Halachos of Torah sh’b’al Peh Will Never Be Nullified

What follows was compiled and edited by the Rebbe, “in conjunction with the completion of the sefer HaRambam”, from sichos spoken over the course of Rosh Hashono, Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos, and Simchas Torah 5752.

In the Mishna Torah, the Rambam gives us an orderly presentation of the entire Torah sh’b’al Peh, a sefer of “halachos halachos”.  It possesses a special importance, comparable to the importance of the Torah sh’bichsav, which we learn out from the saying of our sages: “all the seforim of the Neviim and  Kesuvim will in the future be nullified to the Days of Moshiach,” which is not the case with halachos: “Halachos of the Torah sh’b’al Peh will never be nullified.”  (Which leads to the statement of the Rebbe [footnote 17 in the printed sicha] that the study of Rambam speeds up and accelerates [ממהרים ומזרזים] the time of Yemos Hamoshiach, at which time it will be revealed that the halachos are never nullified.)

The Rebbe then raises a question (based on something explained at length in Torah Chadasha, Shavuos 5751): there us a principle of Torah that the halacha goes according to Beis Hillel, but this is only in the time of golus; in the future, when the Beis Din Hagadol will return to Yerushalayim, the halacha will be like Beis Shammai (for Beis Shammai will be the majority in the future, and we rule according to the majority).  If so, we find that the present halachos (which are in accordance with Beis Hillel) will in fact be nullified in the future?!

More than this: it is known that according to several opinions “mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come” — at Techiyas Hameisim, which is in the second stage (2nd tekufah) of Yemos Hamoshiach.  This is learned out from a debate in the gemara about permitting burial shrouds to be woven out of “kilayim” (material made from a forbidden mixture of threads).  This is permitted, according to Rav Yosef, because “mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come”.  If so, then all of the halachos of the Torah sh’b’al Peh will be nullified in the future (in the second tekufah, Techiyas Hameisim) — if the mitzvos will be nullified, then it should follow that the halachos (the ruling of how to perform the mitzvos) will be nullified?

Mitzvos Will Be Nullified or Torah is Eternal?

To say that Mitzvos will be nullified is, apparently, a contradiction to the eternality of Torah.  And if one will say that Mitzvos are an inyan of “today to fulfill them” to be followed by “tomorrow to receive their reward” when they will be nullified — this is not a sufficient answer.  Why?  Because (as explained in Chassidus) Mitzvos represent Hashem’s ratzon, His Will, which is independent of any other purpose (such as refining the person or the world and bringing them to perfection).  Based on this, we have a strong question as to how Mitzvos, which “stand eternally”, could be said to be nullified in the time to come?

In the gemara’s discussion about burial shrouds, it is brought in the name of Rebbe Yochanan that it is permitted to bury in shrouds made out of forbidden fabric because the dead are “free from Mitzvos”.  This is fine as long he is dead, but when he will arise to Techiyas Hameisim he will find himself clothed in forbidden garments!  So, seemingly Rebbe Yochanan’s opinion applies up until Techiyas Hameisim, and has no relation to the opinion of Rav Yosef who holds that Mitzvos are nullified in the future.

Now, the Rebbe mentions a discussion in a different gemara about Techiyas Hameisim (Sanhedrin 90b).  In that gemara, Rebbe Yochanan states that we will fulfill the mitzvah of terumah with Aharon Hakohen himself (after he rises in the Techiya).  Thus, we see that Rebbe Yochanan does not hold that Mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come — as proven by Aharon receiving terumah!  So how could he permit burying a person in kilayim, and thus when he rises (and is again obligated in mitzvos) he will find himself clothed in forbidden material?!

The Rebbe then proceeds to explain beautifully how Rebbe Yochanan’s opinion (“the dead are free from Mitzvos”) is also an explanation of (and in harmony with) the opinion of Rav Yosef (“Mitzvos will be nullified in the time to come”):

When we say “Mitzvos will be nullified” we are speaking only about the aspect of the Mitzvah which is a command to the person.  That when a person dies (after he completes his avoidah in fulfilling Mitzvos) he becomes freed from Mitzvos, meaning that even when he arises in Techiyas Hameisim, he is not bound by commandments telling him what to do; rather, the Mitzvos themselves continue to exist eternally simply as Hashem’s ratzon.  The reason for this is that a commandment is only relevant when the person is a separate existence, and there is room for a Commander and the one receiving the command.  But when there is a complete unification with the Holy One, blessed be He, to the point that they become one existence (ישראל וקודשא בריך הוא כולה חד) then the concept of a “commandment” is no longer relevant — “Mitzvos” (commandments) will be nullified in the time to come;  and at the same time the halachos of those Mitzvos, which are Hashem’s ratzon, are eternal — there is no contradiction!

