1. This farbrengen is in connection with Tu BiShvat (the fifteenth day of Shvat), a day with two distinctive qualities.

Firstly, it is the fifteenth of the month, when the moon is full.1 (1) This has a special significance for us, as Jews, for the Jewish people are likened unto the moon, (2) as it is written, “For they (the Jews), like it (the moon), shall be renewed.” Therefore, just as in the monthly lunar cycle, fifteen days after the “new moon,” the moon reaches a state of fullness, so too, on that day the Jews are in a state of wholeness.2

In addition, it is the fifteenth of the month of Shvat, the New Year’s day for Trees. (3) Once again this has special significance for us as Jews for each Jew is comparable to a tree, as it is written “For man is as a tree of the field.” (4)3 This refers to the Jews, as it is written “You (the Jews are called man.” (5)

2. In our generation, there appears an additional factor, connected with Tu BiShvat: the fact that it follows the day of Yud Shvat (the tenth of Shvat, anniversary of the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory, the leader of our generation). Again this is of special significance for every Jew — because every Jew is affected by anything that occurs to their leader.4 On the anniversary of a person’s passing, all of his accomplishments and ideals appear in a state of revelation in this world. (7)

As mentioned before, the fifteenth of the month brings everything within the month (particularly those things connected with the high point of the month — Yud Shvat) to a state of wholeness. Therefore, this farbrengen shall be a continuation, and a completion of the farbrengens of Yud Shvat and Yud Gimmel (13th of) Shvat, when we dealt with the ideals and accomplishments of the Previous Rebbe of blessed memory.

3. In the previous farbrengens, we stressed the importance of the “Maaseh b’Poel” (the actual deed — practical accomplishment). This was an idea which the Previous Rebbe of blessed memory exemplified in all of his undertakings. He also urged his Chassidim to follow his inspiring example, and he assured them, that their success will be totally beyond proportion to the effort they exert.

The Rebbe of blessed memory stated in a letter, regarding his release from prison (8):5 “Not only I did G‑d redeem, but also every Jew, even one who is a Jew only due to ethnic designation.” The extent and far-reaching efforts of his redemption were totally disproportionate to the actions and events (in both physical and spiritual planes) which brought it about. So too, by following the example of the Rebbe of blessed memory and directing one’s energies to Maaseh b’Poel, every Jew can achieve redemption from one’s own personal “prison,” and achieve success in all his endeavors, in a measure, totally disproportionate to his effort.

4. The special quality of the fifteenth of Shvat — the fact that everything within the month (especially those things connected with Yud Shvat) is in a state of wholeness — is connected with the fact that Tu BiShvat is the New Year for Trees.

The Torah praises the land of Yisrael, mentioning seven particular species of produce that grow there (9): five of them are fruits; grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, the other two are grains, wheat and barley. Wheat and barley, from which bread is made, are staples — the type of food we use of necessity; however, the five fruits are not necessities, but items of pleasure. Grains and fruit, therefore, represent the levels of necessity and pleasure, respectively.

5. These concepts, represented by grains and fruit, parallel two levels of Torah. The Torah is sometimes referred to as “bread (10) and water” (11) (necessities); this reference pertains to ‘Nigleh d’Torah’, (the revealed part, of the laws of Torah). Other times, Torah is referred to as wine, oil, or (date) honey (11) (items of pleasure); these references pertain to Pnimiyus HaTorah (the inner, esoteric aspect of Torah).

The association of “Nigleh d’Torah” to bread and water is in the fact that “Nigleh d’Torah” has to be studied and discussed by all-levels of Jews, at all times, in all places and under all circumstances. “Pnimiyus HaTorah” is similar, however, to wine, in that it was not always necessary for each Jew to study and apply it himself: there were, in fact, times, when “Pnimiyus HaTorah” was studied and applied only by a select few (whose involvement with Pnimiyus HaTorah. nevertheless, had an effect on the whole Jewish nation). In recent generations, however, it has become a necessity for all Jews to learn Pnimiyus HaTorah6 as well as Nigleh d’Torah. The Alter Rebbe, of blessed memory, in fact, states in his Shulchan Aruch, (13) that each and every Jew has an obligation to study (not only “Nigleh d’Torah but also) “the secrets of Torah,” i.e., “Pnimiyus HaTorah” which is revealed to us in the teachings of Chassidus.

