Kuntres 13 Iyar: Like Which Brother?

This Chassidic discourse was printed in honor of the Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s brother, Yisroel Aryeh Leib.  Fittingly, it begins with the words of the posuk “Oh, that you were like a brother to me,” (Shir Hashirim, 8:1). Rashi comments that this verse refers to the way Yosef dealt kindly with his brothers even though they had mistreated him (by selling him as a slave to Egypt).  Contrastingly, there is a midrash which says that the verse refers to his beloved brother Binyomin, who, unlike his older brothers, had no hand in selling Yosef down to Egypt.

The discourse goes into depth about the nature of free choice, and the responsibility of Yosef’s brothers for selling him even though later Yosef reveals that it was divinely orchestrated for the good —  so that Yosef should rise to power in Egypt and be in a position to provide for his family when they sought respite from the famine in the land of Canaan.  However, we are now only going to focus on the part of the discourse that shows an open connection to the sichos of Dvar Malchus.

The verse “Oh, that you were like a brother to me,” is a request from the Jewish people to Hashem — to relate to us like a brother.  It is understood why we would interpret it to be referring to the brothers who sold him: the brothers did evil to Yosef but he repaid them with kindness.  Similarly, we request from Hashem that even though we have “done evil to Him” through our sins, He should repay us with kindness.  However, as we know from the story in chumash, Yosef’s kindness followed the trials and tribulations that he put the brothers through in order to bring them to do tshuva and acknowledge their sin.  By asking for Hashem to relate to us like Yosef to Binyomin, who had no hand in the sale of Yosef, we are asking for open and revealed good without any “trials and tribulations”.

The difference between the two interpretations (whether the verse is referring to Yosef’s conduct to his 10 brothers or to Binyomin) will be understood as the difference between a number of contrasting concepts, all of which contain a common thread.

On the one hand we have the lofty revelation of Yetzias Mitzrayim, which was an awakening from Above (not something Bnei Yisroel earned from their own efforts).  But, as lofty as it is, it remained essential “makif” and was not internalized.  On the other hand, we have Sefiras Ha’Omer (in the days following our going out of Mitzrayim), which is our own effort at refining ourselves.  It is not as lofty as when Hashem revealed Himself and took us out of Mitzrayim, but because it is our own avoidah it is internalized in a settled way (בפנימיות ובהתישבות).

The discourse goes on to find the same relationship between the avoidah of tshuvah (leaving one’s reality, the bittul of one who lacks all qualities) and the avoidah of Tzaddikim (having bittul that does not negate their existence, humility where one is aware of his abilities).  In short: powerful and lofty but remains “outside” the person, contrasted with a not-as-lofty revelation that is internalized.  It is specifically this aspect of being internalized that fulfills Hashem’s desire for a dwelling place down below (דירה בתחתונים).

Based on this, we can understand the two interpretations of our verse: the interpretation that “brother” refers to Yosef as he conducted himself with his brothers who sold him represents our request for the loftiest revelations (Yetzias Mitzrayim and the avoidah of Baalei Tshuva).  The other interpretation, which says that it refers to Binyomin, reflects a request for an internalized, settled revelation (Sefiras Ha’Omer and the avoidah of Tzaddikim).

Since both interpretations are going on the same verse, they are really not contradictory — they are complementary.  Meaning that our real request is for the highest revelations, but that these highest revelations should be internalized in a settled way — all of the benefits without any of the drawbacks!

This is the avoidah that the Rebbe has given us with the famous words of the Sicha of 28 Nissan: “oirois d’Tohu but in keilim d’Tikkun”.  (In a later Sicha of 22 Shevat, this is described as the unification of the aspect of “10” and the aspect of “11”.)  Our avoidah to bring the Geuloh is not that of Baal Tshuvah nor that of a Tzaddik;  rather, ours is an avoidah that combines these two dimensions, demanding that we constantly transcend ourselves like a Baal Tshuvah, and then internalize it so it is as natural as the avoidah of Tzaddikim.

Achrei-Kedoshim 5751: Using Out Golus to Make Geulah

Geulah is made from Golus (Exile)

With the heady excitement that comes when one begins to feel what the Rebbe has been expressing in the recent sichos — that we are truly on the cusp of the coming of Moshiach and the revelations of the true and complete Geulah — it could be possible to feel the desire to throw off the responsibilities of Golus and charge head-first and full-speed into Geulah.  For example, abandoning one’s job and devoting 24 hours a day to spreading the news of the redemption and learning the subject of Moshiach and Geulah.  (After all, the Rebbe said in the previous sicha that this learning is the direct path to bringing the Geulah, so why delay it by attending to earthly needs such as a job and a house?)  Such “over-the-top”  behavior is not the way to bring Moshiach, as the Rebbe explains here.  Or, from the other side, one could be worried that all of one’s efforts in wordly matters will go to waste with the coming of Moshiach, and this fear is also put to rest in this sicha.

