1. During the year we find certain variations from one Shabbos Mevarchim to another; let us therefore take a close look at some of the unique aspects of this Shabbos Mevarchim, which is connected to today’s farbrengen. Firstly, we bless the month of Kislev, which brings us both blessing and strength to fulfill the divine service of Kislev. Secondly, while every Shabbos Mevarchim precedes its respective Rosh Chodesh, this year it occurs on the day before Rosh Chodesh. Thirdly, whereas last year Rosh Chodesh Kislev was two days, Sunday and Monday, this year it is only Sunday. Consequently, last year the Sunday after Shabbos Mevarchim was still in the month of MarCheshvan, but this year Sunday is in Kislev and Shabbos Mevarchim moves directly into Rosh Chodesh. Fourthly, today we read the Torah portion of T oos. All of these-aspects must bring some lesson and directive in our service and devotion to him.
Additionally, the association of these four aspects indicates some special significance, after all, each is independent of the other and could occur without the other. Since they do all come together, they not only present their full individual qualities but also enhance and strengthen each other.
An example of this concept is found in the case of the Temple sacrifices of Shabbos and the Temple service of Yom Kippur. In both cases, even the regular daily sacrifices and activities, done all year-round, are imbued and permeated with a special dimension, when they are performed on Shabbos and on Yom Kippur.
Thus, although it can occur in any month of the year, still, when Rosh Chodesh comes right after Shabbos Mevarchim and it is on Sunday only, and this takes place in the month of Kislev and in the portion of Toldos, then a new fusion is accomplished, bringing mutual enhancement and benefits.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that every detail of existence is controlled by Divine Providence and, therefore, whatever we see or hear must have some lesson for us. This being true of worldly matters, how much more so when we are dealing with events connected to Torah and mitzvos. The fixing of the days and dates of the calendar is according to the principles of Torah, thus every detail in this respect has a lesson and message for us in our devotion and service of Hashem. Just as the blessing of the new month applies to everyone equally, so too the lessons one will learn from the relationship of the aforementioned aspects must pertain to everyone on a-common, elementary level.
What is the unique quality of the month of Kislev?
On the one hand, this should perhaps not need repeating, having dwelt upon it last year. On the other hand, the Torah teaches us in many places to strive even “one hundred times” to accomplish something, and in Tanya, Chapter 15, the Alter Rebbe explains the great value of doing something “one hundred and one times.” If so, to really excel one must strive one hundred and two times! Thus, the need to repeat, again.
More importantly, my words of last year certainly accomplished their goal and so now, even if only to “encourage the zealous,” it is appropriate that I should once again explain the main points of the month of Kislev.
The unique theme of the month of Kislev finds expression through the special days of Kislev and in their reversible sequence. The date sequence gives us first the 10th of Kislev (the liberation of Rabbi DovBer, the Mitteler Rebbe), then the 19th of Kislev (the liberation of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe), and finally the days of Chanukah. However, when we arrange these days in historical, chronological order the sequence is reversed: Chanukah came first, then the liberation of the Alter Rebbe and finally the liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe.
This reversible sequence can also be related to a similar reversing sequence in the portion of Toldos where the Torah says first: “Yitzchok, the son of Avraham,” mentioning Yitzchok first and then, “Avraham was Yitzchak’s father,” reversing the order.
What is the common factor which relates these three special days? When you ask the average Jew, “What is the theme of Chanukah?” he is amazed at your question. “Everyone knows,” he answers, “that on Chanukah we kindle lights.” Truly, Chanukah is associated with light.
Now ask him, “What is the theme of the 19th of Kislev?” “Well, let us see,” he answers, “what the Alter Rebbe, himself, said about it and what his adversaries said about it.” The Alter Rebbe said that his liberation was related to Torah, specifically to the revelation of the inner essence of Torah, the teachings of Chassidus. The claim of those who arrested the Alter Rebbe was that he had revealed new aspects of Torah which embodied an insurrection against the Czar. When they later learned that this was a fallacious charge he was freed and given permission to disseminate his teachings.
