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The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 4
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


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How to Best Affect a Jew - The Opinions of the "Jewish Wise Men"

The Torah portion of Emor speaks of the Omer offering to be brought on the second day of Pesach.[1] The verse states:[2] "Until the day that you bring this sacrifice to your G-d, you may not eat bread, roasted grain or fresh grain. This shall be an eternal law for all generations, in all your dwelling places."

The above law is known as the law of Chadash, whereby grain that has not begun to take root before Pesach is forbidden until the following Pesach. As to whether this law applies only in Eretz Yisrael or in the Diaspora as well, Rashi - quoting the words "in all your dwelling places" - states the following:

"The Jewish wise men were in disagreement. Some[3] derived from here that Chadash applies in the Diaspora as well. Others say[4] [that it applies only in Eretz Yisrael, and] that the verse merely indicates that the command of Chadash only began after inheriting and settling...."

What is the basis of the disagreement regarding whether Chadash applies outside Eretz Yisrael?

Rashi touches upon this question by employing the unusual term "The Jewish wise men," rather than more common terms such as "the Rabbis," "the Sages," and the like. By using the term "Jewish wise men" he is indicating that their difference of opinion stems from their differing notions as to how to best assess the characteristics and affect the feelings of the Jewish people:

Whenever an offering was brought, it was supposed to engender a certain feeling within the person bringing it, a feeling consonant with the type of offering brought. For example, a Sin Offering was to be accompanied by a feeling of contrition and repentance, while a Thanksgiving Offering was to be accompanied by a feeling of gratitude, etc.

This was true not only of an individual offering, but with regard to communal offerings as well; every communal offering was expected to produce a concordant feeling within every member of the community.

The prohibition against eating Chadash, the reason for which is that the very first fruit of the harvest should be brought as an (Omer) offering, is supposed to engender the recognition and feeling that the first of all one's produce must be brought to G-d. Only after having done so can one utilize the fruits of one's labor for one's own purposes.

The Omer was brought exclusively from grain that grew in Eretz Yisrael. The feeling that the very first was to be brought to G-d was thus only felt by those Jews who lived in Eretz Yisrael. How was this feeling transmitted to those who lived outside Eretz Yisrael?

Herein we find the two opinions of the "Jewish wise men": One view is that Jews in the Diaspora are also forbidden to eat Chadash. Since this prohibition applies to them as well, it will instill the feeling that the first of all their produce should go to G-d.

The second opinion holds the opposite view - that the way to instill the above feeling is not by prohibiting Chadash, but by permitting it. Thus, the very fact that grain grown by Jews outside Eretz Yisrael is not fit for the Omer (and thus the laws of Chadash do not apply), awakens within these Jews an awareness of their lowly state; they are unable to bring the Chadash offering. This recognition will in turn arouse a longing to attain the state that the Omer arouses within those Jews who find themselves in Eretz Yisrael - a recognition that the first of everything goes to G-d.

This also helps us understand why Rashi first states the opinion that Chadash applies outside Eretz Yisrael as well. For the difference - in terms of man's spiritual service - between these two opinions is the following:

The extension of the prohibition to the Diaspora affects the person's body and animal soul,[5] for the prohibition against eating a certain type of food primarily concerns the body and its vitalizing soul, but not the G-dly soul. However, the opinion that the inability to offer the Omer will arouse a desire within the person to lift himself speaks of something felt by the G-dly soul.

Therefore, at the outset of Rashi's commentary, i.e., at the beginning of man's spiritual service, when the body and animal soul are at full strength, it is necessary to subdue these corporeal tendencies. Only afterward, when a person reaches the second stage of service - the second and subsequent comment in Rashi - can he bring about a change within his G-dly soul as well.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pp. 248-253.



  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 23:9-15.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid., verse 15.

  3. (Back to text) Toras Kohanim on this verse; Kiddushin 37a.

  4. (Back to text) Kiddushin, ibid.

  5. (Back to text) See also Chagigah 16a: "Three [activities] are similar to those of an animal - eating and drinking, etc."

