1. The Tzemach Tzedek, when a young child, learned the verse “And Ya’akov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years.” His teacher told him that those seventeen years were the best years of Ya’akov’s life. The Tzemach Tzedek asked his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, how it is possible that the best years of Ya’akov’s life were those spent in Egypt, a place called the “depravity of the earth?” The Alter Rebbe answered as follows: On the words, “And Yehudah he (Ya’akov) sent before him, to Yosef, to show the way before him,” our sages comment, that Yehudah’s mission was to establish a house of study so that the tribes would be able to learn Torah in Egypt. When one learns Torah he comes closer to G‑d, thus making it possible for Ya’akov to “live” also in Egypt. The seventeen years Ya’akov spent in Egypt were truly “lived,” that life being similar to the “abundance of light that comes from (prior) darkness.”

This is similar in concept to Asarah B’Teves, the fast of the tenth of Teves (which occurred in the preceding week). The 10th of Teves was the day that Nevuchadnezar, the evil king of Babylon, laid siege to Yerushalayim. It thus marks the beginning of the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh. Teves is the tenth month; and thus this occurred on the tenth day of the tenth month. The number ten is always associated with holiness,1 and that such an event should be on the tenth of the tenth is an awesome descent.

This descent was, however, for the purpose of the abundance of light that would later emerge from the darkness of the descent. And this is the similarity with the above story about the Tzemach Tzedek. The siege of Yerushalayim is similar to Egypt, the exile of Egypt being the forerunner of all later exiles. As our sages have said: “All kingdoms are called by the name Egypt, since they oppress Yisroel” [In Hebrew ‘Egypt’ is the same word as ‘oppress’]. The ultimate aim and reason for this oppression is the “abundance of light that comes from darkness,” just as, through coming to Egypt, Ya’akov truly “lived.”

That which occurred to Ya’akov is instructive for every Jew, for his life in this world; for our forefathers were the choicest of all men, and Ya’akov the choicest of the forefathers.2 Ya’akov’s raison d’être was to “live” in Egypt — to reveal the abundance of light that comes from prior darkness. So too with us — our raison d’être is to achieve “life,” specifically in a place similar to Egypt. This means that, even though there was also “light” before the exile, in the time of the Bais Hamikdosh, nevertheless, it is precisely in the time of exile that we achieve that abundance of light that comes only from darkness.3

In concrete terms, this means that we must conduct ourselves in the time of exile with true “life.” Our Torah learning (“they are our life and the length of our days”) and our fulfillment of Mitzvos (“and live in them”) must be with vitality, with life, extending even to the lowest matters.4

In our times the prerequisite for the above is the study of Chassidus, the inner part of the Torah. Although in previous generations this was not a necessary prerequisite, and the study of the inner portion of the Torah was only for special individuals, nowadays it has been revealed for all. Indeed, in our times it is an absolute must — in order that our Torah and fulfillment of Mitzvos be in the fitting manner.

Two parables are given for the reason that it is specifically in our times that Chassidus must be learned and disseminated so widely, even to the point of squander. During a war, the king will squander all his treasures to ensure victory. Similarly, now is the time when all our spiritual treasures (i.e. Chassidus) must be “squandered” to achieve victory (i.e. the redemption). Another parable is that of a king whose son is extremely unwell. The king will take the rarest gem in his crown of jewels, grind it to a powder, and feed it to his son in the hope that perhaps one drop will be absorbed and heal his son. So too, nowadays Chassidus must be disseminated as widely as possible to resuscitate the ailing body of Jewry, even if most of it will not reach its objective and be squandered.

The realization that exile is the medium through which we can achieve the abundance of light that can come only from prior darkness, disposes of all (our) doubts and questions regarding the exile. As in another parable, where the king’s son is sent away by his father to test him, the exile [where we, the King’s children, have been sent] serves as a medium to draw out the strength of the Jewish people, and so produce the abundance of light. Especially since most of the difficulties of the exile are more imaginary than real, stemming from the Evil Inclination.5 The realization of this encourages us to strive with all our might to produce the abundance of light that comes from the exile.

The very fact that we find ourselves in such a dark exile proves that we have the strength to produce the abundance of light, which in turn gives us the encouragement to be truly “alive” during the exile.

This then is the directive for all: To effect the concept of “Ya’akov lived,” through the spreading of the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov as they are explained and amplified in Chassidus Chabad, and to ensure that they reach to “outside,” all Jews, everywhere. Especially we must carry out the mission laid upon all of us by the Previous Rebbe — the spreading of Judaism.

Through the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus we achieve the fulfillment of the promise given to Ya’akov: “I will also surely bring you up again,” the “also” referring to the ultimate redemption. And then, through our efforts in all the Mitzvah campaigns, “immediately we will be redeemed,” and, “with our youth and our elders, our-sons and our daughters,” we will go to receive our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our times.


