1st of Shevat and the Book of Deuteronomy
Based on a Chassidic Talk by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on the 23rd day of Teves, 5746 (19’86),
Presented with permission, as translated and published by Sichos in English.
What is the special theme of the [mid-winter] month of Shevat [in the Hebrew calendar]? Scripture makes it very clear!
“On the first of the eleventh month in the fortieth year … Moses began to explain the law on the east bank of the Jordan in the land of Moav.” (Deuteronomy 1:3-5)
Rashi adds an important point: “In the 70 languages (of the ancient Gentile world) did he explain it to them.” (Rashi, loc. cit.)
From here we see that the predominant theme of Shevat is to teach and disseminate Torah … in every place and under every circumstance. This means reaching out to Jews who are far away from Torah to the point that the Torah must be translated for them into their native tongues, the “70 languages.”
This would also include outreach to our Non-Jewish neighbors in the manner described by Rambam: “… to compel all human beings to accept the [Seven] Commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noah.” (Laws of Kings 8:10). [In our times, what is the meaning of "to compel all human beings"?] They too must be encouraged and motivated by logic and reason, in their native tongues, to accept the aspects of Torah that are pertinent to them [i.e., pertinent to the Noahide Code].
This ancient theme of the month of Shevat, starting from Rosh Chodesh [the first day of the Hebrew month] – that it is an opportune time for teaching and speaking Torah – … will also find special emphasis in our generation, when the tenth of Shevat took on new significance. The tenth of Shevat is the “Hillula” — [the anniversary of the] day of passing — of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn], the Nasi [Jewish spiritual leader] of our generation, and as explained (in Iggeres Hakodesh, ch. 27-28):
All his doings, his Torah and the Divine service which he served all the days of his life … become revealed and radiate in a manifest way from above downwards at the time of his passing … and effect salvation in the midst of the earth.
The Sabbath on which we bless this month provides us with the special powers relating to the theme of the tenth of Shevat and empowers and invigorates us to assume the necessary resolutions needed to follow in the path of the Previous Rebbe. This will especially include the work of spreading Torah and Chassidic teachings, and “disseminating the wellsprings” [of Chassidic teachings] to the outside.
The theme of Shevat … is related to us in the Written Torah [as the month when Moses began his final address to the Jewish people, which is recorded as the Book of Deuteronomy], and it comes at the start of the month. On the other hand, the theme of the tenth of Shevat is new to this generation. Despite this, we must place greater emphasis and harder work on the aspects of Divine service introduced by the tenth of Shevat. We must arouse enthusiasm in the areas [mentioned above] which relate to us and our times. …
May you see success in … increasing in all matters connected with the tenth of Shevat: Spreading the fountains of Torah to the outside and reemphasizing the Previous Rebbe’s urgent call, “Immediate repentance — Immediate redemption.” [It was revealed to the Baal Shem Tov that] spreading the fountains of Chassidic teachings will bring the King Mashiach [the true Messiah] and the true and complete [Messianic] redemption speedily and truly in our times.