1. Tonight is the night following the fourth day of Parshas Eikev. In accordance with the concept that each of the seven aliyos of the weekly Torah reading are associated with the seven days of the week, today is associated with the fourth aliyah.1 More particularly, since this is the conclusion of the fourth day of the week, the present time is associated with the conclusion of that reading.
Herein we see a connection to the present day, the yahrzeit of a tzaddik [Trans. Note: the Rebbe Shlita’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson] who sacrificed his life for the spreading of the Torah and its mitzvos who merited (for not all tzaddikim merit this) to be given the most extreme punishment in this world.
This Torah reading describes the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi. As theRambam writes, this uniqueness is not reserved only for those whose lineage is from that tribe but includes, “each and every person… who the openness of his heart dictates” to rise above the material concerns of this world and make “G‑dhis portion and his inheritance,”2 i.e., to dedicate himself to the study of the Torah and the performance of the mitzvos.
This approach was see through the life of my father. Although the Russian government at that time pressured other Rabbis to issue proclamations declaring their support for the government and their willingness to accept its authority, my father conducted himself as a Rav3 did in previous generations, “teaching Your law to Yaakov, and Your Torah to Yisrael.”4
Furthermore, he did this with mesirus nefesh, challenging the Russian government. In particular, this is reflected in his journey to the Russian capital to receive permission to bake matzos in a kosher manner.5 This journey was successful and they agreed to accept his rulings regarding the kashrus of these matzos. Although this caused financial loss to the government — and that was considered a very serious matter at that time — my father refused to authorize the use of any flour that was not supervised by his mashgichim, mashgichim who would not bend despite the pressure they were subjected to. The matzos which were baked under his supervision were then spread throughout Russia, the country in which most of the Jews of that generation resided.
The punishment which he suffered, exile, is considered equivalent to death and in some respects, more severe than death. Nevertheless, although he knew of the possibility of such punishment, he continued his efforts to spread Yiddishkeit, and furthermore, did so while in exile itself. Moreover, he was recognized for his wisdom by non-Jews, and when they asked him for advice, he also endeavored to influence them to fulfill their seven mitzvos. And to the extent possible at that time, he achieved this.
In this context, we can understand the relevance of verse from the Torah passage connected with the present day, “G‑d designated the tribe of Levi to stand before Him and serve Him… until this present day.” For the relevance of this verse in our contemporary situation, can only be understood within the context of the extended identity of the tribe of Levi as mentioned earlier in the name of the Rambam. For in the Diaspora, the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi is not expressed on the present day. It is expressed on the festivals when theLevites wash the hands of the Priests before they recite the Priestly Blessing. In the Diaspora, however, where most of the Jews are found and where the grave of the Previous Rebbe, the leader of our generation is located, the Priestly Blessing is recited only on festivals. So that it is only through the expanded meaning, that we can see the service of the Levites on “this present day.”
And this is the lesson we should derive: To involve ourselves in the service of spreading Yiddishkeit and the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos withmesirus nefesh. For it was with mesirus nefesh that the Levites served in the Sanctuary and then in the Beis HaMikdash. And so will they serve in the ThirdBeis HaMikdash.6
This was my father’s desire: To spread Yiddishkeit in his own community and throughout the entire Jewish people and to do so with mesirus nefesh. Thus seeing that his yahrzeit and the description of his efforts will motivate others — men, women, and children — to make a similar commitment, will surely bring him satisfaction.
Herein we also see a connection to the tribe of Levi, for in the census of the tribe of Levi were also included infants. From the time that it was clear that they would survive, the children of the tribe of Levi were included in the census.
This relates to Jewish education. A parent must educate his children from their earliest ages. He must be conscious of “the part of G‑d from Above” present within his children’s souls, and therefore dedicate himself to their education withmesirus nefesh. This includes making his children aware that their mission in the world is to be a living example of how one lives in preparation for the construction of the Third Beis HaMikdash, by performing certain activities — e.g., giving tzedakah — which will hasten the construction of that Beis HaMikdash. And by being a living example and speaking to other children with heartfelt words, they will influence them to emulate their conduct.
This process of education must begin “from the time it is clear that the child will survive,” and even before then. This is particularly relevant in the present generation, for in the very near future, we will proceed to greet Mashiach. This will be hastened by the distribution of money to be given to tzedakah, fortzedakah brings the redemption near.
4. Significantly, this blessing was given to the tribe of Levi. However, since at the conclusion of the blessings which Moshe gave, he included all the tribes together, the potential was granted for the blessings given one tribe to be shared with another.