1. A Foretaste of Rosh Chodesh. Shabbos1 incorporates all the days of the forthcoming week. In some sources we learn that Shabbos incorporates only the first three days, while the remaining three days belong to the following Shabbos;2 in other sources we learn that it incorporates all the upcoming weekdays.3 According to the latter view, then, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, too, is encapsulated in this Shabbos day.4

2. Daily Coronation. The first day of the month is called Rosh Chodesh (the head of the month) for the same reason that the first day of the year is called Rosh HaShanah (the head of the year). Chassidus explains5 that Rosh HaShanah is not simply the beginning of the year but also the head of the year. Just as the head initially comprises the vitality of all the organs, and even after each organ receives its vitality from the head it remains connected with the vitality of the brain which is located in the head,6 in the same way Rosh HaShanah encapsulates the vitality of all the days of the approaching year. And even after they receive their vitality they must remain connected with their head, viz., Rosh HaShanah.

To translate this into practical avodah: The arousal that one experienced on Rosh HaShanah should make its presence felt throughout the entire year. This applies especially to kabbalas ol (accepting the yoke of heaven), which is the dominant theme of Rosh HaShanah. As the Sages teach,7 מצות היום בשופר — “This day’s commandment is fulfilled by means of the Shofar.” For by sounding the Shofar the Jewish people accept the Sovereignty of G‑d, Who commands:8 “On Rosh HaShanah recite before Me... verses concerning sovereignty,9 and thereby proclaim Me King over you....10 And by what means? — By means of the Shofar.” Indeed,11 “You should stand in dread of Him.”

Rosh Chodesh, likewise, is not merely the beginning of a month but also the head of the month: it encapsulates the vitality of all the days of the approaching month and continues to animate them.

3. Upgrading the Natural Realm. In certain ways, Rosh Chodesh is an intermediate stage between regular weekdays and Shabbos. Unlike Shabbos and Yom-Tov, all kinds of workaday activity are permitted on Rosh Chodesh. Nevertheless, we find that the Tanach12 does not list Rosh Chodesh among the ordinary workdays, but separately — because it is different from them and superior to them. On Rosh Chodesh, Hallel is recited,13 and [in the times of the Beis HaMikdash] the Mussaf sacrifice14 was offered in addition to the regular daily offerings. Indeed, Chassidus15 likens the superiority of Rosh Chodesh relative to the other workdays, to the superiority of the World of Yetzirah (or even the World of Beriah) relative to the World of Asiyah.

What does this mean?

Concerning the six weekdays the Torah writes,16 ששת ימים תעבוד — “Six days shall you work,” implying also an obligation. Though the plain meaning of the verse implies merely permission, Chassidus17 understands the verse as telling us that during the six weekdays one should work. This approach is somewhat confirmed by the wording of Midrash Rabbah.18 On the word לעבדה (in the verse,19 וינחהו בגן עדן לעבדה — “And [G‑d] placed [Adam] in the Garden of Eden to work it”), the Midrash comments by quoting the above phrase, “Six days shall you work.”

Why is there an obligation to work during the six weekdays?

Engaging in work (according to the Torah) in this world below brings about a corresponding response from above:20 ששת ימים עשה הוי-ה — “In six days G‑d made....” This phrase signifies the eliciting of a Divine illumination that [incessantly] brings all the worlds into existence and animates them; i.e., a Divine illumination that is garbed in nature.21

On Shabbos, in contrast, work is forbidden, because the Shabbos day transcends the concept that “In six days G‑d made...”: the Divine illumination that radiates on Shabbos is not garbed or concealed in the garments of nature.

Rosh Chodesh is superior to other weekdays because at this time nature itself is elevated.

In brief: Shabbos represents a mode of Divine conduct that transcends the laws of nature; weekdays represent a mode of Divine conduct that conforms to the laws of nature; while the function of Rosh Chodesh is to call forth that which transcends nature and infuse it into the realm of nature.

