We are now in the period near to the yartzeit of the previous Rebbe, leader of our generation, which is an auspicious time to elicit merit and blessings for all one’s needs. G-d will therefore surely bless each and every one of you materially and spiritually for the whole year.
The blessings thus elicited are infinitely more lofty than those of previous years. The blessings stemming from the yartzeit are effected by the spiritual elevation experienced by the previous Rebbe on his yartzeit. Since a greater elevation is experienced from year to year, it follows that the blessings are also greater than on previous years.
Moreover, the previous Rebbe was the leader of his generation, and “the body follows the head.” The elevation experienced by the previous Rebbe therefore affects every Jew of his generation, particularly those who follow his ways, learn his Torah, and fulfill his mission of spreading Judaism, Torah and mitzvos, and particularly Chassidus. In other words, we increase in these matters every year in a more lofty manner, consonant to the directive, “ascend in holiness.” This increase elicits extra blessings, for when a Jew enlarges the “vessel,” the conduit through which one receives the blessings, by increasing in all matters of Torah, particularly those things associated with the previous Rebbe, he merits an infinitely greater amount of blessings.
The Alter Rebbe taught that a Jew must “live with the times,” meaning we must live according to the directives derived from the weekly parshah. That a yartzeit effects extra service to G-d is alluded to in this week’s parshah, Yisro. This parshah is associated with the actual day of the previous Rebbe’s yartzeit, Shabbos, for then we began to read (at Minchah) parshas Yisro.
“Yisro” was Moshe’s father-in-law, and he was so named for “he caused to be added (“yeser”) one parshah in Torah.” Through him, Moshe Rabbeinu and all Jewry received an extra parshah in Torah. This teaches that notwithstanding one’s total involvement in Torah and Judaism until now, the previous Rebbe’s yartzeit, on which we begin to read parshas Yisro, provides the strength to increase in Torah and mitzvos, in a manner far more lofty than previously.
A further lesson is derived from Rashi’s interpretation of the verse (Shemos 18:1) “Yisro heard” — “What report did he hear that he came [to Moshe]? The splitting of the Reed Sea and the war against Amalek.”
Parshas Yisro, we have said, teaches that we must increase in Torah and mitzvos. When attempting to convince a Jew to do so, one may wonder: “What report did he hear that he came” — what can convince a Jew of the necessity to surpass his present standard? A Jew may well claim that Jews are a minority in a vast world; and among Jews themselves, not all Jews fulfill Torah and mitzvos properly. Much work is still needed to convince all Jews to constantly increase in their observance of Judaism. How, then, can a Jew be expected to remain untouched by these sobering facts, and increase in his Torah observance, and influence others to do likewise! How can an individual split the “sea” which surrounds him and change the existing order of things?
The answer is “What report did he hear that he came? The splitting of the Reed Sea.” When the Jews left Egypt to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai, their journey was obstructed by the Reed Sea. Nachshon ben Aminadav leapt into the sea, and the sea then split not just for him, but for Moshe Rabbeinu, the twelve tribes, and the entire people of Israel, men, women and children. A path was created within the sea through which the Jews marched to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
One need not fear the surrounding “sea” when attempting to bring Jews to receiving the Torah (which is reenacted each day, and particularly in the week in which we read parshas Yisro, which relates the Giving of the Torah). We learn that when one Jew leaps into the sea, he, as an individual, splits the sea for all Jews and thereby brings them to receiving the Torah.
But the yetzer harah, “Amalek,” can come and “cool off” a Jew’s fervor to influence other Jews to increase in Torah and mitzvos. You have been successful in observing Judaism until now, “Amalek” says, why is it necessary to be so enthusiastic about increasing in your work? Moreover, queries “Amalek,” is it really necessary to increase in your service to G-d? Perhaps the service you have performed until now is sufficient. Thus “Amalek” — which in Hebrew numerology equals the words “sofek,” meaning “doubt” — attempts to sow doubt and confusion in a Jew’s mind.
The reply is given by Rashi, that after the report about the splitting of the sea, there was also the report about lithe war against Amalek.” After the Jews left Egypt to receive the Torah, “Amalek came and fought with Israel”: He did so to cool off their fervor and eagerness to receive the Torah, and to implant doubts in their minds about the necessity of receiving the Torah. Perhaps the exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the sea were sufficient gains, and it is unnecessary to continue further to Mt. Sinai.
But the Jews did not heed Amalek’s words, and fought him with G-d’s strength, as stated (Shemos 7:16): “It is G-d’s war against Amalek.” And the Jews were victorious. This teaches that a Jew need not be affected by “Amalek’s” (yetzer harah’s) persuasions, but must resolutely proceed on his task of coming even closer to receive the Torah.
