The 13th of Nissan is the Yartzeit (day of passing) of the Tzemach Tzedek, in the year 5626. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains the special quality of a tzaddik's Yartzeit: the spiritual accomplishments of his entire lifetime are revealed, and they "effect salvation within the world."
Spiritual revelations of this kind are, as the verse (Esther 9:28) expresses it, "remembered and done." This means that through proper preparation ("remembered"), the spiritual influence present on that day can have its full influence and effect ("done").
This revelation repeats itself, in an ever-increasing manner, from year to year. The reason is our continuous study of the Tzemach Tzedek's works since the time of his passing, increasing both in quantity and quality. This constitutes an additional preparation, and brings with it a greater revelation.
Although the ability to "effect salvation within the world" applies to the Yartzeit of all tzaddikim, this is especially true regarding the Tzemach Tzedek, since his entire life was devoted to bringing salvation. How do we see this?
The true "salvation" will occur only when Moshiach arrives and the 3rd Temple is built. Then the salvation will also be "within the world," i.e. the essence of Hashem will be revealed within the physical universe. At that time the goal of making a dirah b'tachtonim, a dwelling for G-d here below, will be fulfilled. For just as the entire person lives in his dwelling, so too the essence of Hashem will dwell down here.
Obviously such a tremendous revelation needs the appropriate preparation. As Moshiach himself revealed to the Baal Shem Tov, this preparation is spreading out the wellsprings of Chassidus.
How does Chassidus lead to the coming of Moshiach? In order for Hashem's essence to be revealed (as will be in the era of Moshiach), the world must first become a fitting vessel. This is done through spreading Chassidus throughout the entire world, even to the outermost reaches; every place is then fit to be His dwelling.
The central point of the Tzemach Tzedek's life was spreading the teachings of Chassidus. He therefore has a special connection with the idea of "effecting salvation within the world," because spreading out the wellsprings of Chassidus leads to the ultimate salvation of Moshiach.
To increase our ability to draw down and internalize the revelations of this day, we must strengthen our bond with the Tzemach Tzedek. This is done both by studying his Torah and following his righteous conduct. We will first discuss three Torah concepts relating to the month (Nissan), the day of the month (the 13th), and the weekly Torah portion (Shemini).
NISSAN: The Midrash calls this the "month of redemption." Just as we were taken out of Egypt (Mitzrayim) in this month, so too we are given the ability to rise above any boundaries and limitations (Meitzarim).
We see this clearly from the fact that the redemption from Egypt was the preparation for and beginning of the revelation at Mt. Sinai. At that time, the normal order of creation -- that a gap should stand between the upper and lower realms -- was changed.
The preparation for this was in Nissan. While yet in Egypt, before the Torah was given, there was a revelation of Hashem beyond description or limitation. We see, therefore, that this month provides a unique opportunity to rise above all natural obstacles and boundaries.
13th: 13 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word echad (one): the alef is 1, the ches 8, and the daled 4. Both 8 and 4 represent the realm of concrete existence. 8 combines the total of the 7 heavens along with the physical world; 4 represents the various directions within the world, north, south, east, and west. The 1 stands for Hashem.
In the word echad, the alef comes before the other two letters, indicating the primacy of Hashem over the universe. Furthermore, all three letters are combined into one word, indicating how all existence is totally unified with Hashem; there is no existence aside from G-dliness.
Therefore, the 13th of Nissan has a unique spiritual quality that is not evident in other days of Nissan.
Shemini: The Torah portion Shemini (lit. "8th") begins with an account of the 8th day of the inauguration ceremony of the Mishkan. In addition, on that day Aharon and his sons were inaugurated into the priesthood and the Divine Presence finally dwelled upon the Mishkan.
The Tzemach Tzedek quotes the Kli Yakar, who explains the unique quality of the number eight. We find that Moshe Rabbeinu often used the word az (as in az yashir -- "then he sang"), which consists of two letters: an alef (1) and a zayin (7). Here again, the alef precedes the zayin, indicating Hashem's transcendence of the universe.
Therefore on the eighth day, Moshe (who often used the word az, or 8) helped bring down a G-dly revelation, which is signified by an alef preceding a zayin (az).
Of further significance is that on the same eighth day the Jewish people "took ten crowns." (cf. Rashi) The numbers 8 and 10 are closely related, as the Tzemach Tzedek explains. The harp in the Bais Hamikdosh had 7 strings, while in the Messianic Age it will have 8, and in the World to Come it will have 10.
