Chukas 5751

1. Every day has two dimensions, its place in the week (which depends on the daily cycle of day and night) and its place in the month (which is dependent on the lunar cycle). Each of these serves as a lesson for us in the service of G‑d. In particular, this is relevant in regard to the present Shabbos which falls on the tenth of Tammuz and, as every other Shabbos, is the seventh day of the week. This is especially true, because the numbersseven and ten are of general import.

To focus on the difference between the weekly cycle and the monthly cycle. The weekly cycle reflects a Divine pattern of revelation, paralleling the first seven days of creation. This is not dependent on man’s activity at all. Thus, the holiness of Shabbos is established by G‑d, above all connection to human actions. From the seventh day of creation onward, every Shabbos has been an experience of holiness.

In contrast, the monthly cycle is dependent on man, for it is the Jewish court who establish the calendar.1 This is reflected in the blessing recited on holidays, “…who sanctifies Israel and festive seasons.” Israel is mentioned first, for the sanctity of the festivals is dependent on the Jewish court. This points to the spiritual task given to the Jewish people, to draw down holiness which transcends the creation within our world.

The weekly cycle is thus an expression of the Divine energy invested in the creation. This reflects a level of perfection as our Sages said, “The world was created in a perfect state.” Man, however, was given the potential to raise the creation to a new2 and higher level of perfection. Thus our Sages interpreted the phrase “all that G‑d created to do,” “as created to improve,” i.e., man has the potential and the responsibility to introduce into the world a dimension of holiness which the world does not possess by nature. This holiness will be revealed in the Era of the Redemption, when man will have completed his task of elevating the world.

These two levels relate to the numbers seven and ten. Seven relates to the holiness of the natural order, i.e., the Divine life-force invested in creation. Ten, in contrast, relates to a level which transcends creation and is introduced by man.

To explain the concept in Kabbalistic terminology. Seven reflects the seven middos, the Divine energies which are paralleled by our emotional qualities. These were the forces which brought the world into being; each day of creation giving expression to a different one of these middos (the first day of creation reflected the quality of Chessed, “kindness,” the second day, the quality of Gevurah, “might,” until the seventh day which reflected the quality of Malchus, “sovereignty”).

Ten, in contrast, includes also the three qualities described as mochin, which are paralleled by our intellectual faculties. These qualities transcend the present level of the world. The intent, however, is for man to introduce these intellectual qualities into the world, and thus to elevate the world to a higher plane.

This will be accomplished in the Era of the Redemption. In the maamarim associated with the verse, “Do not cause distress to Moav,” Chassidic thought explains that in the present age, our service involves refining the seven emotional qualities which correspond to the seven nations which inhabited Eretz Yisrael. In contrast, in the Era of the Redemption, our service will focus on the development of our intellectual faculties which correspond to the Keini, Kenizi, and Kadmoni, the three nations whose lands will be conquered in the Era of the Redemption.

To explain this concept in greater depth: In truth, these two dimensions are manifest within the creation itself. Thus the Written Torah speaks of the seven days of the creation, while the Oral Torah (this week’s chapter of Pirkei Avos) speaks of the Ten Utterances of Creation.

(Here too we see a parallel to the above concepts: The Written Torah is given from Above and its holiness exists independent of man’s activity. In contrast, the Oral Torah is revealed through man’s efforts. Through one’s dedication of his efforts to Torah study, it is possible for him to develop new concepts that were not revealed previously.)

Each of these numbers, seven and ten, possess an advantage. Seven represents the perfection which G‑d invested into the creation itself. This is the true nature of the world; that it is good, and indeed, its goodness is an intrinsic aspect of its being. In contrast, ten refers to a level of holiness that transcends the world; “The tenth is holy,” and our sages said, “ ’Holy’ is a word which is unique.” The uniqueness of this holiness stems from the contribution of the efforts of man.3

Thus these two levels reflect the perfections of limitation and infinity, expressing the manner with which G‑dliness permeates the creation and the revelation of G‑dliness above the level of creation.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the unique qualities of the present day which is, as mentioned above, the seventh day of the week and the tenth day of the month. This reflects a fusion of the two levels, that the G‑dliness which transcends nature pervades the limits of the world itself.

2. The sum of ten and seven is seventeen which is numerically equivalent to the word טוב meaning “good.” This reflects an ultimate good, a good which fuses the positive dimensions of both thrusts described above.4

The Zohar states that all the days of the coming week are blessed by the Shabbos. The above concepts highlight the nature of the blessing received by the following Shabbos, the seventeenth of Tammuz. Generally, the seventeenth of Tammuz is a fast day. This year, however, because the date falls on Shabbos, the fast is postponed until Sunday.

As mentioned seventeen is numerically equivalent to the word טוב

meaning “good.” In this instance, man’s service brings about an ultimate dimension of goodness, a transformation of seemingly negative factors, and a revelation of the inner positive qualities.

To explain: The inner dimension of a fast day is that it is “a time of will.” This is reflected in the fact that, in the Era of the Redemption, all the fasts will be transformed into festivals and days of celebration. This indicates how even the undesirable events which occurred on these fast days are an expression of this inner goodness; they show the great love G‑d has for the Jewish people. To cite an allegory: it is like a king who personally washes the filth from his child.

The positive dimension of the seventeenth of Tammuz is openly revealed this year, when that date falls on Shabbos. On Shabbos, it is forbidden to fast. On the contrary, it is a mitzvah to indulge in pleasures of a physical nature, to eat and drink in a festive manner. When the seventeenth of Tammuz falls on Shabbos, the holiness from Above associated with the number seven is revealed and simultaneously, there is a transformation — at least on that date itself — of the undesirable elements associated with that day into good which demonstrates the positive qualities contributed by man’s service, the quality of ten.5

With the exception of Yom Kippur, all the fast days are Rabbinic in origin. This implies that the Torah, described as “the Torah of kindness,” sees the world in a positive light, and, therefore does not see that great a need for fasts to be instituted for man to seek atonement for his conduct. Indeed, even Yom Kippur is primarily a positive concept, as reflected in the association between it and the verse, “to give them life through famine,” i.e., although it is a day of “famine,” on this day, we are given life.

In contrast, the Rabbis appreciated that “it was our evil deeds and those of our ancestors which resemble our own, which brought about these difficulties for them and for us.” Hence, they established fasts “in order to arouse the hearts and open the paths of teshuvah.6 And through this teshuvah, man and the world are brought to a higher level than before the sin.

Thus, the Torah reveals the good which is present within the creation. Through the Rabbinic tradition — which reveals the input of man — we are able to express an inner and deeper good, a good that involves the transformation of undesirable influences.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the potential possessed by Shabbos to cause a fast to be postponed. Shabbos is associated with the revelation of good and pleasure from above in a manner which prevents the possibility of a fast. When, however, the seventeenth of Tammuz falls on Shabbos, there is also a revelation of the good associated with the service of ten. Instead of fasting, there is a mitzvah to delight in the Shabbos, and take pleasure in food and drink. This serves as the preparation for the era when the fast will be transformed into a day of celebration of happiness in the Era of the Redemption.7

This is accomplished through the blessing granted by the Shabbos of the 10th of Tammuz, for it is the fusion of ten and seven of this Shabbos that allows for the transformation of the seventeenth of Tammuz on the following Shabbos.8

* * *

3. The above concepts also relate to this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Chukas. This portion begins, “These are the statutes of the Torah….” Although the passage that follows describes only one mitzvah, the Red Heifer, it is still referred to as “the statute of the Torah,” because in microcosm, the service of the entire Torah is alluded to in this mitzvah.9

To explain: The service of the Red Heifer involves two movements, ratzo and shov. The burning of the heifer alludes to the service of ratzo, the yearning of the Jewish soul to be united with G‑d. And the placement of water in a vessel refers to the service of shov, our efforts to draw G‑dliness into the world, and make the world a dwelling for Him.

There is a parallel between the movements of ratzo and shov and the concepts of seven and ten described previously. Ratzo reflects the desire to rise above the limitations of our world. Thus, it relates to the level of ten which also reflects a level of perfection that transcends the natural limits. In contrast, shov involves service within the world. Thus, it parallels the level of seven which is associated with perfection within nature.

The ultimate level of service reflects a fusion of both these movements: One’s yearning to transcend the limits of the body and the world must be combined with the consciousness of G‑d’s desire for a dwelling to be created for Him on this plane. Conversely, one’s service of drawing G‑dliness into this world must be carried out with an awareness that “By force, you live,” that the soul’s natural yearning is to rise above the body, and it is only for the sake of the fulfillment of G‑d’s will that one remains on this material plane.

* * *

4. Herein there is also a connection to the holiday of Yud-Beis-Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, the festive commemoration of the redemption of the Previous Rebbe from prison, which also takes place in the coming week.

The power to reveal the levels of seven and ten in the world stems from our achievements in the realm of Torah as indicated in the Zohar’s teaching, “The Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world. A mortal looks into the Torah and maintains the world.”

The two levels of seven and ten (in addition to their connection to the Written Torah and the Oral Torah as mentioned above) can also be seen as paralleling the two Torah disciplines: Nigleh, the revealed dimension of Torah law, the body of the Torah, and Pnimiyus HaTorah,Torah’s inner, mystic dimension, the Torah’s soul.

Nigleh deals with practical directives for deed and action in the world at large. Thus, it relates to that level of G‑dliness that enclothes itself within the limits of the natural order (seven). In contrast, Pnimiyus HaTorah deals with the inner dimensions of the soul and the world and thus relates to the level of G‑dliness which transcends the world (ten). And hence, it is Pnimiyus HaTorah which gives us the potential to appreciate the inner, positive nature of those elements of existence which do not appear as outwardly good.

The ultimate revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah will be in the Era of the Redemption (and is alluded to by the conquest of the lands of the Keini, Kenizi, and the Kadmoni as mentioned above). We have been granted, however, a foretaste of that revelation in the last several hundred years. Thus the AriZal declared that “It is a mitzvah to reveal this wisdom,” and the Baal Shem Tov began the service of “spreading the wellsprings outward.” And the Chabad Rebbeim enclothed these truths in an intellectual framework which allowed them to be grasped by more individuals. In each subsequent generation, there has been a greater spreading, and simultaneously, a greater revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah.

Although there has been a decline in the spiritual level of the generations, it is precisely because our service is being carried out on the lowest of all levels, that these transcendent levels of Torah are being revealed. It is the service in the darkness of exile, a service which draws out the deepest dimensions of a Jew’s spiritual potential, which prompts the revelation of these lights. And thus, as the descent of exile continues, there is a greater and more inclusive revelation of the wellsprings of Chassidus.

This relates to the redemption of Yud-Beis Tammuz, for that event sparked an increase in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. Moreover, it ultimately led to the Previous Rebbe’s coming to America which brought about a marked increase in this service. Indeed, the extent to which Chassidus has been revealed and spread since then has far exceeded the nature of these efforts in previous generations.

The potential for this emanates from the Previous Rebbe’s redemption for as Rashimentions, “The Nasi is the entire people.” The entire people, particularly those who merited to see the Previous Rebbe in person — for seeing a Nasi has a powerful effect on those who behold him — derive inspiration and strength from him.

 

The effects of these efforts increase year after year. Particularly, in the last several years, an abundance of Chassidic teachings which in previous generations had been reserved for a select few, have been published and disseminated. Indeed, even maamarim which no one knew about previously have been published. (Great is the merit of all those who through their efforts and/or financial support have made these teachings available to others.)

The spreading of these teachings leads to the revelation of Divine influence which in essence transcends the world (the level of ten). In particular, the teachings of Chabad Chassidus which enclothe these transcendent concepts within the limits of intellect, grant the potential to make vessels for G‑dliness within the world and to transform the world into a dwelling for Him (the level of ten permeating the level of seven).

This service serves as a preparation for the ultimate revelation, the reward for “spreading the wellsprings outward,” which is — as the Mashiach told the Baal Shem Tov — the Future Redemption. Then we will see the ultimate fusion of the G‑dliness which transcends nature (ten) and the G‑dliness invested within the natural order (seven).

* * *

5. The above concepts must also be reflected in the individual service of every person. A person must be involved in both services mentioned above: revealing the G‑dliness invested within the world at large and drawing down G‑dliness which transcends the world.

Both these services are alluded to in the declaration Modeh Ani which a Jew makes upon arising every morning. We thank G‑d for returning our souls — i.e., acknowledge the G‑dly life-force invested within us — and relate “great is Your faithfulness” — state our awareness of a level of G‑dliness which is “great,” i.e., above our ordinary limits.

In a more explicit manner, these two services feature in the blessings we say each morning. The morning blessings thank G‑d for the material gifts He has granted us, and afterwards, we proceed to the blessings of the Torah, which describe a bond with G‑d that is higher than nature as our Sages commented “the Torah preceded the world.”

Afterwards, these two thrusts feature in our service throughout the day. Certain elements of our conduct are involved with refining and elevating the world and others are involved with spiritual service that transcends the limits of the world, i.e., the study of the Torah and the observance of its mitzvos.

The necessity for such a twofold service can be appreciated by everyone, even a young child. Everyone realizes that he has a body which derives its nurture from physical activities and a soul which is a spiritual entity above the body. The body is obviously limited, while the nature of the soul transcends the limits of our perception.

Within the soul itself, there are also different levels. There is an inner dimension which is manifest in the deepfelt desire with which a person longs for certain things. And there is an external dimension of the soul where the desires are not as powerful. The external dimension of the soul is limited, while the internal dimension is without bounds. Each day, we must endeavor to fuse together these two dimensions on all these levels.

In practice, this should entail making an effort to study a portion of Nigleh and a portion of Pnimiyus HaTorah each day.10 In particular, we should increase our gifts to tzedakah, this includes not only deeds of tzedakah, but tzedakah on the level of speech and deed, thinking and speaking favorably about other Jews.

Similarly, in connection with Yud-Beis Tammuz, efforts should be made to organize farbrengens in each and every place where Jews will gather together to inspire each other in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. This will generate the potential for the transformation of the Three Weeks into a positive period, with the coming of the ultimate Redemption. Even before that redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles.11 When one Jew will ask another, “What was the last miracle that happened,” he will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the redemption from exile, when “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.”

 

FOOTNOTES
  1. Significantly, the very first mitzvah commanded to the Jewish people was to sanctify the new months and establish the calendar.

2. The connection between this service and the establishment of the monthly calendar is reflected in connection between the words chadash, meaning “new,” and chodesh, meaning “month.”

3. Shabbos is also described as “holy,” and relates to the level, “ ’Holy’ is a word which is unique.” Nevertheless, its holiness is revealed from Above. In contrast, the holiness associated with ten is a reflection of man’s service. (Indeed, the holiness of ten is mentioned in connection with the tithing of one’s flock, a mitzvah accomplished by man.) Thus it represents a higher plane of holiness.

4. This relates to the repetition of the phrase “And G‑d saw that it was good” which is associated with our Sage’s expression, “Good to the heavens and good to the creations.” Similarly, there is a connection to the expression which concludes the narrative of creation, “And G‑d saw all that He had made and it was very good.” The Hebrew for very, מאד, reflects an unlimited dimension, this is infused into the creation through man’s service.

5. The potential to carry out this service stems from the Torah, which as mentioned above, contains teachings, in the Oral Torah and in the Written Torah, which relate to both these qualities.

6. These fasts established by the Rabbis have their source in the mitzvah of fasting on Yom Kippur, for all the Rabbinical commandments are ultimately rooted in one of the mitzvos of the Torah. Just as the fast of Yom Kippur brings atonement, similarly, these fasts instituted by the Rabbis were intended to atone — and motivate teshuvah — for the sins which brought about these calamities.

7. Thus, there is a Chassidic adage that when a fast is nullified because it falls on Shabbos, there is the potential that it be nullified entirely.

8. This also allows for an appreciation of the positive dimensions of one of the calamities that took place on the Seventeenth of Tammuz, the breaking of the Tablets. The breaking of the Tablets brought about the revelation of the Oral Torah, the dimension in Torah through which human effort and achievement is expressed.

In contrast, the present Shabbos relates to the concept of revelation from Above, for it is within the first forty days after the Giving of the Torah, when the Torah was revealed to Moshe on Mount Sinai.

9. Significantly, Torah (תורה) is numerically equivalent to the words ratzo v’shov (רצוא ושוב).

10. Translator’s note: See the essay, “Harmony Between Body and Soul” published by Sichos In English where this directive is explained at length.

11. The wonders that take place within the limitations (מצרים) of exile allude to the verse, “I will multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt (מצרים),” within the limits of exile. The Hebrew words for that verse, רבות מופתי בארץ מצרים serve as an acronym for the name Rambam.

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