Lech Lecho 5752: Pick up and Leave

Hashem’s instruction to Avraham Avinu “Lech Lecho” is a leaving (from “your land, your birth place, your father’s house”) for the sake of arriving: arriving to “the land I will show you”, Eretz Yisroel.

According to Chassidus, each of these expressions of leaving has a spiritual counterpart in the avodah of a Jew:

  • Your land (artzecha) refers to one’s will (ratzon), that one has to leave his concepts of “I want”;
  • Your birth place refers to the traits one was born with, to leave the concept of “that’s the way I am”;
  • Your father’s house refers to the education and training that one has become accustomed to.

First one must completely leave these three limiting self-conceptions (even if they are in the realm of Holiness), and having left them he can now proceed towards “the land I will show you”, the Land of Israel.  Back in parshas Pinchas the Rebbe explained that a Jew must “make here Eretz Yisroel”, make it “a place where G‑dliness, holiness, and Yiddishkeit are openly revealed”, and further: to conduct ourselves in the spirit of the Geulah.  Here the Rebbe says that we are far beyond the beginning of the process of conquering the land outside of  Israel and making it Eretz Yisroel, and thus the instruction to “go out from your land” in our case refers also to the land that has already been made into Eretz Yisrael. To not only “go out” from negative things, but to “go out” from the current, limited level we have obtained even in holy things.

This includes not only the land of the 7 nations, which correspond to the 7 midos (the 7 emotional attributes of chesed, gevurah, etc.), but the land of all 10 nations that was promised to Avraham, including the 3 nations of Keni, Kenizi and Kadmoni, which correspond to the 3 moichin (the 3 intellectual attributes of the soul: Kesser, Chochma, and Bina).  And the acquisition of this land will take place peacefully, without the war that was required to conquer the 7 lands, meaning the 7 midos.

This process of “Lech Lecho” — leaving what one is accustomed to, even good and holy things — takes place by revealing powers that one did not even know he had.  This includes adding in learning Torah and making chiddushim (novel insights), gathering people on Shabbos to teach them Torah.  This process of “Lech Lecho” is the preparation needed to reach the “Torah of Moshiach”, which is connected with the acquisition of the 3 lands, the 3 moichin, which is the “sha’ar haNun“, the 50th gate which Moshe Rabbeinu was only able to reach at the end of his life.  And through this we will reach the complete revelation of the Torah that was given at Har Sinai: the level of “a new Torah will go forth from Me” (Vayikra Rabba 13:3 on Yeshayahu 51:4).

We can observe that during the decades of the Rebbe’s leadership, the Rebbe numerous times demanded a new “lech lecho” from the Chassidim*:

  1. In the “Yud’s” (the 1950s) the Rebbe demanded that Chassidim go out from what are called worldly assumptions (“hanachos ha’olam”), to leave the “balabatish” behavior and attitudes that were common at the time, even among Chassidim (the Rebbe in those years would make fun of those who were concerned that their tie was straight and that the color matched their shoes);
  2. In the “Chof’s” (the 1960s) the Rebbe began pushing for Chassidim in general to go out from the confines of the Chassidic community to go on Shlichus (“Ufaratzta“);
  3. In the “Lameds” (the 1970s) the Rebbe pushed Chassidim to become “activists” both locally (in Crown Heights) and internationally (influencing the Israeli government regarding “Who is a Jew“);
  4. In the “Mem’s” (the 1980s) the Rebbe launched into a greater emphasis on Moshiach — “We Want Moshiach Now” — and introduced the spreading of the 7 Noachide Laws to Gentiles. 

Each of these steps demanded that the Chassidim “go out” from the things they had become accustomed to, time after time another “lech lecho”.  We can observe that in the “Nun’s” (the 1990s) the Rebbe ratcheted up the push for Moshiach and introduced identifying and publicizing Moshiach, and the need to accept Moshiach’s Kingship (as mentioned in Parshas Noach, among other places).  This also demanded (and still demands) a “lech lecho” from Chassidim who had become accustomed to the previous standards that the Rebbe established.

Here in our sicha, the Rebbe reminds us that in order to bring the revelation of Moshiach and the true and complete Geuloh we cannot stand still (even if we are standing in the best of places) — we must “go out” to the land where the Rebbe is guiding us, exemplified by the Rebbe’s enthusiastic encouragement of the singing of “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu, Melech Hamoshiach l’Olom Vo’ed!”  Pack the bags and Lech Lecho!


*) Here we are speaking about the Rebbe’s demands of Chassidim, but it also recalls the following episode about the Rebbe himself as told by the Rebbe’s secretary Leibel Groner’ ע”ה:

When R’ Moshe Leib Rodstein, my wife’s uncle, lived in Poland before World War II, he served as the secretary of the Rebbe Rayatz. His job was to type the letters the Rebbe wrote and to send them to the addressees. After the war, when he arrived in the United States, he continued working for the Rebbe Rayatz. After the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe asked him to stay on in his job, which he did until he passed away.

R’ Moshe Leib once told me, “It is hard to understand. When an apprentice trains under an electrician, carpenter or the like, after a while he learns the trade and opens his own business. I thought that after working for the Rebbeim for many years that I’d learn the profession of Admurus and would be able to open my own Admurus and be a Rebbe.”