The Messianic Age actually has two stages, as hinted to in these two references regarding the harps of 8 and 10 strings. The second stage will have the highest revelations, including the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, we refer to the 10 "crowns," a crown indicating the level of sublime perfection.
In addition to studying the Tzemach Tzedek's Torah, it is also necessary to emulate his righteous behavior. This is especially true since "action is the main thing" and, as explained in the Tzemach Tzedek's discourses, the importance of the realm of action will be fully revealed in the Messianic Age .
The Tzemach Tzedek exerted great effort in the area of Gemillus Chassodim, and also demanded such from his followers. This is especially timely before Pesach, when one must give Ma'os Chitim, and insure that the needy have everything necessary for proper celebration of the holiday.
To summarize, the Tzemach Tzedek's Yartzeit is the proper time to resolve to add in study of his Torah (and Torah in general) and emulating his conduct, especially in charitable acts.
We should do so in a way that goes beyond all imaginable limitations, corresponding to "Pesach" -- literally, "leaping." This idea is also stressed in the Talmudic saying that as a result of the intensity of the Pesach celebration, "the roofs cracked."
Certain levels are higher than the person, but still somewhat within his grasp. Others are even more remote, totally beyond his reach. This second level in embodied by a roof, which is not only higher than the person, but beyond his reach as well.
On Pesach, we have the ability to reach this second level, and furthermore, to break through it ("crack the roof") and transcend all limitations in Torah study and in charity.
There is a well-known explanation of the Tzemach Tzedek on the verse in which Yosef is named; "May Hashem add (Yosef) for me another son (ben acher)." He explains that Yosef represented the ability to take a person who is in the category of "other" (acher) and elevate him to the level of a "son" (ben).
This is especially relevant on Pesach, when we have all "4 Sons" -- the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who doesn't know how to ask -- attending the Seder.
This order is somewhat surprising. It would seem that the wicked son should be listed last, rather than the one who doesn't know how to ask. However, this comes to convey a clear message; ignorance is even worse than wickedness.
The reason is that the wicked son has at least the ability to change himself. He is knowledgeable in Torah and mitzvos, and therefore can change himself to a Tzaddik in a single moment. This can be illustrated by the AriZal's explanation of a story in the Gemara. It is related that R. Elazar ben Durdaya was extremely wicked, but did teshuvah at the end of his life and "acquired his World in an instant."
The phrase "his World" indicates that there was something awaiting him even before he did teshuvah. This, explains the AriZal, was because R. Elazar was a reincarnation of R. Yochanan Kohen Gadol, who went away from the Torah after serving as Kohen Gadol for 80 years. The mitzvos performed by R. Yochanan were later acquired by R. Elazar. Therefore we see that teshuvah alone is insufficient; there must be something to back it up.
So, too, in our case. The wicked son has the knowledge and therefore is only lacking teshuvah. The ignorant son, however, does not yet even have a "World" to acquire. He must start from scratch and learn about Torah and mitzvos.
To apply this practically to our generation, there are no longer any wicked sons. Our generation consists of those who are like "babies kidnapped by heathens," so to speak -- completely lacking proper Jewish education. Many years ago, there were people who actually chose to be wicked. In the last 50-70 years however, particularly in this country, lack of observance is caused by ignorance. Either the person received no Jewish education whatsoever, or one that left him firmly convinced that Judaism is not to be taken seriously. Many are raised to view their Bar or Bas Mitzvah -- the speech, the gifts, the blessing over the Torah, or (in the case of the "extremely advanced") the reading of the Haftorah -- as their final exit from Judaism.
In short, today -- due to woefully inadequate Jewish education -- the streets are filled with children who don't know how to ask. The truth is that these children do not even fit into such an "advanced" category. Not only do they not know how to ask, they don't know anything at all. They don't even know that Pesach and the Seder are coming this Monday night. Everything is alien to them. They constitute a sort of Fifth Son, who doesn't even attend the Seder.
Every generation has its particular problems. When the Bais Hamikdosh was in existence, for example, there was a powerful urge to worship idols.
[Parenthetically, the Gemara mentions that King Menashe, in whose generation idolatry was widespread, was very knowledgeable in Torah. We learn in particular of his expertise in the first section of the Shulchan Aruch -- Orach Chaim.
