1. Shabbos is an appropriate time to further elaborate on matters discussed last Wednesday, the 24th of Teves — the Yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe; for it is on Shabbos that the preceding six weekdays are elevated to the level of completion — “Vayechulu.”

The word Vayechulu “and they were completed” has two seemingly contradictory linguistic implications:

1) On one hand “Vayechulu” is related to the word “Kilayon” — which means “yearning,” an example of man’s self-nullification as he strives to transcend his own existence and become one with G‑d.

2) Vayechulu also means pleasure and satisfaction — the very state that epitomizes man as an independent entity. For it is through the state of Pleasure that man perceives his present state; pleasure confirms mans self-awareness, expanding the confines of his independent existence.

The completion that Shabbos brings to the preceding week, encompasses both aspects of the weekday service — both service through self-nullification and transcendence, as well as man’s service as an independent entity.

We must seek the applicable practical implications of this concept, for “the deed is the essential thing” in matters of Torah. As seen on many levels:

1) From the point of view of creation, it is events in our world, — Olam Ha’Asiyah, “the world of action ,” that is of central importance .

2) From the historical perspective, our generation (referred to as the heels i.e. forerunners of the Moshiach) is crucial to the fulfillment of Jewish destiny and all of past history.

3) In the service of G‑d it is “the heel” i.e. man’ s concrete actions and his fulfillment of tangible Mitzvos that is essential.

In all these instances, the concrete level is not merely another important level, it is the fulfillment, the raison d’être of the higher preceding levels; it is the lower which renders significance to the higher.

An analogy from the physical world further illustrates this point: To relocate a building one must hoist up the building from its foundation. Through raising the building’s lowest levels, the higher storey’s are also raised. Attempts to elevate the building from the middle of the structure would inevitably fail, as this procedure would leave the lower levels intact and the higher levels incomplete, being disconnected from the building as a whole.

So too in Torah analysis we must always first seek a thorough basic down-to-earth understanding.1

Indeed, it is the theme of action that preoccupies the Alter Rebbe’s two writings prior to his departure from this world (Chapter 20 of Iggeres Hakodesh, Tanya, and the essay “Nefesh Hash’feyla” included in the collection of the Alter Rebbe’s writings entitled Meah Shearim).

The Alter Rebbe had been a leader of the Chassidic movement for years prior to these writings, and had authored the Tanya, the Shulchan Aruch and an output of Chassidic discourses which were qualitatively and quantitively outstanding. He had thrown himself into the task of “disseminating the wellsprings of Chassidus teachings” to areas termed “outer areas” — those regions and individuals furthest removed from the Chassidic well-springs. And we see that it was the over-riding importance of the deed which preoccupied the Alter Rebbe’s writings, prior to his departure from this world.

The simple meaning of Shabbos as both a fulfillment of man’s nullification (transcendence) of self, and man’s retention of his identity is as follows:

The nullification of self corresponds to the “Shivisa” aspect of Shabbos — i.e. refraining from creative work, expressing efforts to transcend, refraining from self-expression in areas of creativity.

The aspect of man’s retaining his existence as an individual entity corresponds to the aspect of Shabbos that is (not negative, refraining etc. but rather) a positive force, a positive entity — Shabbos as the source of blessing for the coming weekdays. Indeed, the nations of the world view Shabbos as something counterproductive — being the negation of self-existence, growth, progress, productivity. In short, a day of inactivity. It is through the Jew, who keeps this Shabbos that Hashem shows the world that the very opposite is the case; that this day is a potent force, a unique entity, the source of the blessings for the weekdays that follow.2

The above has further ramifications for the Jew in his service of G‑d in the weekdays prior to Shabbos. On Sunday or Monday, at the conclusion of the day, a Jew makes a “reckoning of the soul” during the Krias Shema prayer before retiring at night. If his spiritual achievement for Sunday is lacking, when can he make up the deficiency? On Monday it is not possible as it is a new day and man is preoccupied with Monday’s own tasks and challenges. There is no time to linger, rectifying past inadequacies as “every day has its own task.” However a Jew, in the midst of his weekday service can take heart — there is a Shabbos on the horizon when anything hitherto incompleted will be completed. On Sunday we say “Today is the first day of the week” i.e. of the Shabbos which lies ahead, raising everything to Vayechulu — completion.


2. Let us now, therefore, complete matters left incomplete in last Wednesday’s farbrengen on the 24th of Teves — matters of practical implications and matters that expound on the teachings of the Chabad Rebbes. First and foremost, the practical implications:

As explained on several occasions, a teaching derived from an isolated occurrence is relevant throughout the entire year, not only during that single instance. For example, instructions derived from the festival of Pesach apply equally to a Jew’s service at any time of the year — not just on Pesach. So too, a Torah teaching we derived in a previous year applies equally to that year and all future years.

In previous years we instituted the practice that on the 24th of Teves we learn a Tractate of Mishnayos beginning with one of the letters of the Alter Rebbe’s name, plus one chapter of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, and a section or chapter_ or a few lines of Tanya. As well, one should give Tzedakah, as Tzedakah is connected with Ahavas Yisroel — Love of one’s fellow Jew — a point of vital importance to the Alter Rebbe.

