1. Victory in the Courtroom

As1 is well known, everything in this world has a source in the spiritual world above, and from this source evolves its substantial echo in our world below.2 As our Sages teach,3 “The Holy One, blessed be He, made the world below similar to the world above.” Likewise,4 “Sovereignty on earth resembles the Sovereignty of heaven.” This principle thus applies also to the imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch, and his liberation. (As a result of this, Yud-Tes Kislev was instituted as an everlasting festival - until the coming of Mashiach and beyond.5) The underlying cause of this episode in the Alter Rebbe’s life is that there was a corresponding dynamic in the world above; from this evolved the events in the world below.

One6 day during the imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe in the Peter-Paul Fortress,7 he was visited by his mentor, the Maggid of Mezritch, together with his mentor, the Baal Shem Tov, from the World of Truth. (It should be added that they were garbed in corporeal frames. Indeed, when my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], came home from a visit to this very spot,8 his father, the Rebbe [Rashab], asked him if there was room in that cell for three people…. As is explained in Chassidus,9 the revelation of a soul when it is garbed in a body is loftier than when it is not.)

In the course of their long dialogue the Alter Rebbe asked his mentors what reason underlay his imprisonment. They explained that accusatory voices in the Heavenly Court had charged that he was revealing the teachings of Chassidus - the Torah’s precious mysteries, the King’s very crown - publicly. And when the Alter Rebbe asked them whether he should continue in this path after his release, they replied that since he had begun to reveal the teachings of Chassidus publicly, he should continue and even increase his activities.

Accordingly, the imprisonment in this world resulted from the accusatory voices that protested against his public revelation of Chassidus, and this is why there was also an accusatory protest down here below. Likewise, his liberation and redemption resulted from the annulment of the charge that had been levelled in the Heavenly Court; the Court accepted his approach to the revelation and widespread dissemination of Chassidus.

This is what Yud-Tes Kislev basically signifies: דידן נצח (Didan natzach) - “Our side is victorious!”10 It signifies not merely a victory over the Russian government, but also - and especially - a victory in the Heavenly Court: the policy of the Alter Rebbe that the teachings of Chassidus should be revealed and publicly disseminated became a legitimate view and an authoritative ruling.

2. An Intellectual Heritage for All Jews

To be more specific, there are two aspects to this victory:

(i) The teachings of Chassidus are relevant to all Jews.

According to the formerly prevalent view, the study of the Torah’s secrets was exclusively appropriate to outstanding individuals,11 or at least to those who had already rectified all those spiritual imperfections that call for rectification. The innovation of the Alter Rebbe was that the study of Chassidus is appropriate to all of Israel, even to the lowliest of souls that are to be found in ikvesa diMeshicha,12 in the generation [at the “heels”, at the lowest extremity of Jewish history13] that can hear the approaching footsteps of Mashiach. Even those who have not yet fulfilled their obligations with regard to the positive commandments,14 and even those whose vigilance is not yet perfect with regard to the Torah’s prohibitions,15 - for them, too, the study of Chassidus is appropriate.

As the Rebbe Rashab expressed it,16 it was “after Petersburg” (i.e., after the liberation of the Alter Rebbe) that “the dissemination of the wellsprings far afield” really began,17 for it was then that heaven gave its assent to the Alter Rebbe’s policy of uncovering and publicizing the teachings of Chassidus among all Jews.

(ii) Chassidus should be studied (by all Jews) with a view to intellectual comprehension, like the study of any topic in the revealed dimension of the Torah.18

This insistence on intellectual comprehension is a condition that applies only to the study of the Oral Torah.19 With regard to reading the Written Torah,20 in contrast,21 “if one articulates the words with his lips, then though he does not even understand the meaning of the words because he is an ignoramus, he fulfills the commandment, ulemad’tem - ‘and you shall study [the commandments of the Torah].’22 Hence every ignoramus recites the blessings over the Torah in the morning before the quoted verses,23 and likewise when he is called up to the Reading of the Torah24 […]. With regard to the Oral Torah, however, if he does not understand its meaning this is not regarded as study at all.”25 (This is the halachic ruling of the author of Magen Avraham,26 which is cited by the Alter Rebbe.27) Against this background, the Alter Rebbe’s innovation is that even Chassidus - the secrets of the Torah, Kabbalah, which relate to Scripture, the Written Torah28 - can and should be studied with intellectual comprehension.

As this was expressed by the Rebbe Rashab, “after Petersburg” the teachings of Chassidus assumed an intellectual garb, in such a way that even intellect as found in the physical brain can comprehend Elokus.

These two points combine to constitute the core of the Yom-Tov of Yud-Tes Kislev: Didan natzach - “Our side is victorious!” On this day two aspects of the Alter Rebbe’s cause were vindicated: his conviction that the teachings of Chassidus are relevant to all Jews, and his conviction that every Jew can study these concepts and grasp them intellectually.

Acting on this conviction paves the way for the coming of Mashiach. For, in response to the Baal Shem Tov’s question as to when he would come, Mashiach replied, “When your wellsprings will be disseminated far afield.”

3. Starting a New Day

Since that Yud-Tes Kislev, with its heavenly vindication of these two aspects of the Alter Rebbe’s view, every Jew has before him, not an open option, but a sacred obligation to study Chassidus, just like the obligation to study all other aspects of the Torah.

Moreover, one should study Torah at the very beginning of the day. This is why we recite the blessings over the Torah in the course of the Morning Blessings and then recite verses from the Written Torah (viz., the Priestly Blessing) and a mishnah from the Oral Law. Indeed, according to our custom, whereby we recite the Morning Blessings (which include the blessings over the Torah) before we put on tallis and tefillin, our Torah study precedes even the observance of the mitzvos.

And in our days - before the coming of Mashiach, when29 “many will be refined and clarified and freed from impurity” - the same should apply to Chassidus: at the very beginning of the day, before putting on tallis and tefillin, one ought to study Chassidus.

Someone might perhaps argue that the study of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch,30 for example, cannot be postponed because people have to know what to do, whereas the study of Chassidus, the Torah’s innermost dimension, could surely be postponed until one has had his fill of the Shas and the poskim,31 or at least until he has completed his avodah of “turning away from evil” and “doing good.” In reply to this argument: Just as the obligation to study nigleh, the revealed dimension of the Torah, applies at the very beginning of the day, even before putting on tallis and tefillin, so too does the obligation to study Chassidus apply at the very beginning of the day - regardless of one’s standing in “turning away from evil” and in “doing good” (i.e., before putting on tallis and tefillin).

Moreover,32 “it is not [beyond reach] in the heavens,” for “after Petersburg” (i.e., after the liberation of the Alter Rebbe) “the dissemination of the wellsprings far afield” really began.33 The wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid, as elucidated in the works of the Alter Rebbe, are now disseminated to the furthest places - i.e., to every Jew, regardless of his current spiritual standing.

4. In a Healthy Body, the Head Makes the Decisions

Since Yud-Tes Kislev is34 “the Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus,” this is surely an appropriate time for every individual here to resolve to set aside times for the study of Chassidus. As far as the study of nigleh is concerned, everyone no doubt already has regular sessions; in addition, everyone should undertake to set aside regular times to study Chassidus.