4. Why Hallel on Rosh Chodesh? We can now come to understand why Hallel is recited on Rosh Chodesh, though not on other weekdays nor on Shabbos.

Hallel speaks of a supernatural, miraculous mode of Divine conduct. This is why we do not recite it on weekdays (indeed, the Sages say that22 “He who recites Hallel every day is a blasphemer”) — because man’s weekday conduct should specifically conform to the worldly laws of nature. (Thus it is written,23 “The L‑rd your G‑d will bless you in everything you do,” and in this spirit the Sages teach that24 “one should not rely on miracles.”) Nor do we recite Hallel on Shabbos, because we are commanded,25 “You shall not do any work,” and the Sages teach,26 “He who exerted himself on the eve of Shabbos shall eat on Shabbos” — as a matter of course.

On Rosh Chodesh, which is the intermediate stage between Shabbos and regular weekdays, we do say Hallel — as a request that G‑d continue to permeate our daily work and weekday occupations with a supernatural mode of Divine conduct.27

On Rosh Chodesh, the recitation of Hallel (and likewise the prohibition for women to work28 ) derives from custom; on Yom-Tov and Chanukah, the recitation of Hallel is obligated by law.29 Why the difference? On Rosh Chodesh, G‑d’s supernatural conduct permeates weekday activities in such a way that those activities are manifestly seen, while the underlying miracle remains concealed; on Yom-Tov and Chanukah, in contrast, the underlying miracle is revealed.

5. Is Rosh Chodesh Superior to Shabbos? To examine this more closely: As discussed at length in Chassidus,30 in a certain respect Rosh Chodesh is superior to Shabbos and in a certain respect Shabbos is superior to Rosh Chodesh.

With what is Shabbos superior? Work and mundane activities are permitted on Rosh Chodesh — unlike Shabbos, which is so much higher than the weekdays. For precisely the same reason, however, Rosh Chodesh is superior to Shabbos: because work is permitted on Rosh Chodesh, G‑d’s miraculous mode of relating to the world is thereby drawn all the way down to mundane activities.

We can understand this superiority of Rosh Chodesh over Shabbos by comparing it with the superiority of Purim over the three Pilgrim Festivals. The extent to which one should regale oneself on Purim, uniquely, is defined as31 ad delo yada — “until one cannot distinguish [between ‘Blessed be Mordechai!’ and ‘Cursed be Haman!’]” The other festivals are very different: though joy is a vital element of their observance, the law warns against being drawn unduly after wine and jollity.32

We should first note that when the Gemara33 discusses why we do not recite Hallel on Purim, one of the explanations is that “we are still servants of Achashverosh.” I.e., the miracle of Purim was clothed and hidden in nature — inasmuch as the king had to be persuaded to annul the decree, and even after this happened our people still remained his servants — and this is why we do not recite Hallel.

Now, it is true that there is something negative about a miracle that is clothed and hidden in nature (for which reason we do not recite Hallel over it). On the other hand, this is also a positive quality — because the fact that it is clothed in nature indicates the lofty heights of the Divine light that can plumb and permeate the very depths of nature. And this is why the joy experienced on Purim is greater than the joy experienced on all the festivals.34

Similarly, in a certain respect Rosh Chodesh is superior to Shabbos — because G‑d’s miraculous mode of relating to the world is then drawn down so far that it permeates His natural mode of relating to the world; indeed, it permeates even one’s mundane activities.

6. Who Needs Miracles? Why is it that specifically women are forbidden to work on Rosh Chodesh?

Women are likened to the body and men to the soul.35 Women, being likened to the body which is involved in worldly matters, require a palpable reminder to be vigilant when contending with materiality. Their monthly abstention from work on Rosh Chodesh serves as this reminder. Men, in contrast, are likened to the soul which transcends worldly matters. Indeed, the soul’s task is to master and refine the materiality of the world (as in the words of the Sages,36 “It is in the nature of a man to conquer”). Accordingly, men are in not such great need of a reminder of this kind.

