1. All matters of the preceding week receive elevation on Shabbos, as stated: “And the heavens and the earth were finished.” The Hebrew word for “were finished” is “Vayechulu,” which has two interpretations:
1) It can be derived from the word “Kiloyon,” nullification, which refers to the idea of elevating things beyond their mere physical state.
2) It can also mean “ta’anug,” delight, the idea of drawing down pleasure (from above to below) on Shabbos — “You shall call the Shabbos ‘delight.’”
The elevation provided on and by Shabbos affects all the worlds, not just our physical earth. The verse “And the heavens and the earth were finished” refers to all the worlds alluded to in the first verse of the Torah “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth” — all levels of creation of all worlds. This elevation is accomplished through man’s service to G-d. Our Sages have said: “Every person who prays on the eve of Shabbos and says ‘Vayechulu’ becomes a partner with G-d in the creation.” Saying ‘Vayechulu’ is the idea of the general service of elevating things created by G-d to a higher level — and a person thus “becomes a partner with G-d in the creation.”
In greater clarification, our Sages state that “the deeds of tzaddikim (perfectly righteous people) are greater than the works of heaven and earth.” G-d brings things into the world — creation ex nihilo; tzaddikim through their service elevate things to a level higher than the world, beyond their (previous corporeal) existence (“nullifying” them). To nullify that which was previously in existence is greater than to bring something into existence creation ex nihilo) — and thus “the deeds of tzaddikim are greater than the works of heaven and earth.” The works of heaven and earth is the bringing into existence of the world; the deeds of tzaddikim is elevating those works to a level beyond mere physical existence. Hence “Every person who prays on the eve of Shabbos and says ‘Vayechulu’ becomes a partner with G-d in creation.” For saying ‘Vayechulu,’ deriving from the word nullification, is the idea of elevating things beyond their physical existence — and thus a person is a partner with G-d in the creation.
Furthermore, through this service of ‘Vayechulu’ (nullification — elevation), a person draws down additional delight in Shabbos — the second interpretation of the word ‘Vayechulu.’ Although Shabbos is sanctified of itself, without a person’s service, nevertheless, a person’s service effects additional delight on Shabbos. This is what is meant by our Sages’ dictum ‘Whosoever delights the Shabbos;’ it doesn’t state ‘Whosoever delights in the Shabbos’ but ‘whosoever delights the Shabbos’ — a Jew through his service can add delight to the Shabbos.
The above corresponds to that written of King Dovid that he connected the Torah above with G-d. Torah is on the level of delight, and notwithstanding the intrinsic greatness of Torah itself, Dovid connected the Torah with G-d — he elevated Torah to yet greater levels. or in other words, despite the fact the Torah is itself the level of delight, King Dovid through his service drew the very Essence of G-d Himself into Torah.
Although the above was related of King Dovid, it is also relevant to the service of all Jews. Dovid is “King of Israel,” and since the king is the ‘heart of the entire congregation of Israel,’ that which is relevant to the king is relevant to all his citizens — since the heart affects the entire body. Hence, although it was specifically King Dovid who revealed and showed us that through a Jew’s service the Torah above is connected to G-d, it is also applicable to all Jews. A revelation does not mean the creation of something new, but the uncovering of something which was previously in existence — but was hidden. In our case, King Dovid revealed to us the greatness of Jews; that through them Torah above is connected with G-d.
2. Just as the service of Jews (in regard to Torah) reaches the very Essence of G-d, so too our prayers. The Alter Rebbe on the verse “Who is like the L-rd our G-d in all that we call to Him,” explains that the plain meaning of “to Him” is that the prayers of a Jew are to the very Essence of G-d (and not to His attributes). That this is its “plain meaning” is seen from the fact that when a child prays he does not have in mind that his prayers are directed to G-d’s attributes, emanations etc., for he knows nothing of such things. It must be that a child’s prayers are “to Him” — to G-d Himself.
At the start of every day, a child says “Modeh Ani Lefonecho” — I offer thanks to You.” When a child says this, he certainly directs his prayers to G-d Himself, His Essence, for he knows nothing of matters such as G-d’s attributes, emanations, radiations of light etc. That he knows nothing of such things is not because he is deficient, for so he was created by G-d. A child is born without any knowledge of Torah or the different emanations and attributes of G-d, and in such a situation (created by G-d) his saying of “I offer thanks to You” is directed to G-d Himself.
