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!

Eikev 5751: Three Dimensions of Elul

The month of Elul is blessed on Shabbos parshas Eikev, and Chassidus expounds upon the name of this month as corresponding to the rashei teivos (initial letters) of the verse “Ani leDodi, v’Dodi Li” (“I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me”, from Shir Hashirim 6:3).

This verse expresses two directions or dimensions in Divine service: “I am for my beloved”–the service initiated from below to Above; and the continuation and outcome of that: “and my beloved is for me”–the awakening from Above.  The Rebbe adds that since they are both hinted at in one word–Elul–this indicates a third dimension, the unification of these two types of Divine service.

To understand what these expressions mean:

“I am for my beloved” is the effort to serve Hashem that comes from the awakening of the G-dly soul as it is enclothed in an animal soul and physical body which conceal G-dliness, the effort “from below” to reach out to and come closer to G-d through overcoming obstacles to fulfilling Hashem’s will.

“My beloved is for me” is the response that comes from Above in recognition of the effort made from below, a bestowal from Above which enables the G-dly soul to serve Hashem in a way that transcends the limitations of this world.

These also indicate the Divine service of a Jew fueled by his G-dly soul as it is Above the world and transcends the limitations of the world, drawing down from Above to influence the body and animal soul; and the effort of the soul as it is “in the lower realms”, enclothed in the limitations of the body and animal soul, meeting the challenges head-on without the benefit of “revelations from Above”.

These proceed from one to the other.  First comes “I am for my beloved”, the effort from below to Above struggling with the limitations of this world.  This is the primary thing, for through this we create a dwelling place for Hashem in this lowly world (“dira lo yisborech b’tachtonim“), which is the original desire for which the world was created.

The power of Atzmus (“essence”) from the Yesh HoAmiti (“the true existence”) becomes revealed specifically in the Yesh Hanivra (“the created existence”)…

In other words, only in the darkest “tachtonim” can we reveal the power of Atzmus within our souls by clinging to and manifesting our belief in Hashem’s oneness and control over the world.  When this effort is successful, it elicits “my beloved is for me”, the bestowal from Above which endows the ability to transcend the darkness of the world and its limitations.

The ultimate level is the unification of both dimensions in the service of “Elul” which is to serve Hashem within the natural boundaries and dimensions of the world, but in a way that is empowered from Above to transcend and overcome them even as one is within them.  The created existence (“yesh hanivra”) becomes a “yesh hoAmiti”, a true and eternal existence.

And the main thing in all of this is the true and complete Geulah…And since everything that we needed to accomplish [in “tachtonim“] has already been accomplished, even “polishing the buttons”, then the only thing that remains is for the Almighty to take the Yidden out of golus and to bring them to the Holy Land…and therefore Yidden ask and cry out again again — and now more strongly than before — “Ad Mosai”?!

Devarim 5751: Aquiring the Geulah in the Closed Chest

Several times in these talks of 5751-52 the Rebbe states that the “direct way” to bringing Moshiach is through learning the subjects of Moshiach and Geulah.

Parshas Devarim contains the instruction “do not disturb Moav” (אל תצר את מואב, Devarim 2:9), which is the nation living in one of the three lands “beyond the Yarden river” which were promised to Avraham Avinu and will be inherited in the future.  These lands are called the lands of the Keni, Kenizi,  and Kadmoni (lands of Ammon,  Moav, and Edom (Seir)–see Rashi on Devarim 2:5).

The inheritance of these lands is explained at length in Chassidus as referring to the intellectual faculties (Chochma, Bina) and the super-intellectual level of Kesser (see Lech Lecha 5752, for example), which are part of our spiritual makeup, but we have not “acquired” them yet.  In fact, the names Keni, Kenizi and Kadmoni all contain  the letters of “kinyan” (the letters ק – נ – י), acquisition, hinting that these lofty levels must ultimately be “acquired”–internalized in a way where we have control over them.

With that in mind, note the interesting expression the Rebbe uses in the sicha for parshas Devarim, that all matters of the Geulah have been completed and are “as if in a closed chest”:

…all the matters have been completed, and the Beis Hamikdash stands ready Above, and similarly all the matters–“everything is ready for the feast”, everything is ready as if in a closed chest and they have given the chest and its key to every single Jew.

What makes this noteworthy is the following halacha of the Rambam in chapter 21 of the laws of Mechira (“Selling”, which this year we are learning close to the time of parshas Devarim):


(The “meshichah” mentioned here is the action of lifting an item through which one halachically acquires it)

The Rambam rules that one cannot acquire something if he does not know what he is acquiring!  We cannot acquire the “closed chest” which contains the Geulah until we know what is in it!  Until we know what Moshiach and Geulah are all about, even if “the closed chest” that contains them has been handed to us along with the keys, we need to learn about it in order to “acquire” it, to internalize it as our own.

And if you will ask: but we have the keys, why not just open the chest and we’ll know exactly what’s in it and that satisfies all requirements for kinyan (acquisition)?

