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Publisher’s Foreword

Shabbos Parshas Chaye Sarah
22nd Day of MarCheshvan, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Toldos
29th Day of MarCheshvan, 5745

10th Day of Kislev, 5745

Shalom Aleichem — Aleichem Shalom

Shabbos Parshas Vayishlach
14th Day of Kislev, 5745

19th Day of Kislev, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev
21st Day of Kislev, 5745

Yechidus
Eve of 24th of Kislev, 5745

Kollel Tiferes Zekainim Levi Yitzchok
26th Day of Kislev, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz
28th Day of Kislev, 5745

Tzivos Hashem
1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Teves, 5745

10th of Teves

Yartzeit of Rambam
20th Day of Teves, 5745

What is a Jew?

Shabbos Parshas Va’eira
26th Day of Teves, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Beshallach
11th Day of Shevat, 5745

Sichos In English
Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Vol. 24 — MarCheshvan-Shevat, 5745


Shabbos Parshas Chaye Sarah
22nd Day of MarCheshvan, 5745


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  Publisher’s ForewordShabbos Parshas Toldos
29th Day of MarCheshvan, 5745
 

1. Every Shabbos effects an improvement in, and completion of, the days of the preceding week, which is the connotation of the term “Vayechulu — were completed.” This also casts the preceding days, and especially the three days from Wednesday to Friday in the role of “erev,” or “eve,” of Shabbos, meaning that they lead into Shabbos and that they are a time of preparation for Shabbos.

Today is the third day since the 20th of MarCheshvan, and as such it incorporates the aspects of the 20th of MarCheshvan, the birthday of Rabbi Shalom DovBer, the Rashab, in the manner just mentioned. Today’s farbrengen is also in sequence to the farbrengen of the 20th of MarCheshvan.

Shabbos also radiates its blessing to all ensuing days, thus the superior qualities attained on this Shabbos, which are related to the 20th of MarCheshvan, will continue to influence the future weeks. It is therefore appropriate to continue dealing with the subjects connected to the 20th of MarCheshvan, with the purpose of taking a directive for our divine service of the entire year.

The theme of a birthday is that it is a day of ‘ascending fortune’; that even at the spiritual root of the essence of the soul, there is an overpowering surge of energy. It might seem that this would apply only to the individual who celebrates the birthday. However, when we speak of a Nasi of the Jewish people, this increase of strength applies to everyone, for the “Nasi is the whole.” This is especially so in relation to those activities which were initiated at the directive or incentive of the Nasi. How do we utilize this prodigious power, which is added on the day of ‘ascending fortune’?

Every intelligent person understands, and it is really elementary, that there is no purpose in indefinitely remaining on the same level or in the same situation in life. Rather, one must strive to rise to a higher level and plane.

This logic is obvious, and it is clearly and simply deduced from what we see in the natural world around us, specifically in the realm of the zoological and botanical kingdoms. The flora and fauna of the world occupy a level below that of humans, yet they do not remain the same as they were, they constantly grow. This is true in the animal world as well as the world of vegetation.

The growth that we are discussing applies to each category in its own peculiar and different A .~ Animals are higher than vegetable6 because their life is animated, you see that they are more ‘alive.’ While it is true that the botanical species live, their life is not animated. Human beings, of course represent the highest form of physical life because in addition to mobility, people have intellect and can think and speak.

But in addition to these distinctions in the natural world we can discern a basic difference in the particular growth process for each level and the system of growth is different in an ascending fashion.

In simple terms.

When you ask a small child what is the difference between the animal kingdom and world of vegetation he replies: “What do you mean, what is the difference, there is a tremendous difference, vegetation is always connected to the earth, while animals are mobile, they can move from place to place.” In other words, in the case of flora, growth proceeds from small to large but only in the same position or location as before, the flower or tree cannot leave its place. The fauna however not only grow larger, but they also move around and may proceed to new places. Thus their growth is multifaceted. The human species also grows and has mobility, but being on the high level of the cognitive, humanity’s growth is more complex, and therefore much loftier than the lower forms of life. So much so that even the fundamental force of growth in humans is higher than that same growth force in the lower life forms.

This concept is also expressed in the general rule of the spiritual ‘order of development’ of the worlds, regarding which we are taught that the posterior of the higher state is above the anterisr~Of the lower state-~ As the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya, chap. 13: “The quality which is, as it were, the ‘head’ and intellect of lower grades is inferior to the so-called ‘soles’ and feet of the Rrades above them.”

It would appear then, that this system of growth, this phenomenon of development and advancement in the human species, is of a higher caliber and intrinsically different from the growth pattern of the other, lower forms of life.

