IN THE QARDEN OF THE TORAH

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בם״ד

IN THE QARDEN

OF THE TORAH

Insights of the

Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

on the weekly Torah Readings

Volume I

הועתק והוכנט לאינטרנט

www.hebrewbooks.org

ע״י חיים תע‎1‎ט"ז


IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Volume I

Published and Copyrighted © by

Sichos In English

788 Eastern Parkway • Brooklyn, New York 11213

Tel. (718) 778-5436

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be

reproduced in any form or by any means, including

photo-copying, without permission in writing from the

copyright holder or the publisher.

ISBN 1-8814-0007-7

5754 • 1994


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents

PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD v

BEREISHIS

"In the beginning"; A Dwelling for G-d 1

NOACH

Genuine Satisfaction; Noach's Legacy 7

LECH LECHA

A Journey To One's True Self: Avraham's Odyssey As A

Lesson For His Descendants 13

VAYEIRA

Seeing Truth: The Nature of the Revelation to Avraham 21

CHAYEI SARAH

Ongoing Life: The Continuing Effects of Sarah's Influence 27

TOLDOS

Inwardness: The Path To Posterity 33

VAYEITZEI

Yaakov's Journey: Transition, Challenge, and Achievement 39

VAYISHLACH

Empowerment And Its Purpose 45

VAYEISHEV

The Desire For Prosperity 51

MIKEITZ

An End And A Beginning 57

VAYIGASH

Inspiring Change 63

VAYECHI

True Life 69

SHMOS

Challenge, Growth, and Transition 75


IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

VA'EIRA

Seeing And Believing 81

BO

Confronting Pharaoh 87

BESHALLACH

The Expression of Inner Good 93

YISRO

Ripples of Inner Movement 99

MISHPATIM

After Sinai; Making the Torah a Part of Ourselves 105

TERUMAH

A Dwelling Among Mortals 111

TETZAVEH

A Paradigm Of Leadership 117

KI SISSA

Towards A Purpose Beyond Our Conception 125

VAYAKHEL

More than Gathering Together 133

PEKUDEI

The Power of the Individual 139

VAYIKRA

The Dearness of Every Jew 145

TZAV

Making Connections: The Message of Mitzvos 151

SHEMINI

Transcendence and Immanence 157

TAZRIA

Conceiving New Life 163

METZORA

Mashiach's Name 169

Founders of Chassidism & Leaders of Chabad-Lubavitch 175

Glossary and Biographical Index 177


PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD

V

Publisher's Foreword

Before he passed away, the Rebbe Rashab said: "I'm

going to heaven; I am leaving my writings for you." 1

Fre¬

quently, the Rebbe would explain 2

that the Rebbe Rashab's

intent was to inform his followers that by studying his

writings, they could maintain a connection with him as he is

in heaven.

"The righteous will never forsake their flock;" 3

even as

they exist in the spiritual realms, they continue caring for all

their followers. By studying their teachings, however, an

interactive pathway is opened and all those whose lives

were touched by the Rebbe can continue their conscious

bond with him through this study.

The emphasis on the connection to the Rebbe should

not be interpreted as an attempt to recreate the past. Our

intent is to look to the Rebbe as a source of life and vitality,

encouraging each person to reach deeper into himself and

beyond himself to fulfill his human potential. Even now, the

Rebbe's example and his teachings provide us with the

insight and energy to enhance our lives in the present and

in the future.

Both these dimensions — connecting to the Rebbe

through his teachings, and using those teachings as a

springboard for continued growth and personal develop-

1.

2.

3.

See Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. I, p. 113.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVII, p. 24, et al.

Cf. Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. I, letter 72.


VI

IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

ment — are reflected in the essays that follow. On one hand,

these essays are the Rebbe's thoughts. And yet, they are

presented in the form of adaptations. Instead of merely

translating the original texts, an effort has been made to

structure the presentation in a form that internalizes the

ideas and relates them to our contemporary experience. It

is our hope that our readers will continue this process and

focus on the Rebbe's thoughts not merely as abstract the¬

ory, but as truths to be applied in their lives.

Living with the Times

The above thrust relates to one of the more frequently

retold Chabad stories: 4

The Alter Rebbe once told his chassidim:

"We have to live with the times."

The chassidim, trained as they were in holding fast to

the eternal standards of the Torah despite the shifting

trends of contemporary thought, reacted with puzzlement.

They asked R. Yehudah Leib, the Alter Rebbe's brother, to

inquire about the Rebbe's intent.

In reply, the Alter Rebbe answered that he had meant

that the chassidim should "live with the weekly Torah

reading." And as the Rebbe frequently explained, this does

not mean merely studying the weekly portion; this means

living with the lessons of the portion and seeing them as

practical directives for more meaningful and more satisfying

life.

What's In a Name

The above endeavor is challenging, for the Torah is

multifaceted, and every Torah reading provides a multitude

of different lessons. Frequently, the Rebbe would resolve

this challenge by highlighting the lesson to be derived from

4. SeferHaSichos 5702, p. 29ff.


PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD

VII

the name of the Torah reading. For the name is a

comprehensive theme, summarizing and conveying the

thrust of the Torah reading as a whole. The Alter Rebbe

teaches 5

that an object's name reflects its essential life

force. If this applies with regard to worldly matters, surely it

is true with regard to the names of the Torah readings.

The essays to follow blend together several of the

Rebbe's talks, underscoring a lesson to be derived from the

names of every one of the Torah readings. Several of the

essays, e.g., "Ongoing Life" from Parshas Chayei Sarah, il¬

lustrate how the lesson derived from the name relates to

the entire Torah reading. In others, the connection is shown

between the name of the parshah and only certain elements

of the Torah reading. And in certain instances, the lesson of

the name alone is explained, leaving to the reader the task

of connecting this insight to the Torah reading as a whole.

"Out of the Many, One"

There are two unique dimensions to a Torah scroll: a)

every letter must be a separate entity, surrounded by blank

parchment. If two letters are touching, the scroll is

unacceptable.

b) If any one of the letters is missing, the scroll as a

whole is invalid.

When viewing these laws in a homiletical sense, two

concepts stand out: a) the importance of every individual

and the uniqueness of his contribution; and

b) the awareness that the most complete contribution

an individual can make is when he joins together with oth¬

ers in a more encompassing mission.

These two initiatives found expression in the composi¬

tion of the text which fused together the unique contribu-

5. Tanya, ShaarHaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1.


VIII

IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

tions of many individuals, each one enhancing the text as a

whole. Acknowledgment must be made of Rabbi Eliyahu

Touger, who adapted the Rebbe's talks from their sources;

Gershon Gale, who edited the text; Rabbi Aharon Leib

Raskin, who researched the sources and references; Uri

Kaploun, who gave many hours of consultation and critical

reading; Yosef Yitzchak Turner, who took charge of the

layout and typography; and Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director

of Sichos In English, who harmonized all these different

efforts and brought them to fruition in a polished work.

Proceeding Together

Writing a foreword to a collection of the Rebbe's works

is very different after Gimmel Tammuz. There's a lot that

could be said, so much that the foreword could be turned

into a volume of its own.

But that would blur the focus. And the processing of

focusing — telescoping multidimensional ideas into prac¬

tical applicable truths — was one of the fundamental

dimensions of the Rebbe's leadership.

During 5748-5749 (1988-1989), the year which followed

the passing of his wife, Rebbitzin Chayah Mushka, the

Rebbe gave chassidim focus by continuously referred to the

Biblical phrase, 6

"And the living should take it to heart."

This is what is necessary at present — to take the Rebbe's

message to heart, to apply it vigorously in our own lives,

and to share it with our families, our friends, and all those

with whom we come in contact.

And this will enable us to go forward with heads held

high, in touch with ourselves, with the world around us, and

with our spiritual purpose, and to dedicate ourselves to the

task the Rebbe set out for us: To make the world conscious

6. Ecclesiates 7:2.


PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD

IX

of the Redemption and to create an environment in which

this ideal can be manifest.

Erev Rosh HaShanah, 5755

Sichos In English


BEREISHIS 1

כר£שי,‏ Bereishis

"In the beginning")

A Dwelling for G-d

Adapted

from

Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 62

Purpose and Its Realization

When a person is sent to accomplish a task, the goal

should be clearly outlined. Sometimes, however, only an

allusion is given; the person charged with the mission is not

given explicit instructions. Instead, he is left to discover its

purpose on his own.

Why would someone choose to issue instructions in

such a manner When the intent of the exercise is not only

the accomplishment of the mission, but also the spiritual

growth of the agent. Were the purpose of the mission

spelled out, the agent would be denied the opportunity of

self-discovery, and thus his efforts would lose much of their


2 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

value. His vision would depend on someone else's light.

When, by contrast, the agent comes to the realization of the

goal on his own, it arouses more than his sense of duty; the

revelation rings deep within him and becomes part of his

own thinking.

Similar ideas apply with regard to G-d's creation of the

world. When the Torah describes creation, its first words

are not "Let there be light." Instead, it speaks of "void and

darkness." 1

Why Our Sages explain 2

that G-d's motive in creating

the universe was "a desire for a dwelling in the lower

realms." A dwelling means a home, a place where one's

essence is manifest. The term "lower realms" refers to our

material universe, in which G-dliness cannot ordinarily be

perceived.

G-d wants His dwelling to be part and parcel of these

lower realms. His intent is not to nullify the limitations of

our material existence, but rather to manifest Himself within

those limitations.

Where Opposites Meet

Had G-d begun creation with light — were He to have

created a world that recognizes Him effortlessly — all exis¬

tence would have been one with Him; there would have

been no "lower realms." This was not His desire.

G-d wants man to exist in a universe which by its very

nature seems to separate creation from its Creator. And the

intent is that man realize the connection for himself, and

develop it until the world proceeds to the state of ultimate

1. Genesis 1:2.

2. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3; See Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.


BEREISHIS 3

fulfillment: "The world will be filled with the knowledge of

G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed." 3

For mortals to reach such heights requires a fusion of

opposites, and it is in such a fusion that G-d's essence is

revealed. For He is neither light nor darkness, neither finite

nor infinite. No worldly quality — nor its antithesis — can

define Him. When, however, we see two apparently con¬

tradictory qualities joining, we can appreciate that this is

possible only because He has manifested Himself. 4

Precisely such a manifestation will characterize the Era

of the Redemption, when it will be revealed that the physi¬

cal world has indeed become G-d's dwelling.

Two Beginnings

To ensure that the "lower realms" would be capable of

transformation into a "dwelling" for Him, G-d embedded two

distinct elements within creation from the outset. Thus,

with regard to the Torah reading, Bereishis, Rashi

comments: 5

It is as if this word בראשית]‏ (bereishis, "In the begin¬

ning")] begs: "Extrapolate upon my meaning!" [The

word can be read as ב׳ ראשית ("two entities which are

called 'beginning' ").] As our Sages commented:

[Creation is] for the sake of the Torah — which is

referred to 6

as "the beginning of His path" — and for

3. 11:9.

4. To cite a parallel: our Sages (Yoma 21a) relate that the place taken up by the

ark was not included in the measurement of the Holy of Holies. Although

there were 10 cubits from each wall to the ark, and the ark itself was two and

a half cubits long, the width of the entire Holy of Holies was only 20 cubits.

5. Genesis 1:1.

6. Proverbs 8:22.


4 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

the sake of the righteous^ who are referred to 8

"the beginning of His crop."

In a similar context, our Sages state 9

that both the Jew¬

ish people and the Torah predate the world. This is not to

say that there was a precedence in time, for time — like

space — did not exist before creation. 10

Rather, the concept

of precedence highlights the unique spiritual potential of

the Jewish people and the Torah.

As opposed to the world at large, which appears to exist

independent of its G-dly source, "Israel, the Torah, and the

Holy One, blessed be He, are all one." 11

Every Jew's soul is

"an actual part of G-d," 12

and the Torah is G-d's will and

wisdom. 13

Since the Torah and the Jewish people are one with G-d,

observance of the mitzvos by the Jews expresses the

purpose of creation. "A mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah,

light." 14

By the light of Torah, Jews can thus reveal the G-dly

intent with which the world is imbued, and demonstrate

that it is G-d's dwelling.

as

Partners in Creation

The above emphasis on Torah and the Jewish people is

not explicit in the word Bereishis. On the contrary, the

simple meaning of the word is "In the beginning," indicating

that creation is only the first phase in an ongoing process.

7. Which in an extended sense applies to the entire Jewish people, as it is writ¬

ten (Isaiah 60:21): "Your nation are all righteous."

8. Isaiah 11:9.

9. Bereishis Rabbah 1:4.

10. See the Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. II, ch. 30. See also Igros Kodesh of the

Rebbe, Vol. I, p. 293ff.

11. Zohar, Vol. III, p. 73a.

12. See Tanya, ch. 2.

13. See Tanya, ch. 4.

14. Proverbs 6:23.


BEREISHIS 5

This highlights the importance of man's contribution.

For man is intended to be G-d's "partner in creation," 15

helping G-d realize His desire for a dwelling. G-d created the

material world, but left to man the task of revealing the

spiritual within it.

So it is that man begins in a world of darkness, and en¬

deavors to endow it with light. And each glimmer of light

kindles others, for "a little light banishes a great deal of

darkness," 16

and leads to the ultimate light of Redemption,

when it will be openly revealed that the world is G-d's

dwelling. 17

The Tzemach Tzedek used to say: 18

"According to the

stance one adopts on Shabbos Bereishis, the entire year

follows." For every year 19

is a renewal of the cycle of crea¬

tion. The Zohar 20

states that "G-d looked into the Torah and

created the world. Man looks into the Torah and maintains

the world." As we begin the study of the Torah anew on this

Shabbos, we have the potential to renew creation, and bring

it to its ultimate goal.

15. Shabbos 10a.

16. Tanya, ch. 12.

17. In this vein, our Sages (Sanhedrin 98b) commented that the world was created

solely for the purpose of Mashiach. Moreover, this purpose was expressed at

the beginning of creation. Thus on the verse (Genesis 1:2): "And the spirit of

G-d hovered over the waters," our Sages (Midrash Rabbah 2:4, quoted by

Rashi) comment: "This refers to the spirit of Mashiach. "

18. As quoted in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 556.

19. Although creation is renewed every moment (Tanya, Shaar HaYichud

VehaEmunah, ch. 1), there is also a yearly cycle. It is at the beginning of every

year that the life-energy for creation as a whole is renewed.

20. II, p. 161a,b.


NOACH 7

‏{ח Noach

Genuine Satisfaction;

Noach's Legacy

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 285ff;

Vol. XXV, p. 23ff

Our Potential

The Maggid of Mezritch interpreted 1

our Sages' statement:

2

"Know what is above you," as: "Know that everything

'above' — all that transpires in the spiritual realms — is

'from you,' dependent on your conduct. Each of us has the

potential to influence even the most elevated spiritual

realms."

1.

2.

Cited in Or Torah al Aggados Chazal, p. 112b, explained in Likkutei Sichos, Vol.

XX, p. 331. See also In the Paths of Our Fathers (Kehot, N.Y., 1994).

Avos 2:1.


8 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The Torah alludes to this potential in the opening verse

of our reading: 3

"These are the chronicles of Noach. Noach

was a righteous man."

The word noach refers to satisfaction and repose. 4

By

repeating the word, the Torah implies that Noach — and by

extension, every one of his descendants — can sow these

qualities in two different fields, both among his fellow men,

and in the spiritual worlds above.

Every person affects his environment. Our thoughts,

words and deeds can inspire peace and tranquillity in our

fellow men, helping create meaningful pleasure. And by

establishing such conditions in our world, we accentuate

similar qualities in the worlds above. To highlight our

obligation to spread these virtues, this week's Torah por¬

tion is called Noach. 5

Being Sensitive to G-d's Cues

The name Noach is, however, problematic, for the por¬

tion as a whole does not deal with these qualities. On the

contrary, the majority of the portion describes the Flood,

and its conclusion relates the story of the Tower of Bavel.

These events — and the conduct of mankind which led to

them — are diametrically opposed to the satisfaction and

repose personified by Noach.

The resolution of this difficulty underscores the inter¬

relation between the patterns with which G-d imbued our

world and man's response to them. Noach's birth was to

begin a period of repose and satisfaction that would

3. Genesis 10:9.

4. The name Noach ‏(נח)‏ means "rest" in Hebrew, and is associated with the word

nachas ‏,(נחת)‏ which means "pleasure." See Bereishis Rabbah 30:5. Zohar Vol. I,

p. 58b.

5. Were the name to have been given merely because "Noach" is one of the first

words of the portion, this reading should have been called Toldos, for this

word appears before Noach, and the subsequent portion, which is called

Toldos, should have been named Yitzchak.


NOACH 9

encompass the globe. Mankind had the option of taking an

active part in this undertaking. Instead, each person con¬

tinued to live with a narrow focus, concerned only with

himself. What another person felt, or questions of Right and

Wrong, did not matter. And as a result, 6

"The world was

corrupt... the land was filled with crime."

Waters of Blessing

Then it started to rain. On the verse: 7

"And it rained for

forty days and forty nights," our Sages commented: 8

"At the

outset, the water descended with mercy, so that if they had

repented, the rains would have been rains of blessing. Since

they did not repent, the rains became a flood."

The flood waters, then, were intended to be waters of

blessing. For the blessing to be manifest, however, mankind

had to make itself fit to receive G-d's influence, and

therefore teshuvah — a return to G-d — was necessary. As

the rain began to fall, humanity continued to ignore this

opportunity, refusing to make such efforts.

But even though mankind did not turn to G-d in teshuvah,

the rains remained waters of blessing. 9

The forty days

of rain resemble the forty seah of a mikveh. 10

Just as

immersion in a mikveh is associated with re-experiencing

the act of creation, 11

so too the forty days and forty nights

of rain brought about the dawning of a new age: "Noach saw

a new world." 12

6. Genesis 10:11.

7. Genesis 7:10.

8. Zohar Chadash 22a, quoted in Rashi's commentary on the verse.

9. This is implied by the wording of the verse, "And it rained for forty days," i.e.,

the entire forty-day period was intended to be one of "rains of blessing."

10. Torah Or, Noach 8c.

11. Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 174, explains that just as initially, all creation

emerged from a watery mass, so too, after immersion in a mikveh, a person

becomes a new entity, charged with new spiritual vitality.

12. Bereishis Rabbah 30:8.


10 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Therefore, the waters of the Flood are called "the waters

of Noach," 13 because the intent — and the actual effect —

was to bring rest and pleasure to the world. Unfortunately,

however, because man did not respond positively, this

constructive outcome was coupled with destruction — the

Flood obliterated every living creature on the face of the

Earth. 14

Kindness with Purpose

A similar motif applies with regard to the Tower of

Babel, as reflected in our Sages' teaching: 15

"There were ten

generations from Noach to Avraham All those generations

repeatedly angered Him, until Avraham our father came and

received the reward of them all."

The generations that preceded Avraham treated each

other with love. 16

Nevertheless, since they "repeatedly

angered G-d," their conduct did not reflect the repose and

satisfaction which G-d intended for mankind. Therefore He

punished them, scattering them throughout the earth.

Avraham performed deeds of kindness and hospitality

with a single purpose — to make all mankind conscious of

G-d. 17

Through his actions, he displayed the desired form of

repose and satisfaction, and therefore received the reward

generated by all the comradely deeds of the generations

which preceded him. 18

13. Isaiah 54:9, included in the Haftorah of Parshas Noach. The Haftorah expresses

the fundamental intent of the Torah reading.

It is often explained that the flood waters are called "the waters of Noach"

to indicate that Noach bears a certain responsibility for the Flood. For he did

not try hard enough to reach out to the people of his generation and motivate

them to do teshuvah.

14. Genesis 7:23.

15. Avos 5:2. See the explanation in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 753.

16. Sanhedrin 109a.

17. Sotah 10a ff.

18. In contrast, as mentioned in the mishnah from Avos cited previously, Noach

did not receive the reward for the generations which preceded him. There are


NOACH 11

When the Rainbow Shines

On the ark were lions, tigers, and other predators, and

yet they dwelt in peace with the other animals, anticipating

the fulfillment of the prophecy: 19

"The wolf will dwell with

lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat."

Thus our Torah portion foreshadows the ultimate repose

and satisfaction that mankind will be granted in the era 20

when "there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy

nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance." 21

By vigorously following in the footsteps of Avraham,

spreading kindness and love, we can help precipitate the

coming of that age. And then, like Noach and his family, we

will merit the shining of the rainbow. As the Zohar 22

states:

"The rainbow reflects spiritual secrets When you see the

rainbow shining with bright colors, wait for Mashiach's

coming."

two reasons for this: a) the conduct of these people did not generate reward,

for they did not show love to their fellow men; b) as mentioned in footnote 13,

Noach did not reach out to his contemporaries, nor did he endeavor to teach

them as Avraham did.

19. Isaiah 11:6.

20. Sefer HaMaamarim, Eshaleich Liozna, p. 57. Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, Parshas

Noach, et al.

21. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5.

22. Vol. I, p. 72b.


LECH LECHA 13

לךלך Lech Lecha

A Journey To One's Self:

Avram's Odyssey

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 57ff; Vol. XX, p. 59ff, p. 301ff;

Vol. XXV, p. 52; Sefer HaSichos

5750, p. 96ff.

What the Torah Chooses to Highlight

Every child knows the story of Avraham — how he dis¬

covered G-d as a lad, broke his father's idols, was thrown

into the furnace by Nimrod and saved by G-d. 1

None of these details, however, can be found in the

Written Torah. The Torah mentions Avraham 2

only briefly

at the close of Parshas Noach, 3

telling us that he was born,

that he married, and that he accompanied his father on his

1.

2.

3.

See Bereishis Rabbah 38:13, Tana d'bei Eliyahu Zuta, ch. 25.

Referring to him with his initial name Avram.

Genesis 11:26-31.


14 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

journey from Ur towards Canaan. But the focus of these

verses is on Terach, not on Avraham. It is only in Parshas

Lech Lecha, with the command, 4

"Go out of your land, your

native country, and your father's house," that the Torah

begins unfolding the history of the founder of our people.

Why this emphasis Before receiving this command to

leave his father's house, Avraham had already attained a

high level of Divine service. He had "recognized his Creator"

5

at three, and from that age onward continued to grow

in faith. He had been willing to sacrifice his life for G-d, and

a miracle was performed to save him.

All this, however, represented merely his own striving to

approach G-d. The command Lech Lecha, "Go out of your

land," began a new and deeper relationship with his Maker.

For as our Sages state: 6

"A person who observes a mitzvah

because he is commanded to do so is greater than one who

observes it without having been so commanded."

‏,(צותא)‏ and the word tzavta ‏(מצוה)‏ The word mitzvah

meaning "together," share the same root. 7

When a person

fulfills a divine command because he has been commanded

to do so, the act connects him to G-d in all His infinity. Were,

by contrast, the person to perform the same deed without

having been commanded to do so, the act, however worthy,

would remain merely a good deed.

This is implied by the command, "Go out." Avraham was

commanded to travel beyond his limited frame of reference

and establish an unlimited connection with G-d. 8

By doing

so, he defined the constantly flowering nature of the link

4. Genesis 12:1.

5. Nedarim 32a; Bereishis Rabbah 30:8.

6. Kiddushin 31a.

7. See Likkutei Torah, Parshas Bechukosai 45c.

8. There is also another dimension to this point of transition. Previously,

Avraham's service was primarily inner-directed, focused on his own spiritual

discovery and growth. His journey to Eretz Yisrael began a phase in which he

worked with others. These two concepts are interrelated, for the infinite

power of a mitzvah allows a person to go beyond his own individual limits.


LECH LECHA 15

between G-d and the Jewish people for all time. Our

connection to G-d is not dependent on our love, under¬

standing or belief, but comes as a response to G-d's initia¬

tive.

Our Rabbis 9

underscore this concept, stating that

Avraham's service anticipated the bond with G-d made

possible for everyone by the giving of the Torah.

New Vistas

Lech also means "proceed," referring to the beginning of

a journey. This concept is alluded to in the Torah's

description of Avraham "continuing on his way, steadily

progressing southward," 10

i.e., in the direction of Jerusalem,

11

the place where G-d's presence is most manifest.

Real spiritual progress requires that one leaves one's

current state behind. Yet as long as an individual's growth

depends entirely on his own power, his progress will be

limited; 12

nobody can exceed the bounds of his own under¬

standing. When, by contrast, one's progress is guided by

G-d, there are no limits to the potential for growth. The

Torah and its mitzvos can take a person far beyond his

natural horizons. To accentuate this point, G-d tells Avraham

to proceed "to the land which I will show you," without

specifying a destination.

9. Torah Or, Parshas Lech Lecha 11c. Sefer HaArachim Chabad, erech Avraham,

sec. 4.

10. Genesis 9:12.

11. Bereishis Rabbah and Rashi on this verse.

12. In this vein, chassidic thought interprets the command, "Go out of your land,

your native country, and your father's house," as a charge to abandon one's

ordinary way of thinking. In this context, it is significant that this charge was

addressed to Avraham. Avraham's habits and way of thinking were already on

a high plane. Nevertheless, he was instructed to proceed to a higher level,

one which transcends the limits of mortal potential.


16 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Self-discovery

The expression "I will show you," arecka in Hebrew, can

also be rendered "I will reveal you," i.e., through the journey

to Eretz Yisrael, Avraham's true self was revealed to him.

This is also indicated by the expression Lech Lecha, which

literally means "go to yourself," i.e., "to your essence." 13

Avraham's willingness to put his individual will on the

side and respond to G-d's command allowed a more direct

connection between the Creator and the created. And in the

process, a boundless potential was unleashed, for every

Jew's soul is "an actual part of G-d." 14

This is the essence of

every man's spiritual journey: to transcend his ordinary way

of thinking, and to tap this G-dly core. 15

As we proceed through life, each of us is given the

chance to discover who he is, what G-d is, and that the two

are one.

Passing Through Shadows

In the course of one's spiritual travels, a person

encounters situations which can only be overcome with a

struggle, and which may even cause one to fall. Neverthe¬

less, since all phases of life's journey are guided by Divine

Providence, we must realize that the purpose of every

experience is positive. Even when we fall, we are being

given an opportunity — to borrow an expression from our

Sages 16

— to descend in order to ascend.

Why must a person face such challenges Two reasons

are given:

13. Alshich on this verse, Or HaTorah, Lech Lecha, Vol. IV, p. 680b et al.

14. Tanya, ch. 2.

15. This also relates to teshuvah, which chassidic thought interprets, not as

"repentance," but as a "return" to one's G-dly core. See the essay entitled

"Teshuvah — Return, not Repentance" in Timeless Patterns In Time, Vol. I,

(Kehot, N.Y., 1993).

16. Cf. Makkos 8a.


LECH LECHA 17

a) To bring out the power of one's soul. As long as a

person remains untested, he can "get by" without having to

tap his core. When, by contrast, one faces a fundamental

challenge, it becomes necessary to call upon one's spiritual

resources in order to succeed.

b) In the process of overcoming a challenge, a person

recognizes and thus elevates the sparks of G-dliness con¬

tained therein. For all existence is maintained by G-d's

creative energy; that energy is hidden within the world's

material substance. As a result of this "hiddeness," chal¬

lenges arise. By overcoming these challenges, a human

reveals the true G-dly nature of existence.

Avraham's spiritual journey contained such challenges.

Shortly after he entered Eretz Yisrael, he was forced to de¬

scend to Egypt, described as "the nakedness of the land." 17

The very name of the land, mitzrayim, is related to the word

meitzarim, meaning "boundaries" or "limitations." 18

And yet even Avraham's descent brought him blessing.

He left Egypt "very rich in cattle, in silver, and gold." 19

Moreover, this wealth came from spiritual effort; Avraham

had elevated some of the sparks of G-dliness invested in

that country. 20

To Journey With Others

A person's spiritual quest should not be a lonely jour¬

ney. On the contrary, one of the hallmarks of personal

development is an increasing capacity to inspire others.

17. Cf. Genesis 42:9, 12.

18. Torah Or, Va'eira, p. 57b ff.

19. Genesis 13:2.

20. In this vein, our Sages (Bereishis Rabbah 40:6) explain that Avraham's jour¬

neys to and from Egypt served as a forerunner for the subsequent descent

and ascent of his offspring. Like him, they suffered difficulty in that land, but

ultimately left (as G-d promised to Avraham, Genesis 15:14) with "great

wealth." And as explained with regard to Avraham, this wealth symbolized

the elevation of the G-dly sparks contained within the land.


18 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Avraham surely gained such an ability, as our Sages comment

21 with regard to the verse, 22 "And he called in the

name of the G-d of the universe": "Do not read ויקרא ('And he

called'), read ויקריא ('And he had others call')."

This concept is also reflected in the changing of his

name from Avram to Avraham. 23 Rashi 24 explains that Avram

implies merely "father of Aram," while Avraham alludes to

the Hebrew words meaning "father of many nations." The

change implies that Avraham had been given the potential

to inspire and influence all the nations of the world to begin

striving toward spiritual goals.

A Sign in Our Flesh

Significantly, Avraham was given this name in connec¬

tion with the mitzvah of circumcision. Circumcision — an

act which affects the most basic physical aspect of our

being, demonstrates that our spiritual quest is not an

attempt to escape worldly reality, but is rather an attempt

to refine it. Circumcision represents a "covenant in the

flesh," 25

and endows even our physical bodies with sanctity.

