There are two concepts associated with Simchas Torah: “You shall rejoice in your festival” and “You have chosen us (from all the nations).” In general, there are differing levels in each of these two concepts. One’s G‑dly service throughout the year must be with joy, as stated: “Serve the L‑rd with joy.” G‑dly service extends to every facet of life, as stated: “In all your ways you shall know Him1 and “all your deeds shall be for the sake of heaven.”2 Since joy is part of one’s G‑dly service, it follows that joy must be present in all one’s actions at all times.

Besides this ever-present joy, extra joy is called for on festivals, called “festivals for rejoicing” and “You shall rejoice in your festivals.” Within the class of festivals itself, Sukkos, called the “season of our rejoicing” has an extra measure of joy.3 The joy of Sukkos itself is augmented by the Simchas Bais Hashoeva (the festival of the Water Drawing) which was celebrated on Sukkos. The Rambam states: “Although it is a mitzvah to rejoice on all the festivals, there was extra joy in the Bais Hamikdosh on the festival of Sukkos, as stated: “You shall rejoice before the L‑rd your G‑d seven days.”

After the great joy of Sukkos, that of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah is loftier and greater still, as we see the custom among Jews to celebrate Simchas Torah with unlimited joy. Indeed, the Rambam writes that in the great joy of Sukkos, only the Sages danced etc., while the rest of the people came to watch. On Simchas Torah however, “the men, the women and the infants” all participate.4

We see then that there are differing levels in joy, ranging from the every present “Serve the L‑rd with joy” to the lofty joy on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. The greater the level of joy, so too the greater the singing and dancing that results from joy.

Likewise, there are differing levels in the concept of “You have chosen us.” G‑d’s choice of the Jewish people is present all the time, as stated in the Blessings on the Recital of Shema said every day: “You have chosen us from among all nations and tongues.” This choice is connected to Torah, it being made at Mattan Torah (the Giving of the Torah). Just as Torah is our very life, and life cannot be interrupted even for a moment, so too G‑d’s choice is constant and continuous. Joy, for example, can cease for a time and then be continued; but life cannot cease and then start once again. Since Torah is our life, the idea of cessation in Torah is not possible.

Not only is there no cessation in the idea of the choice of the Jewish people from the Jews’ perspective (since it stems from Torah and Torah is our life), but it also does not exist from G‑d’s perspective. As our Sages have commented that G‑d says, so to speak, “it is impossible to exchange (the Jews) for another people.”

Besides this ever-present choice by G‑d, expressed in the everyday prayer of “You have chosen us from among all nations,” on the festivals we say an additional prayer “You have chosen us.” The inclusion of this additional prayer expresses a loftier level of choice than that expressed in the weekday prayer (for if it was on a par, there would be no need or benefit in including an extra prayer). Indeed, this prayer is said not only in the morning prayers, but in the Musaf prayers, and yet again in the Minchah prayers, indicating a loftier level each time.

This additional prayer is said on all the festivals. It assumes the loftiest level on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, for this festival is “for you alone, and for no others” and Jews are then alone together with G‑d. Thus we see that there are differing levels in the concept of G‑d’s choice of Jews as His chosen people, with Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah representing the loftiest heights.

Although there are differing levels, they all have in common the idea of Jews being the chosen people. Each Jew has the opportunity to decide to which level he wishes to attach himself — the everyday level, the level of the festivals, or that of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. While one can content himself with being on the everyday level,5 one would be a fool not to strive to reach the highest. Since now is Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, the time is ripe to rise above the foolishness of being content with what one has, and to attain the lofty heights of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.

A simple example: There is a rule that “One who has a hundred wants two hundred.” Although ore may be financially well off, it is one’s nature to want ever more. No one would be so foolish to refuse to accept more wealth just because he already has a little bit! Since all things physical have their root in the spiritual, one should not be satisfied with the spiritual level he is on, but must strive to attain ever greater heights.

In practical terms: Simchas Torah is associated with Torah and Torah study, and it is the appropriate time for good resolutions in increasing one’s Torah study during the whole year. One must not be content with one’s efforts in the past, but must resolve to study even more. A resolution made with the appropriate strength and firmness will surely be carried out. Just as a Jew has the opportunity to choose the highest level in the concept of “You have chosen us,” so too he has the opportunity to choose to increasingly add to his Torah study. And proper Torah study with enthusiasm and vitality effects that mitzvos are also performed with vitality, all of which effect an increase in G‑d’s blessing in all things.


2. The above is relevant every year. There is an additional lesson from the day of the week on which Simchas Torah falls this year. And consonant with the Alter Rebbe’s dictum that we must live with the times, meaning to live with the lessons drawn from the weekly parshah, the directive drawn from the day of the week on which Simchas Torah falls must come from the weekly parshah.

This year Simchas Torah is on Wednesday, corresponding to the fourth portion in parshas Berachah. It states (33:18): “To Zevulun he said: Rejoice Zevulun in your going out, and Yissachar, in your tents.” Yissachar and Zevulun are two of the twelve tribes, and these are the blessings given to them. Simultaneously, they are not just two individual tribes, but represent two general categories in which the Jewish people may be classed. Zevulun represents those who engage mainly in good works, tzedakah, mitzvos. Yissachar represents those whose main interest and occupation is Torah study. A Jew is created only to serve his Creator, which can be in one of two ways: “Zevulun in your going out” — engaging in worldly matters; or “Yissachar in your tents” — Torah study.