It is especially effective to make such a decision on Yud-Tes Kislev, because this is “the Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus” - the head of the chassidic year.35 Just as a healthy body is guided by the decisions of the head, the decisions made on this day, the head of the chassidic year, will no doubt be realized and actualized in the course of the coming year.

5. Rains in Due Season

By so doing, our people merit the fulfillment of the promise,36 “If you walk in the ways of My statutes…, I shall grant you your rains in their due season.” Rashi explains that “walking in the ways of My statutes” means that “you shall toil in the study of the Torah.”

This toil applies particularly to pnimiyus haTorah, the Torah’s innermost dimension. As this is explained by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz],37 the study of Chassidus demands extreme intellectual exertion, for all of its topics are conceptually subtle and profound. Not only do they deal with spiritual matters, but in addition, the explanations and analogies and parables are borrowed from palpable and sensory and tangible things, such as the faculties of the soul; hence the need for extreme exertion.

And when “you will walk in the ways of My statutes,” in the sense that “you shall toil in the study of the Torah,” in the study of Chassidus, then, as a matter of course, “I shall grant you your rains in their due season.” (This recalls a classic debate on the subject of the reward given for the fulfillment of mitzvos.38 Does it come as a segulah, as a superrational gift, not directly linked with the actual mitzvos observed? Or, did G‑d invest His universe with a natural law whereby the observance of commandments elicits a reward naturally, just as fire by nature burns and water by nature extinguishes, or just as “walking in the ways of My statutes” spontaneously and naturally brings about the result that “I shall grant you your rains in their due season”?)

The verse makes a point of promising rains in their due season.

As to granting rains in general, i.e., material benefactions,39 then since G‑d is utter kindness and40 “it is natural for the kind to act kindly,” surely He will grant material benefactions (“your rains”) anyway, even without the study of Chassidus. However, if the rains are to be granted in their due season, i.e., on Tuesday nights and Friday nights41 so that they will not disturb other things - i.e., if the material benefactions that G‑d grants are to be in their due season so as not to disturb one’s Torah and avodah, one has to toil in the study of the Torah. And, as has been said, this mainly applies to the study of Chassidus. If a man toils, then as a matter of course his material benefactions will be granted in such a way that they will not disrupt his Torah study and his avodah.

6. Time Well Spent?

As was discussed (in sec. 2) above, the study of Chassidus is becoming appropriate for all Jews, since it was “after Petersburg” that “the dissemination of the wellsprings far afield” really began.

Some people, however, especially Torah scholars, argue that though the study of Chassidus is relevant to all Jews, it does not directly relate to one’s conduct on the practical level of thought, speech and action. (For this, they argue, the study of Shulchan Aruch sufficed in the past and suffices in the present, too.) Moreover, they ask, since the study of Chassidus demands so much time, would it not be preferable to devote that time to studying nigleh, the revealed plane of the Torah? At least in that field of scholarship, so the argument runs, there are far superior opportunities to make one’s mark by propounding innovative trains of thought.

The answer to this argument is provided by the wording of the reply given by Mashiach himself to the Baal Shem Tov’s question as to when he would come: “When your wellsprings [i.e., the teachings of Chassidus] will be disseminated far afield.”

7. Mikveh vs. Wellspring - Halachically

Let us first distinguish between two kinds of water through which a person can purify himself - mei maayan (wellspring water) and mei mikveh (the waters of a mikveh).

Mikveh water is separated from its source. (This is true when the mikveh is filled with rainwater, which is not in the same state now as it was when still within its source in the clouds;42 how much more is it true when the mikveh is filled with ice or snow.) Wellspring water, in contrast, is connected to its source. (Moreover, if it is intercepted, it loses the unique halachic status of the wellspring from which it arose.43)

Among the halachic distinctions between these two kinds of water:44

(a) A mikveh can purify only when it contains a minimal volume of 40 se’ah of water, whereas a mere nominal quantity of wellspring water can purify (metaher bekol-shehu). (Only utensils can be purified by this quantity, though some views apply it to people as well.45)

(b) A mikveh can purify only when its water is collected in a certain kind of hollow in the ground (metaher be’ashboren), whereas in the case of a wellspring, its water can purify while presently flowing from it (metaher bezochalin). (Indeed, Tosafos46 raises the possibility that a wellspring can purify only when its water is presently flowing from it; the conclusion, however, is that it can purify even when its water is presently flowing from it.)

8. Mikveh vs. Wellspring - Spiritually

Let us now understand the spiritual underpinnings of these halachic distinctions.

At first sight it would appear that the dominant characteristic of a mikveh - that it is separated from its source - has no place in ruchniyus, on the plane of Divinity, because G‑d is the Source of everything that exists. As it is written,47 “In the heavens above and in the earth below, there is nothing else.” Hence there is no possibility of ever being separated from Him (G‑d forbid).

Nevertheless, in order to make free choice possible (as it is written,48 “Behold, I have set before you this day life and […]; choose life!”), G‑d left room for man to err and to think that there exist two realms of authority.49 Doing this is in itself an expression of His infinite capability, the capability of Ein Sof. Thus the Alter Rebbe writes in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah:50 “This [capacity for self-concealment] is, precisely, the restraining power of the Holy One, blessed be He, Who is Omnipotent, [and hence able] to condense the life-force and spirituality which issues from the ‘breath of His mouth’ and to conceal it…,” to the point that it can even appear to a mortal observer that he exists separately, independent of Divinity.

The above concepts throw light on the distinction between mei maayan (wellspring water) and mei mikveh (the waters of a mikveh) insofar as they relate to one’s immersion in the Torah, which is likened to water51 - mei hadaas, the waters of spiritual understanding.52 For, just as the waters of a mikveh are separated from their source, so too even the study of the Torah can be separated from its Source by the insensitivity of the student. Rather, just as wellspring water is constantly connected with its source, one should endeavor to study Torah in a way that is constantly connected with its Source.

9. Mikveh vs. Wellspring - In Avodah

It is written:53 “Who is the wise man who can understand this…: Why was the land laid waste? [And G‑d replies:] ‘Because they forsook My Torah….’” The Gemara spells this out:54 “They did not recite the blessing over the Torah before studying it.” On this Rabbeinu Nissim comments:55 “No doubt they were constantly occupied in studying the Torah… - except that ‘they did not recite the blessing over the Torah before studying it.’ I.e., they did not hold the Torah in such high esteem that it should warrant a blessing. Because they did not study it lishmah, for its own sublime sake, they thought too little of the obligation to pronounce a blessing over it.”

What does this signify?56

The Torah should be studied in a way that makes it apparent that it is G‑d’s Torah. This is why the blessing is recited first: “Blessed are You, G‑d, Who gives the Torah.” This connects the student of the Torah with the Giver of the Torah. Moreover, the blessing (“…Who gives the Torah”) is worded in the present tense.57 Indeed, so strong is the parallel between one’s current study of the Torah and the initial Giving of the Torah at Sinai, that the Sages teach,58 “Just as there it was received with awe and dread and trembling and shuddering, so too here….” Now, it is true that at Sinai, unlike today, the Children of Israel were at such a lofty level of spirituality that they shared a glimmer of Moshe Rabbeinu’s gift of prophecy.59 Nevertheless, since He “Who gives the Torah” continues to do so today, it ought to be studied “with awe and dread” and so on, just as at the moment of the initial Giving of the Torah.60

Accordingly, Torah study which is preceded by the above blessing - i.e., Torah which is studied lishmah, for its own holy sake, in a way that makes one’s connection with the Giver of the Torah tangible - resembles mei maayan, the waters of a wellspring, life-giving waters that retain their connection with their source. The Sages express it thus:61 “If a person is meritorious (and hence studies Torah lishmah), it becomes for him an elixir of life” - by virtue of its connection with the Giver of the Torah, Who is the Source of Life; as it is written,62 “And you who cleave to the L-rd your G‑d are all alive today.”

