Sicha, B’haaloscha, 5751

1. Parshas Behaaloscha contains an aspect that does not exist in regard to all the other parshiyos of the Torah. The two verses beginning “And it came to pass when the ark would set out…” are set aside by upside down nunnim. Our Sages explain that these verses can be considered as a separate book of the Torah. According to this reckoning, there are seven books of the Torah, i.e., the Book of Bamidbar which is divided into three books, and the other four books. Thus, this week’s Torah portion includes portions of three of the Torah’s seven books.

Several difficulties are raised by this matter: a) According to this division, the sixth book of the Torah begins, “And it came to pass that the people complained.” This unfavorable occurrence is hardly an appropriate beginning for one of the books of the Torah.1 b) Similarly, we do not find a name for this sixth book in the works of our Sages. c) There are extensive explanations regarding the significance of the division of the Torah into five books. What is the significance of the seven books? d) What is the reason that this division is made in Parshas Behaaloscha?

A key to the resolution of these difficulties can be found in the opening passage of our Torah portion which describes the Menorah, which is a symbol of Torah for “the Torah is light.” Thus, just as the Menorah had seven branches, the Torah is divided into seven books.

To explain in greater detail: On the verse, “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within,” the Rabbis commented “within them,” i.e., within each and every Jew. Therefore, every element of the Sanctuary teaches us fundamental lessons regarding our service of G‑d. Surely, this applies in regard to the kindling of the Menorah.

Although there are myriad meanings for every Torah concept, the simple meaning of the concept — and that simple meaning emerges from Rashi’s commentary — produces a lesson which is relevant to each and every Jew, man, woman, and child.

Rashi interprets the word Behaaloscha, the opening phrase of this Torah portion, to mean, “to kindle until the flame rises up on its own accord.” This is relevant within the context of our service of G‑d. The candles refer to our service of Torah and mitzvos, “a mitzvah is a candle and the Torah, light” and similarly to our souls, “the candle of G‑d is the soul of man.” The light of Torah must illuminate every aspect of our lives, even our involvement with mundane affairs, and even our surrounding environment. Through the mitzvos which establish a tzavsa (“bond”) between G‑d and our material world, the world is transformed into a dwelling for G‑d, a shining Menorah which spreads G‑dly light.

This G‑dly light must be kindled “until the flame rises up on its own accord.” Although the Menorah is lit by a Jew (Aharon the Priest), the ultimate purpose is that it shine on its own accord, without the assistance of the person lighting the Menorah. Similarly, in regard to our service of G‑d, although G‑d grants a Jew the potential to carry out the service of “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah,” and a Jew also receives influence from Aharon the Priest who lights the candles of the souls of the Jewish people,2 the ultimate purpose is that the candle of his soul shines on its own accord. I.e., a Jew’s soul should be permeated by “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah” to the extent that, without any external influence, “the flame rises up on its own accord.”

In particular, each of the terms in the above phrase is significant. The word “flame” refers to the part of the candle which produces light. This reflects the service of a Jew, to light up his surrounding environment, and not merely with a small light, but with a large flame.

This flame must “rise up,” i.e., a person should not stand in one place, but rather must constantly advance further in the service of G‑d.3 In particular, the phrase “rise up” implies a unique nature of advance. Frequently, a person will proceed in his service, expanding its breadth and scope, however, he will remain on the same level. In this instance, we are speaking about a person elevating the nature of his service, rising to a higher plane.

This flame must rise up “on its own accord,” i.e., this tendency for growth and development in the spreading of Divine light must become a person’s own natural tendency. Although, initially, a person is given the potential for this service by G‑d, this service must permeate his own being until it becomes his own natural tendency.

We see this in regard to the study of the Torah (“and Torah is light”). At the outset, a person is taught to study by others. Ultimately, however, the purpose is for a person to acquire the skills necessary to allow him to study the Torah himself, and furthermore, to study in a manner in which the Torah becomes engraved in his memory and thus becomes part and parcel of his own thinking processes.4

(This is reflected in the concept that the Torah concepts that a person develops are considered “as his own,” not only does he receive from the Torah, he adds to and increases the Torah itself.)