This is also why in this prayer no mention of G-d’s Name is made. “I offer thanks to You” is directed to the very Essence of G-d which is beyond the concept of a name. Hence every Jew, not just a child, who says the prayer “I offer thanks to You” immediately upon awakening from sleep, is directing his prayer to G-d Himself.
“I offer thanks to You” is a direct prayer (not “I offer thanks to Him”), addressed directly to G-d as a person speaks to a fellow standing opposite him. Although a child cannot see or feel G-d, he nevertheless addresses G-d’s Essence directly — “I offer thanks to You.” A child has no doubt that there is “Our Father in Heaven” Who can be turned to and spoken to directly — “You.” Although a child by nature has questions about everything, he has no questions about the existence of G-d, for it is a plainly obvious fact to him — and he says “I offer thanks to You” as a matter of fact.
Hence a child’s non-understanding of the emanations and attributes of G-d is not only not a deficiency (for so he was created, as explained above), but is even a valuable thing. Because he does not know anything else, his saying “I offer thanks to You” is without any contemplation at all — and there is nothing to obstruct the complete conviction in G-d’s Essence. It is precisely because he is a child that he is a vehicle for G-d’s Essence.
Not only does a child have complete conviction in G-d’s existence, but his existence is humbled and nullified before G-d’s — “I offer thanks to You.” A child is by nature pre-occupied with his own existence. Nevertheless, his “I” is nullified before G-d, and “I offer thanks to You.” This humility and self-nullification is not a result of the child’ s comprehension and understanding (of G-d’s greatness etc.), but is inherent in him, and he needs no explanations.
From all the above we can understand the greatness of Jews in prayer, since their prayers are “to Him and not to His attributes” — to G-d’s very Essence. Even a Jew who knows of G-d’s attributes, emanations and radiations of light etc., addresses himself to G-d’s Essence and nothing else, as if he were a child who knows of nothing else. This is the general idea of prayer: when a Jew feels that he lacks something, he must ask it from G-d Himself.
3. Since this Shabbos follows Yud Shevat (Yahrzeit of the previous Rebbe), and, as explained before, all matters of the preceding week are elevated on the following Shabbos, it is fitting that we talk of the Torah said by the previous Rebbe on parshas Beshallach, the 13th of Shevat 5709 — 33 years ago. The number 33 is alluded to in the verse “Open my eyes and I will see the wonders from Your Torah.” “Open” in Hebrew is “Gal” which in Hebrew numerology (where Aleph = 1, Bais = 2 etc.) equals 33 (Gimmel = 3, Lamed = 30). The Torah said then by the previous Rebbe began with the verse (Shemos 17:8): “Then came Amalek and fought with Yisrael in Refidim.” He explains that Amalek cools off a person from Torah and mitzvos, and throws doubts and confusion into him. (In Hebrew numerology, Amalek has the same numerical value as ‘Sofek,’ which means doubt). Amalek’s war is associated with ‘Refidim,’ Refidim coming from the word meaning to weaken — “Amalek weakened their hands from Torah.” This refers to the “lack of service in Torah study at fixed times and attachment to friends” — which is the cause of Amalek coming to fight against the sanctity of Torah.
The answer to this is Moshe Rabbeinu’s command to “Go out, fight with Amalek.” The previous Rebbe explains that: “‘Go out’ is (in Hebrew) singular tense, addressed to an individual, for the Torah is eternal, equally valid in every generation, in every time, and in every place. Do not say that the times or places have changed; but instead, ‘Go out, fight with Amalek’ who cools off people . . . [and this fight is to] remove those are weak (‘Refidim’) and to strengthen the hands of those who learn Torah with the public; for Torah sheds light in the fulfillment of mitzvos.”
