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Maamar VeKibeil HaYehudim 5687 [1927]

Maamar Yehi Havayah Elokeinu Imanu 5687 [1927]

Maamar Havayah Li BeOzrai 5687 [1927]

Maamar Baruch HaGomel LaChayavim Tovos 5687 [1927]

Maamar Asarah SheYoshvim VeOskim BaTorah 5688 [1928]

Defiance And Devotion
Selected Chassidic Discourses
Dating From The Arrest And Liberation
Of The Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, In 1927


Maamar Baruch HaGomel LaChayavim Tovos 5687 [1927]

Translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger Edited by Uri Kaploun

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  Maamar Havayah Li BeOzrai 5687 [1927]Letter Sent By The Previous Rebbe For The 1st Celebration Of Yud-Beis Tammuz  

"Blessed [Are You...] Who Bestows Good Things Upon The Culpable..."

[This maamar, which opens and closes with the theme of thanksgiving, was delivered on Wednesday, the thirteenth of Tammuz, just before the Rebbe Rayatz was released - after ten days - from Kostroma, the city to which he had been exiled for three years.]

I

[A person saved from a life-threatening situation expresses his thanksgiving in the following words:][1] "Blessed [are You...] Who bestows good things upon the culpable,[2] Who has bestowed goodness upon me." Now, why does the wording of this blessing differ from that of the blessing recited when a miracle occurs:[3] "Blessed [are You...] Who performed a miracle for me..."? To match this, our blessing should surely have been worded, "Blessed [are You...] Who performed something good for me."

[We can resolve this question by first clarifying a related concept.] As is well known, the descent of the soul into the body, however awesome, is a descent for the purpose of ascent.[4] The [Divine] soul descends to this lowly plane, to be garbed within a body and an animal soul. This descent is particularly formidable in the time of exile, when numerous obstacles and hindrances hamper the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvos, as well as the bothersome worries and stresses of earning a livelihood.

Suppose, however, that a Jew overcomes his nature. With powerful determination, he sets aside time to engage in the study of the Torah and in "the service of the heart, i.e., prayer,"[5] and to observe the mitzvos with pure faith and with an unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven. Undaunted by any obstacle or hindrance, he stands firm in his conviction to study and to teach. In such a case, it is specifically this kind of divine service that elevates the soul to a higher level than its position before it descended into the body.

[The source for this determination is alluded to in the chassidic interpretation of] our Sages' statement:[6] "[In heaven, before a Jew is born,] an oath is administered to him: 'Be righteous, and do not be wicked.'" The term tzaddik implies innocence and the term rasha implies guilt. As is well known,[7] administering this oath to the soul can also be understood as investing it ("sating" it) with power. [The root (Sheva) of the verb Mashbi'im ("an oath is administered") is virtually identical with the root (Savah) of the verb Masbi'im ("one causes [him] to be sated").] When the soul is about to descend to this physical plane to be enclothed within the body, it is invested with the requisite power to overcome the material orientation of the body and conquer the animal soul, and to contend with all the veils and obscurities that screen the light of the soul.[8]

II

By way of explanation: Our Sages (Kiddushin 30b) teach that "every day a person's [Evil] Inclination rises powerfully against him and desires to slay him, as it is written,[9] 'The wicked watches out for the righteous, and seeks to slay him.' Were it not for the Holy One, blessed be He, Who helps him, a man would not be able [to contend] with it, as it is written,[10] 'G-d does not abandon him to his hand.'"

There is a verse [alluding to the kelipah] that says,[11] "The leech has two daughters [who cry], 'Give, give!'" In this spirit, the Evil Inclination naturally has a greedy disposition[12] which desires and craves whatever physical and material benefits it sees. Its spirit is haughty, [causing a person] to be precious in his own eyes, to exalt himself over others, and to pursue honor and glorification. He does not begrudge others what they own. Not only does he consider his own possessions as being intended for himself alone, but in addition he is envious and craves the possessions of others. All day and all night he pursues the desires and fancies of his heart like an animal. His intellectual activity is directed only toward fulfilling his desires and contriving to satisfy the cravings of his heart.

III

To explain: Our Sages declare,[13] "The Evil Inclination is like a fly sitting between the two openings of the heart." Its only concern is its own desires and yearnings. Like a mosquito which takes nurture into its body, but does not give forth, so too, the animal soul thinks only of itself. As it is said,[14] "The eye sees and the heart craves." Likewise, the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachos 1:5) states: "The eyes and the heart are two brokers for sin." [The process] begins with sight. As our Sages comment (Sotah 8a), "The Evil Inclination does not rule over anything unless it can see it." After a person sees something, his heart begins to hanker after it, and he follows its whims.

