1. This farbrengen is connected with the date of Chof (the 20th of) MarCheshvan, the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab. The Previous Rebbe who was the successor of the Rebbe Rashab,1 revealed2 the significance of a birthday, based on the Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah Ch. 3 Hal. 8) that explains that it is a day when “one’s Mazel (the spiritual source of the soul) shines powerfully.”3 From this event, as in every occurrence that we encounter, we must derive a lesson in our service of G‑d. This lesson should be connected with the unique characteristic that distinguished the Rebbe Rashab.

In trying to find that unique characteristic we are faced with a major difficulty. Every Jew, by virtue of his eternal G‑dly nature, possesses an infinite number of different qualities. This particularly holds true for one whose service paralleled that of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai4 — a level described as, “With one bond I am tied with G‑d.” On such a level the infinity of one’s personality is more powerfully revealed. This particularly applies to the Rebbe Rashab’s case. He lived in a time of darkness. Just as an olive brings forth its oil only when pressed, the pressures of the times brought out his true nature. From the darkness, a higher quality of light was revealed in a great spread of Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s inner aspects).5

Despite these factors, the lesson that we derive from his birthday must be applicable to all Jews, even the most simple. Furthermore, it must be able to be acted upon and brought down into deed, since “Deed is the most essential.”6

The unique aspect of the Rebbe Rashab from which we can all learn a lesson was his effort to spread Torah — the Torah of Chassidus, Pnimiyus HaTorah as well as Nigleh (the realm of Torah study that deals with Torah law and practice). This effort was epitomized in the founding of Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim.

The Alter Rebbe had directed the study of a number of students in his Chadorim. Likewise, the Tzemach Tzedek had sent young men to study under the tutelage of various Chassidim. Also, the Rebbe Maharash had Yoshvim (among them, my grandfather) who studied under him. Nevertheless, the founding of Tomchei Temimim symbolized a major step in the spreading of Torah. It was opened with the intention of attracting students from all over the world, even far-off places. This included students from distant countries who were far-off physically, and those who were far away in spiritual terms: who by nature would not necessarily want to learn in the yeshiva. Therefore, the Rebbe Rashab’s distinguishing characteristic can be defined by the spreading of Torah. Even though the Rebbeim who preceded him were also active in this field, his achievements, particularly the establishment of the Yeshiva, stand out as unique.

The establishment of the Yeshiva is connected with the concept, “Grandchildren are the glory of the elders.”7 The Yeshiva was founded in 5657, the same year (and time) as the Previous Rebbe’s wedding. Then, the potential for grandchildren came into being. This brought “the glory of the elders” to the Rebbe Rashab and gave him the potential to found a yeshiva that would produce students who were “shining candles.”

It is obvious from the above that the lessons we can derive from the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday are connected with spreading Torah study. The opportunity has been given to make good resolutions and carry them out and bring them into action.

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2. The above is relevant to the celebration of Chof MarCheshvan every year. However, each year teaches us a particular lesson of its own. This year, Chof MarCheshvan is connected with Shabbos. It falls on Shabbos itself. In addition, the entire year is a Shemitah year, a year which is “a Shabbos unto G‑d.” Furthermore this year Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, also came out on Shabbos.8

Shabbos has two aspects. 1) It is a day of rest. The Shulchan Aruch states that on Shabbos we must consider all our work as completed. 2) It is a day of pleasure, as the prophet Isaiah declares, “You shall call the Shabbos a delight.” (58:13) These factors are particularly connected to the study of Torah. Our Sages declared, “The Torah was given only to those who ate the manna.” In the desert, the Jews were not bothered by any material worries. All their needs were met by the manna, Miriam’s well, and the clouds of glory. Similarly, in order to appreciate Torah properly now, one should be like those who ate the manna: totally above the worries of the world.

From the above it is understood, that since on Shabbos “all your work is completed,” a Jew has no worries from worldly matters and can therefore learn Torah as he should — in a manner that “my entire being shall declare” the words of Torah — .

It’s possible to devote oneself to Torah out of feelings of Kabbalas Ol (acceptance of G‑d’s will). After all, Kabbalas Ol is the foundation of all service.9 However, that Kabbalas Ol should be permeated with will and with pleasure. Why? Because implicit in our obligation to study Torah is the responsibility to study in a manner that will bring the most success. Success will come only when our full being is involved. Therefore, our Sages stated, “A person should always learn in a place that his heart desires.”10

Therefore, this year, when Chof MarCheshvan comes out on Shabbos, we must appreciate the importance of spreading Torah and doing so with pleasure. When it is done with pleasure, it will bring about a greater expansion and success in all matters. Pleasure by nature brings about expansion. The Talmud explains how the bones of a grown man actually expanded when he heard good tidings. The same applies in our case. Shabbos will bring about pleasure11 in the work of spreading Torah, and that pleasure will bring success to the work.