What can we learn from this?

A person ought to attain a state in which he will not need reminders to be vigilant about matters that should be no concern of his. In particular, this can be accomplished by bonding oneself with a concept incomparably higher than oneself — becoming bonded to the extent that the concept becomes palpable, as it were, and then the individual needs no further supportive evidence for it.

Hiskashrus, a chassid’s soul-connection with the Rebbe, provides an example.

A certain chassid was once asked if his Rebbe was inspired by ruach hakodesh.

“Why does that really matter?” he responded. “I know that he’s a Rebbe. So, whichever way you look at it: If a Rebbe has to have ruach hakodesh, he’s got it; and if not, then why get so excited about ruach hakodesh...?”37

This response recalls what Rambam writes38 about Moshe Rabbeinu: “It was not because of the miracles he performed that the Jewish people believed in him”; rather, it was “the assembly at Mount Sinai, where it was our eyes that saw, and not the eyes of a stranger....”

Likewise, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once related that when he was a little boy learning in the cheder, he asked R. Shimshon the Melamed:39 How is it possible that even after Pharaoh was shown miracles and underwent the Plagues, all this made no impression on him and he repeatedly changed his mind?

After offering various explanations that his pupil did not find satisfying, the teacher finally said: “Pharaoh did not believe. Therefore, even when he saw miracles, as soon as his problems eased he reverted to his former place, to his innate waywardness. Moshe, in contrast, was a chassid — in fact, a Chabadnik — and therefore did not look for miracles. Without miracles, he immediately knew and believed (that40 ‘with our young and with our old folk... we shall go out’). His desire was to bring the Torah, the knowledge of G‑d, to the people. He made a matching assumption about the people — that they would ask,41 ‘What is His Name?’ and that when he would have an answer for them, they would accept him (without miracles).”42

7. A Month of Red-Letter Days. Over and above what was explained earlier about the concept of Rosh Chodesh in general, there is something distinctive about this particular Rosh Chodesh — Rosh Chodesh Kislev — insofar as it incorporates all the unique days of this month:

Tes (9) Kislev: The birthday of the Mitteler Rebbe [in 1773]43 and the day of his histalkus [in 1827];

Yud (10) Kislev: The day on which the Mitteler Rebbe was released from imprisonment [in 1826];

Yud-Tes (19) Kislev: In the words of the Alter Rebbe,44 this is “the great and festive day that marks the passing”45 of the Maggid [of Mezritch, in 1772]; it is also the day on which the Alter Rebbe was released from prison [in 1798].

24 Kislev: The day on which the additional construction of the foundation [begun earlier by Coresh (Cyrus)] for the Second Beis HaMikdash was renewed;46

25 Kislev: The day on which the construction of the Mishkan was concluded. In later years G‑d recompensed this day47 by the Hasmonean dedication — the miracle of Chanukah in the times of the Second Beis HaMikdash.

And the influence of all these dates begins by means of the blessings that are drawn down on this Shabbos, the day48 “from which all the [forthcoming] days are blessed” — i.e., all the weekdays, including Rosh Chodesh Kislev which encapsulates all the above dates.

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8. Should the Body Direct the Soul?! Today we read,49 “And Sarah died in Kiryas Arba, which is Hebron, and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her.” On this the Zohar50 comments that Sarah alludes to the body and Avraham alludes to the soul.51 The Zohar expounds the verse phrase by phrase:

“And Sarah died...: This alludes to the body;

..in Kiryas Arba [lit., ‘in the City of the Four’]: This alludes to the Four Elements;52

..which is Hebron: This means that they were joined together53 in his body during its lifetime;

..and Avraham came: This is the soul;

..to eulogize Sarah: This is the body.” (And the Zohar proceeds to explain that even after death there is a connection between the soul and the body.)54

This statement — that Sarah alludes to the body and Avraham alludes to the soul — must be consistently applicable throughout the entire Torah. If so, how shall we understand the instruction given to Avraham (who alludes to the soul),55 “Whatever Sarah (who alludes to the body) tells you, heed her voice”?

