1. This gathering is taking place during the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, and be specific, on the 13th of the month of Tishrei, which is the Yartzeit (day of passing) of the Rebbe Maharash. This date is particularly significant this year, for it is the 100th anniversary of his passing.

In general, the yartzeit of every additional year brings with it a new G‑dly revelation in addition to that of the previous year, in consonance with the general principle that, “In holy matters, one must always increase.” We see particular stress on this point in regard to Rosh Hashanah, as the Tanya explains that every Rosh Hashanah “descends a new, higher revelation never before revealed.” So too, a yartzeit can be depicted as a kind of “Rosh Hashanah” regarding all matters related to that particular person. Therefore a tremendously high revelation comes to the world with every succeeding yartzeit, as with every Rosh Hashanah.

On a tenth anniversary there is a revelation qualitatively superior to those of the previous years, reflecting the significance attributed to the number ten throughout the Torah. The number hundred represents a further fulfillment of “ten,” since each one of the “ten” in itself includes a complete unit of ten. Considering all of these factors, we can see that this hundredth anniversary brings with it a tremendous revelation, especially since it involves someone of the stature of the Rebbe Maharash.

Although this revelation is in itself tremendously lofty and holy, it has its effect even in the physical world — and even in the lowest aspects of the physical world. As explained in Tanya, the efforts expended by a tzaddik in his lifetime come to fruition on his yartzeit and “effect salvation in the world,” even in the coarsest aspects of the world.

The manner in which this revelation can come to and affect the world can vary — e.g., only after great effort, only gradually, etc. When speaking of the Rebbe Maharash, however, we must refer to his characteristic statement, “People think that first you try to go under (an obstacle) and if that doesn’t work, go over. I say, ‘Go straight over’ (‘L’chatchilah ariber’).” Accordingly, all revelations associated with him, including those concurrent with his yartzeit, come to us “L’chatchilah ariber” — regardless of any obstacles.

In order for us to be fitting recipients for these revelations we must make some preparations and efforts ourselves. Furthermore, since the preparations must be on a par with the consequent revelations, all preparations must be done in a manner of “L’chatchilah ariber.”

Although we might think that “l’chatchilah ariber” is only for lofty souls such as the Rebbe Maharash, we are taught that “the body follows the head.” So too, all Jews (the limbs of the body) can follow the path paved by the Rebbe Maharash (the head). This is particularly true in view of the fact that the soul of a Jewish leader is an “inclusive” soul, containing within it aspects of the soul of every single Jew. In addition, the ability for every Jew to behave “L’chatchilah ariber” extends even to later generations, since “the words of the righteous stand forever.”

We can determine how specifically to begin our preparation by examining how a Jew must determine his behavior in general. Regarding G‑d’s creation of the world it is said, “He first looked in the Torah and then created the world.” So too a Jew must first look in the Torah and thereby receive guidance on how to create his “world,” i.e. his thought, speech, and deed — that all should be for the sake of G‑d.

Accordingly, we too must first learn the Torah of the Rebbe Maharash and increase in our observance of those Mitzvos in which he was especially outstanding. Through doing so, we become bound to him, since he infused his essence into his writings. As his son, the Rebbe Rashab, said before his own passing, “I’m going to heaven, but my writings I’m leaving here.” From this statement it is understood that since his writings are here it is as if he himself was here, for his writings are imbued with his essence.

To conclude: we find ourselves on the auspicious occasion of the hundredth yartzeit of the Rebbe Maharash. In addition, we are in the period between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, which are days “free of sin,” since after the atonement of Yom Kippur we have all been constantly busy with mitzvos — “this one with his sukkah, this one with his lulav.” We therefore have an added capability to increase in learning the Torah of the Rebbe Maharash and in the performance of mitzvos — particularly those mitzvos which he especially stressed (as we can to some degree ascertain from the many stories regarding him).

We can thereby merit to receive all of the blessings associated with this day, including a conclusion of the “good inscription” which every Jew has received for the coming year, which should be a year of tranquility and plenty.


2. An additional point associated with the yartzeit of the Rebbe Maharash is that it occurs on the thirteenth day of the month. The number thirteen is especially significant as the gematria (numerical equivalent) of the word “echod” (“one”). Chassidim were known to interpret the verse, “One touches one (literally, “‘Echod’ touches ‘echod,’“ or numerically “‘13’ touches ‘13’“); even air cannot come between them” (Iyov 41:8) as reference to the connection between the Rebbe Maharash and his father, the Tzemach Tzedek, both of whom passed away on the 13th of the month.

