1. Our sages say, “Open with a blessing”; when two Jews meet, therefore, they greet each other with the blessings, “Peace unto you” and “Unto you peace”; and when many Jews meet, they should certainly “open with a blessing.”

Jews meet together for the purpose of uniting “as one man with one heart,” to undertake resolutions associated with the “one Torah” which was given from the “one G‑d.” Because Torah is “not in heaven,” but was given to flesh and blood people on this physical world to be learned and kept, in order to make the world a fit “dwelling place” for G‑d, the resolutions undertaken must be translated into actual deed.

A “dwelling place” means that a person resides in that place permanently, eating, drinking and sleeping there. His whole existence is so bound up with it that halachically, a person’s dwelling place is an extension of himself: A person can acquire possession of an object merely through it entering his domain, without any other action.

To make the world a fit “dwelling place” for G‑d means, therefore, that through a Jew’s service, living according to the Torah’s directives, G‑d is not only present in the world, but the world becomes His “dwelling place” — G‑d’s Essence resides in the world, permanently.

Since G‑d is together with us in the world, we can be sure that we receive all His blessings. And because G‑d is infinite, His blessings, too, transcend all limits. Simultaneously, we are given the capacity to absorb such plentiful blessings, as the Talmud (Sanhedrin 100a) notes: “In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will give every righteous man [“And your people are all righteous”] His full measure [of reward]” — and so that they can absorb so much good, “The Holy One, blessed be He, gives the righteous the capacity to accept their reward.”

The idea of “Open with a blessing,” then, is that when Jews gather together to strengthen and increase in all matters of Torah and mitzvos, G‑d’s blessings are elicited in greater measure. Indeed, the Alter Rebbe said that a “farbrengen” (when Jews gather together) can achieve more than can Michoel, the great chief angel [who defends the Jews].

In addition to the above concept of “Open with a blessing” present at every farbrengen, special distinction accrues from the place and time at which this farbrengen is being held. Place: it is being held in a synagogue and study hall, where Torah is learned, prayers are said, and tzedakah is given. In such a place, the blessings elicited are of the highest level. Time: This farbrengen is taking place in the month of Nissan, which has particular significance for the idea of a blessing. There are two months which exert influence over the rest of the year. Tishrei — the “Head of the year”; and Nissan — “This month shall be the head of months for you; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.” The difference between the two is that Tishrei is the “head” of the year concerning natural conduct; Nissan is the “head” regarding miraculous conduct, transcending nature.

In Tishrei the world was created, with its attendant laws of nature which are immutable — for the world and its nature mirrors G‑d’s powers expressed in the verse (Malachi 3:6), “I, the L‑rd, do not change.” Thus, on Rosh Hashanah in the month of Tishrei, Jews, through the appropriate service, elicit G‑d’s blessings for all good things in the world (i.e. life, sustenance), things within the parameters of nature.

In Nissan, in contrast, G‑d’s blessings transcend the parameters of nature. In the words of the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 15:11): “When He chose Ya’akov and his sons, He established [in the world] the month of redemption (i.e., Nissan)” — redemption from all the limits of nature. This is alluded to in the very name of the month, “Nissan.” There are two “nuns” in “Nissan, which allude to “nissi nisim” — “miracles within miracles” (Berachos 57a, and Rashi).

A “miracle” refers to something which transcends nature, for the word for miracle in Hebrew, I ‘nes,” is from a root meaning uplifted, as in “Arim nisi” (Yeshayah 49:22) — “I shall lift high My standard.” That is, a miracle is something higher than nature. However, the very fact that we can compare the two — to say that something is higher than the other — indicates that there is some type of relationship between them. “Miracles within miracles,” on the other hand, means that this event is miraculous compared even to the miraculous — i.e., incomparably different than nature.

This lends understanding to the lofty nature of opening with a blessing in the month of Nissan. A blessing, in Hebrew “berachah,” is from a root meaning to “draw down.” Thus, to “bless” someone with good means that one draws down the good from the root and source of the recipient of the blessing. Although it is the recipient’s source and root, a “blessing” is necessary to draw down the good below, to be revealed in this world. However, since this blessing is drawn from the person’s source and root, it is associated with the dimensions of nature.

