1. Every event and phase in a person’s life can give rise to questions of how to approach and deal with it. G‑d, Who watches over everyone and takes care of their needs, has provided for this problem by giving each and every Jew, in every era and place, a guide to teach how to act in every situation. This guide is Torah, for, as explained in Zohar, the word “Torah” is from the root “horo’ah,” which means “directive”: One of the purposes of Torah is to direct Jews in the proper path. Moreover, Torah is called also “oraysa,” which, the previous Rebbe explains, is a composite of the words, “or aysa” — and “or” means “light,” for everything in Torah is clear and illuminating. Thus, in our case, one need not search for the Torah’s directives, for they are clear and illuminating, revealed to all.

If the above holds true of all events in a Jew’s life, it most certainly holds true of an event of the utmost importance, an event which has an effect for days, weeks and months afterwards.

This gathering today, which is held in conjunction with the end of the school year, is such an event. It is the G‑d-given nature of intellectual people, especially those who belong to “the wise and understanding people,” to intermittently make a reckoning and sum-total of all events that occurred in the past period. When, therefore, the school year ends, an intelligent person surely makes a reckoning and sum-total of the year, for the purpose of seeing if it was spent properly. If it was spent properly, one should then try to do even better; if for some reason the past year was deficient, one should try to make up the omissions and rectify the deficiencies — making it a “whole” year.

The above is consonant to the Torah’s directive, “Nothing stands in the way of repentance.” If the past was deficient or at least not perfect, G‑d in His benevolence has given man the opportunity to rectify the past perfectly. Further, G‑d Himself helps a person to not just make up any omissions, but to make the past year whole and perfect.

Because the end of the school year is such an important occasion, Torah certainly has something to say about how it should be approached. That directive may be derived from the way the Torah itself is learned and completed. For since “Torah is our life,” it not only directs a person how to act, but we can derive lessons from the way Torah itself is approached and treated. Thus, the way Torah is learned and completed provides a directive for the completion of the school year.

Rambam rules that “we complete the Torah within one year,” meaning that beginning from parshas Bereishis, we read a parshah every week until we complete the reading of the Torah (on Simchas Torah) with parshas V’Zos HaBerachah; then we start again from the beginning. When we finish reading the Torah, it is the Jewish custom to make a festive banquet and Yom Tov.

Obviously, when we finish reading parshas V’Zos HaBerachah, it is not just the end of one parshah, but the conclusion and “sum-total” of the entire Torah. For knowing that with the reading of this parshah we conclude the entire Torah, we are reminded and inspired to make a “sum total” of the reading and learning of the whole Torah throughout the past year. As such, when we begin the Torah again, we are not just repeating what we read last year, but we are doing so with extra life, enthusiasm, comprehension, understanding, and depth.

How do we conclude and begin the Torah? After concluding, we do not wait until tomorrow to begin reading again, or even wait for a few hours, but immediately after finishing parshas V’Zos HaBerachah we start to read the Torah from the beginning. And this teaches us a lesson concerning the end of the school year.

The finish of the school year is the conclusion of but one step in educational process, with the purpose of continuing and rising yet higher. The way we conclude the reading of the Torah — finishing and then beginning again immediately — teaches that there should be no interruption between one step and the rest; the new step should not be postponed for the next day, but should be begun immediately after ending the previous one.

In a school or seminar, it is true, the new school year begins a number of weeks or months after the end of the previous one, and in between the two school years there is vacation, a time for rest in which to gain renewed strength for the new school year. However, this concerns only the formal schedule of the school; in the actual study of and education in Torah and mitzvos there is no interruption, G‑d forbid. Thus, immediately upon the completion of the school year, one must begin immediately to rise higher in all matters of Torah and Judaism.

The reason for this is simple: Life means growth, and therefore every day that man lives he must grow — first and foremost spiritually: there must be growth of his intellect, his G‑dly soul, by being connected to Torah and its directives.

Time is the most precious thing given to man. Once time is lost, it can never be retrieved. One can therefore not postpone his spiritual growth to another day. Each day is a precious treasure, and must be utilized properly by filling it with Torah and Judaism.

This is particularly so in the case of youth. Bodily growth occurs principally during one’s youth — and the same applies to spiritual growth. Although one must continually rise higher in sanctity during one’s adult years also, it is not in the same measure as one is capable of during his youth, when one can achieve wonders every day.

