80th Birthday of the Rebbe, Yud Aleph Nissan, 5742 (1982)

80th Birthday of the Rebbe, Yud Aleph Nissan, 5742 (1982)

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1. Torah commands us that we shall “Open with a blessing,” blessings being associated with G‑d, the Source of all blessings — “Blessed be he who comes in the Name of the L‑rd.” This gathering therefore begins with the concept of the blessings of G‑d — justice and righteousness — since its purpose is to effect an increase in these things in the entire world, particularly this country, and for all Jews.

To receive G‑d’s blessings, the appropriate “vessels” are necessary; and success in preparing the proper vessels also requires G‑d’s help. This is effected through prayer and requests to G‑d for success in one’s conduct — as an individual and as part of the general community. When one does his utmost to prepare the proper vessels, he merits to receive G‑d’s blessings in the fullest measure, and the vessels, filled with these blessings, become vessels of illumination.

Since they are vessels of illumination, their influence is unlimited. Illumination, light, is by nature without limits, extending to the furthermost reaches of the earth. As we see in the case of stars (and Jews are compared to the stars), that although they are unimaginably distant from a viewer, a person can still see their light.

So too in man’s service to G‑d. When his service is proper, fully utilizing his G‑d-given abilities, he becomes a “light” to illuminate the entire world — including the heavens. In our days we have seen how man, utilizing his intellect, has through science penetrated into space. Thus, if the will is there, a person has the capability to help the entire world.

We see therefore how important is each action — thought, speech or deed — of a person. Every action is an illuminating light, affecting the whole world. For although a person is limited by nature, and therefore can think that no importance is attached to any of his actions — in reality, every deed can have influence on the rest of the world. A person cannot comprehend this, for of course his human intellect cannot fathom the wisdom of his Creator. However, the reality remains, as the Rambam (The “Guide for the Perplexed” of all generations) renders in a halachic decision: “A person must regard himself ... and the whole world as being evenly balanced between good and bad ... thus, when he does (even) one mitzvah (in thought, speech or deed), he causes himself and the entire world to be on the meritorious side, and causes salvation and redemption for himself and them.” In other words, a single deed of a person can influence the entire world.

The above has particular emphasis on these days of preparation prior to the festival of Pesach. Pesach is the “time of our freedom,” the time when special strength is given to every Jew to be free of all those things which limit and obstruct him from spreading righteousness and justice in the world. This includes the limitation imposed on man by himself — the belief that he can have no influence on the world. Pesach is the appropriate time to free oneself from this self-imposed limit, and to realize that one’s actions do affect the world.

The Rambam, whose Halachic decision was quoted above, was born on Erev Pesach after midday, the time when the Pesach sacrifice was brought. Although in the case of most other Torah greats their birthday was not so carefully noted, the Rambam was different. The connection between the words of the Rambam quoted above (that a single action can affect the entire world) and his birthday just prior to Pesach, is that, as explained previously, Pesach is the “time of our freedom,” including the freedom from the belief that a person has no influence on the rest of the world.

Since a person becomes more mature each year, every year, on the birthday of the Rambam, each person must increase in all these matters. To enable a person to free himself from his limitations, including the limit that he is only an individual, he must connect himself to G‑d. When one is connected to Above, he is assured that he will not fall below — that he will not fall from his level of decency, righteousness and justice. Indeed, Torah says “one ascends in holy matters,” climbing higher and higher in all sacred and good things.

In our case (at this farbrengen) when many people gather together in a holy place of prayer and Torah study, it is certain that this gathering is blessed — “Blessed are they who come.” Special blessings are given to each and everyone of the participants in this farbrengen, and also to those who are participating through their representatives. This blessing is from G‑d — “Blessed be he who comes in the Name of the L‑rd.”

This blessing extends, first and foremost, to the general concept of the month of Nissan, which is the “month of redemption.” In this month, a person is reminded and inspired to do his utmost to free himself (“redemption”) from those things which prevent him from conducting himself in a decent manner. The month of Nissan was chosen by G‑d as the “month of redemption” for each individual Jew, for Jewry in general, and for all nations wherein Jews dwell, who help Jews by conducting themselves in a proper, decent manner.

G‑d’s blessings for “redemption” renews a person’s abilities and efforts in all things connected with freedom from obstacles to decent conduct — and hence a person acts in this area with every fibre of his being, and in every opportunity — in regard to himself personally, and in regard to his environment. For G‑d created man with special powers for the purpose of utilizing these powers to be a “man” worthy of the name — and to thus influence others likewise, thereby making the entire world perfect.

This is the purpose of the Seven Noachide Laws, to ensure that the world be in a state of decency, each person acting with justice and righteousness to another. This is connected with the “Name of the L‑rd” — the Seven Noachide Laws are fulfilled because a person has faith in the Creator of the world; Who commanded him to conduct himself in an orderly, constructive, decent fashion; and to utilize his abilities and influence on others to ensure that they also conduct themselves properly.