The basic reason for this is a person's exceeding self-love, his high regard for himself. This is why he indulges himself, allowing his heart free rein without any restraint or limit. Not only does he not fear G-d at all,[15] but he acts like a wild animal, attacking and stealing in many different ways to fulfill his heart's desires.

As we see for ourselves, there are people who follow the desires of their hearts, heaven forbid; all their thoughts, words and deeds are oriented to what they crave. This attitude results from the seductive craft of the Evil Inclination which incites a person, and leads him from one downfall to the next, heaven forbid.

IV

The appropriate response is indicated by our Sages (Kiddushin 30b): "I [G-d] created the Evil Inclination, and I created the Torah as a condiment [to temper] it. If you are occupied in the study of the Torah, you will not be delivered into his hand.... If you are confronted by that despicable one ('i.e., if the Evil Inclination aggravates you' - Rashi), drag him to the House of Study. If he is like a stone, he will crumble; if he is like iron, he will be crushed." The Evil Inclination has several different [forms of expression]. There are people whose hearts are like stone, heaven forbid, and others whose hearts are like iron. In either case, the Evil Inclination makes these people resemble inanimate objects. Just as an object cannot be responsive to a concept, for the two are qualitatively worlds apart, so too, such a person is not at a level at which he can be affected by a Divine concept. Like a stone, he feels no vitality in his study of the Torah or in the observance of its mitzvos.

This situation can be rectified through the study of Torah and attendance at the House of Study. This is implied by our Sages' statement, "If you are occupied in the study of the Torah...." This means not only studying oneself (or listening to communal study sessions if one is incapable of studying alone), but working to disseminate Torah study among others. We find this implied in the verse,[16] "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You established strength." And our Sages comment,[17] "'Strength' really refers to the Torah." Such a person, then, attends the House of Study to join in communal prayer; he participates in fixed study sessions before and after [morning] prayers, as well as between the afternoon and evening services, and whenever communal study is conducted wherever he may be.

Through such activities, the Evil Inclination crumbles. As may plainly be observed, individuals who have engaged in the study of the Torah in different ways have thereby risen to a high spiritual level. When even a simple person, who is unable to study alone, dedicates himself to supporting Torah scholars, he elevates the standing of his soul, and becomes included in the category of "masters of good deeds."[18] In [many] other sources,[19] the great merit of those involved in such activities is extolled. For example (Berachos 5a): "Suffering will stay far from those who occupy themselves in Torah study," and it is stated (in Avodah Zarah 19b) that the possessions of such people will prosper.[20]

V

At the time of the Giving of the Torah, all the Jewish people whose souls were then enclothed in bodies, as well as the souls of all the Jewish people which will be enclothed in bodies until the coming of Mashiach[21] (May this be speedily in our days!), all undertook the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, as one man[22] - on behalf of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.

[Towards the end of the saga of the Purim miracle,] it is written:[23] "The Jews affirmed and accepted...." The Sages [connect this with an earlier episode]:[24] "They now affirmed [i.e., integrated within themselves] what they had already accepted [when the Torah was given]." In the present time of exile, when obstacles and hindrances to the study of the Torah and the observance of its mitzvos multiply, - this is the time to intensify our divine service in their fulfillment.

[Throughout history, challenges to our people's faith have stirred them to the peaks of divine service.] For example, in the era of Mordechai and Esther, Haman sought to raise his hand[25] against the Jews, his sole ambition being to destroy our people[26] and uproot their faith. Similarly, [at the time of the Hasmonean uprising commemorated by Chanukah], the Greeks sought to provoke [our people into a denial of G-d and His Torah, demanding],[27] "Inscribe it on the horn of an ox [i.e., indelibly] that you have no share in the G-d of Israel." It was precisely these times that emboldened our people to summon the strength needed to observe the Torah and its mitzvos with mesirus nefesh, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, as is explained elsewhere.