It is therefore obvious that there can be no interruption in matters of Torah and Judaism, and especially not during one’s younger years when every day must be utilized to rise higher in Torah and Judaism — even in the period called “vacation.” Indeed, during this period there is the opportunity to rise yet higher in matters of Torah and Judaism, for since one is free from the school’s secular studies one has the time to increase in sacred studies — both actual learning, and in a deeper sense, to teach oneself to live according to what one learns. In general, to increase in the fulfillment of G‑d’s mission to make this world a dwelling place for Him, by disseminating holiness and G‑dliness within one’s personal domain, the house, the surroundings, and in the whole world.

The above is particularly true when one learns in a school which emphasizes the need and importance of education: i.e., a school which not only educates the student, but also develops the student’s abilities to teach others — to the extent that the student herself becomes a teacher. In the well-known terminology, one becomes “a lamp to illuminate,” meaning, one who not only is herself educated in Torah and Judaism, but also illuminates her surrounding with the “Torah of light.”

2. As noted above, every week we read and learn a parshah of the Torah. The Alter Rebbe taught that a Jew must “live” according to the directives derived from the weekly parshah. For it is not by chance that a particular parshah is read on a particular week, but there is a connection between them. And, since Torah is the “Torah of light,” we can discover these lessons without any difficulty (as noted above).

The parshah read this week is parshas Korach, which talks of the rebellion by Korach and his party against Moshe Rabbeinu and the Torah of Moshe. Scripture gives the details of this confrontation, and the Oral Torah — Talmud and Midrash — elaborate on those details only alluded to in Scripture.

One of the concepts concerning the rebellion elaborated on by the Oral Torah emphasizes the qualities of Jewish women and girls. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 110a) states: “Thus it is written, ‘Every wise woman builds her house’ — this refers to the wife of On ben Peles; ‘but the foolish destroys it with her hands’ — this refers to the wife of Korach.”

The Talmud is telling us that Korach’s rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu was instigated by his wife. Because she was a foolish woman, she incited him against Moshe Rabbeinu. On ben Peles was at first one of the prime backers of Korach’s rebellion, to the extent that he took oath that he would be with them in their rebellion. But his wife, a wise woman, influenced her husband to withdraw from the rebellion, and advised him how to abstain from the rebellion without breaking his oath. Because she thereby saved him from the fate that Korach and his party met, the verse “Every wise woman builds her house” is applied to her, for through her wisdom she saved her husband and household.

Although this story happened thousands of years ago, the Torah is eternal, and therefore the lesson derived from this story is also eternal — and is emphasized in the week in which we read parshas Korach, particularly when connected to a gathering of Jewish women. This story teaches the great power invested in Jewish women and girls: Upon her the conduct of the entire home depends, and she has the power to build the home — “Every wise woman builds her house.” When she behaves in her daily life according to the Torah’s wisdom, she builds her house — children and grandchildren until the end of all generations, to the extent that her behavior is an example for generations, in all eras and places.

May the Al-mighty grant all of you the merit to have wonderful parents, wonderful husbands, and wonderful brothers and sisters, so that you certainly will not need any lesson or admonition concerning a rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu and his Torah, G‑d forbid. However, as noted above, one must grow and increase in all good and holy matters, both in regard to oneself and in regard to influencing one’s surroundings. And sometimes another person’s help is needed to achieve this. This week’s parshah teaches us in this regard that Jewish women have a tremendous ability to influence others, to the extent that “Every wise woman builds her house.” They must therefore use this ability to influence others — not just those within her home and family but also those in the entire surrounding — to increase in all aspects of holiness and Judaism.

The above story teaches another lesson. Korach’s wife incited her husband against Moshe Rabbeinu because of conceit. She knew her husband’s qualities, family ancestry and others; indeed, Korach did have many qualities, and therefore was given special holy tasks, as written (Bamidbar 16:10), “He has brought you near” — “to do the service of the Mishkan of the L‑rd and to stand before the congregation to minister to them.” But Korach’s wife forgot the most important thing: these qualities were not of Korach’s making, but were given from G‑d, as written (Devorim 8:17-18): “You may say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ But you must remember the L‑rd your G‑d, for it is He that gives you power to gain wealth.” Because Korach’s wife forgot this most important of principles, pride in her husband got the better of her, and she thus influenced him to demand greatness and honor for himself and to rebel against Moshe Rabbeinu.

This haughtiness was the “bribe” that blinded their eyes, that allowed them to rebel against Moshe Rabbeinu, of whom it is said, “Moshe is true and his Torah is true.” Bribery, Scripture says (Shemos 23:8), “blinds those who are clever,” and thus Korach, although “a clever person” (Rashi, Bamidbar 16:7), was blinded to the enormity of his offense of rebelling against Moshe.