Thus, we can also answer our question on Rebbe Yochanan about how he could permit burial in forbidden fabric if we will indeed fulfill mitzvos after Techiyas Hameisim: because the metziyus of giving terumah will continue to exist after Techiyas Hameisim, but not as a command to the person (for he has become “freed from commandments” — in a lofty manner, since he no longer needs to be commanded for he is no longer a separate entity but rather has become one with the Holy One, blessed be He).  “Therefore, it is permissible to bury him in Kilayim because when he will arise in the future he will not have any commandment that forbids him from wearing Kilyaim, even though it is certain that he will not remain clothed in Kilayim (after the moment of the Techiya), not because of a command, but (automatically) because the ratzon of the Holy One, blessed be He, contradicts the existence of Kilyaim.

Mitzvos, Halachos, and Torah

The Rebbe at this point makes a diyuk in the apparently contradictory expressions quoted above which will assist in clarifying the matter.  As regards Mitzvos the expression is that they “will be nullified in the future”, whereas “the halachos of Torah will never be nullified.”  The concept of “Mitzvos” is that they are related to the world and the person’s own reality.  Mitzvos are practical, not theoretical.  Torah, on the other hand (“the halachos of Torah”), are above and beyond the world.  An example of this is the halachos pertaining to a Jewish city where the majority served idols (עיר הנדחת).  The gemara states that such a city “never was, and never will be in the future”, meaning that there is no practical dimension here; but the halachos of what to do with such a city (the Torah, rather than the Mitzvah) are studied and debated because they are eternal even as they are above and beyond the world.

Thus, Mitzvos will be nullified, but Torah is eternal, as the Rebbe explains:

In the future time to come mankind and the world will be elevated to a level that is higher than the world [as it is presently], and therefore the Mitzvos, which relate to the world [as it is now], will be nullified in the future.  This is not the case with the halachos of Torah which do not relate to the world and are not nullified in the time to come.

The Rebbe adds an interesting point: the “reward” for the mitzvos is said by our sages as being the mitzvah itself (“שכר מצוה מצוה”).  We can understand this to mean that the true inyan of the mitzvos will be revealed to the one performing the mitzvos — meaning how they are in Torah, which is above the world.  And this will reveal how the entire reality of the world is that in it (in the world) Hashem’s Ratzon is fulfilled in actuality.

Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai

At this point in the sicha (section 8), the Rebbe introduces a truly novel concept which builds upon the concepts explained above pertaining to the eternality of Torah: the eternality of the contradictory opinions of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai.

As is well known, there are many disagreements (machloikes) between the schools of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai, with the former tending to rule leniently and the latter tending to rule strictly (for more insight, see the sicha of Shavuos 5751, “The New Torah That Will Go Forth From Me”).  We are told in the Mishna that “every machloikes that is for the sake of Heaven will in the end be fulfilled…this is the machloikes of Shammai and Hillel.”  The Rebbe questions this phrasing, since the very concept of a machloikes is that there are two contradictory rulings, and the halacha upholds one opinion and rejects the other opinion (since, being contradictory, they cannot both be fulfilled).  How can we say that two opposite opinions will (both) be fulfilled?  If you will try to answer that “both these and these are divrei Elokim chayim“, meaning that neither side is “wrong”, rather they both have a source Above, and the halacha only chooses one to be fulfilled in actuality — this is insufficient to explain the phrasing “will be fulfilled” (since, according to this explanation, one opinion is fulfilled and the other is not).  In fact, even though our halacha today follows Beis Hillel, the Arizal writes that in the future in the time of Moshiach the halacha will be like Beis Shammai — “and this is ‘in the end will be fulfilled'”.

But this needs to be understood:

Even according to the Arizal that “in the future in the time of Moshiach the halacha will be like Beis Shammai…and this is ‘in the end will be fulfilled'” — this is interpreting “in the end will be fulfilled” to refer to the opinion of Beis Shammai and not on the machloikes itself between the two schools.  Because when Beis Shammai will become the halacha, it automatically nullifies the halacha of Beis Hillel.  We remain where we started: one opinion is fulfilled, the other is nullified.  And especially since this is a huge degradation for Beis Hillel, contradicting the maxim that we ascend in matters of holiness?!

The Rebbe offers an explanation that the Arizal is referring here to the first tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach (for more on the two tekufos, see this kuntres), but that in the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach (the resurrection of the dead, Techiyas Hameisim) when the Mitzvos will be nullified, then the “machloikes” will be fulfilled — that the halacha will go according to both Shammai and Hillel together.

The explanation is as follows:

The machloikes between the two schools, where “these declare impure and these declare pure, these forbid and these permit” is only as regards the halachos of Torah as commands to human beings how to conduct themselves in the world.  Since the existence of the person in the world is emphasized, and in the limitations of the world Chesed and Gevurah are opposites, thus Hashem’s Will (what the person should do) can be expressed in two ways.  “But as regards the halachos of Torah as they truly are, not coming to effect the world, but rather they are the ratzon of the Holy One, blessed be He as He is in and of Himself (כפי שהוא מצד עצמו) — even the divergent opinions that are in the halachos of Torah are ‘one Torah’,  ‘all of them given by one Shepherd’.  And being that He encompasses everything, He has two opinions of affirmative and negative, and both of them are one…”  And from Hashem’s perspective, these conflicting opinions can be revealed in the reality world the same as they co-exist in His Essence — the affirmative and the negative together — since He transcends the impossible, nimna hanimna’os.

