...So Too Are We Alive
Sichos In English

Tenth of Teives and Shabbos Parshas VaYechi; 12th Day of Teives, 5751

1. Parshas VaYechi which begins, "And Yaakov lived," is the conclusion of Seifer B’Reishis, the first book of the Torah. At the conclusion of this parsha, it is a Jewish custom to declare, "Chazak, chazak, v’nischazeik" (Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened). This statement strengthens and encourages the Jewish people in all their concerns.

With respect to continued, ongoing life, Yaakov is in a way superior to the other two Patriarchs, Avrohom and Yitzchak. Commenting on the phrase, "And Yaakov lived," the Talmud states that "Yaakov, our ancestor, did not die." When a protest is raised, "Was it in vain that he was eulogized, embalmed, and buried?" the Talmud replies:

This concept is derived from the exegesis of a verse. It is written, "‘Do not fear, My servant Yaakov,’ says G-d, ‘Do not become dismayed, O Israel. I will save you from afar and your descendants from the land of their captivity.’" An equation is established between Yaakov and his descendants.

Thus, Rashi explains, "And Yaakov lived," "Yaakov lives forever."

Since our Sages derived the concept that, "Yaakov, our ancestor, did not die," from the equation established between Yaakov and his descendants," it can be understood that there is an interdependence between the two, Yaakov’s continued "life" depends on his descendants. It is because "his descendants are alive," that "he is alive."

This concept of continued life is mentioned in regard to Yaakov and not in regard to Avrohom and Yitzchak, because, in a complete sense, the concept that "his descendants are alive" applies only to Yaakov. As the Sages expressed it, "Yaakov’s bed was perfect"; i.e., all his sons were righteous and their offspring became the Jewish people. In contrast, Yishmoel descended from Avrohom, and Eisav from Yitzchak. Thus, the concept that he is "alive" because "his descendants are alive" is appropriate only for Yaakov.

This unique connection with his descendants results from the fact that Yaakov personifies the attribute of truth, as it is written, "You endow Yaakov with truth." The nature of truth is that it descends into and permeates all levels, from the highest peaks to the lowest depths, with consistent integrity. Therefore, all of Yaakov’s descendants (including those born in every subsequent generation) are alive: they reveal the eternal dimension of Yaakov’s life in this world.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the encouragement, chizuk in Hebrew (and in a threefold manner - Chazak, chazak, v’nischazeik), which the conclusion of Seifer B’Reishis grants the Jewish people. B’Reishis describes the lives of the Patriarchs, of whom our Sages state, "The deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for (and endow power to) their descendants." By concluding with Yaakov’s life - which, as explained above, is dependent on the life of his descendants - the book alludes to the fact that each of Yaakov’s descendants, i.e., each and every Jew in each and every generation, is alive. Wherever and whenever he lives, he enjoys true life, for "You who cleave to the L-rd, your G-d, are alive." This life stems from a connection to His Torah, "the Torah of life," and its mitzvos, concerning which it is said, "And you shall live with them."

The above premise appears open to question: Throughout Jewish history, there have always been, as there are today, some members of the Jewish people, who - at least to outward appearances - do not conduct their daily lives according to the directives of the Torah and its mitzvos. If so, how can we say that all of Yaakov’s descendants are alive because of their connection with the Torah?

The answer to this question is alluded to in the Talmud’s exposition of the concept, "Yaakov, our ancestor, did not die." In response to the question, "Was he not mourned, embalmed, and buried?" the Talmud answers, "This concept is derived from the exegesis of a verse. It is written, ‘Do not fear, My servant Yaakov...’ An equation is established between Yaakov and his descendants." Since "the concept is derived from the exegesis of a verse" from the Tanach, it is surely true. Although the events in this world may give an impression to the contrary, "It only appears that he died; He is alive."

The same applies to his descendants. Since the Tanach explicitly states that they are alive, this is surely true. An emphasis on their failure to conduct themselves according to the Torah and its mitzvos represents only a superficial appreciation of their being, for, in truth, "they are alive." Furthermore, saying that there is a lack of life in any of Yaakov’s descendants detracts from the life of Yaakov himself, for his "life" is dependent on theirs, as it were.

The appreciation of how such individuals are, in truth, "alive" depends on our Sages’ statement, "Although a Jew sins, he remains a Jew," and on the Rambam’s ruling that:

"A person whose yetzer ha’ra compels him to negate the performance of a mitzva or to commit a sin...[still] wants to be part of the Jewish people and desires to fulfill all the mitzvos and separate himself from sin. It is only his yetzer ha’ra which forces him [to do otherwise].

