Kuntres 18 Nissan: Guarding the Intellectual Soul

What is easier: keeping a powerful beast like a cow or a bull locked up in it’s pen, or a bird? Which requires “additional guarding”?

Although a bird possesses nothing of the power that the bull has, it has an additional ability that even the most powerful beast lacks — the power of flight. Thus, fences are sufficient to keep a mighty bull locked up, but a tiny bird is not properly guarded unless the walls are capped by a roof.

In Halocho this expresses itself in the laws regarding courtyards — that a large courtyard that is not covered by a roof is considered a carmelis (by Rabbinic decree, even though according to Torah it is a private domain (reshus hayochid)), but if it is covered with a roof then it remains a private domain according to Rabbinic opinion as well.

The maamor printed for 18 Nissan, 5751 (anniversary of the Rebbe’s Bris Mila)  explains this in terms of our Divine service: the animal for which fences are sufficient is our animal soul; the bird that requires a roof is our Intellectual Soul (Nefesh Hasichlis).  The animal soul, while powerful, has four legs on the ground and looks down — it’s only attraction and interest is gashmiyus.  It is enough to build fences to pen it in.  But the Nefesh Hasichlis, while it is a human intellect which relates to worldly things, possesses an inclination to “fly away” to contemplate things which are of a higher nature. Thus it needs a roof as well.

What is this roof?

In our Divine service, the “roof” is the wonderment (הפלאה) we feel when contemplating and realizing that the lofty things we are studying (and through study, grasping) are in fact beyond our grasp because they are G-dliness. G-dliness is without bounds, but whatever we understand with our human intellect (the Nefesh Hasichlis) is limited, and thus or understanding is not the “real thing”.  Keeping this in mind puts a “roof” of self-nullification (bittul) on our intellectual efforts so they don’t get carried away with themselves and “fly off” from the realm of the Oneness of Hashem (reshus hayochid) and enter the realm of self-importance and pride (ישות וגאווה).

How does this relate to our Sichos of 5751-52?

The avodah of Chassidim since the revelation of Chasidus was primarily in the realm of emotional attributes (midos) — battling and striving to transform the animal soul. Learning Chassidus was a major component of this avodah, but the revelations of Chassidus kept to the boundaries of Torah and Mitzvos — Tikkun.

In the Sichos of 5751-52, when the Rebbe will demand “do all that you can to draw down the lights of Tohu (but in a way of vessels of Tikkun)”, the revelations cross the border from the Torah and Mitzvos of the time of golus (limited, but familiar to our human outlook and understanding) to the first stage of the Messianic era (ימות המשיח) and elevate us to a new (and unfamiliar) level of understanding and a new outlook.

The work of transforming the animal soul, the Rebbe informs us, is completed (and if we don’t see this, it is only because we haven’t made the proper effort to reveal it), and we begin the shift to transforming our consciousness, the realm of the Intellectual Soul.

So right from the beginning of this seismic shift in the pnimiyus of our avodah, the Rebbe published this maamar to give us a “heads up” that while keeping the behema (the animal soul) only required fences, the next step of “opening the eyes” of the Intellectual Soul requires a roof as well if we are to keep ourselves within the private realm, the “reshus hayochid“.

Internalizing concepts such as: we can now “fill our mouths with laughter”; we have reached the time for receiving the reward of our Divine service; Yidden and Hashem are really One thing; Mitzvos will be nullified in the future; the created “yesh” is in essence the true “Yesh” of Hashem’s essence; etc., require one to “cover” his intellectual efforts in these concepts with a “roof” of bittul so that his Intellectual Soul will not “fly away” and take these ideas to the wrong place.

(We could further say that through this discourse the Rebbe gave Chassidim the power to do this lechatchila, and to understand the Sichos in the proper way, consistent with Halacha — as we see is the case across Lubavitch!)

Acharon Shel Pesach, 5751: Seven and Eight

1. This year the holiday of Pesach possesses a unique dimension because the first day of Pesach and therefore the last day (in the Diaspora) fall on Shabbos. The day on which Pesach falls also imparts a special property to Parshas Shemini, causing the portion to be read eight times (this includes the readings on the Shabbos afternoons and on Mondays and Thursdays) over a period of three weeks. There is a popular adage Shemini Shemoneh Shemainoh, “When Parshas Shemini is read eight times, it will be a plentiful year.”

