1. Tonight’s farbrengen commemorates the passing of a leader in Israel, the Rebbe Maharash. Although other leaders succeeded him, “holiness does not move from its place,” especially when talking of a leader’s efforts; his work during his life time certainly has a lasting effect for all generations. This is emphasized on the actual day of the yartzeit, for then “the Divine Service which he served all the days of his life” and “all the effort of man which his soul toiled during his life-time ... becomes revealed and radiates in a manifest way from above downwards” (Iggeres HaKodesh 27-28). Thus a yartzeit is the appropriate and auspicious time to derive lessons from the Rebbe Maharash’s teachings.

“Leader,” in Hebrew, is “Nassi,” which has the meaning of “raising,” for a leader’s function is to raise and elevate his generation. In the words of Scripture, said to Moshe Rabbeinu the first leader: “Raise up the head of the children of Israel.” This is in addition to the leader’s task to be with the people, to “bring them out and bring them in,” to share in their sufferings and to participate in their joy as if they were his sufferings and his joys.

We find just such qualities in Moshe Rabbeinu, of whom the Talmud (Nedarim 38a) says: “Concerning him it is said, ‘He that has a generous eye shall be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.’“ Although Moshe could have used an emissary, he himself went to give his bread to the poor. Moreover, he gave “of his bread:” bread is the staple of life, to the extent that all food is called “bread;” and yet Moshe gave his bread specifically — and we can imagine the lofty nature of Moshe’s “bread,” the staple of his life — to the poor. In other words, he gave not just what he didn’t need, but gave of his bread, that which was necessary to sustain his own life. And who did he give it to? To the “poor,” not just to those from whom he could expect to see fruits as a result of his generosity.

This is similar to the above idea that Moshe Rabbeinu raised up the head of the children of Israel: Although the person is a “poor” man, Moshe raises him up and gives him “of his bread.”

But there seems to be a paradox. On the one hand, the people receive all their needs from the leader, and on the other, the leader raises them up. How can one simultaneously receive and yet be raised up?

The paradox is resolved through an understanding of Moshe’s nature, of whom it is said, “The man Moshe was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.” The Alter Rebbe notes that Moshe was more humble than even a gentile — “than any man on the face of the earth.” The Alter Rebbe explains that Moshe certainly knew his own qualities, first and foremost that “Moshe received the Torah at Sinai” and transmitted it to all Jews for all generations. Nevertheless, he was still the most humble of men for he considered that his qualities did not stem from his own greatness, but as a result of the powers bestowed upon him from above. If these self-same powers would be given to another, Moshe thought, he would be his equal, and perhaps even greater. Thus, although Moshe was so exceedingly great — “No other prophet like Moshe has arisen in Israel” — he was also exceedingly humble, knowing his greatness was a result of the powers bestowed upon him from above.

So too in our case: Just as Moshe’s greatness and leadership was not contradictory to his being a receiver (and therefore was so humble), so the fact that people receive from the leader does not contradict that the leader raises and exalts them.

To return to our original point: A leader’s function in general is to raise the people of his generation. In addition, each leader possesses a unique aspect that differentiates him from his predecessors and his successors. Thus the Rebbe Maharash, besides being the Tzemach Tzedek’s successor — and therefore possessing all the aspects and concepts of the preceding leaders — also possessed a unique aspect through which all the concepts bequested to him by his predecessors passed.

The Rebbeim have said that the Rebbe Maharash’s conduct was “Baal Shemsque” — conduct transcending nature. This refers to conduct concerning physical things, as we see that all the stories about the Baal Shem Tov’s wondrous ways concern the physical world (in contrast to the profound Torah of the Baal Shem Tov, to which we do not find the term “Baal Shemsque conduct” applied).

The above conduct of the Rebbe Maharash is paralleled in his dictum “lechatchilah ariber” — I ‘strive for the top in the first place, transcending all obstacles.” The Rebbe Maharash did not strive to enclothe his wondrous ways in natural vestments, but his conduct was “in the first place” in such a way as to openly transcend nature.

The lesson from the Rebbe Maharash on his yartzeit, then, is that now is an auspicious time when every Jew is given special powers to engage in Torah and mitzvos in the manner of “lechatchilah ariber.”

In simple terms: When thoughts pop into a Jew’s mind, he must find out where they spring from, and why they do. But when he thinks about what the Rebbe Maharash wants him to do at this very moment, today, in the year 5744, in this place — there are things which the Rebbe Maharash would obviously want him to do. A Jew must know that now is an auspicious time to perform these things — giving tzedakah (literal or spiritual), Torah study, etc. — in the manner of “lechatchilah ariber.”