This teaching from the previous Rebbe is associated with the Mitzvah campaigns. First of all, the Torah campaign: The above teaches us that the war with Amalek is expressed in the efforts “to remove those who are weak, and to strengthen the hands of those who learn Torah with the public.” This can be achieved specifically through involvement in the Torah campaign. Not everyone is capable of teaching Torah to others, nor is it certain that people will come to those who are capable. But the Torah campaign — which is the idea of encouraging people to participate in learning Torah with others at fixed times — is the concept of “learning Torah with the public.”
Learning Torah specifically with others (as opposed to learning by oneself) is also emphasized in the liberation of the previous Rebbe from imprisonment on Yud-Bais Tammuz. For the first celebration of that event, the previous Rebbe sent the Chassidic discourse beginning with the words “Ten who sit and are engaged in Torah” — the idea of learning Torah together with others (“with the public”). This is achieved when one feels the greatness and preciousness of Torah, for then one involves himself in the Torah campaign, and influences others to do so likewise, who then influences others in the same vein etc. etc.
For Torah study to be fitting, one needs the preparation of prayer. The concept of prayer is to nullify one’s existence before G-d, “as a servant before his master.” But, arises the question, a person is not just comprised of limbs to do things, which would then be possible to make subordinate to G-d. A person also has a mind which thinks and a heart which feels — how is it possible then to subordinate and nullify his existence “as a servant before his master”? Chassidus explains that a servant’s wants and desires are exactly identical to his master’s, — and a person feels that he has his own existence?!
The answer to this is that before a person reaches the Shemoneh Esreh, which is the part in the prayers where a person must be “as a servant before his master,” there are preceding prayers which serve as a preparation. The service of reciting the Shema, preceded by its blessings, preceded by the verses of praise, effect that “you shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart” — a person’s mind and heart become permeated with love of G-d, and thus he can indeed be “as a servant before his master.
The above is emphasized in the mitzvah of Tefillin (and its campaign). Tefillin is laid on the head opposite the brain and on the hand (arm) opposite the heart, to effect submission of the brain and heart to G-d “as a servant before his master.” The heart and mind exist, a person thinks and feels; but simultaneously, one must submit that heart and mind to G-d — they must be permeated with G-dly matters.
Prayer is associated with the Ahavas Yisrael campaign, for prior to prayer, a person must accept upon himself “to fulfill the mitzvah ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’” Even before this, a person says “Modeh Ani — I offer thanks to You,” which, as explained previously, includes all Jews (children as well). This is the idea of the Education campaign, beginning with oneself, one’s children, and others whom he can influence. Likewise with the other campaigns: mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books; and the three campaigns for Jewish women, kashrus, family purity, and kindling Shabbos and Yom Tov lights.
Particularly important is the most recent campaign to unite all Jews in an eternal bond through each Jew purchasing a letter in a Sefer Torah. The previous Rebbe, (in the Torah he said 33 years ago) said: “Yisrael forms the acrostic ‘There are 600,000 letters in the Torah;’ for each Jew has a letter in the Torah, and therefore all Yisrael are accustomed to write a letter in Torah, since each one of Yisrael has a letter in the Torah.” In similar fashion, the previous Rebbe also said (on Simchas Torah 5706) that: “Each and every Jew has a letter in the Torah. Therefore each and every one has life and vitality in the Torah and is ready to literally give his life for Torah. This letter gives him power and strength to withstand all obstacles to learning Torah. And besides (the letter) protecting him, it is also the vehicle through and in which blessing from above in all good reaches him.”
Since every Jew has a letter in the Torah, then, when he reveals his bond to that letter (by actually purchasing a letter in a Sefer Torah), not only does he unite with the hundreds of thousands of other Jews who purchased a letter in that Sefer Torah, but he becomes united with all Jews. For although they have purchased letters in other Sefer Torahs, all Sefer Torahs are one; and a person thus becomes united with them to the extent of uniting with all Jews in all generations — since every Jew has a letter in the Sefer Torah. Moreover, through such unity, a Jew’s very existence becomes that of all Jewry, and all Jewry’s existence becomes his!