26

21. Sotah 10a.

22. Genesis 21:33.

23. Ibid. 17:5.

24. In his commentary to that verse.

25. Genesis 17:13.

26. Our Sages (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:3; see also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 8, p. 58 and

sources cited there) contrast the mitzvos performed by the forefathers with

those performed after the giving of the Torah, explaining that the mitzvos

performed by the forefathers were "ethereal," i.e., they did not affect this

material world. In contrast, the mitzvos we perform infuse material existence

with holiness, to the extent that the articles with which mitzvos are

performed become consecrated. [See the essay entitled "What Happened at

Sinai What the Giving of the Torah Means to Us" (Timeless Patterns In Time,

Vol. II, Kehot, N.Y., 1994). Note also the connection developed in that essay

with the concept of performing mitzvos in response to G-d's command.]

Circumcision is, however, unique. Even when performed by the forefa¬

thers, it affected physical reality, achieving as it did a unity between the

physical and the spiritual. Evidence of this can be seen from Avraham's


LECH LECHA 19

The Promise of Eretz Yisrael

The above concepts enable us to appreciate why the

promise of Eretz Yisrael to Avraham's descendants is men¬

tioned in connection with circumcision. Circumcision

reflects the unification of the spiritual and the physical in

one's person, while the relationship between the Jews and

Eretz Yisrael reflects a unification of spirituality and physicality

in the world at large.

In this sense, the attainment of physical Eretz Yisrael

represents the culmination of Avraham's spiritual journey.

For the most complete departure from any cultural envi¬

ronment is reflected in the transformation of that envi¬

ronment. Thus the fulfillment of G-d's command for Avraham

to break the chains of material existence (Lech Lecha)

comes about as his descendants struggle to transform Eretz

Yisrael into a dwelling fit for G-d.

The promise of Eretz Yisrael will not truly be fulfilled

until the Era of the Redemption. In that sense, the journey

that began with the command Lech Lecha remains an ongo¬

ing mission for all of Avraham's descendants. Until the

coming of Mashiach, we must be constantly exceeding our

spiritual limitations, striving to bring ourselves and our

environment to fulfillment.

instructions to Eliezer in the method of taking an oath (Genesis 24:2), which

had to be taken while holding an object of holiness. Lacking any other such

object, Avraham told Eliezer: "Place your hand beneath my thigh."


VAYEIRA 21

Vayeira

רר£‏

Seeing Truth:

The Revelation to Avraham

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 49ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5749, 5750, 5751, 5752

A Child's Tears

When Rabbi Sholem Dov Ber, the fifth of the Lubavitcher

Rebbeim, was a young child, he was taken to his

grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek for a birthday blessing.

When he entered his grandfather's room, he began to cry.

After calming him, his grandfather asked him the reason

for his tears. The child replied: "In cheder, we learned that

G-d revealed Himself to Avraham. Why doesn't He reveal

Himself to me"


22 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: "When a Jew 1 who is 99

years old recognizes that he must circumcise himself, he

deserves that G-d reveal Himself to him." 2

Redefining Landmarks

The Zohar 3

highlights Avraham's circumcision as a

turning point in the nature of the revelations he received.

When describing the revelations Avraham was granted

before the circumcision, the Torah states: 4

"And G-d

appeared to him in a vision," using the Aramaic term

machezeh ‏(מחזה)‏ for the word "vision." In contrast, Parshas

Vayeira begins "And G-d appeared to him," 5

using the

Hebrew term ‏,(וירא)‏ which implies direct revelation.

Hebrew is Lashon HaKodesh, "the holy tongue," the

language which G-d employs to express Himself. Other

languages, by contrast, are human inventions. By using an

Aramaic term, the Torah implies that the revelations

Avraham experienced before circumcision were clothed in

the trappings of our material world. He could conceive of

G-d only in human terms; he could not appreciate Him as He

truly is.

A great gap separates mortal man from G-d's infinity. By

definition, any human conception can be only a restricted

view. The act of circumcision transformed Avraham,

enabling him to perceive G-d as He is. Therefore the

revelation of Vayeira was direct, without veils or con¬

straints. G-d manifested Himself for Avraham openly,

spanning the gap separating every created being from its

Creator.

1. According to an alternate version "a tzaddik."

2. Sichos Chof Cheshvan, 5693; appears in a condensed form in HaYom Yom,

entry 9 Cheshvan.

3. Vol. I, p. 88b, see also p. 98a.

4. Genesis 15:1.

5. Ibid. 18:1.


VAYEIRA 23

Man's Striving, G-d's Response

The above clarifies the distinction between Parshas Lech

Lecha and Parshas Vayeira. Parshas Lech Lecha describes

Avraham's struggle to exceed the limits of mortal existence

and develop a complete bond with G-d. 6

The culmination of

this spiritual quest was his circumcision, which established

such a bond in his actual flesh. 7

Parshas Vayeira, by contrast, represents a different

mode of conduct. The direct revelation of G-dliness remade

Avraham's nature. While he continued to exist within a

material body and function within his worldly environment,

he was able to share a complete and all-encompassing link

with G-d.

Avraham left this heritage to his descendants, for "the

deeds of the forefathers serve as a sign to their children." 8

By observing the Torah and its mitzvos, every Jew has the

potential to transcend his individual nature and enter into a

limitless bond with G-d.

Sickness and Healing

The revelation of Parshas Vayeira is associated with

healing. Avraham was suffering from the pain of circumci¬

sion. G-d came to "visit the sick," 9

and with that visit, healed

him. 10

‏,חולה To explain this phenomenon: The Hebrew word

meaning "afflicted by sickness," is numerically equivalent to

6. See the previous essay entitled "A Journey To One's Self."

7. See Genesis 17:13.

8. OrHaTorah, Lech Lecha; cf. Ramban on Genesis 12:6, Bereishis Rabbah 40:6.

9. Sotah 14a.

10. See the commentary of the Ramban to Genesis 18:2. In explanation, one might

say that with regard to visiting the sick, our Sages (Nedarim 39b) state that

the visit removes a sixtieth of the infirmity. When, however, a sick person is

visited by G-d Himself, the infirmity is removed entirely. See Likkutei Sichos,

Vol. V, p. 84.


24 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

49. 11 Our Sages 12 speak of the "50 gates of understanding"

which grant man knowledge of G-d. Within the scope of

mortal knowledge, it is possible to "enter" only 49 of these

gates. The fiftieth is by definition above our grasp.

A person who has attained the forty-ninth level appre¬

ciates his inadequacy^3

and wants to rise above it. The fact

that his very humanity prevents him from doing so makes

him sick at heart. King Solomon alluded to this malady with

his allegory, 14

"Support me with the stout trunks; let me rest

among the apple trees, for I am lovesick."

Such a sickness is healed through the consummate

revelation of Vayeira. Only the direct manifestation of G-d

fulfills this yearning, and remakes a person's nature, allow¬

ing him to realize his innate G-dly essence and function

beyond his mortal limitations. 15

With the Heart of a Child

The desire for a direct bond with G-d is a fundamental

element of every person's makeup. When the Rebbe Rashab

came to his grandfather for a birthday blessing, he merely

expressed this longing.

The moral of the story is universal. Within every one of

us there is a simple, childlike dimension that yearns to

11. Taamei HaMitzvos from the AriZal, Parshas Vayeira.

12. Rosh HaShanah 21b.

13. Needless to say, this should also apply to a person on a lower rung. Never¬

theless, when an individual has not developed himself, he is often content

with his inadequacy. A person who has attained the forty-ninth gate, by con¬

trast, has long been concerned with his personal development, and under¬

stands the nature of his limitations.

14. Song of Songs 2:5. See the interpretation of this concept in Or HaTorah, Parshas

Vayeira, 88b.

15. With the expression "And G-d appeared to him," the Torah indicates that the

revelation permeated Avraham, suffusing every aspect of his personality.

Moreover, the Torah mentions that this revelation took place "in the plains of

Mamre," indicating that Avraham was to extend the revelation beyond his

own person, transforming his environment.


VAYEIRA 25

cleave to G-d. Without ceasing to function as mature indi¬

viduals, each of us can share an all-encompassing relation¬

ship with G-d. 16

The above is particularly relevant in the present age,

brief moments before Mashiach's coming. For the essence of

the Era of the Redemption will be the direct revelation of

G-d; "Your Master will conceal Himself no longer, and your

eyes will perceive your Master." 17

As we stand on the

threshold of this era, the inner thirst can be felt more

powerfully.

Moreover, the potential exists to experience a foretaste

of the Redemption in the present age. We can develop an

awareness of G-d and recognize Him as an actual force

pervading every aspect of our lives.

Measure for Measure

The Torah tells us that G-d appeared to Avraham while

he was "sitting at the entrance of his tent, in the heat of the

day." 18

Why was he sitting there To look for guests. 19

Avraham

dedicated himself to deeds of kindness, feeding hungry

wayfarers in an effort to heighten their awareness of G-d. 20

16. In addition to the lesson the story holds for us as individuals, it communi¬

cates a lesson for us as parents: we must appreciate the unique sensitivity of

our children and educate them in a manner that makes G-d a real and

powerful force in their lives. They should desire a bond with G-d with an

intensity that brings them to tears.

17. Isaiah 30:20; see also Tanya, ch. 36.

18. Genesis 18:1.

19. Rashi on this verse.

20. Thus after providing them with food and drink, Avraham insisted that his

guests bless "He from whose bounty you have eaten... He who spoke and

brought the world into being" (Sotah 10a).


26 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Because he extended himself 21

to bring others closer to G-d,

G-d showed him a supreme expression of closeness.

"Days are coming..., [when people will be] hungry, but

not for bread; thirsty, but not for water, but to hear the

word of G-d." 22

Only at times, as in the story of the Rebbe

Rashab, is this thirst consciously expressed. In most

instances, a person will be unaware of his own thirst. Nev¬

ertheless, when we emulate Avraham's example and extend

ourselves to others, we will discover an eager readiness to

respond that reflects their inner need.

And as in the example of Avraham, these outreach

efforts will benefit not only the recipients, but also the giv¬

ers, precipitating a deeper connection to G-dliness. This

bond will continue to blossom until it reaches perfection in

the Era of the Redemption. May this be realized in the

immediate future.

21. Avraham's dedication can be seen in the fact that he sought guests despite

the fact that he was: a) 99 years old; b) recovering from circumcision; and c)

exposed to the heat of the day.

22. Amos 8:11.


CHAYEI SARAH 27

ח״שרה Chayei Sarah

Ongoing Life:

Sarah's Influence

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 338ff; Vol. XV, p. 145ff

What Death Cannot Kill

The reading Chayei Sarah ("The life of Sarah") begins by

telling of Sarah's death, which features in much of the

subsequent narrative. This evokes an obvious question:

Why is the reading entitled "The life of Sarah"

This question can be resolved on the basis of our Sages'

statement: 1

"Yaakov our Patriarch did not die." Although he

was mourned and buried, his descendants perpetuate his

spiritual heritage. And so, Yaakov is still alive.

1. Taanis 5a.


28 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The same can be true for any individual. It is the spiri¬

tual content of our lives, and not our physical existence,

which is fundamental. 2

The boundaries of mortal existence

cannot contain this spiritual dimension.

This is the message hidden in the name of this Torah

reading: that Sarah's spiritual "tree" continued to bear fruit

long after her physical life ended. The three main elements

of the reading: the acquisition of the Cave of Machpelah,

Eliezer's mission to find a wife for Yitzchak, and Avraham's

subsequent remarriage and fathering of other children, are

part of the continuing work of Sarah's spirit.

Concentration and Focus

What constituted the essence of Sarah's Divine service

She was Avraham's wife. She nurtured his potential, making

sure it was applied in the most beneficial manner possible.

Avraham dispensed kindness freely, granting hospitality

to all wayfarers, even to those who would bow to the dust

on their own feet. 3

He gave generously, unconcerned

whether his influence would leave a lasting impression.

Sarah, by contrast, (particularly after the birth of Yitzchak)

strived to focus her husband's influence. She sought to

direct it to those recipients who would give it expression in

holiness. 4

This pattern is reflected in Avraham's progeny. He

fathered many children. Sarah, by contrast, bore only

Yitzchak. Avraham's unbounded generosity caused him to

consider even Yishmael worthy. After G-d told him of the

impending birth of Yitzchak, he prayed: 5

"May Yishmael live

2. See Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 27. Although the Alter Rebbe's statements apply

to tzaddikim, that is because a tzaddik realizes this potential and devotes his

life to these spiritual goals.

3. Rashi, Genesis 18:4.

4. See Or HaTorah, Chayei Sarah 120a ff based on Bava Basra 58a.

5. Genesis 17:18.


CHAYEI SARAH 29

before You." Afterwards, although G-d had told Avraham

that 6

"I will keep My covenant with [Yitzchak] as a bond,"

Avraham still loved Yishmael 7

and desired to raise him in

his household.

It was Sarah who demanded: 8

"Drive away this maid¬

servant and her son, for [he]... will not inherit together with

my son, with Yitzchak." Sarah understood that all the

members of Avraham's household had to be individuals

whose conduct reflected Avraham's spiritual heritage.

Eretz Yisrael — Our Heritage

On this basis, we can appreciate Sarah's influence on the

events described in our Torah reading. Avraham had

already been promised Eretz Yisrael, but that promise had

yet to be realized. It was through the acquisition of the Cave

of Machpelah — obviously associated with Sarah — that a

part of Eretz Yisrael first became an eternal heritage for the

Jewish people. For the first time, the spiritual nature of our

holy land was given actual expression.

There is also a deeper dimension. Our Sages state 9

that

Adam and Chavah, ancestors of the entire human race, were

also buried in Machpelah. Thus before Sarah's burial, the

Cave of Machpelah shared a connection with mankind as a

whole. Sarah's burial there — in continuation of the drive

she exhibited throughout her life — established the site as

the exclusive heritage of the Jewish people.

6. Ibid..19.

7. Note Rashi's commentary to Genesis 22:2, which states that, from Avraham's

perspective, the phrase "your son, your only one whom you love" could also

have referred to Yishmael.

8. Op. cit. 21:10.

9. Eruvin 53a.


30 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

A Wife for Yitzchak

Similarly, with regard to the marriage of Yitzchak and

Rivkah, it was the fact that Sarah's spiritual virtues were

reflected in Rivkah which endeared her to Yitzchak. When

he saw that her candles burned from Shabbos to Shabbos,

that her dough rose with a special blessing, and that a cloud

of glory hovered over her tent, 10

he knew his mother's

lifework hadn't ended. It was then that "Yitzchak was

consoled." 11

Moreover, the entire narrative of Eliezer's journey and

selection of Rivkah reflects Sarah's initiative, ensuring that

the wife chosen for Yitzchak would serve as an appropriate

channel for the blessings of Avraham's household. For that

reason, although Eliezer was a devoted servant and a

diligent disciple of Avraham, when he proposed his own

daughter as a match for Yitzchak, Avraham refused. 12

Yitzchak's wife had to come from the same roots that made

possible the focused spiritual purpose and kindness

exemplified by Avraham and Sarah. 13

Avraham's Heir

Even the final element of the Torah reading, Avraham's

fathering of other children, shows Sarah's influence. For

although Avraham fathered these children, "he gave eve¬

rything he owned to Yitzchak." 14

To these children "he gave

10. Rashi, Genesis 24:67; Bereishis Rabbah 60:15. These three signs reflect the

three mitzvos granted to women: the kindling of the Sabbath candles, the

separation of challah (and by extension the entire realm of kashrus), and the

observance of taharas hamishpochah (the Torah's guidelines for marital life).

See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 163ff.

11. Genesis, loc. cit.

12. Rashi, Genesis 24:39, Bereishis Rabbah 59:9.

13. Moreover, she would have to show these virtues in her conduct. This explains

the sign chosen by Eliezer: acts of hospitality. This would show that the

maiden would be an appropriate wife for Yitzchak, and fit to take up her role

in the household of Avraham (Rashi, Genesis 24:14).

14. Genesis 25:4.


CHAYEI SARAH 31

gifts, and while he was still alive, he sent them eastward, to

the eastern lands, away from his son Yitzchak." 15

Responding to the continuing influence of Sarah, 16 Avraham

thus demonstrated that he considered Yitzchak alone his

true heir.

Moreover, even Yishmael acknowledged this distinction

and, at Avraham's burial, gave Yitzchak precedence despite

the fact that Yishmael was older. By conceding that it was

Yitzchak who was obligated to bury Avraham, he

underscored the fact that Yitzchak was the one who

perpetuated Avraham's spiritual heritage.

This was the contribution of Sarah. It was she who,

when Yishmael boasted that he was the firstborn and thus

deserved a double share of Avraham's inheritance, 17

made

sure he understood that Yitzchak was Avraham's sole

heir.

Ongoing Influence

The name Sarah ‏(שרה)‏ is associated with the Hebrew

word ‏,שררה meaning "dominion." 18 For Sarah's lifework was

to show the supremacy of Avraham's spirit, and to reveal

that the purpose of his existence was to express that spirit.

Her death did not end her influence. As the events in the

Torah reading indicate, her "tree" continued to bear fruit;

she was possessed of true life.

The deeds a person performs in life precipitate others. 19

Thus the goodness with which a person endows his family

and environment creates an ongoing dynamic toward good.

15. Ibid.:5.

16. See the gloss of the Baalei Tosafos and the Kli Yakor.

17. See Rashi, Genesis 21:10, Bereishis Rabbah 53:11.

18. See Rashi, Genesis 17:15, Berachos 13a.

19. Thus our Sages (Sanhedrin 104a) comment that when a person brings merit to

others, the merit the recipients generate afterwards is also credited to him,

for he is the source of this good.


32 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

And this dynamic continues to bear fruit after the person's

passing, helping increase the goodness and virtue in the

world until the coming of the Era of the Redemption, when

these forces will permeate all existence.


TOLDOS 33

Toldos

‏,ולדו,‏

Inwardness:

The Path To Posterity

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 191ff; Vol. XXV, p. 123ff

A Lasting Legacy

All of us want to be remembered. We want our lives to

bring something lasting into the world. This is the message

of Parshas Toldos: that a person can leave a legacy that will

continue to thrive after his passing.

Our Rabbis offer two definitions of the word Toldos:

a) Progeny, 1 this includes a person's biological children

and his "spiritual children," i.e., individuals whom he has

1. Rashi, Genesis 25:19.


34 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

taught. 2

ence.

Both types of children perpetuate a person's influ¬

b) The chronicles of one's life and experiences. 3 When a

person's life is filled with inner meaning, stories about his

life provide inspiration for people in coming generations.

A Fountain of Inner Strength

With whom does the Torah choose to associate the

message of Toldos Yitzchak. 4

Two things reflect the nature

of Yitzchak's Divine service: a) unlike his father Avraham,

he never left Eretz Yisrael, 5

and b) his efforts were focused

on digging wells. 6

Avraham spread G-dliness in the lands in which he

sojourned. He "proclaimed... to the entire world... that there

is one G-d and it is befitting to serve Him. He would travel

from city to city and from country to country, gathering

people and proclaiming [G-d's existence]." 7

Yitzchak, by contrast, never traveled outside the Holy

Land, and even within Eretz Yisrael, we do not find many

stories of his efforts to reach out to others. His Divine

service had an inward focus.

This is reflected in his preoccupation with digging wells.

Digging a well involves removing layers of earth to uncover

hidden sources of life-giving water. Spiritually, "digging"

2. See Sanhedrin 19b, Rashi, Numbers 3:1.

3. Seforno, loc. cit.

4. This is borne out by the fact that both Parshas Noach and Parshas Toldos

begin with the words: Eleh toldos, 'These are the chronicles of...." Neverthe¬

less, Parshas Noach is given that name because the lessons it teaches center

on the concepts of satisfaction and repose (see the essay entitled "Genuine

Satisfaction: Noach's Legacy"). By contrast, Parshas Toldos, which focuses on

the chronicles of Yitzchak's life, communicates the importance of creating a

posterity.

5. See Genesis 26:2-3, and Rashi's commentary. See also Bereishis Rabbah 64:3.

6. Genesis 26:18ff.

7. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 1:2, based on Sotah 10a,

Bereishis Rabbah, the conclusion of sec. 54.


TOLDOS 35

refers to the work of reaching one's G-dly core and tapping

it as a source of inner strength. Each of us has a neshamah

which is "an actual part of G-d;" 8

every entity is maintained

by a G-dly spark. Yitzchak's goal was to activate these inner

potentials, bring them to the surface and, use them to

initiate positive change.

In this manner, the awareness of G-d becomes an inte¬

gral part of one's life. It does not remain dependent on the

teachings of others, but comes from one's own insight. This

in turn enables one to realize the G-dliness present in every

element of existence.

In this context, our Sages interpret 9 the verse, 10 "Dwell in

this land," as "Cause the Divine Presence to rest in this

land" — help the world manifest its G-dly core.

inwardness Which Leads Outward

This is surely a worthy path of Divine service, but why is

it associated with the name Toldos, which means

"progeny" It would seem more appropriate to associate the

concept of Toldos with the Divine service of Avraham, for he

actively sought to communicate the awareness of G-d to

others.

By naming this reading Toldos, our Rabbis underscore

the fact that the inwardness of Yitzchak also produces

"progeny." Yitzchak's Divine service and the positive influ¬

ence it generated attracted the attention of others and

motivated them to follow his guidance. In this vein, our

Torah reading relates that Avimelech, king of the Philistines,

and Phicol, his general, came to visit Yitzchak and told him:

"We have seen that G-d is with you." 11

8. Tanya, ch. 2.

9. Bereishis Rabbah 64:3.

10. Genesis 26:2.

11. Ibid. :28.


36 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Yitzchak's Divine service brought them to a recognition

of G-d's active presence in the world. Indeed, the awareness

inspired by Yitzchak was more permanent than that

generated by Avraham, for it came from the people

themselves. Yitzchak's internalized bond with G-d inspired

the people around him to perceive G-d's influence. 12

To Communicate to Our Children

In the most complete sense, our desire to be remem¬

bered is focused on our children. We want them to continue

and further our principles and values. And here a difficulty

arises: Yitzchak's children were Esav and Yaakov. Yaakov

indeed perpetuated and enhanced Yitzchak's Divine service.

Esav, however, rejected Yitzchak's path entirely. Moreover,

this difficulty is compounded by the fact that a major

portion of the Torah reading concerns itself with Esav.

Indeed, on the phrase "And these are the toldos of

Yitzchak," the Midrash states 13

that the word toldos refers

specifically to Esav.

Although Esav's conduct did not openly demonstrate

that he was Yitzchak's son, the connection nevertheless

existed. This is reflected by our Sages' statement 14

that

Esav's head was buried "in the bosom of Yitzchak his

father." Similarly, our Sages explain 15

that, in contrast to

Yishmael, who is not considered an heir of Avraham, Esav is

considered one of Yitzchak's heirs. For the home of Esav's

soul, his head, contained powerful divine sparks associated

with Yitzchak.

12. In this way, Yitzchak's "progeny" resembled him as children resemble a

father.

13. Shmos Rabbah 30:3.

14. Targum Yonason, Genesis 50:13. Toras Chayim 89d cites this statement in the

name of the Zohar. See also similar quotes in Sotah 13a, Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer,

ch. 39.

15. Kiddushin 18a.


TOLDOS 37

For this reason, Yitzchak desired to give his blessing to

Esav rather than to Yaakov. As a father, Yitzchak was con¬

stantly struggling to motivate Esav to live up to his spiritual

potential, and he thought that granting these blessings to

him would further this purpose. 16

The pattern which G-d invested in the world, however, is

that Esav will not uncover his spiritual potential inde¬

pendently. Instead, it is Yaakov — and his descendants —

whose Divine service reveal this resource. This is reflected

in the labors of the Jewish people in the present exile,

identified as "the exile of Edom (Esav)" — to uncover the

spiritual potential which Esav possesses. 17

The final consummation of these efforts will come in the

Era of the Redemption, when "deliverers will go up to Mount

Zion to judge the mountain of Esav, and the sovereignty will

be G-d's." 18

At that time, the powerful spiritual energies

which Esav possesses will surface and be given appropriate

expression.

A Source of Light for All Mankind

Our Sages relate 19

that in the Era of the Redemption,

Jews will praise Yitzchak, telling him: "You are our Patri¬

arch." For in that era, the inward thrust of Yitzchak will

permeate all existence. "The occupation of the entire world

will be solely to know G-d. The Jews will be great sages and

‏,חייו if, 16. This provides every parent with a lesson in relating to children, even

their conduct — like Esav's — is lacking. A parent should never give up, and

should continue trying to develop his child's inner potential foreover.

Since "all Jews are responsible for one another" (Shavuos 39a), this lesson

applies not only to our children, but with regard to every member of the

Jewish nation. We must, to quote the Mishnah (Avos 1:12): "Love the created

beings and bring them close to the Torah."

17. Examples of the realization of Esav's spiritual potential can be seen in the

converts from among his descendants: the prophet Ovadiah, Onkelos, and

Rabbi Meir (Torah Or, Toldos 20c).

18. Ovadiah 1:21.

19. Shabbos 89b.


38 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

will know the hidden matters, attaining an understanding of

their Creator to the [full] extent of mortal expression." 20

Although all Jews will then live in Eretz Yisrael, they will

— as their ancestor Yitzchak did — influence mankind as a

whole, motivating all to seek G-dly knowledge. "And it shall

come to pass in the end of days that the mountain of G-d's

house will be established on the top of the mountains and

all the nations shall flow unto it. Many people shall say:

'Come let us ascend the mountain of G-d... and He will teach

us of His ways.' " 21

May this take place in the immediate

future.

20. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5.

21. Isaiah 2:2-3.


VAYEITZEI 39

Vayeitzei

רצ£‏

Yaakov's Journey:

Transition, Challenge,

and Achievement

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 88ff; Vol. IX, p. 26ff;

Vol. XV, p. 231ff, 243ff;

Sefer HaSichos 5748, p. 125ff

From Eretz Yisrael to Charan

We all live in several environments. Some of these — like

our homes, our workplaces, and the social environments we

create — are within our sphere of influence. They are small

systems, and the contribution each person makes clearly

affects them.

On the other hand, there are also larger environments

— our community, the country in which we live, the world


40 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

at large — where our influence is not felt as strongly. On the

contrary, these environments often force us to adjust.

Parshas Vayeitzei focuses on the transition from one

environment to another, and the changes this brings about

in a person's conduct. Vayeitzei means "and he went out,"

and the reading describes how Yaakov departed from Eretz

Yisrael 1

and went to Charan, an alien environment. The

Hebrew word charan is associated with anger, and thus our

Sages interpret 2

this name as referring to the arousal of

G-d's anger.

There are three dimensions to Yaakov's stay in Charan:

a) He was confronted by a personal challenge. In the

company of Lavan and others like him, he had to struggle to

maintain his virtue.

b) He built his family. During his stay in Charan, he

married and fathered twelve of his thirteen children.

Despite the influences that prevailed in the community at

large, Yaakov infused his family with the spiritual heritage

received from Avraham: "to keep the way of G-d and to

implement righteousness and judgment." 3

In doing so, he

established the Jewish modus vivendi for all time.

c) He elevated the environment of Charan, lifting up the

G-dly sparks enclothed in that land's material substance.

This was reflected by his acquisition of Lavan's sheep and

the great wealth which he amassed.

1. The nature of the transition undergone by Yaakov is amplified by our Sages

(Megillah 17a, quoted by Rashi in his gloss to Genesis 28:9) who state that

during the 14 years prior to his departure to Charan, Yaakov studied in the

yeshivah of Shem and Ever. During this time, he was devoted solely to spiri¬

tuality. In contrast, in Charan, material concerns dominated his time and

effort: "Twenty years I worked for you... By day, I was consumed by scorching

heat, and at night by the frost; sleep was snatched from my eyes" (Genesis

31:38-40).

2. Rashi, Genesis 11:32.

3. Genesis 18:19.


VAYEITZEI 41

Extending the Sphere of Holiness

Each of these endeavors required unique spiritual

powers. By overcoming the personal challenges posed by

his surroundings, Yaakov showed the infinite power of the

G-dly soul: even a hostile environment cannot prevent its

expression. By raising a family, he extended his circle of

influence, enabling it to encompass others.

Yaakov's acquisition of wealth — and the refinement of

the environment it symbolizes — represents a far greater

extension. The material possessions acquired by Yaakov

were not, by nature, holy. On the contrary, without

Yaakov's influence, Charan and all of its elements aroused

G-d's anger. By elevating them, Yaakov was thus working to

fulfill the purpose of creation, showing how even the lowest

dimensions of existence can be transformed into a dwelling

for G-d. 4

Since Yaakov and his family shared an inherent con¬

nection to holiness, the fact that they were able to maintain

this connection despite the challenges of a foreign

environment, although a worthy attainment, cannot be

considered an accomplishment of their own. The refinement

Yaakov brought about in Charan, by contrast, was his own

achievement, one which changed the nature of his

environment.

In this manner, he set a pattern for his descendants,

demonstrating how they would become G-d's partner in

creation. 5 They would journey throughout the world

uncovering the spiritual potential invested in the different

elements of existence, revealing that "everything that the

Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created

solely for His glory." 6

4.

5.

6.

See Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.

Shabbos 10a.

Avos 6:11.