6. This emphasis on both Nigleh and Pnimiyus HaTorah was observable in the undertakings of the Previous Rebbe, of blessed memory. The Rebbe, of blessed memory, was involved in establishing Yeshivos, synagogues, mikvaos and helped Jews solve their material problems — all matters derived from and connected with “Nigleh d’Torah.” In addition, he strived untiringly in the domain of Pnimiyus HaTorah, especially with regard to the dissemination of the teachings of Chassidus, at first in Russia (even under circumstances of extreme duress) and later in America, during the last ten years of his life in this world.

7. In light of the above, we may understand the lesson of Tu BiShvat. A Jew cannot be satisfied when he performs the Mitzvos by mere force of habit. It is not even enough if he performs them with fervor, but yet, without a total involvement in the pleasure of the performance of the Mitzvos. A Jew has, also to look upon the Torah in terms of (the concept of) the tree, as his item of pleasure, and enjoy his performance of the Mitzvos, finding, self-expression in his performance of them,7 in a completely absorbing way. This is the lesson of Tu BiShvat.

We may understand this in terms of the Manna8 which the Jews ate in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. The manna tasted like whichever food the person eating it, desired.9 (14) Similarly, the Torah contains within it all the different types of pleasure (as represented by the five fruits — each one having a different taste).

This applies to both the observance of Mitzvos and the study of Torah and, how much more so, when the two are brought together, when one studies in order to act in accordance with the Torah’s precepts.

Certainly, in each aspect of Torah, as in the performance of any of the Mitzvos, it is the intention — the ‘Kavanah’ that one puts into the words of Torah and in the deed, that not only adds life and fervor in one’s performance, but also opens up one’s faculties to experience the pleasure and delight in the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvos. This is therefore, one of the lessons and directives which we can derive from Tu BiShvat (applicable in every generation,) — and particularly in our age when it comes in connection to the Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, of blessed memory, when we reaffirm our commitment to follow his ways stressing “Maaseh b’Poel” together with the study of the inner aspects of the Torah.

All of this should be brought to a state of “wholeness” (for this is a less of Tu BiShvat), through the fact that we derive pleasure in the performance of the Mitzvos.

By applying our sense of pleasure in a manifested state, to Torah and Mitzvos, since the pleasure shall be carried to all of our faculties of expression, we will eventually come to the state of the quintessence, and purity of pleasure itself — pleasure in a state of wholeness and completeness. And when we complete our general Avodah (and bring it to) in a state of wholeness, our true and complete redemption shall come to pass.

This comes as a continuation to the redemption of the Previous Rebbe of blessed memory — for not only him did G‑d redeem...but even those Jews who are only considered Jews, only by virtue of their ethnic origin — for the Rebbe’s redemption produced a tremendous increase in Torah study and the performance of Mitzvos, all of which serve to hasten the true and complete redemption, by our Righteous Mashiach, when “those who dwell in the dust shall awaken and rejoice,” (15) and the Rebbe in their midst.

(Introduction to the forthcoming Sicha)

At the farbrengen of Yud Shevat, the Rebbe Shlita talked at length about the extreme urgency of stemming the rising tide of assimilation. Here are the main points of that particular Sicha:

— The problem is so great, that it can be classified as (spiritual) Pikuach Nefesh (the Halachic term, for a matter of life and death). Jewish souls are at stake, and we cannot afford to waste precious time, deliberating on which straying Jew has priority over his fellow. When it comes to Pikuach Nefesh, every Jew, whatever his station in life, is equal.

This concept of equality is unique to the law of Pikuach Nefesh, it contrasts the law of Pidyon Shevuyim (the obligation to ransom Jewish captives), where preference is given to certain individuals. (16)

To quote the example of the Mishnah (with regard to Pidyon Shevuyim): (16) “If a mother and son are taken captive, and there is the possibility to ransom only one of the two, the mother is given preference.” This is so because the mother would suffer greater humiliation in captivity, than would her son. However, in the case of Pikuach Nefesh there is no such order of importance. In the event of mortal danger, one’s own life takes precedence over one’s fellow’s, (17) no matter how much greater the other person may be. The Halachic term for this particular example of Pikuach Nefesh is ‘Chayecha Kodmin’ (lit. your life comes first).

In the following (Tu BiShvat) Sicha, the Rebbe Shlita elaborates on this point.

