1. Tu BeShevat (the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat) marks “the New Year of the Trees.” Although the day’s importance was originally connected with the Land of Israel (and with offerings in the Bais HaMikdash), we still celebrate the holiday in our time in the Diaspora. On Tu BeShevat, we do not recite “Tachanun” (prayers of supplication) and we eat special fruits, etc..

Tu BeShevat is the 15th of the month. On the night of the 15th (each month) the moon is full. The Jewish people share a close relationship to the moon. Therefore, the different phases of the moon are reflected in their service to G‑d. A full moon represents a state of completion. All the previous days (of the month) when the moon was incomplete, become elevated to a higher level by the state of completion reached on the 15th. Similarly, in the service of the Jewish people; Even though in the previous days of Shvat (including Yud-Shvat, the Previous Rebbe’s Yahrzeit) the Jews had advanced in their service to G‑d, nevertheless, the fact that we have reached the 15th of the month, a day when the moon is full, teaches us that we can and must proceed even further; that all of our accomplishments until now did trot reach the level of completeness.

In the month of Shvat, the above is particularly relevant. The celebration of the 15th of Shvat must serve to enhance the service connected with Yud-Shvat. It must spur every Jewish man or woman (The Previous Rebbe considered the service of Jewish women very important. He did not regard it as a secondary factor but as a primary one, equally as the service of men.) to further involvement in the projects of the Previous Rebbe. That involvement should be channeled in the direction of the Ten Mivtzoim: Mivtza Chinuch, Mivtza Ahavas Yisrael, Mivtza Torah, Mivtza Tefillin, Mivtza Mezuzah, 114ivtzah Bais Maleh Seforim, ?.Mivtza Tzedakah, Mivtza Neiros Shabbos Kodesh, Mivtza Kashrus, and Mivtza Taharas Hamishpachah.

In stressing the importance of these ten mitzvos, there is no intention in causing a lack of interest in the remaining mitzvos. The Talmud brings a parallel concept, “Habakkuk came and based all the mitzvos on a single one as it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by his faith,’”1 Habakkuk did not desire to minimize the importance of any of the other mitzvos. Instead, he intended to provide a means, faith, that facilitated the performance of all other mitzvos. The same is true of the Ten Mivtzoim: Involvement in them will lead to performance of all the other mitzvos of the Torah.

2. In our generation, Tu BeShevat has taken on special significance. The maamar (Chassidic discourse) that the Previous Rebbe released on the day of his passing was called “Basi LeGani” (“I came into my garden”). In that maamar, he explains that the purpose of Creation is to make a dwelling place for G‑d. The maamar elaborates how the Sanctuary served to reveal the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, throughout the entire world.2 Therefore, the Midrash says instead of reading the above verse as “Basi LeGani,” you should read it as “Basi LeGenuni” meaning “I came to my marriage canopy;” i.e., that here in this world the essence of the Shechinah was revealed.

However, even though the deeper interpretation of the verse “l’genuni” is important, still the verse’s primary meaning remains “I came into my garden.” That verse relates to Tu BeShevat, since a garden is a place where fruits are grown. In general, the Torah describes two types of agriculture: 1) fields for grain; 2) gardens for trees. Both are important and therefore are both included in the blessing for Eretz Yisrael. The Torah describes Israel as “a land of wheat and barley (grain), vines, pomegranates, and figs; a land of olives fit for oil and of honey (referring to date honey) fruits.”

Just as in a physical sense, these grains and fruits were found in Eretz Yisrael, in a spiritual sense, the Eretz Yisrael that each one of us possesses in his soul also contains these two elements. The difference between the two is clear. Grain is necessary for sustenance. Fruits, on the other hand, are not necessary but they add pleasure to life. The blessing after eating any food that is not of the seven types listed above is “Blessed are You ...Creator of numerous beings and their needs; for all things You have created to give life to the soul...” In that blessing, “their needs” refers to grain, a necessity; “things... to give life to the soul” refer to fruit which cause pleasure.

Pleasure has a powerful effect on a human body. The Talmud describes an instance where, because of pleasure, a mature man grew in size. (Translator’s note: The story refers to Vespasian’s reception of the news of being elected emperor of Rome). Though he had passed the age when his body would naturally grow, pleasure was able to cause additional growth.

Parallels to these two classes of food can be found in Torah. There is an aspect of Torah study which is like grain, i.e., it provides for your basic life necessities. This branch of study includes the practical Halachic laws — what a Jew should do and what he should not do. Then there is another realm of Torah study, a realm similar to fruits which give pleasure. This realm consists of Torah’s mystic secrets.