The arrest and liberation of the Mitteler Rebbe was also related to Torah. Now that we realize that the essential theme of the 10th and 19th of Kislev is “Torah Or” — the light of Torah, we can see the relationship with Chanukah, whose theme is also light.
Simply put, the average Jew thinks of Torah as being given by G-d, to teach us how to live our daily lives. He does not concern himself with the lofty details, that Torah is the wisdom and desire, kindness, severity and kingship of the Holy One, Blessed be He. Upon awakening, Torah tells him to say “Modeh Ani.” When he eats, after being certain that the food is absolutely kosher, the Torah tells him to say a blessing, to eat as a Jew and not to be a Glutton or a drunkard.
Similarly, in all aspects of his life, Torah gives directives and shows him how to live. Whether this directive comes from the Code of Jewish law, from the prayer book or from a rabbi makes no difference, they all represent the teachings of Torah. So Torah is a beacon which illuminates his life. Without it, he would grope in the darkness not knowing how to live or what to do. He would not know what he has to say when he opens his eyes in the morning. With Torah he has light and he sees clearly what he must do in every situation and at every moment. The common theme of Chanukah, the 19th of Kislev and the 10th of Kislev is to illuminate the world with the light of Torah.
It should also be pointed out, that when viewing the theme of Kislev through the teachings of Chassidus, Kislev refers to the “luminary,” or inner essence of Torah, i.e. the intense, inner brightness. For Chanukah being associated with oil which rises above all liquids, even wine, is thereby related to the “Great secret,” the esoteric essence of Torah, higher even than wine which is the “secret” of Torah. The 10th and 19th of Kislev are likewise related to the Chassidic teachings of Torah. In connecting the month of Kislev with Torah, we are really emphasizing its relationship with the esoteric teachings of Torah, while the month of Sivan relates mainly to the revealed aspect of Torah. Consequently, the strength bestowed upon us on Shabbos Mevarchim Kislev is also uniquely endowed with the special powers of the inner, intense brightness of the Torah luminary — Chassidic Philosophy.
Nevertheless, the unique directive of Shabbos Mevarchim Kislev applies also to the average Jew, who does not fathom the detailed definitions of “light,” “luminary,” or “oil” of Torah. For him _;sFleov is the month af light, to illuminate the world with the light of Torah, and Shabbos Mevarchim Kislev is the day in which we accept upon ourselves the positive resolutions to carry out the goal of this month.
Although Torah has a relationship to every month of the year, the average Jew still knows that there is one month primarily related to Torah. Normally that month is understood to be Sivan, being that the relationship is based on the dictum of the Talmud: “[G-d gave] a threefold Torah ... in the third month.” However, just as Sivan is the third month counting from Nissan, so too is Kislev the third month counting from Tishrei. Thus there is a fundamental relationship between the Torah month of Sivan and the Torah month of Kislev, by using both systems of counting from Nissan or from Tishrei. Consequently, we realize an obligation on Shabbos Mevarchim Kislev to accept our responsibility to do all activities to illuminate the world with Torah light.
Now, when Shabbos Mevarchim is the day before Rosh Chodesh and when that Rosh Chodesh is only one day, then all of the blessings and powers and all of the positive resolutions generated on that Shabbos lead directly into the new month with their full force. There is not even a lapse or pause of one day separating between the endowment of Shabbos Mevarchim and the actions of Rosh Chodesh.
Yet another quality comes to light when Rosh Chodesh is one day.
Traditionally, when two days were set for Rosh Chodesh the first day was set in doubt, maybe witnesses would come and tell of seeing the moon. This was so even in the days of the prophets. This eese ois similar to the two days of the holidays celebrated in the diaspora, namely a “day of doubt.” The Alter Rebbe in Likkutei Torah explains the connotation of the second day of diaspora based on the Midrash which says: “In Eretz Yisrael we kept one day of Yom-Tov, now in the diaspora we keep two, we hoped to get reward for two, but we receive reward for only one.” This means that the spiritual benevolence received in Eretz Yisrael in only one day is given in the diaspora in two days, for we cannot absorb the intensity of the Holy Land in the exile.