Labor and the Six Weekdays

The section[1] of the Torah portion Emor that deals with the Festivals begins with G-d telling Moshe to instruct the Jewish people as to when we are to celebrate them.[2] The verse then goes on:[3] "You shall do work during the six weekdays, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of Sabbaths ... you shall do no work ...." The verse then declares:[4] "These are G-d's festivals ..." and goes on to list them.

Rashi quotes the words "six weekdays," and explains: "What is Shabbos doing alongside the Festivals? [I.e., Why is Shabbos mentioned here, when the verse is describing the Festivals?] This is to teach you that whoever desecrates the Festivals is considered to have desecrated the Shabbos; whoever observes the Festivals is considered to have observed the Shabbos."

As Rashi states, the question is that of the association of Shabbos with the festivals. Accordingly, he should have quoted only the words "the seventh day is a Sabbath." Instead, Rashi quotes the incidental words "six weekdays," while not mentioning what the verse states about Shabbos at all, not even alluding to the Shabbos with the word "etc."

In the simple context of the verse, the connection of Shabbos to the Festivals is not hard to fathom. Shabbos is included in "These are the Festivals," inasmuch as it is also deemed a "Yom Moed," a festive and appointed day during which labor is prohibited.[5]

Rashi's question actually applies to the introductory statement about the "six weekdays"; why does the verse find it necessary to speak of working during these days? It is understandable the first time the commandment of Shabbos is cited,[6] for it forewarns that one need not worry that by resting on Shabbos one's livelihood will be affected, since "Six days you shall labor and do all your work."

However, here, in the section of Festivals, where Shabbos is only mentioned peripherally, the question arises: What relation does working during the weekdays have with the festivals? The Torah should have begun with: "The seventh day is a Sabbath of Sabbaths."

Rashi answers by stating that the verse compares performing prohibited labor on the Festivals with performing prohibited labor on Shabbos. The necessity of the statement about labor during the six weekdays is understood accordingly:

"Six days" denotes not only six distinct days, but a single unit of time that consists of "six days." As Rashi explains:[7] "Wherever the verse states 'seven,' it is referring to an entity - a 'week of days.' So too with regard to 'eight,' 'six'...." - it is one entity comprised of six days.

When the verse tells us about doing labor during the six weekdays, it is informing us that there is one block of time during which labor is to be done - the "six weekdays." At any other time, labor is prohibited.

The Torah thus begins the section of Festivals with the declaration about doing labor during this block of time, for it thereby informs us that during any other days - be they the Shabbos day or Festival days - labor is prohibited.

The difference between the six weekdays and the Shabbos or Festival days lies in the fact that during the six days of the week, the spiritual dimension of man's soul is concealed by his body. His service to G-d must[8] then be that of making his physical and mundane work into a vehicle[9] in which G-d's blessings will reside.

During the Shabbos and Festivals, however, a Jew's soul is not encumbered by his body. Therefore, during these days he is to place himself above the natural order. During such days, when the soul is above worldly matters, mundane labor is not befitting of his spiritual status. It is simply out of the question for spiritual man to occupy himself with corporeality, for during these sacred days his spirituality is palpable.[10]

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pp. 242-246.



  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 23:1-44.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid., verses 1-2.

  3. (Back to text) Verse 3.

  4. (Back to text) Verse 4.

  5. (Back to text) See commentaries of Ramban and Bachya, ibid., verse 2.

  6. (Back to text) Shmos 20:8.

  7. (Back to text) Vayikra, ibid., verse 8.

  8. (Back to text) See Mechilta deRashbi, Yisro 20:9; Avos d'R. Nassan ch. 11; Ramban, Vayikra 25:3; Kuntres U'Mayon, Discourse 19.

  9. (Back to text) See Sifri, Re'eh 15:18; quoted and explained in introduction to Derech Chayim; Sefer HaMitzvos LehaTzemach Tzedek, conclusion of Mitzvas Tiglachas Metzora; Kuntres U'Mayon Discourses 17 and 25.

  10. (Back to text) See Hemshech 5666, p. 22, et al.

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