Yes, this is true. But the fact is that the chest and the keys have been given over to every Jew, and yet no one has yet seen fit to open the chest and reveal the Geulah; thus, it seems that in order to arouse a Jew to do that he has to be motivated to do so by excitement over what is inside the chest that has been given to him.  How will he be motivated to open the chest?  Through fulfilling the Rebbe’s instruction to learn the subjects of Moshiach and Geulah, to know what is in the chest, and then certainly each one of us will realize the great treasure we have been given and we will rush to open it up — and the sooner the better!


Some Thoughts on Gimmel Tammuz

Today, walking on Eastern Parkway near 770, I overheard a Yeshiva Bochur explaining to an older woman that the upcoming day of Gimmel Tammuz is “the day the Rebbe passed away in 1994; you see, he is the Moshiach…”

Moshiach is described as transcending paradox (“nosei hafochim“).  We have no greater paradox than Gimmel Tammuz.  On the one hand, it has all the hallmarks of a “histalkus“, which essentially means “disappearance” as in “passing away” (although Chassidus explains that it actually means greater revelation, one which transcends revelation).  A “histalkus” of a Rebbe is the culmination of his leadership, and even though he continues to live on (also in this physical world, and even in a body [as we know that the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch were present in a bodily form in the Alter Rebbe’s prison cell])—nonetheless, there is an “end of an era”, and a new Rebbe emerges to carry on the mission.

Nothing of the sort happened on Gimmel Tammuz 5754.

The leadership of the Rebbe has not diminished by even the smallest measure, rather, to the contrary—the dedication of his Chassidim is stronger than ever and his leadership is more widely influential than ever.  There has not been a “break” but rather a “continuation” (see the sicha of 28 Sivan).

The Rebbe, in the sichos of Gimmel Tammuz, addresses the previous miraculous events of Gimmel Tammuz:

  1. Yehoshua bin Nun causes the sun to stand still (the sun is the tzaddik of whom it says “the sun sets and the sun rises”—on Gimmel Tammuz the sun did not set);
  2. The Previous Rebbe was redeemed from a death sentence under the Communists and sent to exile.  It was the “beginning of the redemption”, but it was not clear to the Chassidim at the time. [Read further]

The power of our generation, the generation of Moshiach, lies in our ability to “see through the darkness”, to know that even despite all appearances to the contrary the leader of the generation, the Moshiach of the generation “stands and serves” and his leadership is uncontested.  The terminology for this day, and what the Rebbe’s present address is, are not the decisive factors.  Rather, the incontestable focus of this day is the fact that the Rebbe continues to lead our generation, the 7th generation, to greet the true and complete Geulah!

Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach l’Olam Vo’ed!

Parshas Naso, 5751: The Year Moshiach is Revealed

In the sicha of Parshas Naso, the Rebbe states as follows:

There is a special quality in the Shabbos after Shavuos in this year

To preface, it has been said numerous times that according to all the signs in the words of our sages about the end of days (in addition to the general announcement in the times of the gemara that “all the end-times have passed”), this generation is the last generation of the exile and the first generation of the Geulah.  This was testified to by my father-in-law the Previous Rebbe  — in connection with his well-known proclamation of “immediately to tshuva, immediately to Geulah” — that in his days (decades ago) all the matters of avodah had been finished, and all we need is only to “polish the buttons” and to stand ready to receive Moshiach Tzidkeinu.  How much more so after all the work of spreading the wellsprings outward from then until now, especially upon the completion of 40 years (since his histalkus) it is absolutely certain that we have also finished “polishing the buttons”, and we are standing ready to receive Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

This is especially emphasized in this year — the year 5751 (1991) — [the Hebrew letters of this year, תנש”א] hinting at the verse “his kingship shall be exalted” (תנשא מלכותו) in the entire world, and it also stands for “I will show wonders”– beginning with the wonders that we already saw in actuality, revealed in the eyes of the whole world, in this year [referring to the miracles of the Gulf War].  That through [these events] the words of the Yalkut Shimoni midrash were fulfilled: “In the year that Melech Hamoshiach is revealed all the kings of the world will quarrel, the king of Persia [Iran/Iraq], the king of Arabia, and the Holy One, blessed be He, says to the Jewish people, “my children, do not be afraid, all that I have done I only did for you…the time of your Redemption has arrived.”  Since that time, we are already standing at [the closing section of the Yalkut Shimoni midrash] “in the hour that Melech Hamoshiach comes, he announces to the Jewish people and says humble ones, the time of your redemption has arrived.”

Throughout the Gulf War, the Rebbe made references to this Yalkut Shimoni midrash, but here the Rebbe says unequivocally that “it has been fulfilled”, specifically quoting the words “in the year Melech Hamoshiach is revealed”.  In other words: in 1991 Melech Hamoshiach was revealed.  But despite this, as the Rebbe points out in other sichos, the Jewish people are still fearful and require Moshiach to tell them not to be afraid and to inform them that the Geulah has arrived.  But the “breakthrough” has happened: the year Melech Hamoshiach is revealed.