Similarly, one may deduce that when we have two days of Rosh Chodesh the spiritual benevolence is diluted, and when we have one day we receive the full benevolence in a concentrated manner. The two-day Rosh Chodesh represents a weakness caused by doubt, the lack of certainty of Torah light. And when Rosh Chodesh is one day, we must say that our ability to absorb has been enhanced and invigorated in a manner that we are able to receive the more intense revelation.
Having explained the quality of a one-day Rosh Chodesh we must now see how this thought applies to the Shabbos Mevarchim which precedes such a Rosh Chodesh. Let us think for a moment of an example of a person who will be awarded a large gift of gold, silver and precious stones. The recipient must prepare the proper ‘vessels’ to receive this benevolence; he must make an appropriate pocket or pouch for the treasure. Naturally if he is informed that the size of the gift is to be doubled, then the size of the pouch must be increased proportionally to twice the size.
In our case, when we know that the revelation and benevolence of Rosh Chodesh will be concentrated into one day, we must prepare the proportionate vessels in order to receive the greater revelation.
What are these “vessels”? Torah and mitzvos. We must greatly increase our fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos, actually double our fulfillment so that we will be able to absorb the intense benevolence. This increase must affect our positive actions as well as our care in refraining from negative activity, for, as in an example, when the gift is greater we must also double our protection against thieves. When they hear of the great treasures they might even take the chance to fight our normal protective ring; therefore our efforts must be doubled.
So, too, spiritually, the forces of evil try harder to “steal” away the greater benevolence; thus we must double our protection. Rashi comments on this in the priestly blessing in Parshas Naso and says: “May Hashem bless you ... to increase your possessions ... and may He protect you ... that thieves shall not take away your valuables.”
By this combined effort of double study and double action on the positive side and a similar double protection on the negative side, we make the proper preparations on Shabbos Mevarchim for the coming day of Rosh Chodesh. All of this now will be related to the special quality and theme of this month, Kislev. Namely, that our doubled efforts will be directed to matters of basic Torah light in the revealed aspect and more intensely to the inner, intense brilliance of the luminary of Torah, the teachings of Chassidus.
May Hashem grant that this discussion should bring to positive action, which is of the essence, by everyone, each according to his abilities. Then, through our actions and direct service in the aspects of Shabbos Mevarchim, which bridges tte-towo months of MarCheshvan and Kislev, we will speed up and bring closer the ultimate redemption and the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash, which has a special relationship to these two months.
The Yalkut writes: “When the First Temple was built in the month of Bul (MarCheshvan) it was closed ... then when it was opened in the month of holidays ... The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: ‘Now the work is completed ...’ Similarly we find in the case of the Tabernacle [Mishkan] ... the work was completed on the 25th of Kislev but it remained unassembled till the first of Nissan ... So Kislev, in which it was completed, lost out, to which Hashem stated: ‘I will repay [Kislev].’ What was the compensation? The dedication of the Hasmoneans. And in the future, Hashem will also compenento the month of MarCheshvan.
This means that the month of MarCheshvan will be compensated with the dedication of the Third Temple, just as Kislev was compensated with the dedication of the Hasmoneans.
This thought bears elucidation.
The Tabernacle was the root and source of the later Temples, including also the Third Temple. When Rambam teaches the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash he quotes the verse: “Make for Me a sanctuary ...,” which refers to the Tabernacle that Moshe built and this includes all the later Temples.
This concept is expressed more clearly when we speak of the ark, which represented the essential purpose of the Tabernacle, being the object which signified the presence of the Shechinah. Regarding the ark we learn that it was present only in the Tabernacle and the First Temple. For whether the ark was hidden away in the days of King Yoshiyahu or was taken to Babylon at the time of the destruction, it was “missing” in the Second Temple, as no “new” ark could be made. In the future, Third Temple, there will not be a new ark, but rather the original ark of Moshe will be reinstated. For this reason too, the Rambam does not discuss the details of building an ark, although he does describe the other vessels such as the menorah, table, etc. of the Temple. There is no need to teach how to build one; the original one will come back.
So we see that the Mishkan represents the root and source of the future Temples. Being that the Mishkan attained its completion and perfection at the dedication of the Hasmoneans in the month of Kislev, this also affects its relationship to all future Temples. Thus, Kislev, too, is connected to the Third Temple.
