(This farbrengen celebrates the fiftieth wedding anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita.)

1. To appreciate the significance of any event, it is necessary to look into the Torah. Torah governs every aspect of a Jew’s behavior. Likewise, it contains teachings that explain the significance of today’s event.

In general, a congregation of many Jews is considered an event of significance. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe writes that, “if any angel would be found in an assembly of ten Jews (even if they were not studying Torah), he would be consumed by an unlimited and infinite awe from the Shechinah (Divine Presence) that rests over them, to the point where he would be nullified entirely.”1 The above is particularly true in the present case. Thousands of Jews have gathered together to study Torah. In addition, the intent of their meeting is to discuss activities that will further spread Torah and Mitzvos. In such an instance, the Shechinah is certainly revealed. Likewise, the Ramah, in the conclusion of his addendum to the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, advises, “A person must often indulge in joy and in celebration a cheerful person is always celebrating.”2

However, such assemblies and celebrations are not everyday occurrences. A unique Torah reason must exist to explain why a wedding anniversary is commemorated in this fashion.3 That reason can be appreciated through analysis of our Sages’ statement, “When you enter a city, follow its customs.” Whether an individual’s state of refinement surpasses or falls below the norm of the city he enters, Torah requires him to accept its customs. Even though, generally, a person is advised not to accept practices that are above his spiritual level, that advice does not apply when ,he enters a new city. To illustrate this point, the Midrash brings the example of Moshe Rabbeinu, who, when he ascended Mt. Sinai did not eat or drink for 40 days.

Likewise, from the opposite perspective, if a person’s spiritual level surpasses that of the city into which he enters, it would seem logical to “place upon him the restrictions of the city from which he left;” however, the Midrash advises “when you enter a city follow its customs.” In support of that statement, it brings the example of the angels who visited Avraham and “ate and drank.”

In the latter case, the intent of the Medrash’s advice is not to cause a descent. Rather, since a Jew is instructed “all your deeds must be for the sake of Heaven” and “Know G‑d in all of your ways,”4 through acceptance of that custom, he will effect a metamorphosis. The custom will become a Jewish custom and will produce an advance in Torah and Mitzvos.

Similarly, in the present case, it is customary that many friends gather together on a wedding anniversary and join in good-wishes and celebration. A Jew should accept that custom and transform it into an act of Torah. By marking the anniversary with an assemblage of many thousands of Jews (which brings about the revelation of the Shechinah) and conducting that assembly in a holy place, in a synagogue and in a house of study (in particular, the place where the Previous Rebbe spent the last ten years of his life),5 the celebration becomes a Torah happening.

May it be G‑d’s will that this farbrengen will produce an increase in the study of Torah and the practice of its commandments6 and in this manner serve as a preparation for the festival of Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus.

2. In addition to the above, the anniversary produces other lessons which are connected with the concept of 50. Our Sages commented that 50 years is considered “forever” in regards to a Levi. That statement is derived from the chronicle of the life of Samuel. His mother vowed that “he would appear before the L‑rd and abide there forever.” He was brought to Shiloh at age 2 and died at 52. The Rambam mentions, in a spiritual sense, the privileges of the tribe of Levi apply to any Jew who dedicates himself to the service of G‑d. Therefore, the concept of 50 years as “forever” relates to every Jew.

The Mechilta develops that concept further, explaining that 50 years is considered “forever” for every Jew. That explanation is based on the Torah’s command that all slaves7 are released at the advent of Yovel (the 50th year).

The number 50 is also connected to a wedding. The Hebrew words for groom and bride—chassan and kallah—both feature the number 50. The word “chassan” ends with the letter “nun” whose numerical equivalent is 50. Similarly, the equivalent of the first two letters of the word “kallah”—kaf and lamed— when combined, equal 50.

The letter “nun” has two forms. When it appears at the end of a word, it is represented by a long line extending beyond the ruled lines. In the bent “nun” (the form used when the “nun” appears at the beginning or in the middle of a word) that extra portion is curved upward and contained between the lines. The Tanya explains that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet represents a different channel of Divine energy. The letter’s form and shape reveal the pattern of the flow of the life force which is revealed through this letter. In this case, the two shapes of the letter “nun” represent two different expressions of one aspect of Divine energy:

1. The final “nun,” stretching below the line, represents the descent of G‑dly energy to the lowest bevels in order to elevate the G‑dly sparks in that realm.8 Similarly, a “chassan” is involved in descent, to the degree where our Sages explain that the term “chassan” itself is derived from the phrase “Choos Darga”—dropping down a level.9 To emphasize this relation, the word “chassan” ends with a final “nun.”

2. The bent “nun” taps the same level of G‑dly energy as the final “nun.” However, it represents a different phase of service, the ascent from below to above. To communicate this change of direction, the portion of the “nun” which extended below the line is curved upward, above the line. This movement is parallel to the service of a “kallah,” who similarly is involved in a process of self-elevation.

The designation of 50 as “forever” has a deeper significance. The Hebrew word for “forever,” is “olam;” which also means “world.” By designating 50 as olam (forever), the Torah implies that 50 includes the entire world.