If, however, while one studies Torah one forgets about the Giver of the Torah - i.e., his study is not lishmah, but the kind of which it is said that “If a person is not meritorious, it becomes for him an elixir of […]” - then his study resembles mei mikveh, the water of a mikveh. It is water, but not life-giving water that is connected with its source, because from his perspective there is a separation.

This subject highlights the distinction between nigleh, the revealed dimension of the Torah, and the Torah’s pnimiyus, its inner dimension which was revealed in the teachings of Chassidus.

In the case of the revealed dimension, it is possible to study the Torah and to forget its Giver; such study resembles the water of a mikveh which is separate from its source. In the study of Chassidus, in contrast, since the actual subject under discussion (e.g., the scheme of hishtalshelus) is Elokus, the connection with the Giver of the Torah is spontaneous; such study resembles wellspring water, which is constantly connected with its source.

10. Mikveh plus Wellspring - Torah Lishmah

These concepts can lend us a more sensitive perception of the particular laws governing a mikveh and a wellspring - i.e., the distinction between the mikveh’s minimal quantity and the wellspring’s nominal quantity, and the distinction between standing water and flowing water - in relation to Torah study.

A mikveh (alluding to the revealed dimension of the Torah) can purify only when it has a minimum of 40 se’ah of water, i.e., a quantity of water in which one’s whole body can be submerged.63 In terms of study, this means that one requires an extraordinary amount of Torah study (as in the advice of the Sages to a child’s Torah teacher,64 “Stuff him like an ox!”). A man has to become so inundated with Torah that his materiality and physicality are lost in it. In the absence of this superabundance, the Torah can “become for him an elixir of […].”

With the waters of a wellspring (alluding to the teachings of Chassidus), a mere nominal quantity can purify (metaher bekol-shehu). Chassidus can achieve its goal even with one hour’s study. (In this spirit our Sages teach,65 יש קונה עולמו בשעה אחת - “It can happen that a man earns his share in the World to Come in one hour”; i.e., with a single change of direction.66) This single hour of study invested in the wellspring-waters of Chassidus has the power to dissolve a man’s entire being.67 (This includes all the incidental aspects of one’s life. Thus, on the wording of the phrase,68 ורחץ את בשרו - “he shall wash his flesh,” the Gemara69 comments that this includes “whatever is incidental to his flesh.”) This can be plainly seen: the study of Chassidus allows a man’s mindset to change so thoroughly that he is utterly transformed.

Now, there is a view that only in the case of vessels is a wellspring able to purify with no more than a nominal quantity of water (metaher bekol-shehu), whereas a person must immerse in a quantity of water in which his whole body can be submerged. Even according to this view, nevertheless, when wellspring water combines with a mikveh of water that suffices for a person’s total immersion, it elevates the mikveh water to the status of wellspring water insofar as it can now purify even while flowing (metaher bezochalin).70

What does flowing signify?

The ability to flow testifies to the vitality that characterizes living waters, just as all living things are capable of motion. An inability to flow (like the water that collects in an ashboren, a static hollow in the ground) indicates that something is lacking: these are not living waters. (This is why Tosafos considers the argument that a wellspring can purify only when its water is presently flowing from it.) And when one draws a live wellspring into a mikveh, the waters of the mikveh also become living waters.

To translate this into the context of the Torah: The study of Chassidus (which corresponds to a wellspring in constant contact with its source) affects one’s study of nigleh, the Torah’s revealed dimension (which corresponds to a mikveh), so that when one studies nigleh, too, its connection with the Giver of the Torah will be experienced. This will indeed be a study of Torah lishmah, Torah for its own sublime sake. Moreover, “it will become for him an elixir of life.”

11. Safeguarding the Integrity of One’s Studies

The influence of one’s study of Chassidus on one’s study of nigleh, corresponding to the influence of a wellspring on a mikveh, is alluded to - like all aspects of the Torah’s mystical dimension - in nigleh, the Torah’s revealed dimension.

There is a verse which says, וה-ה אמונת עתיך חותן ישועות, חכמת ידעת, יראת ה' היא אוצרו - “Your timely trust shall become the strength of your salvations, and wisdom and understanding; the fear of G‑d shall be one’s treasure house.”71 On the non-literal level of interpretation known as derush, the Gemara72 points out that six key words in the first part of this verse allude respectively to the Six Orders (Sedarim) of the Mishnah: אמונת alludes to Seder Zeraim; עתיך alludes to Seder Moed; חותן alludes to Seder Nashim; ישועות alludes to Seder Nezikin; חכמת alludes to Seder Kodashim; חדעת alludes to Seder Taharos. These Six Orders of the Mishnah constitute [the core of] nigleh, the revealed dimension of the Torah. The Gemara concludes this segment: “Yet after all is said and done, ‘the fear of G‑d shall be one’s treasure house.’”73

A little later, [speaking of an individual who is able to give satisfactory answers to the Heavenly Court’s six questions, which also correspond to the Six Orders of the Mishnah,] the Gemara adds: “If ‘the fear of G‑d is his treasure house,’ then it will be well for him, and if not - not.” The Gemara likens this to the case of a man who tells his employee to store a quantity of wheat in the attic, but when he discovers that the latter has neglected to mix with it a little salty earth to preserve it from perishing, he says, “It would have been better had you not stored it there at all!”

The critical factor which safeguards the Six Orders of the Mishnah, guaranteeing that one studies the revealed dimension of the Torah as one should - i.e., lishmah, for its own good sake - is “the fear of G‑d.” One attains a fear of G‑d by studying the innermost dimension of the Torah,74 specifically the teachings of Chassidus. In the words of a halachic statement of Rambam:75 “And what is the path that leads to the love and fear of G‑d? - When a man meditates upon His works etc.” What is needed, then, is meditation upon the greatness of the Creator, which is the content of the study of Chassidus.

The effect of the study of Chassidus on one’s study of nigleh resembles the effect of salty earth which is mixed with wheat in order to preserve it. Or, to use the earlier idiom, it resembles the effect of drawing the waters of a live wellspring into a mikveh, whereby the waters of the mikveh also become living waters.

Moreover, the study of Chassidus should affect one’s study of nigleh to the point that the two disciplines fuse into a single entity. To borrow another halachic metaphor,76 the two disciplines should not merely mix together like two dry commodities, such as salty earth and grains of wheat, but should interfuse like two fluids, such as wellspring water and the water of a mikveh, where the two elements become a single entity.

12. From Zeal to Comprehension

There is thus no justification for the claim that it is a pity to lose time studying Chassidus when one could use this time making far more impressive waves in the Torah’s revealed plane - because the study of Chassidus acts like a wellspring, purifying with even a minimal quantity of water. The study of Chassidus upgrades one’s study of the Torah’s revealed plane, so that it is undertaken lishmah, for its own sake, and becomes “an elixir of life.”77

Moreover, studying Chassidus adds zeal - and hence comprehension - to one’s study of nigleh. “One’s brain and heart become a thousand times more refined”78 in the study of nigleh, too.

