1. The fundamental message of the month of Shvat is expressed in the Torah: “On the first _ day of the eleventh month ...Moshe began to explain the Torah.” [Translator’s note: In the previous farbrengen, the Rebbe elaborated on this concept at great length, dwelling on the commentary of the Talmudic Sages on the verse, “to explain the Torah,” which they interpret as meaning to translate it into seventy languages.]

The events of our generation have reinforced that lesson. Yud-Shvat marks the Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe. On a Tzaddik’s Yahrzeit “all _of the work which he accomplished1 becomes manifested.” Translator’s note: The translation of Torah into terms that every Jew, even one removed from Jewish observance could appreciate constituted one of the central elements of the Previous Rebbe’s life’s works. Therefore, the occurrence of his Yahrzeit in the month of Shvat adds emphasis to the month’s fundamental lesson.

2. Parshas Vaeira begins with the verse “and I revealed Myself to Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov,” In his commentary, Rashi notes the words “I revealed Myself” and explains “to the forefathers.” What is the purpose of Rashi’s addition? Did we not already know that Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov were the forefathers?

Rashi did not merely intend to inform us who the forefathers were. He wanted to explain that G‑d’s revelation to them did not result from their own individual virtues,2 but rather was due to their position as forefathers of the Jewish people. Every Jew must consider himself an heir of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. He must become one with his forefathers.

This point is expressed in the Oral Torah as follows: An heir stands in the place of his ancestor. The Torah does not consider inheritance an exchange of property, but rather an exchange of role. The heir assumes the position of his ancestor, as it your...sons will be in the place of your fathers.”

The same concept applies in a spiritual sense. G‑d’s revelation to Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov depended on their position as forefathers. They transmitted those revelations to their heirs, the Jewish people, in every generation.

This concept has unique relevance to the times directly preceding the Messianic redemption. The prophets explained that “as in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will reveal wonders,” so the future redemption will follow the pattern established during the exodus from Egypt. Just as the revelation to Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov held significance in the time of Egypt, it holds similar importance in these days.3

3. Every farbrengen must generate a practical lesson. This particularly applies to a farbrengen which is connected to Shabbos Mevarchim Shvat, and therefore to the Previous Rebbe. The statement of our Sages, “Deed is most essential” and the verse in the Torah, “It (the fulfillment of Torah) is close to you, in your mouth, and your heart, to do it,” further accentuates the need for a practical lesson.

How is it so “close to you” to follow Torah? This can be answered by an explanation of the Rambam’s statement, “All creation was brought into existence from the Truth of His Being.” The essence of each creation’s existence is “the Truth of His Being.” Here, the Rambam does not use the word “G‑d.” There are many levels of G‑dliness. Kabbalah posits the existence of an entire order of spiritual worlds, and explains that in each world a different level of G‑dly energy is revealed. This world, though did not emanate from any of those intermediate levels, but was brought into existence directly from the “Truth of His Beings.”4 This world, the only world where the possibility for selfishness and “I”-centered behavior exists—in truth is in a state of Oneness with the “True I.”5

The unity of the world with G‑d’s essence makes a Jew’s service of Torah and Mitzvos “close to him.” There is no necessity to create anything new. There is only the necessity to reveal the G‑dliness which already exits.

May this explanation cause an increase in the study of Torah, the fulfillment of the commandments, and in the service of prayer; as our Sages commented “Deed is most essential.” In R connection with this, the Rambam wrote that a Jew should always look at himself and the world as balanced. With one good deed (or statement, or thought), he may bring about salvation for himself and for all creation. The good deed (or statement or thought) reveals another aspect of G‑d’s True Being and brings the person into connection with G‑d’s essence. Since essence cannot be divided, one who grasps one aspect of His essence, is totally connected with the whole of His essence.6 May such activity hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy “Those that lie in the dust will arise and sing” with the coming of the Mashiach, speedily in our days.

4. The Alter Rebbe told his Chassidim, “We must live with the times,” and later explained that statement to mean that we must adapt our lives to the events of the weekly Torah portion. Although this week’s portion provides many lessons, the most central lesson is the one connected with the name of the portion Vaeira.

Vaeira means “I revealed Myself.” This principle of revelation permeates the entire portion. The parshah deals with the miracles and wonders that G‑d worked in Egypt, wherein He revealed Himself to the point that even the Egyptians could clearly see that, as Moshe said, “the G‑d of the Hebrews sent me; send out my people that they may serve Me.”

