1. This farbrengen is a continuation of the farbrengen held on Shabbos, the twentieth of Av (yahrzeit of the Rebbe Shlita’s father). Sunday, the first day of the week, is called “Motzaei Shabbos,” for even Tuesday, the third
day of the week, is considered Motzaei Shabbos in certain respects. It is therefore now appropriate to continue and complete Shabbos’s farbrengen, to speak about matters that were not mentioned then.
One of the matters associated with the twentieth of Av is “Tiferes Zekeinim Levi Yitzchok” [the Kollel in which elderly people learn, named after the Rebbe Shlita’s father — Levi Yitzchok].
When the idea for such a Kollel was first proposed, I said that whoever would set up such a Kollel would receive $10 as my participation, and that whoever would name the Kollel after my father would receive an extra $100 from a special fund.
Because the twentieth of Av this year marks the end of forty years since my father passed on, all those who would have received $10 will now receive an extra $40, such that they will have a total of $50.
To inspire greater zeal and enthusiasm in this matter, all those who in the coming days will found such Kollels, and also those who already founded such Kollels but have not yet received my participation, should inform my secretariat about it, noting also the name given to the Kollel and all other details.
Now is also the appropriate time to urge the speedy publication of the compilation of the sources for Rambam’s halachic rulings in his Mishneh Torah. As noted at a previous farbrengen (the 15th of Av), this is connected with the idea of forty years.
The number forty is also alluded to in Rambam’s name. His first name is Moshe, and the numerical value of the letter “mem” is forty. Likewise, the name by which he is known throughout Israel — “Rambam” — contains two “mems.”
Endeavors should be made to publish the sources for Rambam’s rulings as soon as possible. As noted when the suggestion to do so was originally made, first the sources already available (in other works) should be collected, and then afterwards, those sources which need research should be published in a separate publication or as a second edition.
It would be best if the publication of these sources would take place in the fifth month (Menachem Av). If that is not possible, it should be finished in Elul, the month of accounting for the whole year. In Elul itself, it would be best if it were to be completed by the 18th of Elul, which is an especially auspicious day.
2. Talking of the sources for Rambam’s rulings, now is the appropriate time to complete our analysis of the topic in Rambam learned on the 20th of Av (yesterday).
On the 20th of Av we analyzed Rambam’s ruling concerning the validity of vows. He states (Laws of Vows 11:1): “A boy, twelve years and one day old, and a girl, eleven years and one day old, who have sworn an oath or made a vow ... should be examined and questioned. If they understand in whose name they vowed, or consecrated, or swore, their vows are binding and their consecration in effective. If they do not understand, their vows and words are of no effect.” Rambam then writes (in halachah four) that “this rule, that the vow or consecration of one who is nearly an adult is binding, is of Scriptural authority.”
This law is different from all others in the Torah. In all other laws, Scriptural obligation devolves only on a male who is 13 years and one day old (and a female who is 12 years and one day old). Only the case of vows is different.
When we consider the special nature of vows, this difference becomes even more glaring. A vow expresses one of the loftiest powers given to a Jew. Simply by vowing, he has the power to infuse a mundane object with the sanctity of a sacrifice. In this respect, it is a loftier thing even then a sacrifice itself, which also was first an ordinary, mundane animal, and later becomes holy by being set aside for a sacrifice. For there are strict parameters as to what may be offered as a sacrifice: for example, it must be a kosher animal. But when a Jew vows that a certain thing should be considered for him as [having the sanctity of] a sacrifice, that thing need not be fit for a sacrifice: it may be a non-kosher animal, a plant or inanimate matter. So great is the power Riven to a Jew in this matter.
Yet, despite the fact that a vow is such a lofty thing, it is specifically in it that Scriptural obligation devolves on a minor who is 12 years and one day old (or a girl 11 years and one day old) — unlike all other laws of the Torah. If a minor puts on Tefillin, or does any other mitzvah, he has not performed a Scriptural obligation. Yet if he makes a vow, and he understands in whose name he is vowing, the vow is Scripturally valid — although a vow needs more spiritual power than does the tefillin or any other mitzvah. We have, then, a paradox. A minor is not Scripturally obligated in any mitzvah. Only in the matter of vows, which need more power to effect than any other mitzvah, is a minor Scripturally obligated to carry it out.