Every person can have influence on his environment. This is particularly true of those to whom G‑d has given the merit and entrusted them with a special mission to engage in the affairs of the neighborhood, the city, state or entire country. Their heavy responsibilities are accompanied by G‑d-given abilities to fulfill this mission (since G‑d only demands of a person that which he is able to fulfill) — and thus they certainly can influence others for good.

This is the true blessing for a person — to merit to fulfill G‑d’s mission to help the entire world know and recognize that there is a Creator Who wishes the world to be full of blessings and guidelines, righteousness and justice. Success in this endeavor inspires him further to continue in this work and to increase in it many times over.

When a person chooses to utilize all his abilities in this fashion, he is a whole man, healthy both physically and spiritually — his body and soul working in harmony. Then the promise “A nation will not raise up sword against nation” and “In that time there will be no hunger and no war” will be fulfilled, and the entire world will be in a state of true peace.

Through each person fulfilling his mission, the coming of our righteous Moshiach is hastened, when will be fulfilled the promise “I will convert the nations to a pure language ... to serve Him with one consent,” when all peoples will unite to serve G‑d and fulfill their mission in the world.

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2. Included in decent conduct is the Torah’s directive to always give thanks and recognition for good done. Most particularly does this apply when the gratitude is for help received from the government. In addition to the government’s business of legislating laws to promote justice and righteousness, it also extends aid to individuals and organizations of this country to enable them to work properly for the goal they have set for themselves in all good things. Moreover, thanks is specially due when the government, led by the President, legislates a law that emphasizes the importance of education (as will be elaborated on further on) — which has an influence on the entire country.

In addition, since G‑d has given this country the strength to be a super-power, having influence on other countries, every good resolution or deed adopted in this country affects and influences all other countries. Thus the merit of legislating good laws is very great, since it gives the citizens of this country the opportunity to increase in all good matters in addition to those in the past. It is the nature of people to give increased respect and attention to a new directive, accompanied by increased resolution to fulfill it properly.

In our case, in connection with these days [the 11th of Nissan, the 80th birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita], the government issued a proclamation concerning education. As the representative of the Lubavitch movement, I had the honor to receive the President’s Letter together with the Proclamation.

First, a short preface: One of the foundations of society is education of children, for children are the future generation. When the youth are educated properly, the future is assured, as King Shlomo said: “Educate the youth according to his way, and then when he will be old he will not depart from it.” Education at an early age has influence also at an older age — and hence it is crucial to give children the proper education.

Proper education is not just the mere impartation of knowledge or technical skills, but mainly to educate a person to be decent and ethical, moral and worthy of the name “man.” Only after this aspect of education has been implemented, the second aspect assumes its rightful place — the accumulation of knowledge to give a person the wherewithal to pursue objectives of justice, righteousness, and peace.

Every educator must know that the ultimate purpose of education is to produce children who will grow up to be upright, ethical people, to build worlds, not destroy them. It is to fulfill this purpose that children are also given knowledge and technical skills, so they can fulfill their mission in life in the best manner. When education is in such a fashion, both student and educator have true satisfaction: the educator, when he sees the good fruit of his handiwork; and the student, when he sees he has been successful in absorbing all that he has been taught.

There is an important matter that serves as an introduction and preparation to education. Before one establishes the means of education — whether of oneself or others — one must ponder and reflect on the purpose of his existence, which is “I was created to serve my Maker.” In other words, a person is created to serve as G‑d’s emissary, to carry out G‑d’s mission in this world. G‑d is called “Peace,” and man, the emissary of G‑d, has the mission to effect peace and brotherhood in the entire world. When a person engages in education after such meditation, his work will be that much more perfect. Reflection on this subject is of the utmost importance, despite a person’s involvement in his everyday affairs and worries.

To return to our case: The government has proclaimed Yud-Aleph Nissan (the 11th of Nissan) as a National Day of Reflection — regarding the purpose of one’s creation in general, and the mission placed by G‑d on every person in particular and humanity in general: “to serve my Maker,” meaning to fulfill G‑d’s commands, beginning with the Seven Noachide Laws.

This Proclamation is in honor not of me personally, but of the movement which, for over two hundred years, has had but one goal: to effect peace and unity among Jews, among other peoples, and between Jews and others, tall the whole world will serve G‑d together.

May it be G‑d’s will that this Proclamation be fulfilled in actual deed. This is the best way of expressing gratitude to those who issued the Proclamation, headed by the President. For besides thanks expressed orally, thanks must also be given in the form of fulfilling the Proclamation in concrete action — and the pleasure derived from actual deed is infinitely greater than that derived from thanks given only orally.

