1. The word Torah is derived from the word Horeah — meaning lesson. Likewise, Torah is called Torah Or, the Torah of light, for it illuminates every matter. Consequently, the Torah is the source of instruction for the Jewish people in all of their affairs.

Therefore, in regard to the question how to open a gathering we must follow the example of Torah. The Torah begins with the letter “Bais” which teaches us that we must “open with a blessing.” Afterwards, it describes the creation of light in accordance with the principle “the opening of your words gives light.” A similar pattern was followed by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya. He began a letter (the first in Iggeres Hakodesh) with the phrase “open with blessing.” After that blessing the Alter Rebbe continues “my soul has heard and has been revived by a good tiding, there is no good but Torah.” Torah is compared to light, a light that can negate and transform darkness, to the point where “night shines as day.”1

The transformation of darkness into light produces a higher quality of light. This concept can be understood from a statement of the Zohar, which explains that the revelation of Mattan Torah (the giving of the Torah) was dependent on Yisro’s acknowledgement of G‑d.2 Yisro, as “the priest of Midyan,” was familiar with all the ideologies and thought-systems which opposed Torah. His statement “Now I know that G‑d is greater than all the other gods” represents a transformation of darkness into light. This recognition caused the Torah to descend from its previous station, from the level where it was “a hidden object of desire,”3 into this world.

The transformation of darkness into light is connected with the fundamental purpose of the Torah. The Rambam brings as Torah law the statement “the Torah was given in the world only for the purpose of making peace.” The term peace is appropriate only when there is a conflict. Moreover, true peace involves more than the victory of one side over the other, rather “even one’s enemies will join with him.” The quality of peace expresses the intent of Torah. G‑d wanted man to have a choice between “life and good, death and evil” and choose good and, in the process of making that choice, transform evil into good. This produces true peace.4

Great strength is necessary to achieve such peace. Therefore, the Jewish people “are the strongest among the nations.” Likewise, the Torah itself is called strength, as in the verse “G‑d gave strength to His people, G‑d will bless His people with peace.” Commenting on that verse, the Midrash explains that when the gentiles saw the disruption of the natural order they gathered and asked Bilaam, the prophet for an explanation. He answered “G‑d gave strength (i.e. Torah) to His people.” They answered “G‑d will bless His people with peace.”5 They also became calm upon hearing that the Jews had received the Torah.

Therefore, it is proper to begin by blessing all those who have gathered here. The blessing is reinforced by the fact that people have made extra efforts, both physically and spiritually, to be here that they might participate in this commemoration of the Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe and recall how he sacrificed his life in order to spread Torah and Mitzvos.6

As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, on one’s Yahrzeit all the service for which one has toiled through his life...becomes revealed and manifest ...at the time of his passing...This revelation causes salvation in the midst of the earth. It is Torah custom to recall a Yahrzeit each year through special prayers and practices, specifically stressing those practices with which the departed himself was occupied.

In the Previous Rebbe’s case, his outstanding characteristics were his dedication and self-sacrifice, a dedication towards spreading Torah to even the furthermost corners of the world, reaching even those individuals most distant from Torah. We see the success of his work, his accomplishments despite the trying conditions in Russia and the even greater success he achieved when, through G‑d’s grace, he came to a land where Torah and Mitzvos could be spread without compromise, in a manner of “proceeding and adding light.”

Today, the occasion of the Previous Rebbe’s Yahrzeit, we recall his life history and draw inspiration from his example. Surely, we too, will try to advance further in spiritual matters. Particularly those who have made extra efforts costing body, soul, and time so that they would attend this gathering will strive toward that goal. Therefore, we will see an increase in good and “there is no good except Torah.” The greatness of Torah study is that it leads to deed, therefore we will surely see an increase in the fulfillment of Mitzvos. This in turn will lead to the time when “night will shine as day” with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

An adage coined by the Previous Rebbe during the last years of his life in the United States was, “a single individual is a multitude.” Through this expression, he implied that when a person begins to estimate his own potential, it is possible for him to think that he is only one person. He must become conscious that his soul descended from a high peak to a deep pit in order to serve his Creator. The scope of that service includes the entire world as the Mishnah declares “the world was created to serve me...and I was created to serve my Creator.”

How can a single individual be asked to confront the many opposing influences present in the world? Torah answers that question by explaining that G‑d demands from the man only what is within his power. Man has been sent, as a single individual, with the task of making the great multitude he encounters in the world into a private domain (lit. a domain of one) for G‑d, the ultimate of unity. Therefore, “a single individual is a multitude” i.e. he has been given the potential to affect and transform the multitude. For example, from a gathering of many people he will forge a community — a group of people united by a single, central identity. In this fashion, he will become G‑d’s partner in the work of creation.