Moshe had spoken these same words to Pharaoh before but without any effect. Only after they saw the open miracles described in Vaeira, were the Egyptians aroused. Then “with a strong hand, they drove them out from the land.”7 Pharaoh had a strong hand, and here we see that he used it to send the Jews out of Egypt.

Each person can derive a lesson from this story. Everyone has their own Egypt. (In Hebrew, the worst for Egypt, “Mitzrayim” also means boundaries or limitations). Since each Jew possesses an infinite and unbounded G‑dly nature, it follows that any and all boundaries and limitations can cause a Jew to deviate from his natural path. Particularly, the boundaries and limitation which confine and restrict the Jew’s service of Torah and Mitzvos (including the opposing forces which are in the Jew’s own soul, which are called the “Yetzer Hora” (evil inclination))oppose his essential nature.

These boundaries exists, however, for the purpose of allowing the Jew to reveal his true G‑dly nature and in doing so, to transform the boundaries from darkness into light and from bitterness to sweetness.

The same lesson applies on a greater scale. The world in which we live is called “olam” in Hebrew. “Olam” is related to the word “helem” meaning hidden, covered. The G‑dly nature of the world is hidden, and must be revealed through the Jew’s service.

Faced with such a challenge, every Jew must realize that the task is not impossible or beyond his powers. On the contrary, in the beginning, the world was created “in a perfect state.” Moreover, before the world’s creation,8 it was totally one with G‑dliness.9 Therefore, the service demanded of him is not difficult or beyond his power.

Even while he is Egypt where Torah tells him that “the law of the country is law” and therefore he must “pray for the welfare of his city,” he must realize that this statement only applies when the law of the city does not contradict Torah. On the contrary, his purpose for being in such a land is to transform that land and all its elements into a positive force, as in the redemption from Egypt, where the strength of Egypt was used to hasten the Jew’s exodus.10

A Jew must realize that he finds himself in Egypt only to fulfill a Divine mission. G‑d did not send him there to cause him difficulties. On the contrary, the nature of good, is to do good. From G‑d, the Ultimate Good, only good can result. Therefore, he must understand that G‑d sent him into Egypt for a purpose.

He must realize that the Torah is eternal and unchanging; applying to him in its totality.11 Likewise, he must appreciate that he has a Moshe, a leader; in our case, the Previous Rebbe. By following his path, he will reveal G‑d’s miracles, to the point that even while in Egypt, G‑d’s wonders will seem the natural course of events (L)12 as in the time of ,the exodus, when the plagues lasted for half a year. Through this service, a Jew will endure the difficulties of Galus and transforms it from darkness into light

May this help to bring about true Simchah in the service of G‑d and may that Simchah destroy all boundaries and limitations. And then a Jew may serve G‑d fully and completely.

May — in the last days of Galus — “there be light for all the Jews in their homes” and soon may it come about that “the Jewish people will go out with upraised arms” in the Messianic redemption, speedily in our days.

5. Rosh Chodesh Shvat is connected with “the New Year of the Trees,”13 which we celebrate on Tu BeShevat (15th of Shvat).14 The question arises: Why is the New Year of the Trees important for us? Why do certain communities celebrate Tu BeShevat with special feasts and prayers? Even those communities that do not follow those customs, mark Tu BeShevat with eating of fruits, etc.

Often this question is answered by referring to the verse, “a man is like a tree of the field.” The Talmud, also, compares a sage to a tree. However, the answer provokes another question. How is a man compared to a tree? In particular, in what respect is the highest and most refined type of man—the Torah sage — compared to a tree?15

The human soul is a microcosm of creation. Man’s emotional powers represent the plant kingdom; his intellect, the animal kingdom, and his spiritual potential, (which is above intellect) the human realm. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that the most important element of a Jew’s service to G‑d is his emotions. He must serve G‑d with all his powers, including his intellect. However, the most necessary service in this world, centers on one’s feelings. Another Chassidic aphorism expresses the same concept. The Rebbeim used to say the essence of Chassidus is the ability to change the nature of one’s emotional powers.16

The Mitteler Rebbe explained that our service now centers on refining our seven emotional powers, a task which is parallel to the conquest of the land of Canaan from the seven nations. In Messianic times, the service will center on the elevation of the intellectual powers. That concept will be expressed in a physical form by the conquest of the lands of three nations: the Keni, Kinzi, and the Kadmoni.17

What unique qualities distinguish a plant? Animals have the power of mobility. In fact, through exercising this power, they show that they are truly alive. Humans, as well, must fulfill the service of going “out of your country... and away from your father’s house.” Plants, on the other hand, are always rooted to the Earth. They are in constant contact with the Earth’s powers of growth, which is what allows them to grow and live.

