1. Erev Shabbos and Shabbos are intimately connected, the work on Erev Shabbos being the preparation to Shabbos. Erev Shabbos Parshas Vayikra is Bais Nissan (2nd of Nissan), and its matters are associated with this Shabbos.
Bais Nissan is the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab and simultaneously marks the beginning of leadership of his son, the previous Rebbe. As Scripture states “the sun rises and the sun sets”: the “setting of the sun” — the passing of the Rebbe Rashab, was followed immediately by the “rising of the sun” — the beginning of the previous Rebbe’s leadership. Since the previous Rebbe was the only son of the Rebbe Rashab, there was no doubt who would be the leader, and he assumed the leadership immediately and automatically.
Since the previous Rebbe is the leader of our generation, it is the second aspect of Bais Nissan — the assumption of leadership by the previous Rebbe — which concerns us most. He is the leader of all Jews in our generation, men, women and children — and indeed of the whole world, since the world was created “for the sake of Israel” — and he is the leader of all Israel.
On the other hand, we see that the concept of “the sun sets” — the yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab — is accompanied by different customs — learning Mishnayos, increase in giving tzedakah etc. The aspect of “the sun rises” however, is not marked by any special customs. The reason for this is that a passing away is marked by seven days of mourning, thirty days of lesser mourning etc. But the assumption of leadership is not marked by anything in Chabad, not even the blessing of “Mazal tov” (as is the custom in Poland). However, these mourning periods are only in the first year of the passing away; and in the case of the Rebbe Rashab, even those thirty days were terminated by the Yom Tov of Pesach. In the following years, the passing away is marked only by a single day (the yahrzeit), and then only on part of the day (as is the halachah). The main emphasis on this day is on the aspect of the “sun rises.”
Hence, when “these days are remembered and kept” every year, the main emphasis is on “the sun rises” (since in the following years there is no mourning periods of 7 or 30 etc.). Nevertheless, the remembrance of Bais Nissan must start with the aspect of “the sun sets,” for so is the wish of the previous Rebbe.
The lesson learned from the Rebbe Rashab must be comprehensible to all, young and old; and since his Torah is not equally understood by everyone, we will dwell upon a general lesson applicable to all Jews — that expressed in the Rebbe Rashab’s name.
The Baal Shem Tov said that everything seen or heard by a Jew must serve as a lesson in his service to G-d. This is the idea of “in all your ways you shall know Him”: anything seen or heard by a Jew is included in “your ways,” and in it “you shall know Him” — through it, knowledge of G-d is increased. Hence, when a Jew hears of the Rebbe Rashab’s name, or sees it written, it must provide a lesson in service to G-d.
The Rebbe Rashab had three names: Sholom, Dov, and Ber. Nevertheless, the Rebbe Rashab signed his name with the last two names joined together — DovBer. Dov is in the Holy tongue, whereas Ber is Yiddish (secular tongue). [Both mean the same thing — bear.] This affects also Halachah. When writing documents in Torah, the rule is that the name in the Holy tongue is written first, and then the other names. Hence, the way the Rebbe Rashab signed his name is important in Halachah, for the name written in a document must be written in the same way the person signs his name. And the Rebbe Rashab signed his last two names, one of which was in the Holy tongue (Dov) and the other in Yiddish (Ber), together.
There is a lesson in this for our service to G-d. The difference between a name in the Holy tongue and that of another language is similar to the difference between holiness and secular things. In man’s service, deed, in comparison to speech and thought, is like the relationship between holy and secular matters. The AriZal explains that, in the four general “worlds” of Atzilus, Briyah, Yetzirah, and this world of Assiyah — deed, Atzilus is all good, Briyah is mostly good, Yetzirah is half and half, and Assiyah is mostly evil. Thus deed itself (similar to the world of deed — this corporeal world) is secular in comparison to loftier things (e.g. speech and thought).
