1. Whenever two Jews meet it is customary for one to open with a blessing, ‘Shalom Aleichem — Peace unto you’ and the other to reply — ‘Aleichem Shalom.’ The fact the greeting begins and closes with peace defines the character of the entire meeting that follows.1 It too, should begin and close2 with peace.

There is an added aspect to the blessing Shalom Aleichem. Shalom is more than the Hebrew word for peace. It is one of G‑d’s names. It is natural for a person to turn when he hears his name called. Furthermore, when his name is called with sincere feeling, he turns not only his head, but also his soul. The deeper the feeling invested in the call, the deeper response it evokes by the listener. Similarly, regarding calling G‑d’s name: there is always a constant connection between G‑d and the world for behold creation is a continuous process.3 However, when G‑d is called by Name, by a Jew, particularly, if feeling is invested in that call, G‑d turns and gives Himself over entirely to his people.

There are two added concepts to be learned from the blessing Shalom Aleichem. Firstly, even when addressed to one individual, the plural form of the word unto you — Aleichem is used. This emphasizes that no Jew is merely an individual entity. Rather, he is in the words of our Sages: “an entire world.”

Secondly, the blessing reinforces the knowledge that eventually the world will be brought to a state of peace. Though we have free choice as the Torah teaches: “I set before you life and death ...,” that verse concludes: “and you shall choose life,” the latter being not only a command, but also a promise that eventually the choice for life will be made. Similarly, in this case, eventually, peace will prevail.

The above can be applied in our service of G‑d. Despite the many challenges of the exile, a Jew has the potential to stand firm and prevail against all the influences that conceal G‑dliness. The veils and darkness of the exile are felt only in regard to a person’s individual perception. In contrast, when he connects himself with Shalom — the name of G‑d — he receives fresh strength to spread the awareness of G‑d and generate peace in the world.

These activities are possible because he is constantly aware that his purpose in the world is to carry out G‑d’s will. Thus, he will be able to establish peace throughout the world: beginning with his own personal world. to establish peace between his G‑dly soul and his animal soul4 and proceed from there to create peace within the entire world.

The power to create peace comes through Torah as the Rambam writes, “the Torah was given to create peace in the world.”5 This concept can be explained through the interpretation of a verse in the Megillah. There it is written: “there is one nation, scattered abroad and dispersed among the nations.” On the surface, it is difficult to understand: How can the Jews remain one nation if they are scattered and dispersed? To answer that question, the verse continues, “their laws are different from the other nations.” The Torah, the fundamental base of the Jewish faith, allows for the possibility of peace and unity in a world of friction.6 Indeed, our Sages explained that when G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people,7 Bilaam and all the nations of the world proclaimed: “the L‑rd is giving strength to His people, May the L‑rd bless His people with peace.”

The above quote teaches us a further concept. Our Sages explained, “the word strength can only mean Torah.” Thus, a Jew must realize that his efforts in spreading peace throughout the world have to carried out with strength. A Jew must work with pride without considering any obstacles that stand in his path. When a Jew follows the path of Torah without considering whether the world will deem his behavior proper or not, he becomes a “master of the world.” He is able to stand strong regarding all matters of Torah and mitzvos, and bring about peace in the world, and peace between Jews and gentiles in a manner which, “Fear and awe will fall upon them.” In these critical times, when nations are challenging one and another and violence is increasing in an unbelievable manner, the Jews through their connection with G‑d and Torah have the power to bring about peace in the entire world.

The above is connected to Yud-Tes Kislev. The Alter Rebbe explained that he was reciting Tehillim when he was informed of his release. As he explained, “Immediately, upon reciting the verse, ‘My soul was redeemed in peace.’“ In the Chassidic discourses of the Rebbeim, it is explained that the concept of peace, a victory without the need for battle or war, is intrinsically connected with Yud-Tes Kislev.

This service of peace begins in the personal world of one’s soul as explained above: peace between the animal soul and the G‑dly soul and extends to the greatest sphere possible; peace in the world at large; the nations making peace with Israel in a manner where, “Kings shall be your foster fathers and their queens your nursemaids.”