When speaking of people, the Talmud tells us, that the term “adam” used in Torah, which means “man,” may be applied only to Jews and not to idol worshipers. This term adam is related to the concept of “adameh” — “compared” to the Most High, which is not just a simile, but rather a word which evokes the intrinsic nature. Consequently we can say that among humans the Jew also has a unique growth pattern which is also the concept of what we say in the Havdalah, that there are separations in the world. among them the Jews being separated from the other nations.

Of course, this same idea of varying degrees and levels, even in simple common phenomena, extends also into the Jewish people proper. The distinct roles of Kohen, Levi and Yisrael create an inequality regarding life’s responsibilities and bestow certain responsibilities and restrictions on Kohanim and Levi’im vis-a-vis the rest of the Jewish people. Does all this mean that in common aspects and areas, there is also some different, albeit, perhaps, indescribable manner, or way of development and growth? The answer is yes! The Ragotchover Gaon explained that the argument of Korach was: Why should there be differences in activities common to Kohanim and Levi’im such as the guarding of the Mishkan? Nevertheless, we know that-Moshe was right,— and G-d had instituted the differences and had wanted the distinctions.

Growth, which as we said is a universal phenomenon, is however, specifically relative to the species, class or genus and will show different characteristics in each group. Similarly, when we speak of the growth and advancement engendered by the experiences of a particular day, such as a birthday when there is an overpowering ascension of the “mazel” — fortune, there too we understand that there will be unique and special aspects relating to growth of that day specifically. The potential and energy given will be tremendously increased especially in all aspects of the activities and teachings connected with the Rashab — the celebrant — whose “fortune is ascending.” Here too, the qualities attained will not only be apparent in the upper regions or levels of the person’s psyche, but there will be an across-the-board increase and ascent. Even the most fundamental and mundane areas of the personality of the individual will rise, grow and improve; all this by virtue of the “ascending fortune” of the birthday of the Nasi. The Rambam also alludes to this when he says in his laws of ethical conduct, chapter 5: “Just as a sage is recognized by his wisdom and moral principles, which distinguishes him from the rest of the people, so ought he to be recognized in all his activities. in his food and drink...

The superiority of man over beast is not, necessarily, manifested in matters of eating and drinking — animals do that too, even plants ingest and transpire. The superiority of man over beast is clearly in the realm of the intellect. The sage excels over other men in matters of intellect, yet he must also have a factor of superiority in mundane matters as well. Although they are universal — to all life — in the sage these functions are different and loftier. This means that not only does he say a blessing before and after eating but also the physical act of food ingestion is on a loftier plane.

Extending this principle, we may say, that even when one is asleep his qualities should be recognizable — not only by saying the Shema before retiring and Modeh Ani upon awakening, but also, the sleep itself should be fitting for a scholar.

“A man is fully liable in all circumstances for any misdeeds, whether awake or asleep,” is a well-known dictum of the Talmud, which means that not only when we are awake and in full control of our senses are we responsible for all our actions, but even while asleep we must exercise control over our powers and senses. This is the power of the human soul, to be a master over itself, always. When one is an adam — a man, he must prepare for sleep and go to sleep in such a way as to be in constant control. The onus is always upon him.

Our understanding of the overpowering power of the mazel is now enhanced, as we realize how far such potential power may reach.

Having ventured to fathom, this relationship between the lofty powers of the soul and mundane physical functions of the body and how both are energized on the day of “ascending fortune,” let us apply one of the lessons which the previous Rebbe taught us about the Rashab.

In one of his talks the previous Rebbe, the Nasi of our generation, relates how his father, the Rashab, told him — that when he was twelve years old he had refined his bodily impulses to the point that every limb and organ functioned only in accordance with the dictates of the Shulchan Aruch.

This does not mean that he was able to easily remember what a particular ruling was and then mentally command his body to function in that way. Rather he meant that his body had become spiritually reflexive and impulsive. His body automatically functioned and reacted only in accordance with the rules of the Shulchan Aruch!

Clearly not all the activities of the great tzaddikim are revealed to us. Not even the fool could think that the sum total of the Nasi’s greatness has been transmitted through the revealed stories. Yet, as a corollary, we must acknowledge that all the actions and activities of a Nasi are certainly on a lofty plane. It follows then, as it says in Tanya: “Who is the man and where is he, who dares presume in his heart to approach.... Nevertheless, a minute portion and particle....” Thus the little bit which is revealed in the few dozen or so stories, which have been transmitted must have a direct relation to us in our real life — in our daily activities.

By being told of the Rashab’s attainment regarding the limbs of his body, which functioned automatically according to Shulchan Aruch, we must take “a minute portion and particle,” and apply it to each and everyone of us. We too must train ourselves to act properly according to Torah law.