Nevertheless, “deed is the essential thing,” for a person’s service is to take secular things and convert them to holy things. This is expressed in the joining together of the two names, one in the Holy tongue and one in another language (DovBer): to change the secular to the sacred. Moreover, not only do we take secular things and change them to holiness, but the ultimate in service is to convert things which are antithetical to holiness into sanctity. This is the idea of teshuvah (repentance), when “transgressions are converted into merits.” This effects the “superiority of light which comes from prior darkness” — for to convert the darkness, a loftier revelation of light is necessary.
The Talmud (Kiddushin 72a) states that the characteristics of a bear are that it is fleshy and has no rest. In man’s service, “fleshy” corresponds to the elevation of the body and world. The soul itself has no need of and no connection to “flesh.” Nevertheless, the soul descends below to this world and is enclothed in a body, the purpose being to refine and elevate the body and its portion in the world. For the purpose is “to make a dwelling place for G-d in this lowest (i.e. physical) of all worlds” — through the elevation of the physical. Since a bear is “fleshy” — it has much flesh, meaning it is a very difficult service (to elevate the physical), G-d has certainly given a person lofty abilities to carry it out — for G-d does not demand of a person more than he is capable of.
This service is performed in the manner of a bear “has no rest.” A bear is constantly on the move; even in the zoo it is constantly pacing in its cage. Even when it has no hope of being free it has no rest. Since all physical things have their root in the spiritual, this aspect of a bear is also found in spiritual service. It is the general service of the soul, of which it is said “Tzaddikim have no rest.” Whereas an angel remains stationary on its level, never rising, a Jew may not remain static, but must always rise higher from one level to another. Even if at any one time a Jew cannot go higher, this itself allows him no rest — for he is constantly thirsting to rise to loftier heights. The desire for G-dliness is itself service, similar to the service of love of G-d which comes about through a person’s desire to come closer to his Creator.
This is the lesson from the name “Dov,” meaning bear — the service of being “fleshy” (the elevation of the physical) and “having no rest.” In addition, there is the name “Ber” in Yiddish, the combination of the two together teaching that one must join the secular to the sacred by elevating the secular and converting it the sacred.
However, how can one convert the secular to the sacred, when there is a clear distinction between the two? — “Who makes a distinction between the sacred and the profane.” The answer is expressed in the name “Sholom” (peace) which precedes the name “DovBer.” “Sholom” refers to the idea of the joining together of opposites. This is the concept of Torah — “the Torah was given to make peace in the world.” Torah can effect peace in the world (the joining of the sacred and the secular) because in Torah itself there are no divisions between sacred and secular.
Our Sages state: “Whosoever engages in Torah brings peace to the hosts above and hosts below.” Not only does Torah effect peace above, but also “below,” in the world. While the world conceals G-dliness, Torah brings peace to it by joining the sacred to the secular, and converting the profane to holiness.
This is the lesson from the way the Rebbe Rashab signed his name. The joining of Dov and Ber together initiated a new path in service: Not only must one engage in secular matters, but one must join the secular with the sacred by elevating the secular to the realm of holiness.
This was especially stressed in the case of the Rebbe Rashab. The Alter Rebbe also had two names, one in the Holy tongue (Schneur) and one in another (Zalman). But he signed his name at times just “Schneur,” at times just “Zalman,” and even when signing both of them, it was as two separate words. In the case of the Mitteler Rebbe, although we find that he sometimes signed his name as “DovBer” (i.e. together), at other times he signed them as two separate names — Dov Ber. The Rebbe Rashab however, always signed his name DovBer, for he emphasized the concept of the joining and conversion of the secular to the sacred. Moreover, since his son was the leader of our generation, it is the matters of the Rebbe Rashab which have greater relevance to us (than those of the Mitteler Rebbe).
Everything must be translated into practice. A Jew must know that even if he has toiled hard in Torah and mitzvos, his service is not complete until it is in the manner of converting the secular to holiness. This we learn from the signature of the Rebbe Rashab. A signature is always at the end and finish of the document, teaching us (as demonstrated in the Rebbe Rashab’s signature) that the end of a person’s general service to G-d is the elevation of the secular to holiness, thereby joining them together.