42 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Kindness, Might, and Beauty

These efforts distinguish the Divine service of Yaakov

from that of his forebears, Avraham and Yitzchak. Our

Rabbis 7

have identified Avraham's service with the attribute

of kindness (chesed), Yitzchak's with might (gevurah), and

Yaakov's with beauty (tiferes).

Chesed reflects a thrust outward; the person gives gen¬

erously, without considering whether the recipients are

worthy or not. Thus Avraham showered kindness on people

"who bowed down to the dust on their own feet." 8

But the

fact that this generosity is given indiscriminately allows for

the possibility that it will not change the inner nature of the

recipients. For this reason, although Avraham lived among

the Canaanites for decades, and they recognized him as "a

prince of G-d," 9 they did not alter their conduct.

Gevurah is directed inward. As our Sages commented: 10

"Who is a mighty man One who conquers his natural

inclination." Inner-directed activity produces change, but

that change is primarily within oneself. Although this inner

light also radiates outward and inspires others, in the final

analysis, each person must elevate himself, and thus

gevurah will not affect those resistant to change. Therefore

Yitzchak lived only in the Holy Land; he could not relate to

life outside the realm of holiness. Even in Eretz Yisrael, he

had contact with far fewer people than did his father.

In Kabbalistic texts, it is explained that Yaakov's attrib¬

ute, tiferes, beauty, comes from a fusion of chesed and

gevurah. For neither a single motif, nor its opposite, is

beautiful. Beauty comes from the fusing of different and

7. Zohar, Vol. III, p. 179b; Torah Or, Bereishis, p. 17c.

8. See Bava Metzia 86b; Rashi, Genesis 18:4.

9. Ibid. 23:6.

10. Avos 4:1.


VAYEITZEI 43

even opposite tendencies. This reflects the influence of the

Ein Sof, an infinite quality. 11

Similarly, Yaakov is identified with the quality of Truth.

For Truth has a dimension that transcends mortal limits,

being above all possibility of change or interruption. With

Truth, one can reach out and change environments, for

nothing can oppose Truth.

Thus Yaakov is described 12

as receiving "a heritage that

has no boundaries," and is given the blessing: 13

"And you

shall spread out eastward, westward, northward, and

southward." For as evidenced by his journey to Charan (and

later to Egypt), he was able to elevate even foreign settings.

"The Deeds of the Patriarchs are Signs

for Their Descendants" 14

Yaakov's journey to Charan serves as an analogy for the

descent of our souls into our bodies. 15

In the spiritual realm,

our souls experience direct revelations of G-dliness.

Nevertheless, they "go out" from that realm and descend

into bodies to live in this material world. Following the

pattern set by our Patriarch Yaakov, every soul confronts

the challenge of physical existence.

As a person matures, he establishes a family, creating an

environment in which his values are expressed. Similarly,

through contact with the world at large, he refines and

elevates the G-dly life-force invested in creation.

11. This is a restatement of the Kabbalistic expression (Toras Chayim, Bereishis,

55b): "the middle vector [in which tiferes is located] ascends to the inner

dimensions of Keser."

12. Shabbos 118a.

13. Genesis 28:14.

14. See Ramban, commentary to Genesis 12:6; Or HaTorah, beginning of Parshas

Lech Lecha.

15. The commentary of Or HaChaim to Genesis 28:14. See also Kitzurim VeHaaros

LeTanya, p. 57.


44 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

This pattern is also reflected in the exiles of the Jewish

people at large. 16

Our people have been forced to leave the

holiness of Eretz Yisrael and journey among the nations.

Throughout the centuries, despite the challenges presented

by the societies in which we dwelt, we have held true to our

spiritual heritage, have maintained a tradition of family life,

and have elevated the material substance of the world,

showing how it is G-d's dwelling.

Exile is Only Temporary

On the way to Charan, Yaakov experienced a vision of

G-d in which G-d promised him: 17

"I will return you to this

soil." This indicates that Yaakov's mission (to go to Charan)

and the mission of the Jewish people at large (to make the

world a dwelling for G-d) are not ends in themselves.

Yaakov was not intended to stay in Charan forever, and our

exile too will come to an end. For every Jew's true place is

in Eretz Yisrael.

This is no longer a dream, but a reality that is becoming

manifest. To borrow an expression from the Previous

Rebbe: 18

"There is nothing left to do. The coat is already

sewn. We have even polished the buttons." We are on the

threshold of the Redemption, and indeed are crossing that

threshold. Soon Mashiach will lead every Jew out of exile

and back to our Holy Land.

16.

17.

18.

See Zohar Chadash, Bereishis 147a; Bereishis Rabbah 68:13.

Genesis 28:15.

See Sichos Simchas Torah, 5689.


VAYISHLACH 45

דשלח Vayishlach

Empowerment

And its Purpose

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, pgs. 323-324;

Sefer HaSichos

5748, p. 138ff;

Sichos Simchas Torah, 5748

Three Conceptions of an Agent's Function

Delegation of responsibility is one of the primary chal¬

lenges in all successful enterprises, for there is no way one

individual can deal successfully with every detail of a

complex undertaking. In seeking to define the dynamics of

delegation, our Rabbis have offered 1

three different con¬

ceptions of the relationship between a principal (meshaleiach)

and his agent (shliach):

1. See Lekach Tov (by Rav Yosef Engel), sec. 1.


46 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

a) An agent is considered an independent entity, and

must take responsibility for the deed he performs. Never¬

theless, the consequences of the deed — both positive and

negative — are borne by the principal.

b) Although an agent is considered an independent

entity, since he is acting under the aegis of the principal, the

deed he performs is considered as if performed by the

principal.

c) As implied by the simple meaning of the expression, 2

"A person's agent is considered as the person himself," an

agent is considered to be an extension of the principal — a

"long hand," as it were. 3

In this regard, every aspect of an

agent's being is associated with the principal.

An Agency Entrusted to Every One of Us

Two features are common to all three perspectives:

a) An agent's ability to act on behalf of a principal

depends on the principal's empowering him to do so.

Therefore, if an agent deviates from the instructions of his

principal, his agency is revoked. 4

b) To be successful, an agent must use his own abilities,

devoting his intellect and energy to the task at hand. For

even an agent who acts as an extension of his principal

appreciates that, in fact, he is a separate entity, and must

execute the assigned task using his own initiative. 5

These concepts have parallels in our Divine service. For

every human being is an agent of G-d, 6

entrusted with the

2. Kiddushin 41b.

3. See the Kuntres Acharon to Shulchan Aruch HaRav 263:25.

4. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Shluchim 1:2; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 182:2.

5. As a reflection of this concept, Gittin 23a states that an agent must be an

intellectually mature individual, able to accept and discharge responsibility.

6. See Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 1c.


VAYISHLACH 47

responsibility of bringing the world to its desired purpose

by demonstrating that the world is G-d's dwelling. 7

In accomplishing this task, we must remember that we

are only agents; the world is G-d's dwelling, and He has

outlined His plans for the functioning of that dwelling in the

Torah's teachings. Any other conception, however

beneficial it may appear, is a deviation from our mission. 8

Nonetheless, G-d expects us to use our own initiative to

accomplish this task. For life is not a textbook, and the

practical application of the Torah and its mitzvos in the

particular environments and situations which confront us

requires that we use our own minds and hearts to discern

the appropriate response at any given time.

Changing Ourselves as We Change the World

As we apply ourselves to our mission, we also internal¬

ize it. Not only do we effect changes in the world, we our¬

selves change. Just as an agent must be identified with his

principal, we must give ourselves over to G-d's will and

identify with it. The extent of that identification differs from

person to person. In this respect, the three conceptions of

shlichus mentioned above can be seen as three different

approaches to Divine service.

There are tzaddikim, righteous men, whose commitment

to G-dliness dominates their personality; every aspect of

their being is permeated with G-dliness. Their thoughts —

and even their will and their pleasure — reflect G-d's.

This, however, is a rung which most people cannot

attain. But the second level — in which each person

remains an independent entity although his deeds are not

his own — is within the reach of more individuals. For the

7. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.

8. Moreover, our power to effect change in the world is not our own; the soul,

"an actual part of G-d" (Tanya, ch. 2), was granted to each of us.


48 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

mitzvos we perform are not human acts; they are G-dly, so a

person who performs them selflessly expresses their inner

G-dly power. 9

There are individuals at an even lower level; they are not

concerned with the G-dly nature of the mitzvos they

perform. Nevertheless, they perform mitzvos — for even

"the sinners of Israel are filled with mitzvos as a pome¬

granate is filled with seeds" 10

— and the consequences of

the deeds they perform represent an expression of G-d's

will. Thus they also contribute toward the transformation of

the world.

Regardless of the differences between individuals, all

mankind possesses a fundamental commonalty: we are all

G-d's agents, charged with various dimensions of a shared

mission. The setting in which each individual functions, the

task he is given, and the intent with which he performs it

may differ, but the goal is the same.

The Scope of Our Mission

This is the message of Parshas Vayishlach: that every

one of us is a shliach, an agent of G-d. We are sent "to Esav"

— to refine and reveal the G-dliness within the material

existence that is identified with Esav.

Significantly, Vayishlach is not just the beginning of the

Torah reading; it is the name of the Torah reading. The

name of an entity reflects its essence. 11

Thus every element

of the reading is connected with this concept, highlighting

the many facets of the mission with which we are charged.

For being engaged on a mission to make the world G-d's

9. In this sense, the mitzvos are also referred to as shluchim (agents), for their

observance is a G-dly act (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayigash, sec. 6).

10. Chagigah 27a.

11. Tanya, ShaarHaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1.


VAYISHLACH 49

dwelling challenges us to encompass every aspect of exis¬

tence.

The word vayishlach means "And he sent," implying that

our mission includes the empowerment of other shluchim. A

person must inspire others to shoulder a portion of the

endeavor; to borrow an expression from our Sages: 12

another." "One shliach makes שליח עושה

שליח

Keeping the Purpose in Focus

The Hebrew word shliach ‏(שליח)‏ also alludes to the

consummation of the mission, for its numerical equivalent,

together with the number 10, equals the numerical equiva¬

lent of the word Mashiach ‏.(משיח)‏ This implies that

Mashiach's coming requires that every person dedicate the

ten powers of his soul to the mission of making the world a

dwelling for G-d. Our efforts to spread the awareness of G-d

throughout the world and have that awareness permeate

every individual will precipitate the coming of the age when

"the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the

waters cover the ocean bed." 13

12. Kiddushin 41a.

13. Isaiah 11:9.


VAYEISHEV 51

דשכ Vayeishev

The Desire

For Prosperity

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, p. 176ff

Does G-d Approve of the Desire of the Righteous

On the verse, 1

"And Yaakov settled in the land of his

father's wandering," Rashi comments: 2

Yaakov desired to dwell in prosperity, but the dis¬

tress of Yosef's [disappearance] beset him. The

righteous desire to dwell in prosperity, but the Holy

One, blessed be He, says: "Is not what is prepared

for them in the World to Come enough for the

righteous Must they also desire prosperity in this

world"

1. Genesis 37:2.

2. Commentary to the above verse.


52 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Rashi's statement is problematic, for a casual reading

gives the impression that G-d does not approve of the

righteous wanting prosperity. On the other hand, the fact

that "the righteous" follow this path of conduct indicates

that the desire for prosperity is a positive trait and not a

character flaw. 3

Seeking internal not External Challenges

This difficulty can be resolved by focusing on the fact

that Rashi speaks about a desire for prosperity expressed

by the righteous. Why only the righteous Everyone wants

to enjoy an abundance of good without strife, contention, or

difficulty.

The desire for prosperity by the righteous, however, is

of a different type entirely. To cite a parallel: with regard to

the Era of the Redemption, the Rambam writes:

When a person is beset... with sickness, war, and

hunger, he cannot occupy himself neither with wis¬

dom nor with mitzvos. For this reason, all Israel —

and [in particular,] their prophets and sages — have

desired the Era of the Mashiach. 4

The Sages and the prophets did not yearn for the Era

of the Mashiach so that [the Jewish people] would

rule the world... nor to eat, drink, and celebrate.

Rather, their aspiration was to be free [to involve

themselves] in the Torah and its wisdom, without

anyone oppressing or disturbing them. 5

3. The positive nature of the desire for prosperity is indicated by the slight

differences between Rashi's text and his apparent source, Bereishis Rabbah

84:3. The Midrash states: "When the righteous... desire to dwell in prosper¬

ity... " Rashi, however, states: "The righteous desire to dwell in prosperity... "

indicating that this is the natural and proper course of behavior for a person

who is "righteous."

4. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 9:2.

5. Ibid., Hilchos Melachim 12:4.


VAYEISHEV 53

On the surface, such a condition describes the World to

Come, where the righteous will "sit... and derive benefit

from the radiance of the Divine Presence." 6

It seems

unnatural, however, in our present material circumstances.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made. The World to

Come represents G-d's reward to man — just recompense

for man's Divine service. This is a departure from the

pattern of our present existence, of which it is said, 7

" Today — to perform them (the mitzvos); tomorrow — to

receive their reward."

The righteous, by contrast, are not concerned with

reward. On the contrary, to refer to the passage cited

above, they long to involve themselves in the Torah and its

mitzvos. Their aspiration is only that they be freed from

external difficulties. They want to grow in understanding

and personal development. Why must they be confronted

with challenges from the outside Let all their efforts be

devoted to the internal challenges of spiritual growth.

The Fulfillment of Yaakov's Desire

In this light, we can understand G-d's response to

Yaakov's request. G-d wanted Yaakov's wish for prosperity

to be fulfilled — as it was indeed fulfilled in the 17 years of

prosperity which he enjoyed in Egypt. But such prosperity

must be earned by an appropriate measure of Divine serv¬

ice. Since Yaakov in his current state was not worthy to

receive such prosperity, G-d subjected him to a further trial

through which he could advance himself. 8

The sorrow

caused by the sale of Yosef initiated a process of refinement

6. Berachos 17a.

7. Eruvin 22a.

8. Similarly, our Sages' state (Menachos 53b, Shmos Rabbah 36:1) that just as an

olive releases its oil when pressed, so too, the Jewish people attain their

greatest spiritual heights when put under pressure.


54 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

by which Yaakov ultimately merited to attain the spiritual

and material prosperity he sought.

This concept resolves a problematic point. The name of

a Torah reading communicates not merely a significant

lesson in itself, but the message and theme of the reading as

a whole. Seemingly, the name Vayeishev, which indicates

prosperity, is not at all appropriate for this reading, which

deals primarily with travail and sorrow.

Based on the above, however, it can be explained that

the name is deserved, for it is only this travail which

enabled Yaakov to attain true prosperity.

Two Levels of Prosperity

But further clarification is necessary. Yaakov must have

known that the spiritual prosperity he desired would be

granted only as result of Divine service, and that this would

require that he overcome challenges. Nevertheless, he

thought it was sufficient for him to have confronted the

challenges posed by Esav and Lavan.

Our Sages identify 9

Yaakov with the attribute of Truth;

thus we can assume his self-appraisal was honest. Since

Yaakov saw himself as being worthy of prosperity, why was

it necessary for him to undergo a further challenge

In resolution, it can be explained that there are two

levels of prosperity fitting for the righteous:

a) One which can be appreciated by mortals: that a

person, his children and his grandchildren should be able

to serve G-d without difficulty, free to pursue the spiritual

path.

b) One above mortal conception, a foretaste of the

World to Come: "you will see your [portion of] the World [to

9. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a.


VAYEISHEV 55

Come] in your lifetime." 10

Just as the nature of the World to

Come cannot be comprehended by mortals, 11

so too, this

foretaste transcends our understanding.

Yaakov asked for a level of prosperity that could be

conceived by mortals. G-d granted this to him, and thus for

nine years he enjoyed success and happiness in Eretz Yisrael.

12

But G-d also wanted Yaakov to appreciate a higher

level of prosperity, and therefore subjected him to the trials

beginning with the sale of Yosef so that Yaakov would

become worthy of this greater Divine favor. 13

A Challenge of a Unique Nature

Since the prosperity G-d desired to grant Yaakov was

above the limits of worldly existence, the Divine service

which made him worthy of it differed from the challenges he

had already faced. Yaakov's confrontations with Lavan and

Esav were symbolic of the struggle between good and evil,

and man's efforts to refine and elevate his environment.

The tribulations brought about by the sale of Yosef, by

contrast, did not reflect these goals at all. The challenge —

and the refinement it brought about — was strictly internal.

It was a trial that seemingly had no purpose, bringing only

aggravation and suffering, and initially lowering Yaakov's

spiritual level. 14

Nevertheless, this was the process by

10. Berachos 17a. See also Bava Basra 17a, which states that the Patriarchs were

granted a foretaste of the World to Come.

11. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7.

12. In this context, the opening verse "And Yaakov settled in the land of his

father's wandering," can be interpreted to mean that in the land where his

fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, were forced to wander, Yaakov was able to

dwell in prosperity. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 316.

13. Significantly, this higher level of prosperity was granted to Yaakov in Egypt.

Although Egypt was "a foreign land (Genesis 15:13)" and a morally decadent

country (see Toras Kohanim and Rashi, commenting on Leviticus 18:3), Yaakov

and his descendants enjoyed material and spiritual prosperity there. This

paradox was possible because of the transcendent nature of the Divine favor.

14. For as the verse states (Genesis 37:34), for all the years he was separated

from Yosef, Yaakov was in a state of mourning, and "the spirit of prophecy


56 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

which G-d chose to lift Yaakov to a more elevated spiritual

rung and make him fit to receive the ultimate blessings.

The Necessity to Ask

One might ask: Since the prosperity which Yaakov was

ultimately granted was not the prosperity he initially

sought, why was his request the catalyst that triggered the

sequence of events which would lead to this prosperity

Since the initiative was G-d's alone, why was it at all

dependent on man

The answer is that "the Holy One, blessed be He, desires

the prayers of the righteous." 15

Until Yaakov asked for

prosperity, G-d did not grant it to him. But when he asked,

G-d set him tasks that would bring him not only the limited

prosperity which man can comprehend, but the prosperity

that transcends understanding.

A similar concept applies with regard to our requests for

the coming of the Redemption. The true nature of the

Redemption is beyond human conception. 16

Nevertheless,

our prayers hasten its coming.

departed from him" (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 180a, see Rashi, Targum Onkelos, and

Targum Yonason to Genesis 45:27).

15. Yevamos 64a.

16. And therefore, despite our requests for its coming, the advent of the

Redemption will be הדעת ‏,בהיסח "unexpected" (Sanhedrin 97a).


MIKEITZ 57

Mikeitz

מקץ

An End And A Beginning

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 198ff; Vol. XXill, pgs. 37-38

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz, 5751

The Truth of the Torah

In the world at large, there are many opinions regarding

the narratives of the Torah. Some maintain that all the

stories should be understood as symbolism and allegory.

Their intent, they say, is to teach us lessons in Divine serv¬

ice, not to chronicle history.

The traditional view holds that every narrative in the

Torah must be considered a record of events which actually

transpired. 1

1. See the Responsa of the Rashba, Vol. I, Responsum 413.


58 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Chassidic thought takes a third approach. To quote a

kabbalistic expression: 2

The Torah speaks about the upper

realms, and alludes to the lower realms.

This means that the narratives of the Torah are

descriptions of the interrelation between Divine attributes

in the spiritual realms. Nevertheless, since material exis¬

tence is an outgrowth of spiritual existence, whatever

happens in the spiritual realms is reflected in this world.

Thus, every narrative in the Torah is a record of an actual

event, but that event represents far more than what tran¬

spires in the material world. It is a dynamic movement

beginning within the sublime spiritual planes and having

ramifications on all levels of existence.

This approach expresses the positive dimensions of

both the views mentioned. On one hand, the historical

integrity of the Torah is preserved. Conversely, the rele¬

vance of the Torah is not as a book of records, 3

but as a

guide, reflecting spiritual truths that should be applied in

our Divine service.

infinity in Shackles

These concept are reflected in this week's Torah read¬

ing, Parshas Mikeitz, which focuses on the release of Yosef

from prison. Yosef serves as an analogy for the entire Jew¬

ish people. 4

For the name Yosef, meaning "increase," refers

to an infinite and unbounded potential for growth, 5

i.e., the

soul we all possess, which is "an actual part of G-d from

above." 6

2. Asarah Maamaros, Maamar ChakorHaDin, sec. 3, ch. 22; Shaloh, p. 13b, 161a.

3. See Zohar, Vol. III, p. 152a, which states: "Woe to the sinners who say that the

words of the Torah are just ordinary stories."

4. Therefore the entire Jewish people are at times referred to by the name

Yosef, as Psalms 80:2 states: "You lead Yosef as [a shepherd leads] sheep."

See Rashi and Metzudas David to that verse.

5. See Toras Chayim, Bereishis, 87b.

6. Tanya, ch. 2.


MIKEITZ 59

Moreover, the prayer Rachel recited when naming

Yosef, 7

"May G-d add on (yosef) to me another son (ben

acher)," reflects the spiritual mission of the Jewish people.

Entities which have hitherto been acher ("other" —

estranged from their G-dly core) — are brought close and

manifest the intimacy of ben ("a son"). 8

The prison in which Yosef is held refers to the body, and

to material existence as a whole. These tend to confine the

infinite power of the soul and deny it expression. Although

G-d gave man His Torah, His will and wisdom, 9

the Torah is

also affected by the limits of material existence, and its

G-dly source is not always evident.

An End to Limits

These concepts are alluded to in the opening phrase of

this week's reading: Vayehi mikeitz shenasayim yamim, "And

it came to pass at the end of two years." "Two years" refers

to the Torah, which contains two elements, the Written Law

and the Oral Law. 10

As the Torah exists within the confines

of material existence, its power appears to have a ketz, an

end and a limit. Nevertheless, because Yosef — in analogy,

the Jewish people — is essentially unlimited, the ketz, the

restrictions of worldly existence, ultimately become vayehi,

a thing of the past. Yosef leaves prison and becomes the

ruler of Egypt.

In the analog: a Jew is sent into this world to reveal

G-dliness. This is the purpose of his being, and eventually

this purpose will be achieved. The material nature of

worldly existence may initially restrict the expression of a

Jew's true nature, but the constraints will be temporary.

Ultimately, just as Yosef became the ruler of Egypt, every

7. Genesis 30:24.

8. See Or HaTorah, Vayeitzei, p. 202a.

9. Tanya, ch. 4.

10. Torah Or 31b.


60 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Jew will become a source of influence and power, showing

how infinite G-dliness can permeate finite material exis¬

tence.

Making the End a Beginning

The latter concept can be amplified by coupling a point

of Hebrew grammar with a mystical concept. The word

mikeitz can mean either "at the beginning" 11

or "at the

end". 12

Similarly, the Zohar speaks of the ketz dismola, "the

left end," 13 and the ketz hayamin, "the right end." 14

To apply these concepts to our Torah reading: the

question is whether mikeitz refers to the end — the final

two years — of the trials and tribulations Yosef suffered in

Egypt, or to the beginning — the two years leading to his

assumption of power. According to the first interpretation,

mikeitz refers to the most difficult challenges Yosef faced in

Egypt, for it is before daybreak that the darkness becomes

most powerful. 15

According to the second interpretation,

mikeitz refers to the dawning of Yosef's redemption.

There is a connection between the two. Hidden within

the challenges of ketz dismola — the last moments of exile

— are G-dly sparks. Confronting these challenges taps these

G-dly energies and brings ketz hayamin, the beginning of the

Redemption. 16

11. See the gloss of Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra to Numbers 13:25, Deuteronomy 15:1,

31:10, Psalms 119:96. See also the gloss of the Maharsha to Niddah 58b.

12. Rashi in our Torah reading.

13. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 193b.

14. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 54a; cf. the conclusion of the Book of Daniel.

15. Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. I, p. 68a, b [English trans. p. 150].

16. This enables us to appreciate the interrelation between the name Mikeitz and

the Torah reading which follows. Even according to the interpretation that

mikeitz refers to the last two years of Yosef's imprisonment, it is still

appropriate that it serve as the name of the reading dealing with his

redemption. For it was the final challenges of his imprisonment that brought

about his redemption.


MIKEITZ 61

The entire Jewish people are at times referred to by the

name Yosef. 2

May the transition experienced by Yosef

become manifest for our people as a whole. For we too have

confronted the hardships of exile and are awaiting the

revelation of ketz hayamin, the first rays of the Redemption.

May this take place in the immediate future.


VAYIGASH 63

Vayigash

דגש

Inspiring Change

Adapted from

Sefer HaSkhos 5750, p. 212ff;

Sefer HaSkhos 5751, p. 206ff

Making a Potential Kinetic

In his Siddur, the Alter Rebbe writes: 1

It is proper to say before prayer: I hereby accept

upon myself the positive commandment, 2

"Love your

fellowman as yourself."

Showing love for one's fellowman prepares a person to

intensify his relationship with G-d. For a genuine commit-

1. Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 12. This practice has its source in the teachings of

the AriZal (Shaar HaKavanos). Nevertheless, attention is drawn to the Alter

Rebbe's inclusion of it in his Siddur because this indicates its universal

relevance.

2. Leviticus 19:18.


64 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

ment to all of mankind requires true selflessness, 3

and this

is the approach which should characterize our relationship

with G-d. But why is a verbal declaration required Why

isn't the emphasis placed on contemplating the concept,

rather than making a statement

It can be explained that on an essential level, oneness

exists among our entire people: "They are all complemen¬

tary, and share one Father. Because of this common root in

the One G-d, all Israel are called 'brothers' in the full sense

of the word." 3

All too often, however, that oneness is not manifest in a

person's relations with his fellowmen. By actually making a

statement, a person has activated this potential, bringing it

into expression within our material world. 4

The importance of this statement exceeds by far its few

measured words. The objective is that one deed lead to

another, in a self-reinforcing cycle that will motivate a per¬

son to express love for his fellowmen and stir his fellowmen

to reciprocate in kind. Making a statement of purpose opens

a channel to our inner feelings of love^ with the intent that

these feelings will become manifest in activity on behalf of

others.

Bonding Power

A similar paradigm applies to this week's Torah reading.

Vayigash means: "And he approached;" Yehudah

approached Yosef. 6

But Yehudah's approach was intended

to establish more than physical closeness. Rashi explains 7

3. See Tanya, ch. 32.

4. See Sanhedrin 65a, which states that speech is considered a deed. Separation

comes as a result of people's bodies. As such, deeds — which relate more

closely than thoughts to the material plane — are necessary to erase it.

5. This is relevant every day, for every day we should strive to open up new

vistas in love and care for our fellowmen.

6. Genesis 44:18.

7. Rashi's commentary to the above verse.


VAYIGASH 65

that Yehudah told Yosef: "May my words enter your ears,"

i.e., he desired to initiate communication.

Yehudah's deed had tremendous repercussions. 8

As the

narrative continues, "Yosef could no longer restrain

himself." 9

After years of separation, the brothers embraced,

kissed each other, and spoke freely. 10

Yaakov's sons

returned to him with the message that Yosef was alive and

Yaakov descended to Egypt to join him, establishing

oneness and unity between all Jews.

From the inside Out

The spiral touched off by Yehudah's approach to Yosef

had larger ramifications. 11 The Zohar 12 understands their

union as symbolizing the approach of the physical world to

the spiritual world.

To explain: In essence, the world at large is at one with

G-d. This is the meaning of the phrase "G-d is one" in the

Shema 13

— not merely that there is one G-d, but that all

existence is at one with Him. 14

Nevertheless, the oneness

that pervades creation is not openly revealed. On the con¬

trary, the world appears to exist as a collection of discrete

entities.

Expressing the inner oneness that exists between people

serves as a catalyst to achieve oneness in the world at large,

allowing the material world to serve as a medium for the

8. This concept explains why Vayigash is the name of this Torah reading. For the

establishment of unity — within Yaakov's family and within the world at large

— is the theme which characterizes all the events mentioned in the Torah

reading.

9. Genesis 45:1.

10. Ibid.: 15.

11. In this light, we can understand the famous adage of the Alter Rebbe (Igros

Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. III, p. 413ff): A chassidic farbrengen can

generate greater blessings than the Angel Michael.

12. Vol. I, p. 205b.

13. Deuteronomy 4:4.

14. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 61:6 and commentaries.


66 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

expression of spiritual truth. This was reflected in the

conduct of Yaakov and his sons in Egypt. Although settling

in Egypt involved a descent into exile, and Egypt was a

morally depraved land, 15

Yaakov and his sons established a

model of spiritually oriented existence there. 16

Pharaoh

granted them the finest portion of the land, 17

promising "the

best of Egypt will be yours." 18

Yaakov and his sons made maximum use of this oppor¬

tunity. Indeed, our Rabbis explain 19

that these were

Yaakov's best years. Throughout his life, he endeavored to

express spiritual values within the day-to-day realities of

ordinary living. In Egypt, he was given the ability to bring

this ideal to fruition.

Uncovering Identity

The relevance of the above concepts is not confined to

periods when G-dliness is openly apparent. Quite the con¬

trary, the narrative begins in the ultimate of concealment.

Yehudah did not know he was speaking to Yosef. He

thought he was addressing the Egyptian viceroy, and he had

to plead for Binyamin's freedom after the youth had been

discovered in a compromising situation. Despite the

weakness of his position, Yehudah advanced in the direc¬

tion of oneness, 20

and his approach led to the revelation

that the Egyptian ruler was Yosef.

