaks down barriers’ and allows a person to overcome the differences in perspective separating him from a colleague.

Similarly, the goal of the Sukkah is unity, to encompass every aspect of a person under the same transcendent light. In practical terms, a person’s entire body should be under the Sukkah. Even though according to Halachah, it is sufficient for one’s head and the majority of one’s body to be within the Sukkah, the intent is that the remaining parts of the body should also ‘follow the majority’ and go under the Sukkah as well.

A Sukkah should be a dwelling which protects one from the cold and heat. If even part of a person’s body is found outside the Sukkah, that goal cannot be accomplished. Furthermore, since halachically, it is sufficient for one’s head and the majority of one’s body to be within the Sukkah, all the blessings associated with the Sukkah are drawn down even on the portions of the body which are not themselves contained within the Sukkah.

[There is a parallel to this concept within Halachah. If a court makes a decision, all the judges, even those who were in the dissenting minority, are responsible for that decision.]

Thus, the Sukkah expresses the aspect of unity, uniting every aspect of a person’s activity: his eating, drinking, and sleeping, under one all-encompassing light. Similarly, this transcendent light has the ability to unite all Jews as can be inferred from the Talmud (Sukkah 27b): ‘All of Israel is fit to dwell in one Sukkah.’ Thus, Sukkah also expresses the quality of unity.

Accordingly, the oneness which characterizes these four days influences and adds to the oneness of the farbrengen. Indeed, the two aspects of oneness mentioned above are reflected within this farbrengen: a) a farbrengen is also characterized by happiness; b) we are all united under the same roof. Furthermore, it is the roof of a synagogue and house of study which shares the aspect of mitzvah emphasized by the Sukkah’s roof.

The concepts mentioned above must be expressed in deed as Pirkei Avos states: ‘not study, but deed, is most essential.’ Indeed, that very aspect, the importance of deed, is associated with this time period. The concept can be explained as follows.

The Mechilta quotes G‑d as saying: ‘Accept My sovereignty and then, accept My decrees.’ Yom Kippur is associated with the acceptance of G‑d as King for the second tablets were given on that day. Receiving the Torah is a complete expression of the acceptance of G‑d’s sovereignty. The days which follow relate to ‘the acceptance of His decrees,’ the commitment to practice Torah and mitzvos.

Similarly, the entire ten day period from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur is associated with the acceptance of G‑d as King. The subsequent days begin the service of the fulfillment of mitzvos, the observance of His decrees.

[The two are related. Rav Saadia Gaon explains that one of the reasons for sounding the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is to recall the shofar of Mount Sinai. Indeed, we express this concept in our Mussaf prayers: ‘You revealed Yourself in Your cloud of glory... upon Mount Sinai to teach Your people Torah and mitzvos... With the sound of the shofar, You appeared to them.’

Similarly, the sounding of the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur is a sign of ‘the retraction of the Divine Presence above, as by Matan Torah, as alluded to by the verse (Shmos 19:13): ‘When the shofar sounds a long blast, they may go up to the mountain.’]

Furthermore, the very nature of these four days is associated with oneness. On the verse which describes the mitzvah of Lulav and Esrog, ‘You shall take on the first day,...’ the Midrash comments: ‘the first day for the reckoning of sins.’

On Yom Kippur, G‑d forgives all the sins of the Jewish people. In the days that follow, all the Jews are involved in the preparation for mitzvos; this one with his Sukkah, this one with his Lulav, to the extent that there is no possibility for sin. Thus, on these days, all Jews share a common service, they are all ‘involved with mitzvos.’

After discussion of all the above, a stress must be made on the directives for ‘deed is most essential.’ From every farbrengen, particularly a farbrengen held in the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, we must appreciate how we should increase our service of Ahavas Yisrael — love for our fellow Jew, and Achdus Yisrael — the unity of the Jewish people.

In particular, an effort should be made to provide the needy with the necessary food to celebrate the holiday as they should, to be able ‘to rejoice, he, his children, his wife, household, and all that are dependent on him.’ Furthermore, even the needy should be given the potential to invite guests as required on Sukkos. Only when one shares one’s happiness with others can one really experience the ‘happiness of mitzvah.’