Rambam then continues to elaborate on the law concerning a minor who makes a vow: “They must be examined throughout the whole of the year, i.e., the twelfth year in the case of a girl, and the thirteenth year in the case of a boy. For example, they made a vow or consecrated something at the beginning of the year, and were examined, and were found to understand, and their vow was declared binding. If they then utter another vow, even at the end of this year, they must be examined (again) before it is declared binding. It cannot be said that since they were found to understand at the beginning of the year, it is unnecessary to exile them; rather, they must be examined throughout this whole year (whenever they make a vow) . “
This ruling, too, is different from all other laws in the Torah. In the latter, we rely upon a chazakah (a pre-established circumstance). If, for example, it has been established that a minor has developed marks of puberty, a further examination at a later date is unnecessary; we can rely upon the first examination. The same applies to other matters associated with time. Once we see that a certain circumstance has been met, it is held to continue so afterwards. In our case, however, if a minor had been examined several times before and been found to understand in whose name he vowed another examination is necessary if he makes another vow, for perhaps circumstances have changed.
Moreover, if a minor made a vow at the end of the year (the twelfth year for a girl and the thirteenth year for a boy), and it was found that he or she did not understand in whose name they vowed, “their vows and words are of no effect” — even if previously they had been examined and were found to understand in whose name they vowed. This is most startling, for according to Rambam, the fact that the vow or consecration of one who is nearly an adult is binding, “is of Scriptural authority.” Usually, the rule is that in the case of Scriptural prohibition, any doubts are judged stringently. In our case, where previously the minor understand in whose name he vowed (and thus although now he does not understand, there could still be some doubt about the effectiveness of the vow), Rambam rules that there is no doubt whatsoever — “their vows and words are of no effect.”
As explained at the previous farbrengen, there is some doubt as to Rambam’s source for his rule that minors need to be examined the whole of the year even if examined at the beginning of the year. Indeed, a passage in Talmud sees to contradict this ruling. The Radvaz says that Rambam had a text of this passage different than that which we have, and, noting some difficulties that arise in our text, concludes that Rambam’s text is certainly the correct one.
The only problem with this thesis is that in his Commentary on the Mishneh, Rambam seems to follow our text, not a different one as the Radvaz posits.
However, in Kapach’s edition of the commentary on the Mishneh, (which is of Yemenite origin, where they studied Rambam’s works regularly, including his commentary on the Mishnah which was written originally in Arabic, the language of the Yemenites), the text is as the Radvaz advocates. Kazakh notes, though, that in the earlier edition (Rambam edited his works several times), the text follows that which we have.
Even according to the Radvaz, the question remains: Why did Rambam choose a text that was not so usual, as witness to the fact that the text printed in our editions is different? The answer, as we explained at the previous farbrengen, is that Rambam’s source is not the Talmudic passage under question. but rather logic.
3. Another aspect to the twentieth of Av is that it is one of the days on which the wood-festival was observed. When the exiled Jews returned from Babylon to Eretz Yisrael, there was a shortage of wood for the altar. Some families then donated wood,- and a wood-festival was then enacted for the families, each got an appointed time during the year. The twentieth of Av, the Mishneh says (Taanis 4:5), was the time for the wood-festival of “the family of Pachas-Moav ber Yehudah.” The Talmud (Taanis 28a) cites a Braysa concerning this: “We have learned: The family of Pachas-Moav ben Yehudah — they are identical with the family of David ben Yehudah; these are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yosie says: They are identical with the family of Yoav ben Tzeruyah.”
There cannot be a difference in opinion in a matter of fact — i.e., the family of Pachas-Moav ben Yehudah were either identical with the family of David ben Yehudah or identical with the family of Yoav ben Tzeruyah; it is a matter of historical fact. That there can’t be a difference of opinion in a matter of fact is especially true in the case of an argument between the Sages of the Mishneh or Braysah, where a number of the subjects were discussed in the times when the second Beis HaMikdash existed, thus making it possible that they actually saw who brought the wood-offering on the twentieth of Av.
We therefore explained that all opinions agree that it was one family which brought the wood-offering on the twentieth of Av, a family descended from both David and Yoav. The wood-offering took place in the times of the second Beis HaMikdash, many years after the times of David and Yoav. [David and Yoav lived at the same time: David was king; Yoav was Commander-In-Chief of the army.] We can therefore posit that over the years their descendants intermarried, resulting in a family that brought its wood-offering on the twentieth of Av.