A person certainly will succeed in this, for the Rebbe Maharash did not say that one should try such a mode of conduct to see if it will be successful, but instead, he announced “I say that we should go [in the manner of] lechatchilah ariber.” Such is the way to conduct oneself — and therefore, success is assured.

Besides being instructed that our service should be in the manner of “lechatchilah ariber,” we also receive the strength to do so from a leader in Israel, who helps every Jew in all matters.

In practical terms: We cannot know for certain which topic in Torah (exoteric or esoteric) the Rebbe Maharash wishes us to learn now. But no such doubt exists in regard to actual deed. First of all, tzedakah — as the Mitteler Rebbe explains that “one should give money liberally to the poor on erev Sukkos” — not just to give, but to give liberally. And because the preparations for a festival begin thirty days beforehand, it follows that this entire thirty day period is termed “erev Sukkos.” The term certainly applies to the period after Yom Kippur, when Jews are already engaged in building their Sukkos. Thus now, after Yom Kippur, is certainly “erev Sukkos,” and one should give money liberally to the poor.

Giving tzedakah includes ensuring that all those who need it should have their Yom Tov needs, so that they too can properly celebrate “the Season of our Rejoicings” — and “joy is only with meat” and “joy is only with wine.” It certainly applies to spiritual tzedakah — to ensure that other Jews have the merit to fulfill the mitzvos of sukkah and the four kinds, which includes teaching them the laws concerning these mitzvos.

Furthermore, it is most certainly the Rebbe Maharash’s desire that Chassidus be studied — starting with his own, which is based on that of his predecessors, and which in turn is the base for that of his successors. And his Yartzeit teaches that all these matters should be done in the manner of “lechatchilah ariber.”

May it be G‑d’s will that everyone utilize the powers given for all of the above. In the words of the previous Rebbe: “Stand all of you ready” to receive the blessings and strength constantly bestowed by the Rebbeim.

2. The conduct of the Rebbe Maharash’s wife provides lessons for women’s conduct. The Rebbe Maharash lived in princely style, and his wife owned much jewelry. When the Rebbe Maharash had to travel abroad on community business, his wife, who remained at home, not only gave tzedakah from money she had on hand, but would pawn her jewelry to get more money to be able to give more tzedakah! The Rebbe Maharash on his return home would always have to redeem the jewelry his wife pawned.

This teaches that although Jewish women should have jewelry, they should not forget that if they can give more tzedakah by pawning their jewelry, they should grasp the opportunity. They may be sure that G‑d, Israel’s “husband,” will redeem their jewelry — not only their spiritual jewelry, but also their actual jewelry.

May it be G‑d’s will that everyone engage in all of the above. Through this we merit the blessing recorded at the beginning of this week’s par-shah: “This is the blessing which Moshe blessed ... the children of Israel” — the blessing of Moshe Rabbeinu, the first leader of Jewry, who encompasses the leaders of Jewry in every generation including the Rebbe Maharash.


3. There is a further lesson to be derived from the Rebbe Maharash’s name, “Shmuel.” The first “Shmuel” was Shmuel the prophet, and the Haftorah of Rosh Hashanah relates the events leading to his birth. The prophetess Chanah wished for a child, and sacrificed all to achieve her aim. After he was born, she reared him with self-sacrifice, and of her own accord, did not go to the Mishkan at Shiloh as was her custom, but remained home to rear and educate the child properly. This child was called Shmuel, because “from the L‑rd I have asked him (‘She’altiv’).” Shmuel was a very special lad, equal to Moshe and Aharon together.

We learn from this story, first of all, how much one should try to have children. Scripture says “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” — even if one already has many other children. Although one may have many different excuses, a true reckoning will lead to the correct conclusion. G‑d is the source of all good, and His nature is to do good. When one does not meddle in G‑d’s plans, He surely does all things in their proper time and in the proper way.

There are also lessons to be derived from the details in this story. Scripture relates that when Chanah brought Shmuel to the Mishkan in Shiloh, she said (Shmuel I, 1:27-28), “For this child I prayed, and the L‑rd has granted me my request which I asked of him. Therefore I also have given him to the L‑rd; as long as he lives he shall be devoted to the L‑rd.”

There are two interpretations to “I have given him to the L‑rd.” 1) It means that Chanah loaned him to G‑d; 2) that Chanah gave him as a gift to G‑d. Because “these and these are the words of the living G‑d,” both interpretations provide lessons for man’s service to G‑d.