If you will ask, “Where do we find the source for this in halachah?” Consider for a moment the law of an animal which jumped into a fire, the watchman is not liable, because a normal animal runs away from a fire and this one acted abnormally. The watchman is not responsible to pay for an abnormal behavior. So too, the body of a Jew in its normal state is a holy body, why should it do something against the—rule of the Shulchan Aruch?

You may further ponder, “Why relate a happening which took place when the Rashab was not yet bar mitzvah, what can it teach those who are much older — many years past bar mitzvah?”

One of the main distinctions between a Jew below the age of bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah, and a more mature individual is, that after bar mitzvah, one is “commanded to do,” which was not the case earlier. This “command” effects the connection of the commander and the commanded. This detail is lacking before bar mitzvah. The same idea also applies to a mature Jew in his daily service of G-d. We start the day in a manner of a child, i.e. One may not study Torah until after saying the blessing for Torah and then we progress through the day to the degree of prayer, study, and attaining the highest levels of connection with G-dliness and self-nullification, which is similar to the over-100-year-old person. Thus each day we start off as a newborn child and go through the metamorphosis of the stages of life. Thus it is important for us to know, daily, how one should act before bar mitzvah.

There is yet another concept which is important to us here. The power of teshuvah, repentance, changes the past. If, as the Alter Rebbe says, in Tanya, chap 14: “The rank of ‘beinoni’ is one that is attainable by every man” and in chapter 12: “He has never committed, nor ever will commit, any transgression, neither can the name ‘wicked’ be applied to him even temporarily, or even for a moment, throughout his life.” How is it then possible for one who has sinned, or blemished, or gone off the way — to become a beinoni?! And what about one who never sinned, the Rambam says in the laws of offerings rendered unfit, chapter 25u. Jt... It was impossible that he should not be owing some offering for atonement to Heaven; for there exists no man in Israel who has never transgressed a positive commandment.”

The explanation is, that through teshuvah one can mend and repair all deficient matters of the past; they are transformed to his merit. After teshuvah one truly stands in the condition of “one who has never sinned.”

Now, we must learn from the story of the Rashab, that it is within the purview of every individual of mature years to mend and correct his past-life now, even his life before bar mitzvah!

In our practical application, we must take this point, the idea that the birthday is a day of “ascending fortune,” to the degree that the mazel is overpowering and it must bring an increase in all areas and aspects of Torah and mitzvos. The improvement must reach the point, that it will affect the Physical function of the orphans of the body as exemplified by the Rashab.

This doctrine applies to ourselves and others, for the teachings of Chassidus must reach the outside and influence even a Jew who might be outside! So that when we go out into the world, even if we meet a Jew who does not yet know the “holy tongue” or the teachings of Judaism, there, in his location he must be taught, and encouraged to practice his Yiddishkeit to the degree that his body will automatically function in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch!

May these words accomplish their goal; happy are they and great is their merit — if they carry out this directive. In virtue of this, they will be blessed with all kinds of good, now and in the future, with children, life and health-and prosperity, in this world and certainly in the world to come.

And mainly through collective action in these matters, we speed up and bring closer the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. “Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust,” among them also the celebrant of this birthday speedily and truly in our days.

2. Another subject connected to the theme of the 20th of MarCheshvan is the practice of giving tzedakah.

[Trans. note: The Hebrew word tzedakah means more than mere charity or alms, it also connotes the ideas of justness, mercy, righteousness and much more. Therefore, for the sake of being true to the fullest meaning of the word, in this sichah we shall use the Hebrew term, tzedakah, throughout.]

On several occasions the practice of giving tzedakah on a special auspicious day, in addition to the regular daily donations, has been discussed. Often this has been connected to a specific appeal, being made on a particular propitious day. Although the subject was not discussed this year, there were some exceptional individuals who did take the opportunity and gave tzedakah before the day of the 20th of MarCheshvan. Some did so on the day of the 20th of MarCheshvan and some gave on the morrow. But, they were very few. A small number compared to those who thought about the day and certainly few, compared to those who heard about the day. To carry the point further, relative to the number of those who should have been told about the day, which is definitely no small number, only a very small percentage made contributions for the 20th of MarCheshvan!

What actually happened after the farbrengen of the 20th of MarCheshvan? There were those who promptly went to sleep, being really tired out by the farbrengen. Others went home to eat supper. When a Jew conducts himself in the proper manner his table is compared to the “table which is in front of G-d” [like the altar] and his eating at night would be comparable to the daily afternoon sacrifice [the limbs of which could be placed on the altar at night].

Then there were those who were truly enthused, so they participated in the review of the farbrengen.

