Publisher’s Foreword

What does the adjective “together” really mean?

In the first sichah of the farbrengen on the afternoon of Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel this year, the Rebbe Shlita discussed the chassidic dimensions of this concept on three levels: nationally, as reflected in the current ingathering of remote exiles; psychologically, as manifested in the functioning of an integrated personality; and interpersonally, as expressed in the mood of mutual appreciation that characterizes the relations between mature individuals.

The concept of our people’s inescapable interdependence brings to mind a well-known passage in Iggeres HaKodesh.1 There the Alter Rebbe compares the harmonious fellow-feeling among Jews with the simple anatomical fact that all the bodily organs owe their ongoing health to the circulatory system which is common to them all.

There are certain times when this underlying sense of togetherness surfaces. May G‑d grant that this be prompted only by happy circumstances.

And, while the Rebbe Shlita is regaining his strength from day to day, we and our readers join the entire House of Israel around the world in a confident prayer — that G‑d send the Rebbe Shlita a speedy and complete recovery, so that in the very near future we will see him happily resuming his familiar daily schedule and his holy life-work.

7 Adar II, 5752 [March 12, 1992]

More Than a Geographic Ingathering

Sound the great shofar for our freedom; raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land.2

Three times a day we express this fervent wish — that Mashiach come and gather our people to Eretz Yisrael, the eternal heritage of our people.3 This involves more than a mere geographic movement on the part of our people. At that time G‑d will “bring us together” and establish unity among us, for in that age, the Era of the Redemption,4 “there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition.”

The events of recent years point to the imminence of that era; many signs of the Redemption are appearing. The wondrous ingathering of hundreds of thousands of Jews to Eretz Yisrael is surely an obvious harbinger of the ultimate ingathering of our dispersed nation. Surging waves of migration that stand out boldly in our nation’s history are now reaching our holy land, including hundreds of thousands of people who were forcibly held back for decades.5 Indeed, the very nations which had previously blocked their emigration are now granting them permission and even assistance to settle in Eretz Yisrael.6

Integrating a Fragmented Personality

Together with the foretaste of the Redemption that we have been granted, we have also been given the potential to anticipate the Redemption and incorporate the spiritual ideals of that era within our everyday life. In this vein, the concept of gathering in the dispersed has relevance within every individual’s personal world, and likewise within the sphere of our relations with others.

It is not only a nation that stands in need of ingathering. In our time, we often encounter fragmented personalities, people who find difficulty integrating their various drives and motivations. The source for this centrifugal thrust lies in a lack of coordination within our multifaceted spiritual makeup. We have ten different potentials7 and we have been given an ongoing, lifelong task of establishing harmony between them.

This endeavor is illustrated in a renowned chassidic story: Reb Zalman Aharon, the elder son of the Rebbe Maharash, once asked his uncle, Reb Yosef Yitzchak, if he recited his prayers betzibbur, “with the community.” Reb Yosef Yitzchak answered in the affirmative. The very next day, however, Reb Zalman Aharon noticed that his uncle prolonged his prayers, lingering far longer than any congregation would.

“Didn’t you tell me you prayed betzibbur?” he asked.

“I do,” his uncle replied. “Betzibbur literally means ‘with the collective.’ After I marshall together the ten components of my soul, I pray.”

A Bond Above Conscious Thought

How is such a unity established? How can a person bring the divergent thrusts of his personality into harmony? — Through dedicating them to G‑d. When a person makes an all-encompassing commitment to G‑d, he gains a wholesome sense of fulfillment8 that enables him to establish harmony among the diverse elements of his being.

The unity established is not manufactured, but rather reflects the inner truth of every person’s being. For the soul is9 “an actual part of G‑d from above.” Consequently, all of its potentials reflect this fundamental G‑dly core.

This process of establishing internal harmony is reflected in the very first statement a Jew makes upon rising: Modeh Ani — “I gratefully acknowledge...”10 What is the core of this declaration? — That immediately upon awakening, a person gathers together his entire being and devotes it to G‑d.

To explain: Seemingly, before a person is able to make such a declaration, he should consciously perceive G‑d’s presence. This in turn would appear to require that he contemplate the world around him until he comes to the realization that11 “the entire earth is filled with His glory.” Only then would he be able to make an all-encompassing commitment to G‑d.

