1. “We begin with a blessing” as is the Jewish custom — in the words of Tehillim (118:26) “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the L‑rd; we bless you all from the House of the L‑rd.” The first part of this blessing is singular tense — ”Blessed is he;” the second part is plural tense — ”we bless you all.” This teaches that when an individual Jew enters the community to become one of them, he is immediately transformed into a part of the community — “we bless you all.”

The transition of the individual into the community adds to the quality and quantity of the blessing, for a communal blessing has a special distinction. In the Blessing After a Meal, for example, a different, loftier procedure is established when three people are present compared to when an individual eats alone; ten Jews in turn necessitate a yet higher form; and according to the opinion of R. Yose HaGalili, a thousand (and in turn ten thousand) Jews, produce yet loftier effects (See Berachos 49b).

The same phenomenon applies to Torah. The Talmud (Berachos 6a) explains that although the Divine Presence rests upon a Jew who studies Torah — as stated (Shemos 20:21): “In every where I have My Name mentioned I will come to you and bless you” — nevertheless, extra distinction accrues to two people who study together, more to three people, and the most to ten, when “the Divine Presence precedes them.”

Because “G‑d looked into the Torah and created the world” — i.e. the Torah is the blueprint of everything in the world — it follows that. the special distinction that accrues in Torah when a number of people gather together, is reflected in the world. Moreover, not only can we learn the true essence of things from the Torah, but a halachic ruling in Torah can change the physical nature of world. The Talmud Yerushalmi cites the case that when Bais Din rules to change the year’s or month’s calendar, a person’s age and nature change accordingly — and not only in the future, but also retroactively.

Torah, then, has taught us that when individuals gather together, they can act with a single, united resolve. In the Sanhedrin comprised of seventy judges, for example, each one at the beginning of a case has different individual opinions which at times can lead to heated debate. Yet, at the case’s conclusion, because they have reached a final verdict (either because of a majority rule or because of persuasive arguments), they become close friends. This quality of unity found in Torah is reflected in, and is the source of, unity in the world. For since Torah is the basis of the world’s existence — and the Torah is one, given by the one G‑d to the one people — the quality of unity in Torah is transmitted to the world: every gathering of Jews is in the manner of “we bless you all from the House of the L‑rd,” for all present reach a single, united resolve.

This has particular relevance to the present time, immediately following Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah, Adam, the first man, caused all of creation to acknowledge G‑d’s rulership. Before Adam, G‑d’s rulership rested upon His creation whether they liked it or not, whether they comprehended the reason for it or not; Adam caused that all creation should willingly accept G‑d’s rulership — ”Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow down; let us bend the knee before the L‑rd our Maker.”

There are manifold elements in creation, myriads of creatures, as underscored by the plural tense in “our Maker.” Yet Adam influenced all of them to accept G‑d as their King, for as their Creator, it is only right they willingly accept His rulership.

Jews perform the same function on every Rosh Hashanah, as the blessing recited then states:

“G‑d.. reign over the entire world in Your glory.” Jews, in other words, cause the one G‑d to rule over the whole world, and cause the world to behave according to G‑d’s will — the Torah. Jews, the one people, bring G‑d to the world through the one Torah — for Torah is the source of all creation.

That the world is dependent on the Torah may be adduced from the Talmud (Berachos 8b), which relates that R. Yehoshua ben Chanania derived a snake’s term of pregnancy from a verse in Torah. Even the life of a snake, the most base of all creatures, is fixed according to what the Torah says of it. Everything in the world depends on the Torah.

If the above is true even of a snake, it is certainly true of the Jewish people. They are “the people close to Him,” as stated “For is there a great nation that has G‑d as close to it as the L‑rd our G‑d;” and “Behold the L‑rd stands over him,” which, the Alter Rebbe writes, applies to every Jew. Every action of a Jew is therefore certainly drawn from the Torah. And so the fact we find the concept of unity in Torah, which leads to a unified halachic ruling, teaches us that every gathering of Jews must inevitably lead to a unified resolve.

The above concept represents a paradox. On the one hand, Torah emphasizes that no two people are the same, in mind or in image. On the other, Torah says that an assembly of Jews should be in the manner of “all of us as one” — total unity.

The same paradox is present in Torah study. On the one hand, one must delve deeply into Torah, with total concentration — which requires solitude. On the other hand, the Talmud states categorically that success in Torah study can only come from learning with another, not when learning alone. Moreover, a synergistic effect takes place when learning together: each individual, through helping each other, becomes one unity and together can achieve more than each one can on his own. The Talmud draws an analogy to two people, who together can lift a load heavier than the combined load each can lift separately.