I asked him why this hadn’t happened. He said, “I saw a new Rebbe every day! The Rebbe of today is not the Rebbe of yesterday.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Every day, I saw new giluyim and new conduct on the part of the Rebbe. Each day, there were things I had never seen before. So I could never learn the trade and I did not become a Rebbe.”



Noach 5752: Geuloh is Dependent Only on Moshiach Himself

The chosid R’ Zushya Willemovsky, “The Partisan”, was told by the Rebbe in a private audience in the 1960s that there remained 20 or 21 things that needed to be accomplished in order for Moshiach to come.  From this we learn the significance of the sichos of Dvar Malchus in general, and parshas Noach in particular — that everything has been accomplished and nothing is preventing the Geuoh.

In this sicha, the Rebbe speaks about the importance of periodically making a proper spiritual accounting (cheshbon tzedek) to search out a recognize the areas in ourselves which need improvement, even things that are very slight imperfections (such as causing someone to feel bad because we didn’t return their greeting(!)).  This should be done with joy, with recognition that it is easier than ever to rectify these matters because the Jewish people, who are like one body, “are found in a state of an individual who is healthy in all of his limbs and organs, both spiritually and physically, and thus anything that is lacking is likened to a weakness or a minor illness in one limb which can be healed quickly and easily”.

Furthermore, when a person takes stock of himself and recognizes that he has flaws and failings which need to be rectified, “this is not a contradiction, G-d forbid, to the testimony of the Leader of the Generation that the work has already been completed and we are standing ready to receive Moshiach Tzidkeinu.”  Yes, we need to search these things out, and upon identifying them to rectify them, but these things do not delay Moshiach’s coming.

Dependent Only on Moshiach Himself

“With absolute certainty all the ‘end times’ have passed, and [the Jewish people] have already done tshuva, and now the matter is not dependent upon anything other than Moshiach Tzidkeinu himself!  (Italics in the original.)  Towards the end of the sicha the Rebbe repeats: “…when we do a proper accounting at  the end of the first week of the year 5752, “it will be a year with wonders in it”, we come to the conclusion that the matter is not dependent upon anything other than Moshiach Tzidkeinu himself (as stated above)…”

It might seem that the implication of these words is that we have done all that we can do, now all that remains would be to wait for Moshiach to decide when to reveal himself.  However, this sicha was preceded a half a year earlier by the famous sicha of Chof-Ches Nissan, 5751, where the Rebbe told the Chassidim that he had done everything he could do, all that remains is to give it over to us to bring Moshiach.  (Several days later a woman passed by the Rebbe for dollars, crying that we were counting on the Rebbe to bring Moshiach, to which the Rebbe answers “it must be done by Klal Yisroel, you included, and this person included, and that person included…”)

This means that we need a different way to understand the expression “the matter is not dependent upon anything other than Moshiach Tzidkeinu himself” — since the Rebbe clearly has put in the hands of the Jewish people to “do all that you can” to bring Moshiach in actuality.  Meaning that it is clearly not the Rebbe’s intention that we stage around crying out to Moshiach: “reveal yourself!”  If so, if it is not enough to wait patiently (or, even impatiently) — then what is implied by the matter being dependent upon Moshiach himself?

We can better understand this expression in light of the words of the Rebbe in the sicha of Chayeh Sara (three weeks after this parshas Noach) in which the Rebbe describes the chiddush, the change in the shlichus which becomes the new gateway for the rest of the efforts of shlichus, namely: to accept Moshiach Tzidkeinu in the true and complete Geuloh.”  (Italics in original.)

 This sheds light on the expression in our sicha, “that the matter is not dependent upon anything other than Moshiach Tzidkeinu himself ” — it is not that we are waiting for Moshiach to do something, since we already know that we are the ones who have to do (“do all that you can“).  Rather, the statement comes to tell us what it is that we need to do, that our efforts to bring Moshiach pertain to Moshiach himself: to accept this individual as Moshiach, to make him (personally my, and collectively our) King.  Everything else has been done, the road has been paved to Moshiach.  Now, all that remains is the acceptance of his Kingship by the people, and this is what “flicks the switch” to the true and complete Geuloh!

Noach “Saw a New World”

The opening verse in Parshas Noach says that “נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו” “Noach was a righteous man, he was perfect in his generations”.  The Midrash on this posuk (Midrash Rabba Noach, 30:8) says in the name of R’ Levi: “Whoever it is said about them ‘he was’ saw a new world.”  The Midrash then enumerates five individuals, the first being Noach, citing that when he and his family exited the ark, they saw a new world.

In what sense did Noach see a new world?  Obviously, it was the same Earth, although following the waters of the flood surely the surface of the Earth looked different than it did previously.  And of course, the evildoers who populated the Earth previously were no longer around.  But can we really say that this is what it means to see a “new world”?

The Rebbe, in the sicha of Noach 5752, clues us in to what is being implied here according to pnimiyus haTorah:

In the creation of the world, the Torah refers to Hashem using two names: YKVK and Elokim.  YKVK is G-dliness that is above the world.  Elokim is the name which indicates concealment, allowing independent-feeling worlds to come into existence.  In the words of Tehillim: “The Sun and a shield [these are the names] YKVK [and] Elokim”.  The name YKVK is the emanation of worlds, the infinite “light” of the worlds, and Elokim is the “shield” or “filter” that conceals the light in order that finite worlds can come into existence.

