April 11, 2019
rena g in #1162, 11 Nissan

The Midrash connects the opening words of Tehillim 118:1, Hodu Lashem ki tov ki l’olam chasdo – Praise G-d for He is good, His kindness is eternal,” the Rebbe’s new kapitel, with the idea underlying the Rebbe’s famous letter to Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (1884-1963), the second president of Israel. In this revealing letter, the Rebbe shares his earliest vision of Moshiach, the nasi and king.

First, the Midrash describes the Jewish people praising Hashem for bringing the redemption, quoting our opening verse:

The meaning of Hodu Lashem ki tov ki l’olam chasdo is as it is written: “You shall say on that day: I give thanks to You, G-d, for You were wroth with me [Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me]” (Yeshayahu 12:1). The Jewish people will say nothing to G-d except an expression of gratitude for all the goodness He does for us, as it says (ibid 25:1), “G-d My L-rd, You I shall extoll.” Once Dovid discerned that expressing gratitude is well-received, he said, Hodu Lashem ki tov,” because it is good to express thankfulness.

Next, the Rebbe’s letter: On 11 Nissan 5716, the Rebbe wrote a long letter to Mr. Ben-Zvi. In closing, the Rebbe apologizes for not following the convention of honoring the president by title. Since he was a young child, the Rebbe explains, he imagined how the redemption would unfold, and how at that time there will be a leader, a king, Moshiach, who will be closest to Hashem. It is therefore difficult for the Rebbe to attach this revered title to anyone else:

Many greetings and blessings! With honor and esteem, and with wishes for a kosher and happy Pesach.

It is possible that the following section of the letter should have appeared at the beginning. Apologies for leaving out the appropriate titles at the head of the letter. However, I relied on the descriptions I heard about your character and assumed you would understand my intent.

From the day I entered cheder, and even earlier, a vision of the future redemption began to take form in my mind, the redemption of the Jewish nation from this final exile. The awaited redemption will be such [a consolation] that the sufferings of exile, the decrees, and the massacres will be understood.

As part of this glorious destiny and redemption, there will be a “nasi – zeh melech,” a king to whom the only one above him is Hashem Himself (Horayos 11a, end). [The nasi will usher in a time of such great Divine consolation that everyone] with perfect sincerity and full understanding, “will say on that day, thank you G-d for rebuking me.”

Thus, it is difficult for me to use this title with respect to the Jewish people, at a time when “Yaakov…is small” and the Jewish people are “downtrodden, pressured, withered, battered, and tortured.”

I could have simply addressed you with the title [nasi], but since I understand that your honor is genuine, I didn’t want to be deceptive.

With apology,


The Rebbe’s leadership emerged from the ashes of humanity’s darkest hour, when civilization was crumbling before our eyes and evil threatened to consume the entire world. The Rebbe dedicated his life to rebuilding a broken nation and turning the pain of our prayers, our Tehillim, our shattered hearts, into nothing short of G-d’s crown jewels. In this spirit, the Psalmist sings (Tehillim 118:5): “From the constraints, I called upon G-d; with abounding help G-d answered me.” Crying out in anguish has the power to bring redemption to our lives and to the world.

The Alter Rebbe connects this concept with the verse, “All nations surround me, but with the name of G-d I will cut them down” (ibid 118:10):

“Nations” here refers to the body and the Animal Soul, which come from Klipas Noga. They encircle and surround the soul. They distract us and introduce foreign thoughts, even in the middle of prayer, etc.

Also, the middos of the body and the Animal Soul serve as garments to the G-dly Soul, etc. Although one may arouse in himself love for G-d in prayer – sincerely and from the depths of his heart, to the capacity his soul can withstand – after tefilla, only an impression remains, etc.

However, there is a sublime meditation that far surpasses the soul’s capacity, described in the verse, “In the name of G-d, I will cut them down (amilam)” (ibid 118:12). Here “amilam” has two meanings: It means “crisa – cut off,” meaning turning away from true evil, from the Three Impure Klipos, and it also means “mila” – cutting off the covering foreskin, the superfluous aspect that embodies Klipas Noga, to “sanctify yourself in what is permissible to you.”


There’s a reason why Maggid, telling the story of the Hagada, begins with negativity: “This is the bread of affliction … Now we are slaves, etc.,” “Avadim hayinu – we were slaves, etc.,” “At first our forefathers were idolaters.” “Go and learn what Lavan HaArami sought to do to Yaakov Avinu … to uproot everything [i.e., the entire nation].” Pesach empowers us to see history as a narrative, one that begins with suffering, the birth of our nation, and ending with the ultimate redemption.

Now, on the threshold of redemption, we have untold abilities to awaken and truly transform the lowest sparks of all. May we all give the Rebbe, on 11 Nissan, the ultimate gift. The Rebbe is a king who has no use for more silver and gold. The only gift we can give is to graciously receive from the Rebbe all the ko’ach we need to finally succeed in bringing about his earliest dream, the time when G-d will wipe away our tears and take us each by the hand to the Beis HaMikdash with the true and complete redemption, now!



Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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