Re’eh: It’s All Good, Including the Curses!

Re’eh: It’s All Good, Including the Curses!

Our parsha begins with the verse “Behold (re’eh), I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.”  The Rebbe, very noticeably, does not include that last word (“curse”) when discussing the verse in our Sicha.  The point will become clear as we examine how the Rebbe illustrates this with a story from the gemora.

In tractate Moed Koton the gemora tells how Rebbi Shimon, the famous Rashbi, instructed his son Elazar to approach two sages they encountered and to request their blessings.  Elazar obeyed his father and asked them for their blessings.  The two sages were happy to oblige, but their blessings don’t sound like blessings at all!  Among their choice words: “You should sow but not reap… confusion should reign at your table…” — These are blessings?!

The son returned to his father and complained that not only didn’t these sages give him blessings, but their words left him disturbed!  Rashbi asked his son what they said, and he told him.  Rashbi then proceeded to “translate” for his son the blessings hidden behind the words (“you should bear sons and they should not die… Confusion should reign at your table due to being blessed with many children.”)

This episode serves as an example for how the Rebbe is interpreting the verse in our parsha:

First of all, we must appreciate and understand that everything that Hashem places before us is actually blessing, including those things that appear to us as the opposite of blessings.  Additionally, we need to appreciate that when we don’t see the blessing it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is concealed.  There are revealed blessings and concealed blessings. 

Why would Hashem place before us something that doesn’t appear like a blessing? 

The Rebbe answers that this is because concealed blessings are actually much greater!  (As we will declare in the time of the Geuloh — “thank You Hashem that you displayed anger with me”, Yeshayahu 12:1)   Revealed blessings are given from Above to below, like a free gift.  But there is a higher level of blessing that comes through transforming the “curse” to a “blessing” — via the avoidah of the Yid down below.  The Rebbe brings the words of the Tzemach Tzedek: “…just as tshuvah is higher than the aspect of a Tzaddik, [so, too] through this that the darkness is transformed to light [via tshuvah]…this that the evil is transformed to good this is higher than the level of good itself.”  Although it appears as darkness and evil — a curse — this is only externally; its true inner dimension is actually a blessing.  So, in fact, there are no real curses — only concealed blessings that need to be transformed externally to reveal their inner, hidden intent.

This might not sound new to those who have learned the 11th epistle in Igeres Hakodesh in sefer haTanya.  There, the Alter Rebbe writes: 

In fact, however, no evil descends from above and everything is good, though it is not apprehended because of its immense and abundant goodness. And this is the essence of the faith for which man was created: to believe that “There is no place void of Him” and “In the light of the King’s countenance there is life,”… By believing this truly, everything becomes good even in appearance.

It seems that the Rebbe is just offering us an additional explanation of concepts that we have been learning for over 200 years.  There is, however, a small but very significant change in wording between the Alter Rebbe in Tanya and the Rebbe in Dvar Malchus.  The Alter Rebbe uses the terminology of “belief”: “the faith for which man was created, to believe….  By believing this….”.  Belief, emunah, is a lofty power of the soul, higher than intellect.  By definition one believes in something when he does not have knowledge of that thing and does not understand it (knowledge and understanding — powers of the intellect).  The Alter Rebbe teaches how a Jew must believe that everything is good because he cannot know or understand this intellectually.  The Rebbe, however, takes us on a quantum leap:

It is possible and is necessary that it be not only on the level of “hearing”, but also on the level of “seeing”… all the aspects of blessings, both revealed blessings and also the most concealed blessings…  This means to say that the approach to the general avoidah of the person is with a knowledge and recognition [emphasis added] that in his inner dimension he is given the revelation of the aspect of “I am Who I am” [Hashem’s essence, enabling him to serve Hashem without limitation, such as the apparent limitation of concealed blessings]… 

The Rebbe is telling us a tremendous chiddush in fitting with the general tone of the Dvar Malchus sichos and the crucial message that avoidas habirurim has been finished.  The chiddush is as follows:

It has always been true that everything is good and no evil descends from Above.  However, at the time the Alter Rebbe wrote the Tanya the human intellect was not yet able to truly grasp this.  Thus, we were instructed to simply believe that the apparent “curses” were in fact blessings.  In our generation, the Rebbe informs us that we already have “a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear”, and demands of us not only to believe but to know and recognize that the “curses” are actually concealed blessings.  And even more than that: to see that the concealed blessings are not really curses.  (Based on the opening word of the verse: re’eh = “behold”). 

