By the Grace of G‑d

In response to the greetings and congratulatory messages from eminent public figures, President Carter and Governor Carey of New York, whose personal letters were delivered by their representatives, senators and members of Congress, ambassador Efraim Evron in the name of the Israeli government, as well as many other distinguished public figures from the USA and other countries.

(Free rendition, condensed and abbreviated)

On all occasions we take our cue from the Torah, for Torah means “instruction.”

Noting that the first word of the Torah (Bereshith, “In the beginning”) begins with the letter Beth, which stands for Berachah (blessing), our Sages taught, “It is proper to begin with a blessing.”

Accordingly, I will begin with the traditional Beruchim Haba’im, Blessed are the guests.

It is a pleasure to welcome all of you who came here in person, from near and far, to participate in this Farbrengen (get-together) and to express my heartfelt appreciation of all the good wishes that have been conveyed to me on the occasion of this Thirtieth Anniversary — which I prayerfully reciprocate to each and all.

At first glance it may be asked, What can a blessing reiterated by a human being add to the Divine blessing already assured in G‑d’s promise, “I will bless them that bless you” (Gen. 12:3)?

The answer is twofold. The Torah teaches us — and it is also self-evident — that one should acknowledge and reciprocate good for good. Secondly, we find in our sacred literature many references to the efficacy of the spoken word, and that by pronouncing a benediction a person hastens the realization of the Divine blessing in a tangible and manifest form here on earth (in preference to “a blessing in disguise”).

It is therefore my very pleasant duty to express here and now my prayerful wish that G‑d’s blessings to all the well-wishers be materialized in full measure, in all three aspects of “health, children, and sustenance.”

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After beginning with (the letter Beth for) Berachah, the opening words of the Divine fiat are, “And G‑d said, Let there be light!” Commenting on this, the Midrash quotes the verse, “Let your opening words give light” (Ps. 119:130).

The ultimate accomplishment of light is that it not only dispels darkness (“even a little light dispels a lot of darkness”), but it has the power to transform darkness itself into light.

The ultimate accomplishment of light is to transform darkness itself into light

In terms of good and evil, corresponding to light and darkness, it means that there are two ways of overcoming the negative: one is to eradicate it; the other and more desirable — to transform the negative into positive.

The Torah is synonymous with light (Prov. 6:23). It illuminates our everyday life, and teaches us how to illuminate the world around us, to achieve the truly good life. But the choice is left to the individual. Every person is free to choose the path of Life, or to turn in the opposite direction. “Choose life,” the Torah exhorts (Deut. 30:19).

That a person should need exhortation where the choice is so obvious is due to the fact that a person is subject to the influence of two conflicting forces within him: one advocating the good, the other — under the guise of misconceived self-interest — often pulling in the opposite direction. In our sacred literature, these conflicting forces are called the good inclination and the bad inclination. In other words, the Divine in man and the animal in man.

The path of life entails a sustained vigilance and effort; and not merely to conquer the animal that is in human nature, but also to ultimately refine and sublimate the lower passions to the good and positive — much in the way that a brute animal is tamed and harnessed in the service of man and thus helps him accomplish his human tasks all the better. In this sense our Sages interpret the commandment, “And you shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart,” (Deut. 6:5) to mean, “with both your inclinations.”

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There are many seemingly irreconcilable forces at work, and it is often difficult to grasp how it could be ruled by one and the same Creator and Master

The inner conflict, due to the said inherent conflicting forces, is further compounded by the fact that we live in a multifarious world, in which there are many seemingly irreconcilable forces at work. In such a world — termed in the philosophy of Chabad as “Public Domain,” it is often difficult to grasp how this world could be ruled by one and the same Creator and Master; an orderly world ruled and conducted not by coercion and brutal force, but by mutual respect and love.

Here again the light of the Torah helps us to recognize the unifying force behind the external multifariousness; and by spreading the Divine light in the world around us, we can transform the “Public Domain” into a “Private Domain” — the domain of G‑dliness, where everything is attuned to the service of the One and Only G‑d, the Creator and Master of the Universe. This is what our great teacher and Guide for the Perplexed (Maimonides) epitomized by quoting in his Codex of Laws (end of Book of Zemanim) the declaration that “the entire Torah was given to make peace in the world.”

The light of the Torah helps us to recognize the unifying force behind the external multifariousness

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In connection with the above, we recall the adage of my saintly father-in-law, on this thirtieth anniversary of his demise: “An individual is a multitude,” which reflects the teaching of the Mishnah, “For this reason man (Adam) was created single — to teach you... (that an individual is like) a whole world.”

This means — in a deeper sense — that an individual comprises within him, as mentioned earlier, a world of diverse forces, often conflicting, which are parallel to those in the world at large, or, in more familiar terms, a human being is the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm.

However, it is man’s duty and purpose in life to refine, mold and transform the multiplicity and diversity of his complex nature — his desires, capacities, etc. — into a single entity of a higher order. And everyone is given the full capability and is therefore expected, to achieve this end both on the individual level, as well as to work for, and contribute to, the harmony and peace in his community, his country, and in the world at large.

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The concept of transforming the “Public Domain” into a “Private Domain” in the above sense, has an analogy in the principle of democracy.