Yisro 5752

1. The Ten Commandments are recorded twice in the Torah: once in ParshasYisro, and once in Parshas Vaeschanan. Since the Ten Commandments are the foundation for the entire Torah and include the entire Torah, it is obvious that their repetition communicates central lessons relevant to the Torah as a whole, i.e., they each represent an approach that is vital to our observance of the Torah in its entirety.1

The fundamental differences between the narrative of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Yisro and the narrative of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Vaeschanan is that Parshas Yisro relates how the Ten Commandments were given by G‑d. Parshas Vaeschanan, by contrast, presents Moshe’s description of the giving of the Ten Commandments. They are “the words of Moshe,” and not the direct word of G‑d.

This difference reflects two fundamental dimensions of the Torah: On one hand, the Torah is “G‑d’s will and G‑d’s wisdom,” “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.” From this perspective, the Torah is a “hidden treasure,” above the grasp of man.

Conversely, however, “the Torah has journeyed and descended through hidden stages, stage after stage through the entire set of the spiritual cosmos until it became enclothed in material entities and matters of this world.” This process reached its fullest expression at the giving of the Torah when the Torah was given to the Jewish people as they live in this material world. From that time onward, “the Torah is not in the heavens,” but rather the possession of the Jewish people. After the giving of the Torah, the Torah must be studied by the Jewish people as they exist “souls within bodies” and it is on the basis of their understanding that Torah law will be decided. Similarly, through their observance of the mitzvos, they transform the world into a dwelling for G‑d.

These two dimensions should be reflected in the way in which every Jew studies Torah: The awareness that the Torah transcends human knowledge leads to bittul, “selflessness.”2 In a complete sense, this bittul is reflected in the verse, “My tongue will repeat Your sayings,” which is interpreted as follows: “The Torah is ‘Your sayings,’ and my tongue is merely repeating what You have said.” In this context, we can also interpret the verse “G‑d, open my lips and my mouth will recite Your praise,” i.e., although it is a man who is speaking, what he is saying is “Your praise,” G‑d’s words and not his own. “The Divine Presence speaks from his throat.”

On this basis, we can understand our Sages’ statement that we should study the Torah with the same awe, fear, and trembling experienced by the Jews at Mount Sinai. For, although we are lacking all the open miracles of Sinai, the essence of the experience, that a limited human being is perceiving the word of G‑d, is the same.

Conversely, we must also appreciate that the Torah was given to man as he exists within our material world, a soul within a physical body. Accordingly, a person must endeavor to understand the Torah with his own mind and faculties. And when he achieves this, the Torah he studies is considered as his own. He receives a measure of authority over the Torah which he has studied.3

These two thrusts are also reflected in the ultimate purpose of our Torah study: fashioning a dwelling for G‑d in these lower worlds. Here, too, we see two dimensions, that it is a dwelling for G‑d, i.e., a place where He reveals Himself totally, as a person reveals himself without restraint in his own home. This relates to the transcendent dimension of the Torah. Because “the Torah and G‑d are one,” the Torah can reveal His presence in the world.

Simultaneously, as mentioned above, the Torah has undergone a process of descent, enclothing itself in matters of our material world. This enables the dwelling to be part and parcel of our lower world itself, causing its very own framework of reference to serve as a medium to reveal G‑d’s dwelling.

In this context, we can apply our Sages’ expression, “One who enters a country should follow its modes,” to the Torah’s descent into worldly existence. Because the Torah adapts to the modes of existence of our material environment, it has the potential to make them into a dwelling for G‑d.4

Based on these concepts, we can appreciate the significance of the two different narratives of the Ten Commandments in the Torah. The description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Yisro reflects G‑d’s speech, granting the Jews the potential for their Torah study to reflect G‑d’s speech.

This concept is reflected in the introductory verse to the Ten Commandments, literally translated as, “And G‑d related all the following to say (לאמר).” The commentaries note that the word laimor, “to say,” appears frequently in the Torah with the intent that the message communicated should be conveyed to others. This meaning is not appropriate in this instance, for the entire Jewish people were present at the giving of the Torah. Nor can the intent be to communicate the message to the Jews of future generations, for all the souls of the Jewish people, even those yet to be born,5 attended at Mount Sinai.