Shemini means “the eighth,” while in contrast, the natural order is a cycle of seven. Even Shabbos, the seventh day, is associated with a sense of perfection and completion within the natural order as reflected in our Sages’ statement: “What was the world lacking? Rest. When Shabbos came, with it came rest;” the quality of rest which Shabbos contributes is a dimension which, when missing, creates a lack in the world. In contrast, eight refers to a quality that is totally transcendent in nature, entirely above the limits of our world.

This contrast can be further developed by focusing on the unique aspect of the Counting of the Omer this year. It is written, “And you shall count… from the day following the Shabbos… and they shall be seven perfect weeks.” When Pesach falls on Shabbos, the Counting of the Omer begins “from the day following the Shabbos” in a simple sense, and thus the weeks of the Counting of the Omer parallel the ordinary weekly cycle. Our Sages explain that this endows an added dimension of perfection to this period of time.

To explore this concept in greater depth: Pesach and the Counting of the Omerreflect two different patterns in the service of G‑d. Pesach means “leap” and refers to a leap beyond the natural order as in the redemption from Egypt when “the King of kings, the Holy One blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.”

In contrast, the Counting of the Omer represents a systematic sequence of development in which a person refines his seven emotional qualities. In particular, these seven qualities each include each other. Thus in the 49 (7×7) days of the Omer, we refine each particular dimension of our emotional makeup. Similarly, this service elevates the world at large which was created through the medium of these seven emotional qualities.

Thus, it appears that Pesach and the Counting of the Omer represent two different patterns of service: Why does the Torah associate the two?

This question is reinforced by the fact that, when giving the command to count the Omer, the Torah refers to Pesach as “the Shabbos.” Here also we see a similar contrast. The sanctity of the festivals is dependent on the service of the Jewish people. Thus our Sages interpret the verse “These are the festivals of G‑d which you will declare” to mean that the sanctity of the festivals are dependent on the Jewish people.

In contrast, the sanctity of Shabbos does not depend on the Jews at all. Its holiness is drawn down from above. If so, why does the Torah associate the Counting of the Omer (which as above refers to man’s service) with the term Shabbos (that reflects holiness endowed to us by G‑d)?

These difficulties can be resolved as follows: Man’s service does not involve only those elements of spirituality to which he shares a connection, i.e., those that relate to the natural order. Even those which transcend the natural order and whose revelation depends on G‑d, must be internalized and drawn down within our personalities and within the world at large through man’s service. In this manner, we can achieve a fusion of both qualities: There will be a revelation of G‑dliness which transcends the natural order, but it will be drawn down within the world through man’s service.

This concept is alluded to in the verse, “And you shall count for yourselves,… from the day following the Shabbos…” Homiletically, the expression “the day following the Shabbos” refers to a level above Shabbos, i.e., above even the level of perfection within the natural order. Furthermore, by using this term rather than the expression, “the day following the festival,” the Torah indicates that this influence surpasses not only the influence which the Jews can draw down through their own efforts (the festivals), but also surpasses the influence which is drawn down from above (Shabbos).

By telling us, “And you shall count for yourselves,” the Torah also emphasizes the intent that this influence be drawn down within the world at large. The verse continues, mentioning “seven perfect weeks,” which points to the efforts to have this influence permeate the world in a particular way. This leads to the counting of “fifty days,” the revelation of a level which transcends the world, even as it exists in a refined sense (i.e., the 49 days of the Omer, in which each of the seven attributes with which the world was created is expressed in a refined manner).

The fiftieth level which is associated with the giving of the Torah, transcends the set of worldly existence entirely. Nevertheless, since it is preceded by the service of the Counting of the Omer, this level can be drawn down within the context of material existence.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the unique dimension contributed by the fact that Pesach falls on Shabbos. Firstly, in such a year, it is clearly seen how the influence drawn down is from “the day following Shabbos,” i.e., its uniquely transcendent nature is openly revealed. Secondly, since the weeks of the Counting of the Omer parallel the weeks of the natural order, we clearly see how this transcendent influence permeates the world at large. Thus, the two dimensions which characterize the influence of the Counting of the Omer each year are more openly revealed when the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbos.