In a physical sense, when someone becomes weak, it is no longer enough to supply him with this normal rational needs. Rather, it is necessary to add food that gives him pleasure. That supplement strengthens and increases his life energy. The same concept applies on a spiritual plane. Therefore, from the time of the Ari z”1 and onward (a time when the spiritual level of Jewish people was progressively declining) it became “a mitzvah,” a command and obligation, to reveal the secrets of the Kabbalah. Particularly after the Alter Rebbe’s arrest and liberation, the “spreading of the wellsprings of Torah into the outer-reaches” became a disciplined approach of service to G‑d for the entire Jewish people.

The expression “the wellsprings of the Torah will spread to the outer-reaches” was first used in a letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law, Rae Gershon Kitover. In that letter he explained that he had seen Mashiach and asked him “When will you come?” and that “when the wellsprings, etc.” was Mashiach’s answer. However, before the Alter Rebbe’s liberation, the spreading of the wellsprings was limited to a few small groups. Through this service, they could bring about the revelation of their Mashiach. After the Alter Rebbe’s release, this spread became a service necessary for the entire Jewish people to bring Mashiach.

The above statement raises a question: The Alter Rebbe states, as a Halachic decision, that each soul will continue to reincarnate until it has fulfilled all the 613 Mitzvos and mastered all four dimensions of Torah study: “Pshat” (plain), “Remez” (allusion), “brush” (homily), and “Sod” (mystical). Until the time of the Ari z”1, it was not a mitzvah to reveal the Torah’s mystical teachings. On the contrary, in each generation, they transmitted secretly to a select few of trained scholars. How, then, could the large majority of Jewry who lived before the time of the Ari z”1 fulfill the Alter Rebbe’s Halachic decision? Though it is not necessary to have mastered all four realms in each incarnation; still, had the Galus not been prolonged past the time of the Ari z”1 most Jews would not have had the opportunity of approaching the Kabbalah, Torah’s mystic secrets.

Two possible explanations can resolve the question:

1) A similar question can be asked regarding the mitzvos which must be performed by a king or high priest. A quick look at history shows that it was impossible for each Jewish soul to have fulfilled those mitzvos. How can that fact be reconciled with the Alter Rebbe’s statement? In answer, Kabbalists explain that a king and high priest possessed general souls, including within themselves sparks of the souls of the entire Jewish nation. Therefore, through their performance of the mitzvos, they fulfill the obligation of the rest of the Jewish people as well. The same explanation can be used in the case at hand. The select few of each generation possessed “general souls” and therefore their study of Kabbalah fulfilled the obligations of the entire nation.

2) To a lesser degree, the same question applies to the mitzvos performed by a Levi or a Kohen. How can an Israelite perform the mitzvos set aside for them? However, that question is answered by explaining that a soul reincarnates a number of times and in a previous incarnation, the Israelite had been a Levi or Kohen. The idea can be applied here. In a previous incarnation, every Jewish soul had at one time been one of the “select few.”

But as mentioned previously, from the time of the Ari z”1 and onward, the mystical secrets of Torah were no longer limited to a select few. On the contrary, it became a mitzvah to reveal them. This process was intensified by the Alter Rebbe in his time. The Previous Rebbe made a unique contribution to the revelation of Torah’s mystical secrets by taking the secrets of Torah and translating them into “seventy languages.” He gave Jews who needed a different language and cultural approach an opportunity to learn Torah’s mystic teachings. Even those on the fringes of Jewish commitment were exposed to these concepts and ideas.

Now, in our generation, the generation of “Ikvos HaMashiach” (prior to Mashiach’s self-revelation of himself), we can neither wait nor hesitate, but must take upon ourselves the obligation, responsibility, and privilege of spreading the wellsprings of Torah3 into the outer-reaches.4 Through this activity, you will bring pleasure into all of your activities, your fulfillment of mitzvos and your service of G‑d in a manner of “all your deeds will be for the-sake of Heaven.” Then may G‑d respond in kindness, not only fulfilling the needs of the Jewish people but granting them pleasure, including the ultimate pleasure, the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.

3. The above lessons apply to the celebration of Tu BeShevat every year. However, since no two things can be exactly alike, each year possesses a unique and individual lesson. (E)5 Nevertheless, once the lesson is learned, it is not limited to that one year, but must be considered a teaching of Torah and of constant (enduring) significance.

