1. We have gathered here because we are found in the midst of the nine days, in the beginning of the month of Av. This month is called Menachem-Av — the word Menachem meaning comfort — for in this month the Jews are comforted by G‑d’s promise that He will “turn your mourning to joy,” making this month a month of happiness.

For this promise to be fulfilled, it is necessary that Jews fulfill their task of eradicating the cause for their mourning. In our prayers, we declare “Because of our sins, we were exiled from our land.” The exile was caused because the Jews had not behaved as they should. By doing Teshuvah ourselves and likewise by correcting the transgressions of the previous generations, we can eradicate the sins and eliminate the reason for the exile. Then, as is inherently obvious, when the cause is eliminated, its effect will also cease and we will return to our holy land. Furthermore, our Teshuvah will bring about the coming of Moshiach and the complete and true redemption at which time these “days of mourning” will not only be transformed into days that are similar to any other day of the year, but even more so, become days of joy, happiness and festivals.

The reason for this is as follows: Teshuvah has the power of bringing out “the higher quality of light from darkness” and “the higher quality of wisdom from foolishness.” When darkness and foolishness are transformed, the light and wisdom derived is even greater than normal. This wisdom will cause a Jew to behave in an intelligent manner and fulfill Mitzvos.

Hence, there is a special directive to increase our efforts in the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Mitzvos during these three weeks and particularly during the month of Av. Included among the Mitzvos is the Mitzvah of prayer, asking G‑d for all His blessings including the most fundamental blessing — that the Messianic redemption will come very soon and these days will be transformed into days of joy for every Jew. Then, the entire Jewish people will proceed together to our Holy Land with Moshiach, speedily in our days.

2. The above applies to every Jew: men, women, and children. However, there is a special directive concerning these days that applies to Jewish children. The Medrash (Eichah 1:32-33) states: “Come and see how beloved are children by the Holy One blessed be He. The Sanhedrin was exiled, but the Shechinah (Divine Presence) did not go into exile with them. The priestly watches were exiled, but the Shechinah did not go into exile with them. When, however, the children were exiled, the Shechinah went into exile with them...” Although the sages and the priestly families offered the sacrifices in the Temple, and were the leaders of the Jewish nation, the Shechinah did not depart with them, but with the Jewish children.

Hence, we see that as long as the Jewish children hold firm in Yiddishkeit, in “Yerushalayim” and in the “Temple,” the true Golus could not begin for then G‑d is in Yerushalayim and in the Temple with the children. On the contrary, through the efforts of the Jewish children who remain in Yerushalayim, the Sanhedrin and the priestly families will return. Hence, it is clear that in order to eradicate the exile entirely and bring about the return to Yerushalayim, we must devote our primary efforts to Jewish children. They must, in a spiritual sense, establish themselves in Yerushalayim and in the Temple through the study of Torah (which is connected to the Temple for the Sanhedrin met “next to the altar,” in the Temple courtyard) and the fulfillment of Mitzvos — by making everything an offering to G‑d. All of our thoughts, speech, and action must be devoted to G‑d. When the children fulfill this service, G‑d will return to the spiritual Yerushalayim, which in turn will cause, the return to Yerushalayim on the physical plane.

The efforts of Jewish children in Torah study, prayer, and Tzedakah can negate the Golus and bring the true redemption. Then we will go, with the children at the head, following Moshiach to the holy land, “the land which the eyes of the L‑rd, your G‑d, are upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”

* * *

3. The three services mentioned above: Torah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah were all carried out today: The service of prayer through the Minchah service, the service of Torah through the recitation of the twelve sayings from the Torah and our Sages, and surely everyone has given Tzedakah. Nevertheless, since we desire “to be doubly consoled,” in addition to making the prayerful request that G‑d speedily bring the Messianic redemption (prayer) and relating the words of the Medrash concerning the importance of Jewish children (Torah); it is proper to study another concept of Torah — a law from the Rambam’s treatise on the Construction of the Temple. Our sages have taught that whenever we learn about the construction of the Temple it is considered as if we have actually built the Temple which hastens its actual construction.

The Rambam entitles the above-mentioned treatise Hilchos Bais HaBechirah which literally means — the laws of the chosen building, i.e. G‑d chose the Temple site although He had the option of selecting another location. This statement raises a question; the Rambam writes: “The tradition is maintained by all that the place where David and Shlomo built the altar on the site of the storage house of Aruna is the same place on which Avraham built an altar upon which he bound Yitzchok; it is the place where Noach built an altar when he emerged from the ark; it is the place of the altar upon which Cain and Avel brought their sacrifices; there Adam, the first man, brought a sacrifice after he was created.” How can the Temple site be called a “chosen place,” implying the possibility that it had not been previously selected, when it was such a holy place that so many altars had already been built upon it?

The answer to this question is as follows: Adam, Cain and Avel, Noach, and Avraham were prophets who knew that G‑d would eventually choose the Temple site as His resting place. Hence, they built their altars there. The altars were not built on that site because of its essential holiness, but because of the holiness that would result from the building of the Temple. Hence, the use of the term “chosen” is appropriate. Furthermore, the fact that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, was revealed in the sanctuary in the desert, although the sanctuary was carried from place to place, demonstrates that there was no limitation on where G‑dliness would be revealed. Hence, the only reason for the holiness of the Temple is because G‑d chose it.

The above provides a lesson in our service of G‑d. Every Jew has been given free choice and can choose his portion of the world and his deeds, choosing to make of them a holy place, a dwelling place for G‑d. A Jew may be in exile, or in Israel but not on the Temple Mount, or even on the Temple Mount, yet unable to build the Temple because of the Golus; still G‑d gives every Jew the power to create a Temple, a “chosen building” for Him. Through studying Torah, fulfilling Mitzvos, and carrying out all one’s actions for the sake of heaven, we cause G‑d to choose to dwell in the place the Jew has chosen for his service. This, in turn, hastens the complete and true redemption led by Moshiach when the third Temple will be built speedily in our days.