Therefore, the intent of the term in this instance is that G‑d gave the Jews the power to say the words of Torah as He said them, that the words of the Torah studied by a Jew should be “G‑d’s word.”

The description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Vaeschanan, by contrast, were spoken by Moshe. This grants a Jew the potential to comprehend the Torah within the context of his own limited human intellect and in a larger sense, to make a dwelling for G‑d within the context of our material world.6

Thus each of the different accounts of the Ten Commandments possesses an advantage lacking in the other. The account in Parshas Yisro reflects the advantage of direct revelation from G‑d, without an intermediaries. All the Jews heard the commandments from G‑d Himself.

In contrast, the description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Vaeschanan reflects how they are related by Moshe. Although Moshe was “a medium who connects,”7 and “the Divine Presence spoke from his throat,” this still represented a descent.8 And therefore, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai represents the ultimate of man’s connection with G‑d.

Nevertheless, receiving G‑d’s word in this manner negates our individual existence. (And thus our Sages relate that after each of the Commandments, the souls of the Jews expired.) Conversely, the second description of the giving of the Ten Commandments reflects the ultimate of a person’s individual existence, that a Jew, like Moshe, can be a medium for the expression of G‑d’s speech.

To express these advantages within the context of the expression “a dwelling for G‑d in the lower worlds”: The description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Vaeschanan reflects how even the lower worlds within their own context become a dwelling “for G‑d.” There is, however, a limitation although they are a “dwelling for G‑d,” there is a difference between G‑d and His dwelling. To refer to the analogy mentioned above, in a person’s own home, he expresses himself most freely: Although this is true, his home is merely the place where he expresses himself. There is a clear difference between the person himself and his home.

Similarly, in the analogue, although the description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Vaeschanan reflect how the Jews — as they exist within the framework of worldly existence — become a dwelling for G‑d, there remains, however, a difference between G‑d and His dwelling. The description of the Ten Commandments in Parshas Yisro, by contrast, reflect how nothing exists aside from G‑d Himself.

The ultimate level of fulfillment is when there is a fusion of both approaches, that G‑d’s essence is revealed within the context of our material world with no limitation whatsoever and that this revelation is internalized within the Jewish people (as opposed to causing their self-nullification). In this manner, a Jew repeats “G‑d’s word” and becomes a channel for the revelation of G‑dliness in the world at large.

In this context, the two narratives of the giving of the Ten Commandments can be seen as two stages in a single process. The narrative in Parshas Yisro reflects the potential for the revelation of essential G‑dliness. And the narrative in Parshas Vaeschanan reveals how this essential G‑dliness becomes internalized within Moshe, within the Jewish people, and within the world at large. In this manner, the revelation at Mount Sinai, becomes relevant to our divine service at all places and in all places.

* * *

2. There is a connection between the above concepts and the date on which Parshas Yisro is read this year, the 20th of Shvat, ten days after the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, and two days before the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe’s daughter, Rebbetzin Chayah Mushka.

Shvat is the eleventh month in the year. As mentioned on previous occasions,9all existence is structured in a framework of reference of ten. Eleven refers to a level of transcendence above that framework. These two levels are also reflected in the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments themselves reflect a set of ten. The first commandment, Anochi, reflects a level of transcendence, “You are one and not in a numerical sense.”

The Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit falls on the tenth day of the eleventh month, i.e., the transcendent quality associated with eleven is drawn down into the limited framework of ten.10 And this is the ultimate goal of the giving of the Torah, that G‑d’s essence be drawn down by the Jews in their Torah study every day.

Surely, the above is relevant to our generation, the last generation of the exile and the first generation of the redemption, for it is in the Era of the Redemption when we will witness the quintessence of the above process, seeing how G‑d’s essence permeates every dimension of existence.

And the Redemption can come immediately. Indeed, miyad (מיד) the Hebrew for “immediately,” is intrinsically connected with the Redemption, for its letters serve as an acronym for the names Moshe, Yisrael, David, the three Jewish leaders associated with the Redemption. Moshe redeemed the Jews from Egypt and our Sages declare, “He was the first redeemer and he will be the ultimate Redeemer.” It is the spreading outward of the wellsprings of the teachings of Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov, which will bring the Redemption. And similarly, the Mashiach will be a descendant of David, the first anointed king.