The connection between them is further indicated by the months in which they passed away: the Rebbe Maharash on the 13th of Tishrei and the Tzemach Tzedek on the 13th of Nissan. It is explained throughout Chassidus that the month of Nissan corresponds to the way in which a tzaddik (one who never sins) serves G‑d. Tishrei, on the other hand, is associated with the service of a baal teshuvah (one who returns to G‑d after being far away). These two ways of serving G‑d are closely related. Everyone, even if far from G‑d, must strive to be a tzaddik by complete observance of Torah and mitzvos. Even the tzaddik, though, must aspire to reach the level of teshuvah as well, for “where a baal teshuvah stands, even a complete tzaddik is unable to stand.” His teshuvah, however, is a deeper one, since he does not need to “return” to Torah observance — he is already free from sin. His teshuvah is the return of the soul to its spiritual root and source.

Accordingly, we can understand why the yartzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek preceded that of the Rebbe Maharash by many years. Even one who has achieved the level of a tzaddik (Nissan) must still strive to attain the level of a baal teshuvah (Tishrei).

We mentioned previously that thirteen, the date of the yartzeit of both the Rebbe Maharash and the Tzemach Tzedek, is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for “one” (echod). The concept of unity is especially pronounced in both the Torah teachings and the communal involvement of these two great leaders.

To preface, there is a concept of unity relating to the Torah itself. There are many aspects of the Torah: the revealed aspects (such as Talmud), homiletics (Midrash), Kaballah, Chassidus, etc. They are not separate entities, however: Just as a human body consists of many distinct limbs and muscles, with distinct functions and characteristics, which are nevertheless united in one coherent existence of a body, so too, the various aspects of Torah form one unified existence — the Torah.

Furthermore, since the Torah is itself a unified existence, it can unite with another entity -namely, the person who learns it. As the Tanya expresses it, the unity between the Torah and the person who learns it is “wondrous” and unparalleled.

Even more so, the Torah can effect unity among the many people who learn Torah. The verse in Psalms proclaims that “All your children shall be learners of (the Torah of) G‑d”; i.e. all Jews are considered learners of the Torah and therefore become united through the Torah. This unity among Jews is also a complete one, since the Jewish people are also compared to a body consisting of many limbs.

We can now understand the special connection between the Rebbe Maharash and the Tzemach Tzedek to the concept of unity, “echod” (13). Both of them encompassed all areas of the Torah within their writings. In many of the chassidic discourses, the spiritual and mystical aspects of the Torah were explained together with the revealed aspects and fully united within the same discourse. This is more prevalent in their writings (to the best of our perception) than in those of any other leaders of Chabad.

They both also stood out in effecting unity among those who learn Torah. After the numerous disagreements during the times of the Alter Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek accomplished that there should be peace among all different groups. Although each group continued in its own path, they nevertheless coexisted peacefully and offered substantial assistance to one another.

The Rebbe Maharash went even further than the Tzemach Tzedek in their regard, especially in relation to communal affairs. During the times of the Tzemach Tzedek, Jewish leaders would gather to discuss plans of action regarding matters affecting the Jewish community at large. When it became necessary to intervene and meet with government officials, one leader would be chosen to represent the Jewish interests. Since everyone had differing opinions, however, there would be a rotation among the representatives so that at least on varying occasions each one would have his say as the primary representative. Although the one had to obtain consent from the others as to the views he would represent, nevertheless each one had different issues which he stressed.

By the Rebbe Maharash, however, the vast majority of interventions of this type — both domestic (within Russia) and foreign — were carried out by the Rebbe Maharash himself. All leaders generally agreed with his views and also agreed that he should be the one to represent them all. We thereby see a special stress on the idea of unity, since his opinion was able to unify all other opinions.

Although we have been speaking about the actions of those who were considered “giants” even among a generation of “giants,” we can nevertheless approximate their deeds in our generation by uniting together — particularly through learning their Torah and following in their footsteps. As the Tzemach Tzedek once answered his chassidim as to what would be after his passing, that (in addition to leaving his son, the Maharash) through chassidim uniting together, they will accomplish all that is necessary to accomplish.

In practical terms, we must strive to attain the fulfillment of serving Hashem both as tzaddikim (Nissan) and baalei teshuvah (Tishrei), especially now in the days immediately preceding the arrival of Moshiach, who will “bring tzaddikim to do teshuvah.” So too we must put added stress on unifying all Jews into one bond and thereby bring down and reveal G‑d’s blessings in the world and hasten the time when “G‑d will be One and His Name shall be One.”