May the above come to fruition in the present age when all the appointed times for Moshiach’s coming have passed and the matter is dependent on Teshuvah alone.” The Talmud teaches that with one thought a person can do Teshuvah and reach the level of a complete Tzaddik. May that take place and then “my soul will be redeemed in peace,” with the ultimate redemption led by Moshiach.

2. The above though applicable to any meeting of two Jews, is surely relevant to the present occasion when 1) many Jews meet together 2) the meeting is held in connection with an auspicious occasion — Yud-Tes Kislev — the holiday of redemption.

The concept of redemption has parallels for each individual within the context of his service of G‑d. A Jew must be redeemed from the constraints of the animal soul and natural tendencies. The ultimate state of redemption will be that the darkness of exile itself will be transformed into positive factors. Similarly, regarding an individuals personal redemption. Its complete state will come about when the animal soul is itself transformed to good and it too, is aroused towards the love of G‑d.

Once a person is redeemed from the limitations of the animal soul, he will naturally be aroused to love for his fellow Jew.8 Thus, his personal state of peace brings about peace with others.

The above is further emphasized by the fact that this gathering is attended by many. Our Sages declared: “the Divine Presence rests on every group of ten,” and the Alter Rebbe explained that this applies even when the ten are not involved in Torah and mitzvos. The very fact that they meet together draws down the Divine Presence. Furthermore, the Divine Presence is revealed in such a manner that, according to the Alter Rebbe, were an angel to be present in an assembly of ten Jews, he would be consumed by awe and fright to the point where his existence would be totally nullified.

What causes this great revelation? Just as on the physical plane, a father will feel great joy when he sees his children coming together with love and peace, similarly, G‑d feels great joy when He sees the unity of the Jewish people and that “joy breaks down all barriers” and causes a greater revelation of G‑dliness.

There is another concept associated with this gathering: On the verse: “My soul was redeemed in peace” our Sages commented: “I consider all those who are involved in Torah study, deeds of loving kindness and pray together with a community to have redeemed Me and My children from among the nations.” These activities will be carried out at this gathering. Verses of Torah, statements of our Sages, and concepts of Chassidus will be recited. Similarly, looking at a colleague in a friendly manner and showing him good feeling can be considered an act of ‘loving kindness.’ Indeed, the concept of arousing positive lies at the core of this sphere of behavior as emphasized by our Sages comment (B. Basra 9b) “that someone who gives a penny to a poor person is blessed six times over. Someone who offers words of comfort is blessed 119 times over.”

The Rebbe Rashab explained that the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward began after the redemption of Yud-Tes Kislev. Each of the concepts — spreading wellsprings, and outward, carries within it a unique import. The word wellsprings refers to the source of Torah. Though there is an aspect of Torah that can be compared to a broad river, its source is a wellspring from which the water spurts forth in individual drops.

Spreading — implies taking those wellsprings and spreading them all over the world with no boundaries or limits.

Outward — means extending oneself beyond one’s natural place. Spreading the wellsprings beyond one’s home and family to every Jew and to the entire world.

The spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus should not be limited to Jews alone, but should be extended outward even to gentiles. As stated above the purpose of the giving of the Torah was to create peace within the world. Similarly, the Rambam writes that every Jew is obligated to try and influence the gentiles to fulfill the Seven Noachide Laws. Furthermore, one of the achievements of Moshiach will be, as the Rambam writes, to refine and elevate the gentiles until they also become aware of G‑d, to the point where G‑dliness will be revealed ‘to all flesh,’ even to gentiles. Since the rewards of Torah come measure for measure, it follows that among the efforts to bring the Messianic age must be the efforts to spread the Seven Noachide Laws, including the wellsprings associated with them, outward to the gentiles. Indeed, the prophets tell us: ‘Nations shall walk following your light.’ Though Torah was given to the Jews, it will also serve as a light to gentiles.

This concept is also intrinsically related to Yud-Tes Kislev. In his letter to Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev describing the redemption the Alter Rebbe emphasizes how the wonders and miracles of Yud-Tes Kislev were witnessed and acknowledged by “the officials and peoples of the land,’ i.e. by gentiles.