8. With regard to the concept of equality in Pikuach Nefesh, a question has been raised:

The Mishnah (see introduction) stipulates an order of priorities, not only for Pidyon Shevuyim, but for Pikuach Nefesh as well. To quote the Mishnah (16): “In a case where a man and woman are in mortal danger we are obliged to save the man first.” This is in apparent contradiction to the so strongly emphasized equality prevalent in Pikuach Nefesh!

In answer to the above, it must be clarified, that it was never our intention to exclude a law of priorities from Pikuach Nefesh. On the contrary, there are instances in Pikuach Nefesh where priorities are stipulated. However, as there is (at least) one instance of Pikuach Nefesh where no priorities are given, the uniqueness of Pikuach Nefesh is clearly demonstrated.

The particular instance of Pikuach Nefesh referred to is the following:

If a mother and son are captured she is to be redeemed first. Yet if they are both in mortal danger, the son must save himself first even if he is a minor. This clearly demonstrates that when it comes to Pikuach Nefesh, we make no distinctions between major and minor.

9. (Now one may ask: If there is no difference between major and minor, why is it that one’s own life takes precedence over that of one’s fellow: The answer to this lies in the fact that both one’s obligation to preserve one’s own life (‘Chayecha Kodmin’), and the obligation to save that of one’s fellow, share the same underlying principle.)

The real reason behind the precedence of one’s own life (Chayecha Kodmin) is not because it is his body. On the contrary, the reason why a Jew is obliged to look after himself is, because his body is not his own property, it is the A-mighty’s property. Similarly, a Jew is obligated to save his fellow’s life (Pikuach Nefesh), because it is considered like his own as is written, (18) “Love your fellow as yourself.” And, just as his responsibility to safeguard his own life, is because it is the A-mighty’s property, so also his fellow’s life must be safeguarded, because it is the A-mighty’s property. (However, as a person’s own life is his personal responsibility, his obligation to preserve it overrides his obligation to preserve that of his fellow: This even applies in a case where his fellow is greater than him.10

10. The following is another example of a case where there are no personal or class distinctions in Pikuach Nefesh, this time, the example looks at Pikuach Nefesh on a much broader scale:

The law of Pidyon Shevuyim stipulates that the person most vitally needed by the Jewish community has priority. (20) If, on the other hand, an enemy force surrounds a Jewish community, (G‑d forbid), and demands, “Unless you hand over one Jew to be killed, we will wipe out the whole community!,” the Code of Jewish Law (21) categorically states, “Let the whole community perish rather than betray a single Jew.”

(It is clearly obvious, that in order of importance, “one Jew” and “the whole community” are totally out of proportion with each other. Yet, even though-such a terrible price would have to be paid, we are forbidden to betray our fellow (even though that “one Jew” would be killed anyway).

Clearly, Pikuach Nefesh does not take social (or other) importance into account. The law applies, even if the “one Jew” is an insignificant individual.

We can take this point even further:

During the reign of King David, (22) there was an insurgent by the name of Sheva Ben Bichri. Joab, David’s able general, tracked and finally located the rebel in the town of Avel, and subsequently laid siege on the town. The elders of Avel, in light of the fact that Sheva Ben Bichri had committed high treason — a capital offense — gave him up to Joab. (23)

The law, based on the above episode, is, that only one as guilty as Sheva Ben Bichri, may be given up to the surrounding forces, if by doing so, the city will be preserved.11 From this law we can infer, that had Sheva Ben Bichri not actually committed a capital crime, even though he was a man of low caliber, the town of Avel would have rather perished than betray him (to an enemy).

(At this point, we must note that one of the inhabitants of Avel was Serech Bas Osher (24) (granddaughter of our patriarch Jacob), who was a prophetess. (It was she who told Yaakov that his son, Yosef, was still alive in Egypt.) In addition, being a town of Israel, Avel could certainly have boasted a majority of righteous inhabitants. Even the minority could be as righteous, since, according to Jewish Law, (25) every Jew is assumed to be righteous (until proven otherwise). Yet, even Sheva Ben Bichri cannot be sacrificed to save such illustrious people.)

Again, it is clearly demonstrated, that the Law of Pikuach Nefesh is unique (in that there are instances, as mentioned above, where importance is not recognized), as opposed to Pidyon Shevuyim.

11. The practical lesson for us, in our day and age, is clear:

The Torah tells us that just as physical sustenance can only be achieved through physical food, so also, the Neshamah (the Jewish soul), can only be sustained through the “Torah of Life,” and its Mitzvos (precepts), regarding which is written, (26) “And you shall live by them.”