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3. There is an additional lesson to be taken from the Torah portion corresponding to this week (Berachah) and in particular to today’s portion, that of the fifth day of the week. In accordance with the teaching of the Alter Rebbe that one must “live with the times” — meaning the weekly Torah portion — this lesson must be specifically relevant to our situation today.

The weekly portion tells of Moshe’s blessings to all the tribes of Israel before his passing. The fifth portion contains blessings to the tribes of Dan, Naftali and Asher, and then the verse, “Your locks are iron and copper, for all of your days it will flow to you.” Rashi relates that beginning with this verse, Moshe is blessing the entire Jewish people, and explains the words, “your locks are iron and copper” that “locks” refer to “the mighty” Jews who inhabit the border cities of Israel, who ‘lock up’ Israel as if it was sealed with iron and copper so that no enemy could possibly enter.”

This contains an obvious lesson for us; that Eretz Yisroel must be ‘locked up’ and protected so that the enemies of Israel can not threaten her. Although obviously the protection ultimately comes from G‑d, He nevertheless wants us to do everything possible to ensure our safety, and not to depend on miracles.

The Code of Jewish Law expresses a concern similar to that mentioned by Rashi: “When non-Jews attack a border city, even if only to take straw and hay, one must [take up weapons and] violate the Shabbos, lest they capture the city and leave the land vulnerable to be conquered.” Certainly these border cities should not be given over to non-Jews, but rather to “mighty Jews ... so that no enemy can possibly enter.”

There are parts of Israel that will not be under Jewish control until the days of Moshiach, but those that G‑d has — with open miracles -given us, must certainly be held and strengthened.

As long as we behave in accordance with G‑d’s instructions to “lock up” and protect ourselves to the best of our ability, we have the assurance of “He who creates and conducts the world” that we will be safe. Furthermore, even those from within that (regardless of their intention) want to destroy Israel, G‑d forbid, by returning settlements, will also not succeed. Man made locks can always be broken, but ‘locks’ made upon the command of the Torah can never be weakened.

Furthermore, this position of strength will prevent even the necessity of a war. This will even help the enemies of Israel; since they will not be able to enter and wage war, they will also not suffer any casualties.

There is a well-known argument that Jews are dependent upon non-Jewish nations for support, and we must therefore yield to their demands for fear they will withhold such support.

The second half of the verse mentioned above answers this argument — “for all of your days it will flow to you.” Rashi explains that “for all of your good days — the days that you fulfill G‑d’s will — there will flow from all the nations of the world gold and silver to the land of Israel, that she will be blessed with produce and supply it to the rest of the world, who will in turn pay gold and silver to Israel ...”

This is a clear indication that for all time -even in the darkness of the exile — as long as we fulfill G‑d’s will, the nations will supply Israel with wealth and support. We have seen this in the recent past: Whenever the Jews have stood firm they have had all the necessary foreign support. On the other hand, when they have buckled to pressure, then they have had to argue and beg for support — with varying degrees of success.

This is the clear and unequivocal lesson from today’s Torah portion: When Jews display strength and refuse to bend to foreign demands (“your locks are iron and copper”) then they will be freely offered all necessary support (“it will flow to you”). As mentioned, this is the simple meaning of the verse as presented by Rashi and should certainly be well understood by those in the Holy Land, who don’t have to depend on a Yiddish or English translation!

If the lesson is so obvious, however, how could anyone think differently? A different opinion opposes the Torah, Judaism, and even normal human understanding! The answer is that every Jew has absolute free will — to do what opposes his own intellect, even his evil inclination.

One of the confessions we utter on Yom Kippur is “for the sin we have committed before You with the evil inclination.” Various ethical works discuss that this statement is apparently redundant -many sins are mentioned, covering every letter of the alphabet (signifying all possible sins), and all of them were caused by a person’s evil inclination. What does this statement come to add?

The explanation given is that even the evil inclination has limited goals as to how low it hopes to bring a person. There are certain things it itself wouldn’t ever dream of doing. A person, however, has the free choice even to sin against his evil inclination, compelling it to commit iniquities it never imagined doing.

In our case, settlements have been given away on three separate occasions, with negative results each time. Nevertheless, there are those who urge further land concessions in spite of the fact that the danger now is greater than any time before. Even a person’s evil inclination wouldn’t dream of such a concession while getting virtually nothing in return.

Our discussion might seem to be relevant only to those figures who are guarding Israel or are capable of changing the situation. However, since the Torah speaks to every Jew, we must say that this lesson applies to every Jew and that all can help secure the strength and safety of Israel. Even a young child inherits the entire Torah and can accomplish something in this regard. Furthermore, all Jews have a stake in the land of Israel as their inheritance, and are therefore concerned for its security.

