Every Rosh Chodesh is characterized by a general quality that is shared by all the Rashei Chadashim and a particular quality that is unique to it. This is surely true of the present day, Rosh Chodesh Kislev.
Also, there is a unique connection to the ultimate goal of the service of the Jewish people, to bring about the coming of the ultimate Redemption. In this vein, the Previous Rebbe notes that the word lehavi translated as "to include" in our Sages' statement, " 'all the days of your life' -- to include the Era of the Mashiach," also has the meaning "to bring." Thus the statement can be interpreted to mean "all the days of your life should be directed to bringing the Era of the Mashiach."
The above is particularly relevant in our era when all the service necessary to bring about Mashiach's coming has been completed, and our efforts must be devoted to preparing to actually accept Mashiach.
To explain the above: Rosh Chodesh relates to the word chidush meaning "novelty" or "new development." Each month, the moon undergoes a "new birth." This moment of birth includes the potential for the moon's subsequent growth. In this context, we can understand the name Rosh Chodesh, literally, "the head of the month." Just as the head contains all the life-energy of the entire body, so too, Rosh Chodesh contains all the spiritual potential for all the days of the coming month.
This must be reflected in a Jew's service, for the Jews "es-tablish their calendar according to the moon" and "will be renewed in the future as the moon is renewed." This implies that each Jew must:
- experience a personal renewal;
- bring about new developments in the world at large.
These two concepts are interrelated. Through a Jew's service in the world at large, he can reach new heights of personal development. This will be revealed in an ultimate manner in the Era of the Redemption.
Significantly, Mashiach who will usher in this era will be a descendant of King David whose royal line is associated with the moon. Thus it can be stated that the spark of Mashiach in every Jew is revealed on Rosh Chodesh. This generates the potential for a personal renewal and a renewal in all the elements of one's service. In this manner, it leads to the ultimate renewal of the Jewish people as a whole which will be experienced in the Era of the Redemption.
The moon's rebirth is preceded by a process of self-diminution. This process is alluded in the verse, "And you shall be taken notice of, for your place will be empty." This implies that the path to receiving special attention is making one's place empty, i.e., self-diminution. Similarly, the waning of the moon to the extent that it is totally obscured allows for its rebirth on a higher level.
The month of Kislev shares an intrinsic connection to these concepts, for Kislev represents a fusion of the concepts of concealment and revelation. The name Kislev (àîæï) is a combination of àî æï. æï is associated with hiddenness, while àî reflects the concept of revelation. àî is numerically equivalent to 36  (six times six) which reflects the ultimate of emotional expression, how our six emotional attributes are successfully interconnected.
The concept of revelation relates to the ultimate revelation which will come in the Era of the Redemption. The concept of redemption is also reflected in the holidays of the month of Kislev. Chanukah, the conclusion of the month, is associated with the dedication of the altar in the time of the Chasmoneans and alludes to the ultimate dedication of the altar that will take place in the Era of the Redemption.
The connection to the Era of the Redemption is also reflected in the eight candles of the Chanukah lights and the eight days of the Chanukah festival. The menorah in the Beis HaMikdash had seven lights; similarly, the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos are celebrated for seven days, for from the initial week of creation onward, the natural order has been structured in a set of seven. Eight, in contrast, reflects the transcendence of this order associated with the Era of the Redemption.
Similarly, in the latter generations, the month of Kislev has been associated with festivals that serve as harbingers of the coming of the Redemption: Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus, which marks the redemption of the Alter Rebbe, and Yud Kislev, which marks the redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe. These holidays are associated with P'nimiyus HaTorah, the dimension of yechidah in the Torah, and are related to the coming of Mashiach, the yechidah in the world at large. For it is through the spreading of the teachings of Chassidus that Mashiach will come. And thus, the month of Kislev has become designated as "the month of the redemption."
The renewal of the Jewish people in the Era of the Redemption can be understood within the explanation of the concept of childhood. In this context, we find an expression made by one of the sages of the Kabbalah, "I pray with the intention of a child." A child is not aware of the various different manifestations of G-dliness; he is conscious of G-d's essence alone.
Indeed, a child possesses an advantage over a Torah sage. A Torah sage, since he has a conception of the manifestation of G-d in the Sefiros, must struggle to relate to the essence of G-d. And in the process of this struggle, although he ultimately also relates to G-d's essence, he feels the wondrous elevation that comes from rising above all the different manifestation of G-dliness. Since he comprehends these different levels, he is attached to them. A child, in contrast, has no connection to these levels whatsoever, his approach is directly to G-d's essence. He is not aware of anything else.