Within this context, we can understand the Medrashic interpretation of the verse “He rested from all His work that G‑d created to function.” The Midrash comments “to function — to correct” i.e. G‑d created the world in a manner in which it could be corrected by the service of the Jewish people, thus making the Jews G‑d’s partners in creation.

From the above we can understand two radical Torah concepts. On one hand, the Torah teaches “each individual is obligated to say ‘the world was created for my sake’.” On the other hand, we must realize “If I am for myself, what am I?” We must realize that alone we cannot achieve; we need to work with others. Only in this fashion can we carry out G‑d’s mission.

This concept is reflected in Halachah. Our sages explain (Sotah 2b) that every time the Torah uses the word “witness,” it implies the presence of two witnesses. Thus, two individuals become fused into a single entity.7 One Torah was given to the one nation from the One G‑d in order to make the multitude of the world a single entity. This multitude allows that “the one who desires to make an error will-err.”8 However, the Jewish people transform this multitude into unity.

Our sages taught “Deed is the most essential.” The Previous Rebbe devoted his efforts to reaching out to even a young child and teaching him his mission in the world. The Previous Rebbe taught those children that even when they find themselves in a situation where they are only one single individual against a multitude, they should be conscious that “a single individual is a multitude” and that they have the power to make the multitude into a community.9

These efforts will herald the coming of Moshiach.10 Through “correcting ourselves,” we will derive the strength to “correct others” and make our portion of the world a private domain, a dwelling place for G‑d. We must realize that G‑d created the world in a manner that allows a Jew in our generation, in a far-flung corner of the world, to carry out his service of Torah and Mitzvos without being afraid of the world. That Jew has the potential to be master of the world by following Torah. “G‑d looked into Torah and created the world” and even now Torah is the master of the world.

This lesson is implied in the story of Creation itself. All of the other creations were created in pairs, while only one man was created. G‑d did so in order, to teach us that one man can influence the entire world and bring the entire world closer to oneness. This will lead to the coming of the Messianic redemption and the fulfillment of the prophecy “those who lie in the dirt will arise and sing” with the Previous Rebbe among them, speedily in our days.

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3. One’s Jewish life begins as soon as one arises in the morning. The first activity to be undertaken at that time is prayer, as the Talmud (Berachos 5b) comments: “Aba Binyomin would pray that ‘his prayers always be next to his bed’“ i.e. that he always have the opportunity to pray immediately upon rising. The Alter Rebbe writes that before prayer one should say “I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself’.” Only after such a declaration, should a Jew ask r-d to fulfill his needs, which is the purpose for prayer; as the Rambam writes, when a person feels he needs something, he has a positive commandment from the Torah to pray to G‑d and ask for the fulfillment of his needs.

Ahavas Yisroel is connected with such requests. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that the Jewish people are like the limbs of a body. Just as a person does not view two of his limbs as separate, distinct entities, similarly, we should not consider ourselves separate from another Jew.11 Therefore, one’s own fulfillment is dependent on one’s union with other individuals. A head alone is not complete. Feet alone are not complete. In order for a body to be complete it must have all 613 limbs. In regard to the Jewish people as well, there must be a union of all the different natures of people.

This same principle holds true in regard to time. We cannot be constantly on one level, with one mode of service; rather we must grow and change with each new day. In that context, we can understand the Torah’s praise of Avraham as “advanced in days” — his days were full. The contents of each one was fitting for the life of man.12 This level was achieved when each day is different, as the Zohar states “each day carries out its service.”

In Torah, as well, we must bring out new aspects. This concept is emphasized by the law that declares that someone who has the potential to derive new laws and concepts does not fulfill his obligation to study Torah merely by repeating what he has previously studied. Though he would be required to recite a blessing before that study, he cannot fulfill his obligation with these efforts alone. Since he was given the potential to bring out new ideas and laws, he is required to do so.13

In each man’s life there are changes. These changes are necessary for a Jew must always proceed. A Tzaddik (and every Jew is a Tzaddik as Pirkei Avos declares — Your nation are all Tzaddikim) is described by the verse: “I will make you as goers among those that are standing still (angels).” Likewise, the Talmud declares, “sages have no rest, not in this world and not in the next world as it is written ‘they shall go from strength to strength’.” Each person has high points and low points. We see that after a descent we rise to a higher level than possessed before.

The Talmud gives an example of such a process. When Rav Zeira wanted to rise to a higher level of study and change from the study of the Babylonian Talmud to the Jerusalem Talmud, he fasted for forty days (another version one hundred days) in order to forget the Babylonian Talmud. Only by this descent, could he reach the higher level. Likewise, the Alter Rebbe quotes the verse “A Tzaddik will fall seven times and rise” and explains “between one level and the next, before he can reach the higher one, he is in a state of decline from the previous level.” However, the purpose of the descent is so that he may rise. Viewed in this context, the descent cannot be considered a descent but rather a stage in the ascent. This principle is reflected in Torah law. The Talmud explains that one is held responsible for the performance of work on Shabbos only when the deed is constructive not destructive. However, if one rips a cloth in order to sew it better, or destroys an old building in-order to build a new one, one is responsible.14 In the above context, the constructive purpose of the descent is considered of primary importance.