“That in the reality of the world as it is created via the name Elokim is revealed the name YKVK, until it is recognizable in a revealed way that “YKVK is Elokim” (הוי’ הוא האלקים), that in truth the contraction and concealment (Elokim)  are really the name YKVK. הצמצום וההסתר (אלקים) הוא לאמיתתו שם הוי-ה

(Sicha Parshas Noach, 5752)

Meaning that the world is still the same world that was created via the name Elokim, only that it becomes revealed that really even this name Elokim is just a reduction of the light of YKVK, but not something independent or separate.

So the “new world” that Noach saw was not a new form of creation, but a new perception: he could now perceive how the world of Elokim is really a world of YKVK.  It was recognizable and revealed to him.  He saw the same world but in an entirely new way, thus he saw a “new world”.

We can use this to understand many things the Rebbe is trying to tell us in these Dvar Malchus sichos, giving us the tools to “open our eyes”, including the subject of last week’s sicha regarding “servitude to the nations”.  Over there the Rebbe explains how there is servitude to the nations in the time of Golus, but that this servitude does not extend to our neshomas, nor to our bodies as regards matters of Torah and mitzvos.  And even those things where we must follow the law of the land because “dina d’malchusa dina” (the law of the land is the law) is not because we are in servitude to the nations of the world, but because this is how Hashem wants it to be in the time of Golus.

In those short paragraphs, the Rebbe has opened our eyes to a “new world”: a world where there is no servitude to the nations, which is the definition of (the first period of) the Days of Moshiach!  In other words, if one is in a personal Golus and in fact believes that the Jewish people is in servitude to the nations, then in fact he is in such a state, r”l.  But when one internalizes what the Rebbe says there, he discovers that not only our neshomas and our bodies (as regards performing Torah and Mitzvos) are not in servitude to the nations, even those areas where we do go according to their decisions (monetary matters and the like) — this is not due to any form of “servitude” but rather it is Hashem’s will!  So by following civil monetary law, we are in fact fulfilling Hashem’s will no less than in other halachic matters!  Externally, it is the same Golus, but the Rebbe has given us the tools to “see through” the darkness of Golus and realize that the concealment of the name Elokim (Golus) is really coming from YKVK — a new world!

This is one example of many to be found in Chassidus in general, the Rebbe’s teachings in particular, and the Dvar Malchus sichos most especially.  By making these changes in our perception and understanding of the world, we place ourselves in a state of Geulah even while the world “continues in its natural way”.  This is the beginning of Yemos Hamoshiach, each one coming to the realization based on his own efforts to internalize these concepts.

Bereishis 5752: No Servitude to the Nations

The Rambam, in his “Laws of Kings and Their Wars and Melech HaMoshiach”, declares that the coming of Moshiach and the process of redemption are not dependent upon the miraculous.  “Do not expect that in the Days of Moshiach the  pattern of conduct of the world will change, but rather the word will conduct itself in a normal manner…”  “Our sages have taught that there is no difference between this world and the world to come is servitude to the nations.” (Chapter 12)  This means to say that even in the Messianic Era (the first stage), the world continues to go in a natural way, however the Jewish people are no longer in a state of “servitude” to the nations as they were during golus.

In this sicha, the Rebbe explains how the Jewish nation was chosen by Hashem and thus the entire Creation exists for the sake of the Jewish people and thus the truth is that the nations of the world do not truly hold sway over us (“servitude”).

Even though the Jewish people in exile are found in a state of “servitude to the nations”, and there is a command in the Torah “the law of the land is the law” (dina d’malchusa dina)…the reason is not due to fear of the nations of the world (at the time of exile) G-d-forbid, but quite the contrary: Jews are the primary thing (reishis) and the nations of the world were created for their sake….  Rather, the reason is that this is the way the Holy One, blessed be He, ordered things, that this is how things need to be in the time of exile.

Although in certain matters (monetary cases, taxes, and the like) “the law of the land is the law”, yet this does not infringe upon matters of Torah and Mitzvos, the soul, and also does infringe on the bodies and the physicality (and materiality) of a Jew, for he always remains primary (reishis) and above the nations of the world.  The command that “the law of the land is the law” is not because he is in a state of servitude to the nations of the world, but because this is what Hashem decreed to be the state of affairs in exile (“because of our sins [we were exiled from our land]”).

In other words, the Rebbe is quite clearly stating that we are not now in a state of servitude to the nations in any respect.  This is explained as having always been the case, however it is clear that the Rebbe is indicating that a new threshold has been reached: while the Jewish people have always been in essence above servitude to the nations, this was not something that was perceptible in the world (a world of persecution and suffering for the Jewish people, both materially and spiritually).  But now it is possible to recognize that although we and the world still operate in the natural way, the Jewish people are not in a state of servitude to the nations of the worlds.

This is evident in a simple sense (freedom to fulfill Torah and Mitzvos in every country where Jews live), as the Rebbe points out in the sicha.  It is also referring to something deeper (and not explained explicitly in the sicha).  According to Chassidus, the “nations of the world” (which are numbered as 70 according to Torah) refer to our midos, our natural responses to what we understand according to our human intellect which is informed by the physical world we inhabit.  Servitude to the nations of the world, according to Chassidus, means that a person cannot escape the feelings and emotions generated by his worldly outlook.  To be free of servitude to the nations means: although one still perceives the world as operating in the natural manner (according to “nature” rather than Torah) one is not bound to this perception, and in fact one is free to understand things according to Torah and to have feelings and emotions generated by Torah rather than the “way of nature”.

