[Before speaking, the Rebbe washed his hands in preparation for the Yom-Tov meal.]

1. Challenges Holy and Mundane

We1 have a tradition in the name of the Rebbe Rashab that after Simchas Torah one embarks on the stage in his annual cycle of Divine service which is described by the phrase,2 “And Yaakov set out on his way.”3

It is true that it is stated elsewhere4 that this stage in a man's Divine service begins earlier, on Motzaei Yom Kippur: “Concerning the avodah that follows one’s teshuvah on Yom Kippur it is said, ‘And Yaakov set out on his way.’”5

The difference is as follows. The latter source speaks of this phrase insofar as it relates to one's avodah in Torah and mitzvos: once Yom Kippur has brought forgiveness for the year's transgressions, one sets out “on the path of Torah and mitzvos, turning away from evil and doing good.”

In contrast, the avodah in which Yaakov sets out on his way with relation to mundane matters begins only after one has completed the entire avodah of all the festivals of Tishrei. For even the avodah that follows Yom Kippur (beginning with the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, which correspond to the four letters of the Divine Name Havayah,6 and how much more so the avodah of Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah) concerns holy matters, viz., the Torah and its mitzvos.

(To mention one of the differences between these two kinds of avodah: One’s avodah on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur focuses on the rectification and completion of the tasks of the bygone year. (This relates both to Rosh HaShanah's theme of kabbalas ol, the acceptance of the Divinely-given yoke of the commandments, and to Yom Kippur's theme of securing forgiveness.) One's avodah from Motzaei Yom Kippur through Simchas Torah is already the beginning of the next year's avodah.)

At any rate, it is only after the conclusion of all the festivals of Tishrei - i.e., on Motzaei Simchas Torah - that one’s avodah in mundane matters can begin.7

2. What will Propel Me Throughout the Year?

Now, when a chassid takes stock of the way he carried out his avodah in the course of Tishrei, a question arises: What will propel him as he “sets out on his way” and tackles the avodah of the year ahead?

The question has an answer: What gives him the requisite strength is hiskashrus, his soul’s bond with the Rebbe. As is well known,8 the life-force that animates the souls of all Jews is drawn from “the heads of the multitudes of Israel, whose souls are in the category of ‘head’ and ‘brain.’” Since the life-force of the various organs of the physical body is drawn from the brain, it is vital that nothing should intercept their connection with the head, for only when they are connected with it are they animated. For this same reason one should maintain one's connection with the Rebbe, who is the head, and through him flows spiritual life-force to all those who are bound to him.9

In this way, it is through hiskashrus with the Rebbe that one derives the strength to “set out on one’s way,” like Yaakov Avinu, to cope with the coming year's avodah and its mundane activities.

3. Hiskashrus is its Own Reward

This theme relates to a verse that appears in Parshas [Zos Ha]Berachah that we read in the Torah today, in the portion which is read for Shlishi, which is the third and most prestigious aliyah.

It is true that according to the Kabbalah the most prestigious aliyah is Shishi, the sixth, as is mentioned in the writings of the AriZal,10 but according to nigleh, which is the Torah’s manifest dimension, Shlishi takes precedence.11 And since it is desirable and necessary that all things be translated into manifest reality down here, “lower than ten handsbreadths,” it is the precedence according to nigleh which is now being stressed.

At any rate, in today's Shlishi [in the course of Moshe Rabbeinu's blessings to the Tribes] it is written:12 “And to Yosef he said, ‘Mevoreches Havayah artzo… - May his land be blessed by G‑d, with the sweetness of the heaven’s dew, and the waters that lie below….’” The verse then goes on to enumerate Yosef’s particular blessings.

Here one may perceive a message: By means of hiskashrus to Yosef, in allusion to the name of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], G‑d’s blessing is invoked not only in heavenly matters, but even in earthly matters. “May his land be blessed by G‑d” suggests one’s mundane and workaday avodah in earthly and material and physical things. Moreover, blessings in these areas are elicited not only from the Divine Name Elokim, whose numerical equivalent in the Holy Tongue is hateva,13 which means “nature,” but also from the supernatural Divine Name Havayah (as in the above-quoted phrase from the verse).

Furthermore, the verse speaks of artzo - “his land.” Since the word eretz (“land”) derives from ratzon (“will”),14 there is a hint here (“his will”) that a chassid should set aside his own will and desires and devote himself to fulfilling the Rebbe’s will, Yosef's will. Acting in this way calls down G‑d’s blessings in all matters, “in the sweetness of heaven’s dew, and the waters that lie below.” Above all, it calls down blessings on one’s hiskashrus, which in itself is the greatest possible reward. As the Sages teach,15 “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah,” and this the Alter Rebbe spells out:16 “The reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.”

4. Cultivating the Fields

[The Rebbe poured mashke17 for all the shluchim in the provincial towns (arei hasadeh - lit., “the towns in the fields”), wished them success in their respective missions, and added:] The word sadeh [“field,” i.e., a place beyond the pale of civilization] usually alludes to the kelipah, which is why Eisav (Esau) is described as18 “a man of the field.” Nevertheless, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], sent out emissaries to places that he used to call arei hasadeh (whether he coined this term or adopted it) in order that they should fulfill his missions even in such places.