For a Jew, violating one of the directives of the Torah is only a superficial phenomenon; it was against his true will that he was compelled to act as he did. What does he really desire? "To be part of the Jewish people and...to fulfill all the mitzvos..." Therefore, regardless of his actual conduct, he is a Jew and shares a connection to the entire Torah.

This concept is also reflected in the verse, "The Torah which Moshe commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov." The law prescribes that an inheritance is transferred to an heir regardless of his personal standing or conduct. Similarly, because a Jew is a descendant of Yaakov, the Torah becomes his.

There is an allusion to this concept in the final verse of our Torah portion, "And they placed him (Yosef) in a coffin in Egypt." Throughout the Jewish people’s exile in Egypt, Yosef’s coffin remained there. When the Jewish people left Egypt, the Torah relates, "And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him, for Yosef had made the Israelites swear, saying, ‘G-d will surely recall you; you must [then] take my bones from here with you.’"

The Hebrew word for bones, "atzamos," relates to the Hebrew for essence, "etzem." Yosef is also used as the name for the Jewish people as a whole (as in the phrase, "Leader of the sheep of Yosef"). In this context, the placement of Yosef in "a coffin in Egypt," can be interpreted in a positive light. Even when the Jews are in Egypt, i.e., even when there are forces which cause difficulty to the Jewish people (including the difficulties caused by one’s own yetzer ha’ra), the essence of the Jewish people (Yosef’s bones) is intact, protected in a coffin, i.e., closed off on all sides from any undesirable influence.

Furthermore, Yosef’s coffin is also connected with the ark of the covenant which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a Torah scroll. (In Hebrew, the word "aron" is used for both ark and coffin.) Our Sages relate, that throughout the entire time the Jewish people were in the desert, "these two aronos (Yosef’s coffin and the ark of the covenant)... would journey side by side."

There is an interconnection between the two. The ark of the covenant protected the essence of the Jewish people. This is alluded to in the fact that the Ten Commandments were, "engraved on the tablets." This implies that the commandments are part and parcel of the tablets themselves to the extent that it is impossible to separate between them. Similarly, the connection between the Jewish people and the Torah is engraved within their very being, and they are fused into a single entity.

Regardless of a Jew’s apparent connection with the Torah (i.e., even when his relationship with the ark of the covenant is hidden), it is impossible to make a separation between a Jew and the Torah. They remain one entity. As the Zohar states, "Israel, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one."

This teaches us a lesson regarding the encouragement to be given the Jewish people while they are in exile, including this present exile. Indeed, because of the length and difficulty of this exile, such encouragement is particularly necessary. Therefore, the Torah teaches us that "Yaakov is alive," because "his descendants are alive." This emphasizes the true identity of every Jew, i.e., how he is "alive," since he is connected with the "Torah of life." Regardless of his present conduct, he has the potential - through turning to the path of t’shuva, and subsequently, through the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos - to reveal his true self. The awareness of this potential strengthens and encourages one to express this essential "life" in an open and revealed manner in his daily conduct.

2. The above also reveals the failing implicit in the approach which harshly criticizes those Jews who at present do not observe the Torah and its mitzvos and threatens them within ominous Divine retribution. Such an approach does not encourage anyone to increased Jewish practice or greater observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. Quite the contrary: it will weaken many people’s feeling for Judaism and turns them away from t’shuva. Experience has clearly shown that (particularly in the present generation), the only way to bring a Jew close to G-d is to suggest, in a pleasant and loving manner, that he improve his conduct. Thus, our Sages state, "Let Moshe rebuke them, for he loves them."

This is particularly relevant in the present generation, for those who do not observe the Torah and its mitzvos are considered to be tinokos she’nishbu, individuals who were deprived of a childhood environment conducive to Torah observance. As the Rambam writes:

Each of the children of those errant individuals and their grandchildren who were led astray by their parents and were born among the Karaites and raised with their beliefs, is considered as a tinok she’nishba, a child captured and raised by them. Such a person is not eager to uphold the ways of the mitzvos: he is considered as one held back by forces beyond his control. This applies even if afterwards, he hears (that he is Jewish and encounters Jews and their faith. He is still considered as one held back by forces beyond his control, because he was raised in their errant ways)... Therefore, it is proper to try to motivate them to repent and draw them close with words of peace until they return to the mighty pillar of the Torah.