The argument between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yose is now: What prompted this family to donate wood. WAS it because they were descended from David or because they were descended from Yoav. It is now no longer an argument about a fact, but an argument about the nature of souls. What was in the heart of this family that prompted them to donate wood — the soul characteristics they inherited from David’s family or those inherited from Yoav’s family?
We can derive lessons from the above for service to G-d. Scripture (II Shmuel 8:15-16) describes the difference between David and Yoav: “David executed judgment and justice to all his people. And Yoav ben Tzeruya was in command of the army.” In other words, King David’s principal function was the study of Torah; Yoav’s was war, rectifying the world.
These two aspects of service are interdependent. In the words of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 49a): “If not for David [who studied the Torah], Yoav would not have been able to wage war (for David’s merits helped Yoav); and if not for Yoav, David could not have devoted himself to Torah.” King David was able to devote himself to Torah study — although as king his function was to look after his people — for Yoav waged the wars. On the other hand, Yoav’s successes were due to the merit of David’s Torah study.
The difference between David and Yoav parallels the difference between Yissacher (who was devoted to Torah study) and Zevulun (who engaged in worldly matters), which in general are the two categories of service among Jewry: Torah Sages and those who perform good deeds.
The lesson derived from the twentieth of Av, the day of the wood-offering of “the family of Pachas-Moav ben Yehudah,” descendants of both David and Yoav, applies, therefore, to all Jews, both those whose service falls in the category of David (Torah study) and those in the category of Yoav (good deeds). What is that lesson?
We explained at the farbrengen held on the 15th of Av that the donation of the wood expresses the idea of Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews: These families took wood which they had stored for their own use and donated it to the Beis HaMikdash so that other Jews, who did not have wood, could offer their sacrifices. This they did although it was possible that they thereby would not have enough wood for their own sacrifices throughout the year (since they could not known in advance how many sacrifices they would have bring throughout the year). Yet, so great was their Ahavas Yisrael, they were willing to forego their own good for the benefit of others. Moreover, the donation of wood was an act of charity of the highest order, when the benefactor is unaware of the recipient’s identity, and the recipient is unaware of the benefactor’s identity.
There is a difference of opinion as to whether Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews is expressed more in Torah (Yissacher, David) or in good deeds (Zevulun, Yoav). On the one hand, unity is expressed strongly in Torah, for “It is one Torah for all of us.” On the other hand, there are differences in how the Torah is learned — literally, allegorically, homiletically or in its esoteric sense — whereas in the actual practice of mitzvos, everyone is the same.
Behaving in a manner of Ahavas Yisrael and unity, in other words, can stem from both the service of Torah study (David) and the service of deed (Yoav). The argument is only which is more paramount.
The wood offering of the twentieth of Av teaches that all categories of service amongst Jews should be permeated with Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews.
That there are two opinions concerning the wood-offering of the twentieth of Av may be connected with the concept of forty (this year marking forty years since the passing of my father). As noted above, there are two opinions as to who the family who brought the wood-offering on the twentieth of Av is identified with: “The family of David ben Yehudah” or “the family of Yoav ben Tzuryah.” Since “these and these are the words of the living G-d,” we have twice the twentieth (of Av) — i.e. forty.
4. In conjunction with the number forty, I would like to suggest another proposal. From time to time “Kehos” (the publishing arm of Lubavitch) partakes in disseminating Chassidus by lowering the prices of its publications, thus enabling more people to buy more books, thereby enabling an increase in Torah study.
Usually, the prices are reduced from the 18th of Elul on. Because this year is special, the fortieth year since my father’s passing, the prices will be reduced from the twentieth of Av. The prices will be reduced by 40% (20% to be born by Kehos and the other 20% by a benefactor).
May it be G-d’s will that people will not just buy the books and arrange them beautifully on the shelf, being careful not to use them too much for fear they will be torn. Instead of having “mercy” upon the books, it would be better for a person to have “mercy” upon himself — and use the books, and learn — much Torah! Learn enthusiastically, flip the pages back and forth to find answers to questions. Don’t worry about tearing the book, for if one learns the book so well that it tears from so much use — may he be blessed! That’s what the book is there for — to fall apart from use. Indeed, the book will “thank” him in this world and the World to Come for using it properly.
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5. It is customary to hold a “siyum” (completion of a tractate of the Talmud) on the twentieth of Av when it is a weekday. The 20th of Av is the day when my father of sainted memory passed on, and to alleviate the sadness associated with this event, a siyum — which is a joyous affair — is held. When the 20th of Av is on Shabbos, however, a siyum is not held, for Shabbos is a day in which no sadness is allowed, and therefore we do not do things that are associated with sadness (such as holding a siyum, which is associated with the tragic event of a death).