Similarly, miyad can reflect the continuity between generations as reflected in the acronym Moshe, Yehoshua, Doram, “Moshe Yehoshua and their generations.” This emphasizes how the concepts symbolized by the three letters are not distant from each other, but rather in direct connection.

Each one of us — man, woman, and child — must take a lesson from the above concepts.11 Since the Ten Commandments were associated with the unity of the Jewish people, at Mount Sinai, they camped “as one man, with one heart,” our application of the lessons they teach should also involve a community, i.e., ten other people. Every individual should seek to convey the totality of the Torah and its mitzvos, for they are all reflected within the Ten Commandments to at least ten other Jews.12

Although the above directive applies to every member of our generation, it is particularly relevant to those present in this “sanctuary in microcosm,” the house of prayer, house of study, and house of good deeds of the Previous Rebbe. Since the Nasi represents the entire generation, this building is beischayeinu, “the source of our life,” for every person in this generation.

When all the Jews here will serve as a living example of how the Previous Rebbe’s directives should be fulfilled, the influence from this house13 will reach Jews throughout the world. And this will hasten the coming of the time when the synagogues and houses of study in the Diaspora will all be taken to Eretz Yisrael together with the entire Jewish people. May this take place in the immediate future.

Translation: SichosInEnglish

Beshallach 5752

1. 1 There are several significant dimensions to the fact that this year, YudShvat, the day of the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit, was commemorated on a Wednesday. Among them:

a) Wednesday is the day on which the luminaries were suspended in the heavens;

b) Wednesday begins the preparations for the coming Shabbos (on which the service associated with the previous week, and in this instance, the service associated with the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit, is elevated to a higher level). This is reflected in the recitation of the verses from Lechu Nerraninah (the beginning of the Kabbolas Shabbos service) in the Psalm of the Day of Wednesday.

The latter concept is particularly appropriate this Shabbos, for it is Shabbos Shirah (the Shabbos of Song), the Shabbos on which the Torah reading contains the song sung by the Jewish people after the crossing of the Red Sea.

Shabbos shares a unique connection to song as reflected in the psalm that begins, “A psalm, a song for the Shabbos day.” In Chassidic thought, it is explained that song is a medium through which one can ascend to higher spiritual levels. For that reason, the elevation of the worlds to a higher spiritual level on Shabbos comes about through song. In particular, this potential is granted on Shabbos Shirah, and from Shabbos Shirah, the potential is drawn down to the other Shabbasos of the year. Thus, it is understood that Shabbos Shirah also allows a unique potential for the elevation of the service of Yud Shvat.

This Shabbos s also significant because it generates blessing for the day of Tu BeShvat. There are two important dimensions to the latter date: It is the New Year of the Trees and it is also the fifteenth of the month, the day on which the moon shines in its fullness, i.e., the service of this month is expressed in a complete manner. Connecting points to all of the above concepts can be found in the two Torah portions associated with the present Shabbos: Beshallach which is read in the morning service and Yisro, which is read in the afternoon service.

There is a connection between these two Torah readings. Parshas Beshallach marks the completion of the redemption from Egypt which is connected with the giving of the Torah described in Parshas Yisro as it is written, “When you take the people out of the Land of Egypt, you will serve Me on this mountain.” Conversely, Parshas Yisro is connected with the splitting of the Red Sea described in Parshas Beshallach, for it was the news of the splitting of the sea that motivated Yisro to come to visit Moshe.

Both Torah portions also share a connection to the Era of the Redemption. The song sung by the Jewish people after the crossing of the Red Sea contains several references to the Era of the Redemption. For example, the verse “the Sanctuary of G‑d established by Your hands,” which refers to the Third Beis HaMikdash which will be constructed at that time, and the concluding verse, “And G‑d will reign forever and ever.” Similarly, the oath taken by G‑d against Amalek recorded at the conclusion of Parshas Beshallach will be in force until Amalek is wiped out in the Era of the Redemption.

The giving of the Torah described in Parshas Yisro is also associated with the ultimate revelation of “the new [dimensions of the] Torah which will emerge from Me,” in the Era of the Redemption.2

The connection between all of these concepts can be understood better through the analysis of the opening verse of the Torah reading, “And G‑d did not choose the way of the Philistines although it was close.” (In practice, all the subsequent events are connected with this choice. Since G‑d led the people southward, it was necessary for the sea to split, there, they encountered Amalek, and it was because of these miracles that Yisro visited them.)