But no one let the thought pass his mind, to give tzedakah in connection with the day of 20th of MarCheshvan, except for those few virtuous individuals!

When I asked someone for the reason, I was told with naive sincerity, that during the farbrengen no mention was made of an appeal! And if I were to rely on the appeal of last year it is quite possible that no appeal was made last year oi thpr

Is it really necessary to remind people of this subject each and every time, without which no one will understand that it must be done?

Are we dealing with small children who don’t make a move without being commanded by their parents or teachers? A small child must be reminded to sit down and eat. That is not the case here. If the subject were eating no reminder would be needed. When the hunger pangs are felt they sit down to eat and ask for food. Likewise in other similar situations. But when we speak of giving tzedakah nothing is done until a “reminder” and command is issued!

The proper manner of a Jew’s behavior should be, as mentioned earlier, not only to practically do good deeds, but also that his whole being should have an innate sense and feeling of what has to he done

Having spoken so many times about the importance of tzedakah, it is really amazing that it is still necessary to mention it, again and again. Although I am accustomed to such behavior it still amazes me, for as doctors say, good things we remember, bad things we try to forget!

There are those who reason that the birthday of the Rashab is a propitious day for increased study of chassidic philosophy. So true! Would that they should learn Chassidus! More essentially, increasing the study of Chassidus will be no contradiction, (heaven forbid) to an increase in giving tzedakah on this special day.

The supreme quality of tzedakah is well-known to all. The Rashab in his discourses, discusses the theme of tzedakah and the details associated with its fulfillment.

The previous Rebbe in a discourse on the Zohar’s interpretation of the verse: “It is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it, and those who support it are fortunate,” brings the esoteric interpretation that the word “meushar” — “fortunate” is the same root as “rosh,” the “top,” and further explains the verse: “...Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out, and Yissachar in your tents,” as Rashi says, “... it places Zevulun before Yissachar, because the Torah of Yissachar was made possible by Zevulun.” This emphasizes the great quality of the supporters of Torah, through the Mitzvah of tzedakah.

Similarly the Alter Rebbe sent many epistles which discussed the greatness of the mitzvah of tzedakah. There is no need to delve into these letters, a cursory perusal will suffice to see the astonishing qualities of tzedakah, and its positive after-glow effect in material and spiritual matters.

All this is not only theoretical, it is actually practiced, for we are speaking of charitable Jews who are careful to give tzedakah regularly. As our sages say, “Give a coin to a pauper and then pray,” they are careful to fulfill this as well as giving tzedakah at other times. On propitious days there is even an increase in the tzedakah they give, e.g., the day before Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, Purim, and among Chassidim, also on the 18th of Elul, etc.

Despite all this, when the special day of the 20th of MarCheshvan came, which is the birthday of the Rashab and is the time of “ascending fortune,” 125 years since his birth, no one thought about giving additional tzedakah!

Are we speaking of some fantastic sum? Ten or twenty percent of his earnings? We speak only of a normal contribution. Even one who wished to give ten or twenty percent of his daily profits will donate that total in several installments during the day, e.g. before morning service, afternoon services, or when he is approached by a beggar, all together totaling the ten or twenty percent. But, even this small donation was not forthcoming; it was not thought important enough to make this small increase on this important day.

The benefits of giving tzedakah on a “virtuous day,” such as the birthday of a Nasi, should be obvious. It is a day of ascending fortune for all members of the generation, since the “Nasi is the whole,” and therefore the blessings that are generated pervade the spiritual realm and also the physical world to the level of children, life, health and prosperity.

The 18th of Elul, being the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, and thereby being an auspicious day, also had an appeal. Can it be that one who contributed to the appeal on the 18th of Elul, should think that on the 20th of MarCheshvan there is no need to do so? The Rashab was the great-grandchild of the Alter Rebbe, can one make a distinction and say one was greater than the other and therefore here, yes and there, no? And if that uncertainty were still not cleared up, it should have become very obvious with the simple rationale that the investment of a small amount can bring such great dividends, thousands and thousands of gold coins, precious stones and Pearls which are the reward for tzedakah. The reward for tzedakah is certain. It is the only mitzvah with which G-d challenges us to test Him, in the words of the Prophet Malachi: “Test Me in this.”

So there is no need to elaborate on the great quality of the mitzvah of tzedakah, for we speak of Jews who give tzedakah all the time. The discussion is only why there was no attention to the detail that on the auspicious day of the 20th of MarCheshvan, there should have been a special increase in giving tzedakah.

What positive results will accrue from more talk about this matter or other similar matters which need proper serious attention? The show of strong emotion in these matters has become commonelAcC and the listeners are usually immune and unmoved.

