1. In Bereishis, the Torah proclaims “And the heavens and the earth were completed on the seventh day.” We see that no new creations were brought into being on the seventh day. Although the work of creation had taken place in the previous six days, it was not until the seventh day that the heavens and the earth were completed. The seventh day made a contribution in that it refined and spiritually elevated all the previous days’ creations. It was in this sense that it “completed” the creation.
This pattern is repeated every week. The Shabbos “completes” the physical work accomplished in the six preceding it, and brings it into contact with spirituality. Even a Talmud Chacham (a Torah sage) who occupies himself with refined matters during the week, experiences a powerful elevation on Shabbos. Therefore, today’s farbrengen, occurring on Motzaei Shabbos, Yud Gimmel Shvat elevates and completes Yud-Shvat, lifting it to a higher level.
The fact that this farbrengen takes place Motzaei Shabbos (Saturday night) holds significance. Motzaei Shabbos is related to “Techias HaMasim” (the Resurrection of the Dead). Kabbalah explains that in “Z’man Hatechia” (the period of Resurrection), the body will be built from the “Etzem Luz” (the lower bulb of the backbone). That Etzem Luz is nourished by the Melaveh Malkah meal.
Another connection between Motzaei Shabbos and Techias HaMasim exists. On Shabbos, all souls, are in heaven (even those who are not there during the week). Therefore, it is understandable that it would be easier for the Techia to take place on Motzaei Shabbos than on any other day. The souls could make an easier transition from heaven to Techia than on any other day.
Today’s farbrengen holds yet another point of significance. Yud-Gimmel Shvat is the Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe’s mother. To mark that occasion, he issued a maamar (“Hayosheves B’Ganim” — “Sitting in the Gardens”) to be learned that day. The Talmud explains that there is an unique relationship between a mother and her son: “if a woman produces seed first, her child will be a boy.”
2. In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that all the revelations of the Messianic Age are dependent on our service of Torah and Mitzvos. That dependence is both general and particular. The Talmud describes G-d’s pattern of giving reward as “measure for measure.” Each revelation in Messianic times will be preceded (and in fact, brought about) by a parallel and similar service of the Jewish people, down to each detail.
Regarding Techias HaMasim, the question arises: What service can be performed in this time of Torah and Mitzvos which parallels (and will therefore bring about) the resurrection of the dead?
In general, Torah regards materialism as death. Therefore, by taking a physical object and using it for a spiritual purpose, one brings to life the G-dly spark it contains. Every action, whether’ it directly or only indirectly involves a mitzvah (as in actions which fall in the category of, “all your deeds will be for the sake of heaven”) can be considered Techias HaMasim. Such action takes something which is material (death) and brings it into connection with G-d (the source of life).
However, besides this general point, there must be a more particular service which relates to Techias HaMasim. The nature of that service can be understood from a Talmudic quote: “Our Patriarch Yaakov did not die. Just as his children are alive, he is also alive.” The Talmud explains that one’s students are considered as his children. In fact, from a spiritual prospective they are his true children. When one’s students are alive — i.e., when they connect themselves with G-d, the source of life—then their actions add life and energy to their teacher and he also “is alive.”
Therefore, through our activity in those matters in which the Previous Rebbe was involved — in the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvos — we add life and perform a service similar to Techia. This particularly applies to those areas where the Previous Rebbe devoted much of his energy: Ahavas Yisrael (the love of-one’s fellow Jew), Chinuch (Jewish education), and Torah study (both studying by oneself and also, because of Ahavas Yisrael, bringing others to study). It is particularly appropriate to study the teachings of the Previous Rebbe himself.
And may our actions bring about the real Techias HaMasim with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.
3. This Shabbos is called “Shabbos Shira” (the Shabbos of Song) because we recite the song of Moshe in the Torah reading. The song of Moshe is connected to Yud-Shvat, as well. On the verse, “and then Moshe sang” the Talmud notes that the word “yoshir” (future tense) is used. “Here,” the Talmud explains, “is an explicit reference to Techias HaMasim; those that lie in the dust shall arise and sing.”
The Torah is eternal. Many times it has been explained that Torah’s narrative of past events holds relevance today. The prophecies in the Torah concerning future events also contain lessons applicable to our lives today. The Rambam clarifies this with his explanation of the expression — “the world to come as the world which comes after service,” — and not the world to come in the future. The “world to come,” according to the Rambam’s explanation is here, now. It has not been revealed to us only because our service is incomplete. However, that lack of revelation does not diminish its existence.