A hint of this may be found in the following teaching of the Sages:79 “One should always study Torah in a place where his heart desires, as it is written,80 ‘But his desire is G‑d’s Torah.’” Now, if a man is to arrive at a spiritual state in which his heart desires G‑d’s Torah, he must first have a love of G‑d - and this is acquired by studying Chassidus (as in the above-quoted halachic statement of Rambam: “And what is the path that leads to the love and fear of G‑d?…”). And when his heart desires the Torah, his endeavors at comprehending it will succeed beyond all comparison.

13. Connecting with the Actual Wellspring

As discussed above in the context of the reply which Mashiach gave to the Baal Shem Tov, wellspring water retains its unique halachic status only as long as its bond with its source is not intercepted.81 What is required, then, is not only that one be immersed in the wellsprings, i.e., in the teachings of Chassidus, but also that one be connected with the source of those teachings, i.e., with the mentors82 of Chassidus, beginning with the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. And as for us, we have only the Nasi of our generation, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz].

There are people who muster all the learned apparatus of Talmudic debate in philosophizing83 on the relative levels occupied by our Rebbeim - who is greater than whom, and so on…. First of all, this question does not interest us, because as far as we are concerned, we have only the Nasi of our generation.

A parallel case in the revealed plane of the Torah is the fact that the obligation to honor one’s father takes precedence over the obligation to honor one’s [paternal] grandfather.84

To compare with other questions of precedence: An individual’s obligation to honor his father takes precedence over the obligation to honor his mother, because both he and his mother are obligated to honor his father.85 Likewise, his obligation to honor his Torah teacher takes precedence over the obligation to honor his father, because both he and his father are obligated to honor his Torah teacher.86 If so, would one not expect that his obligation to honor his grandfather should take precedence over the obligation to honor his father, because both he and his father are obligated to honor his grandfather?

We may understand this seeming anomaly as follows. Though the obligation to honor one’s father should be fulfilled because it is G‑d’s command and not because of its underlying reason, it is nevertheless a mitzvah with a reason - a person is obliged to honor his father because he brought him into the world.

Accordingly,87 “his obligation to return the lost property of his Torah teacher (his rav) takes precedence over the obligation to return the lost property of his father, because his father brought him into this world, whereas his Torah teacher, who taught him Divine wisdom, brings him to the life of the World to Come.” Since the rationale for the obligation to honor one’s father is the fact that he brought him into the world, the Torah teacher who brings him to the life of the World to Come takes precedence over his father who merely brought him into this world.

However, when it comes to a question of his father and his grandfather, it is obvious that his father, who brought him into the world, takes precedence over his grandfather, with whom there is merely a causal relationship.88

So, too, with our subject: As far as we are concerned we have only the Nasi of our generation. Our relationship to him is direct, as is the relationship of a man to his father, or to his Torah teacher who brings him [to the life of the World to Come], whereas one’s relationship to the preceding Rebbeim is causal, as is a man’s relationship to his grandfather.

Beyond all the above, in fact there is no dividing between the Rebbeim.89 While there is something distinctive about each of the Rebbeim, each Rebbe90 “fills the place of his forebears.” This means that in every regard each Rebbe completely fills the place of his forebears, with nothing whatever lacking (for if there were something missing in one particular, then as far as that particular is concerned, he could not be described as “filling the place” of his predecessor).

It is true that the Gemara discusses the possibility of a successor who “does not fill the place of his forebears in wisdom” though he does fill that place “in the fear of sin.” This possibility, however, is not relevant to our discussion of the Rebbeim, for each Rebbe is both a king (exemplifying the theme of fear) and a Torah teacher (exemplifying the theme of wisdom), like Mashiach,91 and hence “fills the place of his forebears” in every respect.

Furthermore, in each Rebbe there is an additional characteristic that was not previously manifest. (It could well be that this new characteristic did not previously exist at all; what concerns us is only that it was not previously manifest.)

Hence, all we have is the Nasi of our generation - my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz]. Since he “fills the place of his forebears” he comprises all the Rebbeim. Moreover, through him an additional theme appeared which had never been manifest until this generation of ours, close to the coming of Mashiach - the fulfillment of the promise that “your wellsprings [i.e., the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov] will be disseminated far afield” in a manner without parallel in the preceding generations.

This dissemination is accelerated in our generation for two reasons:92 (a) the extreme darkness requires extreme illumination to overcome it; (b) there is already a gleam of the light of Mashiach.

This is why it is so vital to be connected with the wellspring, with the source of the teachings of Chassidus - with my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], the Nasi of our generation. Such a connection enables one to disseminate the wellsprings “outside”, even far afield. Not only is one not overawed by the “outside”, but moreover the wellsprings reach there, too - for a wellspring is utterly unbounded, and can purify even the defilement of a zav and a metzora.93

Above all, this dissemination of the wellsprings of Chassidus constitutes a preparation for the coming of our Righteous Mashiach - speedily, and in our own days, Amen.

14. Forging Links with the Rebbe

The time that remains between today, Yud-Tes Kislev, and the yahrzeit [of the Rebbe Rayatz] on Yud Shvat, should be utilized for strengthening one’s bonds of hiskashrus with the Rebbe. A chassid should snatch and cherish every moment of this period - the whole of the first twelve (and especially the first eleven) months, during which the soul is also present below (as is stated also in the revealed plane of the Torah94) - which is incomparably more rewarding than the period that follows. And the main goal to attain during this precious time is hiskashrus.

As our Sages teach,95 שכר מצוה מצוה. This means that the greatest possible reward for the performance of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself,96 i.e., one’s resultant connection with G‑d. This connection is reflected in the very word מצוה (mitzvah, meaning “commandment”), which shares a root with צוותא (tzavsa, meaning “connected”).97 On the one hand, as we say in our prayers,98 “There is none comparable to You… in this world, and none apart from You… in the life of the World to Come; there is nothing without You… in the days of Mashiach; and there is none like You… in the era of the Resurrection of the Dead.” (My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], explains these four statements in detail in the series of maamarim of Rosh HaShanah.99) On the other hand, however, G‑d in His lovingkindness descended upon Mount Sinai and gave His people the mitzvos which would enable them to be in a state of tzavsa (“togetherness”) with the metzaveh hamitzvos - with Him who ordained these commandments. And the resultant togetherness is in itself the highest possible reward for the performance of the mitzvos.

So, too, with our subject. The highest gain that one could possibly strive for during this precious, limited time until the yahrzeit is hiskashrus with the Rebbe, and this is attained by studying his teachings and walking in his footsteps.

15. One Link: Mishnayos

Accordingly, I would like to propose a few things that every individual can accomplish until the yahrzeit.100

First of all, let every individual undertake to complete the study of five chapters of Mishnayos until the yahrzeit. The word משנה (Mishnah) comprises the same letters as נשמה (Neshamah, meaning “soul”),101 and the five chapters of Mishnayos correspond to the five names by which the soul is called - Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah.102

The first time that I encountered the custom of lighting five candles [in front of the sheliach tzibbur] during the prayers on a yahrzeit (and likewise during the year of mourning), which was when I was visiting my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], in Paris,103 I asked him for the reason for this custom. At the time he did not answer, but later he said that the five candles correspond to the five names of the soul.104

The study of five chapters of Mishnayos will fortify one’s bonds with the Rebbe - not only a bond at the level of Nefesh with Nefesh (which is attained by the study of one chapter), and not only a bond of Ruach with Ruach (by studying two chapters), and not only a bond of Neshamah with Neshamah (by studying three chapters), and not only a bond of Chayah with Chayah (by studying four chapters), but even (by studying five chapters) a bond of Yechidah… [at this point the Rebbe wept, then continued:] with Yechidah!