The above paradox in Torah study emerges also in halachic rulings. Our Sages state (Pirkei Avos 5:17): “Any controversy which is for the sake of Heaven is destined to endure.” Because the controversy is for the sake of Heaven, the differing opinions both stem from truth — “these and these are the words of the living G‑d.” A prime example of this is the controversy between Bais Hillel and Bais Shamai. Simultaneously, however, once the final halachah has been established according to the majority rule, the minority (usually Bais Shamai in the above example) must also abide by the halachah. Again, the above paradox: Emphasis that all opinions in Torah are truth, on the one hand; and on the other, the obligation to actually follow only one opinion.

So too in our case: Although the people assembled here have different minds and opinions, the goal of the assembly is to reach a consensus of opinion, clear, unified undertakings.

2. In practical terms: Because the assembly of many Jews together inspires them to make greater efforts in Judaism, the conclusion reached at this assembly — to increase in Torah and mitzvos — will certainly be unanimous. This is consonant to the Mitteler Rebbe’s famous teaching, that when two Jews meet, two G‑dly souls oppose one animal soul. Since “a person does not transgress for something that does not concern him,” the first person’s animal soul is not interested in influencing the second person. The G‑dly soul, however, wishes to fulfill its mission of “You shall love your fellow as yourself — this is a great principle in the Torah,” and therefore the G‑dly soul works to influence the animal souls of all Jews. The ostensible purpose of the meeting is irrelevant. Since “I was created solely to serve my Maker,” their meeting is so that their two G‑dly souls can together battle against the animal soul.

We find the paradox of different opinions merging into a consensus in an episode in the Torah. G‑d instructed Moshe (Bamidbar 11:16-17), “Assemble seventy of Israel’s elders ... and I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will grant it to them.” G‑d chose that not just a single individual receive Moshe’s spirit, but specifically seventy elders, of different minds and from different tribes. Just as “Moshe is true and his Torah is true,” so too are all the seventy elders who received Moshe’s spirit.

Indeed, the multiplicity of opinions lend distinction for even to G‑d’s glory, “The glory of the king is in a multitude of people.” As Scripture states (Tehillim 104:24): “How manifold are Your works, 0’ L‑rd” — meaning that the manifold creations are G‑d’s praise. This refers even to the angels, as stated (Daniel 7:10), “a thousand thousands serve Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him.”

So too with Jews: Although all souls are “a part of G‑d above,” nevertheless, no two souls are of the same opinion. Indeed, the very differences in opinion, and the ensuing debates and dialectic study in Torah, lead to resolutions of difficulties and halachic rulings that would otherwise be impossible to attain. And the knowledge that the multiplicity in the world is only for G‑d’s glory ensures that otherwise totally different people reach a unanimous conclusion in regard to Torah and mitzvos.


The second and third sichas of this farbrengen have been published as a separate essay, titled “Sun, Moon and Man.”


3. It is usual to hold a “siyum” (celebration in honor of the conclusion) of a tractate in the Talmud today, the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Rebbetzin Chanah (the Rebbe Shlita’s mother). We shall study two tractates, the endings of which seem to be contradictory. The tractate Moed Koton ends with the words, “Torah scholars have no rest even in the world to come, as it is said: ‘They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before G‑d in Tzion.’“ The tractate Tamid ends with “A psalm, a song for the Shabbos day — for the day which will be all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting.”

These two passages seem to be contradictory. Moed Koton seems to imply that the ultimate of life in the world to come is to have “no rest.” Tamid implies that perfection in the world to come (“the day which will be all Shabbos”) will be “rest for life everlasting.”

The Maharsha (Chiddushei Aggadas on Berachos) asks the above question, and answers that it can be resolved “according to the verse ‘And G‑d finished on the seventh day His work.’ What was the world missing [in the six days of creation]? Rest. When Shabbos came, rest came, and the work [of creation] was finished — as Rashi explains in Chumash that rest is the completion and finish of work and effort. It [the tractate Moed Koton] is saying that a Torah scholar does intellectual work and toil in this world, and in the world to come he has no rest and completion from this intellectual work.”

The Maharsha, in other words, is differentiating between two types of rest. The tractate Tamid is talking of rest from actual physical work, and in the world to come, there will be “rest for life everlasting” from such work. The tractate Moed Koton is talking of intellectual work, Torah study, from which there will be no rest in the world to come.

The Maharsha’s answer is puzzling. He says that the future will be different than the present in that everyday work will be non-existent (like on Shabbos), and one will be free to engage in intellectual toil. But such a phenomenon has already existed in the past. When Jews complied with G‑d’s will in the times of the first Bais Hamikdosh, they saw the fulfillment of the verse “Strangers will stand and shepherd your sheep,” and Jews engaged only in Torah study. Moreover, even in the time of exile, Rashbi and his colleagues devoted themselves exclusively to Torah study (See Berachos 35b). How, then, can we say that the innovation of the future era will be that there will be no need to work?