My intention is obviously not to inspire anybody to search for a newspaper and find out all the details as to what is currently happening in Israel. This is not the way to contribute to Israel’s security.

Rather, everyone should increase in their study of Torah and observance of mitzvos and thereby insure the security of Jews all over. May it be Hashem’s will that He speedily fulfill the promise “He will put an end to darkness,” with the complete ‘redemption which will bring an eternal joy.

4. (While discussing the relevance of the Torah to every Jew, the Rebbe Shlita mentioned the responsibility of women to study those parts of the Torah relating to those mitzvos they must keep. He mentioned further that “if only the men knew those parts of the Torah that women must learn!,” and continued, as follows.)

Parenthetically speaking, one must mention the necessity of studying those laws pertaining to everyday practice. Some people wish to gain expertise in certain limited areas of the Torah by studying it in depth. When one asks them a practical question, however, relating to washing the hands or saying blessings, for example, they not only have no answer, they are unaware there could even be such a question! Although every one of them certainly washes his hands and says the blessings, there are very few that are expert in these laws.

It would seem that there is always the alternative of picking up the telephone and asking the Ray. This cannot be depended on, however. First of all, you might have the question very early in the morning — too early to wake up the Ray. Even if later, you might have the question in the middle of your prayers, where you can’t talk, and certainly not on the telephone!

The only alternative is to learn the laws yourself beforehand. There are no shortcuts: without learning you will not know.

To our dismay, everyone needs improvement in this area. Some have never learned these laws; others have learned them, but insufficiently; others have at one time learned them sufficiently, but for lack of review have forgotten a detail, and sometimes even more than a detail ...


5. Now is the proper time to acknowledge all of those who have expressed their blessings and good wishes for the coming year. When one Jew blesses another, he is blessed by G‑d, as He told Avraham, “Those that bless you will be blessed.” Nevertheless, anyone who is blessed by another Jew must thank him and bless him, amongst the entire Jewish people, in return.

Since it is impossible to thank and bless everyone personally, and since now many people from many lands are listening simultaneously, this is a proper time to thank everyone and to bless them all together; and they should receive the main blessing — namely the unlimited one of G‑d. This is similar to how Rashi explains the blessing of Moshe, “May He increase your numbers a thousandfold” — that this is Moshe’s own blessing, but G‑d’s blessing is beyond any description or quantification.

I hope that this will be accepted by all as if it was conveyed individually. On the contrary, the blessing is greater in this manner where it includes the many Jews together in this holy place of prayer and study, the many Jews elsewhere listening simultaneously, and all those who will hear of this at a later time (as this message should be passed along to all that did not hear it). This is in addition to the auspicious time, the month of Tishrei, which stresses Jewish unity, and specifically the thirteenth of the month which is the numerical value of “echod” (“one”), as mentioned previously.

May it be G‑d’s will that all of these blessings be fulfilled, including the speedy fulfillment of our main request, the speedy redemption through Moshiach, quickly in our days.


6. This gathering is in conjunction with the yartzeit of the Rebbe Maharash. Everyone knows the general axiom associated with him, that we must behave “l’chatchilah ariber,” as discussed previously at length.

In this regard, one could ask an obvious question; several hours have passed since the gathering began, and many songs have been sung — but the song titled “l’chatchilah ariber” has not yet been sung.

Rather than leaving it at a question, let us at least now sing “l’chatchilah ariber.” (The crowd sang “l’chatchilah ariber.”)

7. [The Rebbe Shlita spoke at length about proper intention during prayer; that one should be thinking only about G‑d (“Know Who it is you are standing before”) and not about other occurrences in the synagogue. A practical way of achieving this is through always praying from a prayerbook. Even the Previous Rebbe always used a prayerbook, although he certainly knew the prayers by heart.

Although there is much discussion as to whether the requirement to pray is rabbinic or biblical in origin, this is only in regard to the requirement of whether and when to pray. Once one is praying, however, and mentions G‑d’s name, certainly there is a biblical obligation to think of G‑d at this time.

The most surprising thing is that the leaders and teachers don’t reprimand their students, and occasionally even provide a bad example themselves.]

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8. This is also the proper time to mention the Sukkah campaign as well as that of the “four kinds”; that every Jew should have the opportunity to make a blessing on the lulav and esrog. Similarly, the campaign we have mentioned many times -to ensure that all the needy should have all the holiday necessities, and thereby be able to properly celebrate the “festival of our rejoicing.” So too, the candle-lighting campaign, which on both the first and last days of Sukkos is accompanied by the “Shehecheyanu” blessing.