On ben Peles’s wife also recognized her husband’s qualities, for if Korach knew On’s qualities, as we see from the fact that he chose him to be one of his main co-conspirators, his wife certainly knew her husband’s qualities. But in contrast to Korach’s wife, On’s wife knew that these qualities were given from G‑d, and that therefore they should be used according to G‑d’s will — according to the Torah’s directives. When, therefore, Torah says that a person must occupy a certain office (and not a higher one), it is for the benefit and good of the person, both materially and spiritually; he should not seek higher office, for no good can come of it.

The difference in approaches of Korach’s wife and On ben Peles’s wife teaches lessons for every Jew, and particularly in connection with the conclusion of the school year. When one sees the great successes achieved throughout the past school year — as indeed we have heard from the principal and teachers — one must be specially careful not to become in the least conceited. One must always remember that it is not one’s own prowess that has achieved these successes, but rather it is G‑d, Who has given each of you qualities and abilities, and help to utilize them fully.

True, everyone has free will and therefore you will certainly receive reward for choosing the path of Torah and for your efforts in Torah. Simultaneously, however, you must remember that man’s choice is also made with the powers granted by G‑d, and therefore there can be absolutely no feeling of conceit.

To avoid any such feelings needs extra precautions, for in truth, each of you does possess lofty qualities. Every Jewish girl is a “daughter of Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah,” and inherits the most lofty of abilities from them. Such a lineage (“yichus”), especially when one has utilized the school year to its fullest advantage, is seemingly a reasonable cause for conceit. One therefore must be exceedingly careful not to feel in the least conceited, for conceit is the greatest “bribery” possible. And, as we see from this week’s parshah, one cannot tell where conceit can lead one.

A reckoning and sum-total of the past year’s accomplishments, then, must not lead to conceit. The reverse is true: The successes of the year should inspire one to go further in those matters, particularly in the field of education. And then, “Every wise woman builds her house” — both personally and also in regard to influencing one’s surroundings — which in turn is the basis for building an everlasting edifice of family life when the time for marriage comes.

3. The custom has lately been established to learn a portion of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah every day. Rambam, through his works, beginning with Mishneh Torah, was the “Guide for the Perplexed” of his generation and of all generations. He called his work “Mishneh Torah — Repetition of the Torah,” for, as he writes in the Introduction, a person first reads the Written Torah and then reads his work. That his work is the “repetition” of the Written Torah is emphasized by his name — Moshe, the same name as Moshe Rabbeinu, who gave us the Written Torah. Indeed, it is said of Rambam that “From Moshe until Moshe none arose like Moshe.”

Just as the Torah was given by Moshe Rabbeinu to all Jews as a heritage, so Rambam’s works, which became part of “Moshe’s Torah,” is given to every Jew — for Mishneh Torah is a compilation of halachos, in which all Jews are equal. In the words of Rambam himself concerning the purpose of Mishneh Torah: “So that all the laws be accessible to small and great.”

Hence, just as we learn a portion of Chumash (Moshe’s Torah) every day, so it has become the custom to learn a portion of Rambam’s work, Mishneh Torah, every day. And just as we complete the Torah within a year (as above), so Mishneh Torah has been apportioned to be completed within a year.

By Divine Providence, today’s portion of Mishneh Torah is associated with the lesson derived above from this week’s parshah, and both are connected to the gathering held today in conjunction with the finish of the school year.

Today’s portion of Mishneh Torah comprises the last two chapters (7 & 8) of the laws of Yom Toy and the first chapter of the laws of Chometz and Matzah. There is a general connection between this and today’s gathering, which is being held in conjunction with the finish of the school year. We explained previously that after finishing the school year, one should immediately begin the new year in a higher fashion. In today’s portion of Mishneh Torah we see the same thing: After finishing the laws of Yom Toy we immediately begin, on the same day, the laws of chometz and matzah.

Thus far the general connection between this gathering and today’s portion of Mishneh Torah. More particularly, there is a connection between today’s portion of Mishneh Torah and the lesson derived from this week’s parshah concerning conceit and controversy, which concerns also the finish of the school year when one must be especially careful about becoming conceited (as elaborated on above).

