1. This gathering celebrates the liberation of the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, from Czarist imprisonment. The liberation occurred many years ago, yet it is celebrated anew every year. This dichotomy is present in all matters of Torah and mitzvos: On the one hand, they are ancient, existing unchanged for centuries, the idea of “this Torah shall never be changed.” On the other hand, Torah itself commands, “Every day they should be as new in your eyes.”

There are advantages to each aspect. That something has passed through the vicissitudes of time unscathed and unchanged shows that it has integrity and durability. The longer the testing period, the greater the strength it is shown to possess. On the other hand, a new thing commands greater enthusiasm and fervor for its implementation. Torah possesses both properties simultaneously. It is unchangeable and unchanging; and yet must be observed as if new.

So too with the Alter Rebbe’s liberation: On the one hand, it possesses the strength and durability of constancy, present and celebrated every year. On the other, each year must see a new element in its celebration. And because it is Torah which demands this new element, a Jew certainly has the ability to fulfill it.

Both aspects of the liberation — the “old” and the “new” — increase every year. The more years that have passed, the greater the tenacity and durability. Likewise, not only must the liberation be celebrated as new, in a manner as fresh as the original event, but each year must see an increase in that newness. As Torah commands: “In holy matters, ascend!” — one must always rise higher every year.

The command, “In holy matters, ascend!,” is cited as the halachic reason for kindling an extra light each night of Chanukah. Yud-Tes Kislev (the 19th of Kislev — the date on which the Alter Rebbe was freed from prison) and Chanukah have a common bond: both are associated with the revelation and dissemination of the esoteric aspect of Torah.

How is Chanukah associated with the esoteric aspect of Torah? The Jews, after defeating the Syrian-Greeks who had endeavored to prevent them learning Torah and performing mitzvos, cleaned up the Bais Hamikdosh (Temple) which the Greeks had defiled. When they wanted to light the Menorah, they could not find any undefiled oil. After much searching, they found only one flask with the High Priest’s seal intact. The flask contained only enough oil to light the Menorah for one day, but a miracle happened, and it lasted for eight days.

Now, the source of everything in the world is the Torah, which is the “blueprint” for creation. Thus all substances in the world are paralleled in Torah. More specifically, bread, water, wine and oil correspond to different levels in Torah. Water (and bread) allude to the exoteric aspect of Torah; wine, a higher level than water, alludes to the secrets of the Torah, the esoteric, as stated, “when wine enters [a person], secrets go forth;” oil, which is higher even than wine (oil floats on top of wine), corresponds to the “secrets of secrets” of the Torah.

Oil, then, alludes to the innermost secrets of the Torah, and oil is also the miracle of Chanukah. The function of oil is to provide light, to shine forth to the outside. Indeed, the Chanukah lights are placed “at the entrance of one’s house on the outside.” Thus Chanukah is the idea of the revelation and dissemination of the Torah’s secrets to the outside.

In greater clarification: Oil in general corresponds to the Torah’s secrets. The oil that figured in the miracle of Chanukah was of a loftier level still, for it was stamped with the High Priest’s seal. All Jews are members of the “holy nation,” and the seal of an ordinary Jew would also have sufficed to assure the purity of the oil necessary for the Menorah. That it was stamped with the seal of the High Priest — the person who represented the ultimate in holiness of the holy people — emphasizes the lofty nature of this particular flask of oil.

The miracle, however, was not just the finding of this flask of oil, but that they lit the Menorah with it for eight days. In other words, the purpose of this oil was to illuminate the Bars Hamikdosh, and thereby the whole world, for “from it, light went forth to the whole world.” This is the same concept as the dissemination of the esoteric part of Torah, Chassidus: the loftiest secrets of the Torah — “the flask of oil which was stamped with the High Priest’s seal” — are used to illuminate the spiritual darkness in the world.

The liberation of the Alter Rebbe on Yud-Tes Kislev is of similar concept. The Alter Rebbe was, at the time, the foremost exponent of the teachings of Chassidus. Opponents of Chassidism, claiming that Chassidism was a divisive force in Jewry, slandered the Alter Rebbe to the Czarist government. The authorities arrested the Alter Rebbe and investigated the charges brought against him by his opponents.