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3. Chof MarCheshvan teaches an additional lesson this year. Each year on Rosh Hashanah a new and higher aspect of light shines than did the year before. Therefore, all the events of the year become elevated from year to year. However, in this general process of elevation there are certain years that stand out as turning points.12

This year begins the 120th13 year since the Rebbe Rashab’s birth. In general, each ten-year period brings out new aspects and qualities (Note Pirkei Avos, Ch. 5, Mishnah 22). In particular the 120th year marks a level of completion and perfection. The first reference to the number 120 is in the Biblical narrative of the flood. G‑d gave man 120 years to do Teshuva before He brought the flood upon the world. Rashi explains that when the flood rains first descended, they “came down mercifully, for if they (the people) would do Teshuva, they would become rains of blessings. Only after they did not do Teshuva did they become flood waters.” From this we see the power of 120 years: how it can wipe away the decree of a flood.

The 120th anniversary of Chof MarCheshvan is connected to Psalm 120.14 That psalm begins the 15 psalms that are entitled “Shir HaMa’alos” — a song of ascension. Those psalms share a unique connection with Chof MarCheshvan. As mentioned above, Chof MarCheshvan is related to the service of Ya’akov (Footnote G). Ya’akov in turn, shared a unique tie with the Shir HaMa’alos. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 68:11) relates that during the entire 20 years that Ya’akov spent with Laban, he didn’t sleep. If so, what did he do at night? R. Yehoshua ben Levi answered, ‘He would recite the 15 Shir HaMa’alos’...R. Shmuel ben Nachman answered, ‘He would recite the entire Tehillim.’“

Ya’akov’s stay with Laban is particularly relevant to us. In Laban’s house, he, too, was in Golus. He had fled from the house of Yitzchok and taken refuge with Laban. While with Laban he was occupied in tending the sheep.15 He also suffered a descent on the spiritual realm to the point where he considered deceit — to the degree where his ability to deceive equaled Laban’s (note Rashi Bereishis 29:12). While staying with Laban, he stepped beyond the realm of holiness: in order to elevate and refine the G‑dly sparks there. The family and fortune that he amassed in those 20 years represent the fruit of his work. When Laban declared, “The daughters are my daughters, the sons are my sons, the sheep are my sheep,” he was correct. He was the source for all these. However, Ya’akov through his service of refinement, had brought them all into the realm of holiness.

This service is connected with great pain, as is obvious from the Biblical narrative that declares, “In the day, the drought consumed me, and the frost by night. My sleep fled from my eyes.” How could Ya’akov endure and withstand these challenges. He derived his strength from reciting the Shir HaMa’alos (or the entire book of Tehillim, according to the second opinion).

Such behavior provides us with insights relevant to our own service. We have to contend with a bitter Golus, a darkness that is complete and total, times that are crushing for our people. Naturally, the question arises: How can we endure this challenge?16 The answer is that we should learn from our forefather, Ya’akov and derive our strength from Shir HaMa’alos, and the entire book of Tehillim. The book of Tehillim is able to bring G‑dliness down into the world. On the verse, “And you, Holy One, are seated upon the praises of Israel,” the Baal Shem Tov commented: “You, Holy One” i.e. the aspects of G‑d which are holy, removed from, and transcendent beyond the worlds are drawn down into the world; they “become seated” through the praises of Israel.17 Then we know where our strength will come from, “My strength will come from the L‑rd”

Furthermore, the Shir HaMa’alos are “songs,” and song is connected with joy.18 This joy demonstrates that the purpose of Golus is the “higher quality of light that comes from (the transformation of) the darkness.” Even if we find ourselves in darkness, we should realize that the intention for our being there is to reach a higher quality of light. While in the midst of the darkness, we should look for and focus our attention on its purpose: the light that will result.19 That way, even while in Golus, we will be happy and sing. And that way, the 15 Shir HaMa’alos of Golus will lead us to the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh, which had 15 (Ma’alos) steps leading down from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women, corresponding to the 15 Shir HaMa’alos in Tehillim (Talmud Sukkah 51b). May we merit its revelation, speedily in our days.

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4. All these concepts must produce a practical directive for action. We must become involved in the spreading of Torah: both Nigleh and Pnimiyus. This effort must begin on the level of the individual — by learning more ourselves — and must be extended to include others as well. Practically speaking, everyone here at this farbrengen (and all those who will hear a report on what was said) should find at least two Jews20 and teach them Nigleh and Pnimiyus HaTorah in a manner where both studies become fused into one Torah.21

Likewise, concerning the Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim (and all other institutions whose names are connected with Torah), the Yeshiva’s present institutions should be enlarged (both qualitatively and quantitatively) in order to be able to accept new students. Also, new branches of Tomchei Temimim should be established in those places which presently do not have branches.