In a more particular way, these levels described above are revealed this year on the first Shabbos within the Counting of the Omer (in the Diaspora, Acharon Shel Pesach, in Eretz Yisrael, Isru Chag) when the counting of one full week of the Omer, the week associated with the quality of chessed, is completed. Furthermore, the completion of the counting of this week relates to the completion of the counting as a whole for Chessed is described as “the day (quality) which accompanies all the other days (qualities).”

In such a year, the two qualities mentioned above are revealed in microcosm. The revelation of the dimension which transcends the worldly set is reflected in Acharon Shel Pesach’s being the eighth day of the holiday. As mentioned above, the number eight points to a revelation above the natural order. The completion of the counting of the first week reflects how this influence is drawn down into the world at large, because as mentioned above, the attribute of Chessed has an effect on all the other qualities.

These qualities are further emphasized when the eighth day of Pesach falls on Shabbos for this reveals how the transcendent dimension associated with eight is fused with Shabbos, i.e., the natural order as it exists in a perfect manner.

There is also a connection to the holiday of Acharon Shel Pesach itself. The celebration of Acharon Shel Pesach was instituted in connection with the Seventh Day of Pesach, the day which commemorates the splitting of the Red Sea which was the final stage of the exodus from Egypt.

In Chassidic thought, it is explained that the splitting of the sea reflected the bonding between the transcendent worlds which are above revelation (the sea, whose creations are hidden and covered by the sea’s waters) and the lower revealed worlds (the dry land, on which the creations can be openly seen). In particular, there are two opinions regarding the nature of the bond established: a) The Zohar’s conception, that the bond was established through the elevation of the lower realms; b) The AriZal’s conception, that the bond was established through the revelation from above.

According to Chassidus, “these and these are the words of the living G‑d,” and both conceptions are true. And in this way, the fusion is complete, a revelation from above (when the revelation is initiated from above, more transcendent levels are revealed) and an elevation from below (which allows the influence received to be internalized in a more complete manner). Thus, we also have a parallel to the theme explained above, that the revelation which transcends the world will permeate the world itself.7

Herein we can also see a connection to Parshas Shemini. As mentioned above,Shemini represents a level above the natural order which revolves around a cycle of seven. Thus there is a parallel to Pesach which represents “a leap” above the natural order, and a closer parallel this year when the “the day following the Shabbos” — which reflects a level above Shabbos, the perfection of the natural order — falls on Shabbos itself. Even the transcendent levels associated with Shemini — and this year, the peaks associated with the reading of the parshah eight times (i.e., transcendence within transcendence) — are drawn down into our world through the Counting of the Omer.

* * *

2. Pesach is “the season of our freedom.” In addition to commemorating the redemption from Egypt, it also grants the potential for all future redemptions, including the ultimate redemption when “as in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” In particular, it is the eighth day of Pesach which shares a connection with Mashiach. This is expressed in the following: a) As mentioned above, the number eight is associated with the Era of Redemption; b) The Haftorah recited on the eighth day of Pesach contains many prophecies related to the coming of Mashiach, “A shoot shall emerge from the stem of Yishai…” and the state of peace which he will introduce into the world, “the wolf will dwell with the lamb.” c) The Baal Shem Tov instituted the custom of eating Mashiach’s Seudah, “the feast of Mashiach,” on the eighth day of Pesach. This custom was publicized by the Rebbe Rashab in Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim in 5666 — when he also introduced the custom of drinking four cups of wine in association with the Torah’s four expressions of redemption — and has now spread throughout the Jewish community.

There is also a connection between the Counting of the Omer on Acharon Shel Pesach and the Era of Redemption. In general, the Counting of the Omer shares a connection with the redemption. The Counting of the Omer is intended to bring about a revelation of the 50th Gate of Understanding, a level which will be revealed in a complete and permanent manner in the Era of Redemption.