Thus it becomes apparent the importance and greatness of influencing other Jews to purchase a letter in the Sefer Torah. We must make all efforts possible to ensure that all Jews acquire a letter in the Sefer Torahs currently being written on behalf of all Jewry, thus uniting all together into one entity. This applies to all Jews, men, women and children. When a baby is born, a letter must immediately be purchased on his behalf, even before a name is given. When he or she is given his or her name (for a boy — at the Bris Milah; a girl — at the first reading of the Torah after the birth), then the name can be inscribed. And just as children are to be inscribed, so too those who are children in Torah knowledge must be inscribed. All Jewry is one entity, one body, and that body is only complete when all Jews are included, regardless of their individual standing.
4. In the Song which the Jews sang extolling G-d for His miracles at the splitting of the sea, we find the following verse (Shemos 15:3): “The L-rd is master of war, the L-rd is His Name.” On the words “The L-rd is His Name” Rashi comments: “His wars are not (fought) with weapons, but with His Name He wages war, as Dovid said ‘But I come to you in the Name of the L-rd of hosts.’ Another interpretation: ‘The L-rd is His Name’ — even at the time when He wages war and avenges Himself of His enemies, He retains His attribute of having mercy on His creatures and of sustaining all that enter the world [as indicated by ‘The L-rd is His Name,’ ‘L-rd’ being the attribute of mercy]. And it is not like the nature of earthly kings who, when he (an earthly king] is engaged in war, turns himself away from all (other) matters and there is no strength in him to do both this and that [wage war and attend to other matters].”
There are several points in this Rashi which need clarification.
1) When Rashi offers two interpretations for something (as in this case), it is because the first interpretation does not suffice of itself; there is a particular difficulty in this interpretation — and the second interpretation answers the specific difficulty left unresolved by the first interpretation. On the other hand, the second interpretation is not as close to the plain meaning of the verse as the first, and therefore Rashi brings it only as a second and secondary interpretation. In our case, what is the difficulty in the first interpretation that necessitates Rashi to offer a second interpretation; and why is the second less close to the plain meaning of the verse than the first?
2) Rashi, in his second interpretation, goes to great lengths to explain that G-d’s conduct is different from a mortal king’s. What purpose does this serve?
3) Rashi ends the second interpretation by explaining a mortal king does not do both things since “There is no strength in him to do this and that.” What difference does it make what is the specific reason a mortal king doesn’t do both?
4) Rashi’s commentary is addressed to a five-year-old learning Scripture, especially to those who lived in Rashi’s time and Rashi’s country. Rashi lived in France, and in his times there were many wars between the kings of France and other countries. The five-year-old in those times sees that during war the king still conducted the affairs of the country. If so, how can Rashi say that “an earthly king who, when he is engaged in war, turns himself away from all (other) matters and there is no strength in him to do both this and that” — when the student sees himself that even during war the French kings did simultaneously run the country?!
All of the above will be understood through elucidation of yet another question. Scripture tells us that G-d’s war against the Egyptians was such that (15:1-4) “Horse with its rider He cast into the sea”
and “He hurled Pharaoh’s chariots and his army into the sea.”
Likewise, we previously learned that (14:28) “The waters
returned and they covered the chariots and the horsemen...” If so, when a student learns Rashi’s interpretation of our verse that G-d’ s wars “are not (fought) with weapons, but with His Name He wages war” he is perplexed.
G-d’s war against the Egyptians was waged with the medium of the sea (“He cast into the sea”) — and what difference does it make if the weapon used is a sword and spear or the waters of the sea? The sea is also a weapon; how then can Rashi say that “His wars are not (fought) with weapons”?
A student however, can answer this question from his knowledge of Scripture just learned previously (and hence Rashi need not explain it). This is not the first time that the expression ‘war’ is used in connection to G-d’s vengeance against the Egyptians. Previously it states (14:25): “The Egyptians said: ‘Let us flee from before Yisrael, for the L-rd wages war for them against Egypt.’” This is stated before the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea, and hence this war waged by G-d was not by the means of any weapons (the sea), but with G-d’s Name.