That Chanah loaned Shmuel to G‑d means that she still retained a connection to him. This teaches us that a bond must always be in force between mother and son, parent and child. That Chanah gave Shmuel to G‑d as a gift teaches that one must have absolute trust in G‑d that He will provide for the material needs of the child — for since Chanah gave him to G‑d as a gift, He would certainly take care of him. Simultaneously, the prior lesson teaches that parents — who remain always bonded with the child — must still do their part. As the Talmud states: “There are three partners in a person” — G‑d, and his parents — and as equal partners, each of them is responsible for the child’s welfare.

A further lesson is that the expression “from the L‑rd I have asked him” implies that Shmuel was given to Chanah as a “loan” (“I have asked him” in Hebrew is “she’altiv,” which can also mean “I have borrowed him”). That is, he was given to Chanah as a trust. There are four types of ways a person can entrust an object to another, and the one who accepts the trust (the bailee) is correspondingly classified into four different categories. They are 1) one who minds the trust for free; 2) one who minds it for payment; 3) one who rents the object for use; 4) one who borrows the object. The law in the case of someone who borrows an ox with which to do work, is that if the owner is present when the ox dies, the borrower is absolved of any responsibility to pay.

A child is given to the parents as a loan, and the owner — G‑d — is always present, for “G‑d stands over him” constantly. Thus a parent cannot be faulted or punished for anything, but instead, should be rewarded for any trouble or distress undergone.

The above lesson from “Shmuel” — to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” — goes side by side with the lesson of “lechatchilah ariber.” The command to “subdue the earth” is the idea of always striving for the top; and since G‑d has commanded us to do so, every Jew certainly has the ability to fulfill it. The starting point in fulfilling this command is to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth” — literally.

Furthermore, all arguments to the contrary — that before one can be fruitful and subdue the earth he should first improve his own spiritual situation, etc. — are useless, for we have been told, “lechatchilah ariber!” The arguments may be valid, but this matter falls into the category of “a mitzvah which comes to hand — do not delay it.”

There is a lesson in the above for man’s service to G‑d — both his personal service, and in his relations to others. The intellectual faculties are as “mothers” to the emotional faculties, for the former give birth to the latter. The command “be fruitful and multiply” teaches that to comprehend a subject is not enough: that comprehension must be translated into feeling which in turn leads to deed.

So too one’s relations with others. If a person is unable to fulfill the mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply” literally, he can do so spiritually. The previous Rebbe said that one can become attached and bonded to him by making another Jew a chassid of the Rebbe. The reason for this is that a teacher is termed a father, and his students are his children. A person who cannot literally fulfill the mitzvah of having children is thus obligated to produce “students,” to turn another Jew into G‑d’s “chassid” — a “chassid” who will “subdue the earth.”

The lesson from all the above, in practical terms, is to do one’s utmost in disseminating Chassidus and Judaism, beginning with the mitzvah campaigns: Ahavas Yisroel (and unity of Jews), education (of oneself and others), Torah, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books, kashrus, family purity, and Shabbos and Yom Tov lights.


4. An extra lesson is derived from the special nature of this year — that it is the 101st year since the Rebbe Maharash’s passing. The number 101 has special significance. The number 100 corresponds to the ultimate in nature, for the world was created with ten utterances, each of which encompasses ten, thus equaling 100. The number 101 represents the ultimate in transcending nature.

Both the 100th and 101st year since the Rebbe Maharash’s passing are the idea of “lechatchilah ariber” — but in different frameworks. The number 100 is the idea of aiming for the top within the confines of nature itself. The number 100 is the idea of “lechatchilah ariber” in transcending nature.

An example of this is the approaching festival, the “Season of our Rejoicing.” When a person is in a regular mood, not joyous, he behaves in two ways: within limits and transcending limits. Both modes of conduct are within the confines of nature, but the latter is a higher form of conduct within nature itself. When a person is joyous, however, those matters which he performs in a manner transcending limits are infinitely higher than when performed in a regular mood.

The lesson from all the above is that one’s service must be in the manner of “lechatchilah ariber” corresponding to the number 101 — totally transcending all limits.


5. A further aspect associated with the 13th of Tishrei this year is derived from the daily portion of Chumash — the third section of parshas V’Zos HaBerachah. It begins with the words “To Yosef he said: His land is a blessing of G‑d, with the sweetness of the heaven’s dew, and the waters that lie below, the sweetness of the sun’s yield, the sweetness of the moon’s crop.” Rashi comments that “Among the tribes’ inheritances there was no land as full of all good as Yosef’s land.” This is also associated with the “inheritance” of the previous Rebbe, whose first name was Yosef. May the blessing given to Yosef therefore come to pass for all Jews, and may the idea of “You lead Your people like sheep” speedily be fulfilled in the true and complete redemption.