Thought (in our case “reflection”) is in some ways superior to speech or deed. Speech and deed separates oneself from others: when one speaks, it is his speech, his words, his thought. Deed itself is ambiguous. One needs to examine it to see if it unites people or the opposite. Whether it is tied to the person who executes it, or elevates him above his own experience.

Thought, on the other hand, allows a person to lift himself above his own personal experience. When a person thinks and meditates properly, he has the opportunity to bind himself in his thought to others. The Baal Shem Tov said: “A person is where his thoughts are” — when a person thinks earnestly and truthfully, he finds himself where his thoughts are.

This emphasizes again the necessity of every person having the strength to tear himself away from his daily life and affairs, and devoting part of his day to introspection and reflection. The Alter Rebbe writes in his Siddur that immediately upon awakening a person should meditate on the fact that he lives in a world created by G‑d, and G‑d is together with him and the rest of the world. This reflection must be translated into the thought, speech and deed of the entire day, into the concept of “I was created to serve my Maker.”

When a person’s day is started with such a reflection, and likewise when every project of the day is preceded with this contemplation, his speech and deed will also be proper. And, as explained before, proper thought gives a person the possibility to rise above his own existence and unite with others for the purpose of revealing G‑dliness to all humanity.

Then G‑d gives him His blessing, and ensures that he will be successful in his work. He will then be able to fulfill his tasks amidst proper health, physical health being associated with spiritual health. And such a person is healthy, for G‑d blesses him in all things, physical and spiritual. This itself then leads to further success, for he constantly grows, constantly increasing in his works with greater strength, life, and vitality. The reflection that precedes each new project is with greater light and greater unity with all humanity.

Then all be united in service to G‑d — “to serve Him with common consent” — for true unity comes from G‑d Who is “the One G‑d,” and eventually all will recognize that the “L‑rd is One and His Name One.”

*

3. G‑d gives every person years in which to grow — first and foremost spiritually, and also physically. Some people, however, think that as the year’s pass, and one’s powers are not as strong as in previous years, they should diminish in their work load. Indeed, in this country, it has become accepted that one should think of retirement at an early age — 40, 50,60.

However, G‑d created man to work, to build, to create. If a person has been given years by G‑d, it is an indication that he has further things to achieve. Age cannot be used as an excuse to work less in one’s mission of revealing G‑dliness in this world — which is associated with revealing humanity and decency of a person.

People however, think that their work and mission in life is dictated by their birth-certificate; and when they reach a certain age, it is time to retire and enjoy the fruits of their labor of previous years. Torah says differently: As long as G‑d grants a person life, he cannot do less than before. Indeed, the fact that his body has become a year older dictates that his soul — which is the main part of a person — should surely gain that which the body gained in a year. The “food” and “drink” of the soul is not the accumulation of worldly goods, wealth (although certainly G‑d wishes a person to live a good life without physical worries), but spiritual fare. In matters of the soul, one can never be satisfied. If one has achieved certain levels in one’s spiritual labors until now, then, just as in money matters where one always wants more — “He who has one hundred wants two hundred” — so too spiritually one should always want to reach greater heights.

But, people ask, a person at 60 feels his powers are less than at 50, certainly than at 30. How then can he possibly do more? The answer to this is: “When one is connected Above, one does not fall below.” When one connects oneself to Above — to that which is above the limit of time and space, then, even when he is in time and space (in this world), G‑d gives him the opportunity to bind himself to G‑d by increasing in all G‑dly matters. Then, not only does a person not fall below, but he rises ever higher. Although his powers may have decreased, this is only when we look at things with the physical eye. From Above however, things are seen differently. G‑d tells us that one must always strive to go higher — and if G‑d tells us so, He certainly gives us the strength to carry out His directives. A person is not alone, for he is connected to G‑d, and through G‑d, to all people.

Hence, although a person feels his strength is diminished, this matters only if he considers himself as an individual. But when he is part of the environment, united with those around him — through G‑d — it is entirely different. There are young people with him, a new generation, and both he and them are part of the same general body of Jewry and mankind. For all men, all creation, derive their existence from G‑d, Who gives them life — and desires that they be united “with a common consent” for the purpose of “to serve Him.”

With such a perspective, each year a person becomes younger, stronger; for each year sees an increase in good deeds. Good deeds of a person are an eternal “heritage,” an intrinsic part of all mankind and the doer in particular. Hence, a person cannot think of “retirement,” of reducing his activities, for Torah has said “deed is the essential thing” — one must continue to do good things.

With a person’s good works, he tilts the entire world to the meritorious side, bringing true good to the world — the redemption, when all peoples will be free to “serve G‑d with a common consent.”

[At the end of the farbrengen the Rebbe Shlita gave each person present at the farbrengen, men, women, and children, a specially printed edition of the Tanya and a dollar.]