For this we may draw a lesson from the Alter Rebbe who writes, in an as yet unpublished letter, that he was once asked to write a letter to motivate and encourage the giving of tzedakah. He replied, that after writing so many previous letters about tzedakah what benefit would another letter serve?

Nevertheless, he wrote the letter and it did have very favorable results.

Now, what about those who describe their attitude to tzedakah in the form of the verse in the Prophet Micha, to “walk humbly”? If you question them how much tzedakah they gave and to which institution or individual needy person, they answer, that their style is to “walk humbly,” no one must know how much they gave! When you question them about their participation in Torah study groups, they answer, one must “walk humbly.” No one must know where, or with whom, they study!

To reveal this information they claim, would bring them to haughtiness and pride — most terrible attitudes! They do everything in their power to negate self-esteem and self-importance to the ultimate degree, and you want them to brag about it!

Well, we should judge them favorably, originally their intentions were probably noble, but if we look at their current condition we find that instead of bringing humility this mode of conduct has made them more haughty, and while their personal fortunes have increased, their tzedakah has decreased!

Quite to the contrary, let them make-an honest accounting of their profits in the year 5744. What percent did they donate to tzedakah? Now let them compare this with the percentage they contributed ten years ago. They will find that relative to their increased wealth, their tzedakah is in a sorry state of descent. For ten years this has been going on; it is truly shocking! And yet there were those who all these years have looked up to them and learned from their ways. They were influenced by their conduct. After all, they saw respected Jews, with full beards, who don two pairs of tefillin and raised and educated their children to Torah, marriage and good deeds, and they conduct themselves in this manner; certainly one should learn from them and emulate their ways.

What is amazing, is the fact that they do not realize how ridiculous this reasoning is. Being concerned that it might evoke a feeling of haughtiness, they act in a discreet manner. They are shrewd businessmen, they would certainly be ashamed to say something so stupid in business matters. And yet when they are asked about their conduct of tzedakah they see no shame in the foolish reply that they follow the path of humility.

This was the reason for the tremendous decrease in tzedakah! If they had to give an accounting of their donations, their shame would never have allowed them to reach such a low level of giving. On the contrary, it could have motivated them to increase their contributions.

Similarly, in the case of Torah study, if someone participates in a regular class, then if he misses one day, his colleagues would ask where he was.

This concept is of great import, for we see that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai said to his disciples: “May it be G-d’s will that the fear of Heaven shall be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood.” Think about the caliber of people he was addressing; how much more so, to people of our level!?

If, despite all this, someone is truly concerned with the possibility of being tainted with self-importance then let him confide in one friend who will insure his secrecy but will provide an objective approbation.

It should also be added. There is a well known dialogue that took place between the Mitteler Rebbe and a chassid who had expressed apprehension at the growth of his self-pride and arrogance, as a result of his public repetition of Chassidic discourses. He came to the Rebbe and suggested that perhaps he should cease and desist from publicly reviewing the discourses. The Rebbe told him that his public review of Chassidus was to be his prime concern, what happened to him was of secondary importance! When dealing with tzedakah what is of prime importance is that the needy person or institution should be helped. Your personality problems and anxieties may not interfere with their needs. Give them what they need and then go to the root of your problem of vanity, and refine yourself to the degree that you should not be conceited! Finally, do not be complacent in the thought that no one knows your activities, since you are discreet, because the sages say in Gemara Sotah: “A person sins in secret and G-d announces it in public.”

May G-d grant that these words will come to fruition for, “Not study, but practice is the essential thing.” It is not enough to be satisfied X the studying a beautiful concept and then replacing the book in an imposing bookcase — what is expected is action!

Although no names have been mentioned, my hope is that the intended target of these words will understand and improve his ways from now on. So too, others in the same situation may also take heed and repent. Now since we speak of teshuvah, the first step is to make good the funds lost to tzedakah for all these years. For the first step in repentance is: “He must return the stolen ... funds.”

The concept of tzedakah, charity, is understood in Judaic philosophy to be returning to the poor person that which is rightfully his, but has been placed for safekeeping in the hands of another. That person, usually the wealthy individual, now has the opportunity to return the pledge to its true owner. Even the pauper says in the Grace After Meals: “Blessed are You ... who, in His goodness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace, with kindness and with mercy”; he thanks G-d for his bread. Did he not receive this charity from such and such an individual? But the answer is, that G-d gave plenty to that person only as a safekeep, in order to transfer it to him. As the Talmud relates in tractate B. Kama: “Though the wine belongs to the owner, the thanks are given to the butler,” true, the poor person must thank his benefactor, but he must remember the true source of blessing is from G-d.