We should consider how many years have passed since the Rebbe Rashab was born, how many years have passed since he established the Yeshiva, and how many years since the Previous Rebbe brought Tomchei Temimim to America. On one hand, we can rejoice and be happy, because we have achieved a lot. On the other hand, we could do so much more; and we must do more, for we have to reach a state of “the entire Earth will be filled with knowledge of G‑d.” (Isaiah 11:9) Therefore, now on the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday, the potential has been given for this spreading of knowledge.

Furthermore, the necessary money is ready. There is no reason to worry if it is necessary to go into debt temporarily, since we will not remain in debt. Just as was said in connection with giving Tzedakah — that through giving one part to Tzedakah, four parts will remain for you — similarly through opening new institutions and enlarging the existing institutions, we have the promise, “Four parts will remain for you.” From a spiritual perspective, we will not remain in debt, and even from a material perspective, all debts will be met. Therefore, we must devote our selves to fulfilling these goals: that each individual bring at least two other Jews to the study of Nigleh and Pnimiyus HaTorah, that the existing branches of Tomchei Temimim be enlarged, and that new branches be opened.

Another point, and an aggravating point, must be mentioned at this time. There are those Chassidim who think they should be involved only with Jews who fulfill all 613 Mitzvos carefully and follow all the Chassidic customs in a precise manner. If someone is not yet on that level, they will attack him and negate his importance, telling him there is only one way to pray — the Nusach Ari (the order of prayers used by Chabad), there is only one set of customs — those spelled out in Sefer HaMinhagim (the text that describes all Lubavitch customs) — and that there is only one Yeshiva — Tomchei Temimim.

They should know that their actions are directly opposite to the guidelines set down by the Rebbeim. They may be motivated by good intentions. However, they don’t realize how they are acting opposite to what the Rebbeim taught. They should learn Kuntres Heichaltzu and see how much stress is placed on closeness and unity between the Jewish people.

Furthermore, when it comes to themselves, they are not so careful and precise about behaving as Chassidus demands. They do not attack themselves, — so — how can they attack another Jew, an only son of G‑d Himself?

We can’t tell a Jew that there is only one Nusach. That is not true. When the Alter Rebbe chose our Nusach, he selected it by composing the most precise and choice Nusach out of 60 different Nusachim. Since he was working with 60 different Nusachim, it follows that all 60 were comparable to the one he chose. If not, of what use would they be? The one he chose was simply the “most choice.”

The same applies to Chassidus in general. Our Rebbeim possess the advantage that Chassidus Chabad has in comparison to Chassidus Chagas. In holiness, however, there are many levels, and until one has reached a higher level, his lower level must also be looked upon as a rung on the ladder of truth.22 Therefore, we should not negate the importance of any Jew. This type of zealousness is totally improper at the present time. Now is a time which calls for efforts to bring Jews together and not the opposite.

In this context, it is fitting to mention another painful matter. A number of years ago, I spoke about the need for Mashpiyim (those who guide and instruct others in the study and practice of Chassidus). During the years, there has been a decline in those efforts to the point where now they are not as they should be. In the beginning, there were those who started to work as Mashpiyim and were successful, but afterwards, it seems that they went to sleep. Perhaps it is because of humility. They would ask themselves: “Who am I to take on this task?” However, this false modesty has caused those who must receive to suffer. May we now see an increase in that activity. This in turn will bring an increase and success in the areas of “children health, and prosperity” in both their physical and spiritual connotations.

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5. The Likkutei Sichos published this week relates a story of the Rebbe Rashab. When he was four or five years old, he went into Yechidus (a personal audience) with his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek. As soon as he entered, he began to cry. The Tzemach Tzedek asked why he was crying, and he answered: “Why did G‑d reveal Himself to Avraham and not to (me) us?” (That Yechidus also took place in Parshas Vayeira, which begins “And G‑d revealed Himself to him (Avraham).”) That Sicha explains how although generally a child is only able to fully enter into Torah study at age 6, the Rebbe Rashab opened up new potential. From then on, it became possible to educate a child of age 4 or 5 to desire spiritual things: so much so that such matters will cause him to cry.

At this point, a question arises: Why was this new development revealed only in the last generation? The same question can be asked about the revelation of Chassidus in general. In the time of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai, the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah was limited to a select spiritual elite. Later, in the era of the AriZal, the situation changed and it became “a Mitzvah to reveal this knowledge.” Then came the revelation of Chassidus by the Baal Shem Tov, and afterwards the revelation of Chassidus Chabad. In this case, as well, the question can be asked: Why did this revelation come in a later generation?

The answer given is that since in the later generations the darkness of Golus is greater, there was a need for additional light and holiness, and therefore Chassidus was revealed.23 Likewise, because the darkness of Golus became greater, a further increase in holiness was necessary. Therefore, the potential was given to a four or five year old to yearn and desire a revelation of G‑dliness.

These revelations in turn serve as preparatory steps for the ultimate revelation, at the time of the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.