This leads us to mention and encourage energetic efforts in the other campaigns: Love of your fellow Jew, Jewish education, Torah study, Tefillin, Mezuzah, Charity, having sacred books in the home, Kashrus, and family purity.

The last one mentioned, Family Purity, has a special connection with Yom Kippur. G‑d’s forgiveness on Yom Kippur is compared to a Mikvah, as the Mishnah says, “‘G‑d is the Mikvah of the Jewish people’: just as a Mikvah purifies ... so too G‑d purifies the Jewish people.”

This comparison provides an additional stress on the importance of building mikvahs, and that the one in Crown Heights presently under construction should be completed as soon as possible. Of course, no detail of the physical beauty of the mikvah may be sacrificed, in consonance with the letter of the previous Rebbe regarding the importance of the physical appearance of the mikvah. Through a more beautiful mikvah perhaps one additional woman will begin using the mikvah; and others will be happier about using the mikvah, have more time and comfort in making preparations, etc.

What is more important is that the mikvah should be finished and that every married woman, whatever her circumstance, should come to use a mikvah. While all of the campaigns mentioned above are extremely important, this has particular importance since it affects children and grandchildren for all subsequent generations.

This is not to minimize the importance of mikvah for those who (for whatever reason) will not presently be bearing children, as the Zohar relates that the first Jewish couple, Avraham and Sarah, also fulfilled the mitzvah to “be fruitful and multiply,” but in a spiritual sense — unifying supernal sefiros, etc. Certainly G‑d will add in His blessings in this regard, as well as in regard to all physical necessities.

There is a story regarding the Rebbe Maharash that will shed light on this point, namely G‑d’s blessings in physical necessities. The furnishings in the Tzemach Tzedek’s home were extremely simple and generally made of plain unfinished wood. One of his chassidim once brought him a particularly beautiful object for the home, but the Tzemach Tzedek answered, “I don’t need it, give it to my son” — the Rebbe Maharash.

The story reflects their lifestyles in general: the Tzemach Tzedek lived extremely simply, while the Rebbe Maharash lived in great wealth. This difference was certainly not due to their relative wealth, for the Tzemach Tzedek had a great deal of money but chose to live in such a fashion. He nevertheless limited such a path to himself, and consented that his son should live differently; and even instructed one of his chassidim to bring this expensive object to him.

The simple lesson we can take from this is that in a child’s education, one must minimize the importance of wealth. Through such an upbringing, the child will be able to reach a level where the wealth doesn’t control him, but rather that he should be able to utilize the wealth in a proper fashion. In the case of the Rebbe Maharash, this was to help ease and expand his comprehension in Torah study.

As far as G‑d is concerned, He will certainly provide us with all that we need, and even more than we need. It will then be up to the individual to judge whether he has reached a level whereby he should use it himself, or whether he should give it away, as the Tzemach Tzedek did.

One of the ways to properly utilize the wealth G‑d grants us is by giving charity. Therefore, at the end of this gathering, a dollar will be distributed every man and woman present.

The Alter Rebbe writes that “We find that in reward for three steps Nevuchadnezzar took for the glory of Hashem, he and his descendants for three generations ruled over the entire world. Certainly every Jew has done that much, so he deserves all the good of the world.” That is only what he deserves; G‑d, however, gives charity to us over and above this.

The responsibility of giving charity is measured not only according to the needs of the recipient, but also according to the capability of the giver. The Talmud mentions that even one who gave a large amount of charity did not give sufficiently if it is was not in proportion to his own wealth.

G‑d, who says, “All silver and gold belongs to Me,” must certainly give a tremendous amount of charity to fulfill His “obligation!” In addition, since G‑d created everything for a purpose, what will He do with all of these riches? He has already promised not to exchange us for any other nation. He has no choice (so to speak) but to give them to the Jewish people!

May it be G‑d’s will that we come out of the exile very quickly, and, as was after the Egyptian bondage, with “great wealth,” with the entire Jewish nation to the complete land of Israel. The main thing is that Moshiach should come very speedily and take us to the third Bais Hamikdosh in Jerusalem, where we can fulfill what is said in the Haftorah of Sukkos, to “go up, year after year, to bow down to the King, the L‑rd of Hosts, and to celebrate the Festival of Sukkos.” And since good things should always be without delay, we should fulfill it this year, even before Sukkos, and that we should come to Israel with the complete redemption with great joy and a heartfelt gladness.