There is a reflection of this revelation on the present day, for as explained above, the completion of counting the week associated with the attribute of Chessed has a connection with the completion of the Counting of the Omer as a whole. In particular, this is reflected in the counting of the Sefirah, Malchus sheb’Chesed on the night of Acharon Shel Pesach. The ultimate expression of G‑d’s Chessed (kindness) will be in the Era of Redemption when His Malchus (kingship) will be revealed throughout the world.

All of the above concepts are given greater emphasis this year due to the influence of Shabbos and Parshas Shemini. In particular, we see howMashiach’s Seudah leads to and becomes part of the Melaveh Malkah meal, the meal which is associated with King David who is the progenitor of Mashiach and is himself described as Malkah Mashichah, “the anointed king.” May Mashiach come and actually join us at this meal and may the grace be led by King David as related by our Sages.

And then, from this meal we will proceed to the era when “The Merciful One will restore the service of the Beis HaMikdash for us.” May this be in the immediate future.

 

Translation by Sichos in English

25 Nissan, 5751: Smiting by the First Born in Our Times

1. The nature of the month of Nissan is reflected by the holiday of Pesach, “the season of our freedom.” This year this dimension is given additional emphasis because the Pesach holiday began on Shabbos. In regard to the days of the week, Shabbos is a day of freedom, a day when we are “freed” from work and other mundane activities and all of our needs have been prepared for previously. This allows each Jew to feel that he is free and, furthermore, that he controls his environment.

The freedom of Pesach resembles the freedom that will be experienced in the Era of Redemption. All redemptions share a common factor. In particular, the redemption from Egypt which is commemorated on Pesach was the first redemption and thus, includes within it the source for all subsequent redemptions, including the ultimate redemption.

Indeed, the redemption from Egypt was intended to lead directly to that ultimate redemption. This is reflected in the Jews’ declaration in the song of the Red Sea, “G‑d will reign forever and ever.” This declaration reflected the state of the Jewish people at that time and would have been expressed within the world at large, allowing for a redemption that would never be followed by exile had not several undesirable events occurred.

Furthermore, the connection between the exodus from Egypt and the ultimate redemption began even before the splitting of the sea as reflected in the verse, “These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt.”

It took only one journey to leave Egypt. Why does the verse mention “journeys”? To intimate that all the journeys of the Jewish people, the entire progress of our people throughout the generations until they reach, “the Sanctuary of G‑d established by Your hands,” the Third Beis HaMikdash, was included in the first journey out of Egypt.

There is, however, a difference between the splitting of the sea and the exodus. Our Sages explain that even though the Jews left Egypt, they still feared the Egyptians within their hearts. It was not until the Egyptians were totally annihilated at the Red Sea did this fear depart from them.

In contrast, when the Jews left Egypt, the Egyptians were still in a position of power. Indeed, it was they who drove the Jews out of Egypt. This is reflected in the miracle associated with Shabbos HaGadol, “the smiting of Egypt with their firstborn.” This implies that although the Egyptians were “smitten” by their own sons because they refused to free the Jews, nevertheless, they remained powerful. The miraculous nature of this process is that it was their own firstborn — the power of the Egyptians — who smote them so that they would release the Jews.

At present, in this, the year when “I will show you wonders,” beginning from the days of Purim, we have seen a reenactment of the miracle of “To strike Egypt with their firstborn.” Mitzrayim, Egypt in Hebrew, is related to the wordmeitzorim which means “cause suffering,” and thus refers to “those who cause suffering to the Jews.” The firstborn of Egypt, i.e., the most powerful forces among the gentiles, struck out against the power who desired to cause suffering to the Jews, humiliating him and forcing him to carry out all the directives which they dictated to him, beginning from his acknowledgement of regret for his previous conduct.

Purim was just the beginning of his downfall; his descent has continued from day to day, until at present, in the last days of Nissan, the firstborn of the gentiles (i.e., the United Nations) has given him a detailed list of instructions including: a) the return of all captives, and that this be supervised by the U.N. to ensure that this commitment is indeed kept, and b) payment for all the damages that he caused according to a fixed timetable. Furthermore, they are compelling him to reveal and to destroy all the weaponry which he has concealed until the present.