Moreover, though Yechidah is merely a name for the essence of the soul,105 nevertheless, since it is called Yechidah because it is fused with that level of Divinity which is called Yachid,106 it is by means of the Yechidah that there comes into being a bond and a cleaving of etzem with etzem!

[At this point, after the entire Mishnayos had been apportioned, the Rebbe said that since this had been done once, it should be done again the next day for the benefit of those who had not yet participated. He then concluded as follows:]

What matters most is that everyone should actually study the Mishnayos, whether by heart or from the text, whether with many commentaries or with few, completing their assigned study by the yahrzeit, and that there should be no need for any further encouragement or reminders. For everyone present has no doubt undertaken this task with fond eagerness; just as the Sages refer to circumcision as107 “a mitzvah which the Jewish people accepted upon themselves joyfully.”108

16. Another Link: The Rebbe’s Teachings

A certain chassid once wrote to ask the Rebbe [Rayatz] what form his hiskashrus could take, since the Rebbe did not know him by sight. (The writer had not seen the Rebbe, and it seemed to him that neither had the Rebbe seen him….)

The Rebbe replied that the bonds of hiskashrus are established by studying his teachings and by observing the practices which he instituted, and so on.109 The Rebbe did not tell him that he should become connected to him by virtue of supernatural feats, or by traveling to see him, but by studying his teachings, and the like.

Accordingly,110 I would like to suggest that in preparation for the yahrzeit every individual should commit to memory the whole or part of the maamar which the Rebbe [Rayatz] issued for study on the day of his passing.111 Then from time to time, whenever he is vexed, or disturbed by doubts, or112 “confronted by that scoundrel [i.e., the Evil Inclination],” one should mentally review that maamar.

In a talk on Yud-Tes Kislev113 my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], said that in the year 5620 [1920], the year of separation, the year in which he was separated from his father, the Rebbe Rashab had spoken with him at length about the maamar beginning VeHadarta Pnei Zakein that appears in Likkutei Torah (at the end of Parshas Kedoshim).114 In this maamar the Alter Rebbe extols the value of having words of Torah engraved in one’s mind, for in that case, even when one is not engaged in Torah study, G‑d dwells eternally within him. (For the same reason a person is obliged to rise in deference to a Torah sage115 even when he is not actively studying.)

The same principle applies to our discussion. When a person has diligently and repeatedly studied the maamar and mastered it, not only does he benefit by being connected with the Rebbe whenever he reviews it, but at other times, too, his mind will be filled with the Rebbe’s teachings. And since it is in these teachings that the Rebbe conveyed himself to his chassidim, such a person is in a state of constant hiskashrus with the Rebbe; in the words of Likkutei Torah, “with never an interruption or separation, even for one moment.”

What matters most here is not so much the quantity - whether one studies the whole maamar or (if for whatever reason that is impossible) part of it; what matters most is the quality - that its words should be engraved in one’s mind, like letters that are an intrinsic and inseparable part of the stone in which they are engraved;116 like the living waters that flow from a spring and remain connected to their source,117 the essence of the soul….

17. Another Link: Tzedakah

The third suggestion is that every day until the yahrzeit every individual should contribute more than usual to tzedakah.

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, once quoted his father, the Rashab,118 as saying that Kaddish is recited after the passing of the Rebbeim not so much for their spiritual benefit, but mainly for the benefit of those who recite it. In the same way, these contributions for tzedakah are not made for the spiritual benefit of the Rebbe, but for the sake of the contributors, whose hiskashrus will thereby be strengthened.

One should of course give charity with the intent of fulfilling a G‑d-given mitzvah, but at the same time doing so will certainly enrich one’s hiskashrus.

18. A Time for Positive Resolve

The way to start is to make a solemn resolve now with regard to all three suggestions:

“The world stands on three things - on [the study of] the Torah, on the service [of G‑d], and on kindly deeds.”119 Of these three pillars, the study of Mishnayos relates to Torah; the study of the maamar represents a realm within Torah that relates to avodah; and the giving of charity relates to the third pillar, gemilus chassadim.

And G‑d, Who120 “looks into the heart,” will see how every man undertakes to fulfill these things with his whole heart and with a willing spirit.

It is particularly beneficial to make such resolutions on Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus, for doing so augments the blessings that chassidim exchange on this day - that we be inscribed and sealed for success in the study of Chassidus and in the spiritual lifestyle of Chassidus,121 especially with regard to hiskashrus, throughout the whole of the coming year.

19. Preparing for Ascent

Utilizing the time until the yahrzeit as suggested will no doubt leave its imprint on one’s spiritual state in the time that follows the yahrzeit.

It is true that on the day of the yahrzeit a soul ascends to infinitely high levels.122 At the same time, however, keeping in mind the words of the Rebbe [Rayatz]123 (concerning his father, the Rebbe Rashab) that the shepherds of Israel never become separated from their flock, it is clear that when the Rebbe [Rayatz] makes that ascent on the day of his yahrzeit, he will take along with him his chassidim and all those who are connected with him, so that while they are souls living in bodies they will ascend with him throughout all of his ascents.

And in order to enable souls living in bodies to ascend throughout all of these ascents, an appropriate vessel must be fashioned - and this may be done by buttressing the three pillars on which the world stands.

Above all, speedily and in our own days, may the Rebbe himself come, as a soul living in a body, and take us out of this galus, this material and spiritual exile, and bring us to the Redemption.

This, too, is brought about by increasing one’s endeavors in the above three areas: the study of Mishnayos - as the Sages teach,124 “All these exiles will be gathered in only by virtue of the study of Mishnayos;” the study of the maamar - for the teachings of Chassidus prepare the way for the coming of Mashiach;125 and the giving of charity - “Great indeed is tzedakah, for it brings the Redemption near.”126

When R. Yehoshua ben Levi asked,127 “Master, when are you coming?” Mashiach replied, “Today! - ‘Today, if you would only listen to His voice….’128

From this reply it is clear that every single day we may and should hope that this very day the Rebbe will come and bring us out of galus and toward the Redemption - speedily, in our own days, Amen!

20. The Opening Mishnah

In connection with the Mishnayos that were apportioned a short while ago,129 time-honored custom dictates that on an occasion such as this we should explain some subject that relates to the beginning of the Mishnayos (and the same applies to the conclusion130), in the very first mishnah of Tractate Berachos.

It will be noted that this paragraph contains an allusion to Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, to each of the Six Orders of the Mishnah:

Zeraim (lit., “seeds” - on agricultural laws): Apart from the fact that the Order (Seder) of Zeraim begins with Tractate Berachos, its subject matter is also mentioned in the first mishnah of this tractate (“the Kohanim go in to eat their terumah).

Moed (lit., “time” - on the festivals): This Order is hinted at in the discussion of the time at which the Shema should be read (“From what time does one read Shema?”)