Parenthetically, Russia was then one of the most powerful nations in the world. It was a world power precisely because the majority of Jews, quantitatively and qualitatively, resided then in that country. As the Midrash (Mechilta Beshallach 14:5) states: “Every nation which rules over the people of Israel ... rules over the whole world for the sake of Israel’s honor.” A nation which rules over Jews is elevated to a world power, for it is unseemly that an inferior nation rule over Jews. So it was with Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia — all ruled the world at the time Jews were their subjects. And so it was with Russia: Because at the time of the Alter Rebbe’s arrest the majority of Jews resided in Russia, it became the most powerful nation in the world.

This is also why Chassidus was revealed specifically in Russia. Our Sages state that “when they (Jews) were exiled to Rome, the Divine Presence was with them;” for as long as Jewry is in exile, the Divine Presence is also in exile. Where the majority of Jews are, so there the Divine Presence is principally found. And if the Divine Presence followed Jews into exile, then Torah certainly did — and the revelation of the Torah is also principally where the majority of Jews are to be found. Thus the revelation of Chassidus took place in Russia specifically.

To return to our main point. After the Czarist government had investigated the charges against the Alter Rebbe, they cleared him completely and, freeing him, enabled him to continue to disseminate the Torah’s secrets.

2. Although the Torah’s secrets were studied in all generations, it was the Alter Rebbe who initiated its dissemination to the outside specifically. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, for example, author of the Zohar, fundamental text of the Kabbalah, studied the Torah’s secrets and revealed them to his friends and disciples. Later, in the generation of the Arizal, it became “permitted and a mitzvah to reveal this wisdom.” Because the intensity of the exile had increased between the Rashbi’s generation and that of the Arizal, a greater degree of revelation of the light of Torah was needed to combat the darkness — and therefore it became a mitzvah to reveal the Torah’s secrets.

But even then, the revelation was limited to certain places and certain individuals. It had not yet reached to the “outside” proper. It did have an effect on the world in general (the “outside”); but_ this effect was a result of the revelation in those few places. The “outside” itself had not yet been penetrated by the light of the esoteric part of Torah. The Alter Rebbe introduced the innovation that the esoteric part of Torah itself should reach the “outside.”

Why was it necessary to increase the dissemination of Chassidus only in the Alter Rebbe’s generation, and not earlier? The Alter Rebbe gave a famous parable in answer. “A king’s son became severely ill, and the physicians said the only remedy was to crush precious gems, [mix them with liquid], and for the patient to drink thereof. They searched the king’s treasury for a gem with this unique property, and could not find any. Meanwhile the king’s son grew more ill. One sage investigated and discovered that one gem in the king’s crown, a gem unlike any others, possessed the properties necessary to heal the malady of the king’s son. But in the meantime, the son’s condition had worsened to the extent that the doctors said that even if they will pour the liquid containing the crushed gem into the patient’s mouth, it is doubtful if the patient will be able to swallow it — and the most precious gem of the king’s crown will be destroyed for no purpose. The king answered and said: The royal crown is indeed precious, a crowning beauty to its maker, and a lofty glory to its wearer; and the precious gem is the chief adornment of the crown. But all this is as nought compared to the existence of the king’s son, for whom it is worthwhile to crush the precious gem just on the possibility that perhaps one drop will reach the son’s mouth — and he will be healed of his illness.

The analogy is as follows: The king’s son is Jewry. The illness is the weak spiritual state of Jewry, due to the increasing intensity of darkness of the exile and of the world. The precious gem in the king’s crown, the remedy for the illness is the Torah’s secrets. As long as the king’s son’s illness was not serious, it was not necessary to crush the gem. But once the illness worsened -when the situation of Jewry became close to spiritual danger to life — it became necessary to disseminate the Torah’s secrets to the outside, the place where the spiritual danger to life is the greatest. For all the greatness of the precious gem is “as nothing compared to the existence of the king’s son,” and therefore it is worthwhile to crush the gem on the possibility that one drop will reach the patients mouth — and he wi.,_1 be healed.

It is for this reason that it was no longer enough to reveal the wisdom of the esoteric only to certain people in certain times. The risk of spiritual death to Jewry had become too great. The medicine had to reach everywhere, and especially to the “outside,” where the danger was the greatest.