As an example: a person has a lack of income, the “nations of the world” tell him that he must cut down on the amount he gives to tzedaka, and work more hours, including on Shabbos, in order to generate more income.  The Torah says that he should increase the amount he gives to tzedaka and to be careful not to work on Shabbos.  Servitude to the nations of the world means that even though he knows what Torah says, nonetheless he feels forced to cut back on tzedaka and to work on Shabbos–he is enslaved to the outlook of the natural world.  To be freed from this servitude means that not only does he not feel “forced” to do these things, but on the contrary he can actually feel the need to give additional tzedaka. He has been liberated from the natural perspective, even though he continues to perceive the world as operating in a natural manner.

We still see a natural world, but we are now free to relate to that world in the way that Torah instructs — without feeling compulsion from the nations of the world (from without or from within).  This is the first stage of the Messianic Era.

Vayechi 5752: Eternal Life for Every Jew via Yaakov Avinu

Our parsha begins with the words “Vayechi Yaakov” (“Yaakov lived”).  And although in the parsha we read about Yaakov’s passing, nonetheless our sages teach us that “Yaakov Avinu didn’t die — just as his children are alive, so too he is alive”.  Explains the Rebbe:

The life of Yaakov is eternal life through this that it is drawn to to his children and their descendents until the end of all of the generations.  “His children are alive” meaning true life through learning and fulfilling the Torah.  [Although we mention his children], nonetheless the name of the parsha is named after the life of Yaakov (“Vayechi Yaakov”) — since the truth of the life of Yaakov, eternal life, is expressed in the life of his children.

This means that Yaakov himself lives eternally (soul in a body, as explained elsewhere), and since the material eyes see that”they embalmed him and buried him, etc” his eternal life is expressed through the life of his children — they are alive because he is alive (and similarly, he is alive because they are alive — he is the reason they are alive, and they are the revelation that he is alive).

This parsha is in proximity to the fast of the Tenth of Teves, the day when the walls of Yerushalayim were besieged — the first step in the process which led, eventually, to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.  In the prophecy of Yechezkiel about the destruction, Hashem instructs him to take a “pan of iron” and to erect a “wall of iron”, symbolizing the seige of Yerushalayim.  Our sages speak of barzel, iron, as the element which actually destroyed the Beis Hamikdash, and for this reason it was not used in its construction.  In the words of the Midrash: “This is the gift…gold, silver, and copper…but iron is not written here, neither by the Mishkan nor by the Mikdash.  Why?  Because Edom is likened to it, and they are the ones who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash.”

Here the Rebbe introduces the concept of “barzel d’kedusha” — iron of the side of holiness.  This refers to being “stiff-necked” for holiness, for Torah and Mitzvos:

This is the inyan of “stiff-necked” in a positive sense, the strength and fortitude (iron) of the etzem haneshoma, the essence of the neshoma.  For it is through this that we nullify the iron of the opposite of holiness which is the “stiff-neck” of the evil inclination.  [Practically, this means] keeping the complete Torah, in a way of strength and fortitude of the “iron” of holiness.

For this reason, the third Beis Hamikdash will be constructed also with iron, because after the iron of the opposite of holiness (which destroyed) is nullified and refined, then the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt through the iron of holiness (as mentioned above).  I turns out, explains the Rebbe, that the Tenth of Teves, the seige of Yerushalayim, is not only the beginning of the exile and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, but it is in fact the beginning of the construction of the 3rd Beis Hamikdash and the future Geulah!  The destruction of the (previous) Beis Hamikdash was for the sake of the construction of the third, eternal Beis Hamikdash — “the beginning of the destruction and the exile is the beginning of the Geulah, similar to sowing seeds in the ground as the first step towards (and which brings about) the beginning of the sprouting.”

Parshas Vayechi is also Shabbos “Chazak” (being the final parsha in Sefer Bereishis we say “Chazak Chazak V’nischazek” (“Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!”) upon completion of the reading of the parsha). This “strengthening” (chizuk) for the whole time of golus is “Vayechi Yaakov” — Yaakov lives.  Yaakov’s inyan is Torah, and Yaakov’s eternal life is revealed through Torah, specifically “the expounding of our sages, that from this we learn that Yaakov Avinu did not die”).  A strengthening (chizuk) to stand with the strength and fortitude of iron for matters of holiness, for in this way we transform the iron of the opposite of holiness, which destroyed the Beis Hamikdash, into the iron of holiness and the building of the Beis Hamikdash of the future.  (And this occurs through Moshiach, who will conquer these klipos.).

Yaakov Avinu is one of the patriarchs who merited to “taste the eternal life of the world to come in their life in this world”.  In the future, this will be experienced by every single Jew (their descendants) together with all the Jews of all the generations who will arise in the resurrection of the dead.

And how much more so all of Bnei Yisroel in our generation ([for we are presently alive] living neshomos in living bodies without any interruption, chas v’sholom, at all in life [of this world and the life of the world to come — a seamless transition], and Nosi Doreinu at our head…for then every single Jew will be alive, living eternally in the simple sense, beginning with the Bnei Yisroel of our generation, souls in bodies, for long and good years…eternal life.

 How do we bring about that our generation and every generation will experience the eternal life in this world which awaits them?

