81st Birthday of the Rebbe, 11th Day of Nissan, 5743 (1983)

81st Birthday of the Rebbe, 11th Day of Nissan, 5743 (1983)

 Email

1. As is the Jewish custom, it is fitting that the farbrengen be opened with a blessing — “Blessed be they who come.” Because so many Jews are gathered here for the purpose of increasing the revelation of G‑dliness in the world — exalting G‑d’s Name — it is most fitting to open with the words of Scripture: “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the L‑rd.”

Exalting the “name of the L‑rd” is particularly relevant when many Jews are gathered together. Besides the worth of each Jew as an individual, special distinction accrues when a congregation (“tzibbur”) is present. A congregation is not just the sum of ten individuals; it is a new entity, an entity which is eternal. The Talmud (Terumah 15b) states, “A congregation does not die.” Thus, for example, a congregational sacrifice is offered even if its owners have died in the interim, for the entity of a congregation is eternal.

Although a congregation is comprised of mortal men, it is still eternal, for a congregation is associated with the “Name of the L‑rd” — not just as receivers of G‑dliness, but also as those who exalt G‑d’s Name in the world. And because G‑d is eternal, anything which can exalt G‑d must also possess an element of eternality. This, then, is the reason why a congregation is specifically associated with the “name of the L‑rd” — for through it the L‑rd’s Name is magnified in the world.

This distinction of a congregation (ten Jews) is also emphasized in the verse (Tehillim 82:1) “ G‑d stands in the assembly of G‑d.” The Talmud (Berachos 6a) states: “From where do we know that ten who pray, the Divine Presence is among them? For it says ‘ G‑d stands in the congregation of G‑d” — and a congregation is not less than ten people.

The Talmud further explains that although the Divine “Presence rests even upon one man (when he studies Torah), the distinction of a congregation is greater still. We know that the Divine Presence rests upon an individual who learns Torah, for it states (Shemos 20:21): “In every place where I cause My Name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you” (you — singular tense). This indicates that when a Jew wishes to unite with G‑d and mentions G‑d’s Name, G‑d then comes to him. In the case of ten Jews, however — a congregation — G‑d is present even before they all are present. The difference between an individual and a congregation, then, is that G‑d comes to an individual only after the individual is present (and blesses His Name). But G‑d is present in a congregation before they are all present.

This difference is not just in time (of who comes first — G‑d or the Jews), but also in quality. Because an individual is present before G‑d comes, the place becomes, so to speak, his domain. And just as the person is finite, with limited abilities, so too his domain is finite. But because G‑d precedes a congregation, the place becomes G‑d’s domain, and just as G‑d transcends all limits, so too the domain is beyond all limits.

Moreover, the word “stands” in “ G‑d stands in the congregation of G‑d,” in Hebrew is “nitzov,” which connotes rock-like firmness. Thus, when “ G‑d stands in the congregation of G‑d,” it means that His Presence among ten Jews — even in this corporeal world — is totally firm and enduring.

As explained above, G‑d is present even before the ten gather together: the very fact that they will gather there already effects G‑d’s presence. Moreover, besides G‑d being present simply because the ten Jews are present (or will be present), a congregation also exalts G‑d’s Name (as noted previously). Thus the revelation of G‑dliness in the world due to a congregation is greater (quantitatively and qualitatively) than that of “ G‑d stands in the congregation of G‑d.”

If the above applies to ten Jews, the revelation of G‑dliness is greater yet when many “tens” are gathered together. A proof of this is Rabbi Yose Haglili’s opinion that the text of the blessing in the Grace after Meals varies according to the number of people present — a different text for ten, a hundred, a thousand, and ten thousand. Thus we see that when there are more than ten present, the blessing is increased — and a “blessing” is the idea of drawing down G‑dliness into the world. [And although the halachah is not according to R. Yose Haglili’s opinion, nevertheless “these and these are the words of the loving G‑d” — indicating that although in actual practice we do not change the text of blessing for a greater number of people, the idea still remains true.]

We find the same concept in the reading of the megillah. The halachah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim, end of ch. 690, Taz) is that “although there are a hundred people present, it is a mitzvah to read it (the megillah) with a congregation, because the ‘splendor of the king is when there is a multitude of people.’“ Indeed, we lay aside all other mitzvos to read the megillah in a congregation. Thus, even if there are 600,000 Jews, the presence of one extra Jew adds to the “splendor of the king” — the exaltation of G‑d’s Name.