This stress on the oneness of our people will help usher in an age of oneness when the entire Jewish people will be united in the Messianic redemption. Not one Jew will remain in exile and we will proceed to Eretz Yisrael, a land of oneness, together in complete unity. May it be speedily in our days.

2. The above raises a question: Since G‑d made all men different from each other with differences in their thought processes and physical features, how is it possible to demand that oneness and unity be established among them?

We see the fusion of two opposites in regard to the holy ark. The ark was two and half cubits long and there were ten cubits from either side to the wall of the Holy of Holies. Nevertheless, the entire span was only twenty cubits in length. This applied to the holy ark in the Holy of Holies. However, we are speaking about a Jew living in the diaspora, far from the holiness of Yerushalayim or the Temple, during a normal weekday: How can he be asked to unite and come together with all his fellow Jews?

Furthermore, this unity should not only be present during the time of a farbrengen when many Jews gather together in a holy place, but beyond that setting as well. When one Jew meets another Jew, he should love him ‘as himself.’ Furthermore, he should not regard himself and his colleague as two separate individuals. Rather, he should see them both as two limbs of the same body. Indeed, the Torah commands that, even in the public thoroughfare, when a person sees his enemy’s donkey, he must help him as an expression of Ahavas Yisrael. How can this service be demanded from a Jew?

The reply to this question is based on the statement of the Rebbe Maharash whose yahrzeit this farbrengen commemorates: ‘One’s first impulse should be to go over.’

One might say that the path to true Ahavas Yisrael should begin with the thorough study of the matter, involving himself in the subject. He should be so involved that even when he wakes from his sleep, he will still remember the matter without having to think in depth about the subject.

However, not everyone is capable of such service. Indeed, some of the Torah commentaries have specifically stated that it is impossible for a person to love a colleague in the same manner as he loves himself. Furthermore, such a service requires time and much personal effort. It is necessary to acquire the quality of bittul, selflessness. As long as a person retains his feelings of pride, seeks wealth or honor, he will not be able to love his colleague as he loves himself.

Acquiring this quality requires much study and meditation on the lowliness of man, realizing how, on one hand, a person’s material nature is his enemy and, on the other hand, that the goal is not to break the body, but to refine it and elevate it.

This process is a lengthy and involved one and the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael is a constant obligation applicable in all times and in all places. Hence, the only way to fulfill it properly is through the approach of — ‘One’s first impulse should be to go over’ as will be explained.

There are two ways of responding when there is a halachic debate and a decision has to be made between two opposite opinions. One approach is for each opinion to be expressed in depth and discussed until a decision can be made by the majority of the judges. Such a debate is a lengthy and time staking process.

There is another possibility which is alluded to in the expression: ‘The Sages (modim) acknowledge R. Meir’s [opinion].’ This implies that they have not fully accepted Rebbi Meir’s opinion for if they had, it would no longer be only Rebbi Meir’s opinion, but their opinion as well. Nevertheless, despite the fact that they have not fully comprehended his ideas, they feel he is correct and are willing to acknowledge his statements.

A parallel exists in our own service. We begin each day by stating: ‘I (modeh) acknowledge You,’ accepting G‑d. This statement must be made as soon as we wake up, without prolonged meditation, before we have trained our thought processes to appreciate G‑dliness. Rather, it is an acknowledgement made before full comprehension of the matter is grasped.

The ability to make such an acknowledgement reflects the approach of ‘One’s first impulse should be to go over.’ ‘Going over’ means ‘going beyond oneself,’ going out of one’s boundaries and limitations, the service implied by the command: ‘Go out from your land, your birth place, and your father’s house.’ Chassidic thought explains that this refers to leaving one’s natural traits and those acquired from one’s parents and surroundings. Once a person is willing to go beyond himself, there is no difficulty in establishing a commonality between himself and a colleague.

We must rise above childish tendencies to be victorious and behave as mature people who are willing to acknowledge the truth. However, because of one’s basic personal tendencies, his mind works differently from his colleague’s. Nevertheless, when he ‘goes over,’ goes beyond himself, he is able to acknowledge the opinions of his colleague.