In order to discover the nature of this year’s lesson from Tu BeShevat, we must look into Torah, and within Torah itself, the lessons of “Chitas,” since they are specifically intended to be learned on this day. Since our intention is to find a unique lesson for this year, within the three branches of “Chitas,” it is preferable to begin with the portion of Chumash. In the other two branches, Tehillim and Tanya, the same material is repeated every year on Tu BeShevat. In Chumash, there is a difference from year to year, depending on the day of the week on which Tu BeShevat falls. Therefore, it follows that a relevant lesson can be derived from the study of the portion of Chumash designated for study today, the second aliyah in Parshas Yisro.6

The most striking aspect of that Torah portion is the section called “V’atah Techeza” — “and you shall provide judges.”7 Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, visited the Jewish people and saw that Moshe was sitting in judgment from “morning until evening.” Even though Moshe was a “faithful shepherd,” Yisro realized the task was too great for him.’ He suggested that Moshe appoint other judges. He warned that if the suggestion were not accepted, then “You (Moshe) and the people ...will surely wear away-” However, if it were accepted, then “you and this people will come to its place in peace.”

The same concept applies in the personal sphere. A person possesses intellect, “a head,” but also “all the nation that is with you” i.e., other aspects of behavior; including thought, speech, and action. In order to control these aspects of behavior, that your thought, speech, and action will “come to their place in peace,” you cannot rely on your intellect alone. You have to appoint judges, i.e., bring the concept down into the realm of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, and until it permeates all of your emotional states and every phase of your personality.

However, in the Chumash narrative, it was Moshe Rabbeinu-who chose the judges. Furthermore, Moshe Rabbeinu did not choose them only on the basis of his intellectual powers but he also used, as mentioned in Rashi’s commentary, his “ruach hakodesh” (prophetic vision). The judges were not independent entities; they were all controlled by Moshe’s ruach hakodesh. The quality of Moshe Rabbeinu which was described as “the Shechinah” (G‑d’s Divine Presence) spoke from his throat.

Each person contains within his soul an attribute of Moshe Rabbeinu. In general, that refers to the quality of wisdom, and more specifically to your power of “mesirus nefesh” (self-sacrifice). But you cannot always act on the level of mesirus nefesh. If he tries to, he would “wear away.” He has to select “commanders of thousands,” “commanders of hundreds,” “commanders of fifties,” and even “commanders of tens” to filter this power through his intellect and emotions, thought, speech, and deed.8 These commanders though cannot function on their own. Then a person will spend his entire day debating what to do trying to involve all of his powers in the deed. He will never get around to actual deed and action. However, if one’s powers are guided by the Moshe Rabbeinu of his soul — his power of mesirus nefesh — then he will be motivated to actual deed.

This concept teaches the importance of prayer. Prayer is described as “a ladder whose head reaches into the heavens.” It connects the aspects of the soul which are “in the heavens” to the aspects which are “down to earth” — involved with practical matters. This enables “Moshe and the entire nation” to come their place in peace. They then will be able to express their energies and powers in actual deed.

What is so important about deed? What is wrong with spending an entire day questioning back and forth, meditation with the G‑dly intellect over how one should act?

The following story brings out the force of the question. Rav Anshel Aronovitch, one of the Rebbe Rashab’s Chassidim, reprinted the Likkutei Torah. Before publishing the sefer, he carefully combed the text for typographical errors, correcting over 3000 mistakes that had crept into the original printing. When the chassid brought the new sefer to Lubavitch, he was very happy. The Rebbe, also, greeted him with joy. All the Chassidim joined in the celebration. In the middle of the festivities, though the chassid noticed that Rav Dovid Herschel Chernigover, the Chernigover Rav, one of the foremost Chassidim of the time, seemed disturbed. He went over to Rav Dovid Herschel and asked him what was bothering him. He replied, “You are missing the entire concept. What is important when one studies Chassidus, is not the mere intellectual understanding but rather the immersion and involvement in Chassidus. What happened before you fixed up the sefer? A chassid would begin learning and he would come to a mistake. When he went over that point something would bother him. He would review it over and over. He would feel that there was a mistake, but he could not be sure. After all, who was he to say there was a mistake in a sefer of Chassidus? Finally, after thinking the idea over for hours, he would come to the conclusion that there was a mistake. But, now, that you have fixed all the mistakes, what will happen? He will breeze through the sefer without any difficulties, and will not devote many hours to the study of the maamarim.”