This instruction has been printed and distributed, yet amazingly the following line of thinking is prevalent; the assumption is made that these instructions were not specifically reiterated this year, an indication that they do not apply this year! The result of this false reasoning is inactivity — “every man resting under his vine or date tree.” Such reasoning is a mere rationalization, an excuse. The Hebrew word for excuse is “Amoslo” — and the Rabbis explain it to comprise two words “Emes Lo,” meaning “no truth.” Indeed such rationalizations are the antithesis of truth, stemming from laziness and lethargy.3

Similarly, such rationalization leads one to say: “Since, no mention has been made this year about the tasks at hand for the 24th of Teves, I will channel my efforts on more pressing tasks.” When these instructions were first instituted, they were presented with the reasons that prompted them. Just as the reasons still apply, so too the instructions are equally applicable.

The aim of this discussion is not to make one feel downhearted but rather to stress the eternal lesson derived from Pesach Sheni — “there is nothing that cannot be rectified.” It is not too late now to fulfill these directives, to still complete the four of five instructions; and if one wishes to add more things — all the better.

3. To elaborate further on our discussion concerning the Alter Rebbe on the 24th of Teves: The demise of a Tzaddik is the time when “all the labor of his soul during his lifetime” is elevated to a higher plane. After this elevation, these levels descend again to the world to “work salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalms 74:12).

What then are the strivings of the Alter Rebbe that received their elevation on the 24th of Teves and redescend to our world? What are his achievements that are commonly known to men, women and even children?

The Alter Rebbe’s names, Schneur and Zalman, provide the answer to this question. Let us first analyze the name Schneur, being the first name and also the name by which the Alter Rebbe was “called in the Holy Tongue.”

Even young children know that the name Schneur comprises two words “Schnei Or,” meaning “two lights.” What does light achieve? Light serves to illuminate and reveal to the onlooker, objects that are already present but not perceptible. Light does not create ex-nihilo, but renders previously existent objects accessible. By turning on a light in a dark room we can identify doors, windows, tables, chairs, etc.; and we know to exit via the door rather than the window, to sit on the chair rather than the table etc. Thus light identifies the function of an object. It enables clarification regarding the position of oneself of a second person and other entities outside ourselves.

The Alter Rebbe was a new Neshamah who, in consonance with the verse “A new light shall shine,” identified the true nature and purpose of all things. He was Schnei Or — two lights, as he enlightened in his lifetime two major areas: both the area of Nigla (the revealed level of Torah) and the area of Nistar (the hidden, esoteric part of Torah) i.e. Chassidus. This dual achievement is commonly known to Chassidim and non-Chassidim alike.

Here we see a clear connection between the twenty-fourth of Teves and the Sedra in which the Yahrzeit occurs — Parshas Va’eira. Va’eira in Hebrew comprises the letters that make up the word “Or” meaning light. The remaining letter Aleph, also stands for the word “Or.” Thus we have twice the word “Or” — i.e. Schnei Or — two lights.

The meaning of Va’eira “I appeared” is also in consonance with the theme of light. Just as light makes evident that which was present but not yet revealed, so too G‑d’s appearance is the revelation of His ever-present Self. No new creative act has occurred; yet, G‑d is now evident. Just as in the word Va’eira, we find the word Or (light) once clearly evident, and once represented by the letter Aleph (a concealed form); so too the Alter Rebbe’s light illuminated the openly accessible areas of Torah, as well as the concealed esoteric areas of Torah. He then extended these esoteric teachings beyond the initial revelation of the Baal Shem Tov, to the point where they could be readily accessible to all.

Thus, this Shabbos, the 24th of Teves stands on a level of completion “Vayechulu,” and the Yahrzeit brings the Alter Rebbe’s highest achievements down to “work salvation in the midst of the earth,” into the world of tangible action. We must then realize that we now have the potential to achieve in both areas of his illumination — the revealed and hidden levels of Torah.

Lest one feel over-awed by such a task, it should be known that the Alter Rebbe paved the way for us. Moreover “he shall not abandon his flock;” his “breaking the ice” provides successive generations with constant assistance, helping us achieve everlasting achievements in areas of self-refinement, as well as spreading Torah Judaism and Chassidus to one’s environment.

The Alter Rebbe’s second name “Zalman” also provides us with a teaching. It is a Yiddish name — Yiddish being a language of Exile (golus) a foreign language sanctified by Tzaddikim who used it as a vehicle for expressing their words of Torah. Yiddish is the language used to express ideas in a manner that should be understood by all. The word Zalman comprises the letters of the word “L’zman” — in time. In other words, all teachings derived from the Alter Rebbe must take effect “L’zman” — in the world subject to the limitations (dimensions) of time. They must also find their fullest expression — (e.g. in the Yiddish language,) clearly spelled out so as to reach and to have a positive affect upon each and every Jew.4

These teachings should not be “shelved,” lying idle collecting dust until next year’s Erev Pesach clean-up. Let them take effect now “in the midst of the earth” and with the spirit of Simcha. For as the Alter Rebbe told the Tzemach Tzedek when he was once singing a sad Niggun — “the higher world corresponds to the lower world,” — a smiling countenance in our world inspires, as it were, a smiling countenance from Above.” This work can bring about the instantaneous appearance of Moshiach “in the midst of the earth,” for Teshuvah brings about the immediate redemption — may it be speedily in our days.