1. Tes Kislev (the 9th of Kislev) is the day on which the Mitteler Rebbe was both born and passed away. In general, these two things are associated: The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya (Iggeres HaKodesh 28): “All the efforts of man which his soul toiled during his life-time,... becomes revealed and radiates in a manifest way from above downwards at the time of his passing.” In other words, all man’s service, from birth on, is elevated on the day he passed away. This elevation is greatly increased when it is the same day as his birthday. For on a birthday, a person’s ‘mazal’ is on the ascendancy. This then is the special distinction of Tes Kislev.
To clarify further: The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a) states that “the Holy one blessed be He sits and completes the years of the righteous from day to day and from month to month, as it says ‘The number of your days I will fill.”’ Thus the case of Moshe Rabbeinu, who said (Devarim 31:2) “ am a hundred and twenty years old today,” on which Rashi comments “Today my days and years are completed; on this day I was born and on this day I will die.” Moshe was born and died on the seventh of Adar. This Talmudic saying refers to all righteous people, all of whom G-d ‘completes’ their years. However, while this is true in spiritual terms, seldom do we find it in actual years and days. Only some Tzaddikim. had their years actually completed, such as Moshe Rabbeinu (born and died on 7th of Adar), and in the later generations, the Mitteler Rebbe (born and died on 9th of Kislev).
There is a lesson in this for us. We cannot be content in merely thinking of talking of lofty things, but must put them into practice. This is the lesson from Tes Kislev. The idea of G-d filling the years of a righteous person was, in the case of the Mitteler Rebbe, not just spiritual, but in actual practice.
This lesson is for all Jews. Those Jews who are not so religious must know that it is not enough that “All Yisrael have a share in the world to come, as it states ‘All your people are righteous.’“ That is in spiritual terms. But a Jew must also be righteous in practical terms, actually keeping Torah and mitzvos.
Likewise, those Jews who consider their main field to be in intellectual endeavors, must know that ‘deed is the essential thing’ — one’s G-dly service must have emphasis on deed. Intellectual comprehension and deep concentration about prayer, mitzvos, etc. is indeed a very lofty thing. But it must be secondary to actual deed.
Similarly, when attempting to draw others closer to Judaism, it is not enough to just speak with others, hoping one’s words will have the desired effect. We must do everything possible to ensure that our words will leave an effect on the other’s deeds.
One’s efforts in all these things must not be limited and confined, but beyond all limitations — ”with all your might.” One must strive “with all your might,” rising beyond normal limits, not just in thought or speech, but also in deed. Since such a service is required of a Jew, it is certain that every Jew has the ability to fulfill it.
In practical terms. Today, Tes Kislev, is an auspicious time to redouble efforts in our work. Tes Kislev is the day before Yud Kislev, the festival of liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe. We must continue to spread Chassidus, the very concept of Yud Kislev and Yud-Tes Kislev (liberation of the Alter Rebbe). Likewise, since Chanukah follows soon after, we must work in the Chanukah campaign.
In other words: We find ourselves in the period of Yud and Yud-Tes Kislev, the idea of these festivals being the propagation of Chassidus. Hence, in addition to the spreading of Judaism in general, there is now added emphasis on spreading Chassidus in particular. Thus the two lessons we learn from Tes Kislev, that
1) service must be with “all your might” and ) it must be primarily in deed, apply mainly to the idea of Yud Kislev — the spreading of Chassidus.
When the service of “all your might” permeates deed, then one’s service is in the form of ‘redemption:’ one ‘redeems’ his abilities and powers from constraints and limits, freeing them for good deeds. This redemption is the preparation to the true and complete redemption of the future through our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our times.
2. The festivals of liberation of Yud Kislev and Yud-Tes Kislev both celebrate the liberation of Chabad leaders from imprisonment by the (same) government. Yud-Tes Kislev (liberation of the Alter Rebbe in 5559) preceded that of Yud Kislev (liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe in 5587) by 28 years. The imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe was much more severe than that of the Mitteler Rebbe, and consequently the liberation and its celebration is that much greater. Nevertheless, in the days of the year, Yud Kislev (10th of Kislev) precedes Yud-Tes Kislev (19th of Kislev). For the very greatness and loftiness of Yud-Tes Kislev requires appropriate preparation to celebrate it properly — that preparation being Yud Kislev.