This applies at all times, in all places, and in all situations — even in exile. And so too with all holy matters: the more people participating, the more distinction is added. Thus, at this farbrengen, when not just ten people are present, but much more, the concept of “Blessed be they who come in the Name of the L‑rd” — the exaltation of G‑d’s Name in the world — is lofty indeed.

2. Besides the distinction afforded by the large number of people present, there is an additional distinction provided by the time and place the farbrengen is being held. It is taking place in a synagogue and study hall, and it is in the month of Nissan, “auspicious days,” when tachnun (confessional prayer) is not recited.

The name “Nissan” itself indicates its lofty nature, for it contains the letter “nun” twice (Nisssan). The Talmud (Berochos 57a) states: “If one sees the name Huna in a dream, a miracle will be wrought for him” — for the word “nes” — miracle — also contains the letter “nun.” “If one sees the name Chaninah, Chananiah or Yochanan, miracles within miracles will be wrought for him” — for these names contain more than one “nun,” indicating many miracles. Thus Nissan, which also contains two “nuns” — and it is not just seen in a dream, but is a name in Torah — certainly emphasizes the idea of “miracles within miracles.” It follows that there is special strength granted in Nissan that everything be in a manner transcending nature — “miracles within miracles.”

Moreover, on the first twelve days of Nissan we recite the section in Torah concerning the offerings brought by the prince of each tribe at the dedication of the Mishkan — each day a different prince. This need not be read in the Torah as a congregation, but each individual can recite it privately. It is relevant to every Jew as an individual, relevant to his service to G‑d. As we say each day after reciting the relevant section: “May it be Your will ... that there shine upon me all the holy ‘sparks’ and all the holy lights which are contained in the holiness of this tribe.”

The greatness of these days, then, is that they emphasize every Jew’s association with the idea of princehood.

In addition to the above, there is a distinction associated with the aim of this farbrengen — which is to undertake good resolutions and to increase in all matters of holiness, Torah and mitzvos: In general, to make this physical world a dwelling place for G‑d. This includes Jews’ efforts to influence the people of the world to observe the Seven Noachide Laws and all their ramifications.

Simply put, the idea of making this world a dwelling place for G‑d means that the entire world becomes a fit receptacle for the Divine — as promised in Scripture: “The glory of the L‑rd will be revealed, and all flesh together will see that the mouth of the L‑rd has spoken.” The Rambam rules (Laws of Kings, 11:4) that Moshiach “will rectify the entire world to serve the L‑rd together, as it says: ‘Then I will convert the peoples to a pure language so that all will call in the name of the L‑rd and serve Him with a common consent.’“

This is the reason why the Rambam rules earlier in the section of Laws of Kings (8:10) that “Moshe Rabbeinu commanded from the mouth of G‑d to convince all the inhabitants of the world to accept the mitzvos commanded to the children of Noach.” This acceptance should not be because of logical compulsion, but “he should accept them and observe them because G‑d commanded about them in the Torah and let it be known through Moshe Rabbeinu that the children of Noach were commanded about them before.” (Laws of Kings 8:11)

The Rambam ties these two laws together because, as explained above, when Jews influence non-Jews to observe the Seven Noachide Laws (because it is a Divine decree), this world is made a dwelling place for G‑d — which is the preparation to the complete rectification of the world through our righteous Moshiach.

May it be G‑d’s will that each of the participants in the farbrengen undertake resolutions in regard to all the above, and that these resolutions be translated into practice. And, since we are in the month of Nissan — the idea of “miracles within miracles” — their fulfillment will certainly meet with success far beyond that which could normally be expected. Through this we merit the fulfillment of the promise: “In Nissan they (the Jewish people) were redeemed, and in Nissan they will be redeemed” — in the month of Nissan of the year 5743.

3. The necessity to influence non-Jews to fulfill the Seven Noachide Laws is not just to ensure that the world be a decent place to live, but principally because G‑d has commanded so. This obligation applies not just to those Jews who have influence in government circles, nor does it apply only when a special opportunity arises. It applies to all Jews, and it is an obligation to actively influence non-Jews.