The Midrash explains that “the way of the Philistines” was an eleven day journey and draws a connection to the verse “an eleven day journey from Choreb.” Instead of taking this short journey, they traveled through the desert for forty years.

The Midrash also relates that eleven has positive significance, referring to “the distinct commandment,… the first of the ten, ‘I am G‑d, your L‑rd.’ ” In Kabbalistic terminology, eleven refers to the level of “one, but not in a numerical sense,” i.e., G‑d’s essence which is above the ten Sefiros.

By not choosing to lead the Jews by this path, G‑d did not intend to remove this influence from the Jews. Instead, His intent was that this transcendent influence be drawn down and made part of their inner being. This was accomplished through the forty year journey through the desert which endowed them with “a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear.” For it was the internalization of this transcendent potential which prepared them for the entry into Eretz Yisrael.3

The above was accomplished through the forty-two4 journeys of the Jewish people through the desert. Part and parcel of the intent in this journey was to elevate the sparks of G‑dliness enclothed in the material entities with which the Jews used during this journey. These sparks had fallen to low levels, the negative dimension of the number eleven.5 Nevertheless, through the efforts of the Jewish people, these negative dimensions can be nullified, and the positive power of these transcendent potentials revealed. Indeed, this service draws down increased energy into the service of G‑d within the context of the world’s limitations, which are alluded to in the Ten Commandments.

Were G‑d to have led the Jews to Eretz Yisrael on the eleven day journey, this transcendent quality would have been revealed from above, but would not have permeated the Jewish people as they exist within their own context. By causing the journey to last forty years, the transcendent quality associated with eleven was drawn down through the service of the Jewish people in elevating the material frame of reference in which we live, thus making it an integral part of our existence.

Based on the above, we can appreciate how the events mentioned in the Torah portions of Beshallach and Yisro serve as a preparation for the ultimate revelation of the Torah in the Era of the Redemption. The Torah to be revealed in the Era of the Redemption was also conveyed in the revelation at Mount Sinai.6 Nevertheless, the concepts to be revealed at that time have remained hidden to the point that they are described as “the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me,” i.e., a new entity never appreciated before.7

This concept relates to the contrast between the numbers ten and eleven mentioned above. The giving of the Torah was associated with the Ten Commandments and thus reflects how the Torah enclothes itself within the limits of worldly existence. For this reason, the giving of the Torah is associated with Nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah law which provide us with guidelines for our conduct within this world. Conversely, the revelation of “the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me” is associated with the number eleven, the transcendent dimension mentioned above.

In this context, the wanderings of the Jewish people throughout the centuries can be compared to the journeys through the desert, for the purpose of those wanderings was the elevation of the sparks of G‑dliness contained within the nations in which they lived. Ultimately, this service will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy “I will cause the spirit of impurity to depart from the land,” and this will be reflected in the wiping out of Amalek.

At that time, we will merit to take possession of Eretz Yisrael in its fullness as a land of ten nations, including not only the lands of the seven Canaanite nations, but also the lands of the Keni, Kenizi, and Kadmoni. Furthermore, Eretz Yisrael will spread out through the entire world, revealing how the world is G‑d’s dwelling.

There is a connection between the above and Shabbos Shirah, “the Shabbos of Song.” As mentioned above, song is a medium of ascent and also a medium for revelation. In this context, we can develop the ideas explained by our Sages that there were nine songs sung by the Jewish people as a whole and in the Era of the Redemption, we will sing the tenth song, “a new song.”

Our Sages continue that the previous songs are referred to as shirah, the feminine form of the word song, while the “new song” of the Era of the Redemption is referred as shir, the masculine form. All the previous songs refer to the efforts of the Jewish people (the feminine dimension, as explained by the commentaries to Shir HaShirim) to ascend to a higher spiritual level and to elevate their environment. In contrast, the song of the Era of the Redemption will be a song of revelation from above8 (the masculine dimension).

The above is particularly relevant to the month of Shvat, for Shvat is the eleventh month of the year (when counting from Nissan, the month of redemption).9 There is a special emphasis on the above on the tenth and the eleventh days of the month. The tenth of Shvat is the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, the day on which “all the deeds, teaching, and service which he performed throughout his life” are elevated to a higher level.10 The positive potential generated on this day is particularly emphasized this year when Yud Shvat falls on a Wednesday, the day the luminaries were suspended in the heavens, i.e., a day associated with revelation.