The same idea applies in all realms of Torah. It is possible to be busy the entire day questioning which mitzvos to do and which parts of the Torah to study. Yet, Torah contains a whole category of mitzvos which are connected with time. Tefillin, for example, must be put on during the daytime, and it requires time to put them on. Furthermore, the entire purpose of the Jew’s creation is connected with deed. The creation of the world was not for the sake of the soul but for the purpose of elevating and refining the body and the surrounding environment. This is accomplished through. the physical performance of mitzvos,9 which is the lesson of “V’atah Techeza.”

One might ask how “V’atah Techeza” is the source of this lesson. The necessity of performance of the mitzvos in deed and action is fundamental to Torah and is clearly expressed in the Shulchan Aruch. The very first mitzvah given to the Jews as a nation, the mitzvah of “milah” (circumcision), calls not for meditation and concentration but for actually cutting the foreskin.

The answer to this question is that “V’atah Techeza” was a lesson for Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu’s service was “Toraso u’maneso” (Torah was his only occupation). Since his entire day was devoted to activity on a spiritual plane, it might be possible to conclude that he was free from the obligations of physical mitzvos, as was, for example, the Rashbi. When the Rashbi (Rav Shimon bar Yochai) hid in a cave for 13 years, there were many mitzvos; eating matzah, dwelling in a sukkah, he did not perform. Kabbalists ask: How is it possible that Rav Shimon did not fulfill these mitzvos? They answer that Rav Shimon was totally one with G‑dliness. He performed the mitzvos on the spiritual plane. A similar suggestion might be made on behalf of Moshe Rabbeinu.10 However, further thought shows that it does not apply to him. Rav Shimon was excused from the physical performance of those mitzvos because his life was threatened. When the threat ceased, he was no longer content with spiritual fulfillment alone and he performed the mitzvos physically, as well. Moshe Rabbeinu was also required to perform the mitzvos physically since his life was not threatened. However-, had he continued is the same manner as before “V’atah Techeza,” he and the entire Jewish people would have “worn away.”

Each person can apply this lesson to his service of G‑d. Our Sages commented that during prayer, one must have his heart pointed upward and his eyes pointed downward. In other words, one must pay attention to both physical and spiritual matters. If during prayer one pays no attention to material things, the physical and the spiritual will always remain separate. Such a person’s everyday life and his spiritual awareness will always be separate. Torah does not approve of such a duality. The experience of prayer must effect the way one eats, sleeps, does business, etc..11

The relevance of the spiritual to the physical is the major point of “V’atah Techeza.” Even the way in-which it becomes a part of Torah illustrates the point. The Midrash says “the entire portion was written in the spiritual realm. Through Yisro’s merit, it came to be included in the Torah.” First, the concept had a spiritual existence. Then, through Yisro’s activity, it was brought down into the physical plane.12

Every mitzvah has eternal spiritual truth. If so, one might wonder why it is necessary to perform it over again everyday. Yesterday, for example, one may have put on Tefillin and subjugated his mind and heart to G‑d, thus causing on the spiritual plane; the energies of “Zah” to be drawn into “Malchus.” (According to Kabbalah, these are the effects in the spiritual worlds which are accomplished by putting on Tefillin). But what is now? This has been done by the Jews for over 3500 years, since Moshe Rabbeinu first put on Tefillin. However, the purpose of mitzvos is to affect the physical world. It changes every day, and therefore, Tefillin must be put on again every day.

Through the lesson of “V’atah Techeza,” “all the nation will come to its place in peace” meaning the ultimate peace of the coming of the Mashiach, speedily in our days.

4. Translator’s note: A number of times in the middle of this sicha, the Rebbe cried. He spoke in an unusual tone, interspersing his intellectual analysis with expressions of overwhelming emotion. People have asked: Why hold a farbrengen on Tu BeShevat? To answer this we must realize that more darkness has come into the world. We cannot stand still without adding new light.. The service that was sufficient for a generation ago (or even a year ago) is no longer adequate. Since there has been an increase in darkness, we must work to bring about an increase in light. (M)13

Many Jews have become sad. They are tired of Galus and its hardships. They are tired of endlessly waiting for the Mashiach. They ask, “How long do we have to wait?” Even in the times of the prophet Isaiah, the Jewish people were asking, “When, — How much longer must we wait?” In the previous generation as well (even before the times of persecution) we cried out “until when?” “The summer has past. The harvest has ended and still we have not been saved.” Especially now, after having ended all the trials of Galus, the question “how much longer?” pierces the heart of the heavens.