This is particularly so in the time of exile and in the places of exile, where Jews and non-Jews come in contact with each other in any case, such as in business, etc. It is a mistake to think that the only purpose in such contact is to earn a living. The Torah directs that “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him.” Thus, after concluding the business deal, a Jew should explain to the non-Jew that the principal purpose of their meeting is so that he can tell him about his obligation to observe the Seven Noachide Laws — and the merit and reward he receives for this observance both in this world and the World to Come.

Moreover, because the Jew has been enabled to make a living through the non-Jew, he must pay him back — by enabling the non-Jew to gain life in the World to Come by telling him about the Seven Noachide Laws.

The ability of every Jew to influence a non-Jew in this respect is demonstrated by a story that happened this year in the U.S.A. Although this story seems like a chance event, everything in the world happens by Divine Providence — in this generation more so than in previous ones.

The story concerns a Jew, blessed by G‑d with great wealth, who owns a yacht. He occasionally spends his vacation time on his yacht, and employs a captain to sail the yacht. When the time for prayer arrived, he knew that during Shemoneh Esreh one must face toward Yerushalayim — toward the east. He did not know in which direction was east on the yacht, and, not being ashamed of his Judaism, he would ask his non-Jewish captain where east was.

The first time this happened, the captain paid no special attention, thinking it was a chance occurrence. When it happened a few times, the captain asked him: “You are not the captain, not even a sailor. Why, then, are you so interested in knowing in which direction is east?”

Because the Jew was not ashamed of his Judaism, he explained the reason to the captain: He wants to pray to G‑d. Since prayers pass through the site of the Bais Hamikdosh in Yerushalayim, he must face in that direction — which in that part of the world is in the east direction. That’s why he needs to know where east is.

The captain was very excited and impressed, and said: “If you, a successful man, who employs others (including the captain), consider it proper to bond yourself with G‑d three times a day through prayer, and are ready to interrupt your activities to face east to pray properly — I too shall begin to think of G‑d!”

I do not know if the captain also said he would pray. But even if not, the very thinking of G‑d serves as prayer. Moreover, since “one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah,” it is certain that the captain, remembering G‑d, would also have been influenced not to do anything that is contrary to righteousness and justice.

This story teaches that every Jew can influence non-Jews to observe the Seven Noachide Laws — to the extent, as seen in this story, that when a Jew conducts himself properly, his influence is automatically felt. This Jew did not intend to fulfill the Rambam’s ruling to influence non-Jews. He merely was steadfast in his Judaism — and this conduct resulted in a positive change in a non-Jew’s life.

4. That a Jew’s conduct can of itself influence a non-Jew serves as the rebuttal to those who maliciously question the Mitzvah Campaigns. They ask: What is the use of the tefillin campaign, influencing a Jew to put on tefillin, when it is a onetime affair — and who knows how he will behave the next day? Moreover, they claim, when one asks people in the street to put on tefillin, one must first find out if they are Jewish. If it turns out he is not Jewish, then, not only has it been a waste of time, but it is insulting.

The first question — what is the use of putting on tefillin only once — shows plain ignorance. Anyone who has learned the tractate Rosh Hashanah knows that a “person (lit. “a skull”) who has not worn tefillin [ever]” is in a special category. Thus, besides the fact that the effect of a mitzvah is eternal, through putting on tefillin even once a person is removed from this category, and he has a connection to life in the World to Come.

As for the second question — if the person turns out to be a non-Jew it will be an insult — those who put forward this complaint only do so to assuage their own consciences. They know the unstable condition of the world. They know that the Rambam writes that through one mitzvah a person can tilt the entire world to the meritorious side and effect salvation and redemption for himself and the world. They know that therefore all possible efforts must be made to save oneself and the world — a matter of pikuach nefesh, life and death. But to ease their consciences that they do not want to participate in the mitzvah campaigns, they seek questions and complaints. True, they admit, that the above forces us to the conclusion that we have to stop people in the street and ask them if they are Jewish to enable them to perform a mitzvah. But, they claim, since it might turn out that the person is a non-Jew, the effort will be wasted and it is insulting!

Even if this were true, one would still be obligated to engage in the mitzvah campaigns to save tens of thousands of Jews. It is obvious that such an important thing cannot be halted merely because an insult may occur.

But the truth is, their claims are not even valid. In regard to the claim that it is insulting — would it only be that those who make such a claim would talk of these campaigns with the same respect as a non-Jew who is asked on the street if he is Jewish!