Nashim (on laws concerning women): The hint to this Order is found in the phrase “wedding celebration” (“His sons once came home from a wedding celebration”).

Nezikin (on the laws of damages): This Order is also alluded to in the same mishnah (“in order to distance a man from sin”).

Kodashim (lit., “sanctified things” - on the laws of sacrifices) is mentioned, too (“the burning of the [unconsumed sacrificial] fats and organs”).

Taharos (on the laws of ritual purity) is alluded to in the discussion of how the Kohanim (who “go in to eat their terumah”) first purified themselves by immersion in a mikveh and by awaiting sundown.

[At this point the Rebbe expounded an extract from the above-mentioned mishnah which begins, “By law, the [unconsumed sacrificial] fats and organs may be burned [on the altar] until the rise of the morning star; if so, why did the Sages say that this should be done by midnight?…”

A written record of this exposition, which goes on to derive directives for man’s divine service, was checked and edited by the Rebbe, and published in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 948ff.131]

21. Exerting Oneself for a Brother Jew

It was said above that the way to be bound to the Rebbe [Rayatz] is by studying his teachings and walking in his ways. One of the prominent characteristics of his way of life was the extent to which he exerted himself for a fellow Jew.

It was the Rebbe’s custom to do a spiritual and a material favor to every Jew possible. He did not first investigate any individual’s spiritual standing. First of all he would do him a material favor by satisfying his needs, either as requested, or as known to him. Having done that, he would endeavor to inspire him in spiritual matters.

The Rebbe’s exertion for the sake of a fellow Jew reached the point of self-sacrifice - mesirus nefesh; indeed, it reached the extent of sacrificing his own will - mesirus haratzon (for one of the meanings of nefesh, literally “soul”, is ratzon, literally “will”132). This entailed setting aside his other holy obligations and activities - for the sake of doing a favor to a Jew somewhere.

This recalls the observation of the Tzemach Tzedek concerning the Alter Rebbe,133 whose liberation we are celebrating today [Yud-Tes Kislev]. The Tzemach Tzedek once said that all the instances of the Alter Rebbe’s self-sacrifice were of no account when compared to the self-sacrifice of having to tear himself away from his dveikus, from the state in which he was so selflessly cleaving to G‑d that he sought no other form of [even] spiritual bliss. (As the Alter Rebbe himself once expressed it when in this state of rapture, - “Besides You, I desire nothing.”134) And why did he feel the need to tear himself away from this state? - So that he could do a favor to some Jew somewhere, and not only in ruchniyus, but even in gashmiyus!

Similarly, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once recounted that one Shemini Atzeres his father (the Rebbe Rashab) had told him to call the chassidim together for a farbrengen. At that time the Rebbe Rashab had added that even though Shemini Atzeres is an especially elevated time, comparable to Rosh HaShanah, one ought to practice mesirus nefesh for the sake of the chassidim. One might ask: Why should the Rebbe Rashab give this instruction precisely on Shemini Atzeres (which is comparable to Rosh HaShanah), instead of (say) Simchas Torah or isru chag? The answer is simple: Making calculations, and setting a time that would suit his convenience, belongs to the realm of conduct dictated by reason. In the realm of conduct dictated by mesirus nefesh, by contrast, there is no room for calculating that one will “practice self-sacrifice” only at a time that most suits his convenience…. Indeed, this would be the very reverse of mesirus nefesh, which by definition demands that one step completely out of one’s own metzius, out of one’s own state of being.

To translate this concept into practice: All those who desire to be connected with the Rebbe should walk in his ways and engage in hashpaah, endeavoring to nurture spiritual growth in their fellow Jews. For example (to use the language of a verse135): - “If you see a naked man, clothe him,” a phrase which the Sages understand to include attending to the needs of a man who is lacking in tzitzis and tefillin.

22. Inspire a Minyan

In this spirit, a suggestion was recently made136 that in preparation for Yud-Tes Kislev, every chassid should endeavor to inspire a minyan of fellow Jews to undertake a new challenge - in thought, in speech and in deed: in thought, by upgrading a particular aspect of one’s avodah in the realm of prayer; in speech, by intensifying one’s Torah study; and in deed, by enhancing one’s observance of the mitzvos.

Our Sages teach that137 “Whoever saves one Jewish soul is regarded as having saved an entire world.” We also learn that “The world stands on three things - on [the study of] the Torah, on the service [of G‑d], and on kindly deeds.” It follows, then, that to save one Jewish soul, which is an entire world, one needs to buttress each of these three pillars: the study of Torah engages one’s faculty of speech; avodah - referring to prayer (cf.138 “the prayers were instituted in place of the sacrifices”), which is called139 avodah shebalev, “the service of the heart” - engages one’s faculty of thought; and gemilus chassadim (which incorporates all the mitzvos140) engages one’s faculty of action. And at the very least, one should work on one of these three modes of divine service.

There is added value to undertaking such an activity not only with one soul, but with ten fellow Jews, for141 - “Over any gathering of ten Jews, the Divine Presence abides.”

There is even (so to speak) a discount available: the minyan can also include minors under the age of thirteen, for the Rosh writes142 that the above statement of the Gemara on the Divine Presence includes minors.

Now to practicalities: Though (thank G‑d) many people in the chassidic community completed their task with relation to a minyan in time for Yud-Tes Kislev, there are some who have not yet completed their minyan, and there are others whose minyan has not yet begun. What can be done about this?

We can recall the lesson which my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], derived from Pesach Sheni143 - that “there is no such thing as too late.” Things can always be rectified. Even if one was impure, or144 “on a distant road of yours” - even if a man was remote by choice - he can still set things in order. What is more, the Torah turns this day into a veritable Yom-Tov with all the festive trappings, like the first (regular) Pesach. And for whom? - For a minority of the community (for the law prescribes that a majority is not deferred until Pesach Sheni145). Indeed, Pesach Sheni is observed even for one solitary individual, for in G‑d’s eyes every single individual Jew is estimable and precious.

With reference to our subject, then: Whoever has not yet completed his minyan can and should complete it by the yahrzeit [of the Rebbe Rayatz] on Yud Shvat (and the earlier, the better). Every individual should realize that this task is a key element in his hiskashrus with the Rebbe (by walking in his footsteps) - a key element in being connected with his Nefesh, Rusach, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah.146

23. A Vessel to Contain Blessings

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once said that the Rebbeim dispense all the good things required; chassidim have to fashion vessels so that these blessings will be drawn down “lower than ten handsbreadths,”147 in the form of “children, health, and an ample livelihood.”148

This role of the Rebbeim is especially apparent in the case of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz]. When he was appointed by his father, the Rebbe [Rashab], as successor to the Nesius, he requested his father’s blessing that it should be marked by “lovingkindness and mercy.”149 If so, he no doubt hands out all the good things with lovingkindness and mercy. Chassidim, however, must make vessels, so that the blessings will be brought down “lower than ten handsbreadths.”

And what is the vessel that can draw down blessings? Our Sages teach at the end of the Mishnayos:150 “G‑d could find no vessel to contain blessing for the Jewish people except for peace; as it is written,151 ‘G‑d will give strength to His people, G‑d will bless His people with peace.’”