Therefore, when a Jew asks when can we actually see miracles, revealed wonders like those which accompanied the redemptions of Pesach and Purim, we should tell him to look at what is happening before his eyes.

Indeed, the miracles we are seeing surpass those of Purim. The miracles of Purim were enclothed within the natural order, and in order to allow us to appreciate them, it is necessary for the Megillah to relate the entire chronology of Achashverosh’s reign.1 In contrast, the miracles of the present year are openly revealed and we see how the enemy of the Jewish people has been routed and humiliated, and furthermore, how that humiliation has continued and increased until the present day.

Everyone knows about all these matters because they have been published in the newspapers. For some reason, everyone feels that it’s important that he knows everything which is printed in the newspapers, and indeed, that he know all the details and be able to venture an opinion about what the generals and the ministers say.

In truth, a Jew’s direct effect on these matters is very limited. The primary manner in which he can have an effect is to recite a chapter of Tehillim or to increase his study of the Torah and his performance of its mitzvos, and to do the latter b’hiddur, in a beautiful and conscientious manner. And most important, to study Pnimiyus HaTorah which prepares the world for Mashiach’scoming. This is where a Jew should devote his energies. Nevertheless, everyone wastes a certain amount of time clarifying these current events, finding out what so and so says, and trying to prove that so and so made a mistake and the like. This is the opposite of the conduct of “a wise and understanding nation.” Indeed, even gentiles can appreciate its fruitlessness.

The above is enhanced by the fact that this year, we read Parshas Shemini,eight times. It is said Shemini Shemoneh Shemainoh, “When Parshas Sheminiis read eight times (i.e., this includes the readings on the Shabbos afternoons and on Mondays and Thursdays), it will be a plentiful year.” The year will also be plentiful with miracles and wonders, including the wonders which everyone saw in the past, sees in the present, and will see more of in the future. As we see in the last days, there was another U.N. resolution against Saddam. Surely, we will see more wonders of this nature in the future, and in the very near future.

May G‑d grant every Jew “eyes to see, ears to hear, and a knowing heart,” to appreciate these wonders. Surely, these potentials have been granted for it is already past the fortieth year. It is written, “For forty years, I quarreled with a generation;” i.e., for forty years, G‑d kept the Jews in the desert. Ultimately, however, the psalm concludes with the mention of “My resting place.” In the fullest sense, this is a reference to the Era of Redemption when we will experience true rest and rest from this, the final exile.

In addition to each person’s appreciation of these miracles, he has an obligation to make them known to a friend and to influence his friends to realize that he is seeing open miracles. His friend may have convinced himself that nothing special is happening, that everything is carrying on in an ordinary manner. It is necessary to explain to such a person that these are open miracles and that they are an expression of the miraculous nature of Nissan as our Sages said, “When a person sees a word with two nunnim in a dream, miracles of a truly wondrous nature will occur to him.” If this is true when such a word appears in a dream, surely it is true in regard to the month of Nissan.

This is also the answer which a father or a mother must give a child when the child asks at the Seder “Why do we recline?” and the child continues asking: It says in the Haggadah, “The Holy One, blessed be He, did not redeem only our ancestors from Egypt, but rather, He redeemed us with them;” “Had the Holy One, blessed be He, not redeemed our ancestors from Egypt, we, our children and our children’s children would be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.” The child complains: We have not seen miracles like our ancestors did?

We must answer him that we have seen such miracles: We have seen how G‑d “smote Egypt with their firstborn,” one of the miracles which accompanied the exodus from Egypt.

May the redemption come immediately so that we will not have to spend any further time explaining about the miracles G‑d works for us. There is a greater potential for this in the present year when the first day of Pesach and thus the last day of Pesach fall on Shabbos, “the days of your rejoicing.” The last day of Pesach is when it is customary to hold the Feast of Mashiach, when the concept of Mashiach is internalized to the point where it becomes part of our flesh and blood. Thus, the distribution of kos shel berachah was on Saturday night, a time associated with partaking of the Melaveh Malkah, the meal associated with King David, the anointed king.