Practically speaking as we stand now in Shabbos Mevarchim Kislev, which comes at the end of MarCheshvan, we have only a few hours left to bring down the Beis HaMikdash through our actions during MarCheshvan, so that it should stand completed for entering into the month of Kislev! Essentially, we must bring Mashiach and the Beis HaMikdash quickly. And, for those who can understand only the language of the land, now!
So may it be for us, that speedily and actually the Third Beis HaMikdash shall be built in the Holy City, Yerushalayim “the city of the great King,” in our Holy Land “which the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are constantly upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” The condition of the land shall be: “When the L-rd your G-d expands your borders” and “our all the i~WaKitants shall be t-herein” the complete nation, “our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters.” This perfection will include also a perfection in our actions. For then we will see the fulfillment of the promise: “The honor of the L-rd will be revealed and together all beings will see that the mouth of G-d has spoken.” G-dliness will be revealed in all of Creation.
2. Our earlier discussion explained the quality of a one-day Rosh Chodesh and the additional blessing bestowed on the preceding Shabbos, because it relates to the coming Rosh Chodesh. There is, additionally, a double blessing applied to that Shabbos itself, as expressed in the Torah lessons of the day.
The order of daily study established by our Rebbeim include Torah, Psalms and Tanya as apportioned to the day of the week, month and year, respectively. Each day has its individual portion, but when Rosh Chodesh Kislev is only one day, then on the 29th of MarCheshvan, we recite a double portion of Psalms, for the 29th and 30th day.
In Tanya, which is divided so as to complete the study in one year, there is a difference between the rate of a normal year and a leap year but it does not include days when double portions are studied (except again, the 29th of MarCheshvan of this year). In some cases, when Simchas Torah occurs, as this year, just before Shabbos Bereishis, one must learn the entire portion of Bereishis in one day, which would encompass several days’ lessons. This too is not remarkable because being a holiday or Shabbos we expect special allocations.
However, a double Torah portion on the 29th of the month, even when it is a weekday, presents a unique occurrence with special significance.
Here we see the double blessing given to this Shabbos Mevarchim itself. Coming on the 29th, it has a double portion of Psalms. When a Jew is in need, he recites a chapter of Psalms, for it encompasses and contains the needed remedy, charm and virtues to bring down and precipitate all the needed blessings. So, if the segment of Psalms is doubled, the blessings will be doubled. More so, when the Psalms are being recited as prescribed by our Rebbeim then the double blessing also includes the double blessings of the Rebbeim.
This second portion of Psalms which we add for the 30th day includes Psalm 150. This number has special significance because it connotes three times 50 which is associated with the perfection of the world. Psalm 150 also includes the ten “praises” which represent completion and perfection in all aspects, supernal and terrestrial. It tells us how Creation praises, exalts and glorifies the Holy One, Blessed be He, recognizing the force of G-dliness which invigorates and gives life, so that “the honor of G-d is revealed and all flesh shall see.”
We can now connect these aspects of Shabbos Mevarchim with the portion of the week, Toldos and the theme of the month of Kislev.
Yitzchak’s blessings to Yaakov comprise an important part of Toldos, and Chassidus explains that these blessings surmounted, included and, indeed, were the source of — the blessings of Avraham sn(l Yn ~akov
“May G-d grant you the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, much grain and wine”; these blessings of Yitzchok find no counterpart in the Blessings of Avraham and Yaakov. These-blessings confer spiritual and material bounty. The material is as stated, dew of heaven and fat of the earth. The spiritual is interpreted by our sages to mean “dew of heaven, the Written Torah, fat of the earth, the Mishnah or, Oral Torah.” And as the previous Rebbe used to say, “material and spiritual, together.” Thus in Toldos we have the blessings of Yitzchok which are overpowering and extra special.
Let us now see the theme of Kislev, the days of Chanukah, and the 10th and 19th of Kislev. The Talmud in Yoma states: “Esther [Purim] is the last of all miracles.” If so, then the miracle of Chanukah and subsequently the miracles of the 10th and 19th of Kislev, represent an additional measure of the miraculous.
