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!

Yud Alef Nissan 5751: The Prayer of the Rich Man

This discourse of the Rebbe was edited and printed for distribution for the Rebbe’s birthday, 11 Nissan, 5751.  A lengthy and deep discourse, we mention here the main points, reflecting the themes of the Dvar Malchus sichos from the same period.

“Tefilla leMoshe” is called by our sages the prayer of a rich man, and “Tefilla leDovid” is the prayer of a poor man.  Since tefilla is defined as our asking for our needs, what is a rich man’s prayer?  What does he need?

We find that in Torah that one can must fill the needs of the poor man, and also fill his personal needs, such as a servant and a horse to run before him (if he had previously been wealthy and was accustomed to such a thing then for him this is lacking), but one is not obligated to make him rich.  Thus, even having a servant and a horse running before him, i.e. to be not lacking anything, is still not wealthy.

Wealthy, explains the Rebbe, is “superabundance”, which is more than just that nothing is lacking.  Furthermore, it means that this abundance is not received from another source (and thus could be cut off or taken away) but rather is inherently his–so that he is rich in essence (ashir b’etzem).   This is why our sages say “there is no one wealthy except in da’as (knowledge)”, meaning that what he has learned has become unified with him and part of him as a result of his own effort (as opposed to remaining on the level of what others taught him).

Back to the question: one who is rich has superabundance–what is is prayer?  The answer: he prays for others.  His tefilla is for the needs of others.  This is Moshe Rabbeinu, who lacked nothing and needed nothing (not in the realm of da’as (as he is the one who gave us the Torah), and surely not materially)–his prayer was for the needs of the Jewish people, and spiritually for the attribute of Malchus.

But if Moshe Rabbeinu, the rich man, feels the lack of Israel so intensely, then he himself is lacking and thus he is not rich!  The truth is, explains the Rebbe, that since he is “rich in essence” it is not possible for him to be lacking anything, and while he does feel for Israel this is not the same as lacking something.  More than that, from the perspective of “rich in essence” there is nothing lacking whatsoever in Hashem’s world nor by any of His creations.  Thus, from Moshe Rabbeinu’s perspective the Jewish people are also “rich in essence” and not lacking anything.  If so, what was his prayer for?  His prayer was that this fact that Israel are in truth “rich in essence” should be felt in an open and revealed way by them.  No one lacks anything other than the da’as, the knowledge to recognize this, and when this knowledge becomes revealed, he reveals to himself that he is rich in essence.

The discourse concludes by connecting all of this with the inyan of tefilla, that it is precisely prayer that draws this down.  As our sages say about Moshe Rabbeinu that he was “ish Elo-kim“–a G-dly man–when he went up the mountain he was a man, when he descended he was Elo-kim.  This is tefilla, prayer, that one “ascends the mountain” to reach Hashem, and draws this “down below” into his daily life so that this shleimus, perfection, is revealed in his behavior–when a Jew does this he causes the same thing in the attribute of Malchus, which brings about the true and complete Geulah.

Moshiach Now!

View the original discourse here

Kuntres Chanukah, 5752

The lofty level of the Chanukah lights, as explained in the teachings of Chassidus, is connected with the self-sacrifice of the Maccabees, and through this they succeeded to impact and “light up” the public domain (reshus harabim).  We see this in the mitzvah of Chanukah candles, which are intended to publicize the miracle specifically in the public domain.  (The reason that the custom is to light inside the home, not in the public domain, is beyond the scope of this post.)

But why is this only by Chanukah, and not by Purim?  The miracle of Purim, also, was brought about by self-sacrifice; and not only by a small group (Mattisyahu and his children), but by the entire Jewish people.  So why don’t the mitzvas of Purim impact the public domain?