…the resolution alone to increase in “one mitzvah” in a way of sowing (even before one has fulfilled it) should bring the “sprouting” of the Geulah in actuality, and immediately…we should already have the “coming up” from the exile to the Geulah…and Nosi Doreinu — the Yosef of our generation [a reference to the Previous Rebbe] — who “did not die”, like Yaakov Avinu, as is known that “Nosi” (נשיא) stands for “a spark of Yaakov Avinu” (ניצוצו של יעקב אבינו), and it is through the hiskashrus and the bittul to the Nosi Hador that this [that he “did not die”] is drawn into each and every one of the people of this generation.

 Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Melech Hamoshiach L’olam Vo’ed!

19) Kuntres Hey Teves, 5752

19) Kuntres Hey Teves, 5752

The Kuntres printed for Hey Teves (ה’ טבת) in the year 5752 is a Chassidic Discourse the Rebbe said on parshas Vayigash, 5732, edited for publication under the supervision of the Rebbe himself.  The discourse explains some deep concepts in Chassidus, which we will not attempt to explain here; rather, we will take one point in the discourse.

The parsha begins with Yehuda approaching Yosef.  As is known, Yosef was dressed as an Egyptian, his brothers had no idea that this was their brother that they had sold into slavery so many years earlier.  This “Egyptian” was demanding that their brother Binyomin remain with him as a slave, because of the “theft”  of his goblet (which Yosef himself orchestrated).  Yehuda fearlessly approaches Yosef and asks — and even demands —  that the “Egyptian” let Binyomin return to his father (of whom he says “his soul is bound up with his soul”) and enslave one of the other brothers in his place.

This act of selflessness on the part of Yehuda represents the rectification of the original sale of Yosef, as is known.  But as explained according to Chassidus, there are even loftier things occurring here.

To summarize these loftier things, without elaboration: Yosef represents the level of Z”A and Yesod, the mashpia who gives spiritual influence; Yehuda represents the level of Malchus, the mekabel who receives from the mashpia.  Yehuda is requesting from Yosef to give over to him the spiritual influence.  And more than that, he is asking to receive this, reflecting the active participation of the mekabel.

Obviously, the mashpia (giver) is higher than the mekabel (receiver).  But in their source, it is reversed: the source of the mekabel (receiver) is on the level of Kesser (the “crown”) which is far above the source of the mashpia (giver).

Chassidus explains that when the mashpia gives over to the mekabel (who actually has a higher source in Kesser) then the mashpia also receives this level of Kesser.  That by giving, the mashpia also receives something even greater from the mekabel.

That said, the Rebbe explains the words of Yehuda “בי אדני” which are usually translated as “please, my lord” or “please, my master”.  But the word בי is unusual, it means “in me”, and there the verse would make perfect sense without it.  So why is it there?  The Rebbe explains as follows:

This that Z”A wants to desires to give over to Malchus (because any bestowal of spiritual influence is only through a desire for such) is because it feels the lofty level of the source of Malchus, which is mainly that by giving over to Malchus the result will be the perfection of that which is drawn down into Z”A.  Thus, Yehuda said to Yosef “in me, my lord” בי אדוני, that the spiritual influence drawn down from Z”A to Malchus should be (not for the perfection of Z”A, but rather) in order that this spiritual influence should be drawn down to Malchus, “in me, my lord”.

In other words: one who is in a position to give/teach to others can do it with the consideration of how this is part of his own rectification and perfection, and he is correct.  “Helping others is good for you”.  But an even higher level is reached when — and this is the Supernal desire — that it should be done without that consideration, but rather only for the sake of and the benefit of the mekabel, the receiver!

After this, Yosef could no longer hold himself back and he revealed himself to his brothers, which is the model for Hashem revealing Himself to us in the true and complete Geuloh!

Vayigash 5752: The World’s Limitations Are No Obstacle

In our parsha we read about Yehuda approaching Yosef (whom he did not know was really his brother), despite the fact that he was second in command to Pharaoh.  Yehuda fearlessly, but respectfully, demands that Binyomin be freed.  Although he spoke respectfully, he did not ask permission to approach (as is customary) and was prepared to fight if necessary.  All this in order to free his youngest brother, Binyomin.

Who was mightier — Yosef, or Yehuda?  Yosef was second only to Pharaoh, and everyone had to do exactly what he commanded.  Yehuda, on the other hand, was a visitor with no rights, and in previously he had bowed in deference to Yosef.  However, Yehuda “broke protocol” and, seeing that the life of Binyomin was at stake, confronted this Egyptian viceroy with mesirus nefesh (hardly imagining that this was really his brother who loves him) .

To understand this, the Rebbe explains two approaches to dealing with the world:

a) to be limited by the world and its limitations (of physicality, of customs and “protocol”), to go “in the way of the world”; and

b) to be completely above the world and its limitations, not reckoning with it.

The Rebbe then makes an analogy to the feast of Achashverosh (in the times of the Purim story), which was conducted according to “the desire of each and every person”.  The Midrash says “each and every person” means Mordechai and Haman, and asks how can one fulfill their completely opposite desires simultaneously?  The answer: to a flesh and blood king this is impossible, but in the future Hashem will do exactly that.