This addition can be understood also in relation to the form of the miracle, the oil, representing the secrets of Torah and the liberation of the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe, allowing them to spread the teachings of Chassidus. This too is an additional measure in a more profound way.
Looking at Parshas Toldos in general, there is another important lesson to be learned, which should also be connected to the theme of Kislev, Chanukah, and the 19th and 10th of Kislev.
As its name indicates, the portion of Toldos, offspring, deals with having children. The previous Rebbe used to say that the spiritual meaning of the Divine commandment of “Be fruitful and multiply” is that a Jew must make another Jew; in other words, to bring Jews closer to Torah and mitzvos. Since the children in Toldos include also Eisav, whom the Talmud calls an “apostate Jew,” certainly today when-Jews who are removed from Torah are only “children who have been kidnapped” how much more so must we reach out to them. Just as the Torah says that Avraham “holid,” meaning not simply “gave birth to,” but also “caused [Yitzchok] to bring children,” we, too, must influence others to return to Torah and, in turn, encourage others to do likewise. This involvement with “offsprings” makes us “vessels” to receive the overpowering blessings of Yitzchok.
Another aspect of the importance of offspring shows up at the end of Toldos, where we are told that Yitzchok sends Yaakov to Charan and then, before he actually leaves, Torah relates that Eisav saw “that the daughters of Canaan were evil in the eyes of his father Yitzchok, so he went to Yishmael and married Machlas. the daughter of Yishmael.
This bears clarification, why interrupt the story of Yaakov to tell us about Eisav?
Another difficult point.
The Talmud Yerushalmi, in explaining the verse: “... and he married Machlas” says: “Was her name Machlas? It was Basmas. But this teaches us that Eisav’s sins were forgiven and from here we know that a bridegroom is ‘forgiven his sins.”‘
Now isn’t this strange? Think about it. When the Torah wants to teach us the great quality of a bridegroom, who approaches the responsibility of building a family in Israel, does the Torah lack cases from where to deduce this? Does it have to refer to the wedding of Eisav and the daughter of Yishmael?! And, knowing all of Eisav’s faults, as the Talmud comments in a derogatory way about this wedding: “Not for nothing did the starling follow the raven, but because it is of its kind,” can it be, that here is the place to learn that “a bride-groom is forgiven his sins”?
Strangely enough, this paradox brings enlightenment. For, in order to emphasize the extraordinary quality of “offspring,” and being “fruitful,” which is the revelation of the power of the Infinite in the finite world and the ultimate purpose of marriage, the Torah goes specifically to Eisav. Fully aware of all his wickedness, the Torah tells us that even when such a person gets married his sins are forgiven! This is also why the Torah interrupts the story of Yaakov to speak of Eisav’s marriage. To show that at the same time in which Eisav was being forgiven his sins because of his marriage, his threat to his brother was so great that Yaakov had to flee; although given forgiveness Eisav did not change! See how base he really was, and still, he received the forgiveness because of the supreme quality of “be fruitful and multiply.
This, then, is the general theme of Toldos, which teaches us an astounding moral lesson. Our sages tell us that G-d is like a bridegroom and we are like the bride, the ultimate Divine service is to serve G-d and worship Him, in a manner of closeness, similar to a marriage. If so, one may think that although he is righteous, he is still unworthy to be close to G-d. Therefore the Torah tells us to go out and “make another Jew,” to do spiritual “reproduction,” bringing Jews closer to Torah and mitzvos. As a reward your sins will be forgiven and you will become pure and worthy to relate to Hashem in a manner similar to a marriage.
Now compare this thought with the concept of Chanukah, which is to kindle lights outside the door of your house. This means that despite the darkness, after the sun has set, you must go out and illuminate the world and dissolve and eliminate the forces which would negate G-dliness. Compare this also with the 10th and 19th of Kislev, the substance of which is the spreading of “the wellsprings to the outside.”
What does this show?
A person could possibly say, being that his level of Torah and mitzvos is very lofty, and being close to the wellsprings, it is better for him to remain in his own domain, to study and do mitzvos. Whereas, his responsibility to reach out will be done by his messengers, children, and grandchildren, or through the “mail” — on his behalf. If “all the roads are dangerous,” why encounter peril?!