However, both passages in the above two tractates are true, for there are two types of reward commensurate to two types of service in the world. The two types of service are: 1) steady, unchanging service, in the manner of “This Torah shall never change;” 2) To always go further, to strive to reach new plateaus of achievement, to “rise higher in holy matters.” (See essay “Sun, Moon and Man” for a more detailed analysis of these two types of service). The reward for the former type of service is the revelation of “the day which will be all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting.” The reward for the latter is “no rest even in the world to come, as it is said: ‘They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before G‑d in Tzion.’“

The conclusions of the two tractates correspond to the contents of each respectively. “Tamid” means “constant,” for this tractate mainly discusses the regular, constant sacrifice offered each day. In man’s service to G‑d, it corresponds to constant, unchanging service, in the manner of “This Torah shall never change.” The conclusion of this tractate is therefore the idea of “the day which will be Shabbos and rest for life everlasting,” for the fitting reward for such a type of service is constant and unchanging rest (“rest for life everlasting”).

Moed Koton, on the other hand, means “the small festival;” and on the festivals, extra sacrifices are offered — mirroring the service of rising higher, reaching new plateaus. Moreover, “moed — festival,” literally means “time,” and time is the concept of change, comprising the past which always changes to the present, and the present into the future. Thus time is always a blend of past, present and future. The name “small” (“the small festival”) also indicates change — from big to small. The conclusion of tractate Moed Koton discusses the concept of mourning, which is a bad thing that should be transformed to good — the service of change.

The conclusion of this tractate is therefore the subject of the reward in the world to come — that “Torah scholars ... go from strength to strength” — for the fitting reward for a service of change and striving to go higher is to “go from strength to strength” such that “they have no rest.”

The above explanation also lends understanding to the conclusion of the tractate Berachos. It ends with the same idea as does the tractate Moed Koton, that “Torah scholars have no rest in this world nor in the world to come ...”, and adds a further statement that “Torah scholars increase peace in the world ...”

Both these concepts parallel the contents of the tractate. “Berachos — Blessings,” plural tense, means not only many blessings quantitatively but also many types of blessings. There are two main types of blessings: 1) a regular, constant blessing, which is drawn from the root-source of the one who is blessed, and is commensurate to him; 2) an unusual blessing, which is drawn from a level above the root-source of the one who is blessed, such as the priestly blessing.

This is paralleled by the actual contents of the tractate. The tractate talks first of the obligations regarding the recital of Shema in the morning and in the evening, which is a constant obligation; then it talks of the laws regarding the blessings over things from which one has benefit, blessings which change from food to food.

These parallel the above two types to service: “This Torah shall never be changed,” and “always rise in holy matters.” Because this tractate deals with both types of service, it follows that it teaches that there is a third type of service, one which encompasses the two. That is, one must engage in both types simultaneously.

The conclusion of the tractate follows the same line. First it talks of “going from strength to strength” — the reward for constantly increasing service. Then comes the idea of “Torah scholars increase peace in the world” — the reward for engaging in both types of service simultaneously, for peace is the element which synthesizes these two services.

Another point: Every Jew is obligated to learn all of the Talmud, including the tractates Moed Koton and Tamid, and to engage in their corresponding services. As a preparation to this, he first learns Berachos, which, as the first tractate in the Talmud, encompasses all the Talmud — including the above two types of service.

But, a person may ask, how is it possible to reconcile and synthesize these two opposite types of service. The answer is provided by the conclusion of the entire Talmud: “The only vessel G‑d could find to hold blessings for Israel is peace, as it says, ‘The L‑rd will give strength to His people, the L‑rd will bless His people with peace.’“ The answer to the above question, then, is that G‑d bestows special strength to fulfill such a task, and He also gives Israel the vessel to hold His infinite blessings for success.

These two types of service are also present in the idea of a yartzeit. A Yartzeit is commemorated by Torah study, the giving of tzedakah, and the recital of special prayers in the merit of the deceased’s soul. But has not the soul left this world for many years already? However, the soul is eternal and unchanging — and a yartzeit thus emphasizes one’s absolute belief in the soul’s immortality.

Simultaneously, a yartzeit stresses the opposite. On a yartzeit “kaddish” is recited, where the words “Exalted and hallowed be His great Name” are said. Kaddish is said because through its recital on a yartzeit the soul ascends from “world” to “world,” which is associated with the exaltation of G‑d’s Name. We see, then, that a yartzeit expresses the idea of “ascending in holy matters” — the idea of change. Again, the two concepts elaborated on above: the eternality of Torah, coupled with the ceaseless striving to rise ever higher in completion of the Torah.