The process of ascent and descent is reflected in our daily life. Each day is divided into two periods, day and night. The daytime is devoted to work and at night we must have protection from undesirable influences. This division is reflected in the Temple service. The sacrifices were offered by day. The night was reserved for burning the fats and limbs that remained from the previous days’ offerings, and the preparation for the next days offerings by removing the ashes.

Though day and night are opposite, they become fused into a single entity as the Torah declares “and there was evening and there was morning — one day.” Light and darkness are not considered two separate things. Even “when G‑d divided between the light and the darkness” the purpose was that [the darkness be transformed] and “night will shine as day.”

This pattern applies to us in an individual way. First, we experience night, the service of preparation, of turning away from evil,15 then we proceed to morning. Then we must work to fuse the two together and make one day.

Similarly, in regard to positive commandments and negative commandments, the intent behind them; the fulfillment of G‑d’s will, is the same. However, in positive commands, that intent is fulfilled by carrying out the Mitzvah; in negative commands that intent is fulfilled by negating the evil. Therefore, our sages’ statement that one who studies the laws relating to a Mitzvah is considered as if he fulfills the Mitzvah, applies to both positive and negative commandments, since both are expressions of His will.

Through this union we unite with the Torah and G‑d as the Zohar states “G‑d, the Torah, and Israel are all One.” When a Jew fulfills Torah in this fashion then “the ways of the world are his.” Just as G‑d created the world, similarly, the Jew creates worlds. The maintenance of the worlds is dependent on a Jew’s service of Torah and Mitzvos.

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4. It is also proper to mention the Mivtzoyim. They are general practices from which all other aspects of Torah are viewed. Their fulfillment leads to the fulfillment of the entire Torah.

Beginning with the Mivtza of Ahavas Yisroel — Love of one’s fellow Jew. Ahavas Yisroel is “a great principle of the Torah.” Afterwards, we must mention each of the other Mivtzoyim individually for each has its own particular importance. They are Mivtza Chinuch, Mivtza Torah, Mivtza Tefillin, Mivtza Mezuzah, Mivtza Tzedakah, Bayis Maleh Seforim — Yavneh V’Chachamehah, Mivtza Neiros Shabbos Kodesh, Mivtza Kashrus, and Mivtza Taharas HaMishpochah.

By applying the statement “Deed is most important,” we must begin work in them with “more strength and more power.” Even though at times, it might seem that we lack a well ordered and particularized plans of action (and we might in fact lack one), still with each action we bring closer the end of the Golus and the coming of Moshiach. The Previous Rebbe declared that all that is left for us is to “polish the buttons” so that we should stand (in the proper manner) before G‑d.

May this lead to actual deed. May the deed be done in a manner in which the receiver themselves become contributors and bring still others to Torah and Mitzvos. Thus we will conquer the world for Torah and hasten the coming of Moshiach.

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5. The Previous Rebbe initiated the custom of reciting Chitas — an acronym for the words Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya — daily. That custom includes: studying the Aliyah that corresponds to the particular day of the week e.g. the first Aliyah on Sunday, the second on Monday, etc. (with Rashi). Reciting the Book of Psalms as it is divided in the monthly schedule, studying Tanya as it is divided according to an annual schedule.

This custom should be emphasized every year. This is particularly true during the present year which is the 30th anniversary of his passing. After thirty years, a new period begins which is on a level that is much higher than the previous one.

The Hebrew word for year — Shanah — itself means changes and repetition. Each year includes an entire cycle of changes. Therefore, each year is a repetition of the previous. However, there is a change and elevation each year. Though the same cycle repeats itself, each stage is on a higher level. However, after thirty years have passed, a new period that is wondrously higher than the previous begins.

Each year on his Yahrzeit, the Rebbe ascends to a higher level. This is evident from the story the Previous Rebbe told concerning his father, the Rebbe Rashab. After his passing, on the day of his birthday, the Rebbe Rashab appeared to the Previous Rebbe and declared, “As of today, 84 years have been completed since the descent of my soul to the physical world...” Similarly, each year on the Yahrzeit, the soul rises up levels.16 Thus, on the thirtieth anniversary of his passing, we understand that the Previous Rebbe has experienced a great elevation.

A shepherd, a Nassi, will not leave his flock. The heights and elevations that he experiences are reflected in our service. Hence, we must see an intensification of the study of Chitas and an intensification of activity in ell of the institutions established by the Previous Rebbe and those established afterwards by his followers. (The Rebbe Shlita also mentioned the custom of donating, each year on Yud Shvat, to Keren Torah, a fund established to support those who study Torah with no external motivation.)