As for the claim that it is a waste of time, the above story of the yacht demonstrates that just asking a person in the street if he is a Jew will not go to waste, but will have an effect on the non-Jew. When a person speaks sincerely to another — “words that come from the heart,” these words “enter the heart,” and have an effect. When a non-Jew sees that a person whom has never met before approaches him and wants to know if he is a Jew — just to know if he can do him a favor by giving the opportunity of fulfilling the mitzvah of tefillin — this arouses great respect for that person. He thinks: This person takes time from his personal engagements to go in the street to do a favor to a complete stranger — without any recompense, or even a request for thanks! His whole interest lies only in doing a good turn for another! This will cause the non-Jew to also occasionally do a favor to another.

The above holds true since Torah tells us that such an effect is certain, not just a possibility. Our Sages say “ G‑d joins a good thought to deed,” which means that if a person thinks to do a good deed, and then for some reason cannot actually do it, G‑d sends him the opportunity that this thought should eventually come to fruition — and then the original thought is joined to the later deed.

So too in our case: Since the Jew intended to do a good deed for the person — then, even though it turns out he is a non-Jew (and cannot put on tefillin) — the good thought of a Jew will not go to waste: G‑d helps that the thought will be translated into deed — the non-Jew will think about doing favors for another, etc.

Moreover, our Sages say “ G‑d does not withhold reward from any creature.” Since the Jew wished to help the person he met put on tefillin, then, even though because of a side-reason he couldn’t (because the person was a non-Jew), G‑d does not withhold his reward. “The reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah,” and in this case, G‑d makes the true reward come to pass by allowing the mitzvah to indeed be carried out — the non-Jew seeks to do good as a result of the Jew.

Furthermore, the “reward” for wanting to put on tefillin with a Jew — although coming to fruition in the influence exerted on a non-Jew — is still associated with the idea of tefillin. Tefillin is the idea of subjugating the mind and heart to G‑d, and, unlike other mitzvos, this intention is not just an additional thing, but an actual part of the mitzvah. Although the mitzvah of tefillin is only for Jews, the idea behind it — subjugation of mind and heart to G‑d — applies also to non-Jews. Thus, the intention of a Jew to influence another Jew to put on tefillin, comes to fruition when a non-Jew is influenced to think of G‑d and fulfill those mitzvos he is commanded (the Seven Noachide Laws).

To return to our main point: Helping non-Jews observe the Seven Noachide Laws is applicable to all Jews, even the simplest. On the other hand, it also applies to Jews on a high spiritual plane. Although such Jews could spend their time immersed in Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos, they must also engage in influencing non-Jews. They must not think influencing a non-Jew in this area is only a “minor” mitzvah. Our Sages say (Avos 2:1): “Be as careful in a minor mitzvah as in a major one” and “Do not sit and reckon the worth of the mitzvos of the Torah.” Although there are differences in mitzvos (“major” and “minor” ones), they are all equal in that they are all G‑d’s will. The differences lie only in the aspect of reward and punishment, whereas in the principal aspects of being G‑d’s will they are all equal. Indeed, it is amazing that anyone could even think of weighing the relative worth of mitzvos which are given by G‑d — with his human intellect!

Through spreading belief in the Creator and Master of the world to all peoples, the world is permeated with the idea of “Know the G‑d of your father and serve Him with a whole heart.” This serves as the preparation to the Messianic era, when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea.”

*

5. This farbrengen is associated with the idea of a birthday. The previous Rebbe said that a person on his birthday should, in solitude, “think and contemplate his past deeds.” But even without this directive, a person, consonant with the Baal Shem Tov’s dictum that everything a Jew encounters should serve as a lesson in his service to G‑d, must derive a plain lesson for the very idea of a birthday.

A “birthday” means simply the day on which a person was born. That we use this word and not some term denoting how old the person is, shows that the principal lesson is to be derived from the day of his birth, and not so much from how many years old he is this year.

In other words: We. can approach a birthday in two ways: 1) To think and contemplate his past deed — which stresses the aspect of how many years have passed since birth; and 2) to emphasize the day on which he was born. According to the plain meaning of the word “birthday,” we first derive a lesson from the second way.

