1. This farbrengen is related to two subjects: Shabbos Mevarchim Shvat and the Yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe passed away on “Motzaei Shabbos Parshas Shemos...the eve of the 24th of Teves. Therefore, this year the anniversary of his Yahrzeit coincides not only with the same day of the month but also the same day of the week as when he passed away. The incidence of both factors, the day of the week as well as the day of the month, emphasizes the significance of the celebration of the 24th of Teves this year.

Everything that occurs is governed by Hashgachah Protis. This is especially true in regard to the events that happen in the life of a Nassi, one who revealed a new approach to Torah, the approach of Chabad Chassidus. Particularly, the day of his passing, the day on which “all the service of a man for which his soul toiled...is revealed and shines...causing salvation in the midst of the earth” is determined by Hashgachah Protis. Therefore, every aspect that is connected with it is important and valuable to know.1

The revelation of “all the service of a man for which his soul toiled” does not merely affect the world in a limited manner, it “causes salvation in the midst of the earth.” It affects us within the context of our experience. It does not become bound by the limitations of that realm, rather, it “causes2 salvation.”3 Furthermore, the influence of a Tzaddik’s passing affects the physical and material aspects of the world, elevating even the G‑dly sparks that are found within the realm of evil. As the Alter Rebbe explains, the Torah describes the death of Miriam directly before the command to offer the red heifer in order to teach us that just as the red heifer brings atonement, so too, does the death of Tzaddikim. The red heifer effects atonement for sins connected with the realm of evil,4 bringing about purification from the impurity of death.

The service of refining the G‑dly sparks found in the realm of evil springs from an unlimited potential. As long as we stay within the limitations of Torah, we can only push away evil, not elevate it. The red heifer (and likewise the death of Tzaddikim) are infinite in nature and can elevate even this low realm.5

All this must be expressed in actual deed, as the Alter Rebbe greatly stressed. On the title page of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe quotes the verse “It (Torah) is very close to you in your heart and in your mouth that you may do it.”

This is particularly true since he was a Tzaddik, a Nassi, and the founder of Chabad Chassidus. Furthermore, he began the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outwards, the service that will bring about the coming of Moshiach.6 Therefore, on the day of the Alter Rebbe’s Yahrzeit, if the event is recalled in the proper manner, it will bring about the same spiritual effects that accompanied his passing — i.e. “salvation is caused in the midst of the earth.” Even within the land of Egypt (the land that is the focus of the Torah portions of these weeks), the land which is the direct opposite of the revelation of G‑dliness. Pharoah, king of Egypt stated “I don’t know G‑d (using the name Yud-Hay-Vov-Hay) which refers to the aspects of G‑dliness which transcend7 nature.8 Even within that lowly context, G‑d “causes salvation in the midst of the earth.” Even before the coming of Moshiach and the fulfillment of the prophecy “I will cause the spirit of impurity to depart from the world,” in these last days of Golus, there will be light in the dwellings of the Jewish people. Afterwards, they will proceed to greet Moshiach who will come, redeem us, and lead us upright to our land. May he come speedily in our days.

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2. When searching for an aspect of the Alter Rebbe’s life on which to focus, it is necessary to find a quality that is connected with deed. The aspect of deed that reflects “all the work of the man for which his soul toiled” must also be a subject that is comprehensible to each and every individual. The Alter Rebbe emphasized this point on the title page of Tanya, calling the text the “Book of the Benonim” — (the intermediate man). Within the text he explains, “the rank of “benoni” is attainable by every man and each person should9 after it.” Hence, we see that we must derive a lesson from the Alter Rebbe’s life that is relevant of every Jew.

The relation of the Alter Rebbe to all Jews is further emphasized by “the 10 merits” ascribed to him by the Previous Rebbe, (Likkutei Dibburim, Part IV, p. 718) most of which are relevant to all individuals. Beginning with his first sefer, Tanya, a text dealing with a rank that is attainable by all, a goal each person should strive for. Similarly, his second sefer, the Shulchan Aruch is also applicable to all for it is a codebook of practical laws. Likewise, the Siddur is a text from which all can pray.10

In Tanya the Alter Rebbe writes that he has explained the subject “in a long short way.” However, he adds that “as for one whose mind falls short in the understanding of the counsel given ...let him discuss his problems with the foremost scholars of his town and they will elucidate it for him.” Just as the Alter Rebbe commanded others to explain the Tanya, he and the Rebbeim who succeeded him followed the same advice in their subsequent discourses.

In order to learn how the Alter Rebbe’s teachings are to be applied to deed we must look within those teachings.

