This week, as we read about Yaakov’s final blessings to his children in Parshas Vayechi, we present a letter from the Rebbe on the meaning of the blessing we give for Arichas Yomim V’shonim Tovos. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s personal trusted secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5733
Greeting and Blessing:
Pursuant to our conversation when you were here, and told me about the good news of your 60th birthday, I want to reiterate here in writing the blessing that I wished you also orally, namely that G-d should bless you – Arichas Yomim V’ shonim Tovos
I would like to add that this time-honored traditional blessing is a very meaningful one, although at first glance it may seem redundant to mention also the days (“long and happy days and years”), since the “days” are already included in the “years”. The explanation is that this blessing in a double one, namely, to enjoy long and good years, and also that each and every day should be long and good in terms of content. That is to say, that each day should be completely filled with true Jewish content. Time is a relative thing, and the true measure of time, whether it is “short” or “long” is in terms of content in achievement. It is a matter of common experience that it is possible in a short while to have so much good content that it would normally fill days, weeks or even months.
And from the particular to the general. What is true of the individual in terms of personal achievement is true in a wider sense in application to the community. I have in mind such activity that stimulates a chain reaction, an activity that sets an example for others to emulate. In such a case, the person setting off this chain reaction has a share and zechus in all the good effects of which he has been the cause. A person like yourself, who has an influential and active role in the community, is thus in a very privileged and blessed position. Particularly when such activity includes, first and foremost, the area of chinuch. Here the chain reaction in even more in evidence, since the present pupils, who are now recipients, will eventually be benefactors, with pupils of their own, and so forth.
Apropos of the above, I wish to mention also the custom introduced by the Baal Shem Tov and transmitted to us through the Alter Rebbe. According to this custom, a special Psalm is recited daily corresponding to the person’s age in s particular year. Thus, for a person entering the 61st year, Psalm 61 is the one recited daily that year. In this connection, of special relevance is the verse (61:8) Yeshev olom lifnei Elokim, chesed ve’emes man yintzeruhu.
The Midrash (Shemos Rabba31:15) makes the following commentary on this verse: King David was wondering why there should be rich men and poor men in the world. Would it not be better if all were equal before G.d? Where upon G-d replied: “Kindness and truth – who will practice it?” In other words, the poor and needy of the world are there so that there should be someone practicing the mitzvah of tzedoko and loving kindness. This provides an aditiöna1 insight into the Jewish concept of tzedoko in all its forms, including especially tzedoko for zechus horabim.
With prayerful wishes for “long and happy days and years” in all your affairs, both personal and general,
The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.