On one hand, 50 represents a level of spirituality which transcends the world, as our Sages explained “Fifty gates of understanding were created in the world.” Yet even Moshe Rabbeinu, the most refined of all men, grasped only 49, the 50th gate being totally beyond human comprehension.10 Yet, this 50th level is also found11 in the world; like the final “nun” explained before, its energy is drawn down into the lowest levels with the intention of elevating them and bringing them up to its transcendent height.

This explanation of the qualities of the “nun” sheds light on the fact that there are 11 verses in the Torah which begin with a “nun” and end with a “nun.”12 The number 11 is of great significance. Holy matters are connected with the number 10. The number 11 represents the forces of evil. Therefore, 11 spices were included in the incense offering in the Temple in order to elevate and refine the forces of evil. The 11 verses in the Torah which begin with a “nun” and end with a “nun” serve a similar purpose. The number 50, the “nun,” signifies the process of reaching down to the lowest levels and lifting them up to the highest levels.

The above explanation indicates a special significance to this anniversary. The number 50 represents taking the lowest aspects of the world and bringing them into connection with the Ayn Sof (the Infinite One). This concept is directly related to a wedding. There, the union of a man and a woman (and the child their union produces) reveals the power of the Ayn Sof in the world.

2. In considering, the activities that should result from this farbrengen, it is important to mention, the pattern in which the Previous Rebbe’s 50th anniversary was celebrated. His marriage took place in 5257, and his 50th anniversary was in 5307. Then, in each of the seven days after the wedding (during which a “chassan” and “kallah” hold Sheva Berachos), he was presented with a newly printed Sefer. A number of the Chassidic discourses of the Mitteler Rebbe13 were printed in Shanghai and were released in those seven days. The publishing of those texts brought the Previous Rebbe great satisfaction.

Those events demonstrate how the concept of a 50th anniversary is connected to progress in Torah and Mitzvos, as the Rebbe Rashab writes concerning Tanya,14 “In general, one must take extreme precaution in using original interpretation to explain the Tanya. However, if those explanations will enhance the listener’s service to G‑d, then they are permitted. Similarly, in this case. May it be G‑d’s will that this farbrengen produce a growth in love of G‑d, fear of G‑d, the study of Torah (both Nigleh and Chassidus), till we reach the level of “know G‑d in all your ways.”

Furthermore, since as our Sages commented “Deed is the most essential;” may all the above blessings be expressed in concrete actions, and in that merit may we witness the reinstitution of the Yovel. Our Sages explained that after the ingathering of the exiles—when the entire Jewish people will dwell in the Land of Israel—the Yovel will be restored. May those prophecies be fulfilled speedily in our days.

4. The Previous Rebbe used to say “Even though good is good, is not better even better?!” Similarly, in the present case, despite all the explanation offered above for holding a farbrengen, certain people might still take objection. They might question the institution of new customs, etc.; therefore, since there are “Chassanim” present here, it would be proper for them to conduct Sheva Berachos and remove any question about the reasons for this celebration.

Torah commands us to bring joy to a “chassan” and “kallah” and advises “the precepts of the L‑rd are just, rejoicing the heart.” Therefore, while the “chassanim” are preparing for Sheva Berachos, the time will be filled with Torah study.

And may their simchah bring about an entire year of simchah including the ultimate simchah, the revelation of Mashiach. Presently, the relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people is described as an “engagement.” The coming of Mashiach will introduce a new state, “marriage.”

5. The Torah places a strong emphasis on the concept of giving thanks. An example of this concept is the mitzvah of “Bikkurim.” Each year the Jew had to bring the first fruits of the harvest to Jerusalem and pronounce a lengthy declaration of thanks. Many sent good wishes and congratulatory greetings for this occasion. I would like to thank each one individually for their tribute;15 however, I have neither the opportunity nor the time. Therefore, I would like to use this occasion to convey my appreciation and thanks.

May all those who gave blessings, be blessed themselves, as G‑d promised Avraham, “I will bless those who bless you.” The verse reads, “I will bless” indicating that their blessing will be from G‑d’s “full, open, holy,16 and generous hand.” May the effects of those blessings become clearly apparent and result in “sons and grandchildren absorbed in Torah and Mitzvos” and abundant health, children, and material success for all. And may we soon reach the ultimate height in the study of Torah, the revelation of the Torah of Mashiach.

6. The service of a “chassan” and “kallah” is related to the entire concept of Torah and Mitzvos. In a manner parallel to a “chassan,” Torah progressively “descends through hidden stages until it becomes clothed in physical substances and things of this world.” Mitzvos (and particularly the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, according to the Talmud, characterize the entire realm of Mitzvos,) involve the elevation of the lower level to the spiritual (a parallel to the service of a “kallah”). These two movements have the power to permeate to the depths of Galus and to bring about the Geulah. As the prophet Isaiah declared, “Zion will be redeemed through judgment (interpreted to mean Torah study) and its captives through Tzedakah.”