In a larger sense, the concept of a Jew developing himself in Torah study until his “flame rises on its own accord” relates to the concept of the giving of the Torah as a whole. At the outset, the Torah was given to the Jews by G‑d (i.e., the candle was lit by others). After the Torah was given, however, “the Torah is not in the heavens,” and Torah decisions must be decided by the Jewish people. G‑d and the Heavenly court come to hear the Torah decisions rendered by the Jewish people.

A similar concept applies in regard to the observance of the mitzvos. The ultimate dimension of this service is when it becomes internalized to the extent that it becomes a person’s natural reaction, to quote our Sages, “When one reaches Modim, one bows as a spontaneous reaction.” {This should not be done coldly, merely out of habit, but rather as an expression of one’s progress in the service of G‑d (as reflected in the observance of the mitzvos behiddur, in a beautiful and conscientious manner).}

Similarly, our service in the world at large which is governed by the directives, “All your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven,” and “Know Him in all your ways,” must also be carried out in a manner in which “the flame rises up on its own accord.” Even when a person eats, sleeps, and is involved with mundane activities, he “places G‑d before him at all times,” and does so in a manner which reflects how this appreciation became part and parcel of his very being.

A similar concept applies in regard to our efforts to influence others. Our intent should be to cause their “flame to arise on its own accord.” Even after the person who influenced them has departed, the influence will remain strong and they will continue to shine with “the light of Torah” and “the candle of mitzvah,” for this is their true being.

In a more particular sense, there are two possible explanations of “the flame rising up on its own accord”: a) At the outset, a Jew’s body does not shine with “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah,” nevertheless, through work and effort, the body is trained so that the Torah and its mitzvos become the body’s natural and spontaneous reaction.

In essence, however, this is against the nature of the body. Indeed, the body has to be trained to carry out this service, and without training, would not do so. b) From a deeper perspective, this is the body’s true nature for the true being of every entity in this physical world is essential G‑dliness. From this perspective, the service of the Torah and mitzvos reveals, instead of running contrary to, the body’s true nature.

These two explanations can be considered as two phases in a sequence. At the outset, the body conceals the light of Torah and mitzvos, and therefore, our service must involve training the body’s nature. Ultimately, however, through the refinement of the body, we can reveal the essential G‑dliness present in a Jewish body.

The concept of kindling the lights “until the flame rises up on its own accord” is also relevant in regard to the effects of our service in the world at large. When a Jew performs a mitzvah with a material entity — and the performance of most mitzvos involve material entities — that entity becomes refined and elevated. Furthermore, in certain instances it becomes transformed into a holy article.

In these instances, although the holiness was conveyed upon the article through the Jews’ performance of the mitzvah, that holiness is imparted to the material entity itself, and remains even after the mitzvah has been completed. For this reason, such an object can be used for an oath and indeed, it is because the person taking the oath holds a sacred article in his hand, that the oath derives its power.5

We see this in regard to the sacrifices. Although it is necessary for a human being to consecrate a sacrifice, once the sacrifice is consecrated, it changes the nature of the material entity itself, causing it to become holy. Furthermore, this holiness can add to the person who consecrated it and bring him atonement.6

Although the material nature of the world is not [apparently] associated with holiness, G‑d gives a Jew the potential7 to transform a material entity into a holy object through his service of Torah and mitzvos and for that holiness to become an integral part of that entity itself, for “the flame to rise up on its own accord.”

This involves a fusion of opposites, bringing together the material and the spiritual. And this is accomplished by man’s actions. A parallel can be seen in the kindling of the lights in the Sanctuary. Here too, it is man’s activity which is necessary to bring the fire to the wicks. Once the wicks have been kindled, “the flame rises up on its own accord.”

The above applies, not only in regard to those matters which are obviously associated with a mitzvah, but also in regard to service in the world at large, in carrying out “all one’s deeds for the sake of Heaven” and “Knowing Him in all your ways.” Furthermore, it can — and must — be carried out, not only by adults, but also by children. This is accomplished by a child placing a chumash, siddur, and tzedakah pushka in a fixed place in his room. In this way, even when he does not use them, their very presence will remind him of their importance.