15. See Rashi's commentary to Leviticus 18:3.

16. The primacy of spiritual values in Yaakov's life in Egypt is reflected in his

"sending Yehudah to show the way" (Genesis 46:28), "to open a yeshivah"

(Rashi).

17. Genesis 47:11 and commentaries.

18. Genesis 45:20.

19. Baal HaTurim, commenting on the beginning of Parshas Vayechi. See HaYom

Yom, entry for the 18th of Teves.

20. Also significant is the inner meaning of the phrase Vayigash eilav Yehudah,

that "Yehudah" — every individual Jew — "approaches him," draws close to

G-d through prayer. See Sefer HaMaamarim 5629, p. 13. It is the relationship


VAYIGASH 67

Similarly, although today Jews may need the assistance

of non-Jewish authorities for their security, they must real¬

ize that there is a subtle, inner dynamic at work. It is not an

Egyptian who charts our destiny; "The hearts of kings and

officers are in the hands of G-d." 21

He — and not the non-

Jewish powers — controls the fate of our people as a whole,

and of each individual in particular.

Our conduct and choice of priorities should be struc¬

tured accordingly. There is no need to accept the standards

of the world at large. By emulating Yehudah's example and

striving toward oneness within our present situation, we

can initiate a sequence that will lead to the open expression

of our world's G-dly nature.

Egypt is not the End of the Journey

During his journey to Egypt, Yaakov had a vision in

which G-d reassured him: 22

"Do not fear to descend to

Egypt," and promised "I will descend to Egypt with you and I

will surely have you ascend." Although Yaakov realized

what he could achieve in Egypt, he was reluctant to descend

there. For prosperity in exile — even prosperity that is used

to create a model of spiritually oriented existence — is not

the goal of a Jew's life.

A Jew's true life is in Eretz Yisrael — and more particu¬

larly, Eretz Yisrael as it will exist in the Era of the Redemp¬

tion. This is the promise Yaakov received from G-d — that

his descendants would be redeemed from Egypt and live in

Eretz Yisrael together with Mashiach. 23

with G-d, established through prayer, that brings success to all one's activi¬

ties.

21. Midrash Mishlei, commenting on Proverbs 21:1.

22. Genesis 46:3-4.

23. Note Torah Or (beginning of Parshas Shmos), which interprets the repetition

in G-d's promise אעלך גם עלה as reflecting two states of ascent: a) the

redemption from Egypt, and b) the ultimate Redemption to be led by

Mashiach.


68 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Why then did Yaakov descend to Egypt Because he

appreciated that the Redemption must be brought about by

the Divine service of man. The establishment of a spiritually

oriented society amidst material prosperity provides man

with a foretaste of the Redemption, and prepares the world

for the time when redemption will become manifest.

Yaakov's life in Egypt was dedicated to this purpose.

The theme of redemption is underscored by the Haftorah,

which speaks about the ultimate union 24

of Yosef and

Yehudah: 25

"I will take the children of Israel from among the

nations... and bring them to their own land. I will make them

one nation in the land No longer will they be two nations,

no longer divided into two kingdoms." And it promises :26

"And My servant David will be their prince forever," for it is

in the Era of the Redemption that the selfless striving for

unity will receive the prominence it deserves.

24. There is also a connection between the theme of Redemption and the concept

of unity emphasized by Vayigash. For the destruction of the Second Temple

came about because of unwarranted hatred (Yoma 9b, Gittin 55b). Removing

the cause, hatred, will make the effect, exile, disappear.

25. Ezekiel 37:21-22.

26. Ibid.:25.


VAYECHI 69

Vayechi

דחי

True Life

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 160ff; Vol. XV, p. 422ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayechi, 5751

Yaakov's Best Years

When the Tzemach Tzedek was a young boy, his cheder

teacher taught him the verse: "And Yaakov lived in the land

of Egypt for 17 years," 1

explaining that these were the best

years of Yaakov's life. 2

The Tzemach Tzedek asked his

grandfather, the Alter Rebbe: How was it possible that the

best years of Yaakov's life would be spent in a depraved

land

1. Genesis 47:28.

2. Baal HaTurim on the above verse. This is reflected in the fact that 17 is

numerically equivalent to the Hebrew word ‏,טוב meaning "good" (Or HaTorah,

Vayechi p. 354a).


70 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The Alter Rebbe answered him: Even before he arrived,

Yaakov sent Yehudah to Egypt to establish a yeshivah. 3

When

one studies the Torah, one comes close to G-d. This

closeness allows one to live with true and genuine vitality,

even in Egypt. 4

Indeed, the depravity of Egypt enhanced the vitality

experienced by Yaakov. For the transformation of darkness

reveals a higher quality of light. Yaakov's establishment of

Torah life amid the darkness of Egyptian society expressed

the essential vitality he possessed and endowed to his

children.

To Live with the Torah

True life can be ascribed only to G-d, as it is written: 5

"And G-d your L-rd is true; He is the living G-d." Just as Truth

is uninterrupted and unchanging, so too life is in essence

unchanging and eternal. Thus our Sages describe 6

a stream

as "living water" only when it flows constantly. 7

Mortal existence, by contrast, is ephemeral and subject to

change. 8

Nevertheless, by drawing close to G-d through

Torah study, a person can tap a dimension of G-d's immor¬

tality, as it is written: 9

"And you who cling to G-d your L-rd

are all alive today."

This was the thrust of Yaakov's entire life. When the

Torah sets out to convey the nature of his personality, it

3. Rashi, Midrash Tanchuma to Genesis 46:28.

4. HaYom Yom, entry for the 18th of Teves.

5. Jeremiah 10:10.

6. Parah 8:9, using the terminology of Numbers 19:17.

7. To be considered "living water," a stream may not dry out within a seven-year

period. This limit was chosen because our world is structured in cycles of

seven. Since our existence as a whole is temporary, the timelessness of "living

water" need not be absolute.

8. Note the distinction made by the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodai

HaTorah 2:10) between G-d's life and mortal existence. G-d's life is one with

Him, while a mortal is, by nature, separate from his own life-force.

9. Deuteronomy 4:4. See also Avos deRabbi Nassan, ch. 34.


VAYECHI 71

describes 10

him as "a simple man, dwelling in tents," i.e., the

tents of Shem and Ever, 11

the leading houses of study of that

age. In these domains, Yaakov's character was shaped and

molded.

And yet Yaakov did not remain in these houses of study

forever. His life encompassed a variety of circumstances and

challenges, allowing him the opportunity to prove that the

connection to G-d he established through Torah study was

genuine.

Light in Darkness

Yaakov reached the pinnacle of this lifetime journey in

Egypt. There he was presented with challenges of a different

nature than he had experienced previously, for he dwelt in

fabulous wealth amid a land of decadent people. But as

mentioned, even before Yaakov entered Egypt, he anticipated

these difficulties by sending Yehudah to establish a yeshivah

there. By this act, he set the tone for his future in Egypt.

Moreover, not only did Yaakov himself study, he involved

his children and grandchildren. Rather than accept the

values of the surrounding culture, Yaakov's descendants

joined him in study. For them, the descent to Egypt

represented a radical transition; the majority of their adult

lives had been spent in Eretz Yisrael. Yet motivated by

Yaakov's example and guidance, they were able to extend the

holy atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael into Egypt.

Yaakov's unchanging and uninterrupted commitment to

the Torah demonstrates the true life with which the Torah

endowed him. His connection with G-d was all-encompassing.

10. Genesis 25:27.

11. Bereishis Rabbah 63:10, and Rashi on the above verse. The connection of

Yaakov with the Torah is also emphasized by the verse (Psalms 78:5): "He

established statutes in Yaakov and placed the Torah in Yisrael."


72 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Yaakov Still Lives

The above enables us to understand why the Torah

reading is named Vayechi — "And he lived" — although it

speaks of Yaakov's death. As the events of the reading

demonstrate, Yaakov's life was one of connection to G-d that

transcended material settings. And since he shared this

quality with his descendants, it was perpetuated beyond his

mortal lifetime. As our Sages say: 12

"Yaakov, our ancestor, did

not die. As his descendants are alive, he is alive."

This concept applies to all Jews at all times. The vitality

we experience in our Divine service today is made possible

by the life of Yaakov our ancestor. 13

And conversely, the

connection to the Torah which strengthened Yaakov is the

source of life for all his descendants throughout the

generations.

True, within Jewish history, there have always been some

Jews who — at least to outward appearances — do not

conduct their lives according to the directives of the Torah.

But that is merely the external reality. The truth is that they

are alive inside, and their vitality stems from the Torah and

its mitzvos. 14

Our Sages state: 15

"Although a Jew sins, he remains a Jew"

and the Rambam rules: 16

12. Taanis 5b.

13. This concept of continued life is mentioned with regard to Yaakov and not

with regard to Avraham and Yitzchak because, in a complete sense, the

concept that "his descendants are alive" applies only to Yaakov. "Yaakov's

bed was perfect" (Rashi, Genesis 47:31), i.e., all his sons were righteous. In

contrast, Yishmael descended from Avraham and Esav from Yitzchak

(Pesachim 56a). (See also Maharshah to Taanis, ibid.)

14. A parallel exists with regard to Yaakov himself. In the Talmudic passage

which states: "Yaakov, our ancestor, did not die," a question is raised: Was he

not mourned, embalmed, and buried Our Sages answer: "It only appears that

he died; in truth, He is alive," i.e., here too, there is a spiritual reality which

runs contrary to outward appearances.

15. Sanhedrin 44a.

16. Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Gerushin 2:20.


VAYECHI 73

A person whose evil inclination compels him to

negate the performance of a mitzvah or to commit a

sin... [still] wishes to be part of the Jewish people and

desires to fulfill all the mitzvos and separate himself

from sin. It is only his [evil] inclination which forces

him [to do otherwise].

Regardless of his conduct, every member of our people

remains a Jew and shares a connection to the entire Torah.

"The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of

the congregation of Yaakov." 17

This is the spiritual legacy

which Yaakov bequeathed us, the sign of his continued life

and of our own vitality.

(The above also encourages us to help each other ex¬

press a connection to the Torah. Any potential tends to seek

expression, and that tendency is enhanced by the very

knowledge of its existence. Spreading the awareness of the

inner nature of every Jew will spur the desire to have that

nature realized through observance of the Torah.

This is more than theory; it is borne out by experience.

Conversely, an approach which castigates Jews who do not

observe the Torah and its mitzvos, threatening them with

Divine retribution, does not encourage greater observance.

Quite the contrary, it weakens many people's feeling for

Judaism and moves them further from teshuvah. 18 )

Egypt is not Forever

Although his ability to create a Torah center for his de¬

scendants in Egypt is a sign of Yaakov's life, it is not the

culmination of his achievements. For the ultimate place for

17. Deuteronomy 33:4.

18. See the essay "Every Jew Has a Silver Lining" (Sichos In English, Vol. 47, p.

11ff) and the sources mentioned there, in which these concepts are explained

at length.


74 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Yaakov and his descendants is not in Egypt, but in Eretz

Yisrael.

Therefore, Yaakov called his sons together with the intent

of revealing the time of the Redemption to them. 19

He assured

them that they would be redeemed from Egypt, promising: 20

"G-d will be with you, and He will bring you back to your

ancestral land." For it is in Eretz Yisrael — and more

particularly, in the Eretz Yisrael of the Redemption — that

Yaakov and his descendants will truly flourish.

Strength and Encouragement

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Chazak, "the Shabbos of

reinforcement," because of the custom 21

of declaring, Chazak,

Chazak, Vinischazaik ("Be strong, be strong, and may you be

strengthened") at the conclusion of the Torah reading, in

acknowledgment of the completion of the Book of Genesis.

The awareness nurtured by the reading of Vayechi

generates strength. When a Jew knows he has been granted a

heritage of life expressed through a connection with the

Torah, and that there will come a time when this connection

will blossom, he will acquire the inner strength to confront

the challenges presented by his environment.

By heightening the expression of this potential in our

people as a whole, we hasten the coming of its fruition in the

Era of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate

future.

19. Rashi, Genesis 49:1.

20. Genesis 48:21. See also Rashi, Exodus 3:18, which relates that the promise

(Genesis 50:24): "G-d will remember and bring you out of this land," which

served as the code for the redemption, was originally conveyed to the Jews

by Yaakov.

21. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim in the conclusion of Chapter 139. See also

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 25, page 474.


SHMOS 75

Shmos

שמו,‏

Challenge, Growth,

and Transition

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. Ill, 843ff; Vol. XVI, p. 36ff;

Sefer HaSichos

Vol. XXVI, p. 301ff;

5751, p. 240ff

Confronting Challenge

On one hand, people shy away from challenges. There is

a danger of failure — were there not, it would not be a

challenge — and no one likes to fail. On the other hand, we

seek challenge, for confronting a challenge lifts us out of the

doldrums of ordinary experience.

Similar concepts apply with regard to our Divine service.

G-d does not want our Divine service to be merely routine.

And so, He presents us with challenges. Some of these

challenges are limited in scope, and some are more daunt¬

ing, forcing us to summon up our deepest resources.


76 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

This is the nature of the challenge of exile. During the

Era of the Beis HaMikdash, the open revelation of G-dliness

inspired Jews to serve G-d with heightened feeling and

intent. In the era of exile, by contrast, G-dliness is hidden,

and we are presented with many obstacles to our obser¬

vance of the Torah and its mitzvos. We can no longer rely on

our environment to deepen our feeling for G-dliness.

Instead, our focus must become internal. In this manner,

exile arouses our deepest spiritual resources, 1 and

strengthens our connection to G-d.

The Paradox of Exile

These concepts are reflected in our Torah reading,

which describes the successive descents experienced by

the Jewish people in Egypt. As long as Yosef and his

brothers lived, the Jews enjoyed prosperity and security.

But with the death of the last of Yaakov's sons came forced

labor, 2

the casting of Jewish infants into the Nile, and other

acts of cruelty. Even after Moshe brought the promise of

redemption, the oppression of the Jewish people worsened,

to the extent that Moshe himself cried out: 3 "Since I came to

Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this

people."

Nevertheless, the Torah reading also tells how the Jews

cried out to G-d, awakening His attention. 4

In response, G-d

conveyed the promise of Redemption and His pledge that,

"when you take this people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d

on this mountain," 5

i.e., G-d committed Himself to give the

1. More specifically, the reference is to the level of yechidah, the dimension of

soul which is absolutely one with G-d. This level is revealed through the

challenges of exile.

2. See Shmos Rabbah 1:4. Rashi's notes to Exodus 6:16.

3. Exodus 5:23.

4. Ibid. 2:23-24.

5. Ibid. 3:12.


SHMOS 77

Jews the Torah. This revealed the possibility of a higher and

deeper bond with G-d than could have been reached before.

The Story of a Name

These two polarities are reflected in the name of the

reading, Shmos, which means "names." There are two

dimensions to a person's name. On one hand, it represents

the external aspects of one's being, as apparent from the

fact that a person's name is necessary only insomuch as he

relates to others. For himself, he does not require a name.

Moreover, several individuals with totally different

personalities can share the same name, demonstrating that,

on the surface at least, a person's name does not describe

who he or she is. 6

Nevertheless, as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, 7

a

name represents an entity's nature and life-force. It is a

channel that allows this inner nature to be expressed. 8

This

is not merely a theoretical concept; it affects a person's dayto-day

conduct. We see that when a person is called by

name, he turns to the caller with attention. For many

people, no sound is dearer than that of their own name.

Moreover, we find that when a person faints, it is often

possible to rouse him by merely whispering his name in his

ear.

To relate these observations to the concepts of exile and

redemption: As long as what is revealed is merely the

external dimension of the Jews' name, it is possible for them

to be subjugated by worldly powers. But when the essence

of the Jews' name, Yisrael, is expressed, there is no

6. And yet a person with insight can see how an individual's name tells volumes

about his character. In that vein, Yoma 83b relates that Rabbi Meir could

deduce a person's character from his name.

7. ShaarHaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1.

8. Likkutei Torah, Behar 41c.


78 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

potential for exile. For the name Yisrael indicates that we

"contended with G-d and with men and prevailed." 9

This points to the fundamental difference between exile

and redemption. For exile does not represent a change in

the essence of our relationship with G-d. From His

perspective, even in exile we are "[His] children, and to

change [us] for another nation, [He] cannot." 10

And with

regard to the Jewish people, on the verse, 11

"I am asleep,

but my heart is awake," our Sages comment: 12

"Although I

am sleeping in exile, my heart is awake for the Holy One,

blessed be He."

What is the difference between exile and redemption

Whether "our name is being called" and we are responding,

i.e., whether this relationship is openly expressed or

concealed. 13

Destiny and Direction

There is nothing random about the cycle of exile and

redemption; it is a Divinely ordained process. G-d desired

that the Jews reach higher peaks of Divine service, and so

He structured the challenges of exile to compel us to

express our deepest spiritual potential. And He gave us the

ability to overcome these challenges.

9. Genesis 32:29.

10. Kiddushin 36a; Rus Rabbah, Pesichta 3; see also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, p. 3

and sources cited there.

11. Song of Songs 5:2.

12. Zohar, Vol. III, p. 95a; see ShirHaShirim Rabbah on the verse.

13. This concept also gives us insight into the nature of redemption: redemption

does not require the creation of anything new, but the revelation of a

potential which already exists.

Similarly, this idea points to the manner in which we can endeavor to bring

this potential into expression by all Jews. What is necessary is to call the

person by his name Yisrael, and to give him an opportunity to reveal who he

is. Since he is a Jew and by nature "desires to fulfill all the mitzvos and

separate himself from sin" (Rambam, Hilchos Gerushin 2:20), he will respond,

expressing his inner nature.


SHMOS 79

This is alluded to in the Torah's mention of the names of

the tribes at the beginning of the reading. Our Sages

explain 14

that this is an example of how deeply G-d cher¬

ishes our people. "Since they are like stars, He called each

of them by name."

In Torah law, 15

we find the principle: "An important

entity can never be nullified." By repeating the names of the

Jewish people, 16

the Torah emphasizes how important they

are to G-d, and ensures that their existence will not by

nullified by exile.

The Torah mentions, not the name of our people as a

whole, but rather the names of each of the tribes, for each

tribe represents a different approach to Divine service. In

doing so, it endows not only the essence of the Jewish

people, but also our various individual approaches, with the

strength to endure exile, and grow through this experience.

From Exile to Redemption

The cycle of Jewish exile and redemption is significant

for the world at large. The purpose of creation is to estab¬

lish a dwelling for G-d. 17

This dwelling is fashioned by the

involvement of the Jewish people in different aspects of

worldly experience. During exile, the Jews are scattered into

different lands and brought into contact with diverse

cultures. As such, as the challenge of exile brings the Jews

to a deeper connection with G-d, it also elevates their sur¬

roundings, making manifest the G-dliness which permeates

our world.

14. Shmos Rabbah 1:3 (quoted by Rashi in his commentary to Exodus 1:1) explains

why the names of the tribes are repeated in this Torah reading after having

been mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

15. Zevachim 73a, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 110:1.

16. See also Pe'ah 7:1 (and Rambam, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 5:23), which states

that no entity with a name is ever considered forgotten. The fact that its

owner gave it a name indicates its constant importance in his eyes.

17. Midrash Tanchuma, Bechukosai, sec. 3. See Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.


80 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The saga of exile and redemption is not merely a story of

the past. On the contrary, heralds of the final transition

from exile and redemption are affecting all dimensions of

existence today. To borrow an expression from the Previ¬

ous Rebbe: 18

"Everything is ready for the Redemption; even

the buttons have been polished." All that is necessary is

that we open our eyes, recognize Mashiach's influence, and

create a means for it to encompass mankind. 19

18. Sichos Simchas Torah, 5689.

19. Sound the GreatShofar (Kehot, N.Y., 1992), p. 112-113.


VA'EIRA 81

Va'eira

jn$Ol

Seeing And Believing

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 52ff; Vol. XXXI, p. 25ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Va'eira, 5743;

and Sichos Chof-Vav Nissan, 5751

Prisons of the Mind

When the Torah names a place, the name describes not

only a geographic location, but also a state of mind, and a

spiritual set of circumstances. In this context, Mitzrayim, the

Hebrew name for Egypt, serves as a paradigm, teaching us

what exile is, and demonstrating the essence of the spiritual

challenge which our people have confronted throughout

history.

Mitzrayim relates to the Hebrew word meitzarim, mean¬

ing "boundaries," or "limitations." 1

Material existence con¬

fines and limits the expression of G-dliness in the world at

1. See Torah Or, Shmos 71c.


82 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

large, and the expression of the G-dly spark within our

souls. This is exile, an unnatural state. For the true reality —

that the world was created to be a dwelling for G-d, 2

and

that a person's soul is an actual part of G-d 3 — is concealed.

In such a setting, a person becomes absorbed in the daily

routine of his life. Spiritual values — if he considers them at

all — are interpreted according to his own world view. 4

Moreover, exile naturally perpetuates itself. Our Sages

relate 5

that not one slave could escape from Egypt. Simi¬

larly, any setting in which a person lives creates an inertia

that resists change. To borrow an expression from our

Sages: 6

"A person in fetters cannot set himself free." Since

every person's thought processes are today shaped by the

environment of exile, many find it difficult to see beyond

that setting.

An End to Exile

And yet, although man may not be able to free himself,

G-d refuses to allow exile to continue indefinitely. The first

step of redemption is a direct revelation of G-dliness. Since

the fundamental characteristic of exile is the concealment of

G-d's presence, the nullification of exile involves a clearer

2. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3. See Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.

3. Tanya, ch. 2.

4. In this context, the concept of Mitzrayim — Egypt — becomes personal.

Everyone has his "Egypt" which confines him and from which he must be

redeemed. For one person, the forces preventing his inner G-dly nature from

being expressed may be his unchecked physical desires, and for another they

might be the reservations of his intellect.

There is even an "Egypt of holiness," which constrains a person who is

devoted to the study of the Torah and the observance of its mitzvos, but who

is held back by an unwillingness to make an unrestrained commitment. The

nature of our personal "Egypts" may differ, but the obligation to struggle to

transcend these limits is universal. This is the meaning of the requirement to

recall the exodus from Egypt every day.

5. Mechilta quoted in Rashi, Shmos 18:9.

6. Berachos 5b.


VA'EIRA 83

revelation of G-dliness. This will shake people out of their

self-absorption and open them to spiritual awareness.

This is the message of Parshas Va'eira. Va'eira means

"And I revealed Myself." The root of Va'eira is the word

re'iyah, meaning "sight." Va'eira refers to something that

can be seen directly. This theme is continued throughout

the Torah reading, which describes seven of the ten plagues

— open miracles which had a twofold purpose, as the Torah

states: 7

"I will display My power,... I will bring forth My

hosts from Egypt And Egypt will know that I am G-d."

These plagues made the whole world conscious of G-d's

presence. Even the Egyptians whose ruler had proudly

boasted: 8

"I do not know G-d," became aware of Him and

acknowledged: 9

"This is the finger of G-d!"

Because the miracles were openly seen, they trans¬

formed peoples' thinking. When an idea is communicated

intellectually, it takes time to assimilate it to the point that

it affects one's conduct. When, by contrast, a person sees

something with his own eyes, it immediately changes the

way he thinks. Once a person sees an event, there is no way

he can be convinced that it did not take place. 10

A Rich inheritance

It is, however, natural for a person to ask: "When have I

seen G-dliness Perhaps there were miracles in the past, but

of what relevance are they at present

7. Exodus 7:4-5.

8. Ibid. 5:2.

9. Ibid. 8:15.

10. The effect of sight is reflected in Jewish law: a witness cannot serve as a judge

(Rosh HaShanah 26a). Once a person has seen the commission of a crime, he

is unable to fairly appreciate an argument advanced on behalf of the

defendant.


84 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The answer is found in Rashi's commentary to the verse

from which the Torah reading takes its name: 11

"And I

revealed Myself to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov."

Rashi comments: "To the forefathers."

Seemingly, this observation is superfluous. We all know

that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were the forefathers of

the Jewish people. Having mentioned each by name, there is

no need to mention their title. Rashi, however, is

emphasizing that the revelations were granted to them, not

because of their individual virtues, but because they were

"forefathers" and their spiritual attainments would be

transferred as an inheritance to their descendants. 12

By

revealing Himself to our forefathers, G-d made the aware¬

ness of His existence a fundamental element in the makeup

of their descendants for all time.

Taking Possession of the Legacy

Nevertheless, although the legacy of our forefathers is

within our hearts, it is not always in our conscious

thoughts. Each of us must endeavor to internalize the faith

of our forefathers, and make it his or her own. This will not

necessarily happen by itself. Unless we make efforts to unite

faith and thought, we can create a dichotomy between belief

and actual life. Indeed, evidence of such a dichotomy is all

too common.

The need to resolve this schism explains why the pre¬

vious Torah reading, Parshas Shmos, concludes by describ-

11. Exodus 6:4.

12. This concept is also accentuated by Jewish law. The transfer of property to

an heir is unique in that, unlike a purchaser or the receiver of a present, an

heir is not considered a new owner, but a continuation of the testator. (See

Bava Batra 159a, Tzafnat Paneach, Milluim 13a, et al). Similarly, with regard to

our inheritance of our forefather's spiritual legacy, the revelations which they

received are passed on to us as they were received, without modification.


VA'EIRA 85

ing how Moshe approached G-d, and asked: 13

do You mistreat Your people"

"O G-d, why

Moshe's question did not reflect a lack of faith.

Undoubtedly, Moshe believed; and so did all the people, for

Jews are by nature "believers, and the descendants of

believers." 14

But Moshe realized that his responsibility was

to be a shepherd of faith, 15

to nurture the people's faith until

it affected their thinking processes. This is why he asked.

Miracles in Our Lives

In response to Moshe's question, G-d brought about the

miracles described in our Torah reading. Moshe's

endeavors to make faith a factor in everyday life evoked a

response from G-d.

Similar concepts apply in every generation, for miracles

are not a thing of the past. 16

In every generation, G-d shows

His great love for His people by performing deeds that

transcend the natural order. At times, a person for whom a

miracle occurs may not recognize what has happened, 17

and

on other occasions the miracles are open, obvious for all to

see. Indeed, in the recent past, we have seen great wonders

which G-d has wrought on our behalf, among them: the Gulf

War, the fall of Communism, and the massive waves of Jews

coming to Eretz Yisrael.

13. Exodus 6:22.

14. Shabbos 97a. See Rashi, Exodus 4:2.

15. See Torah Or, Ki Sisa 111a, and the maamar, ViKibeil HaYehudim 5687. The

רועה title: Pesichta to Eichah Rabbah, sec. 24, refers to Moshe by the Hebrew

(which רעיא מהמנא version, meaning "faithful shepherd." The Aramaic ‏,נאמן

serves as the title of one of the parts of the Zohar), has that meaning too, but

also connotes "shepherd of faith."

16. Therefore the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 218:9), a text which contains

only laws applicable in the present era, includes a requirement to recite a

blessing acknowledging a miracle that transpired in one life's.

17. See Niddah 31a.


86 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Our prophets have promised: 18

"As in the days of your

exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders." Just as the

miracles which G-d wrought in Egypt heralded the exodus,

so too, may the miracles we have witnessed — and will

witness in the future — foreshadow the ultimate Redemp¬

tion. And may this take place in the immediate future.

18. Michah 7:15.


BO 87

Bo

ja

Confronting Pharaoh

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 48-49; Vol. XXXI, p. 32-33;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bo, 5733, 5751

A Twofold Challenge

"[G-d] placed the world within [man's] heart." 1

The

mission of mankind — to transform the world into a dwell¬

ing for G-d — mirrors the challenges confronted by every

individual in cultivating the G-dly nature of his own char¬

acter. For every person is a world in microcosm. 2

There are two dimensions to our personal task of selfrefinement:

First, we must use the abilities we have been

granted for a positive purpose. For example, our ability to

feel love should be expressed in love for G-d, and selfless

1. Ecclesiastes 3:11.

2. Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei, sec. 3.


88 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

love for our fellow man. 3

And our potential for achievement

should be directed to making contributions that are lasting

in nature. Each of our abilities should be dedicated toward

the most comprehensive good possible.

But there is a challenge which is more fundamental.

Every person should ask himself: What am I living for Is my

goal merely self-gratification, or am I living for a higher

purpose

Chassidus explains 4

that we have two souls. One is an

animal soul, concerned only with its own needs and drives.

It is not necessarily bad, but it cannot see beyond itself. The

second soul is "an actual part of G-d," and its fulfillment

comes through service, encouraging the expression of this

G-dly nature and revealing the G-dliness invested in the

world at large.

The appearance of conflict between these souls reflects

the challenge which man faces: to break through his selfconcern

and reveal his G-dly core. When this is

accomplished, the first task mentioned above — making

positive use of the potentials and opportunities we are

granted — can be achieved with far greater ease.

Within the Macrocosm

These same thrusts are reflected within the world at

large. One of mankind's missions is to use the physical

world for a positive purpose. Every element of being con¬

tains sparks of G-dliness concealed within it. By using these

objects for a spiritual purpose, e.g., eating a meal with the

intent of using the energy generated to serve G-d, we tap the

G-dly energy invested in the physical, and cause it to be

vented. This goal has varied means of expression, for it

must be achieved in a way suitable to every given situation.