In general, man’s service is always to strive higher. For instance, one’s service must first be “with all your heart and all your soul,” and then one can reach the level of “with all your might.” In each of these types of service themselves, there are varying degrees, ranging from the basic level to the most intense — and the proper method is to start from the lowest level and move to the highest.
So too in this case. Both these liberations were beyond natural limits, in a miraculous form. Nevertheless, there are differences, and that of Yud-Tes Kislev is loftier than Yud Kislev. Since one starts from the lower level and moves to the higher, Yud Kislev is celebrated before Yud-Tes Kislev. After such a preparation, we can reach the loftier level of Yud-Tes Kislev.
But if Yud Kislev is the prior preparation to Yud-Tes Kislev, why did Yud Kislev occur 28 years after Yud Tes Kislev? How could Yud-Tes Kislev occur without the preparation of Yud Kislev? However, the preparation of Yud Kislev was needed only when the darkness (of exile) increased. Beforehand, in the intervening 28 years, Yud-Tes Kislev could be properly celebrated without prior preparation. But then the darkness increased, to the extent that there could even be such a thing as the imprisonment of the Mitteler Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe had been f reed by the government, which had in effect acknowledged and allowed the propagation of Chassidus. Yet afterwards, the Mitteler Rebbe could still be imprisoned — indicating the increasing darkness in the world. This is the reason why now we need Yud Kislev as a preparation to the proper celebration of Yud-Tes Kislev.
An example: In regards to prayer, the Torah proper requires only the recital of Shemah and only a small amount of prayer. In the first Bais HaMikdash, people I s minds were more open to G-d’s wonders, and did not need much prayer. In the second Bais HaMikdash, the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) saw that men’s minds had become less perceptive, seeing only the physical, and therefore instituted the Shemoneh Esreh (Eighteen Blessings). As the darkness in the world increased, after the times of the Mishnah and Talmud, more prayers were added. As a preparation to the Shemoneh Esreh, the Blessings on the Shemah, Psukei d’Zimrah (Verses of Praise) etc., were added.
Likewise, many new customs were added in later generations, after the times of the Mishnah. For in the earlier generations, when the darkness was not so intense, they did not need extra sanctity. But as the darkness increased, we need more things connected with the light of holiness, the light of Torah and mitzvos, to offset and annul the darkness.
So too in our case. The earlier generations could properly celebrate Yud-Tes Kislev without preparation. Now, when the darkness of exile has intensified, we not only need the extra light of Yud Kislev to annul the increasing darkness, but we need Yud Kislev as preparation to attain the lofty level of Yud-Tes Kislev.
3. Indeed, the fact that Yud Kislev serves as a preparation to Yud-Tes Kislev indicates that in some respects Yud Kislev is greater than Yud-Tes Kislev. As in all cases of cause and effect, the cause has properties loftier than the effect — and thus can produce the effect. Yud Kislev is the ‘cause’ of Yud-Tes Kislev (for without it serving as a preparation, we could not reach the level of Yud-Tes Kislev), and thus contains properties greater than Yud-Tes Kislev.
The imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe was more severe than that of the Mitteler Rebbe: the Alter Rebbe was incarcerated in prison, whereas the Mitteler Rebbe’s imprisonment was more similar to house-arrest. Nevertheless, the very fact that the Mitteler Rebbe was arrested at all, indicates the intensity of the darkness then prevalent in the world. For the Alter Rebbe I s release was such that even the government recognized his righteousness, and all realized the great miracles wrought by G-d. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe had been designated as an ‘honored citizen for generations,’ for his help in the war against Napoleon. Yet the Mitteler Rebbe was still arrested.