3. There is an added lesson to be learned from this year’s celebration of Yud-Tes Kislev. This year Yud-Tes Kislev (redemption) falls on Sunday, the first day of Parshas Vayeishev.10

Sunday is always connected to the Shabbos that precedes it. Shabbos is a day of rest when one’s service reaches perfection, nevertheless a Jew cannot content himself with this state. Directly after Shabbos, he has to proceed further and reach the level of redemption.

The need for this process of continual growth is expressed in our Sages’ statement, “Sages have no rest, not in this world or in the next.” Not only in this world with all its obstacles can and must a Jew proceed “from strength to strength,” but even after reaching a high level in the world to come, he cannot remain content and must proceed further.

The concept mentioned above i.e. that even though a person is at rest, he is obligated to proceed further, to go from strength to strength constantly in a process of personal redemption, is emphasized by Rashi in his commentary on Parshas Vayeishev. Searching for a point of connection between the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev, “These are the generation of Ya’akov, Yosef ...,” and the conclusion of the previous portion which describe the descendants of Esav, Rashi explains: that Ya’akov saw all the tribal chiefs descending from Esav and he became frightened wondering: “Who can conquer all of these?” and then the verse “and the house of Ya’akov will be fire and the house of Yosef a flame and the house of Esav straw,” occurred to him. Thus, once Yosef11 was born, Ya’akov had no fear of Esav because he realized that the potential to burn down the walls of exile was already in existence.

The above provides a clear lesson applicable in our behavior. The present exile, called the exile of Rome, is related to the tribal chiefs of Esav as Rashi comments, Magdiol. He is Rome. A person may often wonder? “How can I continue despite the double darkness of the present exile?” To answer this question, Rashi teaches us the potential to burn the walls of exile exists at present for, “the house of Ya’akov will be fire and the house of Yosef a flame”.12

We must realize that we shouldn’t feel inferior or become upset at the secular influences in the world at large and within our own personalities. Rather, we should realize that they are straw which we have the potential to burn. After this stage is completed, each person will, in the context of his own personal service, merit the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Delivers, will go up to Mt. Zion to judge the House of Esav and the Kingship will be the L‑rd’s;” i.e. he will be able to crown G‑d as King over all his personal matters, reaching a state of Shabbos. But one should not be content, with that achievement but rather proceed further in the service of G‑d from strength to strength.

Then, the personal redemption of each individual will bring about the ultimate redemption of the entire Jewish people, ushering in a state when, “the Kingship will be the L‑rd’s,” in the future redemption led by Moshiach.

Despite the above elaboration on Rashi’s explanation of the connection between the description of Esav’s descendant’s and the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev, a basic question remains: True, the awareness that the “House of Ya’akov will be fire,” is sufficient reason not to become intimidated from the tribal chiefs of Esav and it serves as encouragement to proceed “from strength to strength” in the service of G‑d etc. Nevertheless, the question remains, if the only reason the Torah mentions Esav’s descendants is to teach us that they will be consumed, why was there a need for such a lengthy elaboration of all his descendants?

The answer to this question is alluded to by Rashi in the verse he quotes, “and the house of Esav will be straw.” Why doesn’t the verse say, “the House of Esav will be ash.” The point is, ash has little use, while straw has many positive functions. Indeed, it was with straw that the Jews made the bricks to build the cities of Pissom and Ramses. The verse wants to explain that even in the Messianic age, the House of Esav will not be destroyed entirely, but rather serve as “straw.” Its existence will be secondary to that of the Jewish people, but it will be useful and helpful as the prophet declares, “and foreigners will arise and tend your sheep,” i.e. they will do the simple labors for the Jewish people and thus, the Jewish people will be free to serve G‑d.

The above concept is relevant not only in the Messianic age, but also at present. Today, each one of us whether his major occupation is Torah study or business affairs has some contact with the secular world and with gentiles. Since everything G‑d creates has a specific purpose, it follows that the fact that G‑d brought a person into contact with the secular world also has a purpose: namely that the person should try to influence the gentiles to fulfill their Seven Noachide Laws and by doing so, he prepares the world for the Messianic age.13

Often, the Jewish people are divided into two general categories; Yissachar — Torah scholars, and Zevulun — those involved in business. There was a time when Torah scholars had no contact with secular matters. For example, Rashbi and his colleagues did not depart from Torah study for a moment. “Torah was their only occupation.” In contrast, today, even the most learned and most holy are somewhat involved in business or at least come into contact with secular society. They must realize that their contact with gentiles is not coincidental, but rather has a Divine intent: that they influence those gentiles to carry out the Seven Noachide Laws.