The main thrust of this dissemination of Chassidus began after the Alter Rebbe was liberated from imprisonment on Yud-Tes Kislev, when the authorities granted him full freedom to continue — and intensify — the spreading of the Torah’s secrets.

3. “Spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside” has another interpretation besides its literal meaning of spreading its teachings to all people in all locations. A person’s soul is comprised of its essence and its manifestations, which include its intellectual faculties. These intellectual faculties are “outside” compared to the inner essence of the soul. The Alter Rebbe presented Chassidic doctrines in a way that they should affect not just the soul’s essence (i.e. a superrational, mystical grasp of Chassidus), but that its concepts should be understood by the intellect. Chassidus would now penetrate the Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (knowledge) and Da’as (understanding) of the soul (the first letters of which form the acronym “ChaBaD,” which has become the name for the school of Chassidus founded by the Alter Rebbe).

Because the study of the Torah’s innermost secrets would now affect a person not just in a general way, but permeate a person’s faculties, it follows that every fibre of a person is affected. Through learning the esoteric part of Torah, a Jew is filled with love and awe of G‑d — even when learning the exoteric part of Torah (civil and criminal law, etc.). In the words of the Rambam: “What is the way to attain love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations, and he will perceive in them His limitless wisdom, immediately he ... will greatly desire to know the great Name.” The Rambam, in other words, emphasizes that the way to love and fear of G‑d is knowledge, comprehension and understanding — the study of the esoteric. In the words of Scripture: “Know the G‑d of your fathers.”

The Rambam gives a similar ruling at the beginning of his Mishnah Torah: “The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms is to know that there is a first cause ...” One must not just believe in G‑d — one must also know it. It must penetrate a person’s intellect in his physical brain.

The understanding of G‑d and G‑dliness is only possible through parables and illustrations drawn from the world — “from my flesh I will see G‑d.” This is obviously a descent from the “pure” grasp of the Torah’s secrets (i.e., a grasp not in an intellectual framework, but in a mystical, super-rational way) — analogous to the crushing of the precious gem in the king’s crown in the above noted analogy. Yet it is done — for the king’s son must be saved, and there is no other way.

This, then, is the connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah: both emphasize the idea of “your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside.” The miracle of Chanukah, we have explained, is the oil, symbolizing the innermost secrets of the Torah; and the purpose of oil is to be lit and to give forth light to the outside. Yud-Tes Kislev sounds a similar theme: the revelation of the Torah’s secrets should illuminate a person’s entire existence, his every fibre, even the “outside.”

Now we can more fully understand that which we noted previously — that the command “In holy matters, ascend!,” cited in connection to the Chanukah lights, applies to the celebration of Yud-Tes Kislev every year. Since both Chanukah and Yud-Tes Kislev share the same theme — the dissemination of Chassidus (the esoteric part of Torah) — the command, “In holy matters, ascend!,” is associated with both events.

We can further posit that the idea of “In holy matters, ascend!” is itself associated with the idea of “the dissemination of Chassidus.” The founder of Chassidus, the Baal Shem Tov, once ascended to heaven and there asked Moshiach, “When will the master come?” The answer given was “when your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside.” The spreading forth of the wellsprings of Chassidus is similar to the situation that will prevail in the Messianic age, as the Rambam rules: “The Sages and prophets only desired the Messianic days so that they should be free [to engage] in Torah and its wisdom,” for then, “Jews will be great in wisdom and will know the hidden matters and they will comprehend the knowledge of their Creator as far as humanly possible, as it is stated, ‘the earth will be full of knowledge of the L‑rd as the waters cover the sea.’“

Not only will Jews understand G‑dly matters, but “the earth will be full of knowledge of the L‑rd” — even “earth” matters, one’s personal, mundane affairs, will be permeated with the revelations of G‑dliness. This is stated explicitly in Midrash (Midrash Tehillim 73): “In this world, when a person goes to gather figs on Shabbos, the fig says nothing. But in the future, if a person goes to gather a fig on Shabbos, it cries out and says ‘it is Shabbos today ...” In other words, even physical things will be permeated with the revelation of G‑dliness.

