1. 1 There are several significant dimensions to the fact that this year, YudShvat, the day of the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit, was commemorated on a Wednesday. Among them:
a) Wednesday is the day on which the luminaries were suspended in the heavens;
b) Wednesday begins the preparations for the coming Shabbos (on which the service associated with the previous week, and in this instance, the service associated with the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit, is elevated to a higher level). This is reflected in the recitation of the verses from Lechu Nerraninah (the beginning of the Kabbolas Shabbos service) in the Psalm of the Day of Wednesday.
The latter concept is particularly appropriate this Shabbos, for it is Shabbos Shirah (the Shabbos of Song), the Shabbos on which the Torah reading contains the song sung by the Jewish people after the crossing of the Red Sea.
Shabbos shares a unique connection to song as reflected in the psalm that begins, “A psalm, a song for the Shabbos day.” In Chassidic thought, it is explained that song is a medium through which one can ascend to higher spiritual levels. For that reason, the elevation of the worlds to a higher spiritual level on Shabbos comes about through song. In particular, this potential is granted on Shabbos Shirah, and from Shabbos Shirah, the potential is drawn down to the other Shabbasos of the year. Thus, it is understood that Shabbos Shirah also allows a unique potential for the elevation of the service of Yud Shvat.
This Shabbos s also significant because it generates blessing for the day of Tu BeShvat. There are two important dimensions to the latter date: It is the New Year of the Trees and it is also the fifteenth of the month, the day on which the moon shines in its fullness, i.e., the service of this month is expressed in a complete manner. Connecting points to all of the above concepts can be found in the two Torah portions associated with the present Shabbos: Beshallach which is read in the morning service and Yisro, which is read in the afternoon service.
There is a connection between these two Torah readings. Parshas Beshallach marks the completion of the redemption from Egypt which is connected with the giving of the Torah described in Parshas Yisro as it is written, “When you take the people out of the Land of Egypt, you will serve Me on this mountain.” Conversely, Parshas Yisro is connected with the splitting of the Red Sea described in Parshas Beshallach, for it was the news of the splitting of the sea that motivated Yisro to come to visit Moshe.
Both Torah portions also share a connection to the Era of the Redemption. The song sung by the Jewish people after the crossing of the Red Sea contains several references to the Era of the Redemption. For example, the verse “the Sanctuary of G‑d established by Your hands,” which refers to the Third Beis HaMikdash which will be constructed at that time, and the concluding verse, “And G‑d will reign forever and ever.” Similarly, the oath taken by G‑d against Amalek recorded at the conclusion of Parshas Beshallach will be in force until Amalek is wiped out in the Era of the Redemption.
The giving of the Torah described in Parshas Yisro is also associated with the ultimate revelation of “the new [dimensions of the] Torah which will emerge from Me,” in the Era of the Redemption.2
The connection between all of these concepts can be understood better through the analysis of the opening verse of the Torah reading, “And G‑d did not choose the way of the Philistines although it was close.” (In practice, all the subsequent events are connected with this choice. Since G‑d led the people southward, it was necessary for the sea to split, there, they encountered Amalek, and it was because of these miracles that Yisro visited them.)
The Midrash explains that “the way of the Philistines” was an eleven day journey and draws a connection to the verse “an eleven day journey from Choreb.” Instead of taking this short journey, they traveled through the desert for forty years.
The Midrash also relates that eleven has positive significance, referring to “the distinct commandment,… the first of the ten, ‘I am G‑d, your L‑rd.’ ” In Kabbalistic terminology, eleven refers to the level of “one, but not in a numerical sense,” i.e., G‑d’s essence which is above the ten Sefiros.
By not choosing to lead the Jews by this path, G‑d did not intend to remove this influence from the Jews. Instead, His intent was that this transcendent influence be drawn down and made part of their inner being. This was accomplished through the forty year journey through the desert which endowed them with “a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear.” For it was the internalization of this transcendent potential which prepared them for the entry into Eretz Yisrael.3
The above was accomplished through the forty-two4 journeys of the Jewish people through the desert. Part and parcel of the intent in this journey was to elevate the sparks of G‑dliness enclothed in the material entities with which the Jews used during this journey. These sparks had fallen to low levels, the negative dimension of the number eleven.5 Nevertheless, through the efforts of the Jewish people, these negative dimensions can be nullified, and the positive power of these transcendent potentials revealed. Indeed, this service draws down increased energy into the service of G‑d within the context of the world’s limitations, which are alluded to in the Ten Commandments.