It comes out that there are three periods: the present time (when the halacha is like Beis Hillel), the first tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach (when the halacha is like Beis Shammai), and the time of Techiyas Hameisim (when the halacha will be like both together).  In the first two of these periods, the emphasis is on the effect on the world (פעולה בעולם), and as far as the limitations of the world are concerned only one opinion can be fulfilled in actuality and the other must remain spiritual.  This is the time of “today to fulfill them (the mitzvos)”, היום לעשותם.

But after the time of  “today to fulfill them” comes “tomorrow to receive their reward”, מחר לקבל שכרם, which refers to the time of Techiyas Hameisim when the Mitzvos will be nullified.  Meaning that what will be nullified will be the dimension of a command to the person.  What will remain will be their true inyan — that they are the Hashem’s ratzon, the dimension of “halachos of Torah are never nullified”.  At this time, the halacha will be like Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel together, since the Will of the Holy One, blessed be He, will be revealed in the world as it is in His Essence, “nimna hanimna’os“.

The Rambam and Chassidus: A Machloikes Resolved

The Rebbe concludes the sicha with a reference to the final section of the Rambam, which could seem like a minor point meant to “justify” (so to speak) the subject of the sicha being spoken in conjunction with the Siyum HaRambam.  But, upon closer examination, the Rebbe is resolving two contrary opinions in a way that they can co-exists in the world (we might say a foretaste of what our sicha describes).

To explain: the final halachos in the Rambam’s all-encompassing Mishneh Torah (containing halachos of Torah in all areas) discuss the Messianic Era, Yemos Hamoshiach.  The Rebbe quotes the halacha that “The sages and prophets did not long for the days of Moshiach for any other reason except to be free [from other obligations in order] to study Torah and it’s wisdom…in order that they will merit to the life of the World to Come.”  The Rebbe then quotes the final halacha of the Rambam that “in that time there will not be hunger nor war nor jealousy and competition, for beneficence will be broadly distributed and all the delicacies will be available like dust, and the activity of the world will only be knowing Hashem, as it says ‘the world will be filled with knowledge of Hashem like water covers the sea.'”  The Rebbe says that this final halacha hints to the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach, the tekufa in which there will be a change in the conduct of the world, beginning with the primary change, the resurrection of the dead.

In light of what was explained in this sicha, the difference between Yemos Hamoshiach and Techiyas haMeisim is that Yemos Hamoshiach is the pinnacle and perfection of fulfilling Mitzvos (as a command to the person), whereas in the time of Techiyas haMeisim the aspect of command will be nullified and the true inyan of the Mitzvos will be revealed, as above.  The Rebbe finds a hint for this in these halachos of the Rambam:

The longing of the sages and prophets for Yemos Hamoshiach is for the sake of the perfection in fulfilling Torah and Mitzvos; the description in the final halacha adds “in that time”, which the Rebbe states is a reference to the second tekufa, when the world will be busy with “knowing Hashem” in and of itself, not for another goal (such as “meriting to the life of the World to Come” as in the previous halacha).

To align these halachos with what was explained in the sicha: the first tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiah is the time of “today to fulfill them” while there is a command to the person, and the emphasis is on the benefit that comes to the person through fulfilling Torah and Mitzvos — meriting the World to Come.  This is unlike the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach, when there will be Techiyas Hameisim, and the aspect of “command” will be nullified, the aspect of Hashem’s Will comes revealed, and the world is busy “knowing Hashem”  — it is understood that at this time there is no other goal, but that this itself is the goal.

So far, it all fits together nicely.  But in order to understand the significance of how the Rebbe concludes the sicha, we need to understand the longstanding machloikes between the Rambam and the Ramban*.  In brief, the Rambam writes that Techiyas Hameisim is a temporary stage, to be followed by eternal life in the World to Come — a world of neshomos without bodies.  The Ramban respectfully but firmly contradicts this opinion, and declares that the ultimate World to Come is in fact the state of Techiyas Hameisim, and that eternal life is a neshoma in a body.  Chassidus, in countless places, explicitly goes according to the Ramban, that eternal life is a soul in a body after the resurrection.  Our sicha concludes as follows:

According to this we can say that also according to the opinion of the Rambam the main and ultimate reward is in the world of the Resurrection (in accordance with the ruling of Chassidus), only that he did not write this explicitly, just as he didn’t write explicitly about the second tekufa of Yemos Hamoshiach when there will be Techiyas Hameisim, since the purpose of a sefer of halachos is that “all the rulings of all the mitzvos should be clear to the small and to the great.”  This is accomplished at the end of the [first] tekufa of “today to fulfill them”; nonetheless, since the true inyan of his work is “halachos of Torah”, as they are from the perspective of Hashem’s Will — therefore, in the final halacha, which is the completion and summary of the sefer of halachos, the Rambam hints about the situation of the world of the Resurrection, when the true inyan of “halachos of Torah” will be revealed, which is not for the person (“that he should merit to the life of the World to Come”), but rather “to know their Creator”, “the knowledge of Hashem”, for this is the main and ultimate reward — that the existence of the person and the world will be completely nullified and covered over by “the knowledge of Hashem”, “like water covers the sea”. 