24. The Harmony of Opposites

Let us further understand the concept of “a vessel to contain blessing.”152

A blessing from G‑d is limitless:153 - “with no measurable end.” When Moshe Rabbeinu said to the Jewish people,154 “May the L-rd G‑d of your fathers increase you a thousandfold,” they protested:155 “Moshe, you are setting a limit to our blessing, whereas G‑d promised Avraham, ‘If a man will be able to count the dust of the earth, [so too will your seed be countable]!’” Whereupon Moshe assured them: “This [thousandfold] blessing is from me, but ‘He will bless you as He promised you’” - i.e., without any limit.156

If so, how can one speak of “a vessel to contain [infinite] blessing,” when the very concept of “vessel” signifies finitude?157

This query may be resolved by the above teaching of our Sages:158 “G‑d could find no vessel to contain blessing… except for peace.” Peace (Shalom) denotes the joining of two opposites159 (such as fire and water160): though they contradict and hence oppose each other, they nevertheless join forces by virtue of the Ein Sof, their Infinite Source. Since He is omnipotent,161 and for Him impossibility is impossible,162 it is within His power and ability to join opposites.

This concept throws light on the puzzling way in which the Gemara163 resolves a seeming contradiction between two verses concerning the number of angels that exist. One verse states,164 “A thousand thousands serve Him and myriads of myriads stand before Him.” Another verse, however, asks the rhetorical question,165 “Do His regiments have a number?!” The Gemara resolves this as follows: “Each single regiment comprises ‘a thousand thousands [who] serve Him’; the regiments, however, are innumerable.”

Now, there is an axiom in [medieval] Jewish thought166 (also cited in the literature of Chassidus167) that infinity cannot proceed from a finite entity, no matter what prodigious number of finite parts are added together. Accordingly, since each regiment has a finite number of angels, how can one speak of the angels being innumerable?

In light of what was explained above, however, we can understand the resolution given by the Gemara: This paradox can be accommodated within the infinity of the Ein Sof, Who is omnipotent and for Whom impossibility is impossible.

So, too, with the paradox of “a [finite] vessel to contain [infinite] blessing:” Since G‑d is omnipotent, and for Him impossibility is impossible, it is within His power and ability to bring opposites together - to bestow limitless blessing within a “vessel that contains blessing,” namely, peace.

Peace is particularly related to the Torah and its mitzvos.168 (Indeed,169 “The entire Torah was given in order to establish peace in the world.”) For the Torah and its mitzvos also exemplify the pairing of opposites.

On the one hand, they are characterized by measurable limits. This is true not only of the commandments, which have prescribed parameters and are sometimes contingent on time and place, but even the study of Torah, which is obligatory at basically all times and places, is limited in various ways. For example: the Torah may not be studied in unclean places,170 nor before one has recited the blessings over the Torah;171 moreover,172 “written subjects may not be transmitted orally nor may oral traditions be expressed in writing”; and so on.

On the other hand, the Torah and its mitzvos are boundless. Thus it is written,173 “Your commandment is exceedingly broad.” And concerning the Torah it is written,174 “Its measure is more extensive than the world and more expansive than the sea.”

[Peace is thus particularly related to the Torah and the mitzvos, for they, too, cause opposites to harmonize.]

25. Living with Paradoxes - in Reasoning, in Prayer, and in Charity

In this spirit, avodah in this world below should also reflect the theme of peace, which signifies the joining of opposites.

For example: On the one hand, it is demanded of [a chassid] that he demonstrate self-sacrifice - that he set his own reason aside and place his trust in G‑d’s miracles and wonders. On the other hand, he is expected to toil in an endeavor to grasp every concept intellectually.

A parallel instance in another field is175 avodah shebalev, “the service of the heart, which is prayer.” On the one hand it is expected that one should conduct oneself according to the Shulchan Aruch, and according to the Shulchan Aruch176 if a person arrived late at shul when the congregation was already in the middle of the prayer service, he should skip certain passages in order to pray together with them. Nevertheless, the Rebbeim have said that one should not do this;177 instead, one should recite all the prayers in their proper sequence; moreover, the prayers must be accompanied by devout concentration178 (following the halachic ruling of Rambam179 that “any prayer recited without kavanah is not a prayer”); furthermore, the prayers should be approached in an earnest frame of mind180 (“One should stand up to pray only in an earnest frame of mind”181). And for the sake of all this, it is worth missing the congregational prayer service, and even missing the prescribed time for prayer182 - for the overriding consideration is that the prayer itself should be as it ought to be.

There is yet another area of avodah which demands that one bridge the gap between opposites, and this involves breadwinners. On the one hand they are obliged to support their families. Indeed, the Sages183 even teach that the verse184 praising “him who acts charitably at all times” alludes to “him who supports his sons and daughters in their childhood.” On the other hand, businesspeople are told that they should contribute for tzedakah without limit, even to the point of giving away whatever they own; as it is written,185 “All that a man has he will give for the sake of his soul.”186

26. An End to the Darkness of Exile

By avodah that peacefully pairs opposites, one fashions a vessel which contains blessings and which elicits all kinds of blessings. One becomes a vessel - a fitting receptor - that invites a loving and compassionate downward flow of the Rebbe’s blessings, making them find tangible expression in the world here below, “lower than ten handsbreadths,”187 in the form of “children, health, and an ample livelihood.

The ultimate blessing to be merited - the Redemption - also reflects the theme of peace.

The Mishnayos begin188 with the initial (“open”) letter mem, in the word mei'eimasai, and conclude189 with the final (“closed”) letter mem, in the word bashalom.190 The191 open letter mem alludes to exile, as is hinted by the open letter at the end of a word, in the verse,192 - “the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down.” The closed letter mem alludes to the Redemption, as is hinted by its appearance in the phrase [which speaks of the rule of Mashiach],193 - “for the increase of the realm.” (In this phrase, the closed letter in the middle of the word alludes to a securely enclosed state in which divine energy cannot be funneled off to nourish the forces of evil.)194

These allusions provide a key to understanding the fact that the Mishnayos begin with the initial (“open”) letter mem, and conclude with the final (“closed”) letter mem. The opening phrase (which begins with an open mem) is, - “From what time does one read the Shema in the evening?” Evening here alludes to the dark era of exile. When Jews read the Shema - i.e., when Jews experience self-sacrifice for the Unity of G‑d - even in such a dark era, they are granted the privilege of attaining the ultimate state of Shalom (ending with a closed mem), which is the complete Redemption.

27. Joy Bursts through Barriers

It’s time to sing Nie Zhuritze Khloptzi. As was recently explained,195 its message is that there’s no need to worry. Instead, one should connect oneself with the Rebbe, and then the flow of all good things will be drawn downward spontaneously.

[The Rebbe interrupted the singing of the niggun with these words:]

Every created entity is bounded. Even the soul, when it is garbed in a body, is limited by the body’s limitations. From this perspective, the time that follows the histalkus has a certain superiority, for once the bounds of the body are no more, the influence that is forthcoming is utterly unbounded. (This is explained in Tanya - Iggeres HaKodesh.196)

Now, those considerations all relate to the perspective of the Rebbe, who is now to be found everywhere and who now transmits blessings without limit. However, as far as the vessels (i.e., the recipients) are concerned, there are limits.

So what needs to be done? - One should do away with the vessel’s limitations, and then one can receive an unlimited flow of good things.