9. Don’t Beat Your Donkey: Harness It! The above question, about heeding the body, is answered by a well-known teaching of the Baal Shem Tov.56

There is a verse which ordinarily means:57 “If you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its burden, you might want to refrain from helping him, but instead you must make every effort to help him.” In this verse the Baal Shem Tov sees a lesson on the primacy of serving G‑d with the body. Expounding the verse phrase by phrase on the non-literal level of derush, the Baal Shem Tov teaches:

“If you see the donkey (chamor): If you carefully examine your own materiality (chomer), i.e., your body, you will see that it is your enemy, inasmuch as it hates the soul which yearns for Elokus and spirituality — for early in a man’s life and in the early stages of his avodah, the body and soul hate each other.

..lying under its burden: This burden is the yoke of the Torah and its commandments, and it is its burden, the body’s burden. Indeed, the commandments are given to souls vested in bodies because G‑d’s intent is that the body be refined. Nevertheless, the body sees this yoke as an unwanted burden, so it lies down under its weight.

..you might want to refrain from helping him: You might think that since the body is lying down under its burden, you might as well engage in avodah that relates to the soul, while crushing the body by fasts and self-mortification. It is therefore written:

..you must make every effort to help him (lit., ‘to help with him’), since it is specifically the body that one has to refine.”

10. A Real Love of G‑d Makes the Heart Beat Faster. Not only were the mitzvos given to souls vested in bodies: in addition, the mitzvos themselves have been vested in material things.

This is highlighted in the superiority of the physical practice (the body) of a mitzvah over the spiritual intent (the soul) of the mitzvah.58 Therefore, even if one were to concentrate on all the kabbalistic kavannos underlying the mitzvah of tefillin, without physically binding the tefillin to his arm and head, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah. (Furthermore, he will have transgressed by neglecting to observe the mitzvah.) If, on the other hand, he did actually put on tefillin, but did not (or did not know how to) meditate on the underlying spiritual concepts, then though he will be punishable for this lack, he will have fulfilled the mitzvah itself.

Thus, for the bris of one of the grandsons of the Tzemach Tzedek, a choice had to made between two circumcisors. The elder mohel was expert in the esoteric kabbalistic writings of the AriZal, at least on the subject of circumcision; the younger one was extremely proficient in his craft, but a man of far less stature than the other. The Tzemach Tzedek preferred the younger mohel. What counts most, he explained, is the ability to physically cut.59

This priority applies not only to the practical commandments.60 The same applies even to the commandments which are “obligations of the heart,61 such as the love of G‑d and the awe of G‑d, or obligations of the brain,62 such as the commandment of belief in G‑d’s Unity. Here, too, the commandment is that these emotions and attitudes be experienced in the physical flesh of the heart and brain.63

Furthermore, we find that64 “good tidings fatten the bones” physically, as in the episode recounted in the Gemara65 where good news physically affected a certain person’s body. The same should apply to one’s love of G‑d. The experience that66 “G‑d’s nearness is pleasant for me” should be evident even in the physical body. The same too should apply to one’s fear of G‑d. Not only should it tauten the brain, or even the heart: moreover, it should be evident in the physical flesh.

An example of this may be found in the lives of our Nesi’im, the Rebbeim of their respective generations, who have pointed out everything for us.

Thus, one Rosh HaShanah or Yom Kippur, when the Alter Rebbe came to say the words,67 ובכן תן פחדך... — “And so, L‑rd our G‑d, instill a fear of You upon all that You have made” — he was so overcome with fear that he rolled over the floor, unable to articulate more than the syllable פח... פח..., until he eventually regained his composure and continued.