May we proceed from the last days of Pesach to the ultimate redemption. There is a connection between the two for the first days of Pesach are associated with the redemption from Egypt and the last days, and in particular, the eighth day, are associated with the ultimate redemption.

There is another dimension to the miraculous sequence of events which is taking place at present that resembles the exodus from Egypt. The Midrash relates that when the Jews “spoiled” the Egyptians, they took even the gold and the silver which was hidden away. When the Jews asked them for gifts, the Egyptians forced them to take all their treasured property.

Similarly, today, after the enemy of the Jews was routed, he was forced to reveal all his hidden treasures and give them to other nations, including generous nations who will employ these resources for positive purposes. Among these purposes are the settlement of those Jews who have in a very real way experienced an exodus from Egypt, i.e., the Jews who are leaving Russia and coming to settle in Eretz Yisrael. These funds are being used to meet the needs of these immigrants, and indeed to allow them to settle in prosperity, in a manner in which they will acquire both material and spiritual wealth.

Even those Jews who have left Russia and for various reasons settled in the U.S., in Australia, and in other lands will also join them soon in Eretz Yisrael,and we will proceed to Jerusalem whose Hebrew name Yerushalayim, relates to the concept of yirah shaleim (“complete fear”); i.e., when we see a Jew, we will be able to point to him and say “Here is a Jew who is a perfect example of a G‑d-fearing person. Similarly, his wife and his children have all acquired this same quality.”

We will merit this by reaching complete fear — to the fullest extent possible — at present in exile. Similarly, this will be enhanced by the efforts of the entire Jewish people helping these Russian Jews settle in Eretz Yisrael. Among those offering this assistance are Jews who previously did not have — in an open and revealed way — a connection to the Torah and its mitzvos. They will begin to develop such a connection by helping other people in their observance and, then step by step, they and their families will also begin studying the Torah and observing its mitzvos, and doing so with happiness and joy.

There is a greater emphasis on this in the month of Nissan, a month when the entire Jewish people are described as Tzaddikim, “righteous.” This is reflected in the practice where Tachanun (which includes the confessional prayers) is omitted throughout the month of Nissan. In Nissan, a Jew is above the need for repentance for sin. He too will turn to G‑d in teshuvah, but with teshuvah which has no connection with sin, but rather resembles the ultimate state of teshuvah to which Mashiach will motivate the righteous in the Era of Redemption.

May we merit to have all the above revealed openly. And this will start with our appreciation of the miracles which have happened already — an appreciation so great that we will not be embarrassed to dance in celebration for we are witnessing open miracles each day. When we make an effort to explain this to others, we will see that this explanation will be readily accepted.

This together with our increase in the study of Torah, both Pnimiyus HaTorah and Nigleh, and the performance of its mitzvos b’hiddur will lead to the era when “the pleasantness of G‑d will be upon us” and “the work of our hands will establish it.”

Translation by Sichos in English

Acharon Shel Pesach, 5751: Seven and Eight

1. This year the holiday of Pesach possesses a unique dimension because the first day of Pesach and therefore the last day (in the Diaspora) fall on Shabbos. The day on which Pesach falls also imparts a special property to Parshas Shemini, causing the portion to be read eight times (this includes the readings on the Shabbos afternoons and on Mondays and Thursdays) over a period of three weeks. There is a popular adage Shemini Shemoneh Shemainoh, “When Parshas Shemini is read eight times, it will be a plentiful year.”

Shemini means “the eighth,” while in contrast, the natural order is a cycle of seven. Even Shabbos, the seventh day, is associated with a sense of perfection and completion within the natural order as reflected in our Sages’ statement: “What was the world lacking? Rest. When Shabbos came, with it came rest;” the quality of rest which Shabbos contributes is a dimension which, when missing, creates a lack in the world. In contrast, eight refers to a quality that is totally transcendent in nature, entirely above the limits of our world.

This contrast can be further developed by focusing on the unique aspect of the Counting of the Omer this year. It is written, “And you shall count… from the day following the Shabbos… and they shall be seven perfect weeks.” When Pesach falls on Shabbos, the Counting of the Omer begins “from the day following the Shabbos” in a simple sense, and thus the weeks of the Counting of the Omer parallel the ordinary weekly cycle. Our Sages explain that this endows an added dimension of perfection to this period of time.