In order to explain this, the Rebbe first explains the three levels stated in Chassidus: Tzaddik, Yoshar, and Chossid, each one on a higher level than the previous.  A Tzaddik has the power to “overrule” the Holy One, blessed be He, as our sages say “The Holy One decrees, and the Tzaddik nullifies the decree”, or “the Tzaddik decrees, and the Holy One fulfills it”.  Yet, the level of Chassidim is even higher, as the verse in Tehillim states: “All your handiwork will thank You, and Your Chassidim will bless you” (Tehillim 145:10), meaning that the blessing of Chassidim draws down from a level which the “your handiwork will thank you” cannot reach.

The level of Chassidim is the level of serving Hashem with bittul (self-nullification) which is from the aspect of etzem (the essence), a level higher than ones own existence.  In the words of our sages: “Who is a Chosid? One who performs Chesed (giving) with his owner.”  Explains the Rebbe,

Among the reasons that one whose Divine service is (not for himself, but rather) for the sake of Above is called by the name Chosid (from the word chesed, giving) is that since his avodah is with the ultimate self-nullification (bittul), above his own existence, it follows that what he draws down through this avodah is from the [highest of levels, the] level of “Pnimiyus Atik”.

Correspondingly, this level is also reached through the teachings of Chassidus:

The teachings of Chassidus are the aspect of Pnimiyus Atik.  Thus, through the study of teachings of Chassidus and following the ways of Chassidus, the natural powers of the soul (of the one who is involved in Chassidus) become G-dly powers.  Because via what comes down and is revealed from Pnimiyus Atik, he feels (at least in a concealed way) that the true [Divine] existence is his existence.

This revelation which is higher than the limitations of the world (למעלה מהשתלשלות) therefore transcends the boundaries of the world and is found in every place equally.  This is the concept of the lights of Chanukah illuminating the public domain, because they draw down from “Pnimiyus Atik” which is present in all places.

And from this we can understand why the self-sacrifice of Purim did not reach the public domain but on Chanukah it did:

Because the self-sacrifice of Matisyahu and his sons was that despite that they were weak and few, none the less they battled against the mighty and the numerous.  The fact that they performed actions in the natural way (a war) in order to defeat the Greeks, even though according to the natural order they is no chance for the weak and the few to defeat the might and numerous, is because it was taken for granted by them that even nature (of this lowly world where klipos are powerful) is G-dliness.  This deeply ingrained premise derives from the feeling that His Divine True Existence is the existence of all entities.  And because of this, they drew down from the level of Pnimiyus Atik.

What is the lesson here for us?  To serve Hashem as Chassidim, not for our own benefit (whether it be material or spiritual benefit, including the pleasure of “slaking ones thirst for G-dliness”), but rather in a state of self-nullification to do what is needed of us; in a way where we realize that all of existence is, inherently, G-dliness, and therefore we can accomplish our mission even in the “public domain” because it does not really have any separate existence from G-dliness.  Like the Chanukah lights, we can even reveal G-dliness in the public domain that seemingly has an independent existence, for in fact it does not!

This itself is the state of “the time to come”, the true and complete Geulah!

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!

12-13 Tammuz, 5751

The dates of 12-13 Tammuz rose to prominence in 5687 (1927), the year that the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) was arrested by the Communist authorities for actively promoting Yiddishkeit, imprisoned, and sent to exile.  Finally, on 12-13 Tammuz, the Previous Rebbe was released, referring to it as not only a personal redemption for himself, but a redemption for every Jew, from the “lovers of Torah” who perform the mitzvos, to those who merely carry the name “Israel” as a nickname.

Even more than this, the Rebbe explains (in the Dvar Malchus of parshas Korach) that the radical shift that took place in 1990-91 in the Soviet Union (the Communist regime dismantling itself) was a direct continuation of the redemption of 12-13 Tammuz!  (The delay of more than 60 years, explains the Rebbe, was due to the time it took for the opposing forces to come to appreciate, on their own terms, the need for such action.)