Higher yet is a blessing drawn from a level loftier than the recipient’s root and soul — one associated with miracles. The priestly blessing is an example: G‑d grants priests the power to draw down blessings from G‑d Himself, blessings infinitely higher than the recipient’s source. Incidentally, the priestly blessing has a connection to the month of Nissan, for the purpose of the exodus in this month was the giving of the Torah, when every Jew was told, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests.”

We see, then, that the nature of the month of Nissan emphasizes most highly the idea of “Open with a blessing”: The blessings of this month transcend nature, infinitely higher than the recipient’s source and root — “miracles within miracles.”

In the month of Nissan itself, this farbrengen is being held on Friday — a day which also emphasizes the concept of blessings. Our sages say concerning Tuesday, the third day of the week, that “it was good” was said twice on that day. This applies also to Friday, the sixth day of the week, when “good” was also said twice: “G‑d saw that it was good” and “G‑d saw all that he did and behold, it was very good.” Indeed, the “good” of Friday is loftier than the “good” of Tuesday, for several reasons: 1) On Friday it says “it was very good”; 2) On Friday it says “behold, it was very good” — and “behold” means that it is something instantly recognizable, unneedful of pondering to realize it is good; 3) “Behold, it was very good” means that the “very good” is also instantly recognizable.

Further, the pronouncement of “good” on Friday applied not just to the creation of Friday, but to all the six days of creation — “G‑d saw all that He had done, and behold, it was very good.” Thus the “good” pronounced on Friday really embraces seven “goods” — “G‑d saw that it was good” (one time) and “G‑d saw all that He had done and behold, it was very good” — six times “very good” (one for each of the six days of creation).

Friday in the month of Nissan, then, is a most auspicious time for eliciting all good things, and thus there is a greater emphasis on the idea of “Open with a blessing.”

There are several Fridays in the month of Nissan. There is, however, a special distinction attached to this Friday. The preparations for Pesach begin principally on the tenth of Nissan, the day when the Jews in Egypt were told “Draw and take for yourselves” a sheep for the Pesach sacrifice. In spiritual terms, “Draw” means “Withdraw your hands from idolatry” — the service of “Keep away from evil,” and “Take for yourselves” means “Take for yourselves a sheep for a mitzvah” — the service of “Do good.” This service connected with the Pesach sacrifice was the preparation through which the Jews merited to leave Egypt.

In holy matters, “the night follows the day.” Thus tonight, Thursday night, is still part of Thursday, the tenth of Nissan. And because the exodus from Egypt is the idea of leaving all limitations, the blessings elicited tonight, when the preparations for Pesach began, are of the highest level — transcending all limits. Thus, once again the idea of “Open with a blessing” is emphasized at this farbrengen.

May it be G‑d’s will that all that was spoken above be translated into actual deed — the elicitation of all the blessings, including the greatest of all blessings — the redemption. This redemption will be “as in the days of your going out from Egypt”: Just as all Jews left the Egyptian exile, without even one Jew left behind, so all Jews will leave exile in the final redemption, which will also take place in Nissan, as our sages have said, “In Nissan our fathers were redeemed, and in Nissan they are destined to be redeemed.”

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2. We said above that there are several degrees in blessings: a blessing within the parameters of nature, a blessing transcending nature, and a blessing totally transcending all limits (“miracles within miracles”). Now, a blessing, we have said, is the drawing down of good below, in actual, concrete form. When one is blessed with wealth, for example, the intention is that one actually possess wealth. How, then, can we say that there is a degree of blessing that transcends all limits: A person in this world is a finite being, and he can absorb only a blessing that is finite. Even if a person is granted ample children, life and sustenance, they are still limited. A blessing for long life, for example, is for 120 years — which is a finite span of time.

However, we do find something that has an element of infinity: growth. When a person sows a seed, a fruit-producing tree results, which contains many seeds, each of which is capable of producing another fruit-producing tree. The seeds of those trees in turn produce trees, etc., ad infinitum. Indeed, this growth is not a miracle, but is part of nature’s process, created by G‑d.