At the end of the laws of Yom Toy, Rambam writes concerning different customs in Jewish communities (8:18): “In a place in which it is customary to do [work in the first half of the day of erev Pesach], one may do [work]; in a place in which it is customary not to do [work], one should not do [work].” Rambam then rules how a Jew should act if he travels to a place where they have customs different from his place. He writes (8:20): “A person should never deviate (from the custom of the place in which he finds himself), because of controversy.” That is, since his observance of a custom different from that of the place he is now in is liable to arouse controversy, he must follow their custom. Even when in certain circumstances the halachah says that he should follow the customs of his original residence (e.g., if he intends to return to his original residence), the law is that “he should not be seen [to be following a different custom] by the people of that place, because of controversy” (8:20). Thus, even when permitted to follow the custom of his original residence, he should do so privately.

These laws show how far one should go to avoid controversy. Even when Torah instructs one to follow a certain custom, he must be careful to do it privately — although one normally should take pride in all matters and customs of Torah.

In parshas Korach, too, we read of the awful consequences of controversy — which is the connection between today’s portion of Mishneh Torah and this week’s parshah.

The connection between the two is also seen in the idea of conceit, which, we noted previously, was the cause of Korach’s rebellion. A person who resides outside Eretz Yisroel, for example, celebrates two days Yom Toy, in contrast to a resident of Eretz Yisroel who observes only one day. If such a person travels to Eretz Yisroel for Shavuos and intends to afterwards return to his residence, he observes two days Yom Toy in Eretz Yisroel. This can lead to conceit, for at the time that a resident of Eretz Yisroel is making “havdalah” and is entering weekday, the Torah commands him, the visitor from outside Eretz Yisroel, to make “kiddush” for Yom Tov!

Thus, although normally one should make “kiddush” joyfully and openly, in this case he must be careful not to become conceited — which results in controversy — and therefore he must make “kiddush” privately, so that the residents of Eretz Yisroel not see him.

The beginning of the Laws of Chometz and Matzah emphasize the same theme: avoidance of conceit. It talks of the severity of possessing chometz on Pesach — “One who leaves chometz in his possession on Pesach, although he does not eat it, transgresses two prohibitive commandments because of it, as it is written, ‘No leaven (se’or) shall be seen in all your territories,’ and it is said, ‘No leaven (chometz) shall be found in your homes.’” In other words, so severe is the prohibition about chometz on Pesach, that not only is there a prohibition against seeing chometz in one’s possession, but there is also a prohibition against chometz being found in one’s possession. That is, even if the chometz is not seen, but is locked away, the very fact that chometz is found in one’s possession is a transgression.

Chometz on Pesach is more severe than other prohibitions of Torah, for since one is used to having chometz the rest of the year, extra precautions are necessary; Torah therefore laid two prohibitions on it.

In man’s service to G‑d, chometz indicates conceit and haughtiness [for it is ‘blown up,’ unlike matzah which is flat — humility]. What do the prohibitions against seeing or even having chometz in one’s possession teach us in this respect?

Torah instructs a Jew to stand firm and proud regarding all aspects of Judaism. As a member of the people of whom it is said, “You have chosen us from among all the nations” and “You have raised us above all tongues,” a Jew remains totally unaffected by the other nations of the world which behave differently from him; he conducts himself according to the directives of the Torah received from his forebears.

A Jew’s pride in his identity is present not just on Shabbos and Yom Tov when he is removed from worldly concerns, but even on weekdays, when he is engaged in mundane matters, in business, when he comes into contact with non-Jews. Then, too, he behaves according to Torah’s dictates, being scrupulously careful not to steal or impinge on another’s rights. He remains unaffected by the way the world acts; he remains true to his principles of justice and righteousness.

Since a Jew is accustomed daily to act proudly and with lofty feelings, special precautions must be taken to ensure that he will not fall into feelings of conceit, even if the smallest amount. This is what the two prohibitions against possessing chometz mean in terms of man’s spiritual service: So severe is the idea of conceit (“chometz”), that Torah prohibits it totally with two commands.

How can a person be firm in his Judaism if he is not conceited? Firmness and conceit are two very different things: Firmness comes not from the person, but from G‑d, Who gave him the mission to disseminate Torah and Judaism everywhere. Conceit comes from a person’s sense of self — and this is totally negated by the two prohibitions against it: not just that conceit shouldn’t be openly seen, but it shouldn’t be even found at all.

The negation of conceit and controversy, then, is the common theme between today’s portion of Mishneh Torah and this week’s parshah — which is also connected with this gathering of Jewish women and girls, whose conduct is in the manner of “Every wise woman builds her home.”