As mentioned in the previous sichos, the Geulah (redemption) is the word exile (GOLA) with the addition of the letter “alef”, representing the revelation of Hashem in exile itself.  This is the concept of the Rambam that with the coming of Moshiach (in the first stage, at least) nothing will change in the conduct of the world — the world will conduct itself naturally — the only difference is that we will not be subjugated to physicality and the laws of nature as before.  However, this itself is no small matter!  What is means is that the miraculous will occur within the parameters of nature.  But reality is now miraculous.  In the words of the Rebbe:

 Redemption does not mean that we abandon all the activities which we carry out in the exile. On the contrary, by definition, the word implies that during the exile certain activities were carried out under subjugation to other forces, and in the Era of the Redemption, we will be freed from this subjugation.

The redemption will involve freeing all the elements of existence that have been subjugated in the exile. Nothing will be lost.  On the contrary, everything will be redeemed. Every single Jew will be redeemed. We will leave “with our youth and with our elders… with our sons and with our daughters.” And “their gold and silver will accompany them.” All the positive activities and achievements of the Jews (and also the non-Jews) in the exile will not be nullified. What will be nullified is the concealment of the world’s true inner being which is brought on by the material substance of the world and the subjugation to the rules of nature that exists at present. But all the positive aspects of the exile will remain, and indeed will be elevated.

The Rebbe continues then to speak about the need for the world–that it is by our effect on the world and the nations of the world that we bring about not only their elevation but also the elevation of our souls, the reason for which our souls were sent into this low world in the first place.  In other words, one might think “Moshiach is about to come, I need to abandon all worldly pursuits.”  Says the Rebbe: No!  On the contrary–continue these pursuits in the manner dictated by Torah and know that in this way you are inserting into them the “Alef” and they are thereby transformed from a state of Golus to a state of Geulah.  Don’t run and hide from the world, but go out and “conquer” the world.  Don’t make a war against the world, make a war against the aspect of darkness and concealment that is in the world.  How?  By combating the darkness with the light of Torah and Mitzvos, most of which involve physical things.

This is connected with the fact that the Jews are a “Priestly Nation”.  The High Priest required 8 special garments to enter the Holy of Holies, garments which the Torah describes as “honor and splendor”, and if he is lacking any of these garments his service is invalid.  Even though these garments are only external — for “honor and splendor” — nonetheless if they are lacking his service is invalid.  It follows that each Jew, as a member of the Nation of Priests, must be garbed in garments “honor and splendor” in order to show externally his true status.  This corresponds to the previous sicha where the Rebbe speaks about our generation being on the level of Rabbeinu Hakadosh who was internally perfect and only endured suffering due to the unrefined waste on the edge of his garments.  It will be recalled that according to Chassidus, “garments” of the soul refer to our thought, speech, and action.  These must be for “honor and splendor” as we approach the Geulah.  In the Rebbe’s words:

The priests’ service was performed wearing the priestly garments that were to be donned, “for honor and for beauty.”  This reflects how these two qualities, materialistic elements of our physical environment, are employed for the sake of the service of G‑d.

In a complete sense, this was reflected in the High Priest’s service for he wore eight priestly garments, wearing “the golden garments” in addition to the four garments worn by the common priests. A parallel to this concept is reflected in the idea that a High Priest is required to be wealthier than all the other priests. This is a clear indication of how his additional holiness must be reflected within the material elements of our world.

The nature of the world has begun to assist Jews to fulfill Torah and mitzvos, as evidenced by the changes in Russia.  Furthermore, “We see in fact that the nature of the world encourages such activities and in that context, it is worthy to mention the discovery of jewels in a far removed corner of the world. These jewels will be used for “bride’s ornaments”, to increase the merit of the Jewish people through gifts to tzedakah.”  This comes to show that the Rebbe is speaking very clearly about events in our physical world.

This extends also to the Nations of the World, that there is an imperative to teach the 7 Noahide Laws.  We see already that the Nations of the World have begun to change.  Whereas in the past they engaged in bloody wars of conquest against each other and only the Jewish nation (the smallest of all nations) was quietly busy with acts of kindness, today we see that many nations, lead by the United States, engage in acts of kindness even when there is no apparent benefit.  (The Rebbe mentions here the recent humanitarian aid given by the United States to impoverished citizens of a distant nation, perhaps a reference to protection from Saddam Hussein offered to the Kurds in mid-April, 1991, shortly before this sicha was said; or perhaps a prophecy of the relief efforts that would take place later in the year in Somalia).

We can see the thread running through the sichas: bringing G-dliness into action in this physical world, thereby elevating the world and making it a vessel for even greater revelations (miracles above nature, as in the 2nd period of the Messianic Era, including the resurrection of the dead).