Through this explanation, the Rebbe has succeeded in revealing how the machloikes between the Rambam and the Ramban (a machloikes for the sake of heaven) will ultimately see both opinions fulfilled because we have revealed how in truth they are really one!

* Explained with more detail by R’ Nissan Dovid Dubov here).

Kuntres Rosh Hashono, 5752

Released a few days in advance of Rosh Hashono, the discourse begins with the verse from the prophet Yeshaya: “On that day a great shofar will be sounded, and the ones who are lost in the land of Ashur and the ones who are pushed away in the land of Mitzrayim, will come and prostrate themselves to Hashem on the Holy Mountain in Yerushalayim.”

The Rebbe asks a few questions on this verse: What is special about a “great shofar”? Why does it say that the shofar “will be sounded” without specifying who will be sounding it — it seems as though it will be sounded on its own?

The shofar here is explained in spiritual terms: the cry of the innermost point in the heart which is above intellect. This cry draws down the corresponding level from Above, meaning the Supernal Will which transcends the level of Chochma (usually translated as “wisdom”).

There is a different verse that describes the shofar as being sounded by Hashem, but that verse refers only to a “shofar” and not a “great shofar”.  But the “great shofar” of the future is sounded from a level higher than any of Hashem’s names!

Also at Matan Torah there was the sound of a shofar, but not a “great shofar” — the shofar of the future will be even greater.  The reason, given in the name of the Mitteler Rebbe, is that at the time of Matan Torah the entire Jewish people were in a state of closeness with G-dliness קירוב לאלקות and therefore a “regular” shofar was sufficient to awaken their hearts.  But the shofar of the future, of the true and complete Geulah, has to reach the “lost” and the “pushed away”, who are far from G-dliness, and therefore in order to reach them requires the “great shofar”. This also explains why it send that it will be sounded “by itself” — because in order to awaken those who are so far from any interest or recognition of G-dliness will require a cry from Above, by itself, without any awakening from below at all. Now, on every Rosh Hashono, we sound a regular shofar, meaning that through our effort we awaken and draw down from Above.  But the great shofar of the future is drawn down by itself without any effort from below.

However, there is a question: we find that the great shift of the future is likened to our sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashono through our own effort — they couldn’t be more different! The Rebbe explains it by connecting it to the original Rosh Hashono, at the Creation of the world, which preceded any effort from below (since “below” did not yet exist), and what this teaches us in our avoidah:

The shofar is narrow at one end and wide at the other. This reflects our cry from the narrow side, the limitations we find ourselves in.  Just like the way that a poor man’s prayer is more potent and heartfelt and more readily accepted, so, too, the cry that comes from the “narrow” limitations that challenge us.  And there is nothing more “narrow” and limiting than to be lost in Ashur or pushed away in Mitzrayim, so the “great shofar” of the future that is sounded “by itself” in order to awaken those distant individuals is indeed similar to our shofar.

But beyond that, it turns out that this itself — the very lowly and distant state of the lost and pushed away — is the cause of such a lofty revelation as the “great shofar”! And this is in fact the reason that Hashem created such places, and caused a Jew to be exiled there.  When these places cause an awakening of the “great shofar”, not only are the Yidden in those places elevated to a higher level, but these places themselves (the lowliest places of exile) are also elevated.

How does this explanation guide us in our avoidas Hashem (since the lost and pushed away are not consciously serving Hashem)?  Says the Rebbe: even one whose avoidah is complete בשלימות can learn from this: if he contemplates the loftiness of the Ohr Ein Sof then even his “true avoidah” is lacking and considered a sin; therefore, he feels himself to be “lost” and “pushed away”, and through this the revelation of the “great shofar” is awakened and drawn down.  Since he recognizes and feels that the Revelations are drawn down not by his own avoidah, but rather by Hashem’s chesed — it is like the shofar that is sounded by itself with no awakening from below at all.

The Rebbe then adds, in the name of his father-in-law the Previous Rebbe, that this “great shofar” awakens the “innermost point” of every Yid, and every single one (including the lost and pushed away) will want to go out of golus and go to Yerushalayim and prostrate themselves to Hashem, because this is the true desire of every Yid.  Meaning, that unlike Yetzias Mitzrayim when the desire to leave came from Above, in the future Geulah it will be the desire of Yisroel to come to Yerushalayim — the awakening from Above of the “great shofar” is only the means by which the true desire of Yisroel is revealed. Thus, the avoidah will in fact be their own, only that for the truly “lost” and “pushed away” the avoidah will come after the great shofar which will awaken their true desire (which was drawn down from Above by itself).