How so?  Mordechai’s desire, as the name “Mordechai HaYehudi” suggests, is not to bow down to any idolatry, any aspect of worldly life which is not fulfilling the will of Hashem (even if it is permitted according to Torah) — he desires that everything be for the sake of Heaven, lesheim shomayim.  Haman, on the other hand, claims that since one is found in the world, in golus, then one must reckon with its limitations.  These are completely opposite desires!  But, explains the Rebbe, when you are connected with the Eybershter, you are above the conduct of the world and thus you have the ability to unify opposites: to be in the world and in golus, and yet “not to bow down” and to stand entirely higher than it all.

The question, however, remains: how can one (even if he has the “power” to do so) do two opposite things (practically speaking)?  To “not bow down” to golus, and at the same time to in fact conduct himself in accordance with the limitations of golus?

The answer is that now, in our generation — the final generation of golus and the first generation of Geuloh — it is possible to do so, because the world is a different world.  In previous generations there were various limitations placed on the Jewish people from the outside: decrees, r”l, which impacted Yiddishkeit and did not leave room for a Yid to stand above golus.  Today, however “in our generation this is entirely dependent on a Jew’s will.

From the above we can understand that the might of Yehuda is in fact greater than that of Yosef.  Because Yosef’s might is connected with and the kingdom of Egypt and its limitations, including the conduct of a state.  Yehuda, on the other hand, “did not ask permission” and represents a higher level of “might”, the level of breaking boundaries.  It is specifically Yehuda’s actions that bring to the Jewish people settling in Mitzrayim in a way where they flourish.  When a Jew stands with “forthrightness” (breitkeit), he brings about that even the King of Egypt assists him.

We find that in all the generations there were limitations from the outside, coming from the nations of the world and their decrees against Yidden, r”l, which did not always leave Yidden to conduct themselves with full forthrightness and balabatishkeit.

This is not the case in our generation and in our time, as we see in actuality that we do not have the confusions of the past, and the nations of the world leave Jews to conduct themselves as they please, and the matter is dependent only on the desire of the Yidden to conduct themselves with full forthrightness and balabatishkeit.

Today, the nations of the world not only are not imposing restrictions on Yidden and Yiddishkeit, they even assist, enabling Jews to spread Yiddishkeit and Torah and Mitzvos, and also to that which pertains to the nations of the world themselves, the 7 Noahide laws.  Today a Jew can “go in the way of the world” and still conduct himself as a Jew with full forthrightness and balabatishkeit: fulfilling the desire of both Mordechai (above limitations of the world) and Haman (within the way of the world)!

The Rebbe continues and states that the Frierdicker Rebbe has already informed us that:

all preparations for Geuloh have been completed, and now we must draw down the Geuloh into actuality in the physicality and materiality of the world (materiality which is transformed into physicality*), in a revealed way in the eyes of all flesh…the entire world demands that every Yid should already be standing in the state of the true and complete Geuloh …and the matter is not dependent on anything other than their desire”

Thus, each one of us must conduct himself and herself with forthrightness and balabatishkeit that “the world was created for me” to fulfill Torah and Mitzvos.  There is no need to hide or outsmart the system (“kuntzen“) because today the world enables a Jew to fulfill Torah and Mitzvos, and to bring Geuloh — if he wants, if he stands firm about it.  The Geuloh is here, waiting for us to reveal it in our actions — without asking permission!

* Chassidus defines “physicality” as that which conceals G-dliness, whereas “materiality” not only conceals but asserts a contrary reality.

Vayishlach 5752: The Job After the Birurim Are Completed

The sicha of Vayishlach 5752 contains several threads, each of considerable significance.

Firstly, the Rebbe explains the concept of the diminution of the moon — that the full moon on the 15th of the lunar month, when the moon fully receives and reflects the light of the sun, is followed by a decrease in the light until it completely disappears from sight. However, this period of diminution of the light of the moon is really only as far as the revelation of the moon is concerned.  But the fact that we continue to count the days up (16th, 17th, 18th, etc.) hints that in fact the moon is really reaching a higher level, coming closer to the sun (the mashpia) until it ultimately unifies with it and becomes a mashpia itself.  “The complete perfection of the moon is when the it becomes like the sun and no longer needs to receive the light of the sun.

The unification of the sun and the moon, the mashpia and the mekabel, requires the moon to be completely nullified, resulting in “the essence being revealed” (etzem b’hisgalus).  This is a metaphor for the relationship of the Jewish people to Hashem, that when Yisroel is completely nullified to Hashem they become unified and they themselves become like Him, both being equal “one crown for both of them”.  All this takes place after the process of refinement (avodas habirurim) is completed.

This brings us to the next significant thread of this sicha, where the Rebbe states that the refinement of the sparks of Tohu (related to Esav in our parsha) has been completed, and “all the matters of avodah have been finished and completed, also as regards (and in) the world.”  Although this appears in many of the sichos of Dvar Malchus, in our sicha of Vayishlach the Rebbe addresses the question: if everything has been done, what do we do now?  The answer is found in the conduct of Yaakov towards Esav in our parsha.  Returning from living with Lavan in Charan, Yaakov was ready for Moshiach and anticipated that Esav, too, was ready.  Thus, what Yaakov did is what we are doing.  The verses tell us how Yaakov sent excessive gifts to Esav, and bowed down 7 times.  In Torah Ohr, the Alter Rebbe explains  what this means spiritually, which the Rebbe summarizes as follows:

“Yaakov sent messengers before him to Esav his brother” — that Yaakov, whose source is from the world of Tikkun, sent messengers literally “before him“, to the level that is higher than him, to Esav his brother who has his source in the world of Tohu (since, due to his relationship to Yaakov, we are referring to Esav after he was refined and returned to his source, the transcendentlevel of Tohu).  This was “in order to draw down the transcendent level of Tohu to him below in Tikkun, which is the aspect of internalized light, that the transcendent will shine forth internally and they will be unified together.  This is also the meaning of the unification of the moon and the sun (Yaakov and Esav, inner light and transcendent light, memaleh kol almin and sovev kol almin), until the moon no longer receives from the sun (since the the refinement of the sparks of Tohu has already been finished and completed,  which was the reason that the moon was originally diminished to be a receiver, as explained earlier in the sicha), but rather the light of the moon becomes like the light of the sun, that both are equal.