But when the continuation of the farbrengen of the 20th of Av is held on a weekday — such as today, the 21st of Av — it is an appropriate time to complete the analysis of siyums held earlier.
Although we have made a siyum of tractate Taanis several times, a strong question concerning its concluding words remains — and we will now concentrate on explaining and answering it.
The conclusion of tractate Taanis states: “In the future G-d will make a circle for tzaddikim (the righteous), and He will sit in their midst in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), and every one of them will point [at Him] with his finger, as it is said, ‘And it shall be said on that day: Behold, this is our G-d in whom we put our hope that He will deliver us; this is the L-rd for whom we let us rejoice — end delight in His deliverance.
This passage is speaking of the revelations that will take place in the future era. A “circle,” Chassidus explains, implies infinity (for a circle has no beginning or end), referring to G-dly revelations transcending all limits.
But this raises a question. The above passage says that these revelations will take place in Gan Eden — “In the future G-d will make a circle for tzaddikim ... in Gan Eden.” What connection does Gan Eden have with the future era? The G-dly revelations that will take place in the future are infinitely higher than those in Gan Eden! All the souls of the tzaddikim which are now in the loftiest levels of Gan Eden, will in the future era, when the dead are resurrected, be clothed in their bodies and enjoy G-dly revelations infinitely higher then those they are now experiencing as souls in Gan Eden.
There is an argument between Rambam and Ramban whether the principal reward for service in this world is Gan Eden, or the future era at the time of the resurrection of the dead. Chassidus decides in favor of Ramban, that the principal reward will be given to the souls enclothed in bodies, a reward infinitely higher than that of Gan Eden.
Thus the above passage that “In the future G-d will make a circle for tzaddikim ... in Gan Eden,” is very puzzling. What has Gan Eden to do with the infinitely higher revelations of the future? And if this passage is referring to the reward given in Gan Eden, there is no need to wait until the future era (“In the future G-d will make a circle for tzaddikim”), for Gan Eden exists right now, in the present, where the souls of the departed enjoy the Divine Presence.
The answer revolves around the nature of “Gan Eden” — “the Garden of Eden.” Originally, when the world was created, Gan Eden was a part of the material world, as related in Scripture (Bereishis 2:8), “The L-rd G-d planted a garden in Eden to the east.” It was the home of Adam, the first man, as written (ibid), “There he placed the man that He had formed,” and “G-d ... placed him in Gan Eden to work it and guard it” (ibid 2:15).
Besides the Garden of Eden, there was the rest of the world, of course; and in addition to working in Gan Eden, Adam and Chava had to work there also, as written (Bereishis 1:28), “Fill the earth and conquer it” — i.e., conquer the whole world and make it a fit, decent place. The difference between Gan Eden and the rest of the world is that the former is the choicest part of the whole world.
Originally, then, before the sin with the Tree of Knowledge, when the world was perfect, Gan Eden was Adam’s home. After the sin, Adam and Chava were expelled from Gan Eden. When the sin will be rectified, and the world will once again be perfect as it was when it was created — indeed, in the future era the world will be on a level even loftier than at creation — the Garden of Eden will once again take its place as the choicest part of the whole world. Moreover, since the world in general will be on a loftier level, Gan Eden also will most certainly be on a level loftier than it was at creation.
Now we can understand what the Talmud means by, “In the future G-d will make a circle for tzaddikim ... in Gan Eden.” In the future era, when the dead will be resurrected, Gan Eden will exist — as part of the material world. And as at creation, it will be the most perfect place in all the world. It will be in this physical Gan Eden that G-d will make a circle for the tzaddikim (souls in bodies), where they will point to G-d and say “Behold, this is our G-d in whom we put our hope that He will deliver us; this is the L-rd for whom we hoped, let us rejoice and delight in His deliverance.”
The conclusion of tractate Taanis speaks also of the festival of the fifteenth of Av. This year, the Shabbos which follow the fifteenth of Av, when all the aspects of the 15th of Av are elevated and brought to completion, is the 20th of Av.
In connection to the fifteenth of Av, some seforim note that from the fifteenth of Av on it is customary for a person to bless his fellow that he be written and signed for a good and sweet year. May it therefore be G-d’s will that all the blessings everyone wishes for others be actually fulfilled, and may each one, together with his family, merit immediately to be written and sealed in the Book of the Completely Righteous for a good and sweet year.