This concept allows for the understanding of the Talmud’s statement that directly after the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah, had the Jews merited, they would have entered Israel and the Messianic age would have begun. In the spiritual planes, Mashiach already exists. It is only necessary for the Jew’s to perform the service to G-d that will merit his revelation.
The eternal relevance of Torah, explains the Alter Rebbe’s statement, “Rav Shimon bar Yochei was not affected by the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash” (he lived for many years thereafter). Rav Shimon was spiritually rooted in the world of “Atzilus” – the world of oneness — where the Bais HaMikdash was not destroyed. The Alter Rebbe uses a similar idea to explain a problem concerning the study of Torah. The Torah forbids a student to forget what he has learned (.in fact, by forgetting, one transgresses a negative commandment of the Torah). What happens if, by nature, one often forgets? Should he stop learning? The Alter Rebbe offers a number of reasons why he should not stop, including the fact that “There is no forgetfulness before G-d’s throne.” With this statement, the Alter Rebbe explains not only that G-d does not forget that this person studied Torah but also that there is an aspect of this individual’s soul which stands “before (i.e. higher than) G-d’s throne” and that level of the soul never forgets.
4. It is customary to explain a selection from Rashi’s commentary. In this week’s portion, on the verse “dread and terror will fall upon them,” Rashi comments — “Dread will fall on the distant nations, terror on the nations which are nearby; as did happen, as it is written in the book of Joshua (when the spies visited Jericho) “Dread has fallen upon us.” [Translator’s note: The conclusion of that verse reads “for we have heard that G-d dried up the Red Sea.]
Rashi’s commentary intends to explain the seemingly useless repetition of “dread” and terror.” Then he brings the verse from Joshua as a proof that the prophecy (seemingly, the second part, ,judging by the order of phrasing alone) was fulfilled. However, certain questions arise from his commentary:
1) Jericho was in the land of Canaan (near Jordan). It would have to be placed in the category of distant, rather than the category of` nearby nations. Nevertheless, in the order of Rashi’s commentary it seems to be used as a proof that the nations which were close-by heard (of the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea). 2) The order which Rashi uses is also strange. Generally, news of a miraculous wonder will first reach the nations which are close by, and only afterwards spread to those countries which are further away. Why does Rashi use an opposite order?
One might answer the second question by explaining that Rashi’s commentary is a quotation from the Mechiltah (a Medrashic text of Talmudic times). However, this is an unacceptable answer. Although Rashi often quotes texts, he never does so indiscriminately. Only when the interpretation follows Rashi’s general principal “I come to provide the simple interpretation (an interpretation for a five year old child making his first attempt to learn Chumash)” does Rashi cite it. In fact, in this very instance, although Rashi quotes the Mechiltah, he makes a change. The Mechiltah brings two proofs; the one Rashi uses, and also another verse from Joshua, “the king of the Amonites became frightened.” Nevertheless, Rashi brings only one proof.
The reason Rashi cites the more distant nations first relates to his intention of explaining “the simple interpretation.” A few lines further on, the Torah relates that Amalek attacked the Jewish people. Amalek was close to the Red Sea (nearby the Jews). If the order of hearing of the miracle was such that the close nations became frightened first and later on the more distant ones, a student would ask “How could Amalek attack the Jewish people?” (being close, they should have been scared). Therefore Rashi explains that the order was different; the “dread” fell on the distant nations before the “terror” fell on those close by.
The initial question can also be answered simply. A printing mistake distorted Rashi’s intention. Instead of being read as two separate commentaries, the two statements should be read as one continuous comment: “Dread will fall on the distant nations and terror on the nations which are nearby as written in the book of...” Thus we see that the proof (from Joshua) applies to the first part of the comment, dealing with the distant nations. Such an explanation also explains why Rashi brings down the word “will fall.” Since his commentary was intended to be read as a single unit, he brought down the verb only once, referring to the events which were to occur in the future as proof of his interpretation.
Rashi’s commentary contains secrets-”wine” of Torah. We can use the above-mentioned comment as an example. Chassidic thought explains that the seven “nations close by” refer to one’s seven emotional powers. Practically speaking, we see that it is more difficult to affect our emotions than our intellect (the more distant nations heard first before the nearby ones).
In a more personal sense, the “nations close by” can refer to those material desires which arise naturally; the “distant” ones to those which do not occur naturally, but, only after the Yetzer hora (evil inclination) has heard about them. These desires are easier to overcome (they “hear first”) than the “natural” ones.
