1. We have been taught: “Open with a Blessing,” i.e. whenever Jews meet together, or hold a Farbrengen, they should begin their statements with blessings; as the verse declares “Blessed are those who come in the name of the L‑rd.” The above is particularly true if the farbrengen is held on an auspicious day, such as the holiday of Purim and in an auspicious place — a synagogue or a house of study. The influences of the prayer and study carried out there will surely add to the nature of those blessings, bringing them to a most complete state.

In its fullest sense, the concept of blessing involves blessing in both spiritual and material matters. Though the essential being of a Jew is connected with the spiritual — for behold, we are created “in His (G‑d’s) form and image.” Nevertheless, the soul descended and enclothed itself in a physical body. Furthermore, we find that the Torah was given to us as we are, souls in bodies, and hence, for a blessing to be complete it must encompass the totality of a Jew’s being, affecting both his spiritual and physical aspects.1

Furthermore, a complete blessing is one that is unlimited in the sphere of time, and effects the days which follow. This is surely relevant regarding the holiday of Purim, a festival whose celebration should influence the entire year to come.2

Thus, when a Jew encounters another, particularly when he comes together with many Jews, he will surely bless them each individually and all of them together as a single community. That blessing will be given with all his “heart, soul and might,” for we are commanded to “love your fellow as yourself.”3 Furthermore, that blessing will cause the listener to spread blessing and good among the others they meet, as the previous Rebbe declared: “When two Jews meet together, their meeting must produce, not only good for them, but also good for another Jew.

Since this meeting is taking place at a farbrengen connected with Purim, the blessing it produces must be related to that holiday. One of the unique aspects of the Purim narrative is the firm stance of the Jewish people as “Mordechai’s nation.” Just as Mordechai “would neither bend the knee or bow down,” similarly, his example was followed by the entire nation. Though the Jews were in exile, “scattered abroad and dispersed among the nations, they act as “one nation” and emphasized their oneness by not “bending or bowing.”

From another perspective, Purim emphasizes the concept of happiness to an even greater degree than the pilgrimage festivals. Though those holidays are referred to as “festivals for rejoicing,” it was customary for the Rabbinic court to send agents to insure that the rejoicing was held within bounds. In contrast, the rejoicing of Purim is unlimited, as our Sages declared, “on Purim, a person is obligated to drink to the point where he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’

Thus, Purim emphasizes the service of G‑d, acceptance of the “yoke of Heaven” with joy. Since “joy breaks down all barriers,” this joy will allow unlimited success in all aspects of the service of G‑d and particularly in regard to Tzedakah.

Thus, even though we are in exile — all the appointed times for Moshiach’s coming are past and still we have not been delivered. We are one nation, who will stand unified in service of G‑d through joy. This joy knows no bounds and transcends intellect and thus, will allow unlimited success in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos, not only in the realm of prayer and study, but in the totality of our commitment including the service of “all your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven” and “know Him in all your ways.” Furthermore, as mentioned above, the celebration of Purim will have a continued effect, influencing all the days to come.

Thus, when G‑d sees the Jewish people carrying out their service without any constraints and limitations, He will conclude all the constraints and limitations of exile. Even in the last days of exile, “there will be light for all the children of Israel in their dwellings” and from that state, we will proceed to leave exile entirely and together with the entire Jewish people, with abounding joy, we will journey to Yerushalayim to the third Temple, speedily in our days.

2. The very format of a farbrengen arouses a question: Why should hundreds of Jews including many who themselves are wise and understanding, assemble year after year to hear Torah from one individual?

The answer to this question can be understood on the basis of the following concept: A Nasi — leader of the Jewish people — must care for both the spiritual and material needs of the people. Moshe, our teacher, the first leader of the Jewish people provides a paradigm of this behavior. He gave the Jews the Torah, i.e. dealt with their spiritual needs, but also it was in his merit that the manna descended, i.e. he also tended to their material necessities. Furthermore, he brought down the manna almost an entire month before the giving of the Torah.

We see the same pattern followed by the Baal Shem Tov. First he involved himself in the material concerns of the Jewish people and only afterwards, did he tend to their spiritual needs. Thus, it can be understood that within the teachings of the Rebbeim can be found the answer to all matters which vex the Jewish people including the above question.