The instruction for us is:

“… At the end of the time of golus when only a few moments remain before that day when the great shofar will be sounded [and more than this, as regards several inyonim the inyan of “the great shofar will be sounded” has already begun, as understood from the words of my father-in-law, and particularly that since the time he wrote that until now many years have passed, and how much moreso in the recent times when we saw that there are a number of individuals who were at first in a situation of lost and pushed away, r”l, had an awakening of tshuva through the sounding of the “great shofar”*] there needs to be the avoidah of Bittul. This is the awareness and feeling that everything that is accomplished through his avoidah, both as regards himself and as regards others, is not due to his own virtues, but rather it had been given from Above.  Such a feeding will not cause a weakening in his avoidah, but to the contrary, this getting will cause his avoidah to be stronger.  Because when his avoidah drives grin his own existence, it is limited — his “maximum” בכל מאודך is his own limited maximum.  But when he feels that his avoidah is not through his own power but rather from G-dliness, then he goes out from his own limited existence and his avoidah is above measurement and limitation.”

The Rebbe concludes that this has to be drawn into physicality גשמיות, and it is understood that whatever was done until now is insufficient (after all — we just learned that we can access the unlimited in our avoidah!). The awakening of the “great shofar” has to be in a way that every Yid, including the lost and pushed away, will come to prostrate himself to Hashem on the Holy Mountain in Yerushalayim, in the simple sense, through Moshiach Tzidkeinu.  Meaning: we don’t rest until every Yid is part of the Geulah, until every Yid recognizes Moshiach, until every Yid reveals and acts upon his true desire to leave golus and go to Yerushalayim!

*This maamor was originally said after the awakening that followed the Six Day War.

Parshas Nitzavim, 5751: The Intrinsic Connection

The Rebbe brings out from a year where Rosh Hashana falls out on Monday and Tuesday an emphasis on the special value of the avodah of Yidden.  The world was created perfect, but it was a limited level of perfection, and it is only through the avodah of Yidden — an infinite neshoma enclothed in a limited physical body — that the world can transcend itself and achieve a higher level of perfection.  This is the idea, discussed in other sichos, of 10 and 11, where 10 is perfection and 11 transcends that original perfection.

The Rebbe also returns to the concept mentioned in last weeks sicha, that a Jew’s connection to Hashem is intrinsic and not dependent on his performance of Torah and Mitzvos.  Torah and Mitzvos simply serve to reveal  his intrinsic connection.  The Rebbe says that by emphasizing a Jew’s essential connection to Hashem this serves to in turn bring out a greater commitment to Torah and Mitzvos–because in truth a Jew really only does Torah and Mitzvos because this is an expression of his true nature.  In other words, we remove all aspects of fear of punishment and we find that he will do mitzvos even more enthusiastically!

And, as the Alter Rebbe said, that Moshiach’s arrival would be publicized in the newspapers, the Rebbe states:

May the Redemption come immediately, indeed, may it be that it has already come. For the newspapers have already written about Moshiach’s coming — may they continue to write more and may these articles be in the past tense for Moshiach’s coming will already be a reality.

[Ki] Savo 5751: Yisroel, “First Fruits” of the World

The midrash says that there are two “firsts”, Yisroel and the Torah, and we don’t know which came first.  Until we see that in the Torah it states “command bnei Yisroel”, “say to Bnei Yisroel” , now we know that Yisroel came first.  This is the concept of Bikkurim.

The Torah commands us that upon entering and settling Eretz Yisroel, we are to offer Bikkurim, the “first fruits” of the 7 species of which Eretz Yisroel is praised.  These first fruits, the initial blossoming of the seven species, are brought to the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, placed in a basket, presented to the Cohen and given to Hashem.

It turns out, then, that these first fruits achieve the highest purpose that is attainable — to be offered to Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash.  The purpose of having fruits in the world, of the world itself, is represented by the these fruits being offered to Hashem.  Eating them, enjoying them — all this is secondary.  That a Yid gives of his finest to Hashem — this is the real purpose.

The Yidden, the Torah tells us, are the Bikkurim of the world.  They are the purpose and ultimate reason for the world’s existence.  Not only did Hashem consult with the souls of the Yidden before creating the world, but the world was (and is) created for the Yidden.  The world is created by Hashem through the Torah, but for the sake of the Yidden.  The connection of Yidden to Hashem is direct, with actually no need for the Torah at all (because the Yid is also one with the Torah).  Then why is the Torah so critical?

The role of the Torah is that through keeping the Torah a Jew reveals that he is connected with Hashem in his very essence.  The Torah does not exist without Yidden to keep it, but a Yid exists even before he encounters the Torah.  And even if he is not keeping the Torah, chas v’sholom, he is still connected in his very essence with Hashem Himself.

The Rebbe elaborates at length in this sicha on the importance of each and every Yid, that a Jew’s true reality is that he is one with the Holy One, blessed be He, which is concealed until it is revealed by his becoming Bikkurim.  And the Torah says that the Bikkurim need to be in a container — this is the body which contains the neshoma.  One who has sufficient finacial means brings a container made of precious materials.  But one who does not have the means brings a simple container and this simple container is kept by the Cohen.  This shows that even the lowly material of which his container is made is elevated to be “before Hashem”.

