[Note: The first sichah of the 10th of Kislev farbrengen was published as a separate essay, titled Shalom Aleichem — Aleichem Shalom.]
1. Today’s farbrengen is being held on the 10th of Kislev to commemorate the liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe, who, like his father, was also incarcerated for spreading Yiddishkeit, Torah and Chassidus. Yet it seems strange that although the arrest and liberation of the Alter Rebbe took place many years prior to the liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe, the annual celebration of the Mitteler Rebbe’s holiday, the 10th of Kislev, always comes before the 19th of Kislev.
One possible explanation might be proposed. In the case of all holidays the spiritual influence celebrated on a particular holiday affects the day itself and still lingers on, carrying with it the spirit of that particular holiday for the rest of the year, until the same day in the following year. For example, on Pesach, when the theme is redemption, the spiritual force which is activated continues through the year carrying with it aspects of redemption, until the following Pesach, when there will be a new and greater effulgence of the theme of redemption.
Likewise, we can say that on the 19th of Kislev of 5744 a spiritual force was activated carrying the theme of that day to this 10th of Kislev, which then follows on it. In a sense we can say that the 10th of Kislev really does follow the 19th of Kislev.
This explanation is not sufficient, because this 10th of Kislev must innovate a spiritual aura coming specifically in 5745, after the new life generated to the world on Rosh Hashanah of this year. Thus it cannot rely on the legacy of last year’s 19th of Kislev, which came before Rosh Hashanah. In other words, in this year of 5745, how and why does the celebration of the 10th of Kislev [which historically happened after the incidents of the 19th of Kislev] precede the celebration of the 19th of Kislev, and especially how do we relate the spiritual forces involved.
The answer to this is, that although the charges against, and subsequent incarceration of the Alter Rebbe were more severe and dangerous than those brought against the Mitteler Rebbe, there was still some higher quality in the liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe even over the liberation of the Alter Rebbe. This makes the 10th of Kislev a “vessel” to help receive the light of the 19th of Kislev, and therefore it comes before the AFti of Kislev.
From the time of the Baal Shem Tov, all of the leaders of Chabad Chassidus have made it their general life’s goal to spread the wellsprings of Torah to the outside. The specific form of this activity normally was to say Chassidic maamarim, thereby revealing the wellsprings of Chassidus. They also were concerned that these discourses should be recorded by their colleagues or students and then carefully corrected and edited in preparation for publication, which assured the widest possible dissemination of their teachings, even to the outside.
Although each Rebbe had his own system and style, this was basically the accepted norm.
It is specifically in this area that we find a divergence and innovation on the part of the Mitteler Rebbe, who sacrificed himself to make sure that the wellsprings would really reach the widest audience, even to the simplest and most elementary person.
The Mitteler Rebbe, in his correspondence, stressed the importance of properly understanding Chassidic philosophy, and he therefore involved himself in the immediate publication of the maamarim in small pamphlets at the cost of only a few kopecks, so that everyone could afford to buy them and study them.
In other words: In addition to the fact that he devoted his time to teaching the Chassidic philosophy discourses, he also devoted a special effort to see that they would be published and disseminated in a manner which made them accessible to all, intellectually and financially. He continually used to organize his writings in such away that they would fit into the space of the folio, and he himself set the price. This, then, was a unique aspect of the life of the Mitteler Rebbe.
To explain how this apples to all of us, we should preface, that we are all disciples of all the Rebbeim: The Baal Shem Tov, the Great Maggid, the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, the Rashab and my father-in-law the Rebbe and Nasi of our generation. Nevertheless, on the 10th of Kislev we should make a special effort in the areas which are unique to the Mitteler Rebbe. Thus our lesson from this day (and on through the coming year) is that we must make every effort to bring the teachings of Chassidus to every single Jew on a level that they can understand and afford it. This effort cannot be delegated, just as the Mitteler Rebbe did not rely on others.
The emphasis here is on every single Jew, man or woman. For women are also responsible to study Chassidus, to “Know the G-d of your father ...,” which brings to the fulfillment of the mitzvos of love of G-d, fear of G-d and faith in G-d, “... and serve Him with a perfect heart,” etc., which are the foundations of the Torah — as the Rambam explains, and as the Alter Rebbe also explains in Tanya. Not only can we take this directive from this day, but the day itself will give us the power to actually perfect our actions in this area, in a mood of “serve G-d with joy.”
This joy will pierce the limitations of the exile, so that from “those days, at this time,” we will approach the true redemption of every Jew and Jewess immediately. Also: “Those who dwell in the earth shall awaken and arise,” including also the Mitteler Rebbe, and all together we will go to our Holy Land: “The land which the eyes of-the L-rd your G-d are constantly upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year,” including the promised complete land: “When the L-rd your G-d will enlarge your boundaries.” This should be in a manner of: “A great multitude will return here,” including the “... leaders of your tribe ... wood choppers and water carriers,” not leaving anyone behind, true unity of the nation. There will also be unity of the “body of Torah” with the “soul of Torah” and the “soul of the soul of Torah” (as discussed in Zohar), all together rising to the Holy Land — in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
2. The theme discussed earlier is a factor which is common to the annual recurrence of the 10th of Kislev. Yet, a yearly observance of any sort should also indicate and include some innovation or newness each time the observance takes place.
