1. Simchas Torah is the conclusion of the festivals of Tishrei, all of which have an impact beyond their individual nature, for their purpose is to exert influence on the rest of the year. This influence begins to be exerted on Motzoei Simchas Torah (“Isru Chag”), for then the service of “Ya’akov holach l’darcho — Ya’akov went on his way” — begins. On Motzoei Simchas Torah a Jew begins his service of dealing with worldly matters, and he must then “unpack” the spiritual “baggage” accumulated during Tishrei for use throughout the rest of the year.

Although Motzoei Shabbos Torah this year is Shabbos, when one does not engage in worldly matters, another, loftier idea is brought to the fore: Since the service is done in the manner of delight, it follows that the service of “Ya’akov holach l’darcho” is also performed with delight, and not with arduous toil. Moreover, joy is also present, as stated “The day of your rejoicing — these are the Shabbosim.”

Every word of the phrase “Ya’akov holach l’darcho” is precise and has meaning, as with everything in Torah. “Ya’akov” represents a spiritual level lower than “Yisroel.” “Ya’akov holach l’darcho” — “Ya’akov went on his way” — teaches that even a Jew on the level of “Ya’akov” can go from strength to strength (“went”).

“Went” teaches that such a spiritual ascent must be to a level infinitely higher than previously. A true “going” means one reaches a station entirely different from the one he departed from, and thus, even after reaching an infinitely higher level, the next move must also be to a level which is infinitely loftier than the one before — and so on, ad infinitum.

Although the previous ascent was to an infinitely higher level, it is still possible to go further for in infinity itself there can be different degrees. A line, for example, contains an infinite number of points. A plane contains an infinite number of lines, and therefore, the number of points it contains must be greater than the number of points a single line contains.

So too with G‑d’s blessings: There are blessings which have definite, limited parameters, and those which transcend any limits. In the words of Scripture (Devorim 1:11): “The L‑rd G‑d of your fathers should increase upon you two thousand fold” — a limited blessing; and in addition, “He shall bless you as He has spoken to you” — a blessing without limits (Rashi). In the type of blessing which transcends limits itself there can also be differing degrees. For example, all blessings are encompassed in the blessing for children, life and abundant sustenance. In this itself there are limited and unlimited aspects. The blessing for children, for example, can be in the form of “The children of Israel increased and multiplied, and grew many and mighty very exceedingly” — the term “very exceedingly” implying an infinite increase. When this blessing is extended to the children also, the blessing is in an infinite manner loftier than even before.

In man’s service to G‑d, the above is expressed in a service in the manner of “going from strength to strength,” each time reaching a level infinitely higher than the previous one. Put simply, when a Jew utilizes all his powers for service to G‑d, and then does a bit more — it is a service transcending all limits, infinite.

It follows, then, that the joy which accompanies service must also be an infinite one — to be more joyous than one is normally capable of. This refers not only to joy of the soul, but also joy of the body — eating and drinking.

In this context, I will now give some bottles of “mashke” (liquor) to be distributed among the assembled. It is impossible to give a bottle to each person for 1) there are not enough bottles, and 2) a single person cannot drink the entire contents. I will therefore give bottles to a few individuals, who will then distribute the mashke to everyone. Because it is associated with the idea of blessing (as noted above), I will give the bottles to the kohanim, who are chosen by G‑d to bless the Jewish people. They will then distribute the mashke to everyone else.


2. In addition to the distinction of Simchas Torah that is present every year, this year, a leap year of 385 days duration, has additional qualities. The purpose of the joy of Simchas Torah is to extend it throughout the year, including the undertaking of good resolutions to increase in Torah study with joy. Thus the joy in Torah throughout the year is encompassed in Simchas Torah.

Since this year is of the longest possible duration, 385 days, it follows that Simchas Torah has an extra amount of joy, commensurate to the extra joy provided by the extra days of service present this year. This is expressed in actual deed, the giving of tzedakah for the “yearly fund” — i.e. a sum of tzedakah corresponding to the number of days in the year (a set sum for each day) is given at the onset of the year. This year, because it has the greatest number of days possible, the sum given for the “yearly fund” is also greater.

The calendar of this year — that Isru Chag (day after Yomtov) is on Shabbos — adds further distinction to Simchas Torah. Shabbos is the idea of delight — both that which comes from Above (“Shabbos is sanctified of itself”), and that which is produced by man’s service (“You shall call Shabbos ‘delight’“). Isru Chag, the day following Yomtov, is the first day of the year’s service after Simchas Torah. When Isru Chag is Shabbos, it emphasizes that the concepts of Simchas Torah which extend to the entire year must be permeated with delight. Simply put, a person should study Torah with such delight that one can actually see that Torah is his life. R. Abuhu’s face, for example, shone when he discovered an old Tosefta (Yerushalmi Shabbos 8:1), and Rebbe Yehudah’s face shone as a result of his wisdom — “the wisdom of man illumines his face” (Nedarim 49b).