The container [טנא] hints at the letters of Torah (טעמים, נקודות, אותיות), meaning that the neshoma’s “container” — the body — is really the letters of Torah which become the thought, speech and action of a Jew.  Even if this relates to “lowly things” (he only understands Torah in a physical way), this body is still a container for his Bikkurim and is elevated to be “before Hashem”.  Thus, every thought, every word of speech, and every action of a Yid is important and is in fact the very purpose of the existence of the world!  As regards this importance, the Rebbe says:

The preciousness of every Jew before the Holy One, blessed be He is unconditional, he does not need to be a Torah scholar, one who learns Torah or one who fulfills the Mitzvos or the like, but rather “anyone who wants [can approach the King when he is in the field (Elul)]” is able to greet the King, who “greets everyone with a pleasant countenance”.

This closeness to Hashem should cause one, especially in Elul, to take an accounting of his thought, speech, and action, because:

…even one thought, speech, or action which seems of little importance compared to the rest of his thoughts, speech, or actions–but even this thought, speech, or action is a part of his Bikkurim which are brought to the Beis Hamikdash, before Hashem your G-d — and the Cohen who will be in those days  is careful with his every movement — certainly [the Jew] will make every effort that even the smallest things, every detail of his conduct, will be done with the complete attention and carefulness.

In conjunction with this: being that we are in essence one with Hashem, when we have an awakening from below, we cause an awakening from Above–and in this way we are able to bring the Geulah!  In the Rebbe’s words:

Since a Jew is “one” with the Holy One, blessed be He…he has no private will, but rather in the words of the Mishnah (Pirkei Avos) — “make your will like His will in order that He will make His will like your will” — the will of the Holy One, blessed be He is the will of a Yid and the will of a Yid is the will of the Holy One, blessed be He.  Thus, it is in the power of every Jew to (influence the Holy One, blessed be He and to) nullify the golus and to bring the Geulah immediately!

If we want Hashem to bring an end to this Golus, who brings it about? Yidden, since we are one with Him!  And if we will have a true will to end Golus רצון אמיתי — then at that same moment Hashem will automatically bring an end to the Golus!


Ki Seitze: Adding “the” Mitzvah

The statement of the Rambam is well-known: every individual should consider that the fate of the world is in his hands. By performing a single mitzvah, one person can tilt the scales of judgement and bring salvation to the entire world.

In the Sicha of Ki Seitze 5751, the Rebbe describes how the reward for Mitzvos is, metaphorically, locked in a chest. This chest is in the possession of all Jews.*


“Not only that, but he has the ability and the permission to open the chest (and to reveal the reward) any time he wants — by adding “one mitzvah” more, that through this [mitzvah] ‘he will tilt the scales…'”

Those who learn the Sichos are already familiar with this Rambam (the Rebbe showed an enthusiasm for this Rambam over the years). But, in general, the Rebbe adds a new dimension in his use of sources, and especially regarding the Sichos of Nun-Alef/Nun-Beis we should be on the lookout for new dimensions of understanding.

We offer the following insight:

The Rebbe here separates the words “one mitzvah” מצוה אחת from the rest of the quote from the Rambam, and the Rebbe adds the words “by adding one more mitzvah” (עי”ז שמוסיף עוד מצוה אחת).

To say “adding one more mitzvah” (עי”ז שמוסיף עוד מצוה אחת) implies something quite different than the Rambam’s wording of “performing one mitzvah” (עשה מצוה אחת).  Adding one more (עוד) implies a mitzvah that was not already fulfilled, that there is “one more mitzvah” that we can “add” which will bring the revelations of the true and complete Geulah.

In truth, there are many Mitzvos we haven’t fulfilled in actuality, since we lack the ability to bring korbonos. But there is one mitzvah that has not been fulfilled — and is possible to fulfill today — and it is a mitzvah fulfilled by the Jewish people as a whole.*

This is the mitzvah mentioned in last week’s parsha, Parshas Shoftim: the mitzvah to appoint a King שום תשים עליך מלך. Although it was fulfilled in earlier generations, our generation has not properly fulfilled it. More than that, the shleimos of this mitzvah was not reached through the appointing of Shaul Hamelech or Dovid Hamelech; rather its shleimos is the appointing of Melech haMoshiach — which is the responsibility of our generation, specifically!

This interpretation fits perfectly with what the Rebbe says here: because the opening of the “chest” that contains the reward of our Mitzvos (the revelation of Ohr Ein Sof in the world, as explained in the Sicha) is related to Yemos haMoshiach, and it is self-understood that in order for it to be Yemos haMoshiach there must be a Moshiach, whom the Jewish nation has a mitzvah to appoint over themselves, accepting his kingship.

So look at this portion of the Sicha again, and see how the Rebbe is saying that the “one mitzvah” which we can add, which will bring the lofty revelations we are longing for, is the mitzvah of appointing a King מינוי מלך!

Of course, this is a Mitzvah that falls on the shoulders of the entire Jewish nation as a whole, so it’s not enough that you and I and the bochurim in 770 accept the Rebbe as King, Melech haMoshiach, but requires the acceptance of his kingship by the Jewish nation. This is, lechoira, also the meaning of the Rebbe’s words in Noach 5752: the Geulah doesn’t depend on anything besides Moshiach himself.

