This letter was addressed to Rabbi Chayim Tzvi Krieger, an active communal Rabbi.

B”H, Monday, 1 Iyar, 5704, Brooklyn

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your invitation to the Bar Mitzvah of your son: [Although] I was unable to attend, I send my blessings that he will continuously proceed and grow in both material and spiritual matters and that he become a G‑d-fearing person, a chassid, and a scholar.

Through allusion, a connection may be drawn between the concept of [becoming] Bar Mitzvah and the 26th of Nissan, [the date of your son’s Bar Mitzvah].1

[Becoming] Bar Mitzvah means becoming obligated in the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. At that time, the yetzer tov (the good inclination) is joined to the person (Koheles Rabbah 4:13). Then is the conclusion and the fundamental entry of the holy soul into a person’s [body] (the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Mahadura Basra, the conclusion of ch. 4). It can be said that the wording of Koheles Rabbah, “joined,” alludes to this concept.2

At that time, [the person] goes out to battle the yetzer hora (evil inclination) and conquer “the small city,” i.e., the body (Tanya, ch. 9, based on Nedarim 32b, note the commentary of Rabbeinu Asher).

How is it possible to vanquish the yetzer hora? Concerning this our Sages (Bava Basra 16a) state: “The Holy One, blessed be He, created the yetzer hora and He created the Torah as a condiment for it.”

The fundamental dimension of the battle against the yetzer hora began with the entry to Eretz Yisrael. For in the desert, the Jews had hardly any involvement with worldly matters. They ate [manna], bread from heaven. Their clothes did not wear out.3 And the Clouds of Glory surrounded them and killed the snakes.

Sanhedrin (108a) [cites a] difference of opinion between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer [whether the] generation who wandered through the desert [will be granted a portion in the World to Come]. It would appear that the halachah follows Rabbi Eliezer’s view, that they will be given a portion, for the statements of Rabbah bar bar Channa in the name of Rabbi Yochanan support his position (ibid. 110b). In particular, this is true according to the statements of Asarah Maamaros, maamar Chikur Din, sec. 2, ch. 8, which interpret Rabbi Akiva’s position that they will not receive a portion in the World to Come as meaning that they have no need of the World to Come.4 This interpretation resolves the question how, according to Rabbi Akiva’s view, the corpses of the generation who wandered through the desert looked “as if they were intoxicated.”5 A similar interpretation is offered by Tosafos (Bava Basra 73b), entry vidimu.

Therefore it was Yehoshua bin Nun, the leader of the generation who entered Eretz Yisrael, who is described by our Sages (introduction to Esther Rabbah) as “the most prominent of the conquerors.” [The explanation is that] the ability to be victorious in battle stems from the Torah, and Yehoshua bin Nun received from Moshe the entire Torah. As our Sages (Temurah 16a) relate, [Moshe] told Yehoshua: “Ask me about all the matters about which you are in doubt.”

[Yehoshua] answered him: “My teacher, did I leave you alone for one moment?...”6 Afterwards, however, as punishment, he forgot 300 laws. Note carefully the wording used by Rambam in his Introduction to his Mishneh Torah and the commentaries to the Mishnah (Avos 1:1). This is not the place for discussion of this issue.

Behold our Sages (the conclusion of Tractate Berachos) state: “Torah scholars have no rest, not in this world... [as it is written:] “They shall proceed from strength to strength.” From day to day, they ascend higher in their holy work. Hence it is obvious that on the day of their passing, they are on the highest of levels.

See also the interpretation of Metzudas David to II Melachim 2:10 and all the sources cited in the Maavar Yabok, maamar 1, ch. 17.

There is an additional positive quality manifest on the day of one’s passing. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 28, on the day of a person’s passing: “All of a person’s labor on which his soul toiled during his lifetime, [which] in the spiritual realms is concealed and hidden, is unveiled and shines in a revealed manner from above downward at the time of his passing.”

It can be explained that this is the intent of our Sages’ statement (Avos 6:9): “At the time of a person’s passing, he is accompanied only by... Torah and good deeds.” The intent is that at that actual time, [the Torah study and good deeds he performed become manifest]. A radiation of this shines throughout the entire world, and in particular, to his students (as stated in Iggeres HaKodesh, loc. cit., and in Epistle 27).

Similarly, each and every year on this day, [these spiritual influences become manifest again]. As is well known with regard to Lag BaOmer — see also the statements of Rashi (Yevamos 122a, entry t’lata) who quotes the Responsa of the Gaonima ray of the teachings and the Divine service of a righteous man shines in the world [on the day of his passing]. This ray produces assistance from above to proceed in the paths of this righteous man. These concepts apply on the day of the passing of Yehoshua bin Nun. On this day, assistance from heaven is granted to become a conqueror, like Yehoshua bin Nun, “the most prominent of the conquerors.” The passing of Yehoshua bin Nun was on 26 Nissan as stated at the conclusion of Megillas Taanis, as quoted by the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, the conclusion of ch. 580).

With the blessing “Immediately to teshuvah; immediately to Redemption,”

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson