1. This farbrengen marks the celebration of Yud Kislev. On that date, in the year 5587, the Mitteler Rebbe, Rav Dov Ber, was released from prison in Russia. Since then Chassidim have commemorated those events by celebrating Yud Kislev as a festival of liberation.

Concerning his own release from prison, the Previous Rebbe wrote, “G‑d didn’t deliver me alone...” Similarly, it can be understood that the liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe was not of an individual nature, but rather had an effect on the entire Jewish people. Each year, the celebration of Yud Kislev arouses and encourages every Jew to derive a lesson (and actualize that lesson in his daily life) from the events of Yud Kislev.

The celebration of Yud Kislev is further intensified by its position directly following Tes Kislev, the anniversary of the birthday and Yahrzeit of Rav Dov Ber.1 Particularly for a Tzaddik, a Yahrzeit holds special significance. The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that at the time of a Tzaddik’s passing “all the efforts for which his soul toils become revealed in a manifest way.

Likewise, a birthday possesses unique importance. The Talmud explains that before a Jew’s birth “a candle was lit over his head and the angels taught him the entire Torah.” Even though prior to birth “an angel slapped him across the mouth” and caused him to forget those teachings, that loss of memory affected only his ability for cognitive recall. The spiritual influence and the holiness imparted during the instruction still remains intact.2

An individual’s birthday marks the revelation of his full potential. On his Yahrzeit, the accomplishment which he has worked for becomes manifest. The incidence of both the birthday and Yahrzeit of Rav Dov Ber on Tes Kislev enhances the celebration of his festival of liberation the following day.

2. An awareness of the nature of the lessons to be derived from Yud Kislev can be gained through appreciation of the Mitteler Rebbe’s position as a national leader, as a “shepherd” of the Jewish people. Though Rav Dov Ber’s personal level of awareness was beyond the grasp of even the most sophisticated, he shared a point of connection with every Jew.

An understanding of the nature of that association can be derived from analysis of the metaphor used before: “Shepherd” of the Jewish people. A shepherd cares for all the needs of his flock, even those beyond their conscious grasp. Likewise, a shepherd of the Jewish-people3 relates to each Jew beyond the level of his individual perception, cares for the totality of his being.

Furthermore, the goal of a shepherd, a Jewish leader, is not only to fulfill the needs of the Jewish people, to relate to them as recipients but to develop them into “Mashpi’im,” make them a source of knowledge and instruction for others. Rav Dov Ber himself remarked, “I would desire that when two of my followers meet, they should speak together about G‑d’s supernal unity.”

The lesson that can be learned from a leader4 relates to the fundamental qualities which distinguished his service. Each leader possesses characteristic personality traits. Even when a leader follows in the heels of a previous authority and perpetuates the service initiated by him5 (as in this case, Rav Dov Ber assumed the position of the Alter Rebbe, Rav Schneur Zalman of Liadi6 ), he displays unique and particular personal qualities7 which must be appreciated by his followers.8

An analysis of the historical background during which Rav Dov Ber took over the leadership of the Chassidic community9 reveals his unique personal qualities. He assumed his position during the Napoleonic Wars. Those wars had laid waste to the areas in Russia in which the greater proportion of the Jewish community lived. Houses had been destroyed, places of business ruined. Many Jews were wandering homeless. Even those who had settled experienced major difficulties in finding jobs and piecing together the basic necessities for minimal existence.

Likewise, in a spiritual sense, the French invasion had left its mark. The Alter Rebbe had described Napoleon as an adversary and contrary force to G‑dliness. Even after his defeat, his influences remained.

Rav Dov Ber accepted the leadership of the Chassidic community in such a setting. Immediately upon accepting that authority, without consideration of the difficulties present, he began a variety of activities intended ‘to spread Torah. Those activities included efforts to advance the study of Nigleh (the exoteric, legal realm of Torah study) and Chassidic thought.

Among his achievements in the realm of Nigleh was the publication of the Shulchan Aruch of the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe had written the Shulchan Aruch in 5533 while a student of the Maggid of Mezritch. For forty years, it had not been printed. Though the Shulchan Aruch of Rav Yosef Caro was widely used at that time, the Mitteler Rebbe appreciated the clarification of many questions and the difference in approach which the Alter Rebbe’s text provided and brought about its publication.

The above activity becomes even more noteworthy in consideration of the fact that the publications took place only one year after Rav Dov Ber became Rebbe. Despite the problem of arranging the material for publication and the technical difficulties involved in printing a four-volume text (and not the technical difficulties of today, but those of 19th century Russia) he was able to produce a major work in such a short amount of time.10

Similarly, in the realm of Chassidic thought, Rav Dov Ber made major contributions. Though the Tanya had already been published and many of the Alter Rebbe’s discourses transcribed in manuscript, the Mitteler Rebbe was not content with those achievements and strove to extend the realm of Chassidic thought.

Among the efforts in that direction were the recitation, of lengthier and more detailed Chassidic discourses. The Previous Rebbe compared the Mitteler Rebbe’s explanation and elaboration of the Alter Rebbe’s ideas to the manner in which the power of Binah (understanding) develops and unfolds the germ concept produced by the power of Chochmah (wisdom).

In addition, the Mitteler Rebbe began a significant effort to publish Chassidic texts. In 5576 (only four years after he became Rebbe11 ), he published the Alter Rebbe’s commentary on the Siddur. Afterwards, he published other texts of the Alter Rebbe as well as many of his own works. The publication of these texts was a major achievement, as the Tzemach Tzedek the third Chabad Rebbe) explained, “Once a text is published, it exists for posterity.”