אין הדבר תלוי אלא במשיח צדקינו עצמו

All that remains is to appoint the King!

*) It is possible, though not necessary, to say that the Rebbe means here the collective body2018-08-22 20.33.38 of all Yidden rather than each individual: “The reward that until now is “closed in a chest” is already found in the possession of the “worker” (each and every Jew).”

Ki Seitze, 5751: Tasting the Reward Now

Two parshas are read this Shabbos: Ki Seitze (“when you go out to war on your enemy”) in the morning, and in the afternoon the first section of “Ki Savo” (“when you will enter the land to inherit it and to settle it…”).  Thus, on one single Shabbos, we have two seemingly opposite lessons from the Torah: going to war against an enemy (the avodah of golus), and settling the land (the reward of the Messianic Era).

Since everything is guided by Divine Providence, we have to learn from this combination: that we can be a situation of doing the avodah of making a war on the enemy in the time of golus and yet at the same time be in a completely “settled” state, which is the reward for this avodah.

How can we accomplish this?

Through the knowledge that in essence a Jew is completely above the existence of any opposition — Hashem “consulted” with the souls of the Jewish people before creating the world, showing that we are in fact one with Hashem and above the world.  If so, then why would we agree to the creation of a world that contains “enemies” whom we will have to overcome in war? Because Hashem did not want to give us “bread of shame” (unearned reward), and therefore He created a world for us to earn the reward.  And our neshomos agreed.  In order to realize Hashem’s desire for a dwelling place in the lower realms, there must be lower realms where there is the possibility of war.  But the truth of the matter is: a Jew in his source, and even as he is enclothed in a physical body in this world — remains higher than the concept of any opposition.

When a Jew is aware that this is the true reality, then even his “going out to war against the enemy” is infused with the aspect of “settling the land”.  “Settling the land” implies Eretz Yisroel, a land which “desired (רצתה) to do perform the will of her Creator” — where there is no longer a “war” to fulfill Torah and Mitzvos, but rather one overcomes his evil inclination with ease.

The Rebbe adds that:

“the main thing –that the avodah is amidst ease and comfort in the simple sense, ease of the soul and ease of the body, which is achieved through the Holy One, blessed be He, giving to every single Jew all that he needs materially and spiritually, and with abundance.”

This includes all that a Jew needs in order to do the avodah itself, and after that as a reward for the avodah that he performs.  And this material (and spiritual) reward is a sampling of the physical reward that will be in the Messianic Era.  Not only that, but the Rebbe makes a revolutionary statement, that the verse “then their mouths will be filled with laughter” (explained by Chazal and Chassidic discourses as referring to the Time to Come) is applicable now!  “Then” is “now” in the present tense.  The rewards of the Time to Come, the Messianic Age, are available to us now.  Although they are “locked in a box”, every Jew can open the box whenever he wants.  How?  By performing one more mitzvah.  As the saying goes “the future is now” — but by the Rebbe this is not merely a slogan, it is the reality!

All this receives greater emphasis since the year the sicha was said was 5751 (תנש”א), the letters of which spell out the command “you will be exalted”, referring to Moshiach.  This is “both as regards the revelation and coming of Moshiach” (the distinction between these to concepts will be explained separately, G-d willing) “and as regards the wedding of Knesses Yisroel and the Holy One, blessed be He in the Messianic Era, and in the words of the [midrash] Yalkut Shimoni: ‘the year Melech HaMoshiach is revealed in him…he stands on the roof of the Beis Hamikdash …and says humble ones, the time of your redemption has arrived’.”  The Rebbe adds in the footnote the continuation of this Midrash: “And if you don’t believe, see via my light…at the same time the Holy One, blessed be He, shines the light of Melech Hamoshiach and of Yisroel and they all go to the light of Melech Hamoshiach and of Yisroel, and they [the nations of the world] come and lick the dust from beneath the feet of Melech Hamoshiach…”

We will make a divergence from the main body of the sicha in order to understand this.  It is important to note what the Midrash is telling us: that there will come a time following the initial revelation of Moshiach (“Moshiach is revealed in him” means the revelation of the soul of Moshiach in the one who has been anointed by Hashem to be Moshiach, explained in our post on Parshas Naso) when nonetheless the Jewish people will not be prepared to believe him when he says that indeed the time of their redemption has arrived.  How do they get out of their own lack of confidence in themselves and in the words of Moshiach?  The Midrash says “see via my light” (ראו באורי שזרח עליכם), that through Moshiach’s light, meaning wisdom — the Torah that Moshiach teaches — they will be able to see the reality that Moshiach is describing to them.

Through our effort to learn and understand the Torah that Moshiach is revealing to us, we will merit to see the reality that he is describing to us: the reality that “the time of your redemption has arrived”!

Shoftim 5751: Prophecy Before the Geuloh

The sicha of this week, parshas Shoftim, is unquestionably one of the most significant talks the Rebbe ever gave.

The Rebbe opens the sicha by reiterating that since we have already finished all the work that was required of us in the time exile, and we are “all standing ready” to greet Moshiach, we are now already holding at the time of the fulfillment of the prophetic promise “I will return your judges…and your advisers”.