[At this point, addressing himself to one of those present who was called Yaakov, the Rebbe remarked: “And Yaakov set out on his way!”]

5. Aim at Having 499 Pupils

[The Rebbe asked one of the chassidim present how many pupils he had, and when he was told that they numbered pei-vav (86), he responded:] The number 86 is certainly a lofty number, since it is the numerical value of the Divine Name Elokim. But it would be better still if your pupils were to equal the numerical value of the Divine Name Tzva-os, for even though the Name Elokim signifies a higher level of Divinity,19 the numerical equivalent of the Name Tzva-os is far greater (499).

And on Simchas Torah there's no need to be worried about conceit [on account of having such a large number of pupils]. Conceit, of course, is always out of place; the point is that on Simchas Torah one doesn’t have to worry about experiencing conceit.

6. No Souls Left

[The Rebbe then gave mashke to a number of the bachurim who were studying at the yeshivah, gave them his blessing that they should each find a suitable marriage partner, and added:] Finding a proper shidduch is closely connected with our constant theme - the preparations that are needed for the coming of Mashiach. For the Sages teach,20 “The scion of David [i.e., Mashiach] will not come until there are no souls left in Guf” (this being the name of the storehouse of souls21). And the path to this is setting up a Jewish family with a suitable marriage partner.

7. The Father Empowers the Son

[The Rebbe next gave mashke to all the students of the yeshivah and said:] Commenting on the verse,22 Veshinantam levanecha - “You shall teach them diligently to your sons,” the Sifri says:23 “This refers to one’s disciples…, for disciples are [sometimes] called ‘sons.’” The wording in the Gemara is different:24 “When one teaches Torah to his friend’s son…, it is as if he were his father.” The Sifri, however, writes: “Disciples are called sons.”25

Now, as the Sages say,26 יפה כח הבן מכח האב - “The strength of the son is greater than the strength of the father.” [Since mikoach, here translated “than the strength” could equally mean “from the strength,”] one of the interpretations of this statement27 is that the very fact of the son’s superior strength derives from the father’s strength, by virtue of the bond between them.

And in our context: The strength of disciples (“the strength of the son is greater”) to fulfill the great mission that has been placed upon them derives from “the strength of the father,” by virtue of their hiskashrus with the Rebbe.

8. The Oil of Children’s Lamps Shatters the Yoke of Exile

The Gemara28 states that “G‑d desired to make Chizkiyah (King Hezekiah) Mashiach, and Sancheriv (Sennacherib) - Gog and Magog.”29 This means that as far as Chizkiyah was concerned Mashiach could then have been revealed, and the spark of Mashiach shone within him (except that for a certain reason this did not actualize).30

In the continuation of its discussion the Gemara31 tells of what Chizkiyah did to undo the undesirable effects of Sancheriv. Quoting the verse,32 חובל עול מפני שמן - “and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the oil,” the Gemara expounds it as follows: “The yoke of Sancheriv shall be destroyed because of the oil of [the lamps placed by] Chizkiyah, which used to burn and light up the Houses of Prayer and the Houses of Study…. They checked from Dan [in the north] to Beer-Sheva [in the south] and did not find an ignoramus; they checked [all the way] from Gevas to Antifras and did not find a boy or a girl, a man or a woman, who had not mastered the laws governing impurity and purity.”

What does this mean? The revelation of Mashiach (“to make Chizkiyah Mashiach”) is bound up with propagating the study of Torah by children, in the Houses of Prayer and the Houses of Study. They should be enabled to appreciate that the study of Torah is something that transcends mortal understanding. This is why the laws cited were specifically those concerning impurity and purity, because, as Rambam writes,33 “It is clear and manifest that matters of impurity and purity are decrees ordained by Scripture; they are not among those things that mortal understanding determines.”

Similarly with the Chizkiyah of our generation, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz]. Even when other leading scholars held that in certain matters concessions had to be made, he remained undaunted, and devoted himself to enabling children to study Torah, and teaching them that the Torah transcends mortal reason.

For this reason, as far as he was concerned Mashiach could then have been revealed, and the spark of Mashiach shone within him.

And when his disciples actualize his intentions, this will prepare the way for him to lead us towards the true and complete Redemption, speedily, and in our days, Amen.

9. As Far as the Furthest Day

[Resuming the above theme (sec. 3), that “hiskashrus with Yosef” calls down Heaven’s blessings in all matters, the Rebbe proceeded to closely examine every verse in Yosef’s blessing. He then said:] It is written,34 “And G‑d showed [Moshe]… as far as the furthest sea.” On this phrase, [reading yom (‘day’) for yam (‘sea’), hence: ‘as far as the furthest day,’] the Sages teach:35 “The Holy One, blessed be He, showed him all the occurrences that Israel would encounter until the Resurrection of the Dead.”36

10. Each in His Own Pattern

[Following the Grace After Meals the Rebbe said:] May you all have a good and healthy and happy winter, and may we hear only good news. May every one of you, each in his own pattern, succeed in your own affairs - the students who dwell in the tents [of Torah]37 in their affairs and the businesspeople in theirs. Above all, may the Rebbe lead us to greet the righteous Mashiach - to Eretz Yisrael, to the true and complete Redemption.

[After Maariv the Rebbe said:] May G‑d grant everyone blessings for success in his avodah of “Yaakov set[ting] out on his way.”