What was not possible for the generation of the Alter Rebbe (and thus was not demanded of them) is possible for us, and thus demanded of us!  And the Rebbe has already explained that the “direct way” to accomplish all of these things is by learning Chassidus, the inner dimension of Torah (which opens our eyes to the inner dimension of reality), and particularly the subjects of Moshiach and Geuloh which draw the light of Geuloh into the vessels of our intellect (as noted in Kuntres 15 Menachem Av).  Fulfill the Rebbe’s instructions and you yourself will see only blessings, and you will succeed to transform even the most deeply concealed blessings to revealed good!

12) Kuntres Chof Menachem Av: How to Add the “Alef”

12) Kuntres Chof Menachem Av: How to Add the “Alef”

The Rebbe mentions numerous times in these talks that everything that is necessary for the Geuloh is already here, we simply need to add the letter “alef” to the word gola (which means exile), thereby transforming it to Geuloh.  But what exactly does it mean to add an “alef” to the exile that we are in?

There are many levels to answering this question, the most basic of which is that it means revealing Hashem (the ruler of the world, “alufo shel olam“) in the world through Torah and Mitzvos.  Additionally, it means recognizing Hashem’s Divine Providence that is behind everything, even those things which appear to us as the opposite of good.

We find an even deeper and more comprehensive explanation in the Chassidic Discourse that was edited by the Rebbe and published in 1991 in honor of the Hillula (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe’s father, Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn.

The discourse discusses the source for the statement of our sages that a Jew must make 100 blessings every day.  The sages find scriptural support for this in a verse from parshas Ekev: “Now, Yisroel, what (“mah”) does Hashem your G-d want from you” (Devarim 10:12).  The sages say “don’t read mah (“what”) rather me’ah (“one hundred’)”.  This familiar technique of the sages doesn’t change the original meaning, of course, but adds another level.  In this case, they are adding the letter “alef” to the “mah” (which means “what”) and the result is the one hundred blessings (“me’ah”) that a Jew must say.

In chapter 3 of the discourse, the Rebbe explains the deeper significance of inserting an “alef”, which is surely applicable as well to the Rebbe’s instruction to add an “alef” to exile to transform gola into Geuloh.  To briefly summarize the Rebbe’s words:

“Mah symbolizes Malchus, which is the level where G-dly revelation can be internalized (in Chassidic terminology, the level of memaleh kol almin and the soul levels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshoma).  In the  avodah of a Yid, this is the avodah of “you shall love Hashem your G-d with all of your heart” (b’chol levovecha) which derives from the external dimension of the soul’s intellect (chitzoniyus ha’seichel).  As implied by the term “all of your heart” it generates a feeling of love in the emotional attributes of the heart’s emotional attributes, but only there.

“Me’ah” is the level of Arich, a level that transcends us and can only be revealed in a transcendent, encompassing manner (sovev kol almin and the transcendent soul level of Chaya).  In our avodah this is the love “with all of your soul” (b’chol nafshecha) which derives from the internal dimension of the soul’s intellect (pnimiyus ha’seichel).  This love is felt in the intellect, and then automatically spreads out to affect all the soul’s powers and limbs.

How do we go from one level to the next, from “with all of your heart” (limited to the heart) to “with all of your soul” (which spreads to all the powers of the soul)?  It is through the avoda of “all of your might” (b’chol me’odecha), which reaches the “alef“, the supernal level of Atik which completely transcends the world (higher than both memaleh kol almin and sovev kol almin, the soul level of Yechida).  In avodah this is mesirus nefesh, to give one’s soul (either literally, or, in the way applicable in our generation: giving away one’s personal desires, mesirus haratzon, in order to fulfill the will of Hashem).  Because it transcends the other two levels, it is able to unite them and to draw down (the meaning of brocha, a blessing) the level of “me’ah” into the level of “mah“, that they should both be revealed in the person.