This lesson is also emphasized on Shabbos. Shabbos is sanctified of itself — “You shall keep the Shabbos for it is holy.” In addition, the service of Jews is to add from weekday to Shabbos — and thereby effect a loftier concept than Shabbos is of itself. For although the sanctity of Shabbos is above limits (not being dependent on man, but is “sanctified11sanctified of itself” — always on the seventh day), and the addition from weekday to Shabbos through man’s efforts is bounded by limits, nevertheless, man’s effect has the distinction of converting the weekday to Shabbos — which has the “superiority of light which comes from prior darkness.”
In addition, on Shabbos all things are illuminated. Our Sages tell us that on the Shabbos of the days of creation, there was no “evening” as on the other six weekdays, but instead, there was 36 hours of light only.
In practical terms, on this Shabbos which follows the yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab, when Shabbos elevates all matters of the previous week, there is special emphasis on the lesson from the signature of the Rebbe Rashab. This lesson applies equally to all Jews, especially those who merited to see the Rebbe Rashab, and certainly those who merited to hear his Torah. And, following the commandment of “You shall love your fellow as yourself,” they must influence others to also heed this lesson.
In these days of the month of Nissan, there is special strength given for success in all of the above. Nissan is the idea of “miracles,” and a person sees success far above that which could be expected.
Then we merit the main miracle — “in Nissan they are destined to be redeemed,” in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. Then “they who lie in the dust will arise and rejoice,” including the Rebbe Rashab (“the sun sets”) and the previous Rebbe (“the sun rises”), together with Moshe and Aharon.
2. Parshas Vayikra talks of sacrifices. A student learning this parshah immediately asks: What is the idea of a sacrifice, and how is it possible for a person to bring a sacrifice on the behalf of G-d? Furthermore, Rashi, commenting on the idea of a peace-offering (Shelomim), states that they are called so because (3:1) “There is in connection with them peace for the altar, for the kohanim and for the owners. “ The peace for the owners is expressed in their eating of the sacrifice; peace for the kohanim in that they eat certain parts of the sacrifice. Likewise peace for the altar is expressed in that the inner parts of the sacrifice are burnt on the altar, similar to the owners and kohanim eating. “Peace for the altar” refers not to the altar literally, but to G-d Who commanded to build the altar and offer sacrifices. But, how can we say that G-d receives something (as it were) through an offering (similar to the owners and kohanim eating)? Rashi is the commentator par excellence on Scripture and always explains any difficulty in Scripture. Why does he make no comment on this case? And if there is no answer in the plain meaning of the verse, he should state that he does not know, as he does in other cases.
A further difficulty. On the verse (1:9) “The kohen shall burn the whole on the altar for a burnt-offering, it is a pleasant odor before the L-rd,” Rashi, on the word “Pleasant,” comments that “it is a pleasure before Me that I have spoken (commanded) and My will was done.”
Seemingly, the concept of “I have spoken and My will was done” applies to all mitzvos, all of them being commandments of G-d. Hence, when a Jew fulfills them, the idea of “It” is a pleasure before me that I have spoken and My will was done” should apply to all mitzvos. Why then is it emphasized specifically in the case of sacrifices?
Furthermore, the words “a pleasant odor” are found in Scripture prior to our parshah — in parshas Noach, where, when Noach offered a sacrifice after the flood, it states (Bereishis 8:21) “G-d smelled the pleasant odor.” Why does Rashi not make his comment then instead of waiting until our parshah?
Rashi need not explain the general idea of a sacrifice, for a student already knows it from that which Scripture states concerning the sacrifice offered by Noach. Noach’s sacrifice was not from his own accord, but because so G-d commanded him. on the verse (Bereishis 8:20) “Noach built an altar to the L-rd and he took of every clean beast and of every clean fowl and offered burnt-offerings on the altar,” Rashi comments that “He (Noach) said: The Holy One blessed be He did not command me to bring [into the ark] seven pairs from each of these [the clean animals, in contrast to the unclean of which only two pairs were brought into the ark] except for the purpose of offering a sacrifice of them.” We see then, that it was G-d’s command to bring sacrifices.