The purpose for the increasing intensity of darkness is to reveal the greater light that comes specifically when prior darkness is converted to light. Or in other words, one reaches loftier heights by first going through a descent. This then is the distinction of Yud Kislev over Yud-Tes Kislev. Through the greater descent (increasing darkness) in the Mitteler Rebbe’s imprisonment (coming after the Alter Rebbe’s miraculous liberation), greater heights were reached than on Yud-Tes Kislev (comparative to the intensity of the darkness). In addition, the greatness of Yud Kislev effects an increase in the greatness of Yud-Tes Kislev (since, as explained before, it is the preparation and cause to Yud-Tes Kislev). Hence, although Yud-Tes Kislev is the ‘Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus,’ one should not minimize the importance of Yud Kislev; for through the proper celebration of Yud Kislev, Yud-Tes Kislev is celebrated even more joyously.
There is a lesson in this for each and every Jew. When a Jew sees Divine Providence in matters that concern him (similar to open miracles), he knows that his success is not due to his own efforts, but to G-d. This refers to success in physical things and also spiritual things (liberation from one’s previous low spiritual standing). But, it can happen that he once again falls low in his spiritual standing, and his G-dly soul is once again imprisoned. He may then think that all hope is lost, and there is nothing he can do about it; he will leave it to G-d to free him. For although this second imprisonment is not as bad as the first (similar to the difference between the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe), and he has not sunk so low this time, nevertheless, that it happened at all after G-d rescued him the first time, indicates a very great fall.
The lesson from Yud Kislev is that a Jew must know that the purpose of this great fall is for the later ascent he must and can make — that he should now reach a level much higher then previously. He must not despair and therefore do nothing, relying on G-d — for it depends on the person, and through his service he will reach an infinitely higher level.
A Jew cannot say “We cannot do naught but rely on our Father in heaven.” Our Sages said that when people will say this, it is one of the signs of the darkness of the exile just prior to Mashiach’s coming. Another such sign is that disrespect will increase. Why should such a saying be a sign of the great darkness of the exile, similar to such bad things as increase in disrespect? Isn’t it a good thing when a Jew wishes to “rely on our Father in heaven?” But the previous Rebbe explained that a Jew must do everything he can and then G-d helps him. But when a Jew does not wish to do all that he can in his G-dly service, but instead says “We can do naught but rely on our Father in heaven” — such a state of affairs is truly a sign of great spiritual darkness! This is the lesson from Yud Kislev: The imprisonment of the Mitteler Rebbe after the liberation of the Alter Rebbe indicates that it is loftier than even Yud-Tes Kislev.
In practical terms: A Jew need not be affected by the increasing intensity of the exile, but the very reverse: since its purpose is for an ultimately greater ascent, a Jew must work ever harder to abolish the darkness of exile. The greater the darkness, the greater will be the future revelation. Hence every Jew must increase in his observance of Torah and mitzvos, especially in those things currently appropriate — the spreading of Chassidus (the concept of Yud and Yud-Tes Kislev), the Chanukah campaign, and uniting all Jews through purchasing a letter in a Sefer Torah.
As explained above, one’s service must be “with all your might,” beyond all limits, permeating every aspect of a person (thought, speech and deed). And just as the Mitteler Rebbe’s years were literally ‘completed’1completed’ by G-d (birth and death on the same day, Tes Kislev), so too all our work must be put into actual effect. Then, while still in exile, we ‘taste’ the revelations of the future, and will speedily merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
4. Of Yaakov’s departure from Lavan with all his family, Scripture states (Bereishis 31:17): “Yaakov rose up, and set his sons and his wives on the camels.” On the words ‘his sons and his wives’ Rashi comments: “He put the males before the females. Esav, however, put the females before the males, as it is stated (36:6) ‘Esav took his wives and his sons, etc.’”
Rashi does not explain why Yaakov put the males before the females, and Esav the reverse. Commentators explain that the reason can be understood simply from Scripture (and Rashi) learned before this verse — and therefore Rashi need not even mention it. Esav was steeped in lust, as stated previously (Bereishis 28:9): “Esav went to Yishmael and took Machalas the daughter of Yishmael, in addition to his other wives,” on which Rashi comments “he added wickedness to his (previous) wickedness, for he did not divorce the first (wives).” Likewise, on verse 26:34, Rashi comments: “Throughout the forty years (before he married) Esav would seize other women from the possessions of their husbands and do violence to them...”