To add further insight:

“The year in which Melech Hamoshiach is revealed…” (“shana sh’melech Hamoshiach nigla bo”). The word “year” in Hebrew is feminine, and grammatically we would expect this Midrash to read “nigla ba“, meaning “in her [the year, feminine]”.  So we need to explain why it says “bo” instead of “ba”: “shana sh’melech Hamoshiach nigla bo”, meaning “in him” [masculine].

Regarding this logical question, it will help to take a look at the Ohr Hachama, the commentary of R’ Avraham Azulai, z”l, on the Zohar:

[…]so to it will be with the Moshiach after he merits to that neshoma and recognizes himself that he is Moshiach, as it states [in the Zohar] Moshiach will be revealed but he still won’t be recognized by the rest of the people[…] (Shemos 7b, quoting R’ Chayim Vital, z”l)

This describes how the initial “revelation” of Moshiach is when the neshoma of Moshiach is revealed to the individual who has been chosen by Hashem to be Moshiach. At the time that this individual receives the neshoma of Moshiach it is a private revelation, “but the rest of humanity will not recognize him”; only later will he be revealed to the people as Moshiach—what we refer to as the “coming of Moshiach”.

We could say that the Yalkut Shimoni’s use of the word “bo” transforms the literal meaning to “the year that Melech Hamoshiach is revealed in him”, a hint to “the year that [the neshoma of] Melech Hamoshiach is revealed in him [the one who will be Moshiach].”  In 5751 there was a revelation of the “yechida of the yechida”  (the lofty soul of Moshiach) in Moshiach himself.  The delay is the recognition of this by the world.

The reason for this “delay” is found in the Ohr Hachama on Shemos 9a, where it state:

“Moshiach can’t redeem Israel from below…only from Above…there needs to be an awakening from below in order to awaken the rachamim from Above, even if the physical Moshiach wants to redeem [them].”

This describes a situation where there already exists the “physical Moshiach” (i.e., the individual to whom has been bestowed the lofty neshoma of Moshiach) who himself knows that he is Moshiach, but the revelation to all of Israel has not yet occurred. We can see this in the language of the Yalkut Shimoni itself: the Midrash begins with “the year in which the King Moshiach is revealed”, and the Midrash concludes with “the hour in which the King Moshiach comes”.

The year in which Moshiach is revealed refers to the initial revelation, when there is still a need to explain the events of the world to the Jewish people, “don’t be afraid”, etc. The hour when Moshiach comes refers to that transcendent moment when the Jews themselves are able to actually see and recognize the light of Moshiach (as stated in the continuation of the Yalkut Shimoni, brought in different sichos).

In other words, the revelation of Moshiach precedes and is distinct from the coming of Moshiach. (And it is self-understood that when there is such a situation—a situation where the tzaddik who himself is Moshiach is the only one to whom this has been revealed– then only this tzaddik himself is able to know and to inform others that “the year in which the King Moshiach is revealed” has been fulfilled, etc.) .

See 5751–The Year Moshiach Is Revealed for more insights into the relevance of this Yalkut Shimoni to the Gulf War and the present world situation.

 Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu, Melech Hamoshiach l’Olam Vo’ed!

Our Tzoraas

In the landmark Sicha of Tazria-Metzoira 5751, the Rebbe explains how Tzoraas is a condition that occurs at the end of golus, after avoidas habirurim is finished (thus it appears in the Torah after parshas Tazria, which is the birth of Moshiach).  As we are now holding at that time and place–the end of golus, after the birurim are finished–the condition of Tzoraas is relevant to us.

In fact, the Rebbe states clearly that each and every Yid today can be said to be on the level of one who has completed his Avoidah and is holding in a state of the Metzora–all the bad is coming out, but the inside is completly refined.  (Reminiscent of chazal’s play on words that “Metzoira” is from the words “moitzi ra’“, a reference to loshon hora, but al pi Chassidus we can understand it literally “to put out the evil”–that all the evil has been purged from within and it’s appearance externally is really the final stage before it’s complete eradication.)

How can we understand this Tzoraas in our lives? Continue reading

“Learn every discourse 3-4 times”

Reb Menachem Zev Halevi Gringlass wrote to an acquaintance in Tammuz 5751, referring to the sichos and maamorim of “Dvar Malchus”:

Photo of Rabbis Gerlitsky, Hendel, Gringlass

Photo of Chabad Rabbonim of Montreal: R’ E. Gerlitsky, a”h; R’ Y. Hendel, a”h; R’ M.Z. Gringlass, a”h.

We stand now b’ezras Hashem, in the most serious period. The holy sichos and the discourses that are coming out (with the footnotes and sources) are truly revelations from Above. In truth we are not worthy of this at all, it is only by Divine Providence that we have merited to be the last generation of golus and the first of Geulah, and therefore, as the Baal Shem Tov explained on the verse “V’hu yechalkeluchoh” that Hashem Himself will make us vessels…

We must literally learn every single discourse 3-4 times at least and then think through its contents 7-10 times, at least half an hour every time, and only then maybe we can hope that something will stick, and the vessel will become a little bit clean….

source: Moshiach Weekly, expanded edition for Yud Shevat 5775, p. 18