Another example: Once, in his early years as Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek was farbrengen with his chassidim, and on the table before him there was kavit, an extremely strong beverage that here is called “90%.” He drank one cup, and a second, and asked that a third be poured. He then passed his hand over his forehead and the beverage left no trace. At that moment, as he later explained, he meditated on the greatness of G‑d until he was overcome by fear — for though68 “wine is potent, fear negates it.” In other words, the fear of G‑d had such an influence on his physical body that it was freed of the effect of the beverage.

Similarly with one’s love of G‑d. The saintly R. Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl69 gained weight as a result of saying,70 Amen, Yehei shmei rabbah... — because when he meditated on the greatness of Havayah, “His great Name,” which is “blessed forever and to all eternity,” and which is drawn down into all the worlds including the physical World of Asiyah, the love and delight aroused within him were so ardent that they even affected his body physically.

11. A Foretaste of the World to Come. The above thoughts enable us to understand the [paradoxical] directive71 given to Avraham (who alludes to the soul), “Whatever Sarah (who alludes to the body) tells you, heed her voice.”

Ultimately, the focus of the Divine intent is the body. In the present, the ultimate superiority of the body is latent, but in the time to come it will be so manifest that the soul will be nourished by the body.72

Concerning the Patriarchs it is written that73 “in this world, G‑d gave them a foretaste of the World to Come.” For this reason [while still in this world] they consciously experienced the superior worth of the body, even relative to the soul. And that is why the instruction was given to Avraham (who alludes to the soul), “Whatever Sarah (who alludes to the body) tells you, heed her voice.”

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12. Fit for Military Service. Ultimately, as was said above, the Divine intent focuses on the body. This kind of preference is exemplified in the examinations preceding military conscription, where the main prerequisite is physical fitness. The individual’s spiritual state, the state of his neshamah, is of little intrinsic interest. Provided he does not show symptoms indicating that he is out of his mind (like74 “one who sleeps in a cemetery,” and the like), then if his body is healthy he is conscripted.

Indeed, the wellbeing of the soul is not only intrinsically immaterial, but can even be a disadvantage; as it is taught,75 “The strength of the soul weakens [the animal strength of] the body.”

In this spirit our Sages ruled:76 “If a man takes upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares are removed from him.” This means that when he takes upon himself the yoke of Torah his soul is strengthened, and hence [the animal strength of] his body is weakened. This dual effect is reflected in the phrase describing the Torah as77 עוז ותושי-ה (lit., “strength and wisdom”), which is expounded by the Sages78 [on the non-literal level of interpretation known as derush] as follows: The Torah grants strength (עז) to the Divine soul, and weakens (,a,n) the power of the animal soul.

(By the way: The above ruling —“If a man takes upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares are removed from him” — is not conditional on when the yoke of Torah is undertaken. Thus, even if a man has been called up for military service in two or three days, this is not irrevocable. If he accepts the yoke of Torah now, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares are removed from him.79 )

Why is it that in the examinations preceding military conscription in the material realm, the individual’s spiritual state is of less concern than his physical fitness? — Because this is the order of priorities in the spiritual realm, in the Army of G‑d.80

A man’s main avodah in fulfilling the commandments is the actual deed. As our Sages teach,81 המעשה הוא העיקר — “What matters most is the deed,” which relates to the body, rather than the spiritual kavanah, which relates to the soul. A person who meditates upon all the relevant kavanos without doing the required action in practice, has not discharged his obligation, whereas one who does the required action in practice, even without kavanos,82 is accepted into G‑d’s Army.