The ultimate intent is that this service of elevating the world at large involve even the lowest elements of existence, causing them to shine “on their own accord” with G‑dly light. Indeed, it is through the service with the lowest elements of existence that the transformation of the world into a dwelling for G‑d is completed. In Chassidus, this concept is explained through an analogy. When one wants to lift up an object, one places the lever below the bottom of the object and when it is lifted up, the higher portions of the object will also be raised.

In this context, we can understand a deeper dimension of the kindling of the Menorah by Aharon, the Priest. Aharon’s service involved “loving the creations and drawing them close to the Torah,” i.e., he involved himself with even those people who have no redeeming quality other than being G‑d’s creations. This represents an involvement with the lowest level of the Jewish people. Similarly, the light from the Menorah spread throughout the world, allowing even its lowest aspects to be elevated.

On the basis of the above concepts, we can resolve the questions concerning the seven books of the Torah and the fact that the sixth book begins with the passage describing the Jews’ complaints: The two numbers seven and five are of general significance. Thus, the Menorah, the symbol of the Jewish people as a whole, contain seven branches, one for each of the seven emotional qualities. Similarly, the number five is associated with the five books of the Torah which represent five categories within the Jewish people.

(The existence of these five categories is alluded to in this week’s chapter of Pirkei Avos which describes Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai as having five students. Surely, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai who was the Nasi of the Sanhedrin and who renewed the study of Torah for the Jewish people in Yavneh, possessed more than five students. However, the intent is that these five represented general categories which included all the Jewish people.8 )

Although both five and seven are of general significance, there is a difference between them. Five refers to the service with oneself and the service in the realm of holiness, while seven refers to service with others and service within the world at large. For this reason, there are five books of the Torah and Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai is described as having five students, for when describing the Jews as they study the Torah, it is necessary to speak of only five categories. Nevertheless, when considering the ultimate purpose of our service, that even the lowest elements of our existence become permeated with G‑dly light — and that is the purpose of the Torah as our Sages said, “The Torah was given solely to bring about peace in the world” — it is necessary to speak within the context of seven books.

And the sixth book — i.e., the book which follows the five levels of holiness — begins with a description of the lowest level of the Jews’ behavior, to show that through the process of teshuvah, even this level of conduct can be elevated to the point that “the flame rises up on its own accord.”9

The potential to carry out this service is derived from the fifth book and the message its two verses communicate. The first verse “And it came to pass when the ark set out, Moshe would say, ‘Arise O L‑rd and Your enemies will be dispersed,…’ ” reflects the service of refining the world at large. The second verse, “And when it came to rest, he would say, ‘Return O L‑rd, [to] the myriads and thousands of Israel,’ ” alludes to the indwelling of the Divine Presence among the Jewish people.

2. A similar concept can be derived from Parshas Shelach which we begin reading during the Minchah service. Parshas Shelach describes Moshe’s sending of spies to Eretz Yisrael. Among the questions raised by that narrative are: a) The Torah refrains from speaking negatively about all things, even a non-kosher animal. If so, why does it relate a narrative which is unfavorable in nature? b) The Haftoros chosen for the Parshiyos share the theme of the parshah. If so, why was the passage which describes the mission of the spies sent by Yehoshua chosen as the Haftorah for this Parshah? Although both passages describe stories of spies, the narrative of the Torah reading is negative in nature, while the narrative of the Haftorah is positive.

These questions can be resolved as follows: Yehoshua and Caleb declared: “The land is very, very good,” bringing out a positive dimension to the entire narrative of the spies. This was Moshe’s intent in sending them. And for this reason, Yehoshua sought to emulate Moshe’s conduct and sent spies before setting out to conquer Eretz Yisrael.10

Thus we can see the lasting dimension of the positive nature of Moshe’s activity in sending spies, how “the flame rises up on its own accord.” Even in a subsequent generation, his activity was copied.

* * *

3. Now is a time when we must light up the candles of the Jewish people in this era of exile. The cumulative legacy of all the positive activity of the previous generations is granted us, and now, all that is necessary is to kindle the flame, and make sure that it “rises up on its own accord.” Although our generation is on a lower level than the previous ones, being compared to the heel in relation to the entire body, it is our generation that has the potential to elevate the service of all the previous generations. We will be the last generation of exile, and the first generation of the Redemption, and in this way, bring redemption to all the Jews of the previous generations.

