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Publisher's Foreword




Lech Lecha


Chayei Sarah












The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 5
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


Compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, Edited by Sichos In English

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A Mother's Tears

At the beginning of our section Vayechi, Yaakov requests of his son Yosef, that after his demise he should be taken out of Egypt and buried in Eretz Yisrael, in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah.

In mentioning this request, Yaakov goes on to say,[153]"And I, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan, on the road, a short distance from Efrat. And I buried her there on the road to Efrat, which is Beis Lechem."

Rashi explains that Yaakov was saying to Yosef: "I am asking you to trouble yourself to take me to be buried in the land of Canaan, though I did not do so for your mother. For she died near Beis Lechem ... and I buried her there, not even taking her to [nearby] Beis Lechem to bring her to [a settled place in] the land.

"I know that there is in your heart toward me [over this]. But know that it was by divine command that I buried here there, so that she should be a help for her children when Nevuzaradan will exile them and they will pass by there.

"Then Rachel will come out upon her grave and weep and plead for mercy for them, as it is written:[154] 'A voice is heard in Ramah, [lamenting and bitter weeping; Rachel is weeping for her children...]'; and G-d will answer her,[155] 'There is reward for your work.... The children shall return to their borders.'"

We must understand the following: Since Yaakov never sought to explain his behavior regarding his burial of Rachel up to this time, it follows that Yosef's main complaint arose after Yaakov requested and made Yosef swear that he take the trouble to bury him in Canaan.

This is also to be understood from Rashi's statement, "I am asking you to trouble yourself to take me to be buried in the land of Canaan [in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah], though I did not do so for your mother." In other words, the criticism of "I did not do so for your mother" arose as a result of "I am asking you to trouble yourself... "

This seems strange indeed, for it suggests a feeling of revenge, G-d forbid, on Yosef's part: The entire time Yosef was not troubled by where Yaakov buried his mother, Rachel; only now that his father asks him to take the trouble to bury him in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah, does he become critical that Yaakov did not do so for Rachel. Did Yaakov really suspect that Yosef would harbor such unworthy feelings?

It therefore stands to reason that Rashi does not mean to imply with the words "there is in your heart toward me," that Yosef bore resentment to his father.[156] Indeed, it is almost ludicrous to suspect that Yosef was censorious about this. Surely Yosef understood that Yaakov would have done all he could to bury Rachel in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah, so that she would be buried together with him. Particularly so, as Yosef was aware of his father's great love for his mother.

Rather, Yaakov said to Yosef, "there is in your heart toward me," i.e., although Yosef understood rationally that his father was blameless, still his mother, Rachel, was lacking the merit of being buried in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah -- something that resulted from Yaakov's inaction.[157]

Since this lack was extant -- however good Yaakov's reason may have been -- Yaakov realized that "there is in your heart toward me." This feeling grew stronger in Yosef when Yaakov made such a great effort to be buried in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah, thereby indicating the great quality and merit of being buried there.

In order to negate this feeling, Yaakov explained, "And I, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died by me ... And I buried her there..." and as Rashi elucidates, that Yaakov explained to Yosef "that it was by divine command that I buried here there, so that she should be a help for her children...."

While this may have ameliorated the feelings in Yosef's heart toward his father, how did this improve his feelings in general; after all, his mother was still not buried in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah?

When Yaakov buried Rachel on the road "by divine command ... that she be a help to her children," it does not mean that Rachel forfeited anything for the sake of her children. Quite the contrary, since this brought about the liberation of Rachel's children, this benefited Rachel's and was her good fortune; surely Rachel would have agreed to be buried there and moreover, would even have demanded it.

This is the Rashi's intent when he states that after pleads with G-d he says to her "there is reward for your work ... the children shall return" without mentioning anything in particular that Rachel has done:

For G-d is referring to the very act of her being buried on the road "so that she be a help to her children." That is to say, the reason G-d commanded Yaakov to bury Rachel on the road, is because this is the will and desire of Rachel.

Put slightly differently: It is specifically Rachel's pleas for mercy for her children that have the power to insure the promise that "The children shall return to their borders." This ability is uniquely hers, because of Rachel's "work" and readiness to forego her burial in the Me'aras HaMachpeilah, so that she may be "of assistance to her children."

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, pp. 236-238

"Yaakov Lives"

The Gemara[158] relates that when Rav Nachman and Rav Yitzchak were once eating together, the former asked the latter to "say something." R. Yitzchak responded: "R. Yochanan said that one may not speak during a meal," as it may cause the speaker to choke on his food.

At the conclusion of the meal, R. Yitzchak said in the name of R. Yochanan: "Our father, Yaakov, did not die (but lives forever[159])." He asked him, 'Was he [Yaakov] then mourned, embalmed and buried for naught?!.' He responded: 'I deduce this from Scripture, which states:[160] "Now, do not fear My servant, Yaakov ... for I shall deliver you ... and your offspring ..." -- [the verse] likens Yaakov to his progeny; just as they live, so he lives.'"