When, therefore, a person resolves on Simchas Torah to increase in Torah and its dissemination, he should know that this year there is extra emphasis and increase in joy and delight. Extra joy — because the joy of Torah of the greatest possible number of days in a year is encompassed in Simchas Torah; and extra delight — because Isru Chag is on Shabbos.

The emphasis on both joy and delight this year is associated with the very idea of a leap year, which is to reconcile the solar and lunar years. The difference between the sun and moon parallel that between delight and joy. The moon is in a constant state of change, waxing and waning, similar to joy which is changeable. The sun, on the other hand, is constant, similar to delight, which is the idea of rest and unchangeability. A leap year, when the solar and lunar years are reconciled, is similar to the synthesis of joy and delight.

A leap year thus teaches a Jew that both joy and delight must be synthesized together in his service. When Torah study is in such a manner, it adds to the very learning, both in quality and quantity. And because Torah is infinite, a Jew can continue to increase further in his study of it.

Increase in Torah study is associated with today’s daily portion of Chumash — which, since today is Isru Chag, is the entire parshah of Bereishis. Parshas Bereishis is the beginning of the Torah. But is also possesses another, quality (thereby elevating it above parshas Berachah which is the end of the Torah). Bereishis is not only one of the longest parshahs in the Torah, in terms of the number of verses it contains, but it also spans the longest time — from creation until Noach’s birth, approximately one and a half thousand years. And because time and space are interrelated, it is also associated with spatial length. Moreover, an increase in quantity means also an increase in quality.

This, then, is the special nature of this year, when all of Bereishis is learned on Isru Chag: on one day, the longest parshah is learned — and in such a way as to affect the temporal-spatial world.

There is a lesson from this for man’s service to G‑d. That Torah is infinite applies not only to Torah in general, but to every particular therein. Since every segment in Torah is part of and connected to its essence, it partakes of the quality of infinity that is present in Torah. When a person checks but one letter in a Sefer Torah, for example, it is considered as if he has fulfilled the mitzvah of writing an entire Sefer Torah. The same applies to learning Torah. When one studies Torah properly, the particular part of Torah studied is not an isolated segment, but part of the entire Torah. Indeed, the understanding of an extra detail lends deeper comprehension to the entire subject under study — for each part of Torah is connected with another.

The lesson, then, is that in the study of any particular part of Torah, one should not stop at that particular part, but should expand it and build further — to infinity. This is particularly emphasized in parshas Bereishis, the longest par-shah in Torah (as noted above).

In practical terms: On Motzoei Shabbos, after havdalah, a Jew gathers together all the powers bestowed upon him on Simchas Torah, and goes forth to the service of the rest of the year, the service of “Ya’akov went on his way.” A Jew must know that besides his resolve to increase in Torah study throughout the coming year, that study must be such that every particular concept he learns adds understanding to all the concepts previously learned. Although this is an arduous task, special powers are granted to allow this study to be accomplished with joy and delight.

3. On Simchas Torah (at night) we explained that it is an auspicious time for each Jew to bless his fellow and Jewry in general — particularly using the text of the priestly blessings: “The L‑rd shall bless you and guard you. The L‑rd make His countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. The L‑rd turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.” We then recited these three verses. But of the fourth verse, which is “And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel, and I shall bless them,” we omitted the words “And they shall set My Name upon the children of Israel,” and said only “And I shall bless them.” This omission calls for explanation.

Let us first explain the idea that each Jew can bless another with the priestly blessing. Although the command to bless the Jews was given to the priests specifically, nevertheless, the blessings are verses in the Torah. Just as a Jew may recite these verses as part of learning Torah, so may he extend blessings to another Jew with the text of the priestly blessings.

To elaborate further: To bless another Jew is a good thing, a mitzvah. The Rebbeim lauded greatly the idea of expressing one’s love to a fellow Jew in concrete terms — through blessing him. The Alter Rebbe, for example, explained that G‑d receives great satisfaction from a Chassidic farbrengen, when the participants bless each other — analogous to a father who receives great satisfaction when his sons live peacefully and lovingly together.

Blessing a fellow Jew, then, is a great thing; and it is certainly no worse to use the accepted priestly format then to formulate one’s own blessings. Indeed, the former is better than the latter, for it encompasses all aspects of blessings for all Jews.

Moreover, although in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh there were many matters that were in the exclusive domain of the priests, when the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed these matters became relevant to all Jews. Prayer is a case of point. In the Bais Hamikdosh, only the priests actually offered the sacrifices. Nowadays, prayers replace the sacrifices, and it is a mitzvah for every Jew to pray.