It follows, that Torah Study and the fulfillment of the Mitzvos, can be classified as a matter of Pikuach Nefesh (especially in our troubled generation). It is therefore imperative, that no time is to be wasted on deliberations, etc. The moment one is aware of another Jew, who is in dire need of spiritual help (in other words, he is in a Pikuach Nefesh situation), one is to rush to his aid with the utmost possible speed.12

12. Our task has been made easier for us, by the fact that, besides our being given the strength to accomplish it,13 the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe has paved the way for us, with his shining example, and all that we must do, is to follow in his footsteps, for in the letter he wrote following his liberation from Soviet prison, (8) the Rebbe, of blessed memory, states, “Not only was I liberated by the A-mighty, but also, every Jew, even if he is a Jew by ‘nickname’ only.” In other words, the Rebbe of blessed memory included the liberation of the “Jew by nickname” with _his own personal liberation. Even at such a time, he was conscious of another Jew — even one of low caliber. From this we can derive, that even a person of great stature must concern himself with even a total ignoramus.

In this week’s Torah portion (28) it is related, that when Moshe went to greet Yisro (his father-in-law), Aharon, and his two sons, Nadav and Avihu, followed suit. Whoever witnessed the sight of Moshe, Aharon, etc. on their way to greet the guest, automatically joined the procession, which resulted in the whole nation taking part in greeting Yisro. (28)

Similarly, on witnessing the lifestyle of the previous Rebbe of blessed memory, we must “join the procession.”

We can take this point even further:

Yisro was a priest, who had practical experience with every known cult of idolatry, (29) and at that time, he had not yet stated, “Now I know that the A-mighty is the greatest from all the other gods.” (30) Yet, the prelude to Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai) begins with the story of how Moshe, Aharon, and the whole Jewish nation, set out to greet Yisro. How much more so in our case, where we are discussing helping a Jew, who is certainly on a higher plane than Yisro was, at that point in time.

In addition, the commandment to help an Am Ha-aretz (an ignorant Jew) was in effect during the Talmudic era, although the level of ignorance was much greater then, than it is today.14 It is therefore much easier for us today, to carry out the above commandment. We only need to do our little share, and the A-mighty will do the rest. (31)

Since the A-mighty demands from us that we fulfill His Torah and Mitzvos with utmost delight, He will surely do His share and bestow upon us happiness and peace of mind — an atmosphere which is conducive to our fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos, in the remaining moments of our exile. Then the Mashiach will arrive and lead us all together to the Holy Land, to Yerushalayim and the Sanctuary, where we will witness with our very eyes, (32) the Divine Presence — speedily in our days.


1. See Zohar Vol. I, p. 225b, 150a.

2. Tractate Sanhedrin 42a.

3. Tractate Rosh Hashanah 2a.

4. Shoftim 20:21.

5. Tractate Yevamos 61a.

6. Likkutei Torah, Toras Shmuel, Vekacha 5737, ch.87.

7. Iggeres Hakodesh 28.

8. In the letter of the Previous Rebbe to the first Yud-beis Tammuz celebration — printed in Sefer HaMaamarim, 5688.

9. Devarim 8:8.

10. See Likkutei Sichos, v. 4,p.1038 footnote 26.

11. See Talmud, Tractate Bava Kamma 17a.

12. Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 6 (towards the end).

12*.Ibid., see also Ginzei Nistaros, V.1

13. Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:4.

14. See Talmud Tractate Yoma 75a.

15. Yeshayahu 26:19.

16. Mishnah, Hoarios 13a. See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh, Deah, Ch. 252 per. 8, 9, and commentaries.

17. Bava Metzia 62b.

18. Vayikra, ch. 19:18.

19. Shulchan Aruch of the Alter Rebbe, laws of bodily damage.

20. See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, ch. 252, par. 4.

21. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah ch.157.

22. Shmuel 2, ch. 20.

23. See Yerushalmi Terumos, ch. 8. par. 4.

24. See Rashi, Shmuel 2, ch. 20.

25. Maimonides, Laws of the New Moon, ch. 2, par. 2.

26. Vayikra 18:5.

27. Iggeres Hakodesh, ch. 21.

28. Shmos 18: 7. See Rashi there.

29,Rashi Ibid., 18:11.

30. Ibid.

31. Koheles Rabbah, beginning.

32. Yeshayahu 52:8. See Chagigah 2a.