This Talmudic statement follows previous statements of R. Yochanan, which were quoted by R. Yitzchak to R. Nachman regarding G-d's miraculous conduct vis-a-vis the Jewish people.

Since R. Yitzchak had just demonstrated to R. Nachman how G-d's miraculous conduct with the Jewish people is common, we may say that R. Nachman thought that the prohibition against speaking during a meal did not apply to "words of Torah," as Torah miraculously "protects and saves"[161] from all forms of danger, choking included. R. Nachman thus asked R. Yitzchak to speak some words of Torah during the meal.

R. Yitzchak, however, responded that the prohibition applies to words of Torah as well, for the principle that Torah "protects and saves" is inapplicable to instances where there is a clear and present danger.

This is similar to the law with regard to performance of a mitzvah: Although "He who observes a mitzvah will have no harm befall him,"[162] and "Emissaries for the performance of a mitzvah are not adversely affected,"[163] still, the law is that this does not apply in a situation of clear and present danger.[164]

This principle of not being able to rely on miracles even with regard to Torah in a situation of obvious peril, can be explained in two ways:

  1. Life -- even Torah life -- conforms to the principles of nature, as the laws of nature are themselves G-d's creation, for "G-d wills and desires to maintain the natural order as much as possible; nature is dear to Him and He will not change it unless absolutely necessary."[165]

  2. This conformity is not an aspect of nature, but of Torah and mitzvos themselves. That is to say, Torah and mitzvos themselves demand to operate within the bonds of nature rather than change the natural order.[166]

In other words, according to the first explanation, Torah and mitzvos must be performed within the framework of nature since Torah and mitzvos are also (as it were) under the constraints of nature (since "G-d desires to maintain the natural order"). Thus, the performance of Torah and mitzvos is limited to those situations where they can be performed in a natural manner.

According to the second explanation, the laws of nature cannot, in and of themselves, prevent and curb a Jew's performance of Torah and mitzvos. However, Torah and mitzvos themselves command to be performed within the natural order, rather than negate and nullify nature.

Indeed, herein lies the source of the dispute between R. Yitzchak and R. Nachman: With R. Yochanan's statement that "Yaakov, did not die," R. Yitzchak is emphasizing that the reason Torah and mitzvos must be performed within the framework of nature is not because natural law has dominion, heaven forfend, over Torah and mitzvos, as can seemingly be understood from the law "one may not speak during a meal," for "Yaakov, did not die":

That is to say, not only is Yaakov not limited to the constraints of nature, he entirely transcends it -- nature demands degeneration and ultimately, death,[167] while Yaakov, "the select of the Patriarchs"[168] whose entire being is Torah,[169] is -- like the Torah itself -- not constrained by nature.

R. Nachman, however, upon hearing the law that "one may not speak during a meal," took it to mean that Torah and mitzvos are subservient to the laws of nature. Thus, upon hearing that, "Yaakov did not die," he asked "was he then mourned, embalmed and buried for naught?!"

In response, R. Yitzchak said, "I deduce this from Scripture," i.e., this statement is to be viewed from the Torah perspective, a perspective neither defined nor limited by the constraints of nature. Thus, although from the Egyptian viewpoint -- nature's perspective -- it was indeed necessary (even according to Torah) to "mourn and embalm," the Jew is not limited to this dimension.

Both aspects are thus true according to Torah: Jews and Torah, in and of themselves, are not confined to the limitations of nature; on the other hand, G-d desired that the performance of Torah and mitzvos in this world be specifically within the confines of nature.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXV, pp. 223-227.



  1. (Back to text) Bereishis 48:7.

  2. (Back to text) Yirmeyahu 31:14.

  3. (Back to text) Ibid., 15-16.

  4. (Back to text) See Pesikta Rabasi, ch. 3.

  5. (Back to text) See Iggeres HaKodesh beginning of Section 25.

  6. (Back to text) Taanis 5b.

  7. (Back to text) Rashi, ibid.

  8. (Back to text) Yirmeyahu 30:10.

  9. (Back to text) Sotah 21a.

  10. (Back to text) Koheles 8:5.

  11. (Back to text) Pesachim 8b and additional sources cited there.

  12. (Back to text) Ibid.

  13. (Back to text) Derashos HaRan, Derush Shemini, Hakdomah Rishonah. See also Chinuch, Mitzvah 546.

  14. (Back to text) See at length, Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 80ff.

  15. (Back to text) See Emunos VeDeios from RaSaG, 1:1; Moreh Nevuchim, Part II, Hakdamah 12; Likkutei Sichos, ibid. p. 97ff.

  16. (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 76:1.

  17. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, p. 6ff.

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