“Tzaddikim resemble their Creator.” Just as the statement “I wrote down My soul and gave it over” applies in regard to G‑d and Torah,11 each sage has vested his soul within his teachings. This concept can be understood through a statement of the Alter Rebbe in Tanya. In Chapter 5, he writes that when learning an intellectual concept, a wondrous unity is achieved by the student, his mind, and the concept he is studying. [Since one’s self is united with his studies, the individual’s essence is transmitted and communicated to others through these studies.]

A practical lesson can be derived from each of the three texts mentioned above.

In the Tanya, one finds the main point of the book on the title page,12 that point being actual deed. He titles it “The Book of Benonim” based on the verse, “It (the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos) is close to you, in your heart and in your mouth, to do it. To explain how it is close in a long, short way with the help of G‑d blessed be He.”13

In general, when confronted by the necessity to learn a lesson from the Alter Rebbe we are startled. How can we compare ourselves to him? He was “a new soul;” his level seems too far above our own. Nevertheless, at the very beginning of the Tanya, he states that “it is very close to you.”14 Therefore, we need not be startled, but realize instead, that it is within our potential, within reach of “our hearts and mouths, to do it.” We are not being asked to do something that is above our potential, (e.g. to become a Tzaddik,) we are asked to work towards becoming a Benoni — someone who knows about the existence of both good and evil [but constantly chooses good]. This level is “very close” to us and can be expressed in deed.

A similar lesson can be derived from the beginning of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch opens with a quote from Pirkei Avos; “Yehudah ben Teima said: Be bold as a leopard, light as a eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion to carry out the will of your Father in heaven.” It is important to note that he not only quotes the Mishnah, but also brings the name of its’ author. That addition is seemingly unnecessary. While the Alter Rebbe relates laws and the reasons for them in the Shulchan Aruch,15 he does not usually mention the name of their authors. The purpose of doing so here is to teach a lesson. The name Yehudah ben Teima expresses the character and nature of that sage.16 As explained in Torah, the name Yehudah is derived from the statement, “Now I will praise G‑d.” The name Yehudah and the praise of G‑d implied therein is the motivating force that makes us “fierce as a leopard,17 and light as an eagle...”

Furthermore, the name Yehudah ben Teima in more than an explanation of why one should be as fierce as a leopard; it becomes a Halachah itself. This is demonstrated more explicitly through the following; how can it be demanded of a Jew who just arose from sleep to “praise G‑d” saying “Modeh Ani?” The answer is, because his nature is ben Teima. “Teima” means to say; “ben” means that this is his nature (e.g. “ben Chorin” means a free man). The nature of a Jew is to praise G‑d. Instinctively, without effort, he will recite G‑d’s praise. This is his nature even when he sleeps; how much more so when he wakes up.

From the above, we can derive the lesson to be learned from the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch teaches that each morning a Jew begins the day as Yehudah. (He will “praise G‑d,”) and that quality is “ben Teima” (part of his nature). However, we must see that “Yehudah ben Teima says” — these qualities must be actually expressed by our mouths. Then, from speech we must proceed to deed.18

The third lesson is derived from the Siddur. The Siddur’s intent is to show the order of the prayers. However, in the Alter Rebbe’s Siddur, he stresses that “It is proper to say before prayer: I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the Mitzvah, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself’.”19 Thus, we learn that before we begin to pray and ask for our needs,20 we must take upon ourselves to fulfill the Mitzvah to ‘Love your fellowman as yourself.’

These three lessons are derived from the beginning of each of the Alter Rebbe’s three major texts; lessons which must be carried out in deed. This is always possible, for whatever situation a Jew finds himself in, he is “Yehudah ben Teima” [i.e. to praise G‑d is natural to him].21

These lessons were important to the Alter Rebbe who showed Mesirus Nefesh in expressing them. They represent the “service for which his soul toiled during his lifetime,” service which is revealed on his Yahrzeit, the 24th of Teves. This revelation should affect every Jew and his family. As the Baal Shem Tov taught, the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel applies to all Jews, even one in a far-away corner whom we have never met. By carrying out these lessons, these teachings will be spread to everyone. Every Jew has the power to carry out this service because he is “Yehudah ben Teima.” When one decides to do so, then G‑d helps him to carry out his service in a manner of Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin. This, in turn, will lead to the Messianic redemption. Then, G‑d will collect the Jewish people one by one and through Ahavas Yisroel, they will be joined together into one entity.