The question is answered in light of a story of the Alter Rebbe. Once during the first year as a Rebbe, a particularly large crowd of Chassidim came to celebrate a holiday together with the Alter Rebbe. When the Alter Rebbe saw the large crowd assembling, he sought to hide. Realizing the nature of the situation, his wife approached him and asked him to explain his behavior. He told her, “Why are they coming to me and asking me to teach them Torah?” She answered him: “They are merely coming to hear from you what you had the privilege of hearing from your teacher.” “If so,” answered the Alter Rebbe, “I will tell them more and more” and opened his window and began to recite Chassidus. Similarly, when composing the Tanya, on the title page, the Alter Rebbe emphasized that the work was not original, but, “a collection from sacred texts and sages.”

Not everyone in the community is able to give up his own pursuits, his own spiritual as well as material pursuits, in order to study Torah, “sacred texts,” and listen to other “scholars,” wading through the vast sea of Torah until he can find subjects that are appropriate for the community at large and present them in an easily accessible form. Hence, only one individual is chosen for that task.4 However, that individual must realize that since he is functioning on behalf of the entire community, hence, his level of understanding is due to them. Indeed, the Alter Rebbe explains in the Tanya, that when one Jew helps another understand a concept in the service of G‑d, it “illuminates the eyes of both,” granting an added degree of understanding to both the teacher and the student. Thus, the “receiver” gives and the “giver” receives; joining together as one.

Thus, we can see the unique quality of a farbrengen. When many Jews join together to encourage each other in the service of G‑d, each individual’s task is made easier. We see a reflection of this concept in the Talmud. Our Sages explained that two people working together can carry a greater burden than the combined sum of their individual efforts. Furthermore, the help and assistance one Jew will gain from his colleagues will not minimize his own opportunity for individual accomplishment.5 Though he will receive much from his colleagues, there remains much room for growth; for G‑d is unlimited and His service has no bounds.

The above, though applicable to any farbrengen, is particularly relevant to a farbrengen connected with Purim. As explained above, Purim is a day in which a Jew steps beyond his limitations and surely, that unlimited influence should be used to help each other advance in the service of G‑d.

3. To discover the lessons that can be learned from the holiday of Purim, it is appropriate to first explain a concept from the Book of Esther the book of the Bible associated with Purim.6

One of the concepts mentioned in the very beginning of the Megillah is that all those who attended the feasts of Achashverosh were served “according to every man’s pleasure.” Furthermore, the Talmud explains that the phrase “every man” includes Haman and Mordechai i.e. the two opposite ends of the spectrum and thus, all those who fall between these two extremes.

From the above, we can learn a lesson regarding the manner in which any government7 should relate to its subjects. In order that every subject in a country can live normally, it is necessary for him to be given freedom to live according to his own desires. What a subject wants is not to be told that he is being given the ultimate good by the government, but rather, to have the ability to choose what he feels is good without anybody forcing him to do anything against his will.

The concept brings up a very painful subject, the situation of our Jewish brethren in Russia who are being forced to remain behind the Iron Curtain8 against their will. Without questioning whether that country’s economic policies are correct or not, there is no question that its citizens should not be denied a minimality of human rights as guaranteed by that country’s constitution and the U.N. charter which that country signed. Even if their public relations statements were true and, in fact, they granted their citizens the ultimate good, the fact that they are denied a basic human right, the ability to choose whether to remain in the country or not is clearly a negative factor.

Indeed, from a certain perspective, life behind the Iron Curtain can be compared to life in prison. On the surface, there is an advantage to life in a prison over normal civilian life. In a prison, an inmate is given room and board free, whatever medical attention he requires, educational opportunities, etc., while otherwise an individual must work and toil to gain those necessities. Nevertheless, any normal person will desire to live independently rather than in prison. Indeed, according to Jewish law, one must offer a special blessing of thanks after being released from prison. Why? Because a prisoner is no longer in control over his own existence. He does not have the ability to come and go as he desires. Similarly, the fact that our brethren are being held behind the Iron Curtain against their will, even though they may be given the ultimate of good there, is a denial of their basic human rights.

Our Sages taught, “deed is most essential”: The knowledge of the situation of our brethren behind the Iron Curtain should motivate us all to do all that is possible to rectify the situation. Particularly, those who are in a position of authority should do what is possible to arouse public attention concerning the human rights of our brethren there.