To explore this concept in greater depth: Pesach and the Counting of the Omerreflect two different patterns in the service of G‑d. Pesach means “leap” and refers to a leap beyond the natural order as in the redemption from Egypt when “the King of kings, the Holy One blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.”

In contrast, the Counting of the Omer represents a systematic sequence of development in which a person refines his seven emotional qualities. In particular, these seven qualities each include each other. Thus in the 49 (7×7) days of the Omer, we refine each particular dimension of our emotional makeup. Similarly, this service elevates the world at large which was created through the medium of these seven emotional qualities.

Thus, it appears that Pesach and the Counting of the Omer represent two different patterns of service: Why does the Torah associate the two?

This question is reinforced by the fact that, when giving the command to count the Omer, the Torah refers to Pesach as “the Shabbos.” Here also we see a similar contrast. The sanctity of the festivals is dependent on the service of the Jewish people. Thus our Sages interpret the verse “These are the festivals of G‑d which you will declare” to mean that the sanctity of the festivals are dependent on the Jewish people.

In contrast, the sanctity of Shabbos does not depend on the Jews at all. Its holiness is drawn down from above. If so, why does the Torah associate the Counting of the Omer (which as above refers to man’s service) with the term Shabbos (that reflects holiness endowed to us by G‑d)?

These difficulties can be resolved as follows: Man’s service does not involve only those elements of spirituality to which he shares a connection, i.e., those that relate to the natural order. Even those which transcend the natural order and whose revelation depends on G‑d, must be internalized and drawn down within our personalities and within the world at large through man’s service. In this manner, we can achieve a fusion of both qualities: There will be a revelation of G‑dliness which transcends the natural order, but it will be drawn down within the world through man’s service.

This concept is alluded to in the verse, “And you shall count for yourselves,… from the day following the Shabbos…” Homiletically, the expression “the day following the Shabbos” refers to a level above Shabbos, i.e., above even the level of perfection within the natural order. Furthermore, by using this term rather than the expression, “the day following the festival,” the Torah indicates that this influence surpasses not only the influence which the Jews can draw down through their own efforts (the festivals), but also surpasses the influence which is drawn down from above (Shabbos).

By telling us, “And you shall count for yourselves,” the Torah also emphasizes the intent that this influence be drawn down within the world at large. The verse continues, mentioning “seven perfect weeks,” which points to the efforts to have this influence permeate the world in a particular way. This leads to the counting of “fifty days,” the revelation of a level which transcends the world, even as it exists in a refined sense (i.e., the 49 days of the Omer, in which each of the seven attributes with which the world was created is expressed in a refined manner).

The fiftieth level which is associated with the giving of the Torah, transcends the set of worldly existence entirely. Nevertheless, since it is preceded by the service of the Counting of the Omer, this level can be drawn down within the context of material existence.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the unique dimension contributed by the fact that Pesach falls on Shabbos. Firstly, in such a year, it is clearly seen how the influence drawn down is from “the day following Shabbos,” i.e., its uniquely transcendent nature is openly revealed. Secondly, since the weeks of the Counting of the Omer parallel the weeks of the natural order, we clearly see how this transcendent influence permeates the world at large. Thus, the two dimensions which characterize the influence of the Counting of the Omer each year are more openly revealed when the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbos.

In a more particular way, these levels described above are revealed this year on the first Shabbos within the Counting of the Omer (in the Diaspora, Acharon Shel Pesach, in Eretz Yisrael, Isru Chag) when the counting of one full week of the Omer, the week associated with the quality of chessed, is completed. Furthermore, the completion of the counting of this week relates to the completion of the counting as a whole for Chessed is described as “the day (quality) which accompanies all the other days (qualities).”

In such a year, the two qualities mentioned above are revealed in microcosm. The revelation of the dimension which transcends the worldly set is reflected in Acharon Shel Pesach’s being the eighth day of the holiday. As mentioned above, the number eight points to a revelation above the natural order. The completion of the counting of the first week reflects how this influence is drawn down into the world at large, because as mentioned above, the attribute of Chessed has an effect on all the other qualities.