At the same time, one should keep one’s distance from symptoms of being out of one’s mind, such as618 “sleeping in a cemetery.” In spiritual terms, this phrase describes a per­son who engages in Torah and mitzvos throughout the day, but when night comes, when his soul ascends on high, he allows his body to sleep in a cemetery, in a place of the kelipos which are known as “the dead.”83 By so doing, he arrives at another of the signs of a man who is out of his mind:84 המאבד כל מה שנותנים לו — “He loses whatever has been given to him.” The word מה brings to mind the gift, known in the Kabbalah as מה, which heaven grants every Jew — an inborn potential for self-nullification and for an unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven. This is the gift which one must be vigilant not to lose85 by allowing one’s body to “sleep in a cemetery,” so to speak.

13. Toil vs. Inclination. The above discussion is particularly relevant to the yeshivah students here. There are students who search and come to seek advice as to how they can acquire a desire to study Torah.

Their answer lies in the conscription procedures of any army in the physical realm. Military authorities do not ask each potential conscript whether or not he has a desire to join the army. (Nor, if he does not have such a desire, do they send him home to take it easy and have a good sleep until he does have such a desire and does decide to enlist....) Instead, provided only that he is healthy, he is conscripted even if he has no such desire. The same procedure applies in the spiritual army. It is immaterial whether a conscript has such a desire (which relates to the soul) or not. Rather, he is obliged to fulfill his duty (in our case — to study Torah) out of kabbalas ol, in unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven.

Indeed, Torah study mandated by kabbalas ol has a certain superiority over Torah study inspired by inclination.

Thus,86 a certain chassid entered the study of the Tzemach Tzedek and complained that he did not have a desire to study Torah.

“If so,” replied the Tzemach Tzedek, “good for you! But what can I do? I do have a desire to study!”

Underlying this reply is the explanation given in the hemshech of maamarim of the year 5666 [1906],87 on the lofty worth of toiling88 in the study of Torah. It is by such toil that one can attain the spiritual heights known as Eden, concerning which it is written,89 “No eye but Yours, O G‑d, has beheld it; He shall act for him who waits for Him.” And to whom does the last phrase refer? — “To those who exert themselves strenuously for a word of wisdom.”90

A person should therefore rejoice that he lacks a desire to study, because in that situation he will have to toil ever more strenuously and study Torah out of kabbalas ol. And by so doing he will arrive at the lofty state called Eden.

If so, a student who searches and seeks advice as to how he can acquire a desire to study Torah forgoes a wonderful opportunity that has come his way. It is his good fortune, so to speak, that he has no desire to study — he really and truly does not want to study — and so he has been given the opportunity to study out of kabbalas ol and toil, and thereby to attain the heights of Eden. Nevertheless, he forgoes this Garden of Eden and everything that goes with it, and in exchange he asks that he be granted... a desire to study?!

True enough, if he asks for a desire to study his request will be granted, for G‑d is good and acts kindly, and grants the request of each individual according to his will and desire. (Thus, on the verse,91 פותח את ידיך, ומשביע לכל חי רצון — “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,” the Metzudos comments:92 “...according to his will and desire.”) So, since this student’s will and desire is that he be granted an inclination to study, his request will be granted — for what matters most, after all, is that he should study.

(Along these lines my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], explains in a maamar93 that the ultimate concern is not by what means an individual extricates himself from evil: the ultimate concern is that he should in fact extricate himself.)

Nevertheless, to revert to our student with his request, after a month or two or half a year of studying with a desire to do so, he will sense that he is lacking the gains of toiling at his studies with kabbalas ol. And when that time comes he will complain, as in the story of the Tzemach Tzedek, that he does have a desire to study....

14. Has Your Passport Expired? The above discussion applies even more particularly to the yeshivah students who have come here from the Holy Land (May it be speedily rebuilt!).94

One of the isolated justifications that make it permissible to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora is Torah study.95 In our case, the Rebbe [Rayatz] took the responsibility upon himself and directed that these students leave Eretz Yisrael for the sake of studying Torah. Accordingly, if (G‑d forbid) their Torah study is inadequate, their permit to leave Eretz Yisrael is halachically invalid.