This concept is reflected in the term which a child uses to describe G-d, Der Aibershter, lit. "the One Above." The use of this term, however, does not imply that G-d is found only above and not on this plain. For every child knows that G-d's Presence is also here. Rather, the term "the One Above" is used to imply that He is above our frame of reference entirely. For a child, this is not an abstract intellectual appreciation, but rather an actual real-life understanding.
A child does not know the difference between the terms essence, nature, transcendence, but a child does have an actual awareness of G-d. This is what the Alter Rebbe meant with the statement that, for children "[G-d's] light is in revelation." Every fibre of his being appreciates a connection with Him.
To explain the above within the context of Chassidic terminology: A Torah scholar shares a connection with the revealed dimensions of G-dliness and thus the bond he establishes is made through his intellectual comprehension of G-d's manifestations. On a deeper level, he can attach his will and his quality of pleasure to G-d. There is even a deeper bond, the connection of yechidah, which is the aspect of the soul which is one with G-d. But above the level of yechidah, there is the essence of the soul and the essence of G-d and this is the level on which a child relates to Him.
This child-like relationship with G-d can be shared by every Jew and is reflected in the statement made immediately upon awakening each morning, Modeh Ani, "I thankfully acknowledge You." In Hebrew, the word Modeh -- "thankfully acknowledge" precedes Ani -- "I." Before a person feels his "I," he gives himself over in acknowledgement of G-d, stepping beyond his individual conception of self and identifying with his true reality, the G-dly essence of his being.
This reflects an essential bond, a connection that transcends the levels of conscious awareness. The relationship of this level to children is also emphasized by the fact that waking up in the morning is like being born anew. This acknowledgement serves as the fundamental basis for our service during the day that follows: From this essential connection to G-dliness, one proceeds to establish a base of conscious connection to G-d. This is reflected in the recitation of the morning blessings, the morning prayer service, and the manner in which from prayer, one proceeds to study, and then to activity in the world at large, transforming the world into a dwelling for Him.
Parallel concepts apply in regard to birth and waxing of the moon. These in turn are related to the Redemption, for our Sages associate the Davidic dynasty with the moon, noting the Shlomo was the fifteenth generation after Avraham just as after fifteen days the moon shines fully. Since Mashiach will be "a descendant of David and Shlomo," the renewal of the Jewish people in the Era of the Redemption is reflected in the rebirth and the growth of the moon.
The full shining of the moon on the fifteenth of the month reflects a level of perfection in regard to its power of revelation. The essence of the moon, its very being, however, is reflected in its rebirth in the beginning of the month.
Since the Redemption relates to the essence of the Jewish people, it is symbolized by the rebirth of the moon. The uniqueness of the Era of the Redemption, is that in that age, the essence will come into revelation; the essential qualities of the Jewish people will be openly apparent. Our essential bond with G-d will permeate every aspect of our conscious functioning, to the extent that it is reflected in our thought, speech, and deed.
In this sense, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the rebirth of the moon in the month of redemption, a month associated with the fusion of concealment and revelation as explained above, is representative of the ultimate rebirth and renewal of our people in the Era of the Redemption. An essence need not be expressed in revelation and can remain concealed. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of the world at large, there is an advantage in its revelation.
This connection between Kislev and the redemption is also reflected by the fact that the holidays of the month of Kislev are associated with oil; Chanukah is associated with the miracle of the oil burning in the menorah and Yud and Yud-Tes Kislev are associated with P'nimiyus HaTorah which is described with the metaphor of oil. The awareness of G-d established through P'nimiyus HaTorah is a microcosm of -- and a preparation for -- the outpouring of G-dly knowledge that will accompany the Era of the Redemption. Then, "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."
All of the revelations of the Era of the Redemption are dependent on our service at present in the time of exile. Accordingly, since the Era of the Redemption will be marked by an essential renewal of our being, it must also be prefaced by the revelation of that Jewish essence to the fullest extent possible in the time of exile.
A connection to this concept can be found in the verse
(ëâüÆ âàâ ëÜÇûÄ), "I found David My servant," which is interpreted as a reference to Mashiach. Matzasi, "I found," is related to the word metzios, meaning "being," the very essence of Mashiach's being that is above all definition or limitation. This is the first stage of Mashiach's revelation. Afterwards, as the verse continues, "I will anoint him with holy oil," just as oil permeates through all substances, so too, the revelation of Mashiach will permeate every dimension of existence.
