January 10, 2019
Shneur Zalman Levin in #1149, Interview, Yud Shvat

We spoke with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Segal, spiritual director of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Natzrat Ilit, and asked him how to prepare for Yud Shevat. * The Rebbe himself outlined the path to hiskashrus, by learning the teachings of the Nasi HaDor.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Segal is one of the staff members of Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim in Natzrat Ilit and is responsible for the yeshivas success and good reputation.

Yud Shevat, or Rosh Hashana L’Hiskashrus, as it’s known among Chassidim, is a day to strengthen our hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH”M. The Rebbe calls it connecting to the “tree of life.” It’s an opportunity.

The Rebbe taught us to prepare for every significant date. Preparing is a key element of every good thing. How should a Chassid prepare for Yud Shevat, especially in his hiskashrus to the Rebbe?

When speaking of hiskashrus to the Rebbe, one of the main points is learning the Torah that he taught. The Alter Rebbe, in the fifth chapter of Tanya, talks about doing mitzvos, how they draw down a “surrounding light” on to the person who does them. He adds however that the greatest way to connect to Hashem is through learning Torah.

Why is learning Torah the best way to connect to Hashem? The Alter Rebbe explains that when a person does a mitzva, he is completely “inside” the Will of Hashem, but it is not necessarily the case that the Will of Hashem is revealed within him. It might be within him in a way of makif; i.e., he might do mitzvos out of a sense of kabbalas ol.

When a Jew learns Torah however, not only does it pull him “inside,” but it is fully present deep inside him and becomes a part of him. The Alter Rebbe compares this to eating bread. Just as bread was previously something external and upon eating it, it enters the body, gives it life, and becomes part of him, so too with Torah study. It connects a Jew to Hashem with a bond that cannot be severed:

Since, in the case of knowledge of the Torah, the Torah is clothed in the soul and intellect of a person, and is absorbed in them, it is called “bread” and “food” of the soul. For just as physical bread nourishes the body as it is absorbed internally, in his very inner self, where it is transformed into blood and flesh of his flesh, whereby he lives and exists— so, too, it is with the knowledge of the Torah and its comprehension by the soul of the person who studies it well, with a concentration of his intellect, until the Torah is absorbed by his intellect and is united with it and they become one. This becomes nourishment for the soul, and its inner life from the Giver of life, the blessed En Sof, Who is clothed in His wisdom and in His Torah that are [absorbed] in it [the soul].”

This is also the most binding form of hiskashrus that a Chassid can have with the Rebbe, i.e., learning his Torah. When a Jew, or Chassid, learns the Rebbe’s teachings, he unites with the Rebbe and the Rebbe becomes part of him. There is no hiskashrus greater than this.

The Rebbe refers to this in the HaYom Yom (24 Sivan) too. To a Chassid who asked the Rebbe Rayatz how he can connect with him, the Rebbe Rayatz answered, “You ask: What does your spiritual bond with me – your hiskashrus – consist of, since I do not know you by face…? True connection is attained by Torah study. When you study my maamarim of Chassidus, read the sichos … this is what constitutes hiskashrus.

But can’t I also connect to the Rebbe when I do mivtza tefillin on Friday, for example. Why are you stressing learning his teachings?

True, you can connect to the Rebbe in several ways, by doing what he wants, going on mivtzaim, but as I said, the deepest connection is achieved by learning his teachings.

Here’s an example. You can smell a fragrance and enjoy it, but it is still not a part of you. You can live in a certain atmosphere that affects you, but it is still external to you. When you eat bread, as in the Alter Rebbe’s example, it becomes part of you. This is what the teachings of the Rebbe have that mivtzaim do not have, although, of course, mivtzaim are very important.

Why is that? Is it because the Rebbe put his essence into his teachings?

Yes. Both because the Rebbe put himself into his teachings and, as the Alter Rebbe explains in chapter five of Tanya, the Chassid’s intellect connecting with the Rebbe’s intellect is the strongest connection there can be. It doesn’t remain in the realm of “atmosphere” or “up above,” but becomes a part of you.

Is there something superior about learning the Rebbe’s teachings over learning the maamarim of the Rebbe Rayatz or the Hemshechim of the Rebbe Rashab? It’s all Chassidus …

It is told that at the beginning of the Rebbe’s nesius, maybe even a little before that, there were some mashpiim in Chabad yeshivos, graduates of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch that was founded by the Rebbe Rashab, who having been raised on the Rebbe Rashab’s teachings, taught his maamarim to their talmidim.

When this was reported to the Rebbe, he sent them a letter which said, although you are accustomed to learning the maamarim of the Rebbe Rashab, for you were his students, at this time, it is not sufficient. There must be regular learning of the maamarim of Nasi Doreinu.

The Rebbe then added that he did not mean to negate learning the maamarim of the Rebbe Rashab. He meant that in addition to that, the talmidim must regularly learn the teachings of “the Rebbe, my father-in-law.”

Why? Because there must be hiskashrus to the Nasi HaDor. For us, these are the teachings of the Rebbe.

Is there a preference to learn a certain part of the Rebbe’s teachings or whatever I learn is fine?

The Rebbe’s teachings are rich and broad as the sea. There are sichos, maamarim, letters, etc. All are precious and important, but we ought to have a special fondness for the latter sichos we heard from the Rebbe in 5751-5752, the sichos of the D’var Malchus.