What does this teach us in regard to the idea of “In holy matters, ascend!” vis-à-vis Yud-Tes Kislev? A person may wonder how he can celebrate an event that happened over one hundred and fifty years ago in the same manner as originally — and even more, in a higher manner (“in holy matters, ascend!”). But because Yud-Tes Kislev marks the revelation of Chassidus, similar to the future era when “the glory of the L‑rd will be revealed and all flesh will perceive that the mouth of the L‑rd has spoken,” it transcends the temporal-spatial limits of the world. Thus changes in time and place wreak no effect on its concept, and it can be celebrated in the same fresh manner as if it happened now. Indeed, the changes in time lends added qualities to its celebration — Yud-Tes Kislev is celebrated in greater fashion from year to year.

Because “deed is paramount,” we must derive a practical lesson from all of the above. When Yud Tes Kislev approaches each year, “these days are remembered and kept.” The Arizal commented that when an event is “remembered” properly, then it is also “kept” — it is re-enacted as it was originally.

In our case, Yud-Tes Kislev is the concept of “Your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside,” and therefore we must resolve to increase in our study of the esoteric part of Torah (Chassidus), the “soul of Torah.” And because soul and body are inseparable, we also as a result increase in the study of the exoteric part of Torah, the “body of Torah.”

This study should not be just for oneself, but in the manner of “Your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside” — one must disseminate Torah (both the exoteric and esoteric parts) to others. And because “study is great for it leads to deed,” the dissemination of the study of Torah leads to the spreading of the fulfillment of mitzvos.

Through the spreading of Chassidus we hasten the fulfillment of Moshiach’s promise that he will come “when your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside.” Then, “those who lie in the dust will arise and rejoice,” with the Alter Rebbe among them. And all of us together will go to our holy land, the “land which ... the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are continually upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” -the eternal heritage given to the eternal people through the eternal Torah. In Eretz Yisroel itself, we shall go to the holy city of Yerushalayim, to the Temple Mount, to the Holy of Holies in the Bais Hamikdosh — “the Sanctuary which Your hands, 0’ L‑rd, have established.

4. A full understanding of the import of the Alter Rebbe’s liberation can be gained by studying the Alter Rebbe’s comments on his liberation. He wrote a letter to R. Levi Yitzchok of Barditchev, of the greatest of the Maggid’s disciples, and to R. Boruch of Mezhibush, the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson and a Rebbe in his generation, in which he described his liberation. Because the Alter Rebbe made this letter public, it indicates that it contains lessons not just for these individual Torah greats, but for all Jews.

In the letter, the Alter Rebbe writes: “G‑d has magnified and made great His great and sacred Name ... in the eyes of all the king’s men and all the peoples in all the king’s realm — that also in their eyes the thing is wondrous indeed, and they said of it that it is from the L‑rd

“The day on which G‑d dealt wondrously with us is the day on which “it was good” was said twice [Tuesday], the 19th day of Kislev ... And as I was reading in the Book of Psalms the verse, ‘He has redeemed my soul in peace,’ before I began the next verse I was liberated in peace.”

The latter half of the letter describes the profound nature of the liberation — that it is associated with Tuesday, on which “it was good” was said twice, and with the verse “He has redeemed my soul in peace.” The first half of the letter, in contrast, dwells at length on the effect of the liberation on non-Jews, the princes of the court.

This letter, we have said, was written to two giants of Chassidus, who appreciated the meaning the Alter Rebbe’s liberation had for the Chassidic movement. But what is the import of the first half of the letter, the effect of the liberation on non-Jews — and how can it compare to the profound implications of the liberation itself and its meaning for the Chassidic movement?

But the Alter Rebbe weighed carefully every word he wrote. Indeed, the Tzemach Tzedek described the Alter Rebbe’s language as “golden,” implying that every word was worth its weight in gold. We must therefore conclude that there is a connection between the two topics discussed in the Alter Rebbe’s letter — that the liberation allowed Chassidus to be disseminated, and its effect on the peoples of the earth — and that there is a lesson to be derived from it.

In this letter the Alter Rebbe teaches us two general principles: one in regard to a Jew’s personal service to G‑d, and the other in regard to a Jew’s relationship with his fellow.