15. Purposeful Self-Denial. Another aspect of this sense of responsibility towards the Rebbe applies equally to all the temimim, whether from Eretz Yisrael or from the Diaspora, as well as to all those who have a bond with the Rebbe.

As is well known,96 when the czarist authorities came to arrest the Alter Rebbe [in 1798] he first hid, in fulfillment of the verse,97 “Hide a short moment until the fury passes.” When they came again, a distinguished chassid by the name of R. Shmuel Munkes98 advised that he should not hide but should accompany them. The Alter Rebbe pointed out the danger involved, so R. Shmuel Munkes replied: “Whichever way you look at it, — if you are a Rebbe, they won’t be able to hurt you; and if you’re not a Rebbe, then with what right have you deprived thousands of Jews of their enjoyment of gashmiyus...?”99

For thousands of Jews, the Rebbe [Rayatz] removed (or at least diminished) their relish in the pleasure of worldly delights. Why? In order to enable them to arrive at a knowledge of Elokus, to100 “know the G‑d of your father and serve Him with a whole heart.” Accordingly, if people conduct themselves in a way that does not fulfill his purpose, then what is left is the deprivation of relish but without any result.

16. Responsibility Toward the Rebbe. All in all, people should know that the conduct of chassidim affects the Rebbe.

A maamar which the Rebbe Rashab delivered on the last Chaf Cheshvan101 of his life in this world102 (viz., Semuchim Laad103 5680 [1919]104 ) quotes a phrase from the Zohar:105 אבל סמך דא עזר — “...but support is the same as help.” Usually the two words are distinct: “support” means the prevention of further falling, whereas “help” suggests the initiation of some activity. Here, however, the Zohar likens “support” to “help”: the lower supports the higher.

This principle relates to us: the way we conduct ourselves (i.e., the conduct of the lower party) also affects the Rebbe (the higher party).

As is well known,106 a distinguished chassid by the name of R. Yaakov Mordechai [Bespalov] of Poltava107 once entered the study of the Rebbe Maharash for yechidus. The Rebbe Maharash said: “When there is a Rebbe there are chassidim — that is, chassidim who are active in avodah.... And chassidim, by being chassidim and men of deeds in their divine service, gave strength to the Rebbe.”108

How weighty, then, is the responsibility of chassidim who are bound with the Rebbe — for their conduct affects the Rebbe, too. If, therefore, a person conducts himself (G‑d forbid) inappropriately, he is not only comparable to the halachic category of “one who causes damage to himself” (and who is not permitted to do so but is not liable to pay a fine); in addition, he is comparable to the halachic category of “one who causes damage to others” (and who is liable).109 How much more does this apply in our case, where the “others” is a comprehensive soul,110 and so on. Here, the responsibility is weighty indeed.

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17. What Would the Rebbe Expect of Me? We read today, “The life of Sarah was a hundred years and twenty years and seven years.” On this our Sages comment:111 “For this reason the word ‘year’ is repeated in each phrase — to teach you that each phrase is to be expounded alone. At a hundred years she was as at twenty — sinless..., and at twenty years she was as at seven — with regard to beauty.”

Here we may observe an allusion to stages in man’s divine service.

A hundred years signifies the culmination of a man’s avodah with all of his ten soul-faculties, each of them comprising ten components.112

Twenty is the age — beyond the various halachic definitions of a minor — at which adult avodah truly begins, for then one attains mature intellectual perception.113 For this reason an heir cannot sell his father’s estate under the age of twenty.114 Likewise, in Hilchos Talmud Torah,115 the Alter Rebbe rules that at the age of twenty a person has accumulated not only five years of studying the Written Law and five years of Mishnah, but also five years of Talmud. At this point, the time has arrived for him “to pursue”116 a livelihood.