There is a parallel to this in each individual's service. Even before the arousal of the level of yechidah which is expressed in bittul and thankful acknowledgement of G-d, the essence of the soul exists. When this essence awakens, it will motivate an entirely different approach to service, an approach that reflects this fundamental connection to G-dliness. On a personal level -- and this will be reflected in the world at large -- this is the coming of Mashiach.
As mentioned above, "all the days of your life should be directed to bringing the Era of Mashiach." Every awake moment of a person's life -- and indeed, even during the time when he sleeps, for he is alive then as well -- must be devoted to this goal. This involves not only one's conscious activity, one's thought, speech, and deeds, but also, one's very essence. The core of one's being should be focused on this objective.
In this context, we can speak of "breathing the air of Mashiach." The essence of a person's life is reflected in his breathing processes. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "breath," neshimah (äÄëÖÉ) shares the same letters as the Hebrew for "soul," neshamah, (äÄÖÉ). This is the service which is necessary at present, connecting the core of our being to the core of Mashiach. This will ultimately awaken a pattern of conduct that will permeate every dimension of our being.
The awakening of the core of our being must be reflected in a concern for the fundamental existence of every Jew. This should be expressed in efforts to provide our fellow Jews with the necessities required to celebrate the holidays of the month of Kislev with happiness and joy. Similarly, they should have the means to fulfill the custom which the Rebbeim followed of giving Chanukah gelt to the members of their household.
These activities will bring about the advent of the ultimate Redemption in this month, the month of redemption. We will merit to see not only the essence, but also the revelation of Mashiach in the world at large. This will be reflected in the manner in which he will "perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written, 'I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose.' "
- (Back to text) Trans. Note: The sichos delivered by the Rebbe Shlita on these two occasions share a thematic connection. They were prepared for publication and edited by the Rebbe as a single text.
- (Back to text) See Sichos Shabbos Parshas Chaye Sarah.
- (Back to text) The potential for "new birth" comes from the process of self-nullification alluded to by the waning of the moon as will be explained.
- (Back to text) Herein, we see a connection to Rosh HaShanah, "the head of the year." Just as each year, on Rosh HaShanah, "a new light which never shone before" is revealed, similarly, each Rosh Chodesh, a new dimension of light is revealed.
- (Back to text) Similarly, there is a connection between the above concepts and our Sages' statement that G-d told the moon, "Go and make yourself small." On the surface, the question arises: Why did G-d have to say "Go," He could have just told the moon, "Make yourself small." He was, however, informing the moon that to "go," to make genuine progress and experience a new level totally above its previous one -- i.e., the ultimate revelation of the moon in the Era of the Redemption when the light of the moon will be greater than the light of the sun -- it was necessary to "make yourself small."
- (Back to text) The word Çæï is also connected with the fusion of concealment and revelation.
Ç æï contrasts concealment with the alef, the beginning of revelation. 36 (from Kislev), however, refers to a more complete and developed pattern of revelation.
- (Back to text) 36 is also the numerical equivalent of the word eilah meaning "this is," which indicates a revelation so evident that it is openly apparent.
- (Back to text) In this context, Shemini Atzeres is considered as a separate holiday.
- (Back to text) In this vein, the Rebbe Rashab commented on the adage, "If I knew G-d, I would be G-d," through the study of Chassidus, "I both know and experience G-dliness."
- (Back to text) On previous occasions, it was explained that in preparation for the revelation of Mashiach, the yechidah of the world at large, each person must reveal the spark of Mashiach within him, his yechidah. In this context, it is explained that our service must touch a deeper point, the very essence of our beings.
- (Back to text) The expression "the Era of Mashiach" refers to an entire sequence of time. On one hand, from the first moment of the Redemption onward, the Redemption will be complete. Nevertheless, there will be constant stages of elevation, each one bringing to new and higher peaks.
- (Back to text) In the context of the explanation above, we can appreciate a difference between "the air of Mashiach," aviro shel Mashiach, (çëÖÄ îÖ àÿëàÇ), and "the light of Mashiach," oro shel Mashiach, (çëÖÄ îÖ àÿàÇ). Avir ("air") contains the letters of the word or ("light"), but it also possesses a yud which refers to the very essence of a Jew's being.
Thus "the light of Mashiach," refers to the revelation of Mashiach through his activities in the world at large. The "air of Mashiach" refers to the essence of his being which exists before revelation.
- (Back to text) Note the discussion of the question of the nature of the festive meals served during Chanukah in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 10 p. 142.