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3. There is a story about the 24th of Teves that is printed in Toras Shalom. Once the Rebbe Rashab had to spend the 24th of Teves outside of Russia, in Virtzberg. A number of Jews were present and asked the Rebbe to recite a Ma’amar. The Rebbe agreed and recited the Ma’amar — Hayosheves B’Gannim. (That phrase is the beginning of a verse in Shir HaShirim 8:13 which reads: “you who dwell in the gardens, friends listen to your voice...) The Ma’amar explains how friends, i.e. the angels, listen to the voice of the souls who sit in the gardens, i.e. the higher Gan Eden and the lower Gan Eden. After reciting the Ma’amar, the Rebbe Rashab explained that the angels merit to hear the voice of the souls who study Torah because they also listen to the prayers of the Jewish people and refine them. Our prayers are physical in nature; the angels “kiss them” and through their efforts make the prayers more spiritual. Therefore, they merit to hear the Torah studied by the souls. The Rebbe Rashab concluded — “according to what I have heard, the angels did not receive the light of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings.” The Alter Rebbe did not need the angels’ help to elevate his [prayer or study]; therefore, they did not merit to hear his teachings.

After the Rebbe Rashab explained these ideas, he told a story about the Alter Rebbe (is story is quoted at length in Likkutei Dibburim, Part IV, p. 755b). The Mitteler Rebbe, the Alter Rebbe’s son, had a dream. The dream shocked him so much that he undertook a Ta’anis Chalom, a fast connected with a shocking dream. When his brother, Rav Chaim Avraham heard what he had done, he related the matter to his father. Since, in principle, the Alter Rebbe opposed the idea of fasts, he punished the Mitteler Rebbe by forbidding him to hear the recitation of two Ma’amarim. (That was a severe punishment since the Mitteler Rebbe considered hearing Chassidus a matter of great importance.) Afterwards, the Alter Rebbe asked the Mitteler Rebbe to relate the dream to him. The Mitteler Rebbe explained that he had seen a great river with a wooden plank stretching from one bank to another. The Maggid crossed over the plank and it shook. Afterwards, the Alter Rebbe crossed the same plank. It didn’t shake and he was able to proceed quickly. The Alter Rebbe explained the difference between them was that the Maggid’s service concentrated on “making Tzaddikim,” and his own service on “making Baalei Teshuvah.”

Since the above story was related by a Nassi, the Rebbe Rashab, on the 25th of Teves, it follows that it expresses a fundamental quality that is connected to the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe’s service centered on making Baalei Teshuvah and that factor enabled him to proceed quickly, while the plank shook when the Maggid passed. Therefore, we can understand that the three lessons mentioned above 1) “it is very close to you,” etc. 2) that every Jew is “Yehudah ben Teima” 3) that before prayer we must take upon ourselves the Mitzvah of “Love your fellowman as yourself,” all lead to a general point. They must be carried out in the manner which will bring about Baalei Teshuvah. Generally, these three lessons are related to the service of Tzaddikim. However, since they are connected with the Alter Rebbe, they must be fulfilled in a manner of Baalei Teshuvah. This service is characterized by a radical change; “in one moment, and with one turn,” a Baal Teshuvah changes his status entirely.

The service of making Baalei Teshuvah is relevant to everyone and includes even someone who must do Teshuvah in the simple sense in order to absolve himself of his sins. He must do Teshuvah immediately and not put the matter off any longer. Also, there is a higher level of Teshuvah that is applicable even to a perfect Tzaddik who has not sinned. A Baal Teshuvah has an advantage over a complete Tzaddik, as the Rambam states “a perfect Tzaddik is not able to stand in the place of a Baal Teshuvah.” Likewise, the Zohar states that Moshiach will “bring Tzaddikim to do Teshuvah.” This concept is emphasized by the Alter Rebbe who writes that the service of Teshuvah does not only deal with atonement for sin but rather is a service where “the spirit returns to G‑d who gave it.” It allows the soul to feel the connection to G‑d even while enclothed within a physical body.

The lesson that results from the story of the Mitteler Rebbe and the three lessons mentioned above must be carried out in deed in relation to oneself and in relation to others. If necessary Teshuvah applies in the simplest sense with regard to ourselves and in the effort to motivate other Jews to do so as well. Also it includes a higher level of Teshuvah, the service of “the spirit shall return to G‑d,” and also share this service with others. Even this level is “very close to you in your heart and in your mouth to do it.”

