What does the biblical word “Heichaltzu” mean to you? Most people won’t be familiar with it, as it isn’t a common Hebrew word, but those who do will usually connect it with military preparedness, arming oneself for war, or perhaps general preparedness and designation for a challenge. That’s because “Heichaltzu” is the word used in the Torah for the preparedness leading up to the war against Midian, one of the last actions of Moshe’s life, at the very end of the Book of Bamidbar/Numbers.
But if you ask Chabad Chassidim, they’ll almost always refer to the booklet titled Heichaltzu, to that famous Maamar, to the mission and message and underlying issues of Ahavat Yisroel, love of one’s fellow. It’s the first thing that comes to mind, perhaps the only thing that comes to mind. “Heichaltzu” has an entirely different meaning and word association when it comes to Chabad.
The “Heichaltzu” Maamar (Chassidic discourse) has a long history, an evolution over the generations, dating back to the first Rebbe of Chabad, the Alter Rebbe. But it became most famous in the Rebbe Rashab’s (Rabbi Sholom Ber, the 5th Rebbe) version which is from 1899. And this was yet further popularized and entered Chabad’s mainstream culture, street-talk and everyday perspective when our Rebbe had it published in 1988 (almost a century later) as a booklet (pictured here) and personally hand-distributed it to each individual, men, women and children, as part of an effort to raise awareness, deepen appreciation and strengthen our love and connection to one another.
“Heichaltzu” (not in the biblical sense, but in Chabad talk) addresses the underlying issues that build walls between people, like ego and self-centrism, and how to break through these blockages and transcend them. The old adversarial nations from the biblical text, Midianites and Amalakites, are interpreted in this Chassidic text on a deeper, non-literal level to refer to negative character traits within ourselves against which we ought to prepare and arm ourselves for battle. Thanks to this Maamar, “Heichaltzu” is a household word in Chabad. It’s code for dealing with the issues that divide, and build that which unites.
Back to the original Torah context, “Heichaltzu” and the war against Midian is in Parsha Mattot, which is always read during “The Three Weeks” a time with heightened sensitivity and increased efforts to strengthen our Ahavas Yisrael!