Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The Rebbe’s leadership was distinguished by his constant emphasis on the positive. Even seemingly negative events were utilized as opportunities to increase the positive.

For example, after the passing of the his mother on the 6th of Tishrei, 1964, the Rebbe launched a unique approach to understanding the depth of Rashi’s classic Torah commentary, offering at least one explanation of a Rashi at every Shabbos farbrengen in the years following. Hundreds of these were later carefully prepared for publication by a committee of scholars and personally edited by the Rebbe.

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Similarly, after the Rebbe’s heart attack during hakofos on Shmini Atzeres, 1977, he started a new Torah venture: He revived the old Jewish tradition of speaking “divrei kibbushin” – words of ethical exhortation – after Minchah on a public fast day. As a result, we have scores of insightful talks on fast days, many of which the Rebbe later edited for publication.

One year, the Rebbe explained that Asarah B’Teves – which marks the date that the king of Bavel started to besiege Yerushalayim – is actually the source of most of the other public fast days. How so? Because if the Jews had repented properly at that point, they could have prevented all the later calamities up to and including the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Their failure to repent appropriately then is ultimately the source of our exile and troubles to this day (may they end very soon).

This year, Asarah B’Teves falls on a Friday – the only time a public fast day falls immediately before Shabbos. In fact, the fast continues into Shabbos, until three stars appear in the sky. Rabbi David Abudraham (d. 1341) notes that Asarah B’Teves is the only fast day referred to in Tanach as “on that selfsame day” (Yechezk’el 24:2), which gives it extra severity. In fact, if it fell on Shabbos, we would actually have to fast on Shabbos. (All other fast days, except Yom Kippur, are postponed if they fall on Shabbos.)

Asarah B’Teves is treated with such strictness because, as we explained, it’s the source of all the other fasts associated with the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction and our exile. That being the case, though, Asarah B’Teves is also a great opportunity to finally leave our present, unnatural state of exile (“exiled from our Father’s table” – see Berachos 3a) and return to our optimal state of closeness with our Father in Heaven.

How do we accomplish that? An obvious way is to replace the cause the Talmud gives for our long exile – “baseless hatred” – with “baseless love,” loving other Jews simply because they’re Jews, regardless of their qualities. And true love of course cannot remain in the heart but must be expressed in seeking to help others to the fullest extent possible.

May our efforts have the desired effect very soon!

(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at Lubavitchyouth@gmail.com.