What do we mean when we say a “new” development in thought or ruling of Torah?
The mitzvah of Torah study behooves us not just to repeat and review what we have already learned, but, as the Alter Rebbe states in “Laws of Learning Torah,” that one must also innovate and discover many new rules, according to the scope of his ability. The Zohar also states: “To make progress in it [Torah] daily.”
Since each of us has a portion in Torah, this concept applies to everyone. So much so, that when you are able to make new discoveries and you satisfy yourself with simple review, then in a sense, you are considered to be neglecting your Torah study. This is emphasized in tractate Megillah where the Talmud states: “We may neglect Torah study and come to hear the Megillah reading.” Now why is this considered neglect of Torah? The Mei-Tlah is certainly one of the 24 books-of Tenach — very much a part of the Written Torah! The explanation however is, that if you are able to make progress in Torah, then to simply read the Megillah may be considered neglect.
Just as in Torah, so too in other aspects of a Jew’s life, when we repeat, we must innovate and make progress. So what is new about this 10th of Kislev, in relation to the past and as a preparation from thP futilro?
To find the special newness of the 10th of Kislev this year, we must also look to Torah, just as G-d “consulted the Torah and created the world.” We find that the most apparent special aspect of this year’s 10th of Kislev, according to Torah, is the day of the week on which it falls, since that depends on the setting of the calendar, which follows the halachic rules established by Hillel, the great-grandson of Rabbi Yehudah the Pri neo
This year, the day of the week is Tuesday, which immediately indicates a form of uniqueness, being the day in which the words “ki tov” (it was good) were said. Rashi comments that these words have the meaning of, “good to heaven and good to man.” So now we understand that on this 10th of Kislev we must innovate an aspect of “good to heaven [‘shamayim’] and good to man [‘btriyos’].”
It would serve us well at this point to elucidate several details on this dictum.
The terminology used here is “shamayim,” heaven and “b’riyos,” creatures. It could just as well have said: “good to G-d [‘l’Makom’] and good to his friend [‘chaveiro’],” which are the terms normally used when differentiating between mitzvos i cho are between man—and G-d, or between man and his friends.
Let us analyze these pairs of terms: shamayim and btriyos, and Makom and chaveiro. “Makom” includes several levels: simple, physical space and above that, the place of Eretz Yisrael, the holiest of all physical levels. Makom can also have a spiritual connotation, and finally we use the word “Makom” as a metaphor for G-d, as expounded in the Midrash, since G-d is the “place” of the universe. When we use the term shamayim — “heaven” — however. we are dealing only with lofty matters.
Now let’s take a look at the terms chaveiro and b’riyos. The word chaver, friend, incorporates several different connotations. It may mean one who has accepted the articles of chaver (associateship), which in ancient times meant that he was versed and careful of the rules of “tumah” and “taharah,” all the levels of ritual purity. It may mean simply, “your friend,” and it could also refer to anyone covered by the mitzvah: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The word b’riyos (creatures), on the other hand, refers to anyone and anything made by the Creator, even if it has no intrinsic importance. Now we realize that the emphasis of “good to shamayim (heaven) and good to btriyos (people)” tells us that good actions reach from the loftiest levels to the basest points.
This combination of good to heaven and man does not mean that part of the third day was, or should be, devoted to G-d and the other part to man, but each moment of the day must be permeated by a fusion of action which will be good both for G-d and man. It might seem rare for such a refined form of action to be effected, for under normal circumstances when one gives tzedakah he gives life to the poor person and when one studies Torah he relates to G-d. When we learn that on the third day there was a doubling of “ki tov” we understand it to mean, that this day carries the potential, and gives us the ability, to activate this fusion of the two disparate aspects in the following manner.
When a Jew studies Torah [good to heaven] he must keep in mind that the purpose of study is action, to know the details of halachah and to apply them to real life, in the real world. Now, if he acknowledges that he must also make his study so clear that he can teach it in an understandable way even to the simplest person, in order that he may apply it to action, then his study is deeper, clearer and more fundamental. In short, he will actually reach the true meaning of Torah. He has fused together “good to heaven” and “good to people.”
Similarly, when a Jew does an act of kindness for another person [good to people] and remembers that his actions will not only be judged relative to the recipient’s wants or needs, but will also be measured against an objective criterion set by Torah [good to heaven], the “seeing eye and ear that hears,” then his action will be based on truth — the true perfection. Once again a fusion has been effected and the combined action is of the highest caliber.
What innovation and what special directive do we learn when the 10th of Kislev occurs on Tuesday? We learn that our activities and efforts in spreading the wellsprings must be done not only with all our heart, soul and might, but that it should also be good for heaven and good for people. Just as the Mitteler Rebbe personally labored in every detail of disseminating the teachings of Chassidus, so too, must we exert every effort, toil and labor in reaching even those, for whom we must figure out how many pages they can absorb, and how many kopecks they can pay — to those, who are really on a level of “creatures.” We cannot ignore them but must reach out even to that level.