What’s wrong with learning Likkutei Sichos volume 10, for example, or the sichos of 5723? It’s all the Rebbe’s Torah …

G-d forbid to say there is anything wrong. The Rebbe himself edited the Likkutei Sichos and the Igros Kodesh.

On Shabbos Parshas VaYakhel 5710, a short while after the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe farbrenged with Chassidim, since it was Shabbos Mevarchim Nissan. The Rebbe began the farbrengen by saying, “In the last hemshech that the Rebbe wrote, he alluded to everything that happened now.” He went on to say that in this hemshech he finds clear answers to questions people ask. He said that this maamer is a “comprehensive” maamer and it has many Baalshemske sayings, and even the parenthetical comments in the maamer allude to various matters, and there are things that seem to have no connection to the maamer and hint to other things.

In other words, the Rebbe is revealing to us that in the Rebbe Rayatz’s last hemshech maamarim, there are answers to all the questions that bother Chassidim.

The same is true for us. In the sichos that we heard and that were edited and “sealed with the king’s seal” in the years 5751-5752, the Rebbe provided answers to all our questions. This is why these sichos need to be part of us, so we live them every day.

When we want to connect to the Rebbe, when we connect through learning his teachings, it needs to be especially in those things that the Rebbe said and printed in 5751-5752.

The story is told of a boy who went off the derech and traveled abroad. Before setting out, his father asked him to commit to putting on tefillin every day. The son verbally committed, even though he had no intention of doing so. The father suspected as much but kept quiet.

Some time later, money was running out and the son was concerned he would be stuck in the middle of his trip. He called his father and asked him to send him money. His father promised to send him some and asked, “Are you putting tefillin on ever day?” The son said yes, even though he hadn’t.

Time passed and all his money was gone, but his father had not sent money. The son called again and again and each time, heard the same answer from his father, but his father did not send the money. The son had to cut his trip short and go home. When he entered the house, he said plaintively to his father, “Why did you promise to send money but didn’t send any?”

His father said, “Why did you promise to put on tefillin and didn’t do so?” The son lied and said that he had.

“Bring me your tefillin,” said the father. When he brought them, the father opened the bag and before his astonished son he removed an envelope full of money.

“See, I prepared you with everything you needed. If you had done as you promised and put on tefillin, you would have found the money.”

The same is true for us. In the Rebbe’s teachings, especially in the latter years, the Rebbe prepared us with everything we need. We just need to open the sichos and make use of this treasure.


In recent years there is, in fact, a great awakening among Anash to regularly learn these sichos, including among N’shei Anash and even in our schools.

Publishers have put out many s’farim and aids to learning these sichos.

On the one hand, there are sichos in D’var Malchus that are on a high level, practically in the style of a maamer, with open G-dliness; on the other hand, we see how learning these sichos gives a chayus to children too. How do you explain this?

In the Rebbe’s sichos in general, there is something unique in that they suit “small and great” alike, as the Rambam indicates in the introduction to the Yad HaChazaka. The Rambam presents the halacha in a simple format so that even a child can understand it and yet, we see that the Torah greats analyzed and debated every letter of the Rambam’s work. An example of this are the deep hadranim the Rebbe said at the siyumei ha’Rambam.

So too with the Rebbe’s sichos of those years; they are presented in a way that even a child can understand them, on his level, while an adult sees wondrous depth in them and can analyze and extrapolate from the footnotes and so on.

The D’var Malchus has been published to date in so many ways: in a format suitable for children, in a format suitable for learned people, complete with text of source material that only appeared as citations in the original. Lately, a kuntres has been published called Medakdekim in which T’mimim offer in-depth analyses of these sichos. There is the D’var Malchus with punctuation and there are some that are aesthetically pleasing, and also rewritten in the language of Torah scholarship. You can see that many Anash, T’mimim and N’shei Anash live with this limud. As we said, it is our guide in this era when we don’t hear new sichos.

The mashpia, Rabbi Elozor Kenig said that he was at a farbrengen for French-speakers and so he spoke glowingly of France, based on what the Rebbe says in the sicha of VaYeishev 5752. At a certain point, one of the participants said sarcastically, “If you’re speaking that warmly about the French, you obviously haven’t been reading the newspapers.”

R’ Kenig responded in kind, “We see that you haven’t been learning the D’var Malchus. If you would learn the D’var Malchus about France, you wouldn’t care what it says in the newspapers; you would derive your knowledge through the Rebbe’s prism. This is what gives you the right outlook on France.”

The same is true for us; learning the D’var Malchus provides us with the strength and the ability to look at the world with the clarity that the Rebbe bequeathed to us.


What do you suggest that our readers do to prepare for Yud Shevat?

The Rebbe himself spoke a number of times about the importance of preparing for Yud Shevat.

I once heard from Rabbi Chaim Sholom Deitsch that the Rebbe told him in yechidus to make good resolutions that are time-limited. A resolution like that is easier to stick to than one that doesn’t have an expiry date, because then, the yetzer hara fights it more.

Everyone should commit to adding in his learning of the Rebbe’s teachings, ideally being the sichos of the D’var Malchus. You can make a good resolution to start a new shiur; you can start a new learning partnership; you can start learning two osiyos of these sichos a day so that over the course of a week, the sicha will be completed.

Children should be urged to say an idea from the D’var Malchus at the Shabbos table. There are many possibilities that suit all types and that people can stick to.

However you do it, no doubt, an increase in learning the Rebbe’s teachings, whether in quantity or quality, will make us that much readier for the Rosh Hashana L’Hiskashrus, so we are more connected to the Rebbe MH”M.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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