This approach does not only apply in the realm of study, to the acceptance of other ideas and opinions, but also to all aspects of relating to a colleague. ‘One’s first impulse should be to go over’ means going beyond oneself, not thinking of oneself at all and thinking just of one’s colleague. When a person meets a colleague in the street, he should respond with a natural reaction of offering help without meditating on the importance of Ahavas Yisrael, without waiting as the Shulchan Aruch states: ‘Should a mitzvah come to your hand, do not postpone it.’

Indeed, regarding tzedakah the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 247) rules: ‘one should be very careful...if he will not give the person immediately as can be appreciated from the story of Nachum of Gamzu.’ (Taanis 21a) This is a unique statement. Though many halachos are based on stories from the Talmud, in very few instances is explicit reference made to the stories. By making this reference, the Shulchan Aruch intends to teach how important it is to respond immediately to a colleague’s need. A person may rationalize: ‘I’m willing to help, but not now.’ By citing this story, the Shulchan Aruch makes clear that regardless of his own state, a person must be willing to help a colleague immediately.

This implies not only to helping a colleague in material affairs, but also to offering spiritual assistance. When one Jew meets another in the street, he must realize that this meeting was brought about by Divine Providence. Therefore, he must be willing to offer whatever assistance he can, whether material or spiritual, based on the realization that had this meeting not been important, G‑d would not have brought it about.

Since the advise of ‘One’s first impulse should be to go over’ was given by the Rebbe Maharash as instruction for others and was publicized and printed with that intent by the Previous Rebbe, it is applicable to everyone. A Nasi, the leader of the Jewish people, is ‘the heart of the entire nation.’ Hence, the instructions he gives apply to everyone.

To summarize the above, ‘One’s first impulse should be to go over’ means without thinking about the great importance of Ahavas Yisrael, a person should be ready to help a colleague in whatever he needs regardless of his own personal state.

To practically apply the above, the Mitteler Rebbe writes: ‘One must freely distribute charity to the poor on Erev Sukkos.’ Since the preparation for Sukkos begins immediately after Yom Kippur, it follows that all of these days should be filled with tzedakah.

In practice, this refers to the efforts to provide the needy with their holiday necessities as described above. By giving these people the opportunity for festive joy, we increase our potential to appreciate the joys of the holiday. Furthermore, the Torah refers to Sukkos as ‘the season of our joy,’ using the plural to imply the joy of not only the Jewish people, but of G‑d, Himself.

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3. It is customary to connect a farbrengen with ‘the three pillars on which the entire world rests: Torah, service (prayer), and deeds of kindness.’ Thus, this farbrengen follows the recitation of the Maariv prayers. There is an unique quality to these prayers: In Talmudic times, the Maariv service was reshus optional. Chassidic thought explains that this refers to a level which cannot be commanded.

This represents an added dimension possessed by the Maariv service which is not present in Shacharis or Minchah.

Even though at present the Jews have accepted the Maariv service as an obligation, surely this was not meant to detract from its essential quality, but rather to add a further dimension. On this basis, we can appreciate the importance of the Maariv prayers recited before the farbrengen.

Similarly, by reciting the Maamar based on a Maamar from the Previous Rebbe and, similarly by quoting other statements of the Rebbeim and our Sages, we have contributed the dimension of Torah.

Thus, it is proper to conclude with the service of tzedakah. Even though charity should be given in the morning, preparation for giving those gifts may be made at night. Therefore, a collection will be made and those who desire can also write down their names and that of their mothers. Thus, a threefold bond will be established.

This relates to the day of the week on which the farbrengen is held, Tuesday, the third day. Based on the Alter Rebbe’s instructions to ‘‘live with the times’ — adapt our lives to the lessons of the Torah portion associated with that day,’ we can also derive a lesson from the Torah portion associated with today, the third Aliyah in VeZos HaBerachah which relates the blessings given to Yosef.

These include great and powerful blessings as Rashi comments: ‘No other tribe received a portion of land with blessings as great as Yosef’s.’ These blessings are uniquely related to us for Yosef is the name of the Previous Rebbe, the Nasi of the generation, who includes the entire generation within himself. Thus, these blessings are relevant to each and every individual.

This should lead to greater involvement in the mission which we were charged by Yosef, the Previous Rebbe, the ten mivtzoim (mitzvah campaigns) and, in turn, bring down great blessings in the entire year to come, including the ultimate blessing, the coming of the Messianic redemption speedily in our days.