It is written,[28] "I, G-d, have not changed, nor have you, Jacob's descendants." [Beyond its simple meaning, the verse may also be understood at the non-literal level of derush.] The prophet exclaims in wonderment: You, the Jewish people, see that G-d has not retracted His commitment [to you], as it is written,[29] "For G-d will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance." Everyone can see Divine Providence palpably, for our people are[30] "one lamb among seventy wolves, and yet it survives." If so, [the prophet asks the Jewish people,] why are you not drawn after the Torah and its mitzvos [with a love so intense that] your soul expires?

For witnessing overt Divine Providence should surely motivate a person to dedicate himself to the Torah and its mitzvos. If, for whatever reason, his involvement does not reflect his true ability and potential, he is aroused from above, and is saved.

This, then, is the inner message of [the conclusion of the Blessing of Thanksgiving, which blesses Him] "Who has bestowed goodness (Tov) upon me." [Using the same Hebrew noun,] our Sages teach,[31] "There is no [true] good other than the Torah." [Hence, in reciting this blessing, the individual expresses thanks for the opportunity] to apply himself with increased vigor to serving G-d through Torah study and prayer.[32]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) [Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 10:8; Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 186].

  2. (Back to text) [I.e., the unworthy.]

  3. (Back to text) [Berachos 54a; Seder Birkas HaNehenin 13:1].

  4. (Back to text) [In the original, yeridah tzorech aliyah; cf. Tanya, ch. 31.]

  5. (Back to text) [See Sifri, Devarim 11:3; Taanis 2a.]

  6. (Back to text) [Niddah 30b].

  7. (Back to text) [Kitzurim VeHearos LeTanya by the Tzemach Tzedek, pp. 48ff., 165ff.; Sefer HaMaamarim 5698, p. 235ff. In English, see Lessons In Tanya, Vol. I, p. 31].

  8. (Back to text) [It is the proper use of this power that elevates the soul beyond its original level.]

  9. (Back to text) [Tehillim 37:32].

  10. (Back to text) [Ibid., v. 33].

  11. (Back to text) [Mishlei 30:15; Tanya, ch. 19; Likkutei Torah, Parshas Masei, 91b].

  12. (Back to text) [Cf. Avos 5:19.]

  13. (Back to text) [Berachos 61a].

  14. (Back to text) [Rashi on Bamidbar 15:39, paraphrasing Bamidbar Rabbah 10:2].

  15. (Back to text) [Cf. Tehillim 36:2.]

  16. (Back to text) [Tehillim 8:3. See the above maamar entitled VeKibeil HaYehudim 5687.]

  17. (Back to text) [Midrash Tehillim on the above-quoted verse; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:4].

  18. (Back to text) [Tanya - Iggeres HaKodesh, the latter part of Epistle 5; Biurei HaZohar of the Mitteler Rebbe, p. 25a-b].

  19. (Back to text) [See Sefer HaMaamarim 5698, p. 35.]

  20. (Back to text) [See also Sefer HaMaamarim 5687, pp. 103, 107; Sefer HaMaamarim - Kuntreisim, Vol. I, p. 515 ff.]

  21. (Back to text) [See Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, ch. 41; Shmos Rabbah, end of sec. 28.]

  22. (Back to text) [Mechilta and Rashi on Shmos 19:2].

  23. (Back to text) [Esther 9:27].

  24. (Back to text) [Shabbos 88a].

  25. (Back to text) [Cf. Esther 3:6.]

  26. (Back to text) [Cf. ibid., 8:5.]

  27. (Back to text) [Yerushalmi, Chagigah 2:2; Megillas Taanis, ch. 2; Bereishis Rabbah 2:4, 16:7; Torah Or, Parshas Vayeishev, p. 30a].

  28. (Back to text) [Malachi 3:6].

  29. (Back to text) [Tehillim 94:14].

  30. (Back to text) [Tanchuma, Parshas Toldos, sec. 5; Esther Rabbah 10:11].

  31. (Back to text) [Avos 6:3].

  32. (Back to text) [In a sequel to this maamar, also entitled Baruch HaGomel, delivered a few days later on the Shabbos (Parshas Pinchas) following Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe Rayatz answered the question with which our maamar opened: Since the obligations of the Torah and its mitzvos are eternal, whereas all of exile's obstacles are merely challenges, a person who (for whatever reason) does not fulfill his obligations acknowledges his culpability - and also thanks Him "Who bestows good things [even] upon the culpable."]


  Maamar Havayah Li BeOzrai 5687 [1927]Letter Sent By The Previous Rebbe For The 1st Celebration Of Yud-Beis Tammuz  
     Sichos In English -> Books -> Mysticism -> Defiance And Devotion

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