[By way of introduction: Only an object definable as a vessel is susceptible to ritual impurity.] Certain vessels can be deprived of their status (and of their limits) as vessels [and hence, if pure, can lose this susceptibility and, if previously impure, can be freed from that state] by being punctured with a hole big enough to let a pomegranate pass through.197 When there is such an outlet, however, what is left is useless as a receptor. There is another means by which such vessels can be deprived of their status (and of their limits) as vessels: the vessel is left intact, but it is fixed and carved out in the ground.198

Let us consider the meaning of “fixing and carving out a vessel in the ground” in terms of a man’s daily avodah.199

At the very beginning of the day, when one becomes a newly-created entity (as in the verse,200 “They are new every morning: Your faithfulness is great”), one says (before washing the hands), Modeh ani lefanecha - “I offer thanks to You, [living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great].”201 This means that one is utterly effacing oneself and wholly handing oneself over to G‑d. The vessel’s limitations are thereby done away with, and one can then accommodate an unlimited flow of good things.

Another idea is to do away with those limitations by means of joy, for joy bursts through barriers.202

It is also true that203 “a king may burst through fences.” However, it is not advisable to wait for the King Himself to crush one’s limitations, for this is not a desirable procedure.204 It is better to crush one’s limitations alone, by means of joy.

That niggun, then, which speaks of hiskashrus with the Rebbe, let it now be sung joyfully, with the intent that it remove all screens and obstructions and all quantitative restrictions. Then, when the finitude of the receptive vessels no longer stands in the way, everyone will be able to receive all the bountiful blessings exactly as they are forthcoming from the Rebbe - without limit.

[As the Rebbe began to sing Nie Zhuritze Khloptzi he stood up from his place and danced there with great joy.]

28. Avraham Avinu’s Heel is Recognizable

Before the break until the next farbrengen, I would like to explain one more subject - the words of the Alter Rebbe in his well-known letter205 concerning the liberation that took place on Yud-Tes Kislev, [which is, in the words of the Rebbe Rashab,206] “the festival on which207 ‘He redeemed our soul in peace,’ and the light and vitality of our souls were given to us.” In his letter the Alter Rebbe writes, “G‑d has acted wondrously and has done great things in the world.”

A written record of the Rebbe’s analysis of these words, edited by the Rebbe, appears in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 284ff.

In outline: When the Divine Name Havayah functions in a muted mode of conduct (katnus), this finds expression in Divine Providence that is perceptible in the ways of nature; when the Divine Name Havayah functions in a mode of greatness (gadlus), this finds expression in supernatural activity; when the Divine Name Havayah functions in a wondrous mode, this finds expression in activity that transcends any finite relation to nature. [To revert to the Alter Rebbe’s words:] The revelation of the light of Chassidus on Yud-Tes Kislev is an instance of how (on the one hand) “G‑d has acted wondrously and has done great things,” yet (on the other hand) the ultimate intent underlying this great and wondrous revelation is that it should be grounded - “G‑d… has done great things in the world.”

The Rebbe then went on to speak of the mode of Divine conduct represented by the Name Havayah:

As a rule, G‑d relates to the Jewish people by means of the Name Havayah. Thus, [paraphrasing the verse beginning Shema Yisrael,] the Alter Rebbe taught (and this is cited by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, in the sichah of Yud-Tes Kislev208): “Shema Yisrael - A Jew perceives that Havayah is Elokeinu … and Elokeinu is Havayah.” If so, in all matters the Jewish people are related to by the Name Havayah.

We find this concept in the language of the Psalm,209 “G‑d is my shepherd; I shall lack nothing.”

“Havayah is my shepherd:” The Jewish people’s vitality (i.e., their pasture) derives from the Name Havayah. As a result, “I shall lack nothing.” Moreover, as a later verse goes on to say,210 “Even if I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You [Havayah] are with me.”

“The valley of the shadow of death” alludes to the state in which our people were211 “exiled to Edom,” i.e., a state in which212 “one acts like Edom,” thus implicating not only himself but also the Divine Presence, as it were. For, as the Sages teach, “When the Jews were exiled to Edom, the Shechinah went into exile with them.” So, too, it is written that G‑d213 “dwells with them in the midst of their impurity.” In the words of Tanya,214 “This is comparable to one who seizes the king’s head and drags it down [into a place of filth], which is the ultimate in humiliation.”

Nevertheless, even in this “valley of the shadow of death,” even in this state of spiritual exile, the Jewish people are under the rule of the Name Havayah. Hence they are not subservient to the laws of nature and should not be overawed by them. In the words of the verse, “I shall not fear.”

We also find this concept in the Mishnah,215 which expresses a halachic ruling: “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of Torah (i.e., the yoke of the sovereignty of heaven), - the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares (i.e., the yoke of flesh and blood) are removed from him.” The yoke of flesh and blood does not apply to him. Indeed, if he finds himself in a situation in which he is burdened by the yoke of flesh and blood (i.e., the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly cares), he should clearly know that in truth he is a free man and not subservient; he has been located in his current place and situation in order to fulfill G‑d’s mission - to show a fellow Jew how to put on tefillin, for example.

When the Alter Rebbe was taken away to prison, a note was found in which he had written,216 “Rulers have pursued me without cause (chinam), but it is Your word my heart fears.” Or, as he intended the verse to mean: Rulers have pursued me, but in vain; i.e., I am not overawed by them, because a Jew is not subservient to the laws of nature; rather, it is Your word my heart fears.

At this point the Rebbe concluded by resuming the above theme - that revelation should be drawn down here below, in the spirit of the Alter Rebbe’s phrase, that “G‑d has done great things in the world.”

The ultimate intent is that even in physical and material things - when a man eats and drinks, when he sleeps or walks in the street - it should be evident that he is a chassid of the Rebbe and bound with the Rebbe.

There is a verse which speaks of Avraham Avinu:217 “Because Avraham heeded My voice….” Now, the letters that spell the Hebrew word eikev, here meaning “because”, also spell akeiv, meaning “a heel.” Accordingly, the Rebbe [Rayatz] comments:218 Even his heel was recognizable as a heel of Avraham Avinu. [I.e., even the heel of Avraham heeded G‑d’s voice.] This is the meaning of “disseminating the wellsprings far afield” within the context of a man’s personal avodah. The wellsprings of the teachings of Chassidus should extend and become manifest even in a man’s chutzah - in the areas of his life that are far afield, extraneous, material and worldly.

And when a person draws the light of Chassidus even into worldly matters, thereby doing “great things in the world,” blessing and success will be brought into his life “greatly and wondrously,” both in the spiritual and in the material realm.

As to the precise manner and means by which the blessings will be brought down, that’s not our worry. We have to trust that the Rebbe will see to it all. If it suffices that the blessings be elicited from the Name Havayah as it is manifest in the workings of Divine Providence according to the ways of nature, then the blessings will be elicited in that way; if it is required that the blessings be elicited from the Name Havayah as it functions in a mode of greatness (gadlus), involving overt miracles, then the blessings will be elicited in that way; and if it is required that the blessings be elicited from the Divine Name Havayah as it functions in an altogether wondrous mode, in ways that transcend any relationship with the ways of nature, then the blessings will be elicited in that way.

What depends on us is, that we should fashion “vessels” to elicit and accommodate the blessings - by studying the Rebbe’s teachings, and by219 “walking in his ways forevermore,” in a spirit of utter self-dedication.