Of these sacrifices offered by Noach, it states (8:20): “The L-rd smelled the pleasant odor, and the L-rd said in His heart: ‘I will not again smite every living thing’... “ Thus already in the case of the sacrifices offered by Noach we see the great effect they had — that through them Noach effected G-d’s promise never to bring another flood.
Since we now know the greatness of bringing a sacrifice and what it can effect, Rashi need not explain in Vayikra the general idea of a sacrifice. And as to how and why a sacrifice can effect such things, it is not Rashi’s purpose to explain. Rashi only explains the plain meaning of the verse, not the reason behind mitzvos. Hence he does not explain the reason why sacrifices have such great effects.
Rashi does not interpret “a pleasant odor” to mean “it is a pleasure before Me that I said and My will was done” in the case of the sacrifices brought by Noach (but only in parshas Vayikra), for in parshas Noach it does not state “a pleasant odor to G-d.” Thus there is no reason to say that the pleasant odor mentioned in Noach’s sacrifice refers to G-d, but it could just as well mean that it was a “pleasant odor” to Noach. For since G-d had destroyed the world through the flood, and only Noach and his family were saved — and through them the world would be kept in existence — Noach, upon exiting from the ark, was very pleased and full of gratitude that he had been saved, and that now he could offer a sacrifice to G-d.
In our parshah however, it states “a pleasant odor before the L-rd,” and therefore Rashi must interpret it to mean “it is a pleasure before me that I said and My will was done.” It is only after learning our parshah that retroactively we know that also in parshas Noach the words “pleasant odor” refer to G-d.
The reason why the concept of “It is a pleasure before me that I said and My will was done” applies only to sacrifices and not other mitzvos, is because when a Jew fulfills a commandment, it is no special pleasure to G-d — for it is only natural that a Jew fulfills G-d’s commandments! Sacrifices, however, are an atonement for transgressions; and when a Jew repents of wrongdoing to the extent that he pays money to buy a sacrifice to G-d, this brings special pleasure to G-d — “it is a pleasure before Me.”
3. When a little girl kindles the Shabbos lights for the first time, it is proper that she make the blessing “Shehecheyanu.” Although the blessing Shehecheyanu is not made when a boy puts on tefillin for the first time, there is a difference between the two cases. The blessing Shehecheyanu is associated with a mitzvah that contains joy. When putting on tefillin for the first time, since the person is obligated to put on tefillin (in the case of those whose custom it is to start putting on tefillin from the day of the Bar-Mitzvah and not a few months earlier), we must be sure that he is happy in the manner that obligates him to make the blessing Shehecheyanu.
This is particularly so due to the severity of uttering G-d’s Name when there is no obligation. such severity applies in its fullness to a boy when he reaches the age of Bar-Mitzvah, and thus, since we cannot be sure he has the appropriate joy, the custom is not to make the blessing Shehecheyanu.
Even in the case of those who are accustomed to put on tefillin a few months before Bar-Mitzvah, since he is so close to being a man in the legal sense, one should not be lenient in the matter of uttering G-d’s Name.
In the case of a young girl kindling Shabbos lights for the first time — at approximately 2 years of age, before she has reached the age when it is obligatory to educate her, the severity of uttering G-d’s Name is not so great. On the other hand, there is no doubt regarding her joy at being able to kindle her own Shabbos lights. A little girl, when given her own candle holder, is being shown that she is considered grown-up and can therefore kindle Shabbos lights like her mother. This produces great joy — as has been seen in practice. Thus, when a young girl kindles the Shabbos lights for the first time, she should also make the blessing Shehecheyanu.
4. Besides the concept discussed above of this Shabbos following Bais Nissan, it is also Gimmel Nissan (3rd of Nissan). From Rosh Chodesh on, we say a different Nassi (the section in the Torah dealing with the offerings brought by the Princes of the tribes for the dedication of the Mishkan) every day. The Nassi (Prince) of the 3rd of Nissan (this Shabbos) is of the tribe of Zevulun, of whom Scripture states: “Rejoice Zevulun in your going out.” The concept of Zevulun was to “go out” from his place and engage in business. This is the connection between Zevulun and the third day: through the service of Zevulun, the joining of worldly matters to sanctity is effected. In other words, the service of Zevulun is the elevation of the secular (worldly matters) into the realm of holiness. The main service of Zevulun is thus on weekdays, when one engages in business, makes profit, and gives tzedakah.