In summation, the lesson from parshas Yisro is that a Jew must constantly increase in Torah and Judaism (“Yisro”), and need not be affected by any obstacles. If there is a “sea” before him — it will be split; if there is an “Amalek” — he will be defeated. The experiences of the past teach that a Jew in any generation need never be affected by any such circumstances. Indeed, such obstacles are but a test, and when passed, G-d raises a Jew to a level infinitely higher than before, transcending all limits.
There is a further matter associated with Yud Shevat, particularly relevant to the guests who are preparing to return home.
The previous Rebbe was the leader of his generation, and “there is one leader to a generation.” Simultaneously, “the leader is everything,” the “heart of the entire community of Israel.” Thus, one of the principal functions of the leader is that through him all the people of his generation are united into one entity.
This concept comes to fruition when Jews from different places gather together on the yartzeit of the previous Rebbe. But even when these people return to their homes, the unity effected by the yartzeit must be extended even when they are not physically together.
This is achieved when it is realized that their parting is but external, with their bodies, whereas from the soul’s perspective, Jews are constantly united. This is particularly so when this unity is expressed in concrete action by increasing in the study of the previous Rebbe’s teachings, and doing good deeds consonant to the previous Rebbe’s wishes.
Unity is further engendered by gathering together from time to time to learn Torah together, and together to undertake good resolutions in regard to spreading Torah and Judaism.
It is therefore important for each person returning to his home to arrange gatherings as soon as possible, therefore shortening the period of physical separation as much as possible. It would be best if these gatherings are held during the week following Yud Shevat, which, since it is on Shabbos, blesses all the days of the following week.
In this week itself, the most appropriate time is Thursday, the 15th of Shevat, “Rosh Hashanah for trees.” Every Jew is compared to a fruit bearing tree, as stated (Devorim 20:19), “For man is a tree of the field.” Thus the “Rosh Hashanah for trees” is also “Rosh Hashanah” for Jews. And the “Rosh” — the “head” — unites all the body’s limbs, thereby making “Rosh Hashanah for trees” a most appropriate time to hold gatherings to unite Jews.
Gatherings should also be held for children, Tzivos Hashem. Indeed, the “Rosh Hashanah for trees” has particular significance for children. “Rosh Hashanah for trees” means the renewal of the growth of trees and growth applies more to children than to adults. This means physical and spiritual growth, for both take place principally in a person’s early years.
It is also worthwhile to mention, at gatherings held on the 15th of Shevat, that this year the “Rosh Hashanah for trees” is blessed by the preceding Shabbos which is Yud Shevat.
The above comments regarding increase in Torah and unity through gatherings take on special significance in the light of the present world situation. It is a period when instability is rampant, and quarrels between nations an everyday occurrence.
Although we are promised that “the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,” G-d nevertheless wants us to do our part in correcting the situation. This is achieved by Jews increasing in their love for each other, and in uniting together for unity elicits greater blessings from G-d, beginning with salvation from the present state of affairs. In the words of the verse (Yeshayah 57:13): “When you cry, your gatherings shall save
This ensures that Jews have peace in the entire world, especially when these gatherings are utilized to inspire one another to increase in observance of Judaism. This starts with love and unity of Jews, followed by the rest of the mitzvah campaigns: education, Torah study, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books, Shabbos and Yomtov lights, kashrus, family purity, and that every Jew should have a letter in one of the general Sifrei Torah. Likewise, to spread peace and justice in the world at large, by ensuring that the nations of the world observe the Seven Noachide Laws.
The above comments concerning the state of the world are reflected in the speech delivered today by the President of the United States. The U.S. is the country in which the previous Rebbe lived and worked for the last ten years of his life. Torah says (Gitten 10b) “the law of the land is [Torah] law,” meaning that in matters not affecting Judaism, the country’s laws have the binding force of Torah. There is therefore a lesson to be derived from the words of the President, the person who stands at the helm of this country.
He said that the world is in a very precarious position, to the extent that there have been more than one hundred major conflicts since the end of World War II. The only counsel, he further said, is for nations to achieve greater cooperation and understanding between themselves, which will eventually lead to peace.
The President surely meant that success in this task comes from trust in G-d, the Creator of the world, and not from arrogant belief in one’s own prowess. He himself described this task as a very difficult one, and yet demanded that it be done which is possible only by trusting in G-d. Indeed, this country lays heavier stress on trust in G-d than do other countries, as witnessed by the fact that its currency bears the words, “In G-d We Trust.”
Since Divine Providence rules all things, the above address of the President teaches a Jew that he must do his utmost to bring peace to the world by increasing in Ahavas Yisroel and all good and holy things.
May it be G-d’s will that each and every Jew increase in Torah and Judaism, with self-dedication to G-d, as stated (Devorim 6:5): “You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And love of G-d is bound up with love of Jews and love of the Torah.
Through this we merit to have the “whole people” with the “whole Torah,” meaning that all Jews fulfill the Torah in its entity. This in turn elicits blessings from G-d, extending to the main blessing, the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach. And then all Jews will go to Eretz Yisroel, when we will merit to have “the whole land.”