Furthermore, this service should be carried out with joy.22 With the first sigh, the lower level of Teshuvah is completed. The higher level of Teshuvah is connected with joy (note Tanya p. 100b). In fact, even the lower level of Teshuvah that is related to atonement for sins should be carried out with joy. The Rambam (Laws of Teshuvah 7:7) explains that before Teshuvah, a sinner is “hated before G‑d, estranged, and an abomination.” After Teshuvah, “he is beloved, desirable, near (to G‑d), and a friend.” Likewise, the Alter Rebbe gives the example of a king who sees a “commoner who is despised and lowly among men, a disgraceful creature cast on the dunghill...and brings him to dwell in his home” (Tanya p. 65a). Surely, an awareness of these concepts will bring about happiness and joy. Then “joy will break down barriers,” including all the barriers that separate one Jew from another. We will be able to carry out the Mitzvah “Love your fellowman as yourself” in a revealed manner. This will unite the Jewish people and make them as one body,23 and then as our sages commented regarding the month of Teves “the body will derive joy from the body.” G‑d’s essence, the aspect of Him that can be referred to as the “body” will be united with the body of the Jewish people. “Israel and the King will be alone,” “and no one can separate between them.”

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4. [Trans. note: The Rebbe Shlita elaborated on his fathers commentary on the Alter Rebbe’s name — Schneur Zalman. Rav Levi Yitzchok explained that the name “Schneur” means “two lights” (referring to a service connected with the soul and a service connected with the body) and the name “Zalman” uses the same Hebrew letters as the word “L’zman” that means “to time.” (Time is one of the basic aspects of this world.) The combination of both names shows that these services should be carried out within the world. Within the context of the remarks he spoke on the opening verse of the parshah of Va’eira.]

Rashi in his commentary on the verse “and I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchok and Ya’akov,” states “and I appeared — to the forefathers.”24 The intent of his commentary is to explain that the revelations to the forefathers were not related to their particular qualities as Avraham, Yitzchok and Ya’akov, but to their general position as the forefathers of the Jewish people. In this context, we can understand the verse’s connection to Moshe. Moshe also shares a connection to the entire Jewish people. That connection is revealed in the Talmud’s commentary on the verse “what does G‑d Almighty, ask of you, but to fear G‑d.” Our sages note, that the expression — “what does G‑d ask of you” implies that the service is easy to carry out. They ask, “Is fear a small thing” and reply “for Moshe fear is a small thing.” A question still remains, for their question concerned the entire Jewish people not only Moshe? Chassidic thought explains that since there is a spark of Moshe’s soul in every Jew, fear is “a small thing” for us as well. Based on this principle, we can conclude that the stories the Torah relates concerning Moshe Rabbeinu are a lesson for every Jew and give him the strength to emulate Moshe’s example.

The first story told in the Torah about Moshe Rabbeinu is that when he “matured,” and was able to begin his service of G‑d, he “went out to his brothers and looked on their burdens.” He showed an interest in what was happening to other Jews. This provides us with a clear lesson. Moshe lacked nothing at that time. Even at his birth, “the entire house was filled with light.” He had been raised in the household of Pharaoh the ruler of the entire world, where, Pharaoh’s daughter did everything for him. Likewise, in a spiritual sense, he also was on a high level. Nevertheless, he left the palace and (did not go for a pleasure walk or to pick roses in a garden, but) went to see the suffering of the Jewish people. When he saw a non-Jew hit a Jew, he risked his own life25 to try to save him. Afterwards, he was betrayed to Pharaoh and had to flee.

Thus we can learn that even those who are in the palace of the king, i.e. who are occupied with study, prayer, or the fulfillment of Mitzvos the entire day, must go out and help other Jews. They must be willing to risk their entire service of Torah and Mitzvos in order to prevent an Egyptian from striking a Jew, i.e. secular values from hurting Yiddishkeit. Furthermore, they must follow Moshe’s example and do so as soon as they mature.

There are other elements connected with that story. Moshe had a brother Aharon and relatives, the entire tribe of Levi who were not enslaved. He could have spent his time with them. However, he chose to “go out to his brothers” and see if they were lacking.

Furthermore, the man who Moshe protected was a member of the lowest tribe in Israel, the tribe of Dan. His wife was the only Jewish women to have committed adultery in Egypt.26 Despite his low station, Moshe was willing to risk his life to help him.

The same principle applies to us. In order to be successful in the study of Torah, we must show an interest in helping another Jew. This principle is implied by the view “Let my soul be as dust to all — open my mouth in Your Torah.” Only through the service of humility and selflessness can Torah be acquired. Moshe’s behavior serves as a practical example of this principle, an example we must follow by reaching out to other Jews. This in turn will bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy “I will collect you one by one” with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

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5. Since we are in a time of will, the Yahrzeit of the author of the Shulchan Aruch, it is fitting that everyone take upon himself to learn certain laws from the Shulchan Aruch. This study should begin with the first laws of the Shulchan Aruch, or one should join with others so that together they can complete an entire set of laws or the entire Shulchan Aruch.