On the other hand, in the past the wealthy individual may have allowed himself to believe that his wealth was accumulated as a result of his own powers and therefore his previous donations to tzedakah were voluntary. After all, if he had bought an esrog with this money it would fulfill the requirement of being “yours.” Therefore when he gave tzedakah he had the merit of the mitzvah of tzedakah, not just the mitzvah of returning a pledge!

Nevertheless, since there is, additionally, the aspect of “safekeeping,” he therefore must now make good by “returning and restoring” the “lost” amounts to the institution or individual. True, it was an unintentional omission, yet it must be rectified to make his teshuvah complete.

“Great is tzedakah in that it brings the redemption nearer.” May it come speedily “with our youth and elders — sons and daughters,” a unified people with one Torah and mitzvos — for tzedakah is compared to all the mitzvos, and also the complete Holy Land which is also connected with the practice of tzedakah.


3. Towards the end of the portion of Chayei Sarah we find the Torah states “Avraham married another woman whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, etc.,” six sons. From the sequence of events it is clear that this took place immediately after the marriage of Yitzchok and Rivkah, when Yitzchok was 40 years old.

At the beginning of the portion of Toldos we are told that Yitzchok was 40 years old when he married Rivkah, and Rashi explains the detailed calculations:

For when Avraham came from Mount Moriah he received the news that Rivkah was born. Yitzchok was 37 years old, because at that time Sarah died, and from the birth of Yitzchok till the Akeidah — the binding of Yitzchok, when Sarah died — there were 37 years, since she-was 90 when he was born and 127 when she died ... thus Yitzchok was then 37 years old. At that period Rivkah was born and he waited until she was fit for marriage — three years — and then married her.”
Avraham was 100 when Yitzchok was born so now he was 140. Yet, Torah relates that at this age he fathered six sons and it makes no mention about how miraculous this was!

When Yitzchok was born to Avraham at the age of 100, this was considered a great miracle. Having heard the good tidings of the angel: “I will return to you this time next year and your wife, Sarah, will have a son,” Sarah could not believe it would happen. “Sarah laughed to herself saying, ‘Now that I am worn out shall I have my heart’s desire? My husband is old!”‘ Sarah’s wonder and disbelief was based on her age and also on Avraham’s old age. Later when Yitzchok was born, in her praise of G-d she again says, “Here I have given birth to a son in his old age.” In other words it would seem that the major miracle was that Avraham could father a child at age 100.

Yet, in a very nonchalant way, the Torah here says, that 40 years later, at age 140, Avraham fathered six sons and there is no mention of the supernatural!

If despite this, we do assume that it was miraculous, then,

  1. why does the Torah not clearly present it as a miracle, and

  2. what purpose could this miracle serve?

For Yitzchok who would be the “seed” of Avraham, G-d had to make a miracle, but these sons of Keturah were sent away, not to bother Yitzchok, so why a supernatural event to bring them into the world?

What is even more mysterious is that although this question is very perplexing — we do not find that Rashi should comment on it. As discussed on many occasions when Rashi refrains or abstains from commenting, there must be one of the following explanations:

  1. There is really no paradox, rather it is quite elementary and clear.

  2. Rashi relies on a previous commentary, which when applied in this case will also clear up the perplexity here.

In our case the question is certainly very strong, so we must look for some earlier Rashi commentary which may apply here.

Let us therefore elucidate Rashi in the following way.

Concerning the birth of Yitzchok, the five-year-old Torah student has already learned that there were other miracles associated with the main miracle. Yitzchak’s birth took place in the old age of Sarah and Avraham — after many years of chilldlessness. There was an additional miracle, which was necessary to show the world that in fact Sarah had birthed Yitzchok, expressed in the Torah the following way: “That Sarah will have suckled children.” and on this Rashi comments:

“What is the force of the word ‘children’ in plural? On the feast day, princesses brought their children with them and Sarah nursed them, for these women had said, ‘Sarah has not given birth to a son; she has brought into her house a foundling from the street.’”
This raises another paradox. In order to show that Sarah had actually given birth to Yitzchok it would have sufficed to nurse only him. Maternal milk by nature will only flow after childbirth! Was it necessary for Sarah to have so much milk that she could nurse the babies of those princesses?

Additionally, and more to the point. Nursing would only show that Sarah gave birth, but what Proof is this for the Paternity of Avraham?

And although the five-year-old student has still not heard of the accusation of the “scoffers” of that time, that Sarah was with child from Avimelech, he will soon hear that question, when learning the portion of Toldos, and therefore we must clarify this point now.