So the month of Kislev glares at us and beckons us to go out and illuminate the outside! Spread the wellsprings outside! You must go out and spread the teachings of Chassidus there. Being that this will bring you forgiveness, it will neutralize the peril of the way. In practice, illuminate the world with the light of Torah, especially Chassidus, enlighten even the place of darkness, at the door of your house, outside. Go out, and there, make offspring — by bringing the Jews of that far away place to Torah and mitzvos, to the degree that they too will subsequently make more “offspring.” And this will also speed the ultimate redemption.
3. It is customary to study a verse of the weekly portion with Rashi’s commentary, so let us touch upon Rashi’s commentary on the first verse in today’s portion. “Since the text wrote ‘Yitzchok, the son of Avraham,’ it became necessary to state: ‘Avraham begot Yitzchok,’ for the scoffers of the generation were saying, ‘Sarah conceived from Avimelech....’ What did G-d do? He formed the features of Yitzchak’s face similar to Avraham, and everyone attested, ‘Avraham begot Yitzchok.”‘
This requires an explanation.
- Why indicate this in Toldos which speaks of incidents which took place forty and sixty years after Yitzchak’s birth? Would it not be more appropriate:
- to say this at the time of Yitzchak’s birth? or
- perhaps if it was really not necessary at the time of his birth, why say it now at all? What has changed?
Additionally, regarding question two above we do find Rashi mentioning in Bereishis 21:2 (albeit, in a bracket), at the birth of Yitzchok: “Why does the Torah say ‘lizkunav’ [and not “lteis zikno”l? To indicate that his features [a var. of “ziv ikunin”] were similar to Avraham’s.” If so, what does Rashi add by his commentary here? Further, regarding question three above, at the end of Parshas Chayei Sarah we are told “And Avraham took another wife ... and she bore him ....” At the age of 140 he fathered six more children. Is it then necessary for Rashi at this point to clarify and negate the claim that Sarah conceived from Avimelech?”
These points also follow on the discussion of the previous farbrengen. There the question was asked on the verse: “And Avraham took another wife ... and she bore to him ...,” why the Torah makes no big deal of the great miracle that at age 140 Avraham fathered children. If the birth of Yitzchok at the age of 100 was a miracle — a minori ad majus — to father six children at the age of 140 was a much Greater miracle.
On this paradox a question was presented to me. How can we make this deduction about the miraculous nature of Avraham’s fatherhood, when in a previous discussion, already published in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 20, the opposite deduction was presented, namely that in Avraham’s case the birth of Yitzchok did not need to be miraculous being that at age 140, Avraham fathered children naturally. How can we interpret the same phenomenon in opposite ways?
In order to clarify this point we must establish that the Torah bears many interpretations, often even opposing one another. And since our sages say to “attach it to a great tree” [authority] we can note the Alter Rebbe’s commentary in Torah Or on this portion. There, in the discourse “Many waters cannot extinguish this love,” the explanation is propounded that the many waters refer to the meditation on the greatness of G-d, which engenders a love of the whole heart, causing intense and infinite thirst. Now, this love-thirst cannot be satisfied by intellectual contemplation alone and must be slaked only through Torah and mitzvos, as it states there: “If a person will give all his possessions,” referring to Torah and practical mitzvos.
Now, a similar discourse appears earlier in Torah Or and there the explanation is contrary to this one. There the “many waters” are taken to mean the burdens of earning a livelihood and the thoughts of worldly matters, the explanation being that these problems cannot squelch the hidden, immanent love which dwells in the soul of every Jew by nature. It will constantly yearn and desire to rise up and cleave to the above, so much so, that, quite to the contrary, the problems of life cause an increase in the love and longing.
One who learns these two discourses is troubled by this blatant contradiction. One discourse interprets “many waters” to mean the problems and confusions of worldly matters and the other discourse says it refers to the great love and thirst for G-dliness. Both of these contradictory interpretations appear in the same volume and both were edited and included in one book by the Tzemach Tzedek!