Amalek, the nation mentioned nearby in the Torah, “met you on the way.” The word the Torah uses for met, “Korchacke,” is related to the Hebrew word for cold-”kor.” Your personal Amalek cools you off on the way; i.e., causes lack of enthusiasm for Torah and Mitzvos. The gematria (numerical equivalent) of Amalek equals that of the word “sofek,” which means doubt. The Amalek inside causes doubt and raises questions about the performance of Torah and Mitzvos. Nevertheless, the fight against Amalek is a necessary preparatory stage a Jew goes through before entering Parshas Yisro and receiving the Torah.
- (Back to text) To. emphasize this point, before the Song of the Day during Shacharis, we say “today is the...day of the week.” We specify the day, but not the week, because the same pattern is repeated weekly.
- (Back to text) The Hebrew word used for “complete” — ”Vayechulau” — is also related to the word “Kileyon,” meaning passion and pleasure. The Shabbos adds spiritual pleasure to the preceding six days of the week.
- (Back to text) Even though it is now Motzaei Shabbos, after Havdalah, the effects of the Shabbos are still with us. To emphasize their presence, we call the Saturday night meal “Melaveh Malkah,” the accompanying of the queen. From the name, it is obvious that the queen, the Shabbos, is still with us.
- (Back to text) The Zohar explains that a Torah sage is called “Shabbos.” In a similar vein, the Talmud relates that when one sage visited another, the friend he was visiting immediately laid out a great feast. The sage was confused. His friend had not know that he was coming. How could he have prepared such a large feast? It was explained that the feast had been prepared for Shabbos.
This raises a question: How could he have given his friend the food that he had prepared for Shabbos? One Talmudic opinion holds that once something has been designated for one mitzvah, it cannot be used for anything else. Even the dissenting opinion would agree that it is better to leave it to be used for its original intention. Nevertheless, although this food had been designated for the Shabbos, it could be given to the sage because “a sage is Shabbos.”
- (Back to text) The difference in spiritual level between Shabbos and the rest of the week is so great that the prayer which marks that difference is called “havdalah,” meaning “separation.”
- (Back to text) The change in the custom from holding farbrengens on Shabbos day itself to holding them on Motzaei Shabbos came about through Hashgocha Protis.
- (Back to text) This service applies to every Jew, since the Talmud says, “The smallest of you brings life to the dead.” Since every Jew performs mitzvos, “even the sinners of Israel are as filled with mitzvos as a pomegranate is with seeds.”
- (Back to text) The question arises: If Torah study is so important, why take time from study to hold a farbrengen? In the past, many different explanations have been given (including the explanation of the Talmud, “seeing a Torah sage (Translator’s note: and therefore learning from him in an informal manner) is greater than formal study.”) However, the question still remains; instead of holding a farbrengen we could have all studied the Previous Rebbe’s teachings. Nevertheless, since we saw that from time to time the Previous Rebbe himself held farbrengens, his behavior serves as a lesson to us. Still, these farbrengens must produce practical lessons that will effect our behavior and cause an increase in Torah and Mitzvos.
The above particularly applies to Yeshiva students (and anyone who ever learned in a Yeshiva, since “holiness never departs from its place”). They should devote their time only to learning and not allow any rationalizations to take them away from their studies. Had it not been for the Previous Rebbe’s example, it would be questionable whether to allow Yeshiva students to attend farbrengens (not that it would help to bar them since most likely they would stay outside the door trying to hear, instead of studying). However, since the Previous Rebbe held farbrengens and invited Yeshiva students (who would have sat and learned had he told them to) his behavior shows that they have a place at a farbrengen.
- (Back to text) Before the Rebbe Rashab passed away, he told his followers, “I am going to heaven but I am leaving my writings with you.” His statement implies that by studying those writings a connection will be established with the Rebbe even as he is in heaven.
- (Back to text) The conclusion of the Parshah, “G-d will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” is also a reference to Messianic redemption. Only then will G-d’s “war” end.
- (Back to text) With one good deed or thought or spoken word, then in the service of G-d, a Jew can bring the Messianic revelation. The Rambam expressed the idea as follows “a person should always look at himself and the entire world as equally balanced and realize that with one deed he can bring salvation.”
- (Back to text) On the surface, the reason Rashi elected not to quote the second proof is that it refers to the splitting of the Jordan River and not of the Red Sea.
- (Back to text) The quotation from Joshua serves as an explanation of when “dread” will fall.