Thus, although even today “it is a positive commandment from the Torah that the priests should bless Israel every day” (Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZoken, Orach Chayim 128:1), nevertheless, since many matters which belonged exclusively to the priests in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh have now been given to all Jews, we can posit that the text of the priestly blessings also pertain to all Jews. The difference is that in the case of non-priests, it is not a positive commandment to bless the people, and obviously no blessing is made over the mitzvah (as is done when the priests bless the people).

That is why on Simchas Torah, an auspicious time, we suggested that every Jew should bless his fellow with the text of priestly blessings. Because a full verse is being recited, one can say it exactly as written in the Torah, and say G‑d’s Name.

But why were the words “And they shall set My Name upon the children of Israel” omitted, and only the words “and I bless them” said at the end? It is a Talmudical principle that when citing a verse as a proof-text, one need cite only that part of the verse which is necessary as proof for the subject under discussion. This is so because since the rest of the verse is unnecessary, it would be irrelevant to cite it. Moreover, if the rest of the verse is in fact contradictory to the subject, then citing it would not only be irrelevant, but actually confusing.

In our case, the words “and I shall bless them” is the completion of the blessings to all Jews, telling us that besides the actual priestly blessings, G‑d’s blessings are also present — “and I shall bless them.” There are two interpretations to this (Rashi, Bamidbar 6:29): 1) “And I shall bless them” means G‑d blesses the Jewish people, agreeing with the priests; 2) “And I will bless them” means G‑d blesses the priests. In our case, it refers to G‑d’s blessing and agreement to the blessings bestowed upon Jews, and also that G‑d blesses those who bestow the blessings.

The first part of the verse, “And they shall set My Name upon the children of Israel,” was omitted, for not only is it irrelevant, but it is actually contradictory to the idea that all Jews (and not just priests) can bless other Jews. Rashi explains that “And they shall place My Name” means “they shall bless them with the Ineffable Name” — something which today not even the priests may do, and even in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh not all the kohanim could do so. And that is why we omitted saying these words.

4. This farbrengen is a continuation to and conclusion of Simchas Torah, on which Jews receive the strength to carry out the service of “Ya’akov went on his way” throughout the entire year. It is therefore the appropriate time to mention certain important matters.

First and foremost, the concept of love for Jews and unity of Jews, which are associated with Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. The Midrash, concerning Shemini Atzeres, (quoted by Rashi, Bamidbar 29:36) states: “This is an expression of endearment, like children who are departing from their father, and he says to them, ‘Your parting is difficult for me, tarry one more day.’“ Note that it states “Your parting” and not “our parting” — for it refers to the parting of Jews one from another after the holidays. Shemini Atzeres is the antidote to this parting, and ensures that the unity between Jews remains throughout the year.

Then comes the other mitzvah campaigns: Education — of oneself and others;

Torah — associated with Simchas Torah, the rejoicing of the Torah;

Tefillin — the whole Torah is compared to Tefillin.

Mezuzah — which has unique protective properties, as alluded to in the name Shad-ay, the letters of which are the capital letters of the words Shomer Dalsos Yisroel — Guardian of the Doors of Israel.

This idea is emphasized on Yomtov, when the Jews went on pilgrimage to the Bais Hamikdosh in Yerushalayim. One of the verses that speak of this pilgrimage states (Shemos 34:24): “No one will be envious of your land when you go to be seen in G‑d’s presence three times each year.” All Jews went on this pilgrimage, and the only ones left would be non-Jews. But non-Jews have not been commanded not to be envious. What difference, then, can it make if the non-Jew is envious of a Jew’s land or not?

However, if a non-Jew is envious of the land and possessions, he may wish to take them — and with all Jews in Yerushalayim, there will be none to prevent him. The Torah therefore promises that “No one will be envious of your land.”

An episode related in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Sissah 607) is a vivid illustration of G‑d’s protection at the times of pilgrimage. When Jews returned to their homes after Yomtov, their possessions were intact. Their non-Jewish neighbors informed them that guards had surrounded their houses — angels who were entering and leaving in the guise of men. And the same protection is afforded the whole year by the fulfillment of the mitzvah of mezuzah.

Tzedakah — as emphasized in the Torah reading of Shemini Atzeres, which begins with the words, “You shall tithe all the produce of your seed.” This section is read on Shemini Atzeres, for it is the time of tithing, including the tithe given to the poor — the idea of tzedakah.

House full of Jewish books — The three mitzvos given to women — Shabbos and Yomtov lights, kashrus, and family purity.

The campaign to unite all Jews — through each purchasing a letter in one of the general Sifrei Torah.

All of the above is in addition to the individual service of each particular day of the year, for which we receive the strength on Shemini Atzeres.