These qualities are further emphasized when the eighth day of Pesach falls on Shabbos for this reveals how the transcendent dimension associated with eight is fused with Shabbos, i.e., the natural order as it exists in a perfect manner.

There is also a connection to the holiday of Acharon Shel Pesach itself. The celebration of Acharon Shel Pesach was instituted in connection with the Seventh Day of Pesach, the day which commemorates the splitting of the Red Sea which was the final stage of the exodus from Egypt.

In Chassidic thought, it is explained that the splitting of the sea reflected the bonding between the transcendent worlds which are above revelation (the sea, whose creations are hidden and covered by the sea’s waters) and the lower revealed worlds (the dry land, on which the creations can be openly seen). In particular, there are two opinions regarding the nature of the bond established: a) The Zohar’s conception, that the bond was established through the elevation of the lower realms; b) The AriZal’s conception, that the bond was established through the revelation from above.

According to Chassidus, “these and these are the words of the living G‑d,” and both conceptions are true. And in this way, the fusion is complete, a revelation from above (when the revelation is initiated from above, more transcendent levels are revealed) and an elevation from below (which allows the influence received to be internalized in a more complete manner). Thus, we also have a parallel to the theme explained above, that the revelation which transcends the world will permeate the world itself.7

Herein we can also see a connection to Parshas Shemini. As mentioned above,Shemini represents a level above the natural order which revolves around a cycle of seven. Thus there is a parallel to Pesach which represents “a leap” above the natural order, and a closer parallel this year when the “the day following the Shabbos” — which reflects a level above Shabbos, the perfection of the natural order — falls on Shabbos itself. Even the transcendent levels associated with Shemini — and this year, the peaks associated with the reading of the parshah eight times (i.e., transcendence within transcendence) — are drawn down into our world through the Counting of the Omer.

* * *

2. Pesach is “the season of our freedom.” In addition to commemorating the redemption from Egypt, it also grants the potential for all future redemptions, including the ultimate redemption when “as in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” In particular, it is the eighth day of Pesach which shares a connection with Mashiach. This is expressed in the following: a) As mentioned above, the number eight is associated with the Era of Redemption; b) The Haftorah recited on the eighth day of Pesach contains many prophecies related to the coming of Mashiach, “A shoot shall emerge from the stem of Yishai…” and the state of peace which he will introduce into the world, “the wolf will dwell with the lamb.” c) The Baal Shem Tov instituted the custom of eating Mashiach’s Seudah, “the feast of Mashiach,” on the eighth day of Pesach. This custom was publicized by the Rebbe Rashab in Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim in 5666 — when he also introduced the custom of drinking four cups of wine in association with the Torah’s four expressions of redemption — and has now spread throughout the Jewish community.

There is also a connection between the Counting of the Omer on Acharon Shel Pesach and the Era of Redemption. In general, the Counting of the Omer shares a connection with the redemption. The Counting of the Omer is intended to bring about a revelation of the 50th Gate of Understanding, a level which will be revealed in a complete and permanent manner in the Era of Redemption.

There is a reflection of this revelation on the present day, for as explained above, the completion of counting the week associated with the attribute of Chessed has a connection with the completion of the Counting of the Omer as a whole. In particular, this is reflected in the counting of the Sefirah, Malchus sheb’Chesed on the night of Acharon Shel Pesach. The ultimate expression of G‑d’s Chessed (kindness) will be in the Era of Redemption when His Malchus (kingship) will be revealed throughout the world.

All of the above concepts are given greater emphasis this year due to the influence of Shabbos and Parshas Shemini. In particular, we see howMashiach’s Seudah leads to and becomes part of the Melaveh Malkah meal, the meal which is associated with King David who is the progenitor of Mashiach and is himself described as Malkah Mashichah, “the anointed king.” May Mashiach come and actually join us at this meal and may the grace be led by King David as related by our Sages.

And then, from this meal we will proceed to the era when “The Merciful One will restore the service of the Beis HaMikdash for us.” May this be in the immediate future.

 

Translation by Sichos in English