The ability of plant life to reproduce and perpetuate its kind was created on the third day of creation, when G‑d implanted in nature the process of growth, the ability of plant life to perpetuate itself. That is why “it was good” was said twice on Tuesday, the third day of creation. The same ability was given to fish and birds on the fifth day of creation, to animals on the sixth day, and finally, its ultimate expression in mankind (also on the sixth day), which was commanded, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”

Just as the double “it was good” said on Friday exceeded the double “it was good” said on Tuesday (as elaborated on above), so the element of infinity in mankind surpasses that in plant life and animal life. For besides the fact that man himself has the ability to be fruitful and multiply, he has the additional capability of improving the growth process in nature: By using his G‑d-given intellect for good, man can make things grow in a much more bountiful manner than if left to nature. Scripture states, for example, that “Yitzchok sowed in that land, and in that year he found 100 times as much.” Although it was “a harsh land and a harsh year,” Yitzchok, through his efforts, elicited G‑d’s blessings to the extent that his sowing produced 100 times as much as could be expected — and according to the Midrash, 1000 times as much.

Why did this happen? Yitzchok’s whole intention in sowing was to fulfill G‑d’s will. In the words of Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer: Did Yitzchok then sow grain, G‑d forbid? But he took a tenth of all of his money and sowed tzedakah (charity) to the poor.” That is, Yitzchok fulfilled the commandment he had received from his father, Avraham: “He shall command his sons and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the L‑rd to do tzedakah.” And by so doing, he merited G‑d’s blessings in abundance.

The special nature of Friday, then, is that it is the day when man was created, who, through using his G‑d-given intellect properly, has the ability to elicit G‑d’s blessings in a manner infinitely more abundant than would occur naturally.

3. In continuation of the above, now is the appropriate time to discuss the wonderful powers granted to man in general and to Jews in particular. Because man has been granted such powers, it is his responsibility to use them not for his personal benefit but for the good of all creation, to ensure that the world be settled and productive. In the words of Scripture: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” “Earth,” materialism, should not rule man; the reverse is true: man subdues the earth, the powers of nature, making them fit for use in holy matters. And since man subdues the whole earth, he obviously has the ability to do everything necessary to establish the world on the correct basis — even if it means going against nature or transcending nature.

Man’s power to make changes in the world expresses itself in many aspects, concerning both his personal life and his relationship with his environment. Of the former, the beginning is the literal fulfillment of the command, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” G‑d has given parents the great merit and blessing to carry out the mission of “Be fruitful and multiply” — which means, simply, to have children.

Some people worry that they may not be able to afford to have children. Man’s creation on Friday provides the answer to this worry. The Talmud states ( Sanhedrin 38a): “Man was created on erev Shabbos. Why? ... So that he could enter the banquet immediately.” Rashi explains this to mean that man was created last so that “he should find everything ready and he could eat of what he desired.” This applies to every Jew, as our sages have said (Sanhedrin 37a): “Man was created single to teach you ... that whoever sustains one soul of Israel it is accounted by Scripture as if he has sustained a whole world.” That is, each Jew is a “whole world,” similar to Adam, the first man, from whom all men descend. And thus the idea of “entering the banquet immediately” — having one’s needs provided for — applies also to all people.

We learn from this that when a person acts properly, G‑d grants him all his needs without him having to work for them — just as Adam was provided with all his needs. True, G‑d wishes man to make a “vessel” for His blessing for sustenance, as written: “The L‑rd your G‑d will bless you in all that you shall do.” Simultaneously, however, Torah says that when a child is born, his sustenance is born with him (“so that he could enter the banquet immediately”). Moreover, through the birth of a child, extra sustenance is granted to the entire household.

Parents should therefore utilize G‑d’s blessings and fulfill the command, “Be fruitful and multiply,” with full faith that G‑d, who “feeds the whole world in His goodness,” will certainly give sustenance to the newborn child.

In addition to having children, parents also have the responsibility of educating their children that they, too, should “fill the earth and subdue it” — that they should conquer the powers of nature to utilize them for justice and righteousness in the world.