3.

4.

See Avos 5:16.

Tanya, chs. 1 and 2.


BO 89

There is, however, a second, more general goal — to

nurture selflessness. For worldly existence encourages selfcenterdness,

and man's task is to break through this barrier

and reveal the inner truth.

The words "break through" are used intentionally. For

with regard to self-concern — to borrow a Talmudic phrase 5

— "its destruction is its purification." Our desires can be

redirected and given a positive orientation, but first the

fundamental selfishness which characterizes worldly

existence must be broken.

What the Plagues Accomplished

Egypt, Mitzrayim in Hebrew, serves as an analogy for

material existence as a whole. 6

As such, both motifs men¬

tioned above are reflected in the story of the Exodus. The

miracles G-d wrought in Egypt had two purposes:

a) that Pharaoh should release the Jews, and that when

they depart, they would "ask every man of his friend, and

every women from her neighbor, gold and silver articles." 7

In this way, they would "drain Egypt of her wealth." 8

This

reflects the Jews' effort to refine the sparks of holiness

concealed within Egypt, allowing these resources to find

positive expression.

b) "So that you will be able to tell your children and

grandchildren how I have made sport from Egypt, perform¬

ing miraculous signs there." 9

Pharaoh is identified with the stubborn boasts, "I do not

know G-d," 10

and "The river is mine and I have fashioned

5. Keilim 2:1.

6. See the previous essay entitled "Seeing and Believing."

7. Exodus 11:2.

8. Ibid. 11:36.

9. Ibid. 10:2.

10. Ibid. 5:2.


90 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

it," 11

denying G-d's influence in our world. The fundamental

purpose of the plagues was to shatter this illusion, to

manifest G-dliness so that all could see, and in doing so, to

break the pride of Pharaoh and his nation.

G-d persisted in this endeavor until Pharaoh's pride was

crushed, and he came in his nightclothes to Moshe,

entreating G-d's mercy. 12

Personally, Pharaoh would have

been prepared to release the Jews much earlier; he was

held back (and the plagues continued) because G-d hard¬

ened his heart. 13

Why was this necessary Had Pharaoh released the Jews

earlier, he and his nation would not have been sufficiently

humbled. The refinement of the G-dliness concealed within

Egypt would have been accomplished, but some of the

power which opposed G-d would have remained intact. The

plagues continued until "Egypt [knew] that I am G-d," 14

and

the self-oriented approach which their leader personified

was shattered utterly.

Reaching to the Core

Just as the defeat of Pharaoh had to be absolute, in a

personal sense the negation of selfishness must also be

complete, encompassing every aspect of our being. This

requirement is reflected in the name of this week's Torah

reading, Bo. The most common meaning of Bo is "come,"

but it also means "enter," or "penetrate." 15

Moshe is com¬

manded to penetrate to Pharaoh's core and negate his

strength. As the Zohar states: 16

G-d caused Moshe to enter

11. Ezekiel 29:3.

12. Exodus 12:30-32.

13. Ibid. 10:1.

14. Exodus 7:5.

15. Therefore one of the Hebrew terms for marital relations is biah.

16. Zohar, Vol. II, 34a.


BO 91

room after room, penetrating to the very heart of Pharaoh's

palace.

Come With Me

The command to confront Pharaoh and negate his

influence is given to Moshe, representative of mankind,

because the negation of selfishness is a fundamental

dimension of man's service. Man was given the mission of

making this world a dwelling for G-d, and this is possible

only when selfishness is nullified. Haughty self-interest

prevents the Divine Presence from being manifest. 17

And yet, this nullification of self cannot be accomplished

by man alone; it requires G-d's power. For this reason,

Moshe shrank at G-d's command; he realized that the task

was beyond him. That is why G-d instructed him: "Come to

Pharaoh," i.e., come with Me, and not "Go to Pharaoh." G-d

would confront Pharaoh together with Moshe.

Moshe was not shirking responsibility. He was willing to

go, but not with his own resources alone. By hesitating, he

invited G-d's assistance, emphasizing that he would be

acting only as an agent, and that the power to nullify Phar¬

aoh's pride would be G-d's.

The Dynamic of Redemption

Penetrating and nullifying self-orientation makes possi¬

ble the revelation of a positive dimension. And thus the

Zohar refers to the House of Pharaoh as: 18

"the place where

all lights are revealed in an unrestrained manner."

Carrying this concept further, the Exodus from Egypt is

connected to the ultimate Redemption. Indeed, had the

17. See Sotah 5a.

18. Zohar, Vol. I, 210a.


92 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Jews merited, they would have entered Eretz Yisrael im¬

mediately after leaving Egypt. 19

As it is, the entire period from the Exodus until the final

Redemption is referred to as "the days of your exodus from

Egypt." 20

For nullifying the selfishness of Pharaoh and

breaking through the limitations of Egypt began — and

begins for each of us as we relive the Exodus — a self-rein¬

forcing dynamic destined to take our nation beyond all

natural limitations and lead to the Redemption.

19. See Sifri, commenting on Deuteronomy 1:2.

20. Michah 7:15, note the explanation in Likkutei Torah, Masei, p. 88c ff; Sefer

HaMaamarim 5708, p. 159ff.


BESHALLACH 93

כשלח Beshallach

The Expression

of inner Good

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 188ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Beshallach, 5732, 5735

A Name Should Be Telling

The division of the Torah into weekly readings was not

made at random, nor is the choice of the names of those

readings a phenomenon of chance. The name of every

reading is a capsulized summary of the reading as a whole,

and expresses its fundamental theme.

This week's reading contains many significant narratives

demonstrating G-d's love for the Jewish people, and the

Jews' response to Him. It tells of several of the more striking

miracles in our people's history: the splitting of the Red Sea,

the descent of the manna, and the victory over Amalek. And


94 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

with regard to the Jews' response, it includes the song at

the Red Sea — so powerful an acknowledgment of G-d's

hand as to enable even the most common person to attain

prophecy. 1

And yet the wondrous nature of these events does not

seem to be reflected in the name of the Torah reading. The

Shabbos is called Shabbos Shirah ("the Shabbos of Song")

recalling the song at the Red Sea, but the name of the Torah

reading, Beshallach, meaning "When he sent forth," has no

obvious reference to these happenings. On the contrary,

Beshallach has negative connotations, implying that we had

to be sent forth from Egypt against our will. The Torah

attributes the "sending forth" to Pharaoh; it was he who

motivated us to leave Egypt.

Why it Was Pharaoh Who Sent Forth the Jews

Describing Pharaoh as the agent of the Exodus points to

one of its purposes, and alludes to our ultimate mission

within creation. To highlight this factor, G-d told Moshe at

the very beginning of the process of Redemption: 2

"With a

strong hand, [Pharaoh] will drive them from his land."

For the intent of creation is that this material world and

all of its elements be transformed into a dwelling for G-d. 3

This includes even those elements which at first which

oppose the forces of holiness. Ultimately, every aspect of

being will serve a positive purpose.

In certain cases, as with Pharaoh, a transformation is

necessary first. In their original state, such people cannot

serve a positive purpose, so "their destruction is their

1. Mechilta, quoted in Rashi, Exodus 15:2.

2. Exodus 6:1.

3. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.


BESHALLACH 95

purification;" 4

i.e., only when they are broken will their

positive nature be revealed.

This concept is highlighted by prophecies of the

Redemption which state: 5

"And I will rid the land of dan¬

gerous animals." Our Sages interpret this to mean, 6

the

animals will be transformed, so that they will no longer

cause harm, as it is written: 7

"The wolf will dwell with the

lamb." In the era of ultimate good, predators will continue

to exist, but "they will neither prey, nor destroy." 8

Their

negative tendencies will be eliminated.

G-d's intent in creation was not merely to reveal the

unbounded spiritual light within material existence. Were

this His purpose, He would not have created a material

world, for revelations in the spiritual realms are far greater. 9

Nor is His purpose merely to nullify the influence of those

entities which oppose holiness, for then their creation

would not have contributed anything. Instead, G-d's desire

is that every aspect of existence become part of His

dwelling. And just as a mortal's dwelling reveals the

character of its owner, every element of G-d's dwelling is

intended to reveal a different facet of His Being.

As a foretaste 10

of this ultimate state, the name of our

Torah reading focuses on the transformation of Pharaoh.

The other miracles mentioned also involve the negation of

undesirable influences and/or the expression of wondrous

spiritual forces, but by directing our attention to Pharaoh's

role in sending forth the Jews, the name Beshallach

4. Keilim 2:1.

5. Leviticus 26:6.

6. Toras Kohanim on the above verse.

7. Isaiah 11:6.

8. Ibid.:8.

9. For an explanation of this and the concepts to follow, see Likkutei Sichos, Vol.

VI, p. 18ff, and the sources mentioned there.

10. This was indeed only a foretaste, for the transformation of Pharaoh was not

fully complete at the time of the exodus. Shortly afterwards, he experienced

yet another change of heart and pursued the Jewish people.


96 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

underscores the message that even the most perverse

elements of existence can generate positive influences. 11

Looking Beyond Exile

A question, nevertheless, remains unresolved: Why was

it necessary for Pharaoh to send the Jews out of Egypt Why

weren't we eager to leave

One might say that we had no reason to hurry. After the

initial plagues — more than six months before the Exodus

— the enslavement of the Jewish people had ended. 12 The

Jews were living in the most select portion of a rich land ,13

and the Egyptians were ready to give them anything they

wanted. 14

Moreover, they also had spiritual sustenance, for

our Sages relate 15

that yeshivos functioned throughout the

Egyptian exile. Why then should we have desired to leave

Egypt What did we have to gain

Our Sages state that all the people who did not want to

leave died in the plague of darkness. 16

All the Jews who

remained wanted to leave. They realized that living in exile

— even amidst security and prosperity — is not a Jew's

purpose.

Why then did Pharaoh have to force us to go

11. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, p. 33ff and other sources which offer a similar

explanation in interpreting the reason the Alter Rebbe (Shulchan Aruch

HaRav, ch. 430) gives for the observance of Shabbos HaGadol ("the Great

Shabbos," the Shabbos preceding Pesach). The Alter Rebbe states that this

Shabbos commemorates the miracle of the Egyptians' firstborn rebelling

against Pharaoh and demanding that he release the Jews. What was so great

about this miracle The transformation of darkness to light it represents, that

the Egyptians themselves demanded the Jews' release.

12. Rosh HaShanah 11:1.

13. Genesis 47:6.

14. Exodus 12:35-36. See also Rashi's commentary.

15. Yoma 28b.

16. Mechilta, quoted by Rashi, Exodus 13:18; see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, p. 1

footnote 10 and sources cited there.


BESHALLACH 97

To Evoke a Higher Will

This question can be resolved on the basis of a parallel

concept: G-d had promised Moshe that He would give the

Jews the Torah, as it is written: 17

"After you lead the people

out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain." The Jews

rejoiced in this promise, and eagerly counted the days until

it would be fulfilled. 18

When they reached Mount Sinai, they

camped in a spirit of oneness. 19

And yet we find, that "G-d

held Mt. Sinai over them," 20

apparently compelling them to

receive His Torah. If we were so eager, why was this

necessary

The point is that there are levels of desire. G-d wanted

the Jews to accept the Torah with a total commitment, with

feelings so powerful that it was as if our lives depended on

it. We were not capable of summoning up this level of

commitment on our own, so G-d compelled us to reach this

peak through external means.

Similarly, with regard to the Exodus, G-d wanted the

Jews to desire freedom with a deeper-than-ordinary will.

Therefore He brought about circumstances that awakened

profound and encompassing commitment.

Gentle Force

Beshallach is also a lesson in our relations with others.

Every Jew possesses an inner desire to follow the Torah and

its mitzvos. 21

Nevertheless, for this desire to manifest itself

17. Exodus 3:12.

18. The commemoration of their counting is one of the reasons given for the

mitzvah of Counting the Omer. Rabbeinu Nissim, end of Pesachim.

19. Rashi and Mechilta, commenting on Exodus 19:2.

20. Shabbos 88a. See Torah Or, maamar Chayav Inesh Livsumei, sec. 4, and the

maamar Vikibeil HaYehudim, 5687, sec. 2 which explain that our Sages were

employing an analogy. The Jews witnessed Divine revelations so powerful

that they had no choice but to receive the Torah; it was as if a tub was held

over their head.

21. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Gerushin 2:20.


98 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

in deed, a friend is often needed to gently lead one to a

deeper level of will.

This concept is connected to the Redemption. For one of

the qualities Mashiach will manifest is an ability "to compel

all Israel to strengthen their Torah observance." 22

Why compulsion Because Mashiach will awaken a level

of soul that will motivate each of us to a commitment that

surpasses our individual will. We will feel that something

beyond ourselves is pushing us forward, and propelling us

to positive efforts.

The manifestation of this commitment will in turn enable

Mashiach to fulfill his mission: 22

fight[ing] the wars of G-d...

and succeeding], build[ing] the [Beis Ha]Mikdash on its

site, and gather[ing] in the dispersed remnant of Israel."

May this take place in the immediate future.

22. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 11:4.


YISRO 99

Yisro

njr

Ripples of

inner Movement

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, p. 74ff; Vol. XV, p. 379ff;

Vol. XVI, p. 198; Sichos Shabbos Pashas Yisro, 5751

Yisro's identity

Few of the weekly Torah readings are named after indi¬

viduals, so whenever such an association is made, it com¬

mands special attention. And if this is true with regard to

other Torah readings, it surely applies to Parshas Yisro, the

story of the giving of the Torah. Naming the reading Yisro

indicates a connection between him and the event.


100 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Who was Yisro The Torah describes 1

him as the kohen

of Midian. Our Sages offer two definitions for the word

kohen: 2

a) "Ruler." Yisro governed the land of Midian.

b) "Priest." He led the Midianites in their worship.

Indeed, our Sages relate 3

that Yisro had recognized all the

false divinities in the world.

The connection between the first interpretation and the

giving of the Torah is obvious, for it reflects the extent of

Yisro's commitment. Although he lived amidst wealth and

comfort, he was prepared to journey into the desert to hear

the words of the Torah. 4

But the second interpretation is

problematic. Our Sages teach 5

that it is forbidden to tell a

convert: "Remember your previous deeds."

Recognizing Deities, Acknowledging G-d

To resolve this question, it is necessary to understand

the source of idol worship. The Rambam writes: 6

During the time of Enosh, mankind made a great

error They said that G-d created stars and spheres

with which to control the world. He placed them on

high and treated them with honor Accordingly, it

is fit [for man] to praise and glorify [these entities],

and to treat them with honor.

Thus the worship of false divinities is rooted in a mis¬

understanding of the fact that G-d influences this world

through intermediaries.

1. Exodus 18:1.

2. See the Mechilta to this verse.

3. Mechilta to Exodus 18:11; Zohar, Vol. II, p. 69a; Rashi, Exodus 18:9.

4. Rashi, Exodus 18:5.

5. See Bava Metzia 58:13, quoted in Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Mechirah 14:13.

6. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 1:1.


YISRO 101

Our Sages comment: 7

"There is not a blade of grass on

this [material] plane that does not have a spiritual force

compelling it to grow." Idol worshippers, however, attach

independent authority to these intermediaries, thinking

they have control over the influence they disperse. In truth,

these "gods" are merely "an ax in the hand of a chopper," 8

with no importance or will of their own, and therefore it is

wrong — and forbidden — to worship them. 9

By saying Yisro had recognized all the false deities in

the world, our Sages implied that he was aware of all the

different media through which G-d channels energy to the

world. Despite his knowledge of these spiritual powers, he

rejected their worship, declaring: 10

"Blessed be G-d.... Now I

know that G-d is greater than all the deities."

The Microcosm Encouraging the Macrocosm

Yisro's acknowledgment of G-d was not merely a per¬

sonal matter. His words of praise brought about "the reve¬

lation of G-d in His glory in the higher and lower realms.

Afterwards, He gave the Torah, in perfect [confirmation of]

His dominion over all existence." 11

Yisro's individual acknowledgment of G-d expressed the

purpose of the giving of the Torah. This prepared the

macrocosm, the world at large, for such a revelation.

To explain: The Rambam states: 12

"The Torah was given

solely to create peace within the world." Yet peace is not

7. Bereishis Rabbah 10:6, Zohar, Vol. I, p. 251a.

8. Cf. Isaiah 10:15. See the maamar VeYadaata 5657 (English translation, Kehot,

1993) where this concept is explained at length.

9. See the fifth of the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith (Commentary to the

Mishnah, Introduction to the Tenth Chapter of Sanhedrin).

10. Exodus 18:10-11.

11. Zohar, Vol. II, p. 67b.

12. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, the conclusion of Hilchos Chanukah. The Rambam's

source is a matter of question. The Tzemach Tzedek (Or HaTorah, Mishlei, p.

553) cites Gittin 59b. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VIII, p. 349ff.


102 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

the purpose for the Torah's existence; the Torah existed

before the creation of the world. 13 It is G-d's wisdom, 14 at

one with Him. 15

Thus just as G-d transcends the concept of purpose, so

too does the Torah. The Rambam, however, focuses, not on

the purpose of the Torah itself, but on that of the giving of

the Torah — why the Torah was granted to mortals. He

explains that the Torah was given, not merely to spread

Divine light, but to cultivate peace.

When the Twains Meet

Peace refers to harmony between opposites. In an

ultimate sense, it refers to a resolution of the dichotomy

between the physical and the spiritual, the forward move¬

ment enabling a world in which G-d's presence is not out¬

wardly evident to recognize and be permeated by the truth

of His Being.

On the verse: 16

"The heavens are the heavens of G-d, but

the earth He gave to the children of man," our Sages

explain 17

that originally, there was a Divine decree separat¬

ing the physical from the spiritual, i.e., the nature of mate¬

rial existence prevented one from truly appreciating spiri¬

tual reality .18

At the time of the giving of the Torah, how¬

ever, G-d "nullified this decree" and allowed for unity to be

established between the two.

Moreover, true peace involves more than the mere

negation of opposition. The intent is that forces which were

previously at odds should recognize a common ground and

13. Midrash Tehillim 90:4, Bereishis Rabbah 88:2.

14. Tanya, ch. 3.

15. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 24a.

16. Psalms 115:16.

17. Shmos Rabbah 12:3. See the essay entitled What Happened at Sinai (Timeless

Patterns in Time, Vol. II, p. 91ff, Kehot, 1994) which elaborates on this concept.

‏,עולם 37d) 18. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "world." (Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar

shares the same root as the word ‏,העלם meaning "concealment."


YISRO 103

join together in positive activity. Similarly, the peace which

the Torah fosters does not merely involve a revelation of

G-dliness so great that the material world is forced to

acknowledge it. Instead, the Torah's intent is to bring about

an awareness of G-d within the context of the world itself.

There is G-dliness in every element of existence. At

every moment Creation is being renewed; were G-d's crea¬

tive energy to be lacking, the world would return to abso¬

lute nothingness. 19

The Torah allows us to appreciate this

inner G-dliness, and enables us to live in harmony with it.

In a personal sense, Yisro's acknowledgment of G-d's

supremacy accomplished this objective. From his

involvement with "all the false deities in the world," he

came to a deep recognition of G-d's sovereignty. 20

The

transformation of Yisro made possible the giving of the

Torah, which in turn transforms the world.

From Darkness to Light

The Zohar 21

associates the transformation of material

existence with the verse: 22

"I saw an advantage to the light

over the darkness." The word Yisaron, ‏,יתרון)‏ sharing the

same root as the name Yisro, ‏(יתרו translated as

"advantage," can also be rendered as "higher quality." Thus

the verse can be interpreted to indicate that light which

comes from the transformation of darkness possesses a

higher quality.

19. Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1.

20. Yisro willingly acknowledged G-d's presence and endeavored to modify his

life to conform with this appreciation. Other nations were also awed by the

miracles of the Red Sea and recognized G-d's power, as it is written (Exodus

15:14-16): "Nations heard and shuddered.... The [inhabitants of] Canaan

melted away. Fear and dread fell upon them." Unlike Yisro, however, they did

not reflect this appreciation of G-d in their conduct.

21. Zohar, Vol. III, p. 47b.

22. Ecclesiastes 2:17.


104 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

There are two implications to this. Firstly, that the

transformation of darkness results in a higher quality of

light than would otherwise be revealed, and secondly, that

this higher light does not stand in opposition to the material

world. On the contrary, the darkness of the world is its

source.

The Path to Redemption

The Tanya 23

describes the giving of the Torah as a fore¬

taste of the Era of the Redemption. For when the Torah was

given, all existence stood in a state of absolute oneness with

G-d.

At the time of the giving of the Torah, however, the

revelation was dependent on G-d's initiative. Since the

world had not yet been refined, its nature stood in opposi¬

tion to the manifestation of G-dliness, and so the miraculous

revelation did not endure. In the centuries that followed,

however, mankind's observance of the Torah and its

mitzvos has slowly woven G-dliness into the fabric of the

world. In the Era of the Redemption, the dichotomy will be

permanently dissolved, and we will realize that our world is

G-d's dwelling. 24

23. Ch. 36.

24. Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.


MISHPATIM 105

Mishpatim

trypan

Likkutei

After Sinai;

Making the Torah

a Part of Ourselves

Adapted

from

Sichos, Vol. III, p. 896ff; Vol. XVI, p. 242ff;

Sefer HaSichos

5749, p. 243ff.

When the World Stood Still

When G-d gave the Torah, "There was thunder and

lightning, and a heavy cloud on the mountain Mount Sinai

was all asmoke... the entire mountain trembled violently." 1

"And all the people saw the sounds, the flames, the blast of

the ram's horn, and the mountain smoking. And the people

trembled, standing far off." 2

1. Exodus 19:16-18.

2. Ibid. 20:15.


106 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Far more intense than these physical phenomena was

the power of G-d's voice. And so, upon hearing the Ten

Commandments, the people's "souls took flight." 3

More¬

over, the effects of this revelation reverberated throughout

the world: "No bird chirped... , nor did an ox bellow, nor did

the sea roar." 4

Silence reigned while G-d spoke.

After describing such an all-encompassing experience,

one might think the Torah would continue with a discussion

of matters that reflect such self-transcendence. Instead, the

Torah continues: 5

"And these are the judgments."

What is the difficulty Our Rabbis 6

divide the mitzvos

into three general categories:

a) Mishpatim (lit., "judgments"): those mitzvos which are

also dictated by reason, such as the prohibitions against

‏,ח״ו given, theft and murder. Even if the Torah had not been

we would probably have instituted laws of this nature. 7

b) Eidus (lit., "testimonials"): commemorative mitzvos,

e.g., observing the Shabbos or eating matzah on Pesach,

which enable us to relive the events of history, and more

easily grasp their spiritual significance.

c) Chukim (lit., "decrees"): mitzvos that are superrational,

that are "a decree from Me, [which] you have no

permission to question." 8

Presumably, the Giving of the Torah should have been

followed by chukim, for their superrational nature reflects

3. Shabbos 88b.

4. Shmos Rabbah 29:9.

5. Exodus 21:1.

6. See the Ramban on Deuteronomy 6:20, SeferHaMaamarrim 5700, p. 51ff.

7. Cf. Yoma 67b.

8. Rashi to Numbers 19:2;cf. Yoma 67b, Midrash Tanchuma, Chukas, sec. 7.

Seemingly, our Rabbis should have said "you have no permission to disobey."

By stating "you have no permission to question," they implied that the

devotion to G-d's will expressed by chukim must be internalized to the point

where not only is the mitzvah observed, but it is fulfilled with unquestioning

obedience.


MISHPATIM 107

the spiritual feelings aroused at Mount Sinai. Why instead

does the Torah continue with laws that could (seemingly)

be postulated by reason, parallels to which exist in all civi¬

lized society

To Advance, Not to Withdraw

This question can be resolved based on a point of

Hebrew grammar. Rashi states: 9

Whenever [the Torah] uses the term אלה ("These

are"), it negates what was mentioned previously.

Whenever it uses the term ואלה ("And these are"), it

adds to what was mentioned previously. Just as

those mentioned first (the Ten Commandments)

[were revealed] at Sinai, so too, these (the laws of

Parshas Mishpatim) [were revealed] at Sinai.

Rashi is emphasizing that the judgments which are the

subject of our Torah reading are not a departure from the

revelation of Mount Sinai, but an outgrowth of it. The Torah

is more than transcendent spirituality. On the contrary, the

main thrust of the Giving of the Torah is the clothing of

G-d's will and wisdom in concepts which mortals can

understand. 10 When a person studies Torah, he is

comprehending G-dliness, and joining his mind with G-d's.

For intellectual comprehension involves the establishment

of a bond between one's mind and the concept under con¬

sideration. Indeed, such a bond is most completely estab¬

lished in the study of those dimensions of the Torah which

9. Rashi, Exodus 21:1, based on Shmos Rabbah 30:3, and the Mechilta to this

verse.

10. The fact that the Torah speaks of entities on the material plane does not

diminish its G-dly core. To borrow an analogy from Tanya, ch. 4, it is like

embracing a king who is wearing garments. It doesn't matter how many

garments the king is wearing; what is significant is being in the king's

embrace.


108 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

relate to worldly matters, for these are ideas which human

intellect can thoroughly comprehend .11

Fulfilling G-d's Purpose

The giving of the Torah completes the purpose of crea¬

tion. G-d brought all existence into being because He

desired a dwelling place in the lower worlds. 12 The objective

of creation is thus not the revelation of G-d's transcendent

power, but rather that worldly entities as they exist be

permeated by the truth of His Being.

This is accomplished through the mishpatim of the

Torah. For they communicate G-dliness in relation to the

everyday lives of mortals. 13

The comprehension of these

laws brings G-dliness into each person's mind, making it a

"dwelling for G-d." And the application of these laws creates

a society that enables man to achieve spiritual goals in

peace, and to satisfy material needs in righteousness —

establishing a "dwelling for G-d" in the most complete

sense.

Back to Sinai

Parshas Mishpatim concludes with a description of some

of the details of the giving of the Torah, 14

including the

11. See Tanya, Kuntres Acharon, Epistle 4.

12. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.

13. Although mishpatim express the purpose of the Giving of the Torah, the

Torah first highlights the transcendent revelations described in Parshas Yisro.

This is necessary, for it must be clear that the intellectual content of

Mishpatim is not merely human reason, but rather an expression of G-d's

infinity. After the transcendent dimension of the Torah is underscored, it is

possible to clarify that G-d's absolute infinity extends into the realm of the

finite, and becomes manifest in the wisdom of Torah law.

14. Although this portion of the Torah reading took place previously (according

to Rashi), it is mentioned at the reading's conclusion because the Torah does

not always follow a chronological order Pesachim 6b; Rashi, Shmos 19:11.

Were the narratives in the Torah merely historical chronicles, it would be

preferable for the sequence to be kept. The fact that this sequence is from


MISHPATIM 109

declaration naaseh venishmah ("We will do, and we will

listen"), which represents the ultimate declaration of faith.

Even before one has been told what to do, one promises to

obey.

This complements the lesson of Mishpatim. 15

After a

person has been able to internalize G-dliness through the

systematic study and application of the Torah's laws, he is

fit to experience dimensions of G-dliness which transcend

human comprehension — the heart of the Sinai experience.

The study and practice of mishpatim refine the

believer's personality, making it possible for the infinite

dimension of the Torah to erase any dichotomy that might

exist between his self and his faith.

Knowing, and Not Knowing

The above allows for an extended interpretation of a

famous statement of our Rabbis: 16

"The ultimate of knowl¬

edge is not to know You." The simple meaning of this

statement is that a person should realize the limits of his

intellect, and therefore understand that knowing G-d is

impossible, for He transcends all limits. There is, however,

an allusion to the concept that when a person has fully

developed his mind, he appreciates that even the concepts

which he knows possess an inner dimension which tran¬

scends intellect. 17

And going further, one can infer dimentime

to time transposed indicates that the fundamental purpose is to teach

lessons pertaining to Divine service.

15. This explanation enables us to understand why the name Mishpatim applies

to the entire Torah reading, including its conclusion. Similarly, it can be

explained that the passages of the reading that describe the festivals also

relate to the name Mishpatim, for the thorough comprehension of Torah law

evokes feelings of happiness, and that is the essence of the festivals.

16. Bechinos Olam, sec. 8, ch. 2; Ikarim, Discourse II, ch. 30; Shaloh 191b.

17. To state this in the context of our Torah reading: even the mishpatim are

expressions of G-d's infinity.


110 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

sions of G-d that are infinite, internalizing this knowledge to

the point that it shapes our personalities. 18

Knowledge of G-d in this manner anticipates — and

precipitates — the coming of the Redemption, the era when

"A man will no longer teach his friend... , for all will know Me,

from the small to the great." 19

18.

19.

In the context of the Torah reading, the study and the practice of mishpatim

lead to an internalized appreciation of the experience at Sinai.

Jeremiah 31:33.


TERUMAH 111

Terumah

‏,רומה

A Dwelling

Among Mortals

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 902;

Vol. XVI, p. 286ff; Vol. XXI, p. 146ff

A Contradiction in Terms

When dedicating the Beis HaMikdash, King Shlomo

exclaimed in wonderment: 1

"Will G-d indeed dwell on this

earth The heavens and the celestial heights cannot contain

You, how much less this house!" For the Beis HaMikdash

was not merely a centralized location for man's worship of

G-d, it was a place where G-d's Presence was — and is 2 —

1. I Kings 8:27.

2. For even in the present age, when the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, G-d's

Presence rests upon its site. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Beis

HaBechirah 6:16.