Man and animals must also have some connection to the Earth.18 However, their self-fulfillment consists in rising above their Earthliness. However, a plant functions in an opposite manner. Even though it grows and rises higher and higher, it always maintains a direct connection to its original source.

A parallel exists in a Jew’s service to G‑d. A Jew must realize that he is never separated from his forefathers.19 As the above-mentioned verse comments, “Yaakov will send out his roots.” Each Jew must-realize his true roots; that he and his father, etc., are directly connected to our ancestor, Yaakov. That connection gives a Jew strength and power. All the revelations received by the forefathers relate to him as well.

A Jew possesses other powers that parallel the level of animals and men. However, the aspect of his soul which corresponds to a plant is very important to him. It provides him with the security that he will successfully fulfill his mission. Whenever he doubts himself, this element helps him realize that he is firmly rooted to his source.

That root began with Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov; grew to include the revelation on Mt. Sinai and persisted throughout the centuries, giving the potential for “Israel to sprout and flower” and for “the face of the world to become full with her fruit.”

6. [Translator’s note: Customarily during the Motzaei Shabbos farbrengens, the Rebbe explains a selection from his father’s commentary on Zohar. This week he chose the section dealing with circumcision, “Everyone who is circumcised will inherit the land. Everyone who is circumcised is considered a Tzaddik as it is written, ‘Your nation are all Tzaddikim, forever, they will inherit the land.”‘ The Rebbe asked the question, how can all Jews be considered Tzaddikim? In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe writes that “the Beinoni is the level of all men. Commenting on that quote, the elder Chassidim would exclaim, “Would that I be considered a Beinoni!”, since according to Chassidic thought, a Beinoni is such an advanced level, that they did not think of being Tzaddikim. However, the Rebbe’s father explains that in the mitzvah of circumcision, there are three levels, the lowest of which is the actual performance of the mitzvah. However, even that level is enough to make a Jew considered a Tzaddik. Therefore, since all Jews are careful to perform the mitzvah of circumcision,20 all Jews are considered Tzaddikim. Within the context of that explanation the Rebbe remarked...

We can actually see the truth of this statement when looking at the Jews who are dust now leaving Russia. There a Jew risks his life when he circumcises his child (and circumcision is something that cannot be hidden, when children play or bath together it is bound to be revealed). No one can maintain a government fob if he circumcises his sons (and all the fobs in the country are connected with the government).

Furthermore, for the most part, the large majority of Russian Jews have been totally separated from their national heritage since 1917. In a few cities, the Previous Rebbe was able to send teachers, who were able to transmit the basics of Yiddishkeit. However, in general, the Russian government succeeded in preventing the Jews from begin exposed to Torah.

Nevertheless, as soon as the new generation gets the chance to leave Russia, they immediately seek an opportunity for circumcision. Though it has been sixty years since their families have begun to suffer religious persecution—for sixty years since they have not seen a Sefer Torah or a Jew with a beard—they are still anxious to perform the mitzvah of circumcision.

Even advanced age will not stop these people from seeking circumcision. The Torah praises Yishmael for undergoing circumcision at the age of 13. However, many of these Jews are more than twice (or 3 times) 13 and they fulfill the mitzvah with boy. They brush away the arguments of those who are afraid and of those who try to persuade them not to become circumcised. Their behavior shows how deeply connected circumcision is to the Jew’s nature.

In the near future, G‑d will open the Iron Curtain and take out all the Jews who are to be found there ...And then may they use that opportunity to reveal their essential Jewishness.

7. Translator’s note: The Rebbe also mentioned the importance of putting on Rabbeinu Tam’s Tefillin in the morning. Three years ago, he explained that as these days are a preparation for the coming of the Mashiach, it is necessary for all Jews from Bar-Mitzvah age on, to put on Rabbeinu Tam’s Tefillin, as well as Rashi’s. Even though in previous generations, certain restrictions applied as to who and when Rabbeinu Tam’s should be put on, now every Jew should wear them each day.