The Egyptians’ statement that ‘Let us flee from before Yisrael for the L-rd wages war for them against Egypt’ was said when (14:24-25) “The L-rd looked to [destroy] the camp of the Egyptians [who were pursuing the Jews after they left Egypt] by means of the pillar of fire and cloud, and He caused confusion in the camp of the Egyptians. And He removed the wheels of their chariots and made them drive with difficulty.” on this Rashi comments that “the pillar of cloud descended and made it (the ground) like clay, and the pillar of fire heated it, and the hooves of their horses were dislocated.” Rashi further continues to explain that “He caused confusion” denotes ‘confusing,’ and that “He removed the wheels of their chariots” means that “Through the power of fire the wheels were burned and the chariots dragged, while those who sat in them reeled and their organs were disjointed.” When the Egyptians saw all these things happening to them, then “The Egyptians said: ‘Let us flee from before Yisrael for the L-rd wages war for them against Egypt.”
This war was not waged with weapons, for the purpose of weapons is to destroy the enemy. In this case, everything that happened (“He caused confusion”, “He removed the wheels” etc.) did not yet destroy the Egyptians (which happened only when they drowned in the sea), but it only confused them — “those who sat in them reeled” and the chariots dragged.” Nevertheless, although the Egyptians were not destroyed, it states “The L-rd wages war for them against Egypt.” And since it was not waged with weapons, we must conclude that it was waged with G-d’s Name. Hence Rashi states that “His wars are not (fought) with weapons, but with His Name He wages war,” meaning, there are two types of war fought by G-d:
1) with weapons, an example being destroying the Egyptians through the sea;
2) with His Name, an example being “He caused confusion in the camp of the Egyptians” and “He removed the wheels of their chariots.”
Rashi then brings proof to this from that which King Dovid said “But I come to you in the Name of the L-rd of hosts.” Rashi prefers to bring this verse as proof and not the verse (Tehillim 20:8): “Some [rely] upon chariots and some upon horses, but we [rely upon and] invoke the Name of the L-rd our G-d,” for in the latter verse there is no indication of the results that follow. Whereas following the verse “But I come to you in the Name of the L-rd of hosts,” Scripture does tell us the results — that Dovid slew Goliath.
Rashi however does not consider this first interpretation sufficient, for our verse states “The L-rd is master of war, the L-rd is His Name. “ If this meant that G-d wages war with His Name, it should have stated “The L-rd is master of war (not with weapons, but) with His Name L-rd,” similar to that said by Dovid “But I come to you in (i.e. with) the Name of the L-rd of hosts.”
Hence Rashi brings a second interpretation that: “‘The L-rd is His Name’ — even at the time when He wages war and avenges Himself of His enemies, He retains His attribute of having mercy on His creatures and of sustaining all that enter the world.” In this interpretation, the words “The L-rd is His Name” are not an explanation of the preceding words “The L-rd is master of war” (as in the first interpretation, that “The L-rd is master of war” through “The L-rd is His Name” — i.e. the L-rd wages war with His Name), but something additional (and separate). Even when “the L-rd is master of war” — “even at the time when He wages war and avenges Himself of His enemies,” simultaneously “The L-rd is His Name” — “He retains His attribute (“L-rd” is the attribute of mercy) of having mercy on His creatures,” by continuing to “sustain all that enter the world.”
In this second interpretation it is clear why it does not state “with His Name L-rd,” and thus the difficulty in the first interpretation is avoided.
A question still remains however. What is the greatness of G-d that he simultaneously sustains His creatures while waging war, when earthly kings also do that — as a child in France in Rashi’s time could see for himself? To answer this question Rashi emphasizes that “it is not like the nature of earthly kings who, when engaged in war, turns himself away from all (other) matters.” A mortal king, when sending troops to fight a war, can still run the country. But when he is “engaged in war” — when he himself is fighting in the war, he must “turn himself away from all (other) matters.” And when he does so, the country is left leaderless and unprovided for, unlike G-d Who does both simultaneously.
One more point still remains perplexing for the five-year-old student learning Scripture. When he is learning in class, the teacher tells him that all his concentration must be upon his studies and nothing else. If so, perhaps this that an earthly king “turns away from all (other) matters” to devote himself entirely to war is not a deficiency, but an admirable trait. Thus Rashi stresses that the reason an earthly king does so is not because he wishes to, but because “There is no strength in him to do both this and that” — he turns away from all other pursuits because he cannot do otherwise. G-d however, can do both.