As we have noted on other occasions, education does not begin when a child is five or six years old, but starts at birth, for everything which a child sees and hears from birth has an effect on the rest of his life. Torah says (and medical authorities have lately also recognized) that everything a child experiences is engraved in his memory even before he can talk. It is thus important that a Jewish child see only holy and pure things. We find, therefore, the custom to hang Jewish themes, such as “Shir Hamaylos,” around a newborn child.

Indeed, events that occur even before a child is born, while still in its mother’s womb, can have an effect on the child later on. It therefore behooves a mother to be careful to be surrounded by pure things even before the child’s birth.

The personal responsibility devolving on every person — fulfillment of the command “Be fruitful and multiply,” and education — is emphasized now, close to Pesach. The prophecy of Yechezkel describes the exodus from Egypt as the birth of the Jewish people; and the purpose of the exodus was the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, as written: “When you take out the people from Egypt, you shall serve G‑d on this mountain.” Thus, immediately after the exodus, a period of education to receive the Torah began.

That the education of the Jewish people began from its birth teaches that an individual Jew’s education also must begin from birth: To educate him “to serve G‑d,” an education in good and holy matters.

The exodus also teaches the great effect education can have. The Talmud relates (Sotah 11b) that it was the Jewish children who “recognized Him (G‑d) first,” before the adults — but at the same time, it was the parents who gave them the proper education that enabled them to later recognize G‑d.

Further, the Pesach sacrifice emphasized the family unit. This sacrifice had to be “a sheep for a house,” “according to their families” — including women and children. This encompassed everything to do with family life — “Be fruitful and multiply” and education. And from Pesach, when these concepts are emphasized, they extend to the entire year.

4. Thus far a person’s personal life; in addition, a person has the ability to influence his surroundings, extending eventually to the country and to the whole world, making the world a stable, productive place. This is achieved by the propagation of justice and righteousness, which in general is the fulfillment of the Seven Noachide Laws, beginning with faith in the Creator and Ruler of the world.

This, too, is associated with Pesach. This festival is in the month of spring, when the creation is renewed — as we see, during spring trees begin to blossom, grasses to sprout, etc. It is therefore the appropriate time to ensure that the world, which is being renewed during this season, be based on justice and righteousness — as written: “it was created to be inhabited.”

The accomplishment of the above begins with the proper education of the youth, as written: “Educate a youth according to his way so that when he grows older he will not depart from it.” The only way to educate the youth in the ideals of justice and righteousness is not through instilling fear of the police (for then one can think he will outwit the police), but by instilling faith in the Creator and Ruler of the world — that there is “an Eye that sees and Ear which hears.”

It is therefore imperative to base the education given in schools on cognizance of a Supreme Being; and because it is such a basic element in education, it should be done before all other lessons. A law should therefore be passed establishing that the school day open with “a moment of silence,” in which students will think about the Creator and Ruler of the world. The beginning of every day in such a manner not only emphasizes its importance and accustoms the youth to recognize that there is “an Eye that sees and an Ear that hears,” but also serves as the “conduit” to receive G‑d’s blessings for success in one’s studies and other matters.

Why should this be done with a “moment of silence” specifically? When doing something the purpose of which is the fulfillment of G‑d’s will, one must keep in mind that G‑d wants it done pleasantly and peacefully, with equanimity and not with quarrels and strife. In our case, a proposal for a spoken acknowledgement of G‑d in school immediately leads to arguments about interference with an individual’s religious beliefs, etc. Concerning a “moment of silence,” in contrast, — thinking, not speaking — each student can think what he wants. And thus the goal of acknowledging G‑d is achieved pleasantly and peacefully.

If the law were to establish a spoken acknowledgement of G‑d, then, even with full provisions for neutrality concerning any particular religion, nothing can assure that the teacher or principal will not exert some pressure on the students concerning a particular religious belief. For it is the biggest test possible for the teacher or principal to talk to the students about matters of faith, and simultaneously not to mention anything about his particular belief — and to do so day in and day out!

When a law is passed, it is not passed for a trial period with the intention of changing it at a later date; it is intended as a permanent law. It is therefore important when passing a law to take into account a person’s limits, and not to put him to a daily test. Thus the law passed should be a “moment of silence,” and thus the principal or teacher will not need to restrain himself from talking about his own faith — for no talking at all is involved; only thinking. Similarly, all arguments between students about religion will be avoided.