Were G‑d to have led the Jews to Eretz Yisrael on the eleven day journey, this transcendent quality would have been revealed from above, but would not have permeated the Jewish people as they exist within their own context. By causing the journey to last forty years, the transcendent quality associated with eleven was drawn down through the service of the Jewish people in elevating the material frame of reference in which we live, thus making it an integral part of our existence.
Based on the above, we can appreciate how the events mentioned in the Torah portions of Beshallach and Yisro serve as a preparation for the ultimate revelation of the Torah in the Era of the Redemption. The Torah to be revealed in the Era of the Redemption was also conveyed in the revelation at Mount Sinai.6 Nevertheless, the concepts to be revealed at that time have remained hidden to the point that they are described as “the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me,” i.e., a new entity never appreciated before.7
This concept relates to the contrast between the numbers ten and eleven mentioned above. The giving of the Torah was associated with the Ten Commandments and thus reflects how the Torah enclothes itself within the limits of worldly existence. For this reason, the giving of the Torah is associated with Nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah law which provide us with guidelines for our conduct within this world. Conversely, the revelation of “the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me” is associated with the number eleven, the transcendent dimension mentioned above.
In this context, the wanderings of the Jewish people throughout the centuries can be compared to the journeys through the desert, for the purpose of those wanderings was the elevation of the sparks of G‑dliness contained within the nations in which they lived. Ultimately, this service will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy “I will cause the spirit of impurity to depart from the land,” and this will be reflected in the wiping out of Amalek.
At that time, we will merit to take possession of Eretz Yisrael in its fullness as a land of ten nations, including not only the lands of the seven Canaanite nations, but also the lands of the Keni, Kenizi, and Kadmoni. Furthermore, Eretz Yisrael will spread out through the entire world, revealing how the world is G‑d’s dwelling.
There is a connection between the above and Shabbos Shirah, “the Shabbos of Song.” As mentioned above, song is a medium of ascent and also a medium for revelation. In this context, we can develop the ideas explained by our Sages that there were nine songs sung by the Jewish people as a whole and in the Era of the Redemption, we will sing the tenth song, “a new song.”
Our Sages continue that the previous songs are referred to as shirah, the feminine form of the word song, while the “new song” of the Era of the Redemption is referred as shir, the masculine form. All the previous songs refer to the efforts of the Jewish people (the feminine dimension, as explained by the commentaries to Shir HaShirim) to ascend to a higher spiritual level and to elevate their environment. In contrast, the song of the Era of the Redemption will be a song of revelation from above8 (the masculine dimension).
The above is particularly relevant to the month of Shvat, for Shvat is the eleventh month of the year (when counting from Nissan, the month of redemption).9 There is a special emphasis on the above on the tenth and the eleventh days of the month. The tenth of Shvat is the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, the day on which “all the deeds, teaching, and service which he performed throughout his life” are elevated to a higher level.10 The positive potential generated on this day is particularly emphasized this year when Yud Shvat falls on a Wednesday, the day the luminaries were suspended in the heavens, i.e., a day associated with revelation.
The elevated state reached is reflected on the eleventh day when the quality of transcendent revelation is expressed by the monthly cycle and by the daily cycle. All the more unique is the commemoration of these dates in the present year, for this is the 42nd anniversary of the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit, indicating that “the journey through the desert” to elevate the Jewish people and the environment in which they live has been completed and we, the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption, are prepared to enter Eretz Yisrael.
And soon we will merit the singing of the “new song,” the song of redemption, a song of unity and oneness. Indeed, a foretaste of the happiness and joy which will accompany that song can be experienced at present. The confidence that the Redemption is an immediate reality should produce joy and happiness.11
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2. This Shabbos also conveys blessing upon the day of Tu BeShvat, “the New Year of the Trees,” a day which shares a connection with the seven species of produce for which Eretz Yisrael is praised, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive (oil), and dates (honey). This is relevant to every Jew, for every Jew is “a cherished land” which can give forth the seven species of produce, i.e., seven different modes of service of G‑d.
It is proper to mention the importance of holding farbrengens on Tu BeShvat in every place. At these farbrengens, it should be emphasized how every Jew is “a cherished land,” and possesses within himself the potential to express a mode of service appropriate to each of the seven types of produce for which Eretz Yisrael is praised.
Each Jew has a treasure store of spiritual potentials that enables him to bring out services representative of these seven services. This also includes the revelation of the secrets of Torah, the service associated with dates, as alluded to in the verse “milk and honey are under your tongue.” And it is through these efforts that we will merit that “a shoot will emerge from the stem of Yishai,” the coming of Mashiach who will take us to Eretz Yisrael together with the entire Jewish people. And then we will merit the ultimate fulfillment of the giving of the Torah, the revelation of the “the new [dimensions of the] Torah that will emerge from Me.”