Yaakov was the exact opposite. He was (25:27) “a scholarly, plain man, dwelling in tents (of the Yeshivah);” and he did not marry until he was 84 years of age. Hence, it is obvious why Esav put the females before the males — because he was extremely lustful; whereas Yaakov who was the epitome of morality and purity, put the males first.
However, there are a few unclear points in Rashi’s commentary.
1) The verse states “Yaakov” rose up and set his sons and his wives.” Rashi writes that “He put the males before the females.” Why the change from sons and wives to males and females?
2) Rashi only offers commentary when something is difficult at that point, not when a difficulty arises because of a verse further on in Scripture. In this case, when a student, to whom Rashi addresses his commentary, learns this verse, there is no problem why Yaakov set the males before the females. Obviously this is the proper moral behavior for someone like Yaakov. A question only arises when later we see that Esav acted differently. Surely then, Rashi’s comment noting the difference in behavior between Yaakov and Esav should not be here, but later, when we learn of Esav’s behavior (in parshas Vayishlach 36:6).
3) Rashi in his comment says “Esav however, put the females before the males, as it is stated, ‘Esav took his wives and his sons’ etc.” when Rashi writes ‘etc.,’ he means to direct our attention to the continuation of the verse. In our case, the rest of the verse is “Esav took his wives and his sons and his daughters...” This seems to contradict Rashi’s previous words. He has just stated that “Esav put the females before the males,” and yet in the actual verse we see that he put his sons (males) before his daughters (females)?!
Indeed, had Rashi not changed the terminology of the verse, there would be no problem. Had he quoted from the verse and said that “Esav, however, put the wives
before the sons” there would be no problem, because wives do not mean daughters. But now that Rashi says “Esav, however, put the females
before the males,” and adds on ‘etc.’ — this ‘etc.,’ which is the continuation of the verse which speaks of the sons before the daughters, contradicts Rashi’s assertion that Esav put the females
(including daughters) before the males!
4) Our verse speaks only of Yaakov’s wives and sons, and omits any mention of Dinah, Yaakov’s daughter. Why doesn’t Rashi comment on this?
The answer to these questions is as follows. Rashi makes the comment that he does to answer a question that a student learning this verse would naturally ask. We learn from this verse that Yaakov first seated his sons and then his wives. Is this not contradictory to the concept that a child must honor his mother? Yaakov endeavored to educate his children in the right way, including the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. To seat the son before the mother seems to contradict this.
The question is not on Yaakov’s sons themselves. They, having the duty to honor their father Yaakov, could not disobey him and refuse to be seated before their mothers. The question is on Yaakov. How could he do this knowing it contravened the education he gave to his sons about the mitzvah of honoring one’s mother (to let her be seated first)?
To answer this question, Rashi, instead of writing “He put the; sons before the wives,” states “He put the males before the females.” Yaakov placing his sons before his wives did not reflect at all on dishonor to one’s mother, for the emphasis here is on placing males before females — moral conduct. Yaakov’s conduct had nothing to do with his wives and his sons as mother and son, but merely as female and male.
Now we understand why Rashi makes no comment on the omission of Dinah, Yaakov’s daughter. For Rashi has interpreted ‘wives’ to mean ‘females,’ which includes all females — his wives and daughter.
Likewise, it is now clear why Rashi here says “Esav, however, put the females before the males.” We could think that the reason why Esav put his wives before his sons was because he wished to educate his sons in the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. Rashi therefore tells us that this was not the reason, but in fact the opposite: “Esav put the females (not as mothers) before the males” — because he was steeped in lust. It had nothing to do with mother and son, but rather female and male.
This is also the reason why Rashi adds the word ‘etc.,’ thus indicating the continuation of the verse “Esav took his wives and his sons and his daughters.” The reason Esav put his wives before his sons was because he was steeped in lust. This, however, applied only to his wives, and he was not so immoral as to be steeped in lust in regard to his daughters.