This is particularly relevant after the Previous Rebbe’s example of emulating the conduct of Aharon the Priest, “loving the creations and drawing them close to the Torah.” Through his activities, the wellsprings of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus were spread to those on the furthest peripheries of Jewish involvement.

These activities were specifically directed to hastening the coming of the ultimate redemption as the Previous Rebbe proclaimed, “Im­mediately let us turn to G‑d in teshuvah, and immediately we will be redeemed.” He also stated that all that is left is to “polish the buttons” before Mashiach’s coming. That service has already been completed. And now all we must do is “stand prepared to” greet Mashiach and to proceed “with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters” to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash.

4. This evening, the annual Melaveh Malkah on behalf of Colel Chabad is being held. Accordingly, we can assume that there is a point of connection between the portion of the Torah read this Shabbos and Colel Chabad.

This Torah reading describes the Menorah kindled in the Sanctuary. As mentioned in the Haftorah, that Menorah serves as a symbol for the entire Jewish people, because each Jew is candle which has the potential to illuminate the world with “the light of Torah and the candle of mitzvah.”

The Menorah contained seven branches, and yet it was made of a single block of gold. These are also symbolic factors. There are seven fundamental categories of service among the Jewish people, reflecting the seven emotional qualities (middos) attributed to G‑d. Each category of Jews reflects and reveals a different G‑dly quality. The division into these seven qualities does not, however, create separation among our people. On the contrary, there is a unique oneness which pervades and permeates our people as a whole, for we all share a single essence.

The oneness of the Menorah is also reflected in the fact that the six outer lights were pointed to the central shaft of the Menorah. In the allegory, this implies that the service of these seven different categories will be permeated by a single fundamental commitment to carry out G‑d’s inner will.

In an individual way, these concepts are also reflected in the spiritual service of each person, for each of us possess these seven qualities. They must be illuminated by the light of the essence of the soul, and in this manner, fused into a single and all-inclusive commitment to His service.

These concepts are reflected in Colel Chabad. Chabad is an acronym representing the intellectual qualities of Chochmah, Binah, and Daas which are the source for the seven emotional categories mentioned above. The name Colel which means “general quality,” refers to the unification of these seven qualities and their fusion into a single whole.

In a very real way, this describes the activities of Colel Chabad, for it is an organization which offers assistance to all Jews without distinction: material assistance, providing thou­sands with food, clothing, and other necessities, and spiritual assistance, spreading the awareness of Judaism among our people. These activities are dedicated to establishing unity and oneness among our people. In a very simple sense, when Jews see the care and attention their brethren show to them, their feelings of oneness will be aroused.

This emphasis on unity has been generated by the Rebbeim who all, beginning from the Alter Rebbe, have devoted great energies to activity on behalf of Colel Chabad. To express the concept within the context of the allegory of the Menorah mentioned above, the involvement of the Rebbeim has pointed all the seven lights, i.e., all the different forms of activity, to the central shaft of the Menorah, to a single unified commitment to G‑d’s will.

May all those who support the work of the Colel, both financially and with their efforts, realize that they are also a Colel, i.e., they do not live for themselves and they share a connection with others. And may this expression of unity — particularly as associated with tzedakah for tzedakah brings close the redemption — lead to the ultimate expression of unity which will be experienced in the Era of Redemption. May it be in the immediate future.

5. The following remarks were made by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita during the farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Behaaloscha. The Rebbe made these statements within the discussion of a subject of greater scope. Because of their relevance, we have published them under an independent heading. Nevertheless, they do not represent a complete treatment of the issues discussed and must be considered within the context of the Rebbe Shlita’s previous statements on these issues.

The day following the present Shabbos is the 20th of Sivan, a day which was established as a day of fasting because of the pogroms which took place in Poland.11

Polin as that country is called in Yiddish can be broken up into two Hebrew words Po lin, meaning “Here, we will spend the night;” i.e., it served as a haven for the Jews in the night of exile.12 This expression contains two implications:

a) that one’s stay will only be temporary. Ultimately, the Jews will leave exile, and in the era of the Redemption, come to their true place in Eretz Yisrael.

b) that during the interim while the Jews are in exile, they will be able to “spend the night” in peace and tranquility.