In our generation, however, even the most diligent and learned do not study Orach Chaim. It is difficult to convince them to change; they are too busy learning the tractates and laws regarding financial matters which, as the Gemara says, make you wise.
A great furor must be made to bring study of Orach Chaim into the yeshivos. Even should the administration not allow it into the normal study schedule, they must insure its study outside the regular schedule.
The importance of learning Orach Chaim is obvious. A person might go through an entire lifetime without having to rule in a question regarding financial matters. The laws of saying shema, the amidah, modeh ani, constantly remembering Hashem, however, -- all discussed in Orach Chaim -- are of daily importance and contain many details needing close study.]
One of our generation's special problems is an excessive desire for money, which must be subdued by extra donations to charity. So too, our generation faces this tremendous problem of ignorance, which must be directly combatted. Ignorance must be erased from the Jewish people, and there is only one way to accomplish this: through insuring that each and every Jewish child is enrolled in a proper Jewish school.
Giving large sums of money, erecting buildings, entreating Hashem's help by reciting Tehillim -- all have their place and one receives reward for them all. However, they do not replace direct efforts to enroll the children in schools.
Even in a city like New York, which has many, many yeshivas, tens of thousands of Jewish children are unaware that there will be a Seder this Monday night or that we are celebrating the redemption from Egypt.
To educate them to the extent that they will be "Wise Children" takes some time, but making sure that each of them attends a Seder is possible to accomplish even with a few hours of effort.
This "Education Campaign" leads to the other Mitzvah Campaigns, and will culminate in the fulfillment of the statement of our Sages, "in Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we will again be redeemed" -- may it be Hashem's will that it come true this Nissan, 5743.
The 13th of Nissan is not only the Yartzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, but the beginning of the reign of his successor, the Rebbe Maharash. On this day, we therefore have the added influence of the Rebbe Maharash, whose slogan was, "Everyone else says, 'if you can't get under [an obstacle], then go over.' I say, l'chatchilah ariber -- go straight over to begin with!" This idea parallels the idea of Pesach which, as mentioned above, represents leaping over and beyond all boundaries when serving Hashem. All of this bears special significance this year, which is the 100th anniversary of his passing.
L'chatchilah ariber is certainly a vital lesson for our generation, which must spread Torah Judaism beyond any limitations. On the other hand, some explanation is necessary to prevent this concept from being misinterpreted.
Chassidus explains the difference between the higher world of Tohu, which shattered as a result of the intense G-dly revelation, and that of Tikkun, where G-dliness dwells in a constant, settled manner. Sometimes people exhibit a tendency of Tohu, such as Nadav and Avihu, whose uncontrolled closeness and love for Hashem led to their demise.
Although their service of Hashem was certainly very lofty, nevertheless, in this world, our behavior (even that of l'chatchilah ariber) must conform to the realm of Tikkun. Some people, however, have taken l'chatchilah ariber to mean that they should behave in a manner befitting the world of Tohu! For example, they borrow such huge sums of money (for holy purposes) that, even with miracles, they will never be able to pay them back.
Others go to the other extreme and confine themselves to their own personal affairs; eating, sleeping, doing business, etc. Should they find a tiny stretch of time to spend on Torah and mitzvos, they will then fulfill the idea of l'chatchilah ariber!
This is certainly improper. On the other hand, however, l'chatchilah ariber must still be "over," i.e. have some connection to, the world of Tikkun. The G-dly revelation of Pesach, for example, is compared to "leaping over mountains." One must leap over in a way of l'chatchilah ariber, not creep along like an old man. However, one must still be "over," i.e. have some connection to, the mountain; otherwise, after leaping, who knows if he will ever land? Perhaps he will remain suspended in the heavens!
So too, a person involved in communal work must do so l'chatchilah ariber. He should not be afraid to borrow money in order to spread Torah and mitzvos. Any claim that for his spiritual and physical wellbeing, he can never go into debt, is false. True peace, of mind and of body, comes only when one completely fulfills his mission in spreading Torah and mitzvos in accordance with the instructions of the Previous Rebbe.
As we saw, the Previous Rebbe did not limit himself to working only within his budget -- he was always in debt. As soon as he paid off his loans, he immediately took out new ones in order to broaden his holy efforts.