There are additional reasons for which we should not rebuke our fellow Jews by threatening them with Divine retribution and calamities. (In fact, such possibilities should never even be mentioned, in keeping with our Sages’ directive, "Do not utter words which empower the Satan.") In addition to the negative repercussions such an approach brings about, such statements are the direct opposite of the truth, the direct opposite of respect for G-d, and the direct opposite of respect for the Jewish people. To explain:

Statements threatening calamitous Divine retribution are the direct opposite of the truth.

The Rambam writes:

The reckoning [of sins and merits] is not calculated on the basis of the mere number of merits and sins, but also [considers] their magnitude. Some particular merits can outweigh many sins. The weighing of sins and merits is carried out according to the wisdom of the All-Knowing G-d. He alone knows how to measure merits against sins.

In particular, this is relevant in the present generation, since those who do not observe the Torah and its mitzvos are tinokos she’nishbu. Thus, they are considered as being prevented from observance by forces beyond their control. Our Sages state that the Merciful One absolves such a person of responsibility.

Conversely, we must acknowledge these same tinokos she’nishbu fulfill many mitzvos (for, as our Sages note, every Jew has numerous mitzvos to his credit). How dearly must these acts be cherished by G-d!

Furthermore, in the last decades, we have witnessed a new awakening on the part of many of these individuals to return to the Torah and its mitzvos. Tens of thousands of Jews have become fully observant, and this movement is continuing to grow and increase.

In consideration of all the above, who would dare to think (with merely mortal wisdom) of making an account of the generation’s inadequacies. Who, furthermore, would dare utter the thought that because there are some individuals today who at present do not observe the Torah and its mitzvos this generation is worthy of the most extreme and horrible retribution, Heaven forbid. This is the direct opposite of the decision rendered by the All-Knowing G-d in His Torah, which states that these individuals are tinokos she’nishbu and are pardoned by the Merciful One.

Statements threatening calamitous Divine retribution are the direct opposite of respect for G-d.

It is blasphemous to describe G-d as one who counts sins, waiting (Heaven forbid) until the measure is full, visiting retribution for all these sins, and then beginning a new account and waiting (Heaven forbid) until the measure becomes full again. This pictures Him as a cruel king who wants to punish His people.

The very opposite is true. G-d is "the All-Merciful Father." The Torah and our Sages abound in references to His merciful nature, beginning with the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy which begin, "The L-rd, the L-rd, benevolent G-d, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness...forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin."

Our Sages relate that rather than counting sins, G-d is involved with activities that bring joy and happiness to mankind. They state: What does He do since Creation? He arranges marriages. (This, in turn, leads to further happiness, the birth of sons and daughters.) Similarly, these weddings relate to the joy of the ultimate Redemption since the bond to be established between G-d and the Jewish people at that time is also described by the metaphor of marriage. The connection between the two is alluded to in the wedding blessings, "May there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and the courtyards of Yerushalayim, the voice of joy and the voice of happiness, the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride."

Furthermore, even if after patiently waiting for repentance, G-d feels it necessary to visit retribution upon His people, the punishment is not delivered out of vengeance, but rather for the sake of man’s welfare, to cleanse and purify him from sin; to quote the Alter Rebbe, "like a merciful, wise, and righteous father who punishes his son...or like a great and awesome king who loves his son so dearly that he personally cleanses him from his filth."

Furthermore, even though the punishment is for the sake of man’s welfare and is an expression of G-d’s great love for him, since the punishment brings discomfort to man, G-d also feels discomfort, as it were, when administering it. Thus our Sages relate, a person suffers, the Divine Presence...says, ‘My head hurts, My arm hurts.’" Likewise there is a verse in which G-d promises, "I will be with them in their distress"; "Whenever [the Jewish people] suffer difficulty, He also suffers."

Statements threatening calamitous Divine retribution are the direct opposite of respect for the Jewish people.

The Jewish people are G-d’s children, as it were, as it is written, "You are children to the L-rd, your G-d"; it is written, furthermore, "Israel is My firstborn son." Accordingly, G-d loves them, as it is written, "‘I love you,’ declares G-d"; and, as is written elsewhere, "Israel is a youth, and I love him." Indeed, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, "G-d loves every Jew more than parents love an only child born to them in their old age."