112 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

manifest. 3 Although "the entire earth is full of His glory," 4

G-d's Presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all

existence, but in a hidden way. 5

The Beis HaMikdash, by

contrast, was "the place where He chose to cause His name

to dwell." 6

There was no concealment; His Presence was

openly manifest.

This seems impossible; there is no apparent way that

spirituality can be openly manifest in our material world.

For material existence to come into being, G-d condensed

and contracted His light and life-energy so that it could

become enclothed in material entities. This is absolutely

necessary; were G-dly light to be revealed without restraint,

it would nullify all matter.

To allow for our world to continue in a stable manner,

G-d structured this process of self-containment with laws

and principles as binding as those governing nature. He

brought into being an entire framework of spiritual worlds

whose purpose is to convey Divine energy from level to

level until it undergoes the degree of contraction necessary

to be enclothed in material form. An open revelation of

G-dliness runs contrary to this entire pattern, defying the

limits which He Himself established.

Nevertheless, although G-d limited the extent of His

revelation when structuring the world, He did not limit

Himself. He created a world with set bounds, but He Himself

is not bound by them, and can alter them at will. He can

invest His Presence in our material realm, and did so in the

Sanctuary and in the Beis HaMikdash.

3. See the essay entitled, "G-d's Chosen House" in Seek Out the Welfare of

Jerusalem (S.I.E., N.Y., 1994), where these concepts are explained.

4. Isaiah 6:3.

5. In human terms, concealment means that one object is obscured by another.

With regard to G-d, there is nothing which can conceal Him. Instead, His

concealment is a willful act on His part. See the maamar Adam Ki Yakriv in the

series of discourses entitled, Yom Tov Shel Rosh HaShanah, 5666.

6. Deuteronomy 12:11.


TERUMAH 113

in G-d's inner Chamber

The Divine Presence was revealed in the Holy of Holies,

where an ongoing miracle reflected the nature of the revela¬

tion in the Beis HaMikdash. The width of the Holy of Holies

was 20 cubits. The Ark of the Covenant, positioned

lengthwise in the chamber, was two and one half cubits

long, yet there were ten cubits from either edge of the ark to

the wall. In other words, the physical ark occupied no

space! 7

In the Beis HaMikdash, precise measurement was a

necessity. Even a slight deviation from the required

dimensions would render an article or building invalid. The

fact that the place of the ark transcended the limits of space

thus represents a fusion of finiteness and infinity. This

communicates the nature of G-d's Being. He transcends

both finiteness and infinity, and yet manifests Himself in

both. 8

This is the Torah's intent when speaking of G-d

"choos[ing] a place for His name to dwell": the physical

limits of our world will not be negated, yet the spiritual will

be revealed. And this fusion of opposites will enable us to

become conscious of His essence, which transcends — and

encompasses — both the physical and the spiritual.

What Man Contributes

G-d did not want this revelation to be dependent on His

influence alone. As reflected in the verse: 9

"And you shall

make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within," He chose to

make the revelation of His Presence dependent on man's

activity. Since any revelation of G-d's Presence transcends

7. Yoma 21a.

8. See the essay entitled, "A Dwelling Place for G-d in Our World" in Seek Out the

Welfare of Jerusalem (S.I.E., N.Y. 1994), which elaborates on this concept.

9. Exodus 25:8.


114 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

the limits of our existence, the initiative must come from

Him. Nevertheless, "G-d did not have His Presence rest upon

Israel until they performed labor" 10 — building the

Sanctuary where His Presence would dwell.

Why was man's activity necessary Because G-d's intent

is that the revelation of His Presence be internalized within

the world, becoming part of the fabric of its existence. Were

the revelation to come only from above, it would merely

nullify worldliness. To cite a parallel: when G-d revealed

Himself on Mount Sinai, the world ground to a standstill.

"No bird chirped... nor did an ox bellow, nor the sea roar." 11

Although G-dliness was revealed within the world, material

existence did not play a contributory role.

When, by contrast, the dwelling for G-d is built by man

— himself part of the material world — the nature of the

materials used is elevated. This enables G-d's Presence to

be revealed within these entities while they continue to

exist within their own context.

When a revelation of G-dliness comes from above, it is

dependent on His influence, and is therefore temporary. For

example, when G-d descended on Mount Sinai, the mountain

became holy and therefore, "all that ascend the mountain

must die." 12

When, however, G-d's Presence was withdrawn

from the mountain, the Jews were allowed to ascend it, 13 for

the fundamental nature of the mountain had not changed; it

remained an ordinary mountain.

With regard to the Sanctuary — and to a greater extent

the Beis HaMikdash — holiness became a permanent part of

their own being. And thus on the verse: 14

"I will lay waste to

your Sanctuaries," our Sages commented: 15

"Even though

10. Avos d'Rabbi Nosson, ch. 11.

11. Shmos Rabbah 29:9.

12. Exodus 19:12.

13. Ibid.:13.

14. Leviticus 26:31.

15. Megillah 28a.


TERUMAH 115

they have been devastated, their sanctity remains." And

therefore, it is forbidden to ascend to the site of the Beis

HaMikdash in the present age. 2

Two Phases

The above concepts are highlighted by the name of the

Torah reading. Terumah, 16 meaning "lifting up" 17 or

"separation," 18

puts the focus on man's attempts to estab¬

lish a dwelling for G-d. The Torah proceeds to state 19

that

this terumah must involve 13 different articles: 20

gold, silver,

brass This indicates that man's task is to incorporate the

various elements of worldly existence into G-d's dwelling. 21

More particularly, the double interpretation of the name

Terumah reflects two factors necessary in creating a

dwelling for G-d. First, a person must designate his gift,

separating it from his other worldly property. And then

through its consecration, its nature becomes elevated

above the ordinary material plane. 22

16. The choice of the word Terumah as the name of the Torah reading is signifi¬

cant because it is further from the beginning of the reading than most of the

other names chosen.

17. Zohar, Vol. II, p. 147a.

18. Rashi, Targum Onkelos, and others commenting on the opening verse of the

Torah reading.

19. Exodus 25:3-7.

20. This follows the interpretation of Rashi (Exodus 25:2). Rabbeinu Bachaye and

others reckon 15 items donated for the Sanctuary.

21. These concepts indicate a sequence to the readings of Yisro, Mishpatim, and

Terumah. Yisro focuses on the Giving of the Torah, when the division between

the physical and the spiritual was nullified. Mishpatim reflects the extension

of the bond between the spiritual and the physical into human reason.

Moreover, it provides us with guidelines for living spiritually within the

material world. With the command for the construction of the Sanctuary,

Terumah represents the consummation of the process, the transformation of

material existence into a dwelling for G-d.

22. This concept has halachic ramifications. Once an object is consecrated, it can

no longer be used for mundane purposes. The concept of elevation that

results from the transfer of an article to the Sanctuary is reflected in

Genesis 23:20 which states: "And Efron's field in Machpelah ascended to

Avraham." Rashi explains that the word "ascended" is used because through


116 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

These two phases relate to the two services mentioned

in the verse, 23

"turn away from evil and do good." When a

person prepares a dwelling for a king, he must first clean it.

Afterwards, he brings in attractive articles. 24

Similarly, to

make our world a dwelling for G-d, "separation" is necessary

to purge the self-orientation encouraged by worldly

existence. Only then is the world "elevated," becoming a

medium to draw down G-d's light.

Not an island

The Beis HaMikdash was not intended to be an isolated

corner of holiness. Instead, its windows were designed to

spread light outward. 25

For the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash

was intended to illuminate the world.

The most complete expression of this concept will come

in the Era of the Redemption. 26

From "the mountain of G-d's

house" 27

will spread forth light and holiness, motivating all

people to learn G-d's ways and "walk in His paths." 28

These revelations are dependent on our efforts to en¬

courage the manifestation of the Divine Presence. Making

our homes and our surroundings "sanctuaries in microcosm"

29

will cause G-d to reveal His Presence in the world.

the transfer the field became elevated, departing from the ownership of an

ordinary person and entering Avraham's possession.

23. Psalms 34:15.

24. Likkutei Torah, Balak 70c.

25. Menachos 86b, Vayikra Rabbah 31:7. See the essay entitled "The Design of the

Menorah" in Seek Out the Welfare of Jerusalem, where this concept is

explained.

26. See the maamar entitled Gadol Yiheyeh Kavod HaBayis HaZeh in Anticipating

the Redemption (S.I.E., N.Y., 1994).

27. Isaiah 2:2.

28 Ibid.:3.

29. Yechezkel 11:6; see the essay of this title in Sound the Great Shofar (Kehot,

N.Y., 1992).


TETZAVEH 117

Tetzaveh

‏,‏‎5‎יוה

A Paradigm

Of Leadership

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 34ff;

Vol. XVI p. 204ff; Vol. XXI, p. 173ff;

Sefer Maamarim Melukat, Vol. VI, p. 129ff

A Leader's Commitment

Leadership involves self-sacrifice. Everyone understands

that to receive you have to give, but true leadership is

above this type of barter. A genuine leader rises above selfconcern

entirely. He identifies totally with his people and

their purpose, and is willing to give up everything for them.

Moshe Rabbeinu epitomized this type of leadership.

When G-d told him that He would destroy the Jewish people

because of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe responded: 1

"If

1. Exodus 32:32.


118 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

You would, forgive their sin. And if not, please obliterate me

from the book You have written."

By making this statement, Moshe offered to sacrifice

more than his life; he was willing to give up even his soul.

"The book You have written" refers to the entire Torah. 2

Although Moshe is identified with the Torah, 3

"he dedicated

his soul for it," 4

he was, nevertheless, willing to sacrifice his

connection with the Torah for the sake of Jewish people.

Why Because Moshe is one with the Jewish people.

"Moshe is Israel, and Israel is Moshe." 5

However deep his

connection with the Torah, Moshe's connection with the

Jewish people was deeper. 6

This bond connects Moshe to every single Jew, regard¬

less of his level of Divine service. 7

For whom was Moshe

willing to sacrifice everything For all the Jews, including

those who had been party to the worship of the Golden Calf.

Regardless of what they had done, Moshe's commitment to

them remained unchanged. Since that connection stemmed

from the essence of his being — and touched the essence of

their being — their conduct, however far removed from the

spirit of Moshe's teachings, could not sever the bond

between them.

2. Rashi on the above verse, Shmos Rabbah 47:9.

3. Cf. Malachi 3:22.

4. Mechilta commenting on Exodus 15:1; Shmos Rabbah 30:4.

5. Rashi, Numbers 21:21.

6. This approach has its source in a more encompassing motif. Our Sages state

(Rus Rabbah 1:4, Tana d'Bei Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 14): "The righteous resemble

their Creator." G-d invests Himself in the Torah, and thus the word Anochi

the first word of the Ten Commandments, serves as an acronym for the ‏,(אנכי)‏

Aramaic phrase נפשי כתבית יהבית ‏,אנא "I wrote down and gave over Myself"

(Shabbos 105a)]. And yet G-d's bond with the Jewish people is deeper — they

are considered His firstborn (Exodus 4:22) as it were. Thus "Israel comes

before the Torah" (Bereishis Rabbah 1:4, Tana d'Bei Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 14).

For this reason, even when the Jewish people sin, G-d is willing to overlook

their transgressions. See also Timeless Patterns in Time (Kehot, N.Y., 1993),

Vol. I, p. 49ff).

7. Although Moshe and "the extensions of Moshe" who lead the Jews in every

generation share a bond with every Jew, special closeness is reserved for

those who nurture their bond with the "Moshe" of their age.


TETZAVEH 119

Three Prototypes of Righteous Conduct

Our Sages compare three righteous men: 8

Noach,

Avraham, and Moshe. Noach was himself totally righteous,

but showed little concern for the people around him. He

spent 120 years building an ark to arouse the people's

curiosity, and would tell them of the need to repent if they

asked. 9

But nothing more. He didn't seek to influence his

neighbors to change their conduct, nor did he pray that G-d

avert the coming of the Flood. 10

Avraham, by contrast, sought to improve the people

among whom he lived. On the verse: 11

"He proclaimed there

the name of G-d, eternal L-rd," our Sages comment: 12

"Do not

read vayikra — 'he proclaimed,' but vayakri — 'he made

others proclaim.' " Avraham publicized G-d's presence and

motivated others to call on Him. Moreover, when G-d told

Avraham that He was going to destroy Sodom, Avraham

prayed for the city, even challenging G-d: 13

"Will You wipe

out the righteous and the wicked... It would be sacrilege for

You... to kill the righteous with the wicked Shall not the

whole world's Judge act justly"

Moshe, however, showed an even more encompassing

commitment. Avraham's prayer was for "the righteous."

Moshe, by contrast, prayed for the Jews after the worship of

the Golden Calf. As leader of his people, his commitment

extended to every Jew, even to those whose conduct stood

in direct opposition to his own values. It was for the sake of

these people that Moshe asked G-d to relent: "If not, please

obliterate me from the book."

8. Zohar I, 67b; See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 40 and sources cited there.

9. Aggadas Bereishis 1:2.

10. And therefore the Flood is referred to as "the waters of Noach" (Isaiah 54:9),

indicting him for his failure to influence the people of his age.

11. Genesis 13:4.

12. Sotah 10b.

13. Genesis 18:23-25.


120 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Deeper than a Name

Our Sages state: 14

"A curse uttered by a wise man, even

when conditional, becomes manifest." On that basis, our

Rabbis explain 15

that even though G-d accepted Moshe's

prayer for the Jews, the malediction he pronounced on

himself had an effect. Moshe's name is mentioned in every

Torah reading from Parshas Shmos (which describes his

birth) until the Book of Deuteronomy which conveys his

farewell addresses with one exception: Parshas Tetzaveh. In

this reading, Moshe's name — in keeping with his request —

was stricken out.

This does not, however, mean that Moshe is not asso¬

ciated with Parshas Tetzaveh. On the contrary, a name

reflects merely that dimension of a person which relates to

others. The essence of a person, who he really is, is above

his name. Parshas Tetzaveh does not mention Moshe's

name, but communicates an aspect of his being which

cannot be expressed in a name.

Moshe's self-sacrifice for the Jewish people stemmed

from the essence of his being. It is this fact which Parshas

Tetzaveh brings to our attention.

interrelated Bonds

These concepts are reflected in the opening phrase of

the Torah reading: 16

VeAtah tetzaveh es bnai Yisrael, "And

you shall command the children of Israel." Tetzaveh, trans¬

lated as "command," relates to the word tzavsa, which

means "connection." The verse charges "you," the very

essence of Moshe, 17

to connect with every Jew.

14. Makkos 11a.

15. Baal HaTurim on the opening verse of Parshas Tetzaveh; Zohar Chodash, Shir

HaShirim; Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 32:32; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 674ff.

16. Exodus 27:20.

17. Kli Yakar on the above verse. The word tetzaveh itself alludes to Moshe's

essence, which is above his name. Tetzaveh ‏(תצוה)‏ is numerically equivalent


TETZAVEH 121

The connection displayed by Moshe echoes within the

Jews themselves, joining our entire people — even those on

the lowest levels — together as one entity. Simultaneously,

our connection with Moshe links the Jewish people to the

Or Ein Sof, G-d's infinite light. 18

Moshe serves as a "shepherd

of faith," 19

sustaining and nurturing the Jewish people's faith

in G-d by prompting the expression of the essential bond we

share with Him. 20

The two descriptions of the bonds evoked by Moshe are

interrelated. By revealing the G-dly potential which every

Jew possesses, Moshe established bonds among the Jewish

people. For it is only by highlighting a shared spiritual

resource that true unity can be established. 21

So that an Eternal Light Will Shine

The above concepts relate not only to the name, but

also to the content of the Torah reading. Although the

reading focuses on the priesthood and Aharon's service,

Moshe's influence was necessary to lift Aharon's service to

a level it could not reach on its own.

to 501. With regard to the number 500, our Sages state (Koheles Rabbah, ch. 7,

1:2): "[G-d] traveled a distance of 500 years to acquire a name." Thus 501

refers to the essence which transcends the name.

18. This concept is explained in the maamar, VeAtah Tetzaveh, 5679 (Sefer

Maamarim, 5679, p. 254) and in other sources. The Previous Rebbe's maamar,

VeKibeil HaYehudim, 5687 (ch. 4), mentions a similar but not identical

concept. In that maamar, the Previous Rebbe does not, however, mention

that Moshe connects the Jews with the Or Ein Sof.

19. We find the Hebrew original of this term רועה נאמן in the Pesichta to Eichah

Rabbah, sec. 24. The Aramaic version of the term, also alluding to Moshe

Rabbeinu, serves as the title of one part of the Zohar. See also Torah Or, Ki

Sissa 111a.

20. In the Previous Rebbe's maamar, VeKibeil HaYehudim, 5687, the emphasis on

Moshe's efforts as a "shepherd of faith" is on his infusing the Jewish people

with knowledge that allows them to bridge the dichotomy between their G-dly

potential and their conscious thoughts. This activity, however, is possible

only because Moshe sparked the expression of the essence of the Jewish soul.

21. See Tanya, ch. 32.


122 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

This is reflected in the continuation of the charge to

Moshe: 22

"And they shall bring you clear olive oil, crushed

for the lamp." One might ask: why should the oil be brought

to Moshe It was Aharon who kindled the menorah.

The answer is found in the continuation of the verse, "to

raise an eternal light." Aharon has the potential to kindle

Divine service and inspire people with light and warmth, but

for the flame to burn as "an eternal light," "from evening

until morning," 23

Moshe's influence is necessary. For it is

Moshe that enables every Jew to tap his innermost spiritual

resources and maintain a constant commitment.

For similar reasons, as the Torah reading continues to

relate, the investiture of Aharon and his sons was per¬

formed by Moshe. For the seven days of the initiation of the

altar, Moshe served as a priest. His service set the standard

for Aharon's subsequent efforts. 24

The Agent of Redemption

With regard to Moshe, our Sages state: 25

"He is the first

redeemer, and will be the ultimate redeemer." Redemption

is the natural result of the arousal of the essential connec¬

tion of man to G-d and man to man. Our Sages explain 26

that

the redemption from Egypt could have been the ultimate

redemption. Had the Jews' sins not prevented Moshe from

leading the people directly into Eretz Yisrael, there never

would have been another exile. 27

22. Exodus, loc. cit.

23. Ibid.:21.

24. A connection to Moshe's service is also seen in another subject mentioned in

this reading: the incense altar. Ketores, Hebrew for "incense" shares the same

root as ketar, Aramaic for "bond." The ketores offering was intended, in a way

similar to Moshe's influence, to intensify the inner bond which all mankind,

even the wicked (see Kerisos 6b), share with G-d.

25. Shmos Rabbah 2:4; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 253a. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, p. 8ff.

26. Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 230 and sources cited there.

27. Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 346 and sources cited there.


TETZAVEH 123

Similarly, in subsequent generations, it is the men who

act as "extensions of Moshe Rabbeinu" 7

who infuse the

yearning for redemption among our people, uniting us in the

desire for Mashiach's coming. These efforts serve as an

"eternal light," guiding our people and mankind as a whole

to the ultimate goal.


KI SISSA 125

Ki Sissa

ta, f

Towards A Purpose

Beyond Conception

Likkutei Sichos,

Adapted

from

Vol. XVII, p. 410 ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa, 5751, 5752

The Path Upward

The name of this week's reading, Ki Sissa, raises a

question. Literally, Ki Sissa means "when you raise up," and

refers to the elevation of "the heads of the children of

Israel." 1

Since the majority of the reading centers on the sin

of the Golden Calf and its consequences, one is prompted to

ask: How can this terrible sin contribute to the elevation of

the Jewish people

1. Exodus 30:12. Within the context of the Torah reading, the verse should be

rendered: "When you take a census of the children of Israel."


126 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

The sin of the Golden Calf represented a tragic descent.

The impurity imparted by the sin of the Tree of Knowledge

had departed from the souls of the Jewish people at the

Giving of the Torah, but returned after the sin of the Golden

Calf. 2

Thus this sin is the source of all subsequent sins.

Similarly, all the punishments suffered by the Jewish people

throughout the centuries are connected to this sin. 3

What

place can such an event have in a portion whose name

points to the Jews' ascent

For Man to Become More than Man

To answer this question, we must expand our concep¬

tual framework, for the state to which G-d desires to bring

mankind is above ordinary human conception. This is in¬

dicated by the very expression: "When you lift up the

heads"; "the heads," human intellect, must be elevated.

The essence of our souls is "an actual part of G-d from

above," 4

and G-d desires that man transcend himself and

experience this Divine potential. Moreover, the intent is not

merely that we rise above our human intellect, but that we

"lift up the heads" themselves, reshape our minds. Tasting a

superrational connection to G-d is not sufficient; our very

thoughts, the way we understand the world, must

encompass a Truth which transcends intellect.

A Journey Charted by G-d

Intellect is a crossroads. On one hand, it is the faculty

which enables humanity to grow and expand its horizons.

On the other hand, a mortal's intellect is by definition lim¬

ited. Moreover, all intellect is rooted in self; the more one

understands, the stronger one's sense of selfhood becomes.

2.

3.

4.

Shabbos 146a; Zohar I, 52b, II, 193b; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 9.

Sanhedrin 102b; Rashi, Exodus 32:35.

Tanya, ch. 2.


KI SISSA 127

Following one's own understanding can lead to seeing

material existence — or at least certain aspects of it — as

being apart from G-d. Our minds can understand how cer¬

tain entities and experiences might serve as conduits for the

expression of G-dliness. Other material entities and

practices, however, appear to be foreign to that purpose,

and we reject the possibility that they might also serve this

function.

Taking this approach to the extreme, some modes of

Divine service endeavor to avoid confronting material

existence altogether, staying instead within the realm of the

spiritual. Although there are certain virtues to this

approach, it contains an inherent shortcoming: It encour¬

ages the notion that material reality exists apart from holiness.

5

The ultimate truth — the "heights" to which Jewish

heads should be lifted — is that every aspect of existence

can express the truth of His Being. 6

This is reflected in the

Torah's description of Avraham's efforts to spread the

awareness of G-d's existence: 7

"And he proclaimed there the

א-ל העולם name of G-d, eternal L-rd." The verse does not state

— "G-d of the world," 8 which would imply that G-d is an

entity unto Himself and the world is a separate entity unto

itself. Instead, it states עולם ‏,א-ל implying that G-dliness and

the world are one.

Even after this thrust is accepted, however, there exist

certain aspects of being that appear separate from Him. Is

there G-dliness in evil, for example And if so, how can man

cause this G-dliness to be revealed

5. In an ultimate sense, such an approach can be equated with the worship of

false gods. For the notion that there is an entity separate from G-d is the

source of idol worship. See the maamar Veyadaata, 5657 [English translation:

To Know G-d (Kehot, N.Y., 1993)].

6. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodai HaTorah 1:1.

7. Genesis 21:33.

8. See Likkutei Torah, Devarim, 42d; conclusion of maamar beginning Anochi

Havayah Elokecha, 5673


128 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Although mortals cannot conceive of a meeting point

between evil and sanctity, G-d can. Indeed, He charts paths

leading each individual, and the world at large, to such an

intersection. With Divine Providence, He creates situations

into which no righteous man would enter voluntarily, forc¬

ing the righteous to become involved with (and thus ele¬

vate) the most base material concerns.

This is the intent of the command to "lift up the heads of

the children of Israel"; that even within the realm char¬

acterized by separation, evil and self, there may flourish an

awareness of G-d's unbounded spiritual truth.

G-d's Awesome intrigue

In this vein, Chassidic thought describes sin as, 9

"an

awesome intrigue devised against man." Jews by nature are

above any connection with sin. 10

If a person's yetzer hora

overcomes him and makes him sin, this is because the

yetzer hora was prompted from Above to bring him to this

act. This is purposeful, "an awesome intrigue" devised by

G-d to bring about a higher and more complete unity

between G-d, that individual, and the world at large.

In his explanation of our Sages' statement 11

that "In the

place of baalei teshuvah, even the completely righteous

cannot stand," the Rambam states 12

that baalei teshuvah are

on a higher level because "they conquer their [evil]

inclination more." The righteous do not have to struggle so

hard against their evil inclination; to the extent that they are

righteous, their evil inclination is nullified. 13

A baal teshuvah,

by contrast, possesses a powerful evil inclination — as

evidenced by his sin — and yet still desires to cling to G-d.

9. Cf. Psalms 66:5.

10. See Avodah Zarah 4b-5a and Rashi's commentary.

11. Berachos 34b.

12. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 7:4.

13. See Tanya, ch. 10.


KI SISSA 129

Moreover, our Sages teach 14

that teshuvah transforms

even sins which a person commits intentionally into merits.

This elevates the lowest aspects of existence — which

derive sustenance from the realm of kelipah — and brings

them into a bond with G-d.

Why does a baal teshuvah have the potential to elevate

aspects of existence which are by nature distant from

G-dliness Because in order to strive for teshuvah, a person

must tap his deepest spiritual resources, that soul which is

"an actual part of G-d." When he reaches this point, he is

able to appreciate that nothing is apart from Him. And in his

life, he is able to show how every element of existence

expresses His Truth.

This process is an example of the pattern, "a descent for

the purpose of an ascent." 15

Our climb to those peaks which

our intellect cannot reach on its own involves a descent to

levels which our intellect would normally reject.

Three Phases

Based on the above, we can appreciate the sequence of

parshas Ki Sissa. The purpose — the ascent of the Jewish

people — is stated in the opening verse. Afterwards, the

reading continues with the final commands for the con¬

struction and dedication of the Sanctuary, the incense

offering and the giving of the First Tablets. All these sub¬

jects reflect a connection to G-d above the limits of ordinary

experience.

In order for that connection to penetrate the worldly

realm, and to have it permeate even the lowest aspects of

existence, follows the narrative of the Sin of the Golden Calf

and the breaking of the Tablets. This terrible fall motivated

the Jewish people to turn to G-d in teshuvah, evoking a third

14. Yoma 86b.

15. Cf. Makkos 7b.


130 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

phase 16

— the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy

— a totally unbounded level of G-dliness that encompasses

even the lowest levels.

This highest peak finds expression in the giving of the

Second Tablets 17

and the final event mentioned in this

week's Torah reading, the shining of Moshe's countenance.

18

The shining of Moshe's face manifested the ultimate

fusion of the physical and the spiritual. G-dly light shone

from Moshe's physical body.

And Ultimately, Ascents Without Descent

Similar cycles of descent and ascent have shaped the

history of our people. The aim of this process is a final

16. Based on the above, we can also draw a connection to the three pilgrimage

festivals mentioned in this Torah reading. These festivals also follow a similar

pattern of three: Pesach represents a G-dly revelation beyond the limits of

worldly experience. Afterwards comes Shavuos, a holiday associated with the

wheat harvest — an emphasis on man's service. And then Sukkos, the harvest

festival, which alludes to the ultimate Ingathering.

17. Although the First Tablets were the "work of G-d," while the Second Tablets

were hewn by Moshe, the latter reflect a more encompassing union between

G-dliness and our world. This is reflected in the very fact that the First Tab¬

lets were broken, for their holiness could not coexist with the crass realities

of worldly existence, while the Second Tablets are eternal (Rambam, Mishneh

Torah, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 4:1), representing the fusion of holiness with

material existence.

Not only are the Second Tablets associated with a deeper bond, they also

represent a more complete treasury of Torah knowledge. Our Sages relate

(Nedarim 22b) that if Moshe had not destroyed the First Tablets, we would

have received only the Five Books of the Chumash and the Book of Yehoshua.

In contrast, the Second Tablets are associated with the Oral Law, the aspect

of Torah which is truly boundless.

18. In this context, we can appreciate why Parshas Ki Sissa follows the parshiyos

Terumah and Tetzaveh — which describe G-d's commands to Moshe regard¬

ing the construction of the Sanctuary — although the events described in

Parshas Ki Sissa took place first. The construction of the Sanctuary represents

the transformation of the world into a dwelling for G-d, the ultimate purpose

of the world's existence. Therefore, after the commandment to create such a

dwelling is given, but before Moshe communicates it to the people, the Torah

relates the three-phased pattern through which the Divine intent for this

world can be fulfilled.


KI SISSA 131

union between the spiritual and the material — the Era of

the Redemption, when "the world will be filled with the

knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed." 19

When seen in this context, all the years of exile appear

as merely "a fleeting moment." 20

For exile has no purpose in

and of itself; it is merely a means by which to evoke a

deeper connection to G-d, and a medium which enables that

bond to permeate every aspect of experience. When this

purpose is accomplished, the exile will conclude; to quote

the Rambam: 21

"The Torah has promised that ultimately, at

the end of her exile, Israel will repent and immediately be

redeemed."

And then will begin a never-ending ascent, as it is written:

22

"They will proceed from strength to strength, and

appear before G-d in Zion."

19. Isaiah 11:9, quoted by the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5) at

the conclusion of his discussion of the Era of the Redemption.

20. Isaiah 54:7.

21. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 7:5.