Clearly, this is understandable as regards the “alef” which we must insert into gola in order to make Geuloh: to awaken the level of Yechida, through serving Hashem “with all of your might”, having true mesirus nefesh to fulfill Hashem’s will, especially as it is revealed through “your servants, the prophets” and most especially the Novi of our generation.  This puts in the Alef and results in Geuloh!  Let’s not be lazy about this, because we have to bring Moshiach now!

12) Kuntres Chof Menachem Av: How to Add the “Alef”

The Rebbe mentions numerous times in these talks that everything that is necessary for the Geuloh is already here, we simply need to add the letter “alef” to the word gola (which means exile), thereby transforming it to Geuloh.  But what exactly does it mean to add an “alef” to the exile that we are in?

There are many levels to answering this question, the most basic of which is that it means revealing Hashem (the ruler of the world, “alufo shel olam“) in the world through Torah and Mitzvos.  Additionally, it means recognizing Hashem’s Divine Providence that is behind everything, even those things which appear to us as the opposite of good.

We find an even deeper and more comprehensive explanation in the Chassidic Discourse that was edited by the Rebbe and published in 1991 in honor of the Hillula (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe’s father, Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn.

The discourse discusses the source for the statement of our sages that a Jew must make 100 blessings every day.  The sages find scriptural support for this in a verse from parshas Ekev: “Now, Yisroel, what (“mah”) does Hashem your G-d want from you” (Devarim 10:12).  The sages say “don’t read mah (“what”) rather me’ah (“one hundred’)”.  This familiar technique of the sages doesn’t change the original meaning, of course, but adds another level.  In this case, they are adding the letter “alef” to the “mah” (which means “what”) and the result is the one hundred blessings (“me’ah”) that a Jew must say.

In chapter 3 of the discourse, the Rebbe explains the deeper significance of inserting an “alef”, which is surely applicable as well to the Rebbe’s instruction to add an “alef” to exile to transform gola into Geuloh.  To briefly summarize the Rebbe’s words:

“Mah symbolizes Malchus, which is the level where G-dly revelation can be internalized (in Chassidic terminology, the level of memaleh kol almin and the soul levels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshoma).  In the  avodah of a Yid, this is the avodah of “you shall love Hashem your G-d with all of your heart” (b’chol levovecha) which derives from the external dimension of the soul’s intellect (chitzoniyus ha’seichel).  As implied by the term “all of your heart” it generates a feeling of love in the emotional attributes of the heart’s emotional attributes, but only there.

“Me’ah” is the level of Arich, a level that transcends us and can only be revealed in a transcendent, encompassing manner (sovev kol almin and the transcendent soul level of Chaya).  In our avodah this is the love “with all of your soul” (b’chol nafshecha) which derives from the internal dimension of the soul’s intellect (pnimiyus ha’seichel).  This love is felt in the intellect, and then automatically spreads out to affect all the soul’s powers and limbs.

How do we go from one level to the next, from “with all of your heart” (limited to the heart) to “with all of your soul” (which spreads to all the powers of the soul)?  It is through the avoda of “all of your might” (b’chol me’odecha), which reaches the “alef“, the supernal level of Atik which completely transcends the world (higher than both memaleh kol almin and sovev kol almin, the soul level of Yechida).  In avodah this is mesirus nefesh, to give one’s soul (either literally, or, in the way applicable in our generation: giving away one’s personal desires, mesirus haratzon, in order to fulfill the will of Hashem).  Because it transcends the other two levels, it is able to unite them and to draw down (the meaning of brocha, a blessing) the level of “me’ah” into the level of “mah“, that they should both be revealed in the person.

Clearly, this is understandable as regards the “alef” which we must insert into gola in order to make Geuloh: to awaken the level of Yechida, through serving Hashem “with all of your might”, having true mesirus nefesh to fulfill Hashem’s will, especially as it is revealed through “your servants, the prophets” and most especially the Novi of our generation.  This puts in the Alef and results in Geuloh!  Let’s not be lazy about this, because we have to bring Moshiach now!