From the combination of these two questions we can find a solution to the mystery. When Yitzchok is born the Torah quotes Sarah: “Sarah said, ‘G-d has given me laughter. All who hear about it will laugh at me.”‘ On this Rashi expounds:

“... Many barren women were remembered together with her, many sick were healed in that day, many prayers were answered with hers and there was great rejoicing in the world.
The miracle of Yitzchak’s birth brought with it many supernatural occurrences in the world — [not additional miracles but one miracle of universal proportion, as will be elaborated on in next week’s farbrengen — Toldos].

It goes without saying, that in Sarah herself the miracle was of such great strength that she was able to nurse many children — an overabundant miracle! That was the nature of the miracle! With this understanding we can explain that the miracle also proved Avraham’s paternity.

When we realize that the birth of Yitzchok was accomplished through a broad and all-encompassing miracle which influenced the whole universe, then everyone who has some inkling of the manner of miracles would realize that such a feat would happen only in a proper way, only if Avraham was the true father.

True, when dealing with the ‘scoffers’ of the generation — they would still say that Sarah was with child from Avimelech, and for this reason “G-d formed the features of Yitzchak’s face similar to Avraham,” so that even they would attest that, “Avraham begot Yitzchok.”

This now leads us to an explanation of why the birth of six sons to Avraham at age 140 is not considered a new miracle. Since the miraculous events of Yitzchak’s birth affected the whole universe, it is clear, that in Avraham’s case the miracle was also in an overabundant manner. Just as Sarah nursed many children — Avraham was blessed by the miracle of fertility to such a great extent that at age 140, 40 years later, he could still father 6 more sons!


4. [Note: in his talk on the section of his father’s notes on Zohar in Likkutei Levi Yitzchok, pertaining to this portion, the Rebbe Shlita, quoted the dictum in the Zohar that relates the story of the prophet Yonah.]

What lesson can be learned from the story of Yonah in our individual divine service? In Zohar II, p. 199a it states: “Yonah descending into the ship is symbolic of man’s soul that descends into this world to enter into his body.” There in the Zohar all additional aspects of the story of Yonah compared to the divine service of man.

The soul’s descent to this physical world is compared to going out into a raging sea. For, the many problems of the mundane world are compared to the “many waters,” and even more so, to the tumultuous, rampageous waves, and especially at the time of exile, when “darkness covers the earth.”

In order to navigate this raging sea, ships are needed — symbolized by Torah and mitzvos, which can bring you to the desired destination. If along your way in the ocean of life there had been some omission in the service of G-d, that can also be corrected with the power of teshuvah, as we see from the details of the story of Yonah.

The role of purifying the temporal world is also hinted at. For as in the story, not only are we not swallowed by the churning waters, but no weakness is noticed in the service of G-d. Even more so, he filters out the “lost sparks” and refines them to return them their destination, their source and root, and in the process also brings himself to his true destination.

The effort is so broad that it also exerts influence on the gentile nations. Yonah went to Ninveh, the metropolis of that age, and motivated them to repentance. He even convinced the king of Ninveh, who was none other than Pharaoh of Egypt, as the Yalkut explains. Despite his earlier boast that: “I do not know the L-rd,” after which he had to be punished with so many plagues until he obeyed G-d’s command. Despite that earlier rebelliousness, now as king of Ninveh, hearing that a Jew was proclaiming the return to G-d, he remembered all that had happened to him, it touched his conscience, and he urged all his nation to repent from their evil ways.

And although, to accomplish this one must descend into the raging sea, for the soul descends from the “roof so high to the pit so deep,” nevertheless, this descent is for the purpose of rising up even higher. For when one goes down to the churning sea and crosses it with the help of a boat — the work of Torah and mitzvos — without being stymied by the many difficulties and dangers, then he reaches the safe shore and the true destination. A true superior level is attained, incomparably loftier than his position before entering the sea.

In the case of Yonah, after the whole story in Ninveh, “G-d spoke to Yonah again.” He had the spirit of prophecy revealed to him in a greater way than before.

There is an additional wonderful lesson to be learned from the odyssey of Yonah.

The ship in which Yonah set sail, we are told, had other co-travelers: the captain, sailors, passengers etc. Relative to the dangers and problems of the “mighty tempest in the sea,” to the point that “the ship seemed likely to be wrecked,” they were all in the same boat! Despite this fact, the trouble was really only because of Yonah, as he said: “For I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.”

From here we take an amazing lesson — that everything which occurs in the world is only because of the Jews! This is most important to us now in the time of the footsteps of Mashiach.

For when we see one nation inciting the other and a “tempest in the sea,” it is not because one nation has been mistreated and is angry at the other — really it is “for my sake,” for Jews to know that Mashiach is “standing behind the wall.” In the words of the Midrash, “When you see the powers fighting each other, look for the coming of the King Mashiach.”