The elevated state reached is reflected on the eleventh day when the quality of transcendent revelation is expressed by the monthly cycle and by the daily cycle. All the more unique is the commemoration of these dates in the present year, for this is the 42nd anniversary of the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit, indicating that “the journey through the desert” to elevate the Jewish people and the environment in which they live has been completed and we, the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption, are prepared to enter Eretz Yisrael.

And soon we will merit the singing of the “new song,” the song of redemption, a song of unity and oneness. Indeed, a foretaste of the happiness and joy which will accompany that song can be experienced at present. The confidence that the Redemption is an immediate reality should produce joy and happiness.11

* * *

2. This Shabbos also conveys blessing upon the day of Tu BeShvat, “the New Year of the Trees,” a day which shares a connection with the seven species of produce for which Eretz Yisrael is praised, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive (oil), and dates (honey). This is relevant to every Jew, for every Jew is “a cherished land” which can give forth the seven species of produce, i.e., seven different modes of service of G‑d.

It is proper to mention the importance of holding farbrengens on Tu BeShvat in every place. At these farbrengens, it should be emphasized how every Jew is “a cherished land,” and possesses within himself the potential to express a mode of service appropriate to each of the seven types of produce for which Eretz Yisrael is praised.

Each Jew has a treasure store of spiritual potentials that enables him to bring out services representative of these seven services. This also includes the revelation of the secrets of Torah, the service associated with dates, as alluded to in the verse “milk and honey are under your tongue.” And it is through these efforts that we will merit that “a shoot will emerge from the stem of Yishai,” the coming of Mashiach who will take us to Eretz Yisrael together with the entire Jewish people. And then we will merit the ultimate fulfillment of the giving of the Torah, the revelation of the “the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me.”


1. Translator’s Note: Because of the thematic connection between the Rebbe’s sichos on Shabbos and those of the preceding Thursday, the eleventh of Shvat, these talks were combined and prepared for printing as a single entity. Hence, they have also been translated in this fashion.
2. Herein we can also see a connection to Yisro. In connection with that name, our Sages comment: “Why was he called Yisro (which has a connection with the word yesser which means “increase”)? Because an extra passage was added to the Torah because of him, the passage beginning “And you shall see.” The true concept of increase will be seen in the Era of the Redemption. Similarly, in that age, Mashiach will teach through the medium of sight.

3. This also relates to the opening phrase of our Torah portion, “And it came to pass when Pharaoh sent forth the people.” The transcendent potential mentioned above relates to the conception of Pharaoh in the sphere of holiness, “the source for the revelation of all lights.”

The internalization of this potential within the Jewish people is reflected in one of the verses from the Haftorah, bifroah praos biYisrael. This indicates how the transcendent influence of Pharaoh is conveyed biYisrael, within the Jewish people.
4. As evident from the Kabbalistic explanations of the prayer, Anah B’Koach, the number 42 is associated with the process of ascent, elevating the material context in which we live.
5. This is alluded to in the statement in the verse from Devarim that the eleven day journey was “by way of Mount Seir.”
6. Similarly, we find the expression “Every new concept developed by an experienced Sage was given to Moshe on Mount Sinai.”
7. This relates to Yisro whose name means, as mentioned above, “increase” and who converted to Judaism. Conversion reflects the ultimate concept of transformation from darkness to light. As a result of this process, light is increased.
8. Nevertheless, in this song, there will also be the potential for the lower realm to be included in this revelation. (In this context, we see a connection to Shir HaShirim, the song which reveals the unity, love, and oneness shared by G‑d and the Jewish people.)
9. As mentioned above, eleven is associated with the concept of transcendent revelation that will characterize the future Redemption. From the eleventh month, we proceed to the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the month of the redemption of Purim. And then, “joining redemption to redemption,” we proceed to Nissan, “the month in which the Jews were redeemed from Egypt and the month in which they will be redeemed in the future.”
10. This also brings the entire generation to a higher spiritual plane, for “the body follows the head.”
11. This should also be reflected in our prayers, for prayer is also referred to as song. Indeed, it is related that the Alter Rebbe would pray amidst song.

Translation by: Sichos in English