* * *

4. The above is connected with the weekly Torah portion and, in particular, the fifth Aliyah — the portion related to today. That passage describes the preparation undergone by the Jewish people before their entry into Israel. It relates that there are other nations which dwell in Israel’s surroundings whose lands should not be touched. It continues to explain that G‑d gave them permission to conquer the lands of Sichon and Og for they belong to the Jewish people.

This reading provides us with a lesson applicable in our own service. There are many nations who reside in Eretz Yisroel. They can approach a Jew and exclaim — “How is it possible for the land of Israel to belong to the Jewish people, when other nations dwell within? Furthermore, they protest, how can the Jews say that when Moshiach will come, he will lead the entire Jewish people into Israel. How is it possible for Jews to do conduct themselves in such a manner?!

The reply to their demands comes from today’s Torah passage. The lands that G‑d has given to other nations should not be touched by the Jews, but the lands which were given to the Jews remains their property alone. The nations which demand land from the Jewish people must know that when their ancestors were entirely wild, would eat human flesh, and were not capable of being taught justice and righteousness, the Jews, on the other hand, were educated to take only what belonged to them, and knew not to take what did not belong to them. This is the answer that must be given to the nations. While their ancestors ate human flesh, the Jews lived justly. Though today these nations do not live as wildly, that is only superficial, for they stem from ancestors who ate human flesh. In contrast, the Jews possessed the Torah which taught them how to live in accordance with G‑d’s directives. When they entered the land of Israel, they were given the entire land as “an eternal inheritance.” Therefore, anyone who wants to take a portion of Israel away from the Jews is committing an act of theft. Furthermore, his efforts will not succeed because although they “Contrive a scheme it will be foiled, conspire a plot is will not materialize, because G‑d is with us.”

5. The above is uniquely connected with children. The passage of the Zohar that is related to this week’s portion (Devorim, III p. 186a) relates a story that occurred to R. Yehudah. He and a number of other sages met a Jewish child — a suckling — who taught them Torah secrets. Afterwards R. Yehudah told R. Shimon: “Meritorious is your portion” and “meritorious is the generation” in which young children study Torah and learn the Torah’s secrets. G‑d blesses such children and insures that they will not be affected by the evil eye.

We can derive a lesson from this story. When Jewish children follow the path of the Torah (which includes the Zohar — the book with which Israel “will be redeemed from exile with mercy”), following the secrets of Torah and the Halachah — the bond between all of the Jewish people, and particularly between Jewish children is strengthened. Torah is intended to bring about peace. This is particular true of the two aspects of Torah mentioned above — the realm of Torah “secrets” and the realm of Halachah. Concerning the former it is written “There, no question and no disagreement exist.” Likewise, the latter unites the Jewish people, for even when they have different opinions, the Halachah is the same for all. Hence, the study of these aspects of Torah establish greater unity among the Jewish people. This, in turn, negates the reason for the exile which came about (as our sages declared) because of the sin of baseless hatred, and leads to the true and complete redemption.

* * *

6. There is a unique factor that is connected to the present day. Tomorrow, the fifth of Av, is the Yahrzeit of the AriZal. When we recall a Tzaddik, it is necessary to learn a lesson from his behavior (to whatever extent possible).

One of the most important aspects of the AriZal’s service was the quality of “Simchah Shel Mitzvah” — joy over performing a Mitzvah. It is written (Torah Or, Toldos 20b) that it was this quality that caused him to merit “Ruach HaKodesh.” Another important lesson that we can learn from the AriZal has to do with prayer. He stated: “It is proper to say before prayer: I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the Mitzvah, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself’.” Before prayer, one must unite himself with each and every Jew. There is also a unique aspect of the AriZal’s behavior that is related to Tzedakah. When the AriZal was asked to give Tzedakah or pay for a Mitzvah, he did not consider any difficulties, but would reach into his pocket and take out money without even counting it.

We must try to emulate his behavior, rejoicing at the chance to perform a Mitzvah and expressing our willingness to pay for it without considering the difficulties involved, confident that G‑d will help. Also, when we meet another Jew, we must relate to him, we must feel love, as we are commanded “Love your fellowman as yourself.” Through this behavior we will hasten the coming of the time when “I will turn your mourning into joy” with the coming of the Messianic redemption.

7. In connection with the above, I would like to suggest that Jewish children,1 those assembled here and those elsewhere, to increase the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvos from today until the fifteenth of Av.2 They should: 1) study a new concept in Torah each day 2) in the realm of prayer — recite an additional Psalm each day 3) each day increase their gifts to Tzedakah (on Friday Tzedakah should be given for Shabbos as well) 4) do a special act of Ahavas Yisroel making friends with at least one more Jewish child (boys befriending boys, girls befriending girls) 5) work to “return the hearts of the parents through the children,” by asking their father or mother to learn Torah or recite Psalms with them.

Each day the child should write down what he/she has done in these areas and have his/her parents or counselors sign the card. Afterwards these cards should be collected and sent to a special committee, which will compare the score of each child. Prizes should be awarded accordingly, which will arouse the “envy of the scribes” and hence cause “an increase in knowledge.” It is fitting to award these prizes on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month of mercy.

These efforts will bring about our inscription for a good and sweet year in the year to come. Furthermore, even before the coming of that year, we will witness the true and complete redemption and then “Zion will be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through Tzedakah” with the coming of Moshiach who will lead each and every Jew to our holy land, speedily in our days.

[The Rebbe Shlita gave the Madrichim dimes to be distributed to the children; two dimes for each child.]