We learn from the liberation in general that a person must liberate himself from his innate constraints and rise above all limitations. Had the Alter Rebbe written only the latter part of his letter, concerning the effect of the liberation on the dissemination of Chassidus, one might have thought that this personal “liberation” applies only to Torah and mitzvos. For since a Jew’s task is to transform himself into a sanctuary for G‑d [as stated, “Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them” — “within them, within each and every Jew”], a Jew may think that Yud-Tes Kislev teaches only that he must spread Chassidus within his personal sanctuary, to his “outside” (as above).

The Alter Rebbe, in the first section of the letter, warns that this is not enough. Just as the liberation on Yud-Tes Kislev affected not just the esoteric part of Torah but non-Jews also, so one’s personal “liberation” must be not only in Torah and mitzvos, but also in one’s mundane actions. In short, one’s “liberation” must also be in the fulfillment of the commands “All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “In all your ways know Him:” one’s everyday matters, “your deeds” and “your ways,” should also be sanctified to G‑d, and subjected to the “liberation” from limitations. That is, one should know G‑d in one’s ways, and do one’s deeds for the sake of heaven, not just according to the strict letter of the law, but above and beyond the minimum, with special enthusiasm and meaning. It should be subjected to the influence of “the soul of the Torah,” the study of Chassidus.

Furthermore, the idea of going beyond the minimum letter of the law was considered, in the times of the Talmud, as a pious act. In our times however, because of the increasing intensity of darkness in the world, more light was needed — and the concept of going beyond the minimum has now been incorporated as part of Jewish law. It follows, then, that one’s “liberation” in the realm of “All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “In all your ways know Him” demands that one go beyond even the minimum as incorporated in Jewish law.

5. Another lesson to be derived from this letter concerns one’s interaction with one’s surroundings. A Jew’s work (“your deeds” and “your ways”) in the era of exile brings him into contact with the nations of the world, for it is they who rule over the countries in which Jews reside in the exile. It is only when there is peace between the nations that Jews can also have peace. In the words of Scripture: “For in its peace will be peace for you.” This is why it is a halachic ruling that “the law of the government is [Jewish] law” — i.e., the law of the land is binding upon Jews with the force of Torah, Jewish law. [However, if the “law of the government” should be in opposition to halachah, this rule does not apply, for Torah is not subject to exile. It is unchanging.]

A Jew, in his dealings with non-Jews, may think it is sufficient to just follow the “law of the government” which has the force of Torah law (acting as any citizen) — and that his Jewishness has no role to play.

An episode related in the Midrash teaches otherwise, that a Jew must act in a way that sanctifies G‑d’s name (Kiddush Hashem). R. Shimon ben Shetach, who lived in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh and was one of the greatest Torah Sages, bought a donkey from a non-Jew (an Ishmaelite). His students came and discovered a precious stone suspended from its neck. R. Shimon ben Shetach said, “I have purchased a donkey, but I have not purchased a precious stone,” and went and restored it to the Ishmaelite. The Ishmaelite then exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the L‑rd G‑d of Shimon ben Shetach.’” Thus Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach sanctified G‑d’s Name.

This teaches that we must go beyond the strict letter of the law (“the law of the land”) also when dealing with non-Jews, thereby causing G‑d’s Name to be sanctified. This type of behavior is called doing business “honestly and faithfully.” It is not enough to appear just. One must be totally honest, faithful, going further than the law demands. And because it is Torah which demands that one deal honestly and faithfully — and the ways of Torah are “pleasant ways” and its paths are “paths of peace” — such conduct influences others pleasantly and peacefully.

In slightly different words: It is not enough for a Jew to personally observe the mitzvos of the Torah. He must also influence the nations of the world to act decently and justly. In the words of Scripture: “Seek the peace of the city to which you were exiled and pray for it” — and true peace is possible only when the city or country acts consonant to the Torah’s dictates.

How can the city, country, or indeed the entire world, be stable and at peace, acting decently and righteously? Only when they keep the Seven Noachide Laws, which, together with their ramifications, are the foundations of a stable society. Thus the Rambam rules: “Moshe Rabbeinu has commanded from the mouth of G‑d to convince all the inhabitants of the world to accept the mitzvos that were commanded to the sons of Noach.” Every Jew is obligated to influence non-Jews to observe the Seven Noachide Laws.