And we see that even though we cry out and ask — G‑d is silent. The Maggid of Mezritch explained this silence with a parable. A father had a son. When the son grew older, the father hid from him, not because he wanted to be separated from him, but because he wanted to make his son appreciate their relationship more. However, the son did not understand. All he knew was that he could not find his father. Likewise, we ask, “Is G‑d in our midst?” We know that G‑d exists, that He is Master of the universe. We will even go further, and admit that G‑d creates the world ex nihilo (something from nothing) at every moment. We do not doubt that creation originates from transcendent levels of G‑dliness.14 We only want to know, “Is G‑d in our midst?” After all “we have seen no wonders, and none of us know how long... our enemies will continue to insult.” It is not hard to reach the conclusion that G‑d has abandoned the world.

At this point, the son has stopped looking for his father. This ...is the real start of Galus. As long as the son was searching for his father, the Galus was not real. On the contrary — he was at the approach to the Geulah. The son was looking for the father. That is all he cared about and all his efforts were channeled in that direction.

But when the son stops looking — either because he does not know any better or because he has simply given up — then his father really is hidden from him. The Baal Shem Tov...explained that this is a two-fold kind of hiding. First, G‑dliness is hidden from men, and second, the concealment itself is hidden. ‘fan no longer even realizes that G‑d is hidden. He no longer thinks about G‑d at all.

What does he think about? The world. It is true he thought about it in a Kosher manner. So he learns Torah. But why does he learn Torah — only because he knows he should. He has forgotten. about G‑d, the giver of the Torah. The same is true of business he is honest but still he credits himself for his success — he forgets that his good fortune is dependant on G‑d. And if you ask him...”What about G‑d?” — he answers — “Do not bring your demands to me ...take them to G‑d Himself”...After all, how long ...must we wait?”

True, the father has to hide from the son so that the son will look for him with a greater thirst and desire. — But, must he throw his son into a two-fold darkness? Our spiritual levels have decreased. We do not have the powers of our ancestors. As the Gemara says, “If the previous generation are considered as men, we are considered as donkeys,” and yet G‑d still demands that we continue searching — and we have searched. Sunday we searched ...Monday we searched...

And when you look into the Torah, you find a clear statement. The Talmud openly declares “All the appointed times for the Mashiach’s arrival have passed and now all is dependent only on Teshuvah.” And the Jews have already done Teshuvah. The Gemara says that even a fleeting thought of Teshuvah is enough to make a person a “Tzaddik Gomor” (a complete righteous person) and today, every Jew has had more than one fleeting thought of Teshuvah. Particularly after the horror of the Holocaust — may such trouble never arise again. We saw and witnessed with our own eyes and we remember now as well. Having lived through such a catastrophe, it is impossible for a Jew not to have felt a fleeting thought of Teshuvah — and still Mashiach has not come.

Given this situation, how can you ask why he does not wait for Mashiach. What is to be expected of him... he is only a limited being ...Furthermore, his limitations were created by G‑d Himself. How can you ask why he does not think about the Geulah?. He does. He waits for Mashiach and each day looks forward to his coming. Is he to stand at every moment hoping and waiting? That is impossible ...G‑d cannot demand that. G‑d only demands ...a service which a Jew can perform. Such a service is beyond our capacities. G‑d did not give us such powers ...How can He demand such a service?

Therefore, it is necessary to try to add light and joy by making a farbrengen. Thus, “happiness will break down fences,” including the fences of darkness and hiddenness that have covered the world. The value of a farbrengen is further emphasized by a parable of the Baal Shem Tov. A king’s son had lost his way in a far away country. He was captured and imprisoned among uncultured men who did not know anything about a nobleman’s behavior. While in prison, the son received a message from his father. The message made him nappy, but being in prison, there s no way he could express his happiness. His comrades would not understand that he was happy because he had received word from his father, the king. But he wanted to celebrate, and he came up with an idea. He set out “mashke” (liquor) and everybody drank. Everyone but him sang and danced because of the mashke. The king’s son himself, also sang and danced, but his happiness was because of the message he received from his father.15

The parable reflects the relationship between the G‑dly soul and the body and physical world. The G‑dly soul ...knows that it must “serve G‑d with joy;” but it knows that the body will not appreciate or understand that joy. Therefore, it takes out mashke; it gets the body drunk so that it will no longer be an obstacle to the happiness of the G‑dly soul.