For many generations, this was realized in Poland. The Polish noblemen raised the Jews to prominent positions, entrusting their finances to them. The Jews, in turn, used this prosperity to bring about an increase in the service of Torah and mitzvos.

(These noblemen would call their Jewish overseers Moishkeh, a derivative of the name Moshe. This reflected a deep spiritual concept, that every Jew possesses a spark of Moshe our teacher in his soul.)

This teaches us lessons in regard to the exile as a whole:

a) that exile is associated with night – darkness and concealment. It is only a temporary state leading to the era of the Redemption.

b) that the Jews should use the prosperity offered by the exile to advance in the service of G‑d.13

Also, there is a particular lesson in regard to Poland. There is a need to provide Rabbis and community leaders who will motivate the Jews living there to turn to G‑d in Teshuvah.

Translation: Sichos in English

  1. More particularly, the Hebrew words with which that passage begins, Vayihi and Ha’am, have pejorative connotations. Our Sages stated, “The word Vayihi always connotes a state of aggravation.” And “Ha’am always refers to the wicked.”  Also, complaining is an undesirable activity, running contrary to our Sages’ directive, “A person should bless [G‑d] for the [seemingly] bad just as he blesses [Him] for the [obviously] good.”
  2. Similarly, each Jew receives influence from his parents, teachers, and neighbors. Thus there are many people granting him assistance.
  3. This concept is also alluded to in the Haftorah which contains the prophecy to Zechariah, “I will give you the potential to proceed among these (the angels) who are standing by.” In Chassidic thought, it is explained that the angels “stand” — i.e., they have reached a developed level — in the service of the love and fear of G‑d. Nevertheless, a Jew is granted a higher potential, he can proceed, constantly rise to new peaks.
  4. To accomplish this a person must be dedicated to Torah study to the extent that he is willing to review his subject matter many times until it becomes imprinted upon his memory. Thus our Sages mention the concept of a person reviewing his subject matter one hundred times, and explain that this had become the habit of the people at that time, i.e., their natural tendency was to study to this extent. (Nevertheless, our Sages also praise a person for going beyond this habit and studying his subject matter one hundred and one times.)
  5. The concept of taking an oath also involves imparting power to a person as the Tzemach Tzedek explains in his interpretation of the opening phrase of Tanya, “[The soul] is given an oath…”
  6. Seemingly, this also applies in regard to the sacrifices offered before the giving of the Torah. Thus, the question arises: Why did Avraham have his servant Eliezer take hold of his circumcision when taking an oath. Seemingly, he could have had him take hold of a sacrifice.
  7. Granting this potential involved the nullification of the decree separating the higher spiritual realms from the physical at the giving of the Torah.
  8. The universal relevance of this concept is also obvious from the fact that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai “mentioned the praises” of these students. On the surface, such an act is totally out of character for Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. We find that he was too busy with positive activities throughout his life to take time to evaluate his own spiritual status, and therefore, when his students visited on the day of his death, he told them, “I do not know the way in which they are leading me.” Why did he make this realization at first on the last day of his life? Because throughout his life, he was to busy studying and teaching to concern himself with his own spiritual level.  Despite this involvement, in this Mishnah, we find him taking time to mention the praise of his students. This, however, was done with the intention of revealing how these five students represented five general paths of service that exist within the Jewish people as a whole, and more particularly, that exist within each individual Jew.
  9. Similarly, the Book of Devarim which follows begins with the rebuke of the Jewish people for their unfavorable conduct.
  10. In general, Yehoshua’s conduct paralleled that of Moshe. This is reflected by our Sages’ statements, “Moshe’s face was like the sun; and Yehoshua’s, like the moon.” Just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, Yehoshua learned the guidelines for his leadership of the Jews from Moshe.
  11. See the conclusion of the Magen Avraham’s gloss to Orach Chayim 580. significantly, the Previous Rebbe did not observe this fast – even while he lived in Poland although there were others who did observe this fast in that era.
  12. Although the gentiles who gave the country that name were not conscious of this meaning, it was Divine Providence that this name be given.
  13. There is an allusion to this in our Sages’ statement (cf. Eruvin 65a), “Night was created for Torah study.”

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