5. Yud Kislev (and the day before, Tes Kislev) this year are on the same days of the week as when the original liberation occurred. Tes Kislev on Shabbos parshas Vayeitze and Yud Kislev on Sunday of parshas Vayishlach. While there are lessons to be learned every year from Tes and Yud Kislev (as explained previously), it has special force when they fall out on the same day of the week as in the original occurrence. In addition, consonant with the Alter Rebbe’s dictum that we must ‘live with the times,’ meaning to live according to the lessons derived from the weekly parshah, there must be some directive to be drawn from parshas Vayeitze and parshas Vayishlach.
The beginning words of the parshah, “Vayeitze Yaakov,” means “Yaakov went out.” ‘Going out’ is the idea of exile, when Jews have ‘gone’ from their true standing into exile. Every Jew is the only son of G-d, the King of kings, and the true place of a Jew is together with his Father, the King. Father and son are one essence, and when the son leaves the Father, it is automatically exile.
This descent into exile is for the purpose of the greater heights that can be reached only through first going through exile. As it states later in the parshah (30:43), that after Yaakov ‘went out’ from Be’er Sheva into the exile of Charon (Lavan), “he became exceedingly wealthy;” he reached these great heights (wealthy (also) in spiritual terms) specifically through undergoing exile (“Yaakov went out”).
Our service in exile must be similar to Yaakov’s, who said “I have served with all my might” (31:6) to the extent that “sleep was snatched from my eyes” (31:40). As the Alter Rebbe states in Shulchan Aruch: “A person must serve with all his might, for Yaakov Hatzaddik said ‘with all my might I have served your father.’“ When a person’s service in exile is in such a manner, he reaches the level of being “exceedingly wealthy.”
The beginning words of parshas Vayishlach, “Vayishlach Yaakov Malochim,” means “Yaakov sent angels (to Esav).” These angels accomplished their mission of influencing Esav (not only not to hate Yaakov but also) to the extent of “he kissed him.” Some authorities say this means he kissed him wholeheartedly; but even according to those who say it was not wholeheartedly, the fact that everyone saw Esav kissing Yaakov is enough to cause the world to fear and respect Yaakov.
In spiritual terms, in our G-dly service, “Vayishlach — he sent” refers to the refinement and elevation of this world; not only to ensure that the world should not impinge on holiness, but to convert the world itself to G-dliness (similar to Esav not only not hating Yaakov but actually kissing him). Then we will have the revelation of the future when “Deliverers will go up to Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esav.”
The lesson from this is that even while still in exile (“going out” from one’s true place), before the redemption , one must not despair, but instead increase in Torah and mitzvos, the light of which annuls and converts the darkness of exile. It is precisely through our G-dly service in exile which brings us to the level of being “exceedingly wealthy,” a level infinitely higher than before the descent into exile — till we merit to reach the revelations of the future redemption.
Our service in exile should be in the manner stated in our parshah (32:2-3): “The angels of G-d met him (Yaakov) ... and he called the name of that place Machanaim.” ‘Machanaim’ means ‘two camps,’ referring to the angels of Eretz Yisrael, and those outside of Eretz Yisrael. This teaches us that a Jew must convert the place in which he finds himself into ‘Eretz Yisrael.’ ‘Eretz’ comes from the word “rotzon — desire, will” for the land desires to do the will of its Creator.
As before, through such service we reach the level of “exceedingly great,” and even while in exile “all the children of Israel had light in their dwelling places.” And then, very soon, we merit to have the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
- (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe’s name, Schneur, reflects this. In Hebrew, ‘Schnei or” means “two lights,” corresponding to the light of the exoteric, and the light of the esoteric. The Alter Rebbe was a giant in both fields, and indeed, synthesized them into one whole, as indicated by his name ‘Schneur,’ which is ‘Schnei Or’ combined and harmonized together.
- (Back to text) The 53 days of imprisonment, Chassidim relate, correspond to the 53 chapters in Tanya