Others have argued that the Rambam’s words were meant for the Messianic age or in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh only — although such an interpretation completely contradicts the plain meaning of the Rambam. Proof of their position, they say, is that Torah greats of earlier generations were not seen to try to influence non-Jews to keep the Seven Noachide Laws.

Besides the fact that it is a legal dictum that proof cannot be drawn from not seeing something, there are other answers to these people who wish to place difficulties in the dissemination of Judaism.

First of all, all of the Rambam’s rulings are part of the immutable Torah, and it is therefore impossible to say the Rambam wrote a ruling that does not apply for our times. This is particularly so considering the lofty nature of the Rambam’s writings. Not only are they legal rulings, but they also encompass matters pertaining to the Torah’s secrets. Moreover, the Rambam’s words, accepted as they are by all Jewry, fall into the category described by R. Yonason Eibshitz as “the spirit of the L‑rd sparkles within them.” As such, works which have spread to all sections of Jewry and been accepted by them, receive the full authority of Torah. Similarly, the Rebbe Rashab said that “I heard in the name of our Rebbe that all authors until and inclusive of the Taz and BaCh composed their works with Divine spirit.” Thus the Rambam’s ruling that Jews are obligated to convince the inhabitants of the world to keep the Seven Noachide Laws has the full authority of Torah. And because Torah is immutable, the ruling applies to all times.

As to the above question of why Torah greats of previous generations did not follow the Rambam’s ruling, the answer is obvious. It was simply not possible for them to do so. This does not mean the mitzvah is void; it simply means it cannot be fulfilled at a certain time. Mitzvos that are associated with the Bais Hamikdosh, for example, cannot be fulfilled when the Bais Hamikdosh is destroyed — but the mitzvos still exist.

In previous generations, Jewry (living in ghettos, etc.) was in no position to talk to or convince non-Jews about religious matters, and were therefore absolved of the obligation. But today, when it is possible to do so, the Rambam’s ruling most certainly applies. Thus, although a Jew has much to do to bring his own — and other Jews’ — spiritual situation up to par, the Rambam’s ruling still applies. And because “I (G‑d) ask only according to their (Jews’) abilities,” it follows that Jews have the appropriate strength to fulfill this task.

We can go further and posit that not only do the Rambam’s words apply also in our times, but, because we are in the period immediately prior to the redemption, it applies especially to our times. In these latter years Jews and non-Jews have come into contact as never before. Sometimes, because G‑d has given a Jew free choice, this contact has been misused, in that Jews imitate the non-Jew and non-Jewishness. But simultaneously, the opportunity exists to use these contacts to influence non-Jews to observe the Seven Noachide Laws.

This choice to utilize contact with the nations of the world for good or bad is paralleled by the Torah’s statement: “See, I have placed before you life and good and death and evil ... choose life” This choice applies to all aspects of life, including the Torah itself. A Jew’s approach to Torah can be with the intention to humbly know what it demands of a person (“life and good”) or with the intention to pervert Torah’s words for one’s own use — which Torah then becomes “death and evil.” Those who wish to twist the Rambam’s words and say they weren’t meant for our times, “revealing revealing facets in Torah that are not according to halachah.”

After the above preamble, we can now understand why the Alter Rebbe wrote at length concerning the effect of his redemption on the peoples of the world. The Alter Rebbe is thereby telling us that his liberation had a good effect not just on Jews, but also on non-Jews — consonant to a Jew’s mission of not only spreading Judaism to Jews but also to influence all peoples to keep the Seven Noachide Laws. The liberation convinced the government officials who were involved that they are but “as an axe in the hand of the hewer,” and that “this was from the L‑rd, it is wondrous in our eyes.”