Accordingly, G-d cannot, as it were, bear hearing any unfavorable talk about His children. Furthermore, such talk hurts Him as implied by the verse, "One who strikes you is like one who strikes [G-d] in the eye." Indeed, even the prophets, "through whom spoke the spirit of G-d, and His words were on their tongue," were rebuked and punished from speaking harshly against the Jewish people. In this context, our Sages teach, "G-d does not approve of one who slanders Israel," as an example, they cite Yeshayahu. When he told G-d, "I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips," G-d responded: "Yeshayahu, you are entitled to speak about yourself and say that you have impure lips. How can you make such statements about [My] people?" What is written after that? "One of the angels flew to me with a fiery coal in his hand." The Hebrew for coal, "ritzpa," resembles the words, "retzotz peh," meaning, "Destroyed be the mouth [of one who slanders My children]." Similar messages were given to other prophets of Israel.

Commenting on this passage, the Rambam writes:

If the pillars of the world [i.e., the prophets]...were punished in this manner for making some slight statements about the Jewish people, how much more so [does this apply] when an unworthy person from among the worthless ones of the world lets his tongue speak loosely against the Jewish people by calling them transgressors and wicked men.

Similarly, the Rambam writes:

It is not proper for a person to speak to the people until he has reviewed what he intends to say several times... How much more so when a person writes should he review his work one thousand times to see if it is correct. This man, however...wrote these severe matters in a document...and had them circulated through every city and state. In doing so, he dimmed the hearts of the people, sending forth darkness.

3. There is an added dimension to the severity of threatening the Jewish people with Divine retribution. Our Sages teach us, "Do not utter words which empower the Satan." To illustrate this principle, our Sages quote the following two verses, and explain their connection: "We should have been like S’dom," and, "Listen to the word of G-d, captains of S’dom." Yeshayahu compared the Jewish people to the people of S’dom and, at that suggestion, the Divine attribute of judgment replied that the comparison was in place, that they were fit to be judged like Sodom.

From this we can also infer a positive lesson regarding how important it is to speak favorably about our fellow Jews. Indeed, our Sages teach that G-d’s benevolent attributes may be more readily aroused than those associated with retribution.

If a mere unfavorable comparison arouses the Divine attribute of judgment and empowers the Satan to accuse the Jewish people - although G-d will surely not listen to the Satan, and indeed, He will rebuke the Satan - how much more so will positive statements, words which emphasize the virtues of the Jewish people, have a powerful effect. G-d wants us to emphasize the virtues of our people, and when we do so He will no doubt listen to our words and help them.

Our Sages relate that in the time of Gideon, when the Midianites were oppressing the Jewish people, G-d sought a person who would speak about the Jews’ virtues. When Gideon did so, an angel of G-d appeared to him and told him, "Go with this, your power"; with the power of speaking positively about the Jewish people." "The Holy One, blessed be He, told him. ‘You have the power to speak in defense of the Jewish people. Through your merit, they will be redeemed.’"

Similarly, throughout the history of the Jewish people, the leaders of our people have always sought to speak favorably about our people, extolling their virtues even when the people were on a lowly spiritual level. If they would do so even when it was necessary to search for the people’s virtues, surely this pattern should be followed in the present age, when our people’s virtues are openly apparent. As explained above, they are not to be held responsible for their lack of Jewish observance, because they are like tinokos she’nishbu and are held back by forces beyond their control. Conversely, despite the negative influences of their environment, they have the great merit of performing mitzvos, including, as mentioned, the growing movement to t’shuva which we have witnessed in the last decades.

What we must constantly point out is the merits of our people, merits that are surely worthy of hastening the future Redemption. For, as our Sages declared, "All the appointed times [for the coming of Moshiach] have passed." Furthermore, this statement was made in the Talmudic era. How much more relevant is it today after more than 1900 years of the difficulties of exile - and he has not yet come!...

As to the continuation of the above declaration of the Sages, that "the matter now depends on t’shuva alone," G-d’s people have already turned to Him in t’shuva. For t’shuva is an instantaneous process, which transpires "in one moment, in one turn." Furthermore, a single thought of t’shuva is sufficient to alter one’s entire spiritual status. This is reflected by our Sages’ ruling that when a person consecrates a woman as his wife on the condition that he is a (completely) righteous man, the marriage bond is established even though he was known to be wicked. We assume that, at the time he made that condition, he had thoughts of t’shuva, and that those thoughts were powerful enough to change his spiritual status from one extreme to the other at that very moment.