The fact that one only thinks about G‑d, not speaks, is perfectly alright, for G‑d knows a person’s thoughts without him actually having to utter them. Thus to G‑d, there is no difference between thought. and speech. Indeed, sometimes thought is better, for then the matter thought about is more profound and has more depth than if spoken aloud together with others.

Hence, the proposal for a “moment of silence” will achieve its goal of cognizance of G‑d without any arguments or rancor between the lawmakers.

Another advantage to a “moment of silence” specifically is that it will force parents to take part: They will have to tell their child what to think about during the “moment of silence” — about the Creator and Ruler of the world. Parents will therefore send their child to school equipped not only with physical food but also with spiritual food.

Unfortunately, some parents worry only about their child’s material wellbeing — eating, drinking, clothing, etc. — and ignore the most important things, such as that the child should grow up to be a human being worthy of the name, one who acts decently and righteously. Such concerns they leave to the school.

Torah, however, says the responsibility for such education rests on the parents; the school serves only as their emissary in performing this function. Thus final responsibility, even after sending their child to school, remains with the parents. Of course, it is necessary to send a child to school for a proper education. It is therefore insufficient for a child to think about G‑d only at home before going to school, for a child must know that recognition of G‑d is the foundation for everything else he will learn in school. Nevertheless, a parent cannot leave it entirely to the school, but must teach their children what they can.

When, therefore, parents realize that they must tell their child what to think about during the “moment of silence,” it will cause them to begin to concern themselves with a child’s spiritual nourishment — to train him to be a truly human being.

Now is also the appropriate time and place to extend my thanks to the government for their blessings and good wishes [for the Rebbe’s birthday — the 11th of Nissan]. In the well-known phrase: “I shall bless those who bless you” and “Whoever blesses is himself blessed” — meaning, that G‑d Himself blesses them “from His full, open, holy and ample hand.”

May the beginning of these blessings be that they utilize their G‑d-given abilities with peace of body and mind to propagate righteousness and justice throughout the country and the whole world, through the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws. This is particularly so since they associated their blessings and good wishes with the idea of education and the necessity to observe the Seven Noachide Laws. [Translator’s Note: A special Proclamation was issued by the Congress and the President of the U.S.A. in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday, in which was emphasized the Rebbe’s unceasing efforts in education, and the necessity of observing the Seven Noachide Laws.]

The observance of the Seven Noachide Laws ensures that the world be decent and productive — ”it was created to be inhabited.” And it is well-known how much effort the Rebbeim made in these areas — to the extent of self-sacrifice! This is expressed in the name of the movement — “Lubavitch” — which in Russian means “love.” The basis for observance of the Seven Noachide Laws is G‑d’s love for creation — and therefore He desired that the world be “created to be inhabited.” This is achieved through people observing the Seven Noachide Laws with love — for then their observance is whole and complete, even if it involves much trouble, and even if one must forego one’s personal good for the good of the whole. One does this not because he is forced to, but because one understands that the good of the community takes precedence over the good of the individual.

In the light of the above, the principal blessing given to Congress and the President is that they should be successful in utilizing their powers to propagate justice and righteousness in the country and in the world, through the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws. In general, it means success in the idea of “Fill the earth and subdue it” — to conquer the materialism in the country, and to introduce recognition of the Creator and Ruler of the world — as stamped on the coin of the realm, “In G‑d We Trust.”

Because G‑d has bestowed blessings in abundance on this country, more than this country needs for itself, and it can therefore give aid to other countries in the world — it has the duty to utilize its largesse to influence the other countries to also act decently and productively. For, as we see, when a person receives help from another, he tries to find favor in the eyes of his benefactor. Thus this country, together with the material aid it gives to other countries, can and should also influence those countries to observe the Seven Noachide Laws. This is the proper preparation to the fulfillment of the promise, “Then I shall convert the nations of the world to a pure tongue ... to serve Him with a common consent.”