22. Psalms 84:8.


VAYAKHEL 133

Vayakhel

kne°n

More than

Gathering Together

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 250ff;

Sefer HaSichos

5749, p. 292ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752

A Whole That is Greater than its Parts

The Hebrew language does not lack synonyms, and

there are several other verbs (e.g., ויאסוף or ‏(ויקבץ which

could have been chosen to begin the verse: 1

"And Moshe

gathered together the children of Israel." The word

employed, vayakhel ‏,(ויקהל)‏ is significant, for it implies the

fusion of the people into a kahal or communal entity, far

more than a collection of individuals. 2

1. Exodus 35:1.

2. See Tzafnas Paneach, Klalei HaTorah VehaMitzvos, entry tzibbur.


134 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

A group which gathers together can also move apart,

and even while together, the union is not complete. A kahal,

by contrast, represents an eternal 3

entity that unites

individuals in a new framework, highlighting the funda¬

mental bond that joins them.

The purpose for which Moshe called the people

together was to collect donations toward the construction

of the Sanctuary. For the Sanctuary could not be built from

the private resources of any individual. Instead, it was

necessary that the money be donated by the collective, and

that the Sanctuary be built by that body. Thus the unity,

Moshe established among the Jews extended even into their

finances.

By nature, we are all concerned with possessions; our

Sages have granted many concessions because "A person is

anxious about his property." 4

As such, money is frequently

a source of strife. In this instance, however, the people will¬

ingly pooled their resources in the construction of a struc¬

ture which itself reflected their oneness.

Oneness as a Dynamic

The fact that the Sanctuary was constructed by the

Jewish people 5 in a spirit of unity 6 caused the finished

structure to be permeated by oneness. This is reflected in

3. For "a collective can never die" (Temurah 15b).

4. Shabbos 117b, et al.

5. In contrast to the parshiyos Terumah and Tetzaveh, which relate G-d's com¬

mand to Moshe to build the Sanctuary, its actual construction is the focus of

this week's Torah reading. Since this involves activity within ordinary reality,

and because such activity is often characterized by a lack of harmony, there

was a greater need to stress unity.

6. The construction of the Sanctuary is a continuation of the synthesis between

the material and the spiritual which began with the Giving of the Torah. In

preparing for the Giving of the Torah, the Jews camped before Mount Sinai

"as one man, with one heart" (Rashi, Exodus 19:2). And similarly, before the

construction of the Sanctuary, there was again a need to highlight their

oneness.


VAYAKHEL 135

the fact that the construction of its various components,

e.g., the ark, the altar, the menorah, are not considered as

separate mitzvos, but rather as part of the overall charge to

construct a dwelling for G-d. 7

Although each of these

elements was a separate item, their discrete identities were

subordinated to that of the Sanctuary as a whole. 8

G-d's Presence was revealed within the Sanctuary. There

it was overtly manifest that the world is His dwelling, and

that all the diverse elements of existence are permeated by

His oneness. And from the Sanctuary, light spread

throughout the world. 9

This leads to a second concept: The Jews are "one

nation on earth." 10

The implication is that we are bound

together through an internal connection, and this enables

us to spread G-d's oneness throughout the world. 11

For the

unity of the Jewish people is an active force rather than a

passive state. Establishing oneness among our people spurs

the manifestation of G-d's unity in all existence.

7. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Sefer HaMitzvos, pos. mitzvah 20, Hilchos Beis

HaBechirah 1:6. See the essay "A Guardrail for the Roof of the Beis HaMikdash"

in Seek Out the Welfare of Jerusalem, which discusses the halachic

ramifications of this concept.

8. Our prayer service parallels the worship in the Sanctuary and the Beis

HaMikdash. As such, the concept of the subordination of the individual to the

collective is reflected in prayer.

Prayer is essentially a request for the fulfillment of personal needs

(Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Tefillah 1:2). Nevertheless, our requests are

always made in the first person plural, emphasizing that one is joined to all

Jews.

The stress on oneness was further underscored by the custom of the Alter

Rebbe, who placed the declaration, "Behold I accept upon myself the

fulfillment of the mitzvah, 'Love your fellowman as yourself,' " at the very

beginning of the prayer service (Siddur Tehillat HaShem p. 12).

9. Cf. the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachos 4:5.

10. IISamuel 7:23.

11. Maamar Issa B'Midrash Tehillim (Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, p. 271, English

translation, S.I.E., N.Y., 5753).


136 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

From inside Out

What motivates our people to rise above their individual

identities The call of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu was

the epitome of self-transcendence; every aspect of his being

was committed to others. 12

And thus he was able to inspire

self-transcendence.

Moshe is described as "a shepherd of faith." He infused

the Jewish people with knowledge, enabling us to establish

harmony between the different dimensions of our being. 13

To illustrate the concept with a story: Rav Yosef

Yitzchak, the father-in-law of the Rebbe Maharash, was once

asked by his own father-in-law, Rav Yaakov Yisrael of

Chirkas, concerning his mode of prayer. Rav Yosef Yitzchak

answered that he recited his prayers betzibbur, "with the

community."

Once, however, Rav Yaakov Yisrael of Chirkas sent for

his son-in-law and discovered that he prolonged his pray¬

ers, lingering far longer than any congregation would.

"You told me you prayed betzibbur" he asked.

"I do," his son-in-law replied. "Betzibbur literally means

'with the collective.' After I marshall together the ten com¬

ponents of my soul, I pray." 14

Such efforts are essential to the establishment of unity

among our people. For when a person develops inner har¬

mony, he will be more open to others and willing to relate to

them as equals. This will encourage the expression of the

inner bond that all Jews share.

A person's Divine service begins with the marshaling of

the different aspects of his own being. Afterwards, he

12. See the essay entitled "A Paradigm Of Leadership."

13. See the maamar, VeKibeil HaYehudim, 5687, English translation, S.I.E., N.Y.,

5751.

14. See HaTomim 70ff; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 477.


VAYAKHEL 137

gathers together with other men, and then extends this

unity until it encompasses every element of existence,

showing how the entire world exists to reveal G-d's glory. 15

The Ultimate Ingathering

The most complete expression of this oneness will come

in the Era of the Redemption, 16

when "a great congregation

(kahal gadol) will return there." 17

Jews from all over the

world will stream together to Eretz Yisrael. This ingathering

will be more than geographic in nature. G-d will "bring us

together from the four corners of the earth." 18

But more

importantly, there will be unity and harmony among us, and

this unity will embrace all existence. "The world will be

filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the

ocean bed." 19

These are not merely promises for the future, but

potentials that can be anticipated today. The massive waves

of immigration that have reached Eretz Yisrael in recent

years are obvious harbingers of the ultimate ingathering of

our nation. And even as the physical reality of the

Redemption is coming to pass, so too we can have a

foretaste of its spiritual elements. We have the potential to

establish a new harmony within ourselves, and to spread

that harmony among others. And by these efforts to

anticipate the Redemption, we will help make it a reality.

15. Cf. the conclusion of Pirkei Avos, ch. 6.

16. Shabbos is described as me'ein olam habaah, a microcosm of the World to

Come. Since the ultimate fulfillment of the unity of Parshas Vayakhel will be in

the Era of the Redemption, the parshah begins with the commandment to

observe Shabbos, the day when this unity is expressed.

17. Jeremiah 31:8.

18. Daily liturgy, Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 55.

19. Isaiah 11:9, quoted by the Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5, as

the conclusion of his discussion of the Era of the Redemption.


PEKUDEI 139

Pekudei

"H^g

The Power

of One

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 250ff;

Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 313ff;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Pekudei, 5743;

Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752

Contrast and Concord

What is the true importance of an individual On one

hand, our society often exaggerates the importance of per¬

sonal gratification. In actual life, however, many people feel

dwarfed by their surroundings, insignificant before the

raging sea of experience to which contemporary life

exposes us.

These concepts receive focus in Parshas Pekudei. The

word pekudei means "reckoning," and refers to the tallying


140 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

of the gold, silver, and brass donated for the Sanctuary, and

the inventory of all its utensils and services. 1

Any reckoning involves an interplay of antithetical

concepts. The fact that a reckoning is required presumes

the existence of a multitude of elements. The focus of a

reckoning, however, is not the multitude, but rather the

individual entities which comprise it. And yet the ultimate

importance of each individual element stems from the fact

that it exists as a part of a whole.

On one hand, the Sanctuary is dependent on its indi¬

vidual elements. If one of those elements, no matter how

tiny, is lacking, the Sanctuary as a whole is incomplete, and

unfit to serve as G-d's resting place.

Simultaneously, the whole which is forged by the com¬

bination of these elements is far more than the sum of its

parts. When brought together, the different elements of the

Sanctuary are granted a measure of importance that

surpasses their individual value. By being a part of the

Sanctuary, each element fosters the revelation of G-d's

Presence.

True Accomplishment

Every person's heart is described as "a sanctuary in

microcosm," 2

and every act of worship in the Sanctuary is

reflected in our Divine service. 3

Similarly, with regard to the

above concepts, every individual must appreciate that he is

far greater than his individual self. He contains the potential

to serve as part of klal Yisrael, the Jewish people as a whole

1. Rashi, Exodus 38:21.

2. For the Torah states (Exodus 25:8): "And you shall make Me a Sanctuary and I

will dwell within." A plural form for the word "within" ‏(בתוכם)‏ is used, implying

that G-d causes His Presence to rest, not only within the Sanctuary, but within

the heart of every individual. (Reishis Chochmah, Shaar HaAhavah, sec. 6,

Sheloh, p. 325b.)

3. See the text Toras HaOleh authored by the Ramah, the commentary of Rabbeinu

Bechaye to Parshas Terumah, and other works.


PEKUDEI 141

— the medium for the revelation of G-d's Presence within

our world.

How is this potential realized When a person a) devel¬

ops his own abilities to the utmost, shouldering all the

responsibility that he has been given. And when b) he joins

together with others engaged in the same task, thus

becoming part of a greater whole.

The importance of the latter step is also highlighted in

Parshas Vayakhel. 4

Thus it is more than coincidence that

these two Torah portions are often read together. On one

hand, their messages may appear contradictory: Vayakhel

emphasizes the fusion of individuals into a spiritual collec¬

tive, while Pekudei underscores the personal contribution of

every individual. But a collective will be incomplete unless

it includes every individual, 5

and unless it allows each of

those individuals to fully developed himself. Simul¬

taneously, each individual must realize that he will not

reach his full potential until he joins with others. 6

What Lies At the Core

The possibility exists of forging a unified whole from

divergent parts only because each of these components

already shares a fundamental connection. Every person's

soul is "an actual part of G-d." 7

Therefore, despite the dif¬

ferences between individuals, they are bound together by a

basic commonalty. Similarly, in the world at large, every

4. See the previous essay entitled, "More than Gathering Together."

5. In Derech Mitzvosecho, mitzvas ahavas Yisrael, the Tzemach Tzedek employs

the classic analogy of a human body to describe the Jewish people. As he

emphasizes, a lack of well-being in one limb affects the organism as a whole.

6. In this context, the sequence of Torah readings is also significant. Vayakhel,

the fusion into a collective, precedes Pekudei. Were a person to begin with

self-concern, he might never leave the confines of his self-interest. When,

however, a goal above self is established first, self-development becomes part

of a larger framework.

7. Tanya, ch. 2.


142 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

particle of existence is maintained by G-d's creative energy,

and this common ground generates the potential for unity.

Keeping One's Balance Sheet

As mentioned, the reckoning of Parshas Pekudei includes

"the account of the sums of gold, silver, and brass donated

for the Sanctuary, and the account of all its utensils and its

services." First, an inventory was taken of the resources

available, and then a reckoning was made as to how these

resources were used.

These concepts are also relevant in our Divine service.

First, a person must take inventory; he must know who he is

and what he can do. Afterwards, from time to time, he must

determine how well these abilities are being employed, and

what he has accomplished with them. The sequence is also

significant; awareness of the existence of one's potential

serves as a prod, spurring its realization.

The Catalyst For Personal Development

The Torah reading begins: 8

"This is the reckoning of the

Sanctuary... which was calculated by Moshe," i.e., the

reckoning of the different elements of the Sanctuary — and

correspondingly, the reckoning of the abilities of every

individual — is dependent on the input of Moshe Rabbeinu.

It is Moshe Rabbeinu who arouses the inner G-dly potential

that every individual possesses.

And after all the elements of the Sanctuary were com¬

plete, it was Moshe who actually erected it and inaugurated

its service. For it is Moshe's leadership which stimulates the

expression of each individual's inner potential and

encourages its synergistic interaction with that of others.

8. Exodus 38:21.


PEKUDEI 143

No End to Growth

Parshas Pekudei does not conclude with the construc¬

tion of the Sanctuary, but mentions two further points:

a) That "the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of G-d

filled the Sanctuary," 9

i.e., the Sanctuary had become a

resting place for the Divine Presence, and

b) "When the cloud arose... the children of Israel set

forth on all their journeys" 10

— that our Divine service

requires constant progress.

These two points are fundamental to the reckoning that

every person must make. Each must know that the ultimate

goal is the revelation of G-d's Presence. And each must

realize that it is impossible to rest on one's laurels; the

ongoing revelation of G-d's Presence involves continual

advancement.

Ultimately, as we "proceed from strength to strength," 11

we will "appear before G-d in Zion," in the Third Beis

HaMikdash with the coming of the Redemption.

9. Exodus 40:35.

10. bid.:36.

11. Psalms 84:8.


VAYIKRA 145

Vayikra

דקר£‏

The Dearness

of Every Jew

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pgs. 24-26;

Sefer HaSichos

Vol. XVII, pgs. 12-15;

5750, Vol. I, p. 327ff

Within the Many — One

Even a brief look at our people reveals a great hetero¬

geneity, for there is hardly a country or a setting in which

Jews have not lived. Jews have featured prominently in

almost every major civilization and race, and in so doing

have adapted themselves to these different environments.

Nor is it merely the settings in which our people live; the

nature of the individuals themselves varies greatly. Our


146 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Sages comment 1

that just as the faces of no two people are

alike, so too, their thought processes differ.

This variety does not, however, obscure the fundamen¬

tal oneness that links every member of our people in every

country and in every age. Every Jew — every man, woman,

and child — has a soul that is "an actual part of G-d," 2

and

which permeates every dimension of his being. Of this

people, G-d says: 3

"I created this nation for Myself; they will

recite My praise."

Every Jew is heir to the entire spiritual legacy of our

people. There is a golden chain extending throughout the

generations, reaching back to our forefathers, Avraham,

Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and to our Matriarchs Sarah, Rivkah,

Rachel, and Leah. Every Jew in the present generation is a

representative of the entire collective as it has existed and

evolved throughout history. As such, G-d cherishes every

Jew as a father cherishes an only son. 4

Closeness with G-d

The unique love which G-d shows the Jewish people is

reflected in the beginning of our Torah reading, which

states: 5 "And He 6 called to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him."

Before G-d spoke to Moshe, He called to him, showing him a

1. Sanhedrin 38a.

2. Tanya, ch. 2. The expression "a part of G-d" is taken from Job 31:2. The Alter

Rebbe adds the word "actual," for two reasons: a) to emphasize that our souls

are truly a part of G-d, as it were, and not merely a ray of His light; b) to

underscore that even as the souls are "actual," enclothed in the material

world, they remain "a part of G-d," for the word ‏,ממש translated as "actual,"

also means "material." (Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. IV, p. 404,

407.)

3. Isaiah 43:21; the beginning of the Haftorah for Parshas Vayikra.

4. The Baal Shem Tov as quoted in Keser Shem Tov, Hosafos 133.

5. Leviticus 1:1.

6. When mentioning the call to Moshe, the Torah does not refer to any of the

different names of G-d. For every name represents a reflection of only one

aspect of His Being, while the call to Moshe expressed a connection to G-d's

essence, a level which transcends all names.


VAYIKRA 147

unique measure of endearment. 7

G-d did not call Moshe to

impart information; on the contrary, He called him to express

the fundamental love He shares with our people. (For

although it was Moshe alone who was called, this call was

addressed to him as the leader of our people as a whole.) 8

The inner G-dly nature which we possess constantly

"calls" to us, seeking to express itself. This is reflected by

the subject of the Torah reading, the sacrificial offerings.

The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban ‏,(קרבן)‏ shares a root

with the word kerov ‏,(קרב)‏ meaning "close." Sacrifices bring

the Jews' spiritual potential to the surface, 9

carrying our

people and each individual closer to G-d. 10

Loving Outreach

The above concepts are fundamental when it comes to

relationships with fellow Jews, even those whose conduct

(at present) is estranged from our heritage. 11

First and

foremost, we must appreciate who the other person truly is.

When speaking to a Jew, we must be aware that we are

speaking to a soul that is "an actual part of G-d."

There is no need to focus on the negative aspects of the

other person's conduct. Instead, one should highlight his

positive potential, making him conscious of the G-dly spark

7. Rashi, op. cit.

8. For "it is only for the sake of Israel that I have given you greatness" (Berachos

32b, Rashi, Exodus 32:7).

9. The connection between the sacrifices and the essential G-dly nature of the

Jewish soul is reflected by the verse (Leviticus 1:2): "When a man... brings a

sacrifice." Why does the Torah use the word man, adam in Hebrew Because

adam is related to the word adamoh, "I resemble," and thus refers to the

verse (Isaiah 14:14), "I will resemble the One above;" i.e., man is rep¬

resentative of G-d, as it were (Sheloh, Parshas Vayeishev). A man's ability to

draw close to G-d stems from the fact that G-dliness lies at the core of his

being.

10. Sefer HaBahir, sec. 46.

11. This concept is also alluded to by our Torah reading, for its latter sections

describe the sin offerings and guilt offerings brought to atone for undesirable

conduct.


148 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

within him. We must emulate the example provided by our

Torah reading, and show our fellow man a special degree of

closeness, inviting him to join in activities that encourage

the expression of his G-dly core.

We should pursue this approach with confidence, for it

speaks to the very essence of our fellow man. "No Jew can

— or desires to — separate himself from G-d." 12 When he is

invited to affirm his heritage with warmth and openness, he

will respond, proceeding at his own pace to "come close to

G-d." Since he is part of the nation "created for Myself," it is

inevitable that he will ultimately "relate My praise" by

following the path of Torah and mitzvos.

Seek the Silver Lining

There is a natural tendency to be impatient, to hasten a

person towards complete observance of the Torah and its

mitzvos, and perhaps to criticize him if he hesitates or falls

back. The Torah does not approve of this approach. When

Yeshayahu the prophet made harsh statements about the

Jewish people, G-d rebuked him severely although his

words were justified. 13

Instead of being critical, we must

endeavor to appreciate — and always accentuate — the

positive qualities which every member of our people pos¬

sesses. For indeed, the very fact of a Jew's existence is an

expression of G-d's praise, independent of any Divine serv¬

ice which he may perform.

Despite the fact that the Jews are "one lamb among 70

wolves" 14

and have faced severe persecution, we have

endured while nations seemingly far greater and more

powerful have disappeared. This clearly shows that G-d has

invested a dimension of His eternality within His people.

12. HaYom Yom, entry 25 Tammuz; Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. IV, p.

384.

13. See Isaiah 6:5-7.

14. Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Toldos, sec. 5.


VAYIKRA 149

Our continued existence — as a nation and as individuals —

is an expression of Divine Providence.

In the present age, every Jew is a living miracle.

This is particularly relevant today, barely a generation

after the Holocaust. The fact that we were able to endure

that terrible era and give birth to a new generation

(regardless of any apparent spiritual shortcomings it may

possess) reveals the working of G-d's hand. 15

Ultimate Praise

The G-dly potential within every Jew and within our

people as a whole will not remain dormant. Its blossoming

will lead to an age when the G-dliness latent in the world at

large will become manifest, the Era of the Redemption. At

that time, the Jewish people will "relate [G-d's] praise" in a

complete manner, showing our gratitude for the miracles

performed on our behalf. 16

Herein we see a connection to the month of Nissan,

during which Parshas Vayikra usually falls. Our Sages

associate Nissan with miracles. 17

Further, Nissan is the

month in which the Jews were redeemed, 18

and the month

in which we will be redeemed in the future. 19

At that time,

our entire nation will proceed to our Holy Land and "relate

[G-d's] praise" in the Beis HaMikdash. May this take place in

the immediate future.

15. Moreover, most non-observant Jews today are generally not responsible for

their lack of practice. They are like "children captured by the gentiles," who

were never given an opportunity to learn about their heritage.

16. See the commentary of the Radak to Isaiah 43:21. See also Rashi's commen¬

tary to that passage, and the Midrash Leckach Tov, Bo 12:2.

17. Berachos 57a.

18. Shmos Rabbah 15:11.

19. Rosh HaShanah 11a.


TZAV 151

Tzav

IS

Making Connections:

The Message of Mitzvos

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 30ff;

Vol. VIII, p. 232ff; Vol. XXXII, p. 1ff

To Leap a Chasm

From the earliest ages, men have been aware of a reality

beyond the material — a reality which transcends man's

senses and intellect. And yet, that very awareness is

confounding, for this spiritual reality is on a higher plane than

we can comprehend.

Some kinds of religious practice attempt to resolve this

difficulty by attempting to reach beyond our limited world.

There are, however, two fundamental difficulties with these

approaches:


152 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

a) Since spiritual reality is by definition above our con¬

ception, how is it possible for man to relate to it

b) Moreover, otherworldliness runs contrary to G-d's

intent. G-d brought our world into being for a reason, and a

fixation on going beyond that purpose implies a rejection of

it.

invitation From Above

Judaism offers a different alternative. A bond can indeed

be established between the material and the spiritual, but the

initiative must be G-d's. 1

G-d has "reached down" into our

world to give us a means whereby we can relate to Him and,

by so doing, elevate our environment. This is the purpose of

the mitzvos.

'What difference does it make to the Holy One,

blessed be He, whether one slaughters an animal from

the front or the back The mitzvos were given solely

to refine the created beings." 2

Most of the mitzvos involve material things .3

In and of

themselves, these entities are of little importance to G-d.

Nevertheless, in order to give mankind a means by which to

relate to Him, He attaches importance to these entities.

Moreover, the bond established with G-d through the ful¬

fillment of His mitzvos permeates our environment, and the

1. Shir HaShirim Rabbah, commenting on the Song of Songs 1:3, speaks of the

material and the spiritual as discrete planes. Synthesis between them became

possible only because G-d said: "I will take the initiative," and gave the Torah

to man. See the essay entitled "What Happened at Sinai" (Timeless Patterns in

Time, Vol. II, p. 91ff) where these concepts are explained.

2. Bereishis Rabbah 44:1.

3. There are certain mitzvos, e.g., the love and fear of G-d, which involve service

within our hearts and souls. These, however, represent a distinct minority;

the overwhelming proportion focus on deeds. Moreover, even the mitzvos

which deal with thoughts and feelings must be fulfilled in a manner which

affects our bodies. Our hearts must beat faster because of the love of G-d, and

the physical phenomena associated with fear must accompany our awe of

Him (Sefer HaMaamarim 5697, p. 215 and sources cited there).


TZAV 153

entities used in this observance are subsumed in this

spiritual connection.

To explain by way of analogy: 4

An intellectual lives in the

realm of thought; his life centers on ideas and concepts. A

simple water carrier will not attract his attention. It's not that

he looks down on him, or views him negatively. The two

simply seem to have nothing in common. There seems to be

no way that the water carrier can relate to the intellectual; he

does not have the capacity. Nor does what preoccupies the

water carrier hold any interest for the thinker.

If, however, the intellectual asks the water carrier for a

drink and the water carrier obliges, their connection is made

clear.

The gap between the Creator and the created is far

greater than that separating the water carrier and the

intellectual, and yet G-d asks us a favor: "Perform My mitzvos."

The very word mitzvah ‏(מצוה)‏ hints at this relationship,

for it shares a root with the word tzavsa ‏,(צותא)‏ which means

"bond."

Three Approaches

There is a deeper dimension to the above concept. It is

G-d's command — not man's fulfillment of it — which es¬

tablishes a connection between the two. Man has the choice

to obey or disobey, but by giving him a command, G-d has

already entered his world. If man chooses to fulfill the

command, he affirms the connection, and if he refuses, he

denies it. But regardless of man's decision, G-d has already

established a relationship. Man's option lies in the extent of

his willingness to recognize and develop that bond.

Herein lies a connection with the weekly Torah reading,

Parshas Tzav. The name Tzav means "command," and is

4. Sefer HaMaamarim 5698, p. 52.


154 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

taken from the opening verse: 5

'Command Aharon....' "

"And G-d spoke to Moshe:

Throughout the Torah, three terms are used to introduce

a commandment: emor — "tell," dabber — "speak to," and

tzav — "command." All three terms communicate G-d's will,

but the term tzav is most closely related — conceptually as

well as etymologically — to the concept of mitzvah explained

above.

The terms "tell" or "speak to" appear to leave the option

in the hands of the listener. Yes, he has been given a

directive, but the tone used implies that he has a choice. He

has been told what he should do, but the decision whether to

do it or not remains his.

When, by contrast, the word "command" is used, the

implication is that the matter is imperative. 6

In these

instances, the initiative which G-d has taken is so encom¬

passing that it propels man toward fulfillment of the charge.

Strength in the Center

This concept can be amplified by combining teachings

from Midrashic and Kabbalistic sources. Emor, translated as

"tell," is associated with gentle speech, 7 while dabber,

translated as "speak to," is associated with harsh tones. 8

In

the Kabbalistic arrangement of the Sefiros — the ten spiritual

realms which connect G-dliness with worldliness — there are

three pathways, or vectors. The right vector is associated

with kindness, and the left vector with harshness. Tzav is

5. Leviticus 6:1.

6. This does not mean man's free will is taken from him. He still has the choice

to fulfill the mitzvah or not. Nevertheless, when a mitzvah is communicated

using the term tzav, the command itself spurs man to its observance.

7. Mechilta and Rashi, commenting on Exodus 19:3, Sifri and Rashi, commenting

on Numbers 12:1.

8. Makkos 11a; Sifri and Rashi, loc. cit.


TZAV 155

associated with the middle vector — a balanced approach

which combines these two extremes.

For example, mercy (one of the attributes of the middle

vector) represents a fusion of kindness (from the right

vector) and judgment (from the left vector). Kindness implies

a willingness to give without consideration of whether the

recipient is worthy. Judgment, by contrast, involves a

scrutiny of the recipient to evaluate his worthiness.

Mercy takes the nature of the recipient into considera¬

tion, yet may grant him assistance although he is not worthy.

Acting out of mercy, one gives because one has established

an inner connection to the recipient and provides for his

benefit.

How is it possible for two opposite tendencies to be

combined in a single attribute The middle vector implies the

action of G-dliness on opposite thrusts. 9

It is able to bring

about a synthesis between different approaches. In doing so,

it conveys unbounded influence to even the lowest levels. 10

The mitzvos associated with the word tzav reflect this

synthesis. They relate to the transcendent dimension of G-d,

and penetrate to the inner dimension of man, binding the two

in comprehensive unity.

Service for His Sake

The above concepts are reflected in the subject of this

week's Torah reading: the sacrifices offered in the Sanctuary,

and later in the Beis HaMikdash.

The implications of sacrificial worship are above our

understanding. Human intellect cannot appreciate why G-d

9. In Kabbalistic terminology, "the middle vector ascends to the inner dimension

of Kesser." See Sefer HaMaamarim 5707, p. 150ff, where this concept is

discussed.

10. To refer again to Kabbalistic terminology: "The middle vector extends from

one end to the other" (op. cit.).


156 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

would desire the slaughter of an animal or the burning of

flour on an altar. By way of explanation, our Sages tell us 11

that G-d says: "It is pleasurable before Me that I gave a

directive and My will was done."

There are mitzvos which bring benefits that are readily

appreciated, and others whose benefits we cannot comprehend.

12

The sacrifices, however, are not for man's sake at

all, not even to train him in obedience. They are for G-d's

sake. Thus the Torah refers to them 13

as Lachmi, "My

sustenance," implying that G-d needs this spiritual service, as

it were.

Why does G-d "need" sacrifices Only to provide man

with a means of connecting to Him in a complete way. 14

When

a person brings a sacrifice, the emphasis is not on his

commitment to G-d's will, but that "My will was done." A

person sees himself as no more than a medium by which

G-d's will can be carried out.

The complete performance of all the mitzvos, and par¬

ticularly the sacrifices, will take place only in the Era of the

Redemption. As we say in our prayers: 15

"Bring us with joy to

Zion Your city, and with everlasting joy to Jerusalem Your

sanctuary. There we will offer to You our obligatory

sacrifices... in accordance with the command of Your will."

11. Rashi and Toras Kohanim, commenting on Leviticus 1:9.

12. See Ramban, commenting on Leviticus 19:19, who explains that even the

chukim, mitzvos which we cannot explain, are Divine decrees with sublime

rationales that will bring us benefit. See also the comments of Ibn Ezra to

Exodus 20:1, and Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. III, ch. 26.

13. Leviticus 21:6, 8, 17, 21 et al.

14. See Sefer HaBahir, sec. 46, which states that the Hebrew word for sacrifice,

korban ‏,(קרבן)‏ shares a root with the word karov ‏,(קרב)‏ meaning "close." The

sacrifices bring our people and each individual close to G-d.

15. Mussaf service for Festivals, Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 259. See Hemshech

VeKocha 5637, ch. 17ff.