National Day of Reflection — April 4, 1982

On the 11th of Nissan, 5742 (April 4th 1982), world Jewry celebrated the 80th birthday of its revered leader, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Shlita (the Lubavitcher Rebbe).

At Lubavitch central headquarters, the Rebbe addressed an audience of more than 10,000, comprising all segments of the community, who had come to mark this event. Hundreds of thousands more viewed the proceedings worldwide on cable television via satellite.

Part of the Rebbe’s address was devoted to a resolution for the proclamation of a National Day of Reflection issued by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States in Congress in a House Joint Resolution. President Reagan proclaimed April 4, 1982 as National Day of Reflection in recognition of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s 80th birthday.

The following is a free translation and adaptation of part of that address:

To all those who have sent their best wishes on this occasion I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation, especially to the President of the United States of America who has written to convey his congratulations and best wishes. I am deeply grateful for their kind thoughts and sentiments, and send them my blessings.

As representative of the Lubavitch movement, I had the honor and merit to receive the President’s letter together with the Proclamation of a National Day of Reflection. Gratitude, the Torah tells us, is an obligation incumbent on all men. Certainly then, this applies when the country is a benevolent one which, in addition to legislating for justice and righteousness, aids individuals and organizations to carry out worthy projects. Gratitude is especially due when the government, through the agency of the President, has passed a proclamation emphasizing this concept, such a proclamation having influence on the nation as a whole and each citizen as an individual. Moreover, G‑d has endowed this country richly, and its status as a super-power gives it — and by extension the concepts it promulgates — tremendous influence over the entire world.

The theme of the proclamation is education. Children, as the well-known adage says, are the future of the people and country; a proper education is the foundation of a country’s national character. True education, as I have had occasion to discuss, is much more than the mere impartation of knowledge or technical skills. It must concern itself principally with how a student will use the knowledge, to teach him or her to live a decent and productive life. It must aim to mold and enrich the character, to ensure that one’s daily life is a truly moral one. And when a child’s education is proper, we may be sure that as he enters adulthood and its accompanying freedom, his conduct will remain the same.

Once such a firm basis for future life has been laid, the other, secondary facet of education can be freely developed: to give the necessary skills and knowledge to utilize and develop one’s G‑d-given abilities and talents. With the harmonious blending of both facets of education, a person becomes a giver, not a taker; builds worlds, not destroys them.

Every person has a mission in life. In the words of our Sages of blessed memory: “I was created to serve my Maker.” Just as “the Name of G‑d is Peace,” man, created as His emissary, is entrusted with the task of bringing peace and brotherhood to the world. To fulfill this task to perfection, a person needs to first reflect and meditate upon his goal and mission in life. The 11th of Nissan has been proclaimed as a National Day of Reflection for precisely this purpose: to reflect upon the goal of each and every person which is to fulfill G‑d’s directives as outlined in the Seven Noachide Laws. The Seven Noachide Laws, as much as the Ten Commandments, were given by G‑d. While they are an essential requirement for the proper functioning of society, and contain profound instruction for each individual, man’s total commitment to their fulfillment is predicated on their Divine origin. The ultimate purpose of such reflection is to translate it into deed, for deed is preeminent. This is the true and best recognition that can be bestowed upon those who, with the President at their head, proclaimed this National Day of Reflection. In addition, I wish to extend my personal thanks and gratitude for the passage of the Proclamation; and for the honor bestowed on the movement which has dedicated itself for more than 200 years to the single goal of bringing peace and unity to Jews and non-Jews — to ensure that all serve G‑d with a common consent.

Reflection, which takes place in the realm of thought, possesses an additional quality in uniting people above and beyond that of speech or deed. Each person is a distinct entity, physically separated one from the other. Speech or deed, while establishing communication, are limited by their finite dimensions and retain the idea. Thought on the other hand, which is unfettered by physical constraints, gives man the ability to rise above his individual existence, and to join together with all mankind in common destiny. Good thoughts about others, about all humanity, binds people together with links that transcend the boundaries which normally separate them. A famous dictum of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, is that “a person is where his thoughts are.” This emphasizes the crucial necessity for each person to tear himself away from the concerns of daily life and to sanctify part of his day to personal reflection and introspection. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad-Lubavitch, in a comment prefacing his book of prayers, exhorts a person to start his day with the thought that he is awakening to a world filled with G‑d’s presence. With such a consideration, every person, Jew and non-Jew, can conduct his life consonant with the dictum “I was created to serve my Maker.”

With proper reflection at the start of the day and before each new task, a person’s speech and action are also proper. Then G‑d blesses him with success in all his undertakings, with spiritual and physical health — which in turn brings greater success for further growth with strength, joy and light.

A free translation from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
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Translated excerpts of talks delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, at his periodic public addresses.
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