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6. At a previous farbrengen we spoke about the convention of “shluchim” (emissaries — of the Rebbe) in Eretz Yisrael. As a continuation, now is the time to add a few words about this subject.
We mentioned that there are 4 levels and ways in carrying out a mission, and in the relationship between emissary and sender, which, as stated in the Talmud (Berachos 34b), is “a man’s emissary is as himself.”:
1) The deed performed by the emissary is the sender’s;
2) The power of doing in general is the sender’s;
3) The emissary himself is as the sender;
4) In addition to the fact that the emissary is as the sender, the emissary retains his own identity.
That the emissary retains his own identity is not in conflict with his assuming the sender’s identity. For the sender wants
the emissary to retain his own identity, and that the emissary
should carry out the mission. In the words of the well-known phrase: “It is a satisfaction before Me
that I said and My will was done.” In other words, it is not enough that the sender should want to have the mission done; his desire must be communicated to the emissary (“I said”), with the purpose that His will be done. The sender (G-d) has true satisfaction when His desire is carried out by the emissary,
not Himself. To put it another way, the emissary’s identity is united
with the sender’s identity, forming one entity.
In clarification: Even when on the third and highest level, when the emissary himself is as the sender, an emissary may think that since he is totally devoted to the sender (in our case — regarding the mission of speaking Chassidus and Judaism — to the previous Rebbe), without having any independent identity, he himself need not work that hard: he will do whatever he can — and the rest will be completed by the previous Rebbe!
This attitude is incorrect, for an emissary must also retain his identity. The emissary must therefore do everything he can in carrying out his mission; he should not rely upon the sender.
True, the actual work of the mission is divided into two parts: one part of the emissary, and nine parts of the sender. But this does not exempt a person from carrying out his part of the mission with all the enthusiasm and life that pertains to the emissary — that part being the actual physical work performed by a flesh and blood person, who is fulfilling his task in this corporeal world. And as noted above, it is specifically in such a way that one thereby brings satisfaction to the sender — “It is a satisfaction before Me that I said and My will was done.”
This fourth level in carrying out a mission, that the emissary retains his own identity, does not come into being after one has attained the third (and highest) of the previous three levels, but applies even to the first level, when only the deed performed by the emissary is (accounted) as the sender’s. This deed can be carried out in two ways:
1) After doing the mission — for example, convincing a Jew to put on tefillin — a person may think that since he has devoted his action to the sender, making it the latter’s, he, the emissary, has done what he must, and there is nothing left for him to do;
2) Even after carrying out the deed (convincing a Jew to put on tefillin), he does not rest easy: As long as he is not sure that the person putting on tefillin today will lead to him putting it on tomorrow (“one mitzvah leads to another”), the matter bothers him.
The second way of doing things, where the deed alone is insufficient, is possible only when the emissary feels that the deed has a connection to him — i.e., when he retains his identity. When he devotes the deed to the sender,
however, and does not feel that he has any connection to it, he will not worry about what happens after he has carried out the specific deed.
Thus the fourth level in carrying out a mission — when the emissary retains his identity and connection with the mission — is relevant to and necessary for each of the other three levels of carrying out a mission.
Although the title “emissary” has been applied to only some of those assembled here, the truth is that each and every one of us, and all of us together, amidst all Israel, are emissaries of the leader of our generation, the previous Rebbe. From when he was appointed leader of the generation, all the Jews of that generation became his servants and emissaries — for “the leader is everything”!
Just as a Jew is a Jew forever, so the fact that one is an emissary of the leader of the generation is something that cannot be changed. It makes no difference how he acts: Whether he carries out his mission or not, is obedient or not, inadvertently or willfully — his identity as servant to the leader of the generation cannot be changed. It is something about which he had no choice in the first place, for the leader was appointed by He who is One in the world — G-d who appointed the first leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, and afterwards the embodiment of Moshe in every generation, until the leader of this generation, the previous Rebbe.
The only difference between all Jews and those who are actually called “emissaries,” is that the latter understood this at once, and therefore acted accordingly in the first place; others take a bit more time.
May it be G-d’s will that “a spirit be poured upon them from on high,” and that all Jews, realize what is their true identity — emissaries of the leader of the generation. Then immediately they will act accordingly, today, not deferring it for the morrow — as the well-known adage says, “Do not push off for tomorrow what you can do today.”