On the other hand, one must remain within the confines of the world and not "jump off the mountain" altogether. This is not what the Rebbe Maharash meant, and is not the Torah's way of serving Hashem.
The one who already put himself in this position -- since his intentions were pure -- will certainly receive Heavenly assistance enabling him to repay his loans, and with money left over. moreover, tavo alav berachah, since as a result of this behavior a large amount of money was spent on holy causes.
That, however, is as far as the past is concerned. From now on, his l'chatchilah ariber should still be connected to the world; "over," but still connected to the "mountains."
Since all G-dly service must be done with joy, it is proper to sing the niggun, l'chatchilah ariber. In addition, the niggun of the Tzemach Tzedek should be song (and it is surprising that everyone ignores the obvious; of all the niggunim sung, that of the Tzemach Tzedek was omitted!), along with the hachono niggun, the Alter Rebbe's niggun, and the Mitteler Rebbe's niggun.
[After the niggunim, the Rebbe mentioned saying a berachah acharona, and then added the following.]
Since, as mentioned above, Pesach has a special connection with charity, it is proper to distribute dollars to give to charity through the tankistim.
One might say that this is not a proper time for this, since R. Yehudah Hachossid ruled that one should not distribute money on motzoei Shabbos. It is also well-known that the Rebbe Rashab instructed his wife not to ask for money (for the home) on motzoei Shabbos, but rather to do so either before Shabbos or after motzoei Shabbos. So too, the Talmud Yerushalmi writes that any giving charity at night is questionable. Why then are we distributing dollars at this time?
The explanation is that now the situation is different, and we see that the Torah sometimes adjusts to changing circumstances. This is not to say, G-d forbid, that the Torah changes -- the Torah is eternal and unchangeable. The Torah is sensitive to changing circumstances and is still eternal. How can both things be true?
We can understand this through analyzing a statement in Tanya (Iggeres Hakodesh ch. 9), that the Talmudic statement, "Torah study outweighs charity," applied only in Talmudic times. In our times, the Alter Rebbe continues, since (in the words of our Sages), "only through charity will the redemption come," charity is now the main thing. Here too, the question arises, how can a statement of the Torah become obsolete?
The answer is that this is not a change in the Torah, but rather corresponds to a change in the world. Since, in these days immediately preceding Moshiach, the world has fallen so low, the task necessary at this particular time (she'haz'man grama) is to elevate the world through charity. And the law of the Torah is that a mitzvah which has a specific time (she'haz'man grama) outweighs Torah study.
Therefore, the general law still stands; Torah study stands above charity. In these generations, however, another factor has entered the picture -- charity has become a mitzvah of immediate importance (she'haz'man grama), and therefore takes precedence.
This also explains why, in this country, the majority of fundraising events take place at a melave malkah, despite the issues mentioned above.
Originally, it was difficult to understand why Hashem caused the Jewish people to immigrate to America; a land dry of Judaism, which presented so many challenges, etc. After World War II, however, it became obvious that the purpose of this was to put the Jewish people in the financial position to be able to rescue their brethren in Europe. (This is not, however, the proper forum in which to discuss this.)
Therefore, since the whole existence of American Jewry is due to charity, it was here that melave malkah fundraisers were developed -- since they point out the vital importance of charity in this generation (and charity is therefore given even during questionable time periods, as mentioned above).
The superficial reason is that people do not work on Sunday -- Wall St. is closed! -- and the fundraisers do not have to worry that people will leave early...in order to get to sleep early...in order to run off to work early the next day. They will therefore be able to patiently sit through all the speeches of the benefactors (who of course, in exchange for their donation, want the right to speak just as long as they please) without running out in the middle.
The inner reason, however, is as mentioned above; that in the end of the exile, charity is a mitzvah she'haz'man grama, and cannot be pushed off.
Tonight, there is no question to begin with. The money already went out of my possession on the 11th of Nissan, and therefore, technically it is not being "given," just being "received." In addition, the charity is not now actually being given to the poor -- rather it is being distributed in order to be given at the proper time. Therefore, in this case there is not even room for discussion.
In any case, anyone who is afraid to give money at night, or on motzoei Shabbos, should know that there is nothing to fear. Better he should increase in his fear of Hashem, which will cause him to increase in Torah and mitzvos, including even more donations to charity.
Therefore, the tankistim should now come to receive the dollars. It is proper that those who are listening in other places also do the same.