A word of caution: No openhanded criticism should be leveled at the Russian government. On the contrary, such criticism will only cause them to stiffen their stance. There is no need to criticize their economic or political policies. Such criticism will only cloud the air and distract the attention from the major problem. Rather, the point should be made that since they pride themselves as being champions of freedom and human rights, it is only fitting that the right to decide on one’s place of residence be granted to their citizens. If this point is emphasized without interjecting other factors, the argument will be most acceptable. If other criticisms are also included, it is possible that the other factors will arouse the most attention and the entire debate will become centered around them. It is natural for a person defending himself to focus on the weakest point made by his attacker. Thus, if other factors are included in the criticism, the Russians will center their reply on them and perhaps, be able to counter their arguments. However, if the emphasis is placed on the right of the Jews to emigrate and no other factors are interjected, there will be no room for rebuttal and then, there is the possibility, and the hope, that the argument will be accepted, at least in part.

In order to effect a change within the context of the natural order in regard to the situation of our brethren in Russia, first we must take a step above the natural order. Afterwards, the merit of that action will enable changes to be possible in regard to that problem.9 By devoting our energies to the spiritual needs facing our people at present, we will be able to arouse G‑d’s blessing and thus, bring about success in all matters and in particular, success in regard to the problem mentioned above.

We can learn a lesson concerning the direction in which we should channel our efforts from the Purim narrative. Our Sages explain that after Haman’s decree was pronounced, Mordechai gathered together thousands of Jewish children. It was the voices of the young children and their words of Torah and prayer that brought about the nullification of Haman’s decree. The Midrash relates that when G‑d heard the voices of these children, He exclaimed, “What is the great noise I am hearing, like the voices of kids and lambs.” Moshe, our teacher, arose before G‑d and declared, “Those are not kids and lambs, but the children of Your people, who are fasting.” Immediately, the process of reversal began: not only was Haman’s decree nullified, but, ultimately, a holiday of ultimate joy was brought about.

Similarly, in our time, our efforts must be centered on Mivtzah Chinuch — the Education Campaign and in particular to educate Jewish children who are below Bar and Bas Mitzvah ages and to teach them that they are “Mordechai’s nation.” Thus, their natural response will be not to bow down or bend.

Though it is true that much positive effort has been made in the field of Jewish education, there are still many Jewish children wandering like lost sheep in a desert. We cannot content ourselves with working to insure that those children already enrolled in Jewish schools receive a proper education, but rather efforts must be made to reach out to those children who at present are not receiving any Torah education. If one compares the amount of children who study Torah (including those who study only one hour a day) to those who receive no Torah education, the results are shocking. This is true even in the major cities like New York and Chicago despite the fact that we are living in America and every parent has the right to send his child to the school of his choice. There are countries in which financial pressures force parents to take their children out of school and have them work to maintain the family’s standard of living. In other countries, parents are not given the freedom to educate their children according to the Torah. However, in America, not only does the government allow religious education, it supports it financially. Nevertheless, there are many parents who choose to educate their children according to the norms of secular society instead of teaching them a Jewish lifestyle and showing them how that lifestyle is totally different from that of other nations.10

One cannot blame the parents. They were themselves educated in public schools. They were not trained to appreciate the need and the necessity for true Jewish education and thus, it is natural that they make no effort to provide their children with it. Thus, our responsibility is to explain this concept to these parents. If one speaker with words coming from the heart, it will be possible to influence the parents to send their children to schools that teach the Torah of G‑d and train the children to love and fear Him.

Furthermore, today the task is much easier than it was 50 years ago. At present, most parents have already come to the conclusion that earning money is not the single and sole goal of a person’s existence, but rather a means of attaining other ends. Similarly, most have realized that letting a child grow up following his heart’s desires with no control is not fruitful. Hence, they will be more responsive to one’s suggestions. Indeed, if the proper efforts are made, the parents can be convinced to enroll their children in a Torah school, not only for the beginning of the next school year, but in the middle of the year as well.

As mentioned above, these activities will have an effect on the situation of our brethren behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, there is a similarity and common bond between the two activities: Taking Jewish children out of a school where they are prevented from mentioning G‑d’s name is similar, and thus will assist, taking our Jewish brethren out from behind the Iron Curtain.

May all of our people, from the most simple to the heads and the leaders, those who have influence in the nation’s capitol, apply their efforts add energies to both of the aims stated above. Then in accord with our Sages statement, “You have worked hard and you have been successful,” they will find success — indeed a success that far surpasses the efforts applied and thus, we will be able to bring our brethren out from behind the Iron Curtain — those behind the geographic Iron Curtain and those behind the iron curtain of secular education and thus, we will proceed to the complete and true redemption led by Moshiach.

4. The abovementioned concepts concerning the education of Jewish children are closely related to the Purim holiday. Indeed, the Megillah teaches us that the remembrance of the celebration of Purim “will not depart from their seed” i.e. always Jewish children will be taught about the Purim miracle.

In the Purim narrative, a central note was played by Queen Esther. Indeed, her efforts were the one that actually brought about the nullification of Haman’s decree and therefore, the Megillah is called Megillas Esther.11 Similarly, a major role in the education of Jewish children is played by Jewish women. The Shaloh writes that women are commanded to admonish their children to the same degree, and even more than men, for they are less occupied and more frequently found at home. Similarly, the Rebbe Rashab wrote to his wife about the importance of her role in educating their only son. Indeed, today in many cases, it is the woman who has a great influence on the child’s education and she is given the power to make crucial decisions in this area.

The Megillah states, “the statements of Mordechai, Esther carried out,” i.e. Esther put into practice the statements of Mordechai, the nation’s Torah leader. As soon as his will became known to her, she did not question or debate with Mordechai — though it can be understood that afterwards she sought to understand the rationale behind his directions — she immediately put it into practice. She knew that the responsibility for the nullification of the decree on the level of deed and action was hers. Similarly, Jewish women today have the responsibility of caring for the Torah education of their children. Furthermore, this action, like Esther’s must be immediate, without hesitation for who can know what harm can befall a child from being educated in a school in which G‑d’s name is not allowed to be mentioned.

The woman’s influence extends beyond her children and she also has the power to motivate her husband. Indeed, the commentaries have explained this point in their interpretation of our Sages’ statement: “Who is the proper wife — one who carries out her husband’s will.” They noted that the Hebrew word for carry out — Oseh — can also be translated as to make or create. Hence, our Sages’ statement can also be read as, “Who is the proper wife — one who creates her husband’s will.” There are times when a woman must carry out her husband’s will and there are times when she sees that her husband’s will at present does not conform to the behavior prescribed for him by Torah and hence, she creates for him a new will.

For example, today it is quite common for a husband to be worried about financial affairs to the point where at night, he can’t sleep because he is worried about money. In truth, he should sleep soundly. We all praise G‑d in the Grace After Meals for sustaining the world, “in His goodness, grace, kindness and mercy.” Will losing sleep on monetary worries do anything to help G‑d sustain him?

Nevertheless, a person often does not consider this factor. His animal soul takes control of him and causes him to forget to trust G‑d,12 and thus, places himself on a treadmill of worry. Here is a woman’s role: to coax her husband away from his Yetzer Hora and restore him to his natural state. She must do so tactfully. It would be wrong for her to approach him and say: “You’re making a mistake. I’ll help.” Rather, she must find a way to discretely change her husband’s behavior. Furthermore, since, in truth, as the Rambam explains, every Jew genuinely desires to carry out Torah law and it’s only his Yetzer Hora which prevents him, the woman’s task will be easier. She does not have to create a new will, but merely to reveal her husband’s inner will.

Our Sages taught: “Through the merit of the righteous woman, our ancestors were released from Egypt. Thus, we see that a woman’s behavior can have a further and greater effect — the redemption of our people. The major activity of the women of that age, was, as our Sages taught, bearing and raising Jewish children. Despite the decrees of Pharaoh,13 the women gave birth to a new generation of Jewish children. Similarly, in the present age,14 the task of the Jewish women is to give birth to and raise a generation of Tzivos Hashem. G‑d’s army, a host of Jewish children who will march with joy and happiness to greet Moshiach, speedily in our days.

[At the conclusion of the Farbrengen, the Rebbe Shlita mentioned that it was customary to make a collection on Purim for Keren Rabbeinu. He also stated that in custom with the Halachah of studying the laws of Pesach 30 days before that holiday, it is proper to begin that study and together with that study begin the activities of Mivtzah Pesach — spreading the Mitzvos of Pesach and the collection of funds for Maos Chittim.]