Since Torah study is intrinsically connected with a “chassan,” it is customary to give seforim as a wedding present. Likewise, since a similar connection is shared between a “chasunah” and Tzedakah, it is appropriate that a Tzedakah pushke also be given as a wedding present. By bringing a Tzedakah pushke into the new home immediately, the home becomes distinguished as a home which gives Tzedakah. In this manner the house gains a reputation as a source of help to a person in need.17 Even when Tzedakah cannot be given (on Shabbos etc.) the presence of the pushke reminds the home’s inhabitants18 of the mitzvah’s importance.

Therefore, the tzedakah pushke should be proudly displayed. Rather than being hidden, it should be considered one of the house’s most precious ornaments. It should be used frequently. Even if a large amount is being given, it should be divided into a number of smaller gifts in order to train and habituate the giver19 (particularly if a child) to donate more frequently.

7. The most prominent category of Tzedakah is Pidyon Shuvuyim (the redemption of captives). In a figurative sense, the totality of Torah and Mitzvos can be considered Pidyon Shuvuyim. Through Torah and Mitzvos, the G‑dly sparks that have fallen into Kelipos are redeemed.

The Ten Mivtzoim (Torah Campaigns ) are also related to Pidyon Shuvuyim. Mivtza Chinuch (campaign of Torah education) works to redeem a man from ignorance. A wise man considers lack of knowledge as the greatest prison. Pirkei Avos comments, “Who is a wise man—he who learns from every man.” The word “learns” is in present tense. The wise man is constantly learning. For his ignorance is goal and lack of awareness shackles and fetters.

Similarly, Ahavas Yisrael, the love for one’s fellow Jews, must imply a concern and conviction to help fulfill all of his wants, to redeem him from the captivity of his needs. Likewise, the other 8 Mivtzoim redeem a person spiritually. Through involvement in the 10 Mivtzoim, the entire world20 will be redeemed.

8. The Book of Proverbs declares “The wisdom of a woman builds her house.” The wisdom of a woman (in general) alludes to the entire realm of Torah and Mitzvos, in which, with few exceptions, women are as equally obligated as men. However, more particularly, it refers to the Jewish approach to home life and to the three Mitzvos of Shabbos Candles, Kashrus, and Taharas Hamishpachah.

Though women fulfill these Mitzvos before marriage, the acceptance of a new role as “akeres habayis,” as foundation of the home, places these Mitzvos in an entirely different perspective. Therefore, in the Torah’s description of the wedding of Yitzchok and Rivkah (the first wedding mentioned in the Torah) it notes “and he brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother.” Commenting on this verse, Rashi writes, “She was like Sarah, his mother. Throughout Sarah’s life a candle was lit from Erev Shabbos to Erev Shabbos (the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos Candles), blessing was found in the dough (the mitzvah of Kashrus), and a cloud hung over the tent (the mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpachah).”

Taharas Hamishpachah is the foundation of Jewish life. It is a necessity in the process of raising children to be aware Jews, who study the Torah and fulfill its commandments. Therefore it is appropriate that each community should have a group of woman who work to spread Torah and Mitzvos in general, and the Mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpachah in particular. They should pay special attention to Hachnassas Kallah—preparing a bride for marriage. If necessary, they should collect Tzedakah to meet any material needs, as well as attempting to fill any spiritual needs.

An aid in this activity would be the publication of pamphlets in every country (in that country’s native language) explaining the significance of Taharas Hah4ishpocha and the different laws and customs involved in its observance. At present, many such handbooks exist. However, they are imperfect. Some fail to mention important laws and customs. Others are not written in a popularly acceptable style.

Funds are available, if necessary, to finance such publications. However, each handbook should be written by an authority on Halachah who is familiar with the customs of the particular country and who can write clearly and appealingly. The pamphlet should include the addresses of all the mikvos in the vicinity. Some women prefer going to a mikveh which is in their neighborhood and others would rather go to one further away.

In addition, great stress should be put on the cleanliness and appearance of the Mikveh. Once, when the Rebbe Rashab was immersing himself in a mikveh, he noticed a few hairs floating on the water’s surface. He called the attendant and explained that he personally was not bothered. However, the attendant should realize and bear the responsibility of the many women who would be affected and therefore might cease using the mikveh.

These efforts will not be in vain. The Talmud declares “The heart of the Jewish people is awake,” sensitive to Torah and Mitzvos. One Mitzvah will lead to another. The Mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpachah will lead to Kashrus, to lighting of the Shabbos Candles,21 and to efforts to increase Torah and, Mitzvos in all aspects of the home.

May we through the merit of these activities, witness the wedding between G‑d and the Jewish people—the Messianic Redemption, speedily in our days.

To end on a practical note: The activity in all the Mivtzoim must be intensified, particularly regarding a matter of present concern, Mivtza Chanukah. In addition to the effort to spread the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles wherever possible, special emphasis should be placed in trying to reach those Jews who are imprisoned or confined to hospitals. And may these activities cause G‑d to redeem us from the prison of Galus speedily in our days.