Since on more than one occasion every Jew has had thoughts of t’shuva, the coming of the future Redemption is surely imminent. Indeed, because of this statement of the Jews’ virtue itself, it is worthy that Moshiach come. Furthermore, many rabbanim and halachic authorities have issued rulings - and "the Torah is not in the heavens" - that Moshiach must come. These rulings obligate the Heavenly Court to act accordingly. And this will indeed be so.

4. A positive appraisal of every one of our fellow Jews is all the more appropriate since our generation is "a firebrand saved from the blaze," the remnant preserved after the horrors of the Holocaust in which six million Jews died al Kiddush Hashem, in sanctification of the name of G-d.

The prophecy of Zecharia (read as the Haftora of Shabbos Chanuka) relates:

And G-d told Satan: "G-d rebukes you, O Satan; G-d, Who chooses Yerushalayim, rebukes you, for behold this man is a firebrand saved from the blaze."

G-d Himself rebukes Satan who acts as an adversary against the Jewish people. Why? Because G-d "chooses Yerushalayim." The Hebrew for Yerushalayim, Yerushalayim, is a combination of two Hebrew words, "yira" (awe) and "shalem" (complete). Yerushalayim thus indicates a state in which a person stands in complete awe of G-d. This quality is possessed by every Jew, who is chosen by G-d.

If this innate virtue is not sufficient, when rebuking the Satan G-d emphasizes, "This man is a firebrand saved from the blaze." As our Sages explain: "That is to say, only a small remnant of Israel has survived...and you dare to point out their faults so that I should destroy them?!"

In our days, soon after the Holocaust, who can dare point an accusing finger at the remnants of the Jewish people, "a brand saved from the fire," and tell them that their conduct will bring about a second Holocaust, Heaven forbid? May such calamities never be repeated.

Such statements are more severe when, in addition to pointing an accusing finger at our generation, one desecrates the honor of the martyrs who perished al Kiddush Hashem, by justifying the Holocaust as if it were punishment for their sins.

Heaven forbid that one utter such words. Undesirable events sometimes occur, not as punishment for sins, but because of an unfathomable Divine decree, a dictate which transcends any and all explanation. Thus our Sages relate that when Moshe protested the cruel death suffered by Rabbi Akiva, G-d answered, "Be silent. This is what arose in My thought."

To explain: In general, when we confront undesirable events, we must realize that, "The Holy One, blessed be He, does not render judgment without a reason"; i.e., these events result from faults in our conduct. There are, however, also exceptions to this rule. The classic example is G-d’s covenant with Avrohom at which He informed him that his descendants would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. Far from being a result of our people’s sins, this exile was preordained by an unfathomable Divine decree.

The same applies to the Holocaust. The awesomeness of the cruelty to which the six million martyrs were subjected was unparalleled. No one, not even Satan himself, could find sins which would justify such suffering. There can be no explanation within the Torah for such a Holocaust. All we can do is realize that, "This is what arose in My thought"; "It is a decree from Me."

G-d did not desire - as an expression of His inner will - such suffering to happen. On the contrary, as mentioned above, when the Jewish people suffer, He suffers with them. Rather, this was an instance in which "I have abandoned you for a brief moment." In no manner, can this be justified as a punishment for sins.

On the contrary, all those who perished in the Holocaust are holy martyrs (and, indeed, it is common practice to refer to them in this manner). The fact that they were killed for being Jewish causes their death to be considered al Kiddush Hashem.

G-d will surely avenge their blood, as we say in the prayer beginning "Av HaRachamim":

Remember...the holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine Name... As it is written in the Torah of Moshe, "He will avenge the blood of His servants." And in the Holy Writings it is said, "Let it be known among the nations, before our own eyes, the retribution of the spilled blood of Your servants."

Thus, G-d declares that these martyrs are His servants. (This definition is significant, for a servant has no existence independent of that of his master, and is considered an extension of him.) Moreover, G-d here promises that He will avenge their blood, for their death was against His will, as it were.

The very fact that they died al Kiddush Hashem, regardless of any other virtues they had - and they were indeed virtuous, for, on the whole, it was the most refined and the most righteous of our people who perished in the Holocaust - elevated them to such a level that "no creature can stand in their presence."

It is utterly out of the question to use the Holocaust as an example of people who were punished for their sins, and particularly unthinkable to use their memory as a rod with which to threaten today’s generation, heirs to the legacy of holiness they left.