SHEMINI 157

Shemini

שמי{י

Transcendence

and immanence

Adapted

from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. Ill, p. 973ff;

Sefer HaSichos

Vol. XVII, p. 92ff;

5749, p. 475ff

Learning What it Means To Count

In Jewish thought, numbers represent not only concepts

in our material world, but spiritual forces which mold our

reality. 1

Seven is a fundamental number, representative of the

seven Divine middos, the attributes which are the source for

1. There are two explanations for this concept: a) In Hebrew, letters correspond

to numbers. Since G-d created the world through speech, the numerical

patterns created by the letters of the Ten Utterances of Creation reflect the

interplay of G-d's creative forces (Tanya, ShaarHaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1).

b) The Hebrew word for number is mispar ‏.(מספר)‏ Accordingly, the

statement of Sefer Yetzirah (1:1) that the world was created bisofar, bisefer,

ubisippur ‏,בספר ‏,ובספור)‏ ‏(בסופר is interpreted as referring to the merging of

numerical patterns.


158 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

— and which parallel — our emotions. These middos

comprise the active force which brings our material world

into being. 2

For this reason, time is structured in cycles of

seven. There are seven days in the week, seven years in the

Shemittah cycle, 3 and our Sages speak 4 of seven millennia as

the span of the world's existence.

Shabbos, the seventh day, reflects perfection within the

natural order. Just as the original Shabbos brought Creation

to a close, on Shabbos a person should feel that "all his work

is completed." 5

Moreover, Shabbos does not symbolize only

material perfection; referring to it as Shabbos Kodesh, "the

holy Sabbath," indicates that the G-dly light enclothed within

the world is manifest at that time.

The number eight, however, refers to an even higher level

of holiness — the G-dly light which transcends the limits of

our world. Indeed, it eclipses the number seven to the extent

that our Rabbis state 6

that "the number seven is always

mundane, while the number eight is holy."

"The Eighth Day"

These concepts are reflected in this week's Torah read¬

ing, Parshas Shemini. Shemini means "the eighth." It refers to

the first of Nissan, the day on which the Sanctuary was

established. It is called "the eighth day" 7

because it was

preceded by seven days of dedication, during which Moshe

2. See the commentary of the Ramban to Genesis 2:3. Note as well the maamar

Issa BiMidrash Tehillim (SeferHaMaamarim 5708, p. 272ff.)

3. The cycle upon which the agricultural laws observed in Eretz Yisrael are

based.

4. Rosh HaShanah 31a.

5. Mechilta, quoted in Rashi, Shmos 20:9.

6. Kli Yakar, commenting on Leviticus 9:1, the opening verse of our Torah read¬

ing. See also the Responsa of the Rashba (Vol. I, Responsum 9), which

explains that eight refers to a rung of holiness that transcends the limits of

nature.

7. Leviticus 9:1.


SHEMINI 159

erected and took down the Sanctuary each day, and taught

Aharon and his sons the order of sacrificial worship.

The Kli Yakar asks why the Torah employs the term, "the

eighth day." For this day is not one of the seven days of

dedication, and indeed represents a totally different plane.

For it was on this day that G-d's presence manifested itself in

the Sanctuary: "G-d's glory was revealed to the people and a

fire came forth from before G-d." 8

In resolution, he explains that the day is associated with

this number to highlight its uniqueness. For the number eight

is "set aside for G-d," representing a transcendence of the

world's natural limits.

But this resolution is itself problematic. Since the number

eight reflects such a high level, how can it be associated with

the seven days that precede it Calling it "the eighth day"

implies the continuation of a sequence. Thus the very term

used to accentuate the day's uniqueness points to its

connection with the previous days.

Earning More Than We Can

The above difficulty can be resolved on the basis of a

ruling with regard to monetary law: 9

Giving a present is

equated with a sale, because if the recipient had not gen¬

erated satisfaction for the giver, he would not have granted

him the gift.

Similarly with the concepts mentioned previously: the

manifestation of G-d's presence cannot be drawn down by

man's service, for it is a transcendent light. Instead, it must

be granted as a gift from above. Nevertheless, when does G-d

endow us with such a revelation When we have created a fit

8. Ibid..23-24.

9. Gittin 50b, et al.


160 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

setting for it — when we have refined and developed our

environment and ourselves to the limit of our abilities.

Thus the seven days of dedication represented man's

efforts to refine our environment — an objective within man's

capacity. And by carrying out this objective, a setting is

created for the revelations of the eighth day, the

transcendent light. 10

Focus on This World, Not on the Next

Moreover, when this transcendent revelation is brought

about by man's Divine service, it does not remain an isolated

occurrence, but permeates our environment, showing the

immanence of infinite spirituality.

This concept is underscored by the continuation of the

״,‏ Torah reading

which speaks of the death of Aharon's sons,

Nadav and Avihu. The Torah relates 12

that they brought an

unauthorized incense offering and as a result, "Fire came

forth from G-d and consumed them."

Many explanations are offered as to why the brothers

were punished by death. 13

From a mystical perspective, it is

said 14

that they died because their souls soared to such

heights that they could no longer remain in their bodies.

Nevertheless, their conduct is judged unfavorably because

10. We find a similar motif with regard to Sefiras HaOmer — the Counting of the

Omer, a mitzvah which in many years is associated with the time when Parshas

Shemini is read. We are obligated to count 49 (7x7) days to observe this

mitzvah. Each day involves an effort to refine a specific dimension of our

characters. The fiftieth day marks the celebration of Shavuos, which is

associated with Divine light. See the essay entitled "Counting More than Days"

(Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. II, p. 63ff).

11. This reflects the fact that the name Shemini is associated with the entire

Torah portion, and not merely the opening verse.

12. Leviticus 10:1-2.

13. See the commentary of Rashi to the above verse, Eruvin 63a, Toras Kohanim,

commenting on Leviticus 16:1, Vayikra Rabbah 20:8-9.

14. Or HaChayim, commenting on Leviticus 16:1; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 987ff;

Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. I, p. 52ff.


SHEMINI 161

their spiritual quest ran contrary to G-d's intent in creation:

the establishment of a dwelling for Himself amidst the day-to¬

day realities of our existence. 15

Their deaths show that our

spiritual quest should not be directed towards the attainment

of lofty rapture, but instead should remain firmly grounded in

our actual lives.

This theme is also reflected in the conclusion of the

Torah reading, which focuses on kosher food. For the

establishment of a dietary code indicates that Judaism's

conception of Divine service involves living within the world.

A Fusion of Opposites

This fusion of transcendence and immanence is also

alluded to by the name Shemini. Shemini shares a root with

the Hebrew word shemen, meaning "oil." Oil has two

tendencies. 16

On one hand, it floats above other liquids, to

the extent that if an impure person touches oil floating on

another liquid, the lower liquid is not rendered impure, for

the two are not considered to be joined. 17

On the other hand, oil permeates the entities on which it

is placed. Therefore, if a non-kosher substance which is fat or

oily is roasted together with other food, it makes the entire

quantity of food non-kosher, although ordinarily only the

food actually touching the non-kosher substance would be

tainted. 18

Similarly, with regard to the subject at hand, the essential

light associated with the eighth day transcends the limits of

our material realm. Nevertheless, G-d's intent is not that this

light remain in a sublime state, but that it permeate the

material world, endowing it with holiness.

15. See Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3; Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.

16. See Inyano Shel Torah HaChassidus (English translation, "The Essence of the

Teachings of Chassidus"), sec. 7.

17. Tivul Yom 2:5. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Tumas Ochalin 8.10.

18. See Chulin 97a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 105:5.


162 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

New Doors of Perception

The number eight shares a connection to the Era of the

Redemption, as our Sages state: 19

"The harp of the Era of the

Redemption will be of eight strands" (while the harp used in

the Beis HaMikdash had seven strands).

The revelations of the Era of the Redemption will also

follow the motif described above. Thus in describing those

revelations, our prophets say: 20

"And the glory of G-d will be

revealed and all flesh will see." "The glory of G-d" refers to a

spiritual peak 21

above the natural order. This level will be

"seen," perceived openly, by "all flesh"; mortals within our

material world will realize this spiritual truth.

Moreover, these revelations will be an intrinsic part of

that era. Just as today it is natural for our eyes to see material

objects, in that era, all flesh will perceive the glory of G-d.

This involves a remaking of the natural order through our

Divine service. For as stated in Tanya, 22

the revelations of the

Era of the Redemption depend on our service during the time

of exile.

To refer to concepts mentioned previously: seven pre¬

pares for eight. By refining and elevating ourselves and our

environment in the present age, we precipitate the tran¬

scendent revelations of the Era of the Redemption. Our

Divine service creates a framework for the fusion of the

spiritual and the material, allowing for these revelations to

permeate and remake our worldly existence.

19. Archin 13b. See Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 21d. Note also the connection to this

concept in the commentary of the Kli Yakar cited previously.

20. Isaiah 40:5.

21. In the series of maamarim entitled BeShaah Shehikdimu, Vol. II, p. 930, it is

explained that this level refers to the dimension of Malchus within the Ein Sof

as it exists before the tzimtzum.

22. Ch. 37.


TAZRIA 163

Tazria

תזריע

Conceiving

New Life

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 236ff; Vol. VII, p. 78-79;

Vol. XII, p. 70ff; Vol. XXII, p. 70ff;

Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 379ff;

Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 490ff

The Deepest intimacy

One of the analogies used to describe the relationship

between G-d and the Jewish people is the love between a man

and a woman. 1

On the human level, this relationship is

multidimensional, including the deepest levels of intimacy.

Similarly, the love between the Jews and G-d is a complex,

dynamic union. "The Holy One, Blessed be He, and Israel are

1. See the commentaries to the Song of Songs.


164 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

one" 2 — joined in an ardent bond. Indeed, the prophet 3 uses

the simile, "Your Maker is your mate."

On the mortal plane, physical intimacy is more than a

connection between man and woman; new life is conceived. 4

Similarly with regard to the bond between G-d and the Jewish

people, the relationship propagates vitality.

Planting Seeds

The opening verse of our Torah reading alludes to this

concept, stating: "When a woman conceives and gives birth."

The "woman" refers to the Jewish people, who bring new life

into the world.

More particularly, tazria, the term translated as

"conceives" means "gives seed." This term also is of metaphoric

significance. For after a seed is planted in the earth, its

shell must decompose. Only then will the growth potential of

the earth be expressed.

This motif applies to our people as a whole, and to every

individual. Our lives center around material concerns. Even

with regard to our Divine service, it is the actual observance

of the mitzvos, not the feelings they arouse, which is of

primary importance. Yes, "G-d desires the heart." 5

But if one

meditates on the Shema all morning with love and fear, yet

doesn't actually recite the words, or if one is inspired with

heartfelt compassion for a poor person, but fails to actually

2. Zohar, Vol. III, 73a.

3. Isaiah 54:5. Note the connection between this verse and the opening of our

Torah reading in the commentary of the Or HaChayim.

4. See the commentary of the Or HaChayim mentioned previously, which states

that all marital relations create new souls. If a couple are found worthy, the

creation of a soul is also associated with the conception of new life in the

material realm.

5. Cf. Sanhedrin 106b. Note Rashi's commentary. See also the association of this

phrase with the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.


TAZRIA 165

give him charity, one's Divine service would be inadequate.

For "deed is what is most essential." 6

And thus mitzvos are referred to as "seeds," as it is

written: 7

"Sow for yourselves for charity." 8 For every mitzvah

is an infusion of Divine energy into our material world, which

when cultivated will blossom and bear fruit.

The ultimate fruit will be the Redemption, the era when

the G-dliness invested in the world by the Divine service of the

Jewish people over thousands of years will flourish. 9

This will

remake the nature of existence, allowing us to appreciate the

Divine core of all being. Since the world itself will then become

conscious of its G-dly nature, this redemption will never be

followed by exile. For G-dliness will never again be concealed.

The Wonder of Conception

Our Sages 10

interpret the expression "When a woman

conceives" as implying that it is she who initiates the

intensification of the relationship. Similarly, in the analog, the

implication is that man does not merely respond to G-d.

Instead, he taps the core of his being and summons up the

energy needed to heighten his connection with Him.

On this basis, we can understand why the verse high¬

lights the importance of conception rather than birth.

Although new life is brought into the world at birth, the fetus

already exists; conception is the closest example in our lives

to the creation of something from nothing. 11

6. Cf. Avos 1:17.

7. Hoshea 10:12. Note the reference to this verse in the commentary of the Or

HaChayim cited previously.

8. Here too, there is a connection with the analogy of birth for our Sages say

(Rashi, beginning of Parshas Noach): "The progeny of the righteous are good

deeds."

9. See also the commentary of the Or HaChayim mentioned previously.

10. Niddah 31a, cited in the commentary of the Or HaChayim mentioned previ¬

ously.

11. See the series of maamarim entitled Sameach Tisamach, 5657.


166 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Chassidic thought 12

explains that the potential to create

something from nothing lies with G-d alone. Since He is not,

Heaven forbid, dependent on any other cause, it is within His

ability to create something — material existence — out of

absolute naught.

G-d has imparted His essence to man, and thus the core

of every soul is "an actual part of G-d." 13

As such, man also

has the power of creation, but in reverse. He lives in this

material world, and makes "nothing from something,"

revealing the G-dly potential that exists within himself and his

ephemeral environment. This is the power of conception

possessed by "the woman," mankind. Through the

expression of this potential, we become G-d's "partner in

creation," 14 fashioning the world into a dwelling for Him. 15

Life and Death

The name Tazria, which underscores the theme of

conception, is connected not only to the opening passages,

but to the reading in its entirety. This appears to present a

difficulty, for although the first passages speak about birth,

the main body of the reading concerns itself with tzaraas, a

bodily affliction resembling leprosy.

Tzaraas is the very opposite of new life. Indeed, our Sages

state 16

that a person afflicted with tzaraas is considered dead.

What place does such a subject have in a Torah reading

associated with new life

This difficulty can be resolved on the basis of two con¬

cepts: Firstly, tzaraas is not merely a physical malady, it is, to

quote the Rambam. 17

"beyond the natural pattern of the

12. See Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 20.

13. Tanya, ch. 2.

14. Shabbos 119b.

15. Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Behaalos'cha, sec. 3.

16. Nedarim 64b. See the commentary of the Maharsha in his Chiddushei Aggados.

17. Mishneh Torah, the conclusion of Hilchos Tzaraas.


TAZRIA 167

world... a Divine sign and a wonder 18

for the Jewish people to

warn them against speaking Lashon Hora [gossip and

slander]."

Secondly, the punishments prescribed by the Torah are

not for the sake of retribution, but rather to absolve a

person's sin and enable him to correct his faults. 19

Tzaraas

clearly expresses this principle. Because a person creates

strife and friction between others, he becomes afflicted with

tzaraas, and as a result is required to remain alone .20

Only

when he has removed the influence of friction from himself it

is possible for his body to be purified and for him to rejoin

society.

Thus tzaraas is a Divine instrument intended to prod an

individual towards personal refinement and encourage the

spread of peace and love. As such, it is an extension of the

theme of Tazria, focusing on our efforts to bring something

new and pure into ourselves and our environment.

Tzaraas is employed as an analogy 21

to describe the

status of our people in the present age, for we are in exile —

"alone, with [our] dwelling outside the camp." 22

Yet our

Divine service centers on Tazria, sowing seeds of G-dly

influence through our observance of the mitzvos. And we will

reap the harvests of these efforts with the coming of

Mashiach; may this be in the immediate future.

18. Therefore, in the present age, when the spiritual level of the Jewish people

has descended, they are not fit for such Divine wonders to be openly revealed

in their flesh. Hence, the phenomenon of tzaraas is no longer present (Likkutei

Torah, Vayikra 22b).

19. See Berachos 5a. Note also Kuzari, Discourse II, ch. 44.

20. Erchin 16b, Rashi, commenting on Leviticus 13:46.

21. Vayikra Rabbah, the conclusion of sec. 17.

22. Leviticus 13:46.


METZORA 169

Metzora

מצורע

Mashiach's Name

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 100ff;

Vol. XXII, p. 77ff; Parshas Tazria, 5751;

Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 491ff

Consummate Perfection and Superficial Flaws

Our Sages ask: 1

"What is Mashiach's name" and reply

"The leper of the House of Rebbi." 2

This is very difficult to

understand. Mashiach will initiate the Redemption, and is

associated with the pinnacle of life and vitality. How can his

1. Sanhedrin 98b.

2. See also Rashi, Sanhedrin 98a, who states that Mashiach will be afflicted by

tzaraas and will sit among others who share this affliction. See the comments

of the Maharal in his Chiddushei Aggados (Sanhedrin, loc. cit.:a,b), which state

that just as a leper must be separate from all other people, so too, a king —

and how much more so Mashiach — is distinguished from others.


170 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

name be linked with leprosy (tzaraas), which is identified

with death 3 and exile 4

This difficulty can be resolved based on the statements

of Likkutei Torah, which explain that a person affected by

tzaraas will be:

A man of great stature, of consummate perfection.... 5

Although such a person's conduct is desirable, and

he has corrected everything,... it is still possible that

on the flesh of his skin there will be lower levels on

which evil has not been refined. This will result in

physical signs on his flesh, in a way which

6

transcends the natural order

Since the filth on the periphery of his garments has

not been refined, therefore [blemishes] appear on

his skin Moreover, these blemishes reflect very

high levels, as indicated by the fact that they are not

considered impure until they have been designated

as such by a priest.

The passage implies that there are sublime spiritual

influences which, because of the lack of appropriate vessels

(as evidenced by the "filth on the periphery"), can produce

negative effects. For when powerful energy is released

without being harnessed, it can cause injury. This is the

reason for the tzaraas with which Mashiach is afflicted.

Mashiach's Burden

The Jewish people as a whole are compared to a human

body. This applies within every generation, and also to the

3. Nedarim 64b. See the commentary of the Maharsha in his Chiddushei Aggados.

4. Vayikra Rabbah, the conclusion of ch. 15.

5. See Zohar, Vol. III, p. 48a.

6. See the Mishneh Torah, conclusion of Hilchos Tzaraas, where the Rambam

states that tzaraas is not a physical disease, but a Divine sign above the

natural order.


METZORA 171

entire nation throughout history. 7

All Jews — those of the

past, present, and future — are part of a single organic

whole.

Since good is eternal, while evil is only temporary, 8

our

people's spiritual level has been constantly advancing. A

vast reservoir of good has been filling up over the centuries.

The Jewish people as they exist in ikvesa diMeshicha, the

age when Mashiach's approaching footsteps can be heard,

have attained the level of perfection mentioned in Likkutei

Torah.

Nevertheless, there are still blotches of evil "on the

periphery," for the world is still scarred by injustice and

strife. And thus the light of redemption cannot yet become

manifest; this is reflected in the leprous blemishes which

are visited on Mashiach himself. For as the prophet states: 9

"He has borne our sicknesses and endured our pain... with

blemishes, smitten of G-d, and afflicted." Mashiach endures

suffering, not for his own sake, but for the Jewish people as

a whole.

Positive import

There is still a difficulty. Although the above passage

explains why Mashiach must endure suffering, it does not

show why that suffering is identified with Mashiach.

Mashiach's name — who he is — should be positive.

This difficulty can also be resolved on the basis of the

passage from Likkutei Torah cited previously. For that

passage explains that leprous blemishes reflect "very high

levels," their source being transcendent spiritual light 10

that

7. See Tanya, ch. 2, Iggeres HaKodesh 7, based on Zohar, Vol. II, p. 141b and other

sources.

8. See Tanya, ch. 25.

9. Isaiah 53:4.

10. This is reflected in the fact that the Hebrew word for leprous blemish, ‏,נגע has

the same letters as the Hebrew word ‏,ענג meaning "pleasure" (Zohar, Vol. I, p.


172 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

are associated with Mashiach. Nevertheless, for this light to

be expressed in a positive manner, suitable vessels are

required.

Mashiach's suffering will bring about a final refinement in

the world at large, making it a fit vessel for the revelation of

its transcendent potential. Since this revelation lies at the

heart of the Era of the Redemption, the catalyst necessary

to bring it about is therefore associated with Mashiach's

name.

The Name of the Torah Reading

The above concepts also clarify a difficulty with regard

to the name of our Torah reading, Parshas Metzora. Metzora

means "leper." One might think that the name of a reading

in the holy Torah would be associated with a word of more

positive import. This question is reinforced by the fact that

in the works of the early Rabbinic sages, Rav Saadia Gaon, 11

Rashi, 12 and the Rambam, 13 a different name was employed

for this reading. All of these authorities refer to the reading

by the name Zos Tihiyeh ("This shall be"). It is only in the

later generations that the name Metzora became prevalent.

The explanation is that in these later generations, cracks

have appeared in the wall of exile, and through them the

light of Mashiach shines. In the light of Mashiach, Metzora is

not a negative factor but, as explained above, an expression

of transcendent G-dliness.

26b). As explained by the Kabbalah (see Tanya, ShaarHaYichud VehaEmunah,

ch. 1), the letters which make up a word reflect its inner life-force. The inner

life-force of נגע is the expression of Divine pleasure. See also Sefer HaYetzirah

2:4.

11. In his Siddur, with regard to the laws of the reading of the Torah.

12. In his commentary to Leviticus 13:8.

13. In his Seder Tefillos at the conclusion of Sefer HaAhavah.


METZORA 173

Through the Medium of Study

The Torah reading begins with a description of the

purification process to be undergone by a person afflicted

with tzaraas, saying "These are the laws of the metzora."By

focusing on Toras hametzora (the laws of the metzora), not

taharas hametzora, "the purification of the metzora," an

allusion is made to a fundamental concept.

Torah study develops human vessels that allow light —

all light, even the most sublime — to be accepted by and

internalized in our world. Through Torah study, the tran¬

scendent influence of tzaraas can be channeled into a posi¬

tive force.

Similarly, with regard to Mashiach: studying the teach¬

ings about Mashiach precipitate his revelation, drawing his

influence into our world.

With New Life

Often, Parshas Metzora is read in connection with Parshas

Tazria, which is associated with the sowing of seeds

and the conception of life. 14

This implies that the seeds of

our Divine service will not wait endlessly in the dark ground

of exile, but that Metzora, the Redemption, will blossom

immediately after the last seeds have been sown.

Conversely, the fusion of the two readings implies that

Metzora, the Redemption, has already been conceived; we

are only waiting for the birth. For the suffering which

Mashiach endures is the final step before his revelation. May

it take place in the immediate future.

14. Note the previous essay, entitled "Conceiving New Life."


FOUNDERS OF CHASSIDISM & LEADERS OF CHABAD-LUBAVITCH 175

Founders of Chassidism &

Leaders of Chabad-Lubavitch

Baal Shem Tov שם טוב)‏ ‏;בעל lit., "Master of the Good Name"): R. Yisrael

ben R. Eliezer (1698-1760), founder of Chassidism.

The Maggid of Mezritch (lit., "the preacher of Mezritch"): R. Dov Ber

(d. 1772), disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, and mentor of the Alter

Rebbe.

The Alter Rebbe אלטער רבי)‏ ‏;דער lit., "the Old Rebbe"; Yid.): R. Shneur

Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), also known as "the Rav" and as Baal

HaTanya; founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch trend within the

chassidic movement.

The Mitteler Rebbe מיטעלער רבי)‏ ‏;דער lit., "the Middle Rebbe"; Yid.): R.

Dov Ber of Lubavitch (1773-1827), son and successor of the Alter

Rebbe, and uncle and father-in-law of the Tzemach Tzedek.

Tzemach Tzedek צדק)‏ ‏:(צמח R. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1789¬

1866), the third Lubavitcher Rebbe; known by the title of his halachic

responsa as "the Tzemach Tzedek"; nephew and son-in-law

of the Mitteler Rebbe, and father of the Rebbe Maharash.

The Rebbe Maharash ‏;מהר״ש)‏ acronym for Moreinu ("our teacher")

HaRav Shmuel): R. Shmuel Schneersohn of Lubavitch (1834-1882),

the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe; youngest son of the Tzemach

Tzedek, and father of the Rebbe Rashab.

The Rebbe Rashab ‏;רש״ב)‏ acronym for Rabbi Shalom Ber): R. Shalom

Dov Ber Schneersohn of Lubavitch (1860-1920), the fifth

Lubavitcher Rebbe; second son of the Rebbe Maharash, and

father of the Rebbe Rayatz.

The Rebbe Rayatz ‏;ריי״ץ)‏ acronym for Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak), also

known (in Yiddish) as "der frierdiker Rebbe" (i.e., "the Previous

Rebbe"): R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), the sixth

Lubavitcher Rebbe; only son of the Rebbe Rashab, and father-inlaw

of the Rebbe.

The Rebbe: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), the

seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe; eldest son of the saintly Kabbalist,

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, rav of Yekaterinoslav; fifth in direct paternal

line from the Tzemach Tzedek; son-in-law of the Rebbe Rayatz.


GLOSSARY AND BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX 177

Glossary and Biographical Index

An asterisk indicates a cross reference within this Glossary.

baal teshuvah (pl. baalei teshuvah, lit. "master of return"): a per¬

son who turns to G-d in repentance, after willful or unknowing

transgression of the Torah's commandments

Beis HaMikdash: the temple in Jerusalem

bittul: self-nullification, a commitment to G-d and divine service

that transcends self-concern

Chabad (acronym for the Hebrew words meaning "wisdom,

understanding, and knowledge"): the approach to Chassidism

which filters its spiritual and emotional power through the

intellect; a synonym for Chabad is *Lubavitch, the name of the

town where this movement originally flourished

Chassidus: Chassidic thought

cheder: a Torah school for young children

Ein Sof: the Infinite, one of the Kabbalistic terms for G-d

Eretz Yisrael (lit., "the land of Israel")

Haftorah: (lit., "the final passage"): the passage from the Prophets

read in the synagogue after the conclusion of the Torah read¬

ing

ikvesa diMeshicha: the age when Mashiach's approaching foot¬

steps can be heard

Kabbalah (lit., "received tradition"): the Jewish mystical tradition

kelipah (lit., "rind" or "shell"): used figuratively (on a personal or

universal level) to signify an outer covering which conceals

the light within; hence, the unholy side of the universe;

Kli Yakar: A commentary to the Torah which highlights the mode

of D'rush, written by Shlomo Ephraim of Luntshits (1550¬

1619), a student of the Maharshal

Lashon Hora: gossip and slander


178 IN THE GARDEN OF THE TORAH

Likkutei Torah: a collection of chassidic discourses by Rabbi

Shneur Zalman of Liadi (see Alter Rebbe)

Lubavitch: name of the village in White Russia which for a century

was the home of the Rebbeim of *Chabad, and which is hence

used as a name for the movement

Mashiach: the Messiah

metzora: a person afflicted with *tzaraas

menorah: the golden candelabrum lit in the Temple

middos: Within our human framework, this refers to our character

traits and emotions. The same term also is used as an allegory

to refer to Divine powers whose function can be compared to

these human qualities

Midrash: the classical collection of our Sages' homiletical teach¬

ings on the Bible

mikveh: a ritual bath in which a person must immerse to attain a

state of ritual purity

Mitzrayim: The Land of Egypt

mitzvah (lit., "commandment; pl., mitzvos}: one of the 613 Com¬

mandments; in a larger sense, any religious obligation

neshamah (pl. neshamos): soul

Or Ein Sof: G-d's infinite light

Parshah (possessive, Parshas): One of the weekly Torah portions

read publicly each week

Rabbeinu (lit. "our teacher"): the title appended to the name of

Moshe and subsequently other Jewish leaders in history

Rambam (acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon; 1135-1204):

Maimonides, one of the foremost Jewish thinkers of the Mid¬

dle Ages; his Mishneh Torah is one of the pillars of Jewish law,

and his Guide to the Perplexed, one of the classics of Jewish

philosophy

Rashi (acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; 1040-1105): the

author of the foremost commentaries to the Torah and the

Talmud

Rebbe (lit., "my teacher [or master]"): saintly Torah leader who

serves as spiritual guide to a following of chassidim

seah: a liquid measure of the Talmudic period; 40 seah equals

87.59 gallons or 331.78 liter in modern measure according to

Shiurei Torah by Rav Chayim Neah


GLOSSARY AND BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX 179

Sefirah, pl. Sefiros: the Kabbalistic term for the attributes of

G-dliness which serve as a medium between His infinite light

and our limited framework of reference

Shabbos: the Sabbath

Shema: the fundamental Jewish prayer which we are obligated to

recite each day, in the evening and in the morning

Shemittah: the seventh year in the seven year agricultural cycle

when the land is left to lie fallow

shliach (pl. shluchim): agent

shlichus: agency

siddur: a prayer book

Talmud: the basic compendium of Jewish law, thought, and Bibli¬

cal commentary, comprising Mishnah and Gemara; when

unspecified refers to the Talmud Bavli, the edition developed

in Babylonia, and edited at end of the fifth century C.E.; the

Talmud Yerushalmi is the edition compiled in *Eretz Yisrael at

end of the fourth century C.E.

Tanya: the classic text of Chabad chassidic thought authored by

the Alter Rebbe

teshuvah (lit., "return [to G-d]"): repentance

tzaddik (pl., tzaddikim): (a) completely righteous individual (b)

*Rebbe

tzaraas: a bodily affliction resembling leprosy

yeshivah (pl. yeshivos): Academies for the study of the Torah's

Oral Tradition

yetzer hora (lit. "evil inclination")

Zohar (lit., "radiance"): The title of the classic mystical work

embodying the teachings of the *Kabbalah

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