Even those who are of the category of Zevulun must also have set times for Torah study. Those who are of the category of Yissachar must also engage in good works, to work with and elevate the world.

The lesson from this on Simchas Torah is as follows. As explained previously, the loftiest level of “You have chosen us” is revealed on Simchas Torah. The immense joy that results from this is greater even than the joy of Sukkos. These two things, the choice of the Jewish people and its accompanying joy, extends from Simchas Torah to the entire year. Since a Jew is on such a lofty level, he may erroneously think that he must remain in the state of “Yissachar in your tents” — to remain in the ‘tent’ of Torah on the loftiest levels, and not ‘go out’ to work with and elevate the world.

This is the lesson of today’s parshah. One must also serve G‑d in the category of “Zevulun in your going out” — to go out into the world and make it a fit dwelling place for G‑d. Although a person must first and foremost work with himself, nevertheless, there are times when one must also work to refine and elevate the world. This is expressed in one’s daily conduct: First one must be as “Yissachar in your tents” — prayer and Torah study in the morning; then “Zevulun in your going out” — going into the world to do business. When one’s service is in such a fashion, then “Rejoice Zevulun in your going out and Yissachar in your tents” — one has proper joy and success in one’s work.

This concept is emphasized in the previous Rebbe’s sichos and ma’amarim. He stressed and demanded efforts in the spreading of Chassidus to all. It is not enough for one to learn Chassidus himself, but must work to let it reach all Jews. Even those who do not understand the Holy tongue must also learn Chassidus. Hence the previous Rebbe initiated the translation of Chassidus into many other languages, making it understood and comprehensible to all.

3. It is in this area that we see the difference between the previous Rebbe and the preceding Rebbeim, including his father, the Rebbe Rashab. Each era demands different types of service, and each leader of Jewry has his own particular service.

The Rebbe Rashab founded YeshivasTomchei Temimim.” This was the spreading of Chassidus in a Yeshivah setting, an innovation not previously extant. Its aim was the study of the exoteric and the esoteric (Chassidus) as one harmonious whole, unlike previous times when they were learned as two separate distinct entities. His work was mainly to spread Chassidus to Torah students and those steeped in the Torah life (i.e. the Yeshivah).

The work of the previous Rebbe was to spread Chassidus even to those who were completely removed from Torah and Judaism. His leadership was in the times after the Russian revolution, and his followers and disciples were given the task of influencing those who had become estranged from Judaism.

The mission entailed first and foremost in finding work for Jews in such a way that they would not need to desecrate the Shabbos. Only afterwards did they try to influence such people to give their children a Jewish education etc. Although the Baal Shem Tov also adopted this method, to worry about Jews’ physical needs before their spiritual, the situation was completely different. In the times of the Baal Shem Tov, the vast majority of Jews were believers and fulfilled mitzvos. It was only in the times of the previous Rebbe, after the Russian revolution, that so many Jews became estranged from their faith. Instead of concentrating only on their spiritual situation, the previous Rebbe concentrated efforts on finding work that entailed no Shabbos desecration. For Jews were so far removed from their religion that merely trying to influence them to have self-sacrifice to keep Shabbos would have been useless without first finding them occupations in which Shabbos observance was possible. So we see that the previous Rebbe’s work was mainly to spread Judaism and Chassidus to those who were completely estranged from Torah and mitzvos.

The difference between the Rebbe Rashab and the previous Rebbe is similar to the difference between King David and King Shlomo. The “Guest” of Hoshanah Rabbah is King David and the “Chassidic Guest” is the Rebbe Rashab.6 Hence the following day, Shemini Atzeres, is connected with King Shlomo (King David’s successor) and with the previous Rebbe (the Rebbe Rashab’s successor).

The difference between King David and King Shlomo is in two areas 1) King David’s influence extended only to the neighboring peoples whereas King Shlomo’s was also on distant lands. 2) King David’s influence was achieved through war, whereas King Shlomo’s was through peaceful means.

King David waged war with the surrounding peoples, conquered their lands, and sanctified them. King Shlomo did not engage war, but his influence, fame, and wisdom, was felt and known even in distant countries. So too with the Rebbe Rashab and the previous Rebbe. The previous Rebbe instituted in the concept of spreading Chassidus the idea that it should reach even those distant from Judaism.

Likewise with the idea of Ahavas Yisroel, love of a fellow Jew. The spreading of Chassidus is associated with Ahavas Yisroel, and emphasized by all the preceding Rebbeim starting from the Baal Shem Toy. Each succeeding generation saw increased emphasis on Ahavas Yisroel, culminating with the previous Rebbe who stressed that Ahavas Yisroel should extend even to those completely removed from Judaism. As a corollary to this, he endeavored to spread Chassidus also to such people.