Surely, these words will have no effect at all, and we will instead witness the fulfillment of the remainder of Zechariah’s prophecy: "I have removed your sin from you and I have dressed you in festive garments... And the angel that had spoken to me aroused me...and I said, ‘I see a menora entirely of gold.’" The menora is the symbol of the entire Jewish people. Similarly, we will see how each member of our people shines with "the lamp of mitzva and the light of Torah."

5. A connection can be established between the above and between the fast of the Tenth of Teives. That date commemorates Nebuchadnezzar’s placing Yerushalayim under siege. It marks the first of the four fast days connected with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, and is therefore more severe in one respect than the others, even than Tisha B’Av. This is reflected in the ruling that if the Tenth of Teives were to fall on the Sabbath, the fast would not be postponed, for it is written, "On that selfsame day..."

The above verse continues, "The king of Babylon placed Yerushalayim under siege." Significantly, the verb it uses to communicate this concept, "samach," is usually employed in a positive context, and means support; in our prayers, for example, we use the expression "Somech noflim" (He supports those who fall). It is difficult to conceive why the prophet uses a term with a positive connotation for such an undesirable event, the beginning of the sequence of destruction and exile.

This difficulty can be resolved as follows: G-d prefaces the prophecy to the prophet Yechezkel with the following instruction: "Son of man, write down the name of this day," implying that the prophet’s description (in contrast to the way the narrative is related in Melachim and in Yirmeyahu) does not merely chronicle the historical events which transpired, but rather, communicates the inner meaning of destruction and exile.

Although these were outwardly undesirable occurrences, they were intended, not to punish the people as an act of vengeance, but rather to elevate them to a higher level of service. By using the term "samach" in connection with Yerushalayim (which, as above, can be interpreted as a reference to the Jewish people, who possess the quality of being complete in their awe of G-d), the prophet implies that the Divine intent in the siege was to elevate the city and its people to a higher level than they had attained previously.

Why was Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, able to place Yerushalayim under siege? Only because ultimately, there was a positive intent to the sequence, which would ultimately benefit the Jewish people. The gentile nations are only "an axe in the hands of the Mason." There is no way that "the king of Babylon" can approach Yerushalayim, G-d’s city, nor have an influence on the Jewish people, G-d’s children, unless the ultimate intent is positive.

In that era, however, this positive intent manifested itself in siege, destruction, and exile, because there was the need to atone for sins. In our era, in contrast, after G-d has already expended His anger on the Beis HaMikdash and, particularly, after our service of Him throughout the exile, and especially, after the merit of the suffering and oppression to which our people have been subjected throughout the generations, including the legacy of martyrdom of the Holocaust, there is no further need for such measures. On the contrary, the activities of the king of Babylon will lead to the most literal meaning of "samach," positive and revealed good for the Jews. To quote the Midrash, G-d will tell the Jews, "My children, do not be afraid. All that I have wrought, I have performed for your sake. Do not fear; the time for your redemption has come."

In our generation (particularly, in the present year, a year when "I will show you wonders"), the central emphasis on the Tenth of Teives (as on other fasts) must be directed towards t’shuva, by strengthening and encouraging each and every Jew, stressing that G-d loves him as he is. This love gives every individual the potential, regardless of his present level of observance, to reach complete fulfillment in the Torah and its mitzvos. Similarly, we must reinforce the faith of our people in the imminence of Moshiach’s coming, and emphasize how we can hasten his coming through our service of G-d. To quote the Rebbe Rayatz, "Immediately, let us proceed to t’shuva; immediately, we will proceed to redemption." "Israel, return to the L-rd, your G-d. Prepare yourself and your family to greet Moshiach, who will come in the very near future."

This emphasis on the above concepts is reflected in the different practices connected with the observance of a communal fast - the Torah reading, the Haftora, and the additions to our prayers - and in particular, with the first of those fasts, the Tenth of Teives.


There are members of the Jewish people, who - at least to outward appearances - do not conduct their daily lives according to the directives of the Torah and its mitzvos. If so, how can we say that all of Yaakov’s descendants are alive because of their connection with the Torah?




Undesirable events sometimes occur, not as punishment for sins, but because of an unfathomable Divine decree, a dictate which transcends any and all explanation.




In our generation, the central emphasis on the Tenth of Teives (as on other fasts) must be directed towards t’shuva, by strengthening and encouraging each and every Jew, stressing that G-d loves him as he is.



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