Together with the blessing and prayer for the peace of the city, the following request to the government is made. This country is a benevolent one, and especially recently, there have been some changes for the good in giving aid to those who wish to study in religious schools. It is therefore our hope that steps will be taken to ensure that parents of children who attend religious schools will no longer be faced with a double taxation (taxed to pay for public schooling, and then also having to pay for sending their children to religious schools). Also, to ensure that a law be passed for a “moment of silence” in school.

May it be G‑d’s will that the above be accomplished with true peace, and with the right intention — to fulfill G‑d’s mission of ensuring that the world be stable and productive, by permeating one’s daily life with faith in the Creator and Ruler of the world.

When this shall be achieved, then automatically, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,” and peace shall reign throughout the world. The world shall then be ready for the coming of our righteous Moshiach, when “kingship shall be the L‑rd’s.”

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5. The ultimate goal is to introduce G‑dliness into this corporeal world, so that “The glory of the L‑rd will be revealed and all flesh will see that the mouth of the L‑rd has spoken.” This is associated with the daily request of Jews in prayer: “Speedily cause the scion of Dovid Your servant to flourish ... for we hope for Your salvation every day.” Indeed, this is not just a request, but a demand, as stated in the first verse of Psalm 83: “A psalm by Asaf. O G‑d, do not hold Yourself silent; be not deaf and be not still, O G‑d.” Midrash Tehillim comments on this verse: “The righteous say to the Holy One, blessed be He, what to do. They tell Him rise, and He rises ... they tell Him to do not sleep, and He awakens .. they tell Him do not be deaf, and He listens....”

The Tzemach Tzedek explains that this Midrash is similar to the prayer of Choni the Circle Drawer who changed, as it were, G‑d’s will. Choni the Circle Drawer, the Talmud says, was as “a son who acts willfully before his father and he (the father) fulfills his (the son’s) will” — “analogous to one who takes his friend by the hand and does not allow him to go, and changes his will.”

Hence, when every Jew asks and demands of G‑d, “0 G‑d, do not hold yourself silent; be not deaf and be not still, O G‑d,” G‑d certainly listens to and fulfills their request. For each Jew is “as a son who acts willfully before his father and he fulfills his will. Even more, the Baal Shem Tov says, every Jew is dear before G‑d as an only son born to parents in their old age.

Jews thereby effect those things talked about in this psalm, especially the redemption, and including the conclusion of the psalm: “They will know that You, whose Name is L‑rd, are alone, supreme over the whole earth.” This is similar to the promise, “Then I shall convert the nations to a pure language ... to serve Him with a common consent.”

The above is associated with the tremendous efforts recently made that editions of Tanya should be printed everywhere Jews live. Tanya is the “wellspring” of Chassidus, and when Tanya is printed in every place, those places are transformed into a source for disseminating Chassidus. This is particularly so when the Tanyas are not just printed, but also studied.

At the present time, the number of editions of Tanya have reached one thousand!

The connection between printing Tanyas and the redemption is that Moshiach will come when “Your wellsprings [of Chassidus] shall spread forth to the outside.”

Printing of Tanya is also associated with a birthday, for the beginning of Tanya talks of the oath administered to a soul just before it descends into this world at birth. More simply, the contents of the first chapters of Tanya were said by the Alter Rebbe in association with the birth of the Tzemach Tzedek.

As last time (11th of Nissan, 5742), we shall give each of those present a copy of the thousandth edition of Tanya. At the end of this edition, the “title pages” of all the previous editions (that were obtainable) have been printed. The “title page” (on which is printed the place and date of publication of the particular edition) is the only thing which differentiates one edition of Tanya from the other. Thus this thousandth edition, which contains all the title pages of the previous editions, encompasses all the different editions of Tanya.

In addition to giving each person here a Tanya, we shall also give a dollar to be given to tzedakah, for tzedakah is equal to all the mitzvos and brings near the redemption.

So that people should not have to wait hours to receive their copy of Tanya (as happened last time), we shall distribute the Tanyas and dollars through the members of the Kollel. Of course, the Tanyas will be distributed to everyone, men, women and children.

The most important thing is that everyone study Tanya, and in such a way that the learner then disseminate the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside. Similarly, everyone should add their own money to the dollar to be given to tzedakah.