20 Menachem Av: How to Add the “Alef”

The Rebbe mentions numerous times in these talks that everything that is necessary for the Geulah is already here, we simply need to add the letter “alef” to the word gola (which means exile), thereby transforming it to Geulah.  But what exactly does it mean to add an “alef” to the exile that we are in?

There are many levels to answering this question, the most basic of which is that it means revealing Hashem (the ruler of the world, “alufo shel olam“) in the world through Torah and Mitzvos.  Additionally, it means recognizing Hashem’s Divine Providence that is behind everything, even those things which appear to us as the opposite of good.

We find an even deeper and more comprehensive explanation in the Chassidic Discourse that was edited by the Rebbe and published in 1991 in honor of the Hillula (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe’s father, Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn.

The discourse discusses the source for the statement of our sages that a Jew must make 100 blessings every day.  The sages find scriptural support for this in a verse from parshas Ekev: “Now, Yisroel, what does Hashem your G-d want from you” (Devarim 10:12).  The sages say “don’t read mah (“what”) rather me’ah (“one hundred’)”.  This familiar technique of the sages doesn’t change the original meaning, of course, but adds another level.  In this case, they are adding the letter “alef” to the “mah” (which means “what”) and the result is the one hundred blessings (“me’ah”) that a Jew must say.

In chapter 3 of the discourse, the Rebbe explains the deeper significance of inserting an “alef”, which is surely applicable as well to the Rebbe’s instruction to add an “alef” to exile to transform gola into Geulah.  To briefly summarize the Rebbe’s words:

“Mah symbolized Malchus, which is the level where G-dly revelation can be internalized (in Chassidic terminology, the level of memaleh kol almin and the soul levels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshoma).  In the  avodah of a Yid, this is the avodah of “you shall love Hashem your G-d with all of your heart” (b’chol levovecha) which derives from the external dimension of the soul’s intellect (chitzoniyus ha’seichel).  As implied by the term “all of your heart” it generates a feeling of love in the emotional attributes of the heart’s emotional attributes, but only there.

“Me’ah” is the level of Arich, a level that transcends us and can only be revealed in a transcendent, encompassing manner (sovev kol almin and the transcendent soul level of Chaya).  In our avodah this is the love “with all of your soul” (b’chol nafshecha) which derives from the internal dimension of the soul’s intellect (pnimiyus ha’seichel).  This love is felt in the intellect, and then automatically spreads out to affect all the soul’s powers and limbs.

How do we go from one level to the next, from “with all of your heart” (limited to the heart) to “with all of your soul” (which spreads to all the powers of the soul)?  It is through the avoda of “all of your might” (b’chol me’odecha), which reaches the “alef“, the supernal level of Atik which completely transcends the world (higher than both memaleh kol almin and sovev kol almin, the soul level of Yechida).  In avodah this is mesirus nefesh, to give one’s soul (either literally, or, in the way applicable in our generation: giving away one’s personal desires, mesirus haratzon, in order to fulfill the will of Hashem).  Because it transcends the other two levels, it is able to unite them and to draw down (the meaning of brocha, a blessing) the level of “me’ah” into the level of “mah“, that they should both be revealed in the person.

Clearly, this is understandable as regards the “alef” which we must insert into gola in order to make Geulah: to awaken the level of Yechida, through serving Hashem “with all of your might”, having true mesirus nefesh to fulfill Hashem’s will, especially as it is revealed through “your servants, the prophets” and most especially the Novi of our generation.  This puts in the Alef and results in Geulah!  Let’s not be lazy about this, because we have to bring Moshiach now!

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