We can draw a parallel between the imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe in Czarist Russia to the exile of Jews in Egypt. Pharaoh, when approached by Moshe Rabbeinu to release the Jews, answered, “I do not know the L‑rd.” “L‑rd” refers to G‑d as He is transcendent. Pharaoh was saying that this level of G‑d applies only to Jews; non-Jews know G‑d only as He is immanent in creation. Transcendent G‑d (“L‑rd”) is not revealed to non-Jews, said Pharaoh. [Only in the future era will the level of “L‑rd” be revealed to non-Jews, as stated, “The glory of the L‑rd will be revealed and all flesh will together perceive that the mouth of the L‑rd has spoken.”]

On Yud-Tes Kislev, however, non-Jews also realized that the L‑rd had wrought wonders, as the Alter Rebbe wrote of the government officials’ reaction: “This was from the L‑rd, it is wondrous in our eyes.” This revelation had an effect even in the lowest regions, as the Alter Rebbe wrote: “G‑d has done wonders and greatness ... in the earth” — “earth” referring to the lowest levels. Yud-Tes Kislev had this effect because it was a “taste” of the future redemption, when, as noted above, all people will see the revelation of the L‑rd.

6. This is also the appropriate time to once again mention a matter we have talked of many times in the past. The proper education of children in public schools in the U.S. demands that they have knowledge of G‑d. It is a matter of spiritual life and death.

In the past, such an idea was opposed by government leaders. Today, the nations’ leaders, including its President, are in favor of amending the law and allowing G‑d’s Name to be mentioned in school.

Unfortunately, we are witness to the fulfillment of the verse, “Your destroyers and wreckers will come forth from yourselves.” Jews, who lack the proper Jewish upbringing, falsify the facts and try to prevent the passage of such a law -with the claim that it is against the Constitution.

Why does the Constitution bother them when it doesn’t bother the President? These people are usually the first ones to claim that Jews, because they are such a small minority, should go along with the majority. Yet in this case they are willing to oppose the President, thereby showing that nothing deters them when it comes to “principles.” Principles? Every Jew was commanded at Mt. Sinai — before they were born in the U.S. — to keep Torah and mitzvos. The Torah is the founding law of all Jews, an eternal law which cannot be amended (unlike the Constitution of the U.S.). And yet these people somehow have the audacity to oppose the Torah?!

Moreover, the proposal we are taking about is not even against the Constitution. We are not suggesting that a prayer be said, which would involve problems of what to say, and which would be enmeshed in the issue of separation between state and religion. We are merely proposing that a moment of silence be held at the beginning of the day, and a child will ask his parents or grandparents what to think about in those 60 seconds. This way the teacher or principal will not interfere, and the Establishment Clause of the Constitution will remain inviolate. Similarly, those parents who do not wish their children to think of G‑d or pray in the minute of silence, can instruct their children to think of the basics of justice and righteousness (the Seven Noachide Laws).

The benefits from a moment of silence in the schools are obvious. When a child at the beginning of each day, when he is fresh and alert, thinks of goodness and righteousness, it is etched in his soul and has an effect on the rest of the day’s studies. Before he begins to learn those subjects which will enable him to make a career, he must remember that he must deal honestly with another child. The factual information he learns in school is secondary; the main thing is that the world be a productive, decent place in which to live.

Most important, a child should know that he should behave properly not out of fear of punishment, but because it is contrary to the tenets of justice and righteousness. And, because education in this country comes mostly from the school and not from the home, thinking about these things in school has a tremendous effect.

May it be G‑d’s will that efforts in this direction bring peace to the world, for true peace can only eventuate through righteousness and justice. Today we are witness to a situation when “nations quarrel one with another” in a frightening manner, with international strife escalating from day to day. The only thing that can bring peace is when “you walk in my statutes and keep my mitzvos.” It is not enough to think good thoughts; one must act in spreading the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws among the nations of the world, and Judaism (particularly Chassidus) among Jews.


7. Yud-Tes Kislev is the liberation of the Alter Rebbe from Czarist imprisonment, and it therefore behooves us to learn a lesson from a concept peculiar to him (and not just associated with the liberation).

The Alter Rebbe’s unique aspect lay in the realm of education. Education is the basic foundation in man’s fulfillment of the purpose of his creation, which is to serve his Creator. G‑d has let man know how to serve Him through the Torah, which gives clear directives for every facet of life. But to know what is in the Torah, a person needs education. And that is why education is so crucial in man’s life.