If the above applies concerning the Yissachars, the Torah scholars of our day, it surely has relevance concerning the Zevuluns, the businessmen, who in many cases, conduct most of their affairs together with gentiles. They should not only take from the gentiles, but also give, teaching them values. Furthermore, there are many who G‑d has granted positions of influence and power over gentiles and connections with the city and local governments. When such a person does not use that influence and those connections for the benefit of Yiddishkeit and for the benefit of the world at large, by working to spread the maintenance of harmony in the world, the aim of the Seven Noachide Laws, he turns away from the potential G‑d has granted him and doing so violates as mentioned above, a clear Halachic decision made by the Rambam.

The fact that such an individual does not utilize the potential granted him, has a negative effect on the Jewish people as well. At the very beginning of the exile of our people, we were told by the prophet Yirmiyahu, “Seek the peace of the city ... for in its peace, you shall have peace.” Thus, it is clear that when the peace of the cities in which we dwell will be secured through the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws, the peace of the Jewish people will also increase.

Every Jew who has a connection with gentiles or could establish such a connection should use them for the benefit of the Jewish people and the benefit of the world at large by stressing the observance of the Noachide laws. Surely if a person is willing to make an effort to establish connections with a gentile in order to benefit financially, he should use those same connections to spread the Noachide laws. Nevertheless, there are many who shrink from the fulfillment of the obligation, arguing that they would rather use this time to study Torah. Firstly, they must know they are violating an explicit Halachic obligation.14 Secondly, they should ask themselves why don’t they feel the necessity to study Torah during the time they are courting the favor of those very same gentiles for their own financial gain. Therefore, efforts must be made in that direction, particularly, here in America, where working for the ‘peace’ and benefit of that country have a direct effect on the peace and benefit of its Jewish inhabitants.

Furthermore, such efforts will cause G‑d’s name to be sanctified in public. The Talmud relates many stories of how the just and honest behavior of a Jew in his relations with gentiles caused a sanctification of G‑d’s name. In truth, one need not bring proof from the Talmud, in everyday life we always see that when a Jew lives according to Shulchan Aruch and carries out his relations with gentiles accordingly, naturally, such behavior brings about a sanctification of G‑d’s name.

As stated above, the above efforts are related to Yud-Tes Kislev, for the Alter Rebbe emphasizes that the miracles of Yud-Tes Kislev were witnessed by the nations and their officers.15 There are miracles that are entirely clothed within nature to that point where “the person to whom the miracle occurred does not realize the miracle.” There are more open miracles that are revealed to the Jews and thus lift them above the limits of nature. The Alter Rebbe explains that there are even greater miracles which can be perceived by gentiles. Just as Avraham, the first Jew proclaimed the existence of G‑d to the entire world: “Until Avraham came, the world groped in darkness, and Avraham began to give forth light,” so too, Avraham’s children have to follow his example and reveal G‑dliness to the entire world. Such a revelation was effected by the miracles of Yud-Tes Kislev, when even the nations and their officers were lifted above their normal existence and forced to recognize G‑d as the Creator and Director of the world.

The Alter Rebbe’s imprisonment came as a result of his work of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. Learning Chassidus himself and teaching to a small group of followers would not have aroused the opposition of the Russian government. Only when he began to spread Chassidism to all Jews and to do so in a manner that would influence the gentiles around them, as the Rambam requires, did he attract the governments attention. Thus, the Alter Rebbe’s redemption signified approval by the Russians of his actions. Indeed, shortly, after the redemption, the Alter Rebbe was given the potential by the Russian government to extend the scope of his activities. Furthermore, subsequently we see the Alter Rebbe, and on his instruction, his students and emissaries involving themselves in the affairs of the Russian government and the Alter Rebbe being rewarded for these efforts and granted the title, “Honored Citizen for all generations.”