By the way: The reason one has to pursue one’s physical livelihood at twenty is that there is a corresponding dynamic in ruchniyus: one has to pursue one’s spiritual livelihood. (As has often been discussed,117 the laws in the nigleh (the revealed dimension) of the Torah grow out of the pnimiyus (the innermost, mystical dimension) of the Torah.) In the same way, Chassidus explains118 that because the soul yearns for a spark of kedushah embedded in an item of food, the body also develops a desire to eat it.

Seven years is the age at which education formally begins.119

These concepts enable us to understand the allusion to man’s divine service which is to be found in the words quoted above:655 “At a hundred years she was as at twenty..., and at twenty years she was as at seven....” In order to reach “a hundred years,” i.e., in order to arrive at the culmination of one’s avodah, in such a way that “at a hundred years she was as at twenty — sinless,” just as one was at the outset of one’s avodah, then one first has to fulfill the directive of the other phrase: “at twenty years she was as at seven.” Even when one attains mature understanding at twenty, one should not be guided by independent notions, but should conduct oneself like a seven-year-old: he has no opinions of his own but does what he is directed to do.

Even someone who is twenty years old and therefore has (or at least he should have, and therefore he thinks he has) intellectual maturity, should not seek to blaze original trails. Rather, every individual should seek to assess — but with intellectual honesty — exactly what task the Rebbe would have expected of him, and should then go ahead and bring it to completion.

* * *

18. Ephemeral Fragrance vs. Solid Implementation. [To­wards the end of the farbrengen the Rebbe said:] My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once said120 that a chassi­disher farbrengen is basically a question of fragrance. This individual takes a whiff and enjoys a quotable teaching,121 that one takes a whiff and is pleased that he has found an answer to some query encountered in his studies, and so forth — but as far as actual implementation is concerned, nothing solid remains. To continue the metaphor: What should remain is not mere fragrance, but tangible eating and drinking, i.e., deeds.

It’s almost two o’clock. Soon everyone will go home and eat cholent... and everything that was spoken about will be forgotten.

True enough, a Shabbos meal does not coarsen. Thus, commenting on the phrase,122 “the filth of your festivals,” the Zohar123 points out: “It says ‘the filth of your festivals,’ but not ‘the filth of your Sabbaths.’” (See Torah Or124 on our parshah.) Moreover, it will be argued, partaking of a Shabbos meal is a mitzvah, and should therefore be done behiddur, beautifully and conscientiously. Thus Rambam speaks of125 “very fat dishes and spiced beverages.” Indeed, some people make a point of eating double portions, for does the Midrash126 not say that “all the affairs of Shabbos are dual”...? (My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once mentioned the existence of such a custom — to eat two kinds of fish, two kinds of meat, and so on.) In brief, a person can become utterly entrenched in his Shabbos meal, and in support of this he can cite prooftexts from the nigleh of the Torah — from a halachic statement of Rambam, no less, as well as from a vort of the Rebbe, and so on. In truth, however, in this area even a hiddur mitzvah needs to be limited.... And in order to know what limits are appropriate, all one has to do is to compare one’s hiddur mitzvah in the area of Shabbos delight, such as at the Shabbos meals, with one’s hiddur mitzvah in those commandments from which the body derives no enjoyment or even undergoes distress...!

The point to keep in mind, then, is the practical core of all the above — that every individual should try to picture to himself: What task would the Rebbe direct me to do? — and then do it.

And when every individual does what the Rebbe directs him to do, then speedily, in our own times, the Rebbe will lead us toward the complete Redemption.

19. Now, Too, He Judges Israel. A written record has arrived here (from Eretz Yisrael) of a sichah delivered by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz],127 when he was still in Russia, concerning the complete Redemption. There he said: “This will take place in my days!”

These words of the Rebbe — that the Redemption will take place in his days — are still valid. The present situation, in these few months, does not constitute an interruption, because now, too, he judges Israel. As our Sages state,128 when the people continue to “stand in awe of him,” it is as if now, too, “he judged Israel.”129