An additional point, that gives insight into many things that pertain to the Rebbe, is found in the maamer (Chassidic discourse) which the Rebbe edited for publication in honor of 12-13 Tammuz 5751.  In that maamer, the Rebbe explains that the Previous Rebbe possessed the level of Moshe Rabbeinu who was “rich” (as discussed in the related maamer “Tefillah LeMoshe“) with “da’as Elyon” (supernal knowledge) meaning that even during his imprisonment he did not experience any concealment of G-dliness.  If so, asks the Rebbe, what sort of redemption occurred?  Redemption is from darkness to light, and the like, but if the Previous Rebbe was never in darkness then why do we celebrate his redemption?  The answer is that as a Nosi, a leader who is deeply connected with his people, the fact that the Previous Rebbe’s imprisonment caused them to undergo a state of concealment affected the Previous Rebbe himself, and thus his redemption is a true redemption–both for him and his people.

We will close with the following directive of the Rebbe for how to make proper use of the luminous days of 12-13 Tammuz:

…in connection with Yud-Beis Tammuz, efforts should be made to organize farbrengens in each and every place where Jews will gather together to inspire each other in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. This will generate the potential for the transformation of the Three Weeks into a positive period, with the coming of the ultimate Redemption. Even before that redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles.  When one Jew will ask another, “What was the last miracle that happened,” he will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the redemption from exile, when “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.”

Yud Alef Nissan 5751: The Prayer of the Rich Man

This discourse of the Rebbe was edited and printed for distribution for the Rebbe’s birthday, 11 Nissan, 5751.  A lengthy and deep discourse, we mention here the main points, reflecting the themes of the Dvar Malchus sichos from the same period.

“Tefilla leMoshe” is called by our sages the prayer of a rich man, and “Tefilla leDovid” is the prayer of a poor man.  Since tefilla is defined as our asking for our needs, what is a rich man’s prayer?  What does he need?

We find that in Torah that one can must fill the needs of the poor man, and also fill his personal needs, such as a servant and a horse to run before him (if he had previously been wealthy and was accustomed to such a thing then for him this is lacking), but one is not obligated to make him rich.  Thus, even having a servant and a horse running before him, i.e. to be not lacking anything, is still not wealthy.

Wealthy, explains the Rebbe, is “superabundance”, which is more than just that nothing is lacking.  Furthermore, it means that this abundance is not received from another source (and thus could be cut off or taken away) but rather is inherently his–so that he is rich in essence (ashir b’etzem).   This is why our sages say “there is no one wealthy except in da’as (knowledge)”, meaning that what he has learned has become unified with him and part of him as a result of his own effort (as opposed to remaining on the level of what others taught him).

Back to the question: one who is rich has superabundance–what is is prayer?  The answer: he prays for others.  His tefilla is for the needs of others.  This is Moshe Rabbeinu, who lacked nothing and needed nothing (not in the realm of da’as (as he is the one who gave us the Torah), and surely not materially)–his prayer was for the needs of the Jewish people, and spiritually for the attribute of Malchus.

But if Moshe Rabbeinu, the rich man, feels the lack of Israel so intensely, then he himself is lacking and thus he is not rich!  The truth is, explains the Rebbe, that since he is “rich in essence” it is not possible for him to be lacking anything, and while he does feel for Israel this is not the same as lacking something.  More than that, from the perspective of “rich in essence” there is nothing lacking whatsoever in Hashem’s world nor by any of His creations.  Thus, from Moshe Rabbeinu’s perspective the Jewish people are also “rich in essence” and not lacking anything.  If so, what was his prayer for?  His prayer was that this fact that Israel are in truth “rich in essence” should be felt in an open and revealed way by them.  No one lacks anything other than the da’as, the knowledge to recognize this, and when this knowledge becomes revealed, he reveals to himself that he is rich in essence.

The discourse concludes by connecting all of this with the inyan of tefilla, that it is precisely prayer that draws this down.  As our sages say about Moshe Rabbeinu that he was “ish Elo-kim“–a G-dly man–when he went up the mountain he was a man, when he descended he was Elo-kim.  This is tefilla, prayer, that one “ascends the mountain” to reach Hashem, and draws this “down below” into his daily life so that this shleimus, perfection, is revealed in his behavior–when a Jew does this he causes the same thing in the attribute of Malchus, which brings about the true and complete Geulah.

Moshiach Now!

View the original discourse here