(Footnote 89): We learn out from the avodah of Yaakov after he thought that Esav was already refined, and even after the messengers returned and informed him that Esave was not yet refined — he did not get involved in “avodas habirurim” (to refine Esav), but rather he became involved in “the elevation of the ‘lower waters’ to draw down the ‘masculine waters’ of the transcendent level of Tohu‘ [hala’as Ma”n lehamshich Ma”d d’makif d’Tohu] via his offering.  [More explanation is required, but time does not allow us to do so here and now.  See Torah Ohr on our parsha.]

The Rebbe continues and connects this with the refinement of the nation of France, in loshon kodesh “Tzorfas” which has the numerical value of 770, that this represents the completion of the process of refining the world.  “From this it is understood that literally in our times we need only to open the eyes and to see the reality b’poel mamash.”  (Footnote 112): “That is to say, not only this that the avodah of refinement has been completed and that we need to bring about a revelation of this in the world, but rather more than this, that there is already revealed [such a revelation] in actuality, and we need only to open the eyes, because already you have been given…eyes to see.'”

Vayishlach 5752: The Moon Becomes Like the Sun

Our sages tell us that the Jewish people are likened to the moon and thus we count according to the moon.  The months of the Jewish calendar begin with the birth of the new moon each month.  This means that the 15th of every month is the date of the full moon.  What is a full moon?  It is the time when the moon reaches the state of maximum revelation, reflecting the light of the sun to its utmost.   This is called shleimus halevana, the moon being “full” and “complete”.  This process of the waxing of the moon until it reaches completeness is illustrated by the increasing number of the day of the month: 1, 2, 3, etc., until the 15th.  The ascending number corresponds to the ascending completeness of the moon’s revelation.

The true completeness of the moon, explains the Rebbe, is not truly found on the 15th of the month (the full moon), because then the moon is is only at maximum capacity as a mekabel, a receiver (and reflector) of light from the sun.  The true shleimus, the true completeness of the moon is when the moon becomes similar to the sun — a mashpia — and no longer needs to receive light from the sun.

By examining the astronomical properties of the movement of the moon we will understand this more deeply: the first half of the month, when the revelation of the light of the moon is increasing daily, the moon itself is actually moving further away from the sun.  The further it gets from the sun, the greater its light.  In the second half of the month it moves closer to the sun, and as it gets closer its visible light diminishes.  This is because the closer the mekabel is to the mashpia, the less he is able to “shine forth”, due to the great self-nullification, bitul, it has in order to receive.  What occurs in the second half of the month, the Rebbe explains, is that the moon comes closer to the sun in order to achieve the union of the two of them in the following month.  While the light of the moon diminishes at this time, in truth light is only a glimmer of the essence.  And as the moon approaches the sun, its essence is coming closer to revelation.  When is the essence revealed?

When the mekabel is unified with the mashpia to such a degree that it also becomes a mashpia, and there ceases to be a relationship of giver/recipient between them, that both of them are equal — then the essence is revealed.

So it turns out that as great as the revelation of the full moon may be, it is only as regards the moon as a mekabel from the sun.  But the true shliemus of the moon begins its approach in the second half of the month — as it comes closer to the sun and is transforming into a mashpia itself.  For this reason, we continue to count up (16, 17, 18, etc.) even as the moon wanes and its illumination diminishes — because on a deeper level it is still climbing to higher levels.

It is for this reason that we find that the holidays of the Torah are on the 15th of the month when the moon is full (or, in the case of Shavuos — in the 1st half of the month, when the light of the moon is increasing).  But Yud Tes Kislev, the Matan Torah of Toras haChassidus, falls out on the 19th, in the second half of the month.  This is because the revelation of Chassidus is a beginning and a taste of the Torah of Moshiach (“Torah chadasha m’iti seitzeh“) which is connected with the revelation of the essence (which is what is taking place by the moon in the second half of the month).

This is also connected with the weekly parsha, where Yaakov has finished refining the sparks of holiness that were trapped in the realm of Lovon his father-in-law and is now going to greet Esav.  This parsha is speaking about the time, at the end of golus, when the avodah of birurim will be finished.  Yaakov is ready for the days of Moshiach,to unify with Esav (representing the unification of the neshoma and the body, and also the Holy One, blessed be He and Yisroel).

Thus the difference between Yaakov as he is involved in the service of refinement and Yaakov as he is prepared for the Redemption, parallels the difference between the moon as it receives light from the sun and as it will be in the Era of the Redemption, when it will be equal to the sun.