Service on Shabbos is associated with Yissachar, for the tribe of Yissachar is associated with Torah study, and Shabbos is the idea of Torah. According to this however, a question arises: The Torah section of the offerings of the Prince of the tribe of Yissachar this year is said on the 2nd of Nissan, Friday; but since both Yissachar and Shabbos are associated with Torah study, the section dealing with Yissachar should have been said on Shabbos, not Friday. How can we read instead the section dealing with Zevulun on Shabbos, when the concept of Zevulun is business dealings — weekday matters?
However, the service of Zevulun, elevation and sanctification of the world, is only temporary, not forever. For the purpose of such service is to make an abode for G-d in this world, and after this goal has been reached, there is no need to engage in the work of rectifying the world.
The Alter Rebbe in Iggeres HaKodesh (I, p. 103a) elaborates on the greatness of service of businessman on Shabbos. He states: “on all weekdays, businessman, who do not have so much time, should not descend before the Ark [i.e. to lead the congregation in prayer]. only from those who have the time ... who are able to prolong the morning prayer to at least an hour and a half — on all weekdays, shall one descend before the Ark... On the Shabbosim and Festivals, however, all the businessmen, too, have the time and opportunity to prolong their prayers with the devotion of their heart and soul to the L-rd. Moreover, theirs is the duty to do so with exceeding uplifting and abundant strength... On a Shabbos or Festival therefore, they too can descend before the Ark...”
We see from these words of the Alter Rebbe the greatness of prayer of businessmen (Zevulun) on Shabbos. Not only must they prolong their prayers, but “theirs is the duty to do so with exceeding uplifting and abundant strength.”
Thus the greatness of businessman’s prayer. In regard to their Torah and performance of mitzvos, it is explained in Torah Or (Parshas Terumah): “Businessmen also must set fixed times for Torah study, for although their main service is through deed ... nevertheless, the order must be ... first speech and then deed. The thought and speech is the set times for Torah study for businessmen.” Moreover, the setting of fixed times for Torah study is the “advantage of businessmen ... over those who dwell in the tents of learning.” The same applies in fulfillment of mitzvos.
We see then the greatness of businessmen in the three things on which the world stands (Torah, prayer, mitzvos) — both the “small world” of each individual, and the world in general. And although the Alter Rebbe explains only the greatness of prayer of businessmen on Shabbos, the same thing applies to Torah study and performance of mitzvos. We can now understand why this year it is specifically the reading of Zevulun which falls out on Shabbos — for on Shabbos the service of businessmen assumes special importance.
In further clarification: Of the service of Zevulun it states: “Rejoice Zevulun in your going out” — when a businessman engages in business (elevation of worldly matters), it must be with joy. However, one cannot know beforehand the end result of a business deal — for good or bad; how then is it possible to be joyous in “going out” to engage in business? Nevertheless, Torah has so instructed, for when Zevulun realizes that his going out to business is in the mission of G-d, he is certain that he will be successful — and thus he goes with joy.
In other words: the knowledge that his business dealings are not with “my strength and the power of my hand,” but with the strength of G-d, allows him to engage in his work without distracting thoughts. Business dealings must be “for the sake of heaven,” for the purpose of fulfilling G-d’s mission.
Work in this manner is expressed in the name “Zevulun.” Zevulun was so called because “now my husband will dwell with me” (“Yizbeleni”), the word “Yizbeleni” coming from the expression “A house of dwelling” (“Bais Zevul”). This alludes to Zevulun’s service of making a dwelling place for G-d in this world.
This is the connection between the service of Zevulun and Shabbos. When a person’s service with worldly matters is for the purpose of fulfilling G-d’s mission of making a dwelling place for Him in this corporeal world, his conduct on Shabbos is such that he prolongs his prayers. For his conduct on Shabbos is the “test” to know if his weekday service of dealing with the world is proper — to fulfill G-d’s mission.