Besides the duty of a father to teach his children, it is also the duty of every Torah sage to teach Torah to the Jewish people at large. Some discharge their duty in this respect only to the minimum obligation, while others are ready to sacrifice everything to ensure that Jews are educated properly. Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu relates that the Sanhedrin “should have girded their loins with chains of iron, hoisted their garments above their knees, and travelled throughout all the cities of Israel ... and teach Israel.” “Chains of iron” were needed because the journey would be very long, and ordinary ropes would not suffice. Because it is the Sanhedrin’s task to worry about the education of every Jew, such measures were necessary — and they could not wait until Jews came to the Sanhedrin to learn. Moreover, this self-sacrifice on the part of the Sanhedrin was not just physical, but primarily spiritual. The Sanhedrin’s authority to rule on capital cases existed only when they were in their official residence. Yet, to teach Jews, it is worthwhile to forego this spiritual advantage and travel all over Israel.

This was also the approach of the Rebbeim to education. But this itself, as in education in general, was displayed in two different ways. One way of teaching is by speech — teaching Torah, speaking about good conduct, etc. The second way is through deed — by serving as a living example to others of the path to follow. Among the Rebbeim, some followed the first way mainly, and others the second way. In similar fashion, the Baal Shem Tov travelled far and wide among Jews, whereas the Maggid dwelt in one place and taught Torah.

The Alter Rebbe was unique in that he combined both approaches. He taught Torah, both the exoteric aspect (he authored a Shulchan Aruch) and the esoteric (he authored the Tanya). Simultaneously, he taught by deed: He himself was the reader in the Torah; and when he wished to ascertain the exact measurements of things in Torah, he himself weighed and measured; and he himself showed shochtim (ritual slaughterers) the proper way to act.

This singular conduct of the Alter Rebbe is expressed most vividly in the following story. Once, on Yom Kippur (another version — on Shabbos), the Alter Rebbe interrupted his prayers in the synagogue, took off his tallis, and went to the outskirts of the city to help a woman (who had recently given birth) who had been left alone when the other members of the household went to the synagogue.

The Alter Rebbe had been in the synagogue, together with other people, and he need not have gone himself to help the woman. Moreover, he was then in the middle of praying — and we can imagine the lofty nature of the prayers of the Alter Rebbe, who was wont to say when praying, “I do not want anything; not Gan Eden (Paradise), not the World to Come; I only want You alone.” And, on this particular occasion, he was in the middle of the prayers of Yom Kippur!

Yet, in the middle of such lofty matters, he found the time to sense that a woman at the outskirts of the city needed help — and did something about it in concrete deed!

Although we cannot compare ourselves to the Alter Rebbe, the Moshe Rabbeinu of his generation, nevertheless, because this story has been passed on to us, we can and must derive a lesson from it for our service to G‑d.

A person may believe that because he is engaged in profound matters, it is impossible to engage in simple matters in concrete deed. The above story with the Alter Rebbe teaches otherwise: No person will fool himself into thinking that he is on a loftier level than was the Alter Rebbe in his prayers of Yom Kippur. And if the Alter Rebbe could leave his prayers to go to a woman who needed help, this person most certainly can help others!

This also teaches another lesson, concerning the aforementioned necessity to convince the nations of the world to keep the Seven Noachide Laws. A Jew must know that though he may be engaged in lofty matters, he must realize that there are non-Jews in the world that do not know of the Seven Noachide Laws — and therefore he must do everything in his power to ensure that they know of them and observe them. Indeed, it is specifically those who are engaged solely in holy matters who have the greatest chance of success in this mission. A person who is not tainted by any suspicion of self-interest (financial or otherwise, since he has had no prior dealings with non-Jews), will be respected by others as being a sincere and truthful man. When he will suggest to a non-Jew that it behooves all peoples to act honestly and fairly in consonance with G‑d’s will, his suggestion will be received more readily than will an-other’s.

May it be G‑d’s will that Jews endeavor to do all the above with joy and a good heart — for joy “breaks through all barriers.”


The Rebbe Shlita here spoke of the necessity to combat the increasing instability in the world through an increase in prayer. This has been published in a separate essay, titled “Prayers For Our Times.”