When Yaakov confronted Eisav, although Yaakov was prepared for the Redemption Eisav was not, and the task of refining Eisav and the material worlds associated with him had to continue for centuries. In the present age, however, to borrow an expression from the Previous Rebbe, “We have already polished the buttons.” The task of refinement which was entrusted to the Jews has been completed.

Thus we are now living in a new era with a new service. Instead of concentrating on the refinement of the world, our efforts must focus on revealing the Redemption. The Era of Redemption, which is described with the analogy of a feast, is a present reality, all that is necessary is for us to open our eyes and see.

So it turns out that this week’s parsha is speaking directly about our times — the end of golus when we have completed avodas habirurim (work of refinement) and are ready to be transformed from mekabel to mashpia by revealing the unity of the Holy One, blessed be He, and Yisroel.  Furthermore:

From this it is understood that the continuation of the avodah that follows (as long as Moshiach Tzidkeinu is delayed for whatever reason (completely unknown and not understood)) is not avodas habirurim (for avodas habirurim has already been completed and finished) but rather, it is a special avodah to bring the revelation in actuality in the world.

[For those who are familiar with the terminology of Chassidus (explained in Torah Ohr on our parsha), the Rebbe notes (footnote 89) that this present avodah is similar to what Yaakov attempted to do when he went to greet Esav — dividing his camp into two camps, sending abundant gifts to Esav, and bowing before him.  “He did not involve himself in avodas habirurim (to refine Esav), but rather he involved himself in ‘hala’as ma”n to elicit ma”d of Tohu’ via his offering” which he sent to Esav.  This itself is worthy of a separate essay.  But , simply put, he made an effort from below-to-Above in way that it will awaken from the supernal source of Esav an outpouring of the lights of Tohu, recalling the Rebbe’s words of Koach Nissan: that we must drawn down the lights of Tohu into vessels of Tikkun.  All of this requires further explanation.]

The Rebbe continues and connects this with the refinement of the nation of France, in loshon kodesh “Tzorfas” which has the numerical value of 770, that this represents the completion of the process of refining the world.

From this it is understood that literally in our times we need only to open the eyes and to see the reality b’poel mamash.”  (Footnote 112): That is to say, not only this that the avodah of refinement has been completed and that we need to bring about a revelation of this in the world, but rather more than this, that there is already revealed [such a revelation] in actuality, and we need only to open the eyes, because already you have been given…eyes to see.’

Vayishlach 5752 in English

Vayishlach 5752 in Loshon Kodesh

Vayeitzei 5752: Asleep on the Site of the Beis Hamikdash?!

Yaakov Avinu, fleeing the wrath of his brother Esav, arrived in Beis El as the sun was set ting unexpectedly.  As a result of the sudden sunset, he went to sleep there for the night.  The next morning, when he woke up, he realized where he was — Har Hamoriah, the site where the Beis Hamikdash would later be built.  He declared his shock that he had slept in such a holy spot!

In the Dvar Malchus sicha of Vayeitzei, the Rebbe examines Yaakov’s laying down to sleep “‘in that place’ — the place of the Mikdash (מקום המקדש)…”  

This expression “the place of the mikdash” (“מקום המקדש”) should grab our attention — this is the same expression the Rebbe uses in Kuntres Beis Rabbeinu Sh’b’Bavel (which was published and distributed several weeks prior to this sicha).  In that Kuntres, the Rebbe states that 770 is the “place of the Mikdash” (מקום המקדש).  Does the Rebbe want us to realize that we, too, are “sleeping” in the “place of the Mikdash” (מקום המקדש) and don’t realize it?!

Apparently so.

However, the Rebbe explains in this sicha that the seemingly disgraceful “sleeping in the place of the Mikdash” can also be interpreted in a positive fashion: at the time that one lies down to sleep there is equality between the head and the feet.  The entire body is flat, on one level, no part is higher than any other (unlike when standing, when the head is highest, the feet are lowest, etc.).  Although this position is a tremendous descent from the perspective of revealing the ability of the respective parts of the body, since these abilities (thought, speech, sight, hearing, etc.) are not revealed when one is asleep.  But, at the very same time, there is something lofty about this state: it reflects on the revelation of Atzmus — the Essence and Being of Divinity — which transcends all differences such as head and foot, higher and lower, spiritual and physical.  As much as one can display his abilities while he is awake, this display also shows the distance between the various parts of the body.  When one is asleep, and the differences are not apparent, this represents the complete unification of lower and higher — Atzmus.

If so, then maybe we should keep sleeping and not wake up?  Why shatter this revelation of Atzmus that just learned is so essential and transcendent?  Because after sleeping, this level will be drawn also into the revelations of the various abilities mentioned above:

Even when Yaakov “awakens from his slumber” (a hint to the Rebbe’s expressions in the Dvar Malchus sicha of Toldos), and the head then returns to its lofty level compared to the lowly foot, nonetheless the “equality” generated by the revelation of Atzmus — the Essence — remains.  We create a dwelling place down below: a “dira b’tachtonim

This means that our sleeping on the site of the greatest Divine revelations, the place of the Mikdash (מקום המקדש), is not a disgrace, but is actually connected with the revelation of the Divine Essence and Being itself!  And the Rebbe’s call to “open our eyes” (via learning Chassidus and especially the subjects of Geuloh and Moshiach) is not a call to do away with this dimension of sleep, but rather to draw down this dimension (revelation of the Essence) into the awake, physical world, a world which is ready to be a vessel to receive and internalize these revelations!