A simple lesson from a person’s day of birth is derived from an explicit verse (Iyov 5:7): “Man is born to toil.” The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) discusses whether this toil means “toil of work,” “toil of speech,” or “toil in the Torah.” Although the Talmud concludes that “man was created to toil in the Torah,” nevertheless, because “these and these are the words of the living G‑d,” man must also serve G‑d with the other types of toil.

“Toil of work” refers to performing mitzvos, for mitzvos are carried out through work in physical things in this corporeal world. “Toil of speech” refers to the service of prayer, as stated “Yitzchok went out to speak in the field,” and our Sages say (Berachos 26b) “Speech refers only to prayers.” “Toil in the Torah” refers to Torah study.

These three types of toil — “work,” “speech” and “Torah” — are the three pillars on which the world stands: Torah, prayer and deeds of loving kindness (mitzvos in general). A person’s service to G‑d must be in all three areas, but there are differences commensurate to the time of life, and more particularly, to the time of day. Service of the day follows a distinct order: Upon rising from sleep, a Jew begins with the “toil of work” — washing his hands; then the “toil of speech” — prayer; and then the “toil of Torah” — Torah study.

On a birthday, then, one must think of the purpose of his creation: “man is born to toil” — the toil of work, speech and Torah. In the words of our Sages: “I was created only to serve my Maker.” As a result of this contemplation, a person resolves to increase his efforts in these three areas.

The specific term “birthday” teaches us yet another lesson, a lesson in how to overcome one’s nature. A person must many times forego something he desires for the sake of something more important. For example, to forego profit that accrues through theft — so that the world will be a decent, civilized place. A person may complain, however, that is very difficult for him to forego his personal benefit! And it is even more difficult to change conduct that has been in one’s nature for many years.

The answer derives from the idea of a “birthday.” The “second nature” that makes it difficult for a person to change is a result of getting used to something over a long period of time. A new person, one who is born now, has no such problem.

In our case, when G‑d returns a person’s soul to him every morning upon awakening from sleep, that person becomes a new creation. He thus cannot claim that something has become “second nature” — for he has just now been “born!”

This is the lesson from a “birthday.” A person should not reckon with his previous standing and routine. He has today become a “new creature,” and yesterday does not exist for him. Everything starts afresh. And although a person becomes a “new creature” every day — and indeed, G‑d creates the world ex nihilo every moment — nevertheless, on a person’s birthday, this concept is emphasized even more strongly.

The above is even more emphasized at this time, close to Pesach. The exodus from Egypt is described by the prophet Yechezkal as the birth of the Jewish people. Thus the lesson from a “birthday” is emphasized on Pesach, the “birth” of the Jewish people.

Just as we explained that although a person becomes a “new creature” every day, it is more highly emphasized on one’s actual birthday, so too with the birth of the Jewish people at the exodus from Egypt. It is an obligation to remember the exodus every day, as stated: “So that you remember the day you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” Nevertheless, the principal emphasis on the exodus is on the festival of Pesach, and from Pesach the remembrance extends to the rest of the year. During the rest of the year itself, there are different degrees in remembering the exodus — as it is on Shabbos and Yom tov, and as it is every day. There is also a difference in the remembrance between day and night — everyone agrees it must be remembered in the day, whereas there is an argument about the obligation to remember it at night. Because we expound on the laws of Pesach thirty days beforehand, it follows that the idea of the birth of the Jewish people is strongly emphasized now, when we are within the week before Pesach.

In practical terms: Everyone must learn and put into effect the idea of a “birthday:” “man is born for toil” — “I was created solely to serve my Maker.” This should be carried out with joy, from which we proceed to the joy of the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days.

A free translation from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. The content on this page is provided by our content partner, Chabad.org. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Browse Book
Translated excerpts of talks delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, at his periodic public addresses.
About the Publisher
Sichos In English
Sichos in English has published hundreds of volumes of Chassidic books on Chassidism and its way of life. They can be reached by writing Sichos In English 788 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11213 or calling 718.778.5436.
Related Topics

Cheshvan Bestsellers

  • A Knowing Heart.jpg A Knowing Heart.jpg Mazal Tov.jpg
  • A Knowing Heart.jpg A Knowing Heart.jpg Mazal Tov.jpg
  • A Knowing Heart.jpg A Knowing Heart.jpg Mazal Tov.jpg

GET Updates

support our work