Explaining the difference between them: a judge is higher than the one whom he is judging, and has no need to explain his rulings.  He issues a ruling at it must be obeyed.  (And if there is resistance to fulfilling the ruling of the judge, there are police forces to execute his judgments).  An adviser is on the same level as the one he is advising, and his role is to explain the judge’s ruling in a way that makes sense to the person, so that he can see how it is in his own best interest to fulfill the rulings of the judge, which brings about that he will fulfill them eagerly and willingly, with no need for police enforcement.  (In the terminology of Chassidus: one obeys the judge out of bittul and kabbalas ‘ol, in a manner of makif; whereas the adviser enables the person to obey the judge with his own understanding, so that it comes into pnimiyus.)

Since the combination of judges and advisers is part of the prophecy of the Messianic era (as opposed to judges and police, as in the time of exile), we have to start preparing ourselves now by living in this manner already.  This makes us into a vessel to receive these revelations, and also speeds them up.

These two dimensions are also reflected in the difference between Torah and Prophecy (Nevuah): Torah is a decree from Above to below, the fulfillment of which does not depend on its reasoning being understood (for it is really Hashem’s reasoning, which truthfully we cannot understand).  Prophecy, however, is enclothed in the thought and intellect of the prophet, which means that it is truly unified with human intellect.  The Rambam writes that prophecy will return to the Jewish people before the Geuloh as a preparation for Moshiach.  The Rebbe notes that even the absence of prophecy in the intermediate time is referred to by a term (“nistalka ruach hakodesh miYisroel“) which implies and lack of the ability to receive it, but does not mean that prophecy was nullified.  Thus, the Rambam writes about prophecy in his code of Jewish law which is applicable to all times and all places, because in truth prophecy is essentially applicable to all times and all places.

Then the Rebbe makes a dramatic statement:

“Every prophet is a continuation of the prophecy and Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu…and in our generation [this is] the Nosi of our generation, my father-in-law the Rebbe…that through our Rebbeim ‘prophecy will return to Yisroel’, they themselves are the prophets of our generation.”

Also, through the tasting of pnimiyus Hatorah now, the Jewish people and the whole world become a vessel (in an inner way) for the inner revelation of Torah that will come afterwards by Moshiach Tzidkienu.  And in our generation the spreading of the wellsprings outward [which is what brings Moshiach, as the Baal Shem Tov writes in his famous letter] to all corners of the world has been fulfilled in its entirety.

The Rebbe then makes another dramatic statement, this time a clear directive for all of us:

“There needs to be an avodah that matches the state of Geuloh: to publicize to himself and to all those whom he can reach–that they need to accept upon themselves, and to take upon themselves (more strongly) the directives and advice of “your judges” and “your advisers” who are in our generation — “our Rabbis are our kings” in general, and in particular the Nosi of our generation — who comes in continuation to the Rebbeim who preceded him — the judge of our generation and the adviser of our generation and the prophet of our generation,

“And the Torah commands us to believe in him and to obey him, not only because he can give signs of predicting the future, but because of the Mitzvah that Moshe commanded us in the Torah… And more than this: A prophet upon whom another prophet testifies that he is a prophet — as this regards the Nosi of our generation, and is continued in the generation that follows him through his students, etc. — we assume he is a prophet and do not need to examine him…and the Torah forbids us to doubt him or to ponder if his prophecy might not be true…

“And there is a directive in all of the above, that it must be publicized to all the people of the generation, that we have merited that the Holy One, blessed be He, selected and appointed an individual with free will, that he himself is immeasurably higher than the people of the generation, that he will be ‘your judges’ and ‘your advisers’ and the prophet of the generation, who will give guidance and advice regarding the service of the entire Jewish people and all the people of this generation, in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos, and as regards general daily life…until — the main prophecy — the prophecy* of ‘immediately to tshuva, immediately to Geuloh’, and immediately ‘behold, this one (Moshiach) comes’.”

If these words were not sufficiently awe-inspiring and shocking, the Rebbe adds in the footnote that the “prophecy of ‘immediately to tshuva, immediately to Geuloh’ is not only as a sage and judge but rather as a prophet, for this is with absolute certainty–see the short discourses of the Alter Rebbe, page 355-6.”  In that short discourse, the Alter Rebbe explains that the things which a sage can grasp are very lofty, but they are so lofty in the spiritual realms that it is not certain if (or when) they will descend and take shape in our physical world.  On the other hand, the vision of a prophet is of things that are already in this physical world and therefore the words of a prophet are certain, because he sees that they are already here.

Thus, we see: the Rebbe (as a continuation of the Previous Rebbe, and all the previous Rebbeim back to the Baal Shem Tov) is a prophet; his statements about us being in the final moments of golus, on the cusp of the Geuloh, are a prophecy — which means that they have already taken shape in this physical world. Not only will they take place in the future, but in truth they are already here and unfolding!  And we are directed to publicize this to all the people of the generation.

May we merit to fulfill the Rebbe’s will.