Now that we know that “he stands behind our wall” we must be zealous and “polish the buttons.” For woe is to him, if, when Mashiach arrives and all 600,000 Jews will be standing in their orders, at attention, with shining buttons, only he will be the “one in the generation” who did not have the chance to polish his buttons! After all, what is left for him to do, only one mitzvah, and then as the Rambam says, he will tip the scale for himself and the whole world and Mashiach will come a day sooner — immediately!

So why are they waiting? Already in the age of the Talmud the sages said: “All the predestined dates for redemption have passed...,” how much more so, in our days!! All the travails that had to pass, the pangs of Mashiach and similar problems have passed. The Mitteler Rebbe in his time wrote that we have already fulfilled all the requirements! Certainly it is true in our generation, after all that has befallen us. The prophet says: “Affliction shall not rise up a second time”; certainly we should expect Mashiach, the true and complete redemption in a manner of, “In ease and rest shall you be saved.”

The Rashab, in his sichah spoken 80 ago [explained in detail in the farbrengen of Chof MarCheshvan] refers to two types of problem Jews, before the time of Mashiach. And here we see a true prophetic vision on his part. There will be two generations, he said, the first will be, “Your enemies who insult, O L-rd,” those who oppose G-d, Torah and mitzvos. The second generation will be comprised of Jews who-are faithful to G-d and His Torah, but “insult the footsteps of Your anointed one — Mashiach.” They might even be Torah scholars! But they are weak in their faith in the redemption, to the degree that they shame the footsteps of Mashiach, they insult and scoff!

This is unbelievably strange.

Who would have believed 80 years ago that there would be such a strange creature — a Jew who believes in G-d and his Torah, but denies the footsteps of Mashiach? The truth of course is that this is the outgrowth of the first generation, who scoffed at G-d and Torah, but now they cloak their agnostic philosophy in the mantle of ‘fear of Heaven.’ The Rambam says that one who doubts Mashiach and does not await his coming is like one who denies the Torah and our teacher Moshe.

Sorry to say, there have arisen today such people, who claim to be faithful Jews and yet when someone speaks of the “footsteps of Mashiach,” or mentions that “he stands behind our wall,” they cannot bear it and they insult and scoff! What’s more, they educate Jewish children in this spirit, to insult the “footsteps of Your anointed” (heaven forbid).

If you ask them how they reconcile this action with their expressed belief in the coming of Mashiach they reply readily that the time is not yet come! Of course in due course, they say, after many years, the redemption will come, but what is the rush now? And certainly we must not ask G-d to redeem us from the galus, we must sit and wait!! Meanwhile they want us to be stuck in the diaspora and what will they do? Dance in front of the gentiles! [Conform to the wishes of the gentile society!] Since hundreds of years ago Jews were forced to dance, wearing bear suits, in front of the gentiles — when we speak of bringing Mashiach now they say better to dance in front of the goyim!

Such conduct can only be motivated by the “sly one,” (evil inclination) who has donned a mantle of piety.

A Jew who truly conducts himself in accordance with Torah well knows that Jews and galus are anathema — mutually exclusive, opposites. A Jew is the child of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, and consequently the place of a Jew is near his father’s table. When we are in the exile it says, “Woe unto the children who have been driven away from their Father’s table!”

With regard to the non-Jews, we should follow the clear ruling of the Rambam that a Jew must use his abilities in a peaceful manner, to influence a non-Jew to fulfill the Seven Noachide Laws, because they were commanded by G-d, in the Torah; certainly, not to dance before the goy, because it was done 300 years before the footsteps of Mashiach.

For those who think the time has not come, let them remember the Talmud which says: “All the predestined dates for redemption have passed, now it depends on your teshuvah.” Do teshuvah and bring the redemption! Perhaps they are the ones who are detaining the redemption?! [Without giving them that much importance!]

The phenomenon of Torah scholars who disbelieve the coming of Mashiach is itself the greatest proof that we are truly in the time of the footsteps of Mashiach! “If you see a generation which insults and blasphemes expect the coming of Mashiach.

Certainly a spirit will shine on them from above and they will recant and repent, saying that they believe, and that they want Mashiach with true sincerity.

Action is of the essence, to increase all aspects of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit among Jews and the Seven Noachide Laws among non-Jews. And these actions will truly speed and motivate G-d not to be quiet and still but to act so that “a king will arise from the house of Dovid, who learns the Torah is occupied in mitzvos like Dovid his father ... and he will prevail on all the Jews to walk in the ways of Torah and to repair its breaches, and he will wage the wars of G-d ... and will build the Holy Temple on its site and then gather all the dispersed Jews.”


  Publisher’s ForewordShabbos Parshas Toldos
29th Day of MarCheshvan, 5745
 
  
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