These efforts to spread Torah, regardless of the challenges of the surrounding situation, provide a lesson for ourselves. As mentioned above, Rav Dov Ber assumed leadership of the Chassidic community while he himself was fleeing from Napoleon. Most of his first year as Rebbe was spent traveling through White Russia and the Ukraine encouraging and assisting in the settlement of his displaced followers. Likewise, he spent time searching for a suitable location to establish his own headquarters. Nevertheless, from the very beginning of his leadership he was actively involved in spreading Torah.

A parallel can be drawn to our present situation. Even though the destruction (both in a physical and spiritual sense) wrought by the holocaust has not been forgotten, the example of Rav Dov Ber should encourage us to be active in spreading Torah. Though the efforts to reconstruct the Jewish community have not succeeded in totally restoring the position of the past (neither materially nor spiritually), nevertheless, that failure should not affect the activities of a Jew in spreading Torah, extending its study and practice to the outermost reaches of the Jewish community.

In addition, our activity must include Tzedakah in the physical sense. The Previous Rebbe explained that another Jew’s physical needs must be considered as a spiritual matter. This concept was brought out by the Baal Shem Tov, who in the very first phases of activity, worked to improve the material conditions of the Jewish people. Only after a connection was established on that level did he begin dealing with their spiritual needs as well.

The first step in these activities must be in the field of Chinuch: educating the Jewish community. Then, motivated by feelings of Ahavas Yisrael, success will follow in the other Mivtzoim: Mivtza Torah, Mivtza Tefillin, Mivtza Tzedakah, Mivtza Mezuzah, Bayis Maleh Seforim, Mivtza Neiros Shabbos Kodesh, Mivtza Kashrus, Mivtza Taharas Hamishpachah. What is most important is a stress on practical action — that the above-mentioned lessons be brought to deed.

These activities should not be regarded merely as duties but should be performed with dedication and commitment. The Mitteler Rebbe’s example should serve as a spur encouraging each Jew to devote all of his energies to this task.

Then, when the efforts to spread Torah are carried out with Simchah, they will bring about the ultimate cause of Simchah, the revelation of Mashiach12 speedily on our days.

3. The above-mentioned lesson refers to the general concept of Yud Kislev. However, each year, the particular day of the week on which Yud Kislev falls provides a new different lesson.

This year the dates of Tes and Yud Kislev occur on precisely the same days of the week as they did in the year of Rav Dov Ber’s liberation. Two different documents mark this fact. One records, “the liberation occurred on Sunday, Yud Kislev, in the week of Vayishlach.” A second record notes, “During the recitation of a Chassidic discourse on Shabbos Vayeitzei Rav Dov Ber was informed that he would be released.”

The two references quoted establish a connection between the liberation and the sedras of Vayeitzei and Vayishlach. The sidra of Vayeitzei describes Yaakov’s departure from the land of Israel (and from Beersheba, one of the holiest places in Israel) and entrance into the Diaspora (to the city of Charan describes by our Sages as “the place of G‑d’s fierce anger”). Contrarily, Vayishlach describes Yaakov’s return to Eretz Yisrael. He was camped in Machanayim, named such because there he was greeted by the angels of Eretz Yisrael.

In a personal sense, the two sedras can be compared to birth and death. The descent from Israel to the Diaspora parallels the descent of the soul into the body. Likewise, based on the Chassidic interpretation of the statement of Pirkei Avos “at one hundred an individual is considered as if he were dead, passed away, and ceased from the world,” Vayishlach can be compared to death.

Chassidus explains that in that Mishnah, “Dead... ceased from the world” is considered a positive state. Though alive, the individual is no longer involved with this world, with material concerns. At this stage in life, his energies are to be channeled totally towards spiritual things. Likewise, at the beginning of Vayishlach, Yaakov announced to Esav, “I have lived with Lavan, I have acquired oxen, donkeys, etc.” all in the past tense, i.e. my service in refining material objects has been completed.13

The same lesson can be brought into day to day terms. Israel refers to the realm of Torah study and prayer, Charan to involvement in material affairs. Vayeitzei and Vayishlach describe the transition from one stage to another. The relation of Tes and Yud Kislev to these two portions implies that the commitment to spread Torah (both Nigleh and Chassidus) to another Jew and help him in his material affairs in both cases.

In terms of Parshas Vayeitzei — when a Jew leaves the world of Torah and enters into the world of material concerns, he must take extra care and precaution so as not to become totally caught up in physical matters. He must be concerned about himself. How can he think about another Jew?

Likewise, in Parshas Vayishlach. He worked twenty years “in the day, thirst consumed me; at night I suffered from cold. My sleep departed from my eyes.” At last he gets the opportunity to devote himself to Torah and Mitzvos. He can finally rest, relax, and learn. Should he involve himself with another Jew?

He is answered: “Learn from Yaakov.” After Yaakov completed his work with Lavan and returned to Israel, what was his first action? “And Yaakov sent messengers to Esav.” He extended his hand to someone else. Whether in transition from the realm of holiness to the mundane, or from the mundane to the holy (in time from Shabbos to the week, or the week to Shabbos) the obligation exists to help another Jew.

Then, as in the case of Yaakov, “he was met by the angels of G‑d,” spiritual help is extended to insure the success of the activity — until the task is completed and the world made fit for the coming of the Mashiach speedily in our days.