The above activities were not carried out by the Alter Rebbe as a result of his unique personal qualities. On the contrary, the fact that the story is told to all, and that the Alter Rebbe himself instructed his students to follow in his path, demonstrates, that we all can apply these principles in our own behavior. This is particularly true in the light of the Rambam’s statement mentioned above.

As mentioned above, these lessons are connected to the concept that the house of Esav will be straw i.e. that there will be a benefit to be derived from it. A Jew’s purpose is not to nullify the existence of the gentiles, but rather to influence them to keep the Seven Noachide Laws and then use them for elevated purposes. Then, even in the last days of exile: “Kings will be your foster-fathers,” and from that state, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the prophecy: “and the Kingship shall be the L‑rd’s.”

4. Though “the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,” and that statement has a particular relevance to Eretz Yisroel, the land where the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” nevertheless, G‑d desired that everything that occurs in the time of exile be clothed in nature. Therefore, a Jew is forced to rely on the assistance of gentiles. However, the Jews must not approach the gentiles with an inferiority complex, as a beggar at the door. They must realize that the only reason they need the gentiles help is because G‑d desired this situation. Therefore, they must proudly tell the gentiles that since G‑d sent the Jewish people into exile,16 they require the assistance of the gentiles for financial aid, for weaponry, etc. Nevertheless, the Jew must realize that, in truth, this assistance will come in a manner where, “Kings will be your foster-fathers and their queens your nursemaids.”

The direct opposite can be seen from the situation in Lebanon: When nations challenge one another and violence breaks out, it is natural that the Jews are chosen as scapegoats and the blame placed upon them. But why must they accept that burden? Why do they call out, crying for justice and righteousness, establishing “a committee of investigation” for the sole purpose of blaming themselves? The person responsible for the massacre, the one who asked his soldiers to kill, accepts no blame. On the contrary, he freely travels to Syria and there is received with great honor. In contrast, the Jews, instead of openly proclaiming the identity of the one who ordered the massacre and those who carried them out, spend their time investigating whether to blame a particular individual for having some prior information about the action or not. The truth of the situation cannot be hidden; but why are they afraid to publicize and emphasize the real perpetrators of the massacre? Why are they afraid of the gentiles?

Wherever a Jew is found, he should never feel inferior to a gentile. Since we are taught: “Place G‑d before you always” a Jew must always feel that he is standing before G‑d’s Presence. In such a situation considering a gentile important and feeling inferior to him is a direct rebellion against G‑d. In the presence of a King, one should consider the King alone. To give importance to anyone else, even to one of the King’s officers, is a direct rebellion against the King. Nevertheless, if the above is true, as a general rule, it surely applies to Jews living in Eretz Yisroel, and particularly, to those who claim to act on behalf of the entire Jewish people. A display of an inferiority complex on their behalf is the sign of how severe the present exile is.

Ideally, a Jew should stand proudly before the gentiles and explain to them the Seven Noachide Laws emphasizing that they should be carried out not because they appear to be logically sound, but, because G‑d commanded them. Even though a Jew requires the gentiles for financial or military assistance, he should do so proudly. On the contrary, this upright stance, will lead to the fulfillment of G‑d’s blessing, “I will lead you upright” and then as the blessing concludes, “I will grant peace to the land,” a true peace, one which emanates from the dread a gentile has of a Jew as it is written,” and the nations of the land will see that the name of the L‑rd is called upon you and they shall fear you.” This fear comes as a result of the Jew’s fulfillment of the mitzvos without shame or embarrassment17 for when a Jew carries out mitzvos with pride, a non-Jew stands in awe of him and hence, will not consider war.

The peace established in this manner will have the blessing of Torah law. In contrast, the “peace” established by breaking Torah law endangered the security of our people, returning important strategic defense points and economic resources.

Not one of the gentiles would ever have dreamed that the Jews would really surrender so much. It is ridiculous to think that in a time of crisis, one would return strategic military positions to an enemy or give that enemy resources of vital need for the economy. The Yetzer Hora itself would never consider such an action. However, there are those who have goaded the Yetzer Hora to actions that it would normally have no interest in.