We, however, do not need such preparation, for our connection with G‑dliness is intrinsic and constant, shaping our thinking processes even when we sleep. Indeed, a person’s bond with G‑d may be even greater when he sleeps than when he is awake, for then his conscious intellectual faculties do not control his thoughts. In their absence, his essence can surface. And the essence of every soul is connected with G‑d at all times.12

When a person rises from sleep, however, he becomes conscious of himself as an individual entity, and indeed, as a powerful entity. Nevertheless, as soon as he becomes aware of his own existence, he gives himself over to G‑d with thankful acknowledgement.13 And this enables him to perceive how9 “great is Your faithfulness,” i.e., how every entity in the world reflects G‑d’s gracious kindness.

Unconditional Love

Thus the establishment of harmony and unity within our individual beings enables us to perceive the inner unity that pervades the totality of existence.14 Similarly, it enhances our ability to establish unity in our relations with others.

The importance of such efforts is emphasized by the fact that the Alter Rebbe placed the declaration,15 “I hereby undertake the fulfillment of the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself,’ ” at the very beginning of the prayer service, making it the foundation of all of one’s daily activities.

In simple terms, this command means that when one person sees another, he should try to unite with him, for in truth all men share the same inner G‑dly essence. When a person appreciates this fundamental commonalty, he understands that the various differences that exist between people need not lead to division. On the contrary, they enable each person to complement the other and contribute an element which is lacking, or not as developed, in the other’s personality.

This thrust toward unity applies not only to those individuals in one’s immediate community, but to all people, even those far removed; indeed, even those in a distant corner of the world. Needless to say, the manner in which these feelings of unity are expressed will differ in terms of the practical means of expression available, but the feelings of oneness are universal in nature.

Focusing on Our Shared Connection

Even when the distance between individuals is also spiritual in nature, i.e., when one person does not share another’s level of adherence to Torah law, one should persistently focus on the essential connection which is shared, and not on the differences.

In regard to one’s own personal conduct, one must emphasize two modes of serving G‑d, striving both to16 “Turn away from evil, and [to] do good.” When, however, one relates to another individual, one must channel one’s energies solely in the path of17 “Do[ing] good.” The emphasis on a person’s positive qualities will, moreover, encourage their expression, for18 “a little light dispels much darkness.”

Although there are times when another individual’s conduct warrants reproof,19 before speaking one should question whether he himself is fit to be the one to administer it. Furthermore, if reproof must be given, it should be offered gently,20 which will obviously enable it to be accepted more readily than harsh speech. Moreover, such words should be spoken only on select occasions.

These concepts are reflected in the verse,21 “One who withholds the rod hates his son,” which indicates that stiff rebuke may be given only when the relationship between two individuals is like a father and a son. There are two concepts implied by this verse: Firstly, that to give rebuke, one must love the other person just as a father loves his child; secondly, that the difference in level between the two people must be as radical as that between a father and a son. This is not true in most cases. Since all individuals share a fundamental equality, it is appropriate that people relate to each other as equals.

Giving of Oneself

The unity that we share with others should not remain merely in the realm of feeling, but should be translated into actual deeds of love and kindness. In regard to the sacrifices that were brought in the Beis HaMikdash, it is written,22 “A person who shall bring from you....” The Alter Rebbe23 notes that seemingly it would have been more proper to say, “A person of you who shall bring....” The transposition of the words in the verse, however, indicates that the offering must be “from you,” of a person’s own self.

A similar concept applies in regard to tzedakah. One should not give merely what is left over after one has taken care of one’s own needs, but should give “from you,” from one’s own self. And these gifts should be substantial. To borrow the words of a verse,24 “everything a person owns he will give for the sake of his life.” Similarly, the realization of the fundamental unity we share with others will prompt us to give generously, without limits.

Moreover, our gifts to tzedakah should constantly be increased. Every moment, the creation as a whole is being renewed25 and is receiving additional blessings through G‑d’s benevolence. Therefore, at every moment, we should renew and increase our commitment to tzedakah, amplifying the manner in which we help others.

“Bless Us, ...All as One”

Unity is the key to G‑d’s blessings. Thus, in our daily prayers, we say “Bless us, our Father, all as one.” The teachings of Chassidus26 explain that the very fact of being together “all as one,” makes us worthy of blessing. And this unity will lead to the ultimate blessing — the coming of the time when G‑d will “sound the great shofar,” and together27 “with our youth and with our elders... with our sons and with our daughters,” the entire Jewish people will proceed to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Third Beis HaMikdash. May this take place in the immediate future.

An Adaptation of Addresses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe שליט"א,
on the 24th of Adar Rishon and on Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752