By being involved in spreading the wellsprings of Torah in a manner which is good for heaven and good for people, with “Ahavas Yisrael” and Jewish unity in mind, we also bring the fusion of heaven and creatures, which is the theme of the double “ki tov.” It will reveal the ultimate, true good of the complete redemption — nothing short of perfect good! As it says: “I will remove the spirit of tumah from the world,” and only perfect good will remain — as the redemption itself, which is the true redemption — speedily in our days — through the righteous Mashiach.
3. It was the Mitteler Rebbe who explained the
Alter Rebbe’s aphorism, that a Jew must live with the “times,” to refer to the Torah portion read each week and specifically to the section relating to the particular day of the week. In the section of Parshas Vayishlach which applies today, we read !
“Yaakov named the place Peniel (Divine Face). [He said] ‘I have seen the Divine, face to face and my soul has withstood it.’ The sun rose and was shining on him as he left Penuel ....” (Bereishis 32:31-32)
On this there is a well-known question: Why does the Torah change the word from Peniel to Penuel? The Tzemach Tzedek in a Chassidic interpretation in Or HaTorah, explains the difference, in terms of the innermost, Divine service, from the true depth and essence of the heart, which in turn draws down from above the aspect of the countenance of G-d in a manner of “face to face.”
This explanation however, raises the question, how does this lofty concept fit with the simple meaning, that Yaakov’s statement: “I have seen the Divine, face to face ...,” refers to the guardian angel of Eisav, with whom he had struggled? [This question was further discussed in the sichos of Shabbos Vayishlach this year.]
A Jew’s Divine service must be permeated and instilled with deep feeling, service of the inner essence of the heart, and this must be manifested in a revealed way. To reach this depth and intensity one must direct his attention to the inner essence of spirituality. One may seek the extrinsic, or revealed, aspect of G-dliness by meditating on the greatness of G-d as expressed and perceived in creation, for, “How manifold are Your works O L-rd,” and “How great are Your works O L-rd.
In Tanya the Alter Rebbe says:
“Even he who has never seen the king and does not recognize him at all, nevertheless when he enters the royal court and sees many honorable princes prostrating themselves before one man, there falls on him a fear and awe.”
Although he cannot fathom the greatness and certainly not the essence of the king, nevertheless the external aspects of the king will engender in his heart a great fear.
Then there is a higher level of Divine service, when a Jew seeks the essence of G-dliness, the innermost aspect of the king — by cleaving to Torah which is the essence and innermost of all creation; in Torah itself, he seeks the “soul of the soul” of Torah, in the manner of “I seek the face of G-d.” There is consequently a relationship of the essence of G-dliness and the innermost aspect of the heart — as Yaakov said, “I have seen the Divine face to face.”
This lofty, face to face contact, actually is itself comprised of two levels, corresponding to “Peniel,” with a “yud” and “Penuel” with a “vav.” To effectuate a true union with the essence of G-dliness, there must be “bittul” (self-abnegation) on the part of the person below, to the degree of actual insignificance of a “point,” like the letter yud. The lower ‘point,’ may then bond to the supernal “point,” the nebulous source of all revelation. Thus Peniel corresponds to “Pnei E-,” the intrinsic “face” of the supernal in the state of potential or “point,” which is also the source of the supernal intellect. The ultimate state of unity, even at this lofty level, is to draw the potential into the actual attributes, the intellect serving as matrix and guide for the functions of the attributes and emotions. Thus, from the level of Peniel, the revelations must infuse the attributes, Penuel, with the vav, which indicates drawing down from above to below, from the yud at the head of the vav into the six attributes and thence to the seventh attribute, Malchus, which, in its role of the “congregation of Israel,” gathers and congregates the revelation of the six higher attributes.
Therefore, when Yaakov spoke he called the place Peniel, which reflected Yaakov’s personal level of Divine service, “I have seen the Divine +ice — to face,” in the state of yud before it descends into the world. After the descent into the world, represented by the vav, we now must refer to the same experience with the level of Penuel.
The story concludes with “The sun rose and was shining on him as he left Penuel.” On this verse the Midrash comments (Bereishis Rabbah 78:5):
“On whom did the sun not shine? But for him, to heal him, etc., said the Holy One, Blessed be He, to him: ‘You are an omen for your descendants, even as the sun heals you etc., so will the sun heal them ...,’ ‘... Unto you that fear My name the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in its wings.”‘
By fulfilling our responsibility in this world (Penuel) during the duration of the six thousand years of the world, we will merit the shining of the “sun of healing” which will be revealed at the time of Mashiach, and the true and ultimate redemption.
The 10th of Kislev is the holiday of redemption of a prince of Israel, who tells us, his students and followers, who study his Chassidus and walk in his ways, to spread the wellsprings of Torah and Chassidic teachings — which reveals the “vav” of the world, and it will reveal the sun of healing — so that: “the honor of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see together that the mouth of G-d has spoken.”