Mistakes of the same type are being made at present in Lebanon. Thousands of Israeli soldiers are stationed in Lebanon, yet they are being held back from completing the goal for which they were sent. The military authorities had suggested a quick war, since the Arabs were not at all prepared for the attack, it would have been able to successfully accomplish its objectives in a minimum of time. Furthermore, the war began at a time when President Reagan was not in Washington and thus would not have been able to exert real pressure. Nevertheless, once the campaign began, the Israeli’s immediately became scared — scared of their own Yetzer Hora, of the gentile within them, and then, they became scared of the gentiles on the field. They held back the progress of the army, and prevented it from achieving its objectives. They gave orders not to attack unless attacked, a course of action that brought about the death of many soldiers, despite the fact that all the military experts explained that a policy of quick attack would have saved more casualties among the Jews and even among the gentiles.

The same pattern was followed in the Yom Kippur War. The diplomats were so concerned by their golus mentality that they refused to follow the advice of the military experts and did not call up the reserves and mobilize the army when necessary. Had that mobilization been made on time, many casualties would have been saved and perhaps, the entire war averted. Nevertheless, the diplomats refused to take that action out of fear that the gentiles interpret it an offensive measure. Today these people possessed by fear walk the streets of Eretz Yisroel and meet the orphans and widows brought to that state by their actions. Nevertheless, that did not stop them from making the same mistake again in Lebanon. Again, they listened to the advice of the diplomats and thus, caused more casualties and an extended war in which soldiers are falling every day.

They realize what the public’s reaction would be and hence, they have decided upon a new policy: cover-up. The newspapers are told not to publicize the casualties. “A soldier fell. His wife was widowed, his children orphaned. Don’t tell the public about it.” In this way, they are able to continue the status quo and thus, the war charges on.

There are a number of people who could help influence the Israeli government to change its policies. However, they keep silent. Rather than show concern about the problems at hand, they wait, biding their time to see what will happen to their party in the next elections. Lives are in danger. The self-image of the Jewish people is in ruin, but that is not important to them. What’s important to them? the success of the party at all costs.18

Why am I mentioning the above? Because it hurts and when something hurts, it’s natural to cry out. Even though crying won’t stop the pain the decision to cry out isn’t intellectual. A person cries out because it hurts. Furthermore, there is the hope that by crying out publicly, time and again without embarrassment, it is possible that the leaders will reorganize their priorities and make the decision to first and foremost protect the safety of the Jews (and the gentiles) living in Eretz Yisroel. The knowledge that these outcries may continue until the elections may bring about a change in policy.

A further point must be mentioned. In the reorganization of priorities, a primary emphasis must be placed on the study of Torah and fulfillment of mitzvos. Trusting in G‑d and realizing that “the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,” we must stress the strengthening of Torah, which strengthens the Jew’s security. A Yeshiva Bochur studying Torah does more to defend the Jewish people than a soldier on the border. We must also appreciate the qualities of the soldier, he shows actual Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice). Thus, the two are like Yissachar and Zevulun — each one possessing an advantage over the other.19 Thus, to insure the defense of Eretz Yisroel, both qualities must be stressed, and more assistance should be offered to Yeshivos.

Hopefully, others will raise their voices in protest over the situation and thus, no further territory will be returned to the Arabs and the bitter truth concerning the territories returned to Egypt20 will be revealed. At present, terrorists are entering Eretz Yisroel from the Egyptian border — brought much closer because of the Camp David treaty — and in order not to cause worry about that treaty, the government is pressuring the Israeli newspapers not to reveal those activities. Despite that pressure, a newspaper in the Diaspora revealed how explosives were found in Beer Sheva and only in a miraculous way was a tragedy averted. The worst thing about the situation is the silence of the leaders. Neither the religious or the non-religious have raised their voices.

May G‑d cause every Jew to do what is dependent on him to live Jewishly with peace. May the redemption of Yud-Tes Kislev and its blessing have an influence on all the above and then we will proceed to a state of true peace with the coming of Moshiach.

5. [As customary on Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rebbe made a Siyum of the Talmud and called for the division of the Talmud among the Chassidim for the coming year. He also mentioned the importance of contributing to the charitable fund connected with Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah and activity in the ten point Mitzvah campaign. Afterwards, the Rebbe gave dollars to the tankists to distribute to the assembled for them to give to charity.]