2. Because we are still in the month of Teves, there is a connection with Chanukah. There are various ways in which one can fulfill the Mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights. The basic minimum in Halachah is to kindle one light each night for the entire household. A more choice manner is for each member to kindle one light. And the choicest manner of all to fulfill the Mitzvah is to add an extra light each night.6

Spiritually, the basic minimum — one light — indicates the concept of Chanukah as it is in the seminal stage; it then becomes differentiated and expanded — one light for each person and a leading up to eight lights. This is similar in concept to Tefillin: The Tefillin of the hand, which must be put on before the Tefillin of the head, contain the four Parshiyos (sections) of the Torah that constitute the Tefillin in one single compartment. The Tefillin of the head, on the other hand, has a different compartment for each section. The reason for this difference, is similar to the difference between “back” and “front.” In the “back,” as in the nape of the neck, there are no distinguishing features — nose, eyes, ears, mouth; everything i3 the same. Whereas in “front,” as in the front of the face, these features are distinguishable.7

There is a lesson for us from the above regarding the fulfillment of Mitzvos. There are two parts in a Mitzvah — the actual deed and the kavannah, the concentrated meaning of the Mitzvah. First and foremost is the actual deed, for no matter how lofty one’s thoughts and comprehensions of the Mitzvah, without the actual deed the essential part is lacking. The above two concepts — the seminal point and the later expansion — are also found in a Mitzvah. Through the actual simple performance of a Mitzvah one grasps the Essence Above, thus grasping all the concepts (as they are in the Essence). The various concepts included in the Essence then become revealed with the concentrated understanding and comprehension of the Mitzvos, which, depending on the depth of understanding, are differentiated into different levels.

Likewise in Torah. The entire Torah is included in the Ten Commandments, and the Ten Commandments themselves are included in the first word “Anochi,” which itself is included in the first letter (the “Aleph”) of the word “Anochi.” Thus the letter “aleph” is the seminal point which includes the entire Torah. Afterwards, the Torah is distinguished and separated into its various particular laws and details.

Yet another instance is prayer. Before praying a Jew must include himself in and associate himself together with all other Jews; this is the concept of Ahavas Yisroel — the love of a fellow Jew. Thus, before prayer a Jew is bound together with, and included with, all other Jews — this is the same concept as the seminal point in which the later particulars are included. Afterwards a Jew must expand this into the differing levels and “rungs” of prayer, leading up to the Shemoneh Esreh where he stands “as a servant before his Master.”

3. The idea of kindling the Chanukah lights in the choicest manner possible provides the answer to those who question why it is specifically in our times that we make the concept of “love your fellowman as yourself” such a crucial issue. That it is an important matter is unquestionable: Hillel Hazaken, and later Rabbi Akivah, stressed its central position in Judaism. But if its importance demands that such a tumult as to make a campaign out of it be made — then surely it should have been more prominent in the times of Hillel and R. Akiva, or at least in the times of the Baal Shem Tov or the Alter Rebbe. Why now do we make such a fuss and initiate a whole campaign about it?

Despite these type of questions we see that the Previous Rebbe did instruct us to involve ourselves in this — — to speak to others and influence them regarding it with the greatest of enthusiasm. This instruction holds no matter in what language — as long as the full concept of “love your fellowman as yourself” is spread.

And the answer for those who question why it is specifically now that we should make such a campaign comes from the Chanukah lights. In the times of the Talmud, the custom was to kindle only one light each night for the entire household. Kindling more than one each night is referred to in the Talmud as fulfilling the Mitzvah in the choicest manner — for those who are especially zealous. Many generations later, the Ramah, whose decisions are binding on us till this very generation, states that to kindle the lights in the manner referred to in the Talmud as especially choice, and done only by those especially zealous, (i.e. adding one light each night), is nowadays a “simple, unquestioned custom,” for all Jews.8 Likewise with the idea of Ahavas Yisroel. Nowadays, following the directive of the Previous Rebbe, it has become a “simple, unquestioned custom” for everybody to be totally involved in Ahavas Yisroel.

The explanation for this is as expounded above. These concepts were always present, but in a concealed, seminal form. Only later, when they become revealed do they become expanded and differentiated.

4. The inner, esoteric portion of Torah is called the soul of the Torah, comparable to the soul of a person. Just as a person’s soul gives light and vitality to his body, even though a Jew’s body without it is still complete and holy, so too the inner portion of the Torah gives illumination and vitality to the revealed portion. Thus the inner portion, Chassidus, is comparable to a light, and just as nowadays the Mitzvah of the Chanukah lights is observed in the choicest manner possible, (the expansion of the previous bare minimum of one light a night), so too today, Chassidus must be learned in as expanded a manner as possible, with the greatest involvement and enthusiasm.

The illumination that comes from the soul must be completely revealed in all things. For example, the physical act of giving Tzedakah, or the kindling of the Shabbos and Chanukah lights, must be done with the strength and illumination of the soul. And the illumination should be to the degree that “the skin of his face sent forth beams” [said of Moshe when he came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets].9 Also, as the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos Ch. 8 Halachah 1) relates of R. Yehudah that his face shone because he had discovered a new matter in Torah.10

The lesson from “the choicest manner” becoming a “simple, unquestioned custom” teaches us that everything should be done in the choicest manner. For example, when learning Torah or giving Tzedakah, do not put a limit on your efforts or your generosity.11 Instead, taking the lesson from Chanukah, everything should be done in the choicest manner possible — transcending all limits.