This is the lesson from the weekly parshah of Simchas Torah. Every Jew’s service must be in the form of “Rejoice Zevulun in your going out,” to go and spread Chassidus outside, to all Jews. The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya (Iggeres Hakodesh Ch. 9) that nowadays, unlike the Talmudic era, the main service is in good works, in tzedakah — “Zevulun in your going out.” Learning this lesson from this week’s parshah should produce good intentions to this effect, and to translate them into actual deed.


4. The concept of “Ya’akov went on his way” applies on Motzoei Simchas Torah (the night following Simchas Torah). In Chassidus it is mentioned that it starts on Motzoei Yom Kippur, for on Yom Kippur Jews are on the level of angels and have no associations with worldly matters. After Yom Kippur, the revelation of the lofty concepts of Yom Kippur are drawn below, when Jews are occupied in the mitzvos of Lulav and Esrog, Sukkah etc. However, Motzoei Yom Kippur is only the start of the service of “Ya’akov went on his way,” for the physical things dealt with then (Lulav etc.) are still connected to holy things, mitzvos, etc. The main service of “Ya’akov went on his way” is on Motzoei Simchas Torah, when the service of dealing with the corporeal world begins.

On Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, all the concepts of the month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah, Ten Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, Sukkos) are absorbed within one’s innermost being. On Motzoei Simchas Torah, all these things are taken and used in one’s service the entire year. This is the idea of “Ya’akov went on his way”: That the ideals and concepts of Tishrei are used to help illuminate one’s way after Tishrei.

This phrase can be analyzed in more detail: Ya’akov: Ya’akov in Hebrew derives from the word Eikev, meaning heel. A person’s service throughout the year should not be just with his head, but also with his heel — every part and everything is used in one’s G‑dly service.

Went: A person’s service must be in the manner of ‘going,’ movement. Service cannot be static, but one must always be striving upwards, to reach infinitely higher levels.

On his way: Although a person must accept the yoke of heaven, submitting his will to G‑d’s will, nevertheless, one’s service must be done willingly and enthusiastically. This is expressed in “Ya’akov went on his way” — his service was done willingly and enthusiastically to the degree that it became “his” way, and not forced upon him. A person should serve G‑d as a servant, where his existence is completely identified with a Master. Hence, while a Jew does his service willingly and enthusiastically, it is the will of the Master.

Another interpretation of the words “his way” is that it refers to G‑d’s way. As explained before, a person must serve G‑d not just with the head, but also with the heel. But how is it possible to serve G‑d with it? But since we are talking of G‑d’s way, it is understandable. To G‑d, everything, great and small, are equal; and hence there is no difference between the service of the head and that of the heel. In both of them the way of G‑d can be seen.


5. Simchas Torah is the culmination of Yom Kippur. The second set of Tablets, on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments, were given on Yom Kippur. Just as the first set of Tablets, given at Mt. Sinai, are associated especially with women, so too the second. G‑d said then: “So shall you say to the house of Ya’akov, and tell the sons of Israel.” Our Sages comment that “the house of Ya’akov” refer to the women, and “sons of Israel” to the men; and the women are placed before the men, indicating Mattan Torah began with the women.

Likewise, women preceded the men in the giving of the second Tablets. Immediately after Yom Kippur (on which the second Tablets were given), G‑d commanded Moshe to begin the work of building the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, G‑d completely forgave with a full heart the Jews for their sin of the golden calf. The concrete sign of G‑d’s forgiveness was the erection of the Mishkan — “they shall make Me a Mishkan and I will dwell within.” Concerning the donation of material by the Jews for the building of the Mishkan, it states in Scripture (Shemos 35:22): “The men came after the women.” Since the Mishkan was the culmination of the forgiveness expressed on Yom Kippur, it indicates that women took pride of place then too, just as in the giving of the first Tablets.7

The Tablets were kept in the Aron (ark) in the Sanctuary. The tablets were 6 x 6 tefochim and 3 tefochim thick. The Talmud (B. Basra 14a) informs us that the tablets took up all the room in the Aron. It is thus obvious that the meaning of 6 x 6 means they were square, and not curved at the top (or else there would have been room at that end).

Unfortunately, many erroneously depict the tablets as being curved at one end, similar to semicircles. Many Jewish organizations have made this error when they use the tablets as their symbol. This directly contradicts the Talmud, and is plainly incorrect. Even Jewish schools, whose function is to educate Jewish children, have been influenced by this non-Jewish concept of the tablets.

Some people counter that they do not wish to change their symbol because it would imply derogation of those who instituted the symbol many years ago. But, such a claim is worthless when speaking of educating Jewish children! When eventually a child will find out the truth, he will lose all trust in his educators, even in those things taught him which were correct! Hence, it is important to correct this, especially since it is the tablets, the foundation of the entire Torah.

Worse yet, the depiction of the tablets with one end rounded comes from non-Jewish sources. It is contrary to the teaching of the Talmud. When a Jewish organization has as their symbol the tablets drawn in this way, they are preferring the non-Jewish concept to the Talmud!

Organizations reprint their letterheads and literature from time to time. There is no great difficulty involved in changing the tablets to conform to that outlined in the Talmud (square). Especially since it affects the education of Jewish children which should be as perfect as possible.