In response to this difficulty one must realize that Torah bears many interpretations, as Rashi himself writes: “The verse must be reconciled with its elementary meaning ... but homiletics may still be derived, etc.” In the words of our sages: “The Torah has seventy facets,” and as the AriZal taught, there are six-hundred thousand interpretations in each of the four ways of Torah study. Therefore, Rashi’s commentary itself can be seen from different facets and we can come up with different, and even opposite, meanings — as long as all were reached in the true way — they all represent the truth. So much so, that after studying a subject clearly and succinctly, we should learn it again and maybe we will find a new and different aspect.
There remains another point needing clarification; although we did resolve one aspect of the questions in the last farbrengen, some of the questions remain. We clarified that just as the miracle of Sarah was increased so that she nursed many children (despite the fact that to negate the claim that she had adopted a foundling it would have sufficed for her to nurse only Yitzchok), so too, Avraham’s miracle was increased so that he fathered six children, (40 years after Yitzchok, eto years of age.
Remaining unanswered are the following questions:
- Why doesn’t the Torah portray this fact as a miracle? and
- why were these children born from Keturah forty years later when they could have been born from Sarah at the same period in which Yitzchok was born?
We will answer the questions on Rashi with the following explanation: G-d does not waste miracles! Yet, we do see some miraculous occurrences which seem superfluous. The truth is, that there are two distinct categories of miracles. The first is a miracle which affects only the subject of the miracle — who actually needed this supernatural event. The second is a more encompassing event, which affects also others around the recipient of the miracle. An example of this would be the plague brought upon the household of Pharaoh when he took Sarah and the sickness brought upon the members of Avimelech’s family and household when he held Sarah captive. To free Sarah, it would have sufficed just to smite Pharaoh, or Avimelech, why punish the others? Was this an additional miracle? In fact it was not, rather it was a miracle of the second category — a wide-ranging miracle, which affected the subject as well as all who were around him. Similarly, the miracle of Yitzchak’s birth and consequently the miracle that Sarah nursed many children were of the second category: one miracle, which had a broad range of influence.
Much before Yitzchak’s birth, and as a preparation for it, Avraham’s and Sarah’s names were changed. Avraham’s name came to mean the “father of many nations” and Sarah’s name took the meaning bS*a universal princess, not just over one people. This universal role of Avraham and Sarah, coming as a preface to Yitzchak’s birth, also influenced the miraculous events surrounding Yitzchak’s birth to have universal manifestations. For if not, you are restricting the universal influence of Avraham and Sarah. For this reason Rashi comments “Many barren women were remembered with Sarah etc., and there was much happiness in the world.”
The miracle which brought Yitzchok also gave Sarah the power to nurse. This miracle had the blessing of universality also; she was able to nurse many children, in keeping with the theme that she was a universal princess.
Now we can understand that the miracle which made Avraham a father also had to have universal implications: more nations had to be born from him. These nations, as it turned out, would not be associated at all with the Jewish people and therefore could not be born from Sarah, since only Yitzchok represented the continuity of the Jewish people from Avraham as G-d had promised: “For in Yitzchok (alone) will be your seed.” It would have been inappropriate for Sarah to give birth to other righteous, but alien, nations and certainly heartbreaking for her to give birth to unworthy children. So Avraham had to father other nations from another wife, preferably Keturah (Hagar). Being that this might cause discomfort to Sarah, as it had earlier, G-d waited till after Sarah died and only then did Avraham remarry Keturah — Hagar, and give birth to six other nations, thereby fulfilling his role. The fact that Avraham was able to father children at the later time is not an additional miracle, but rather the result of the original all-encompassing miracle which had to be postponed out of respect, until after the death of Sarah.
4. The Rambam writes in the laws of impurity of plague-spots, chapter 9: “Although anyone is eligible to inspect plague-spots, their ritual purity (‘taharah’) or impurity (‘tumah’) depends on the Kohen. Thus, if a Kohen lacks the knowledge of how to inspect, the sage may inspect it and tell the Kohen, ‘Pronounce it ritually impure (“tameh”),’ and the Kohen says, ‘Tameh,’ or ‘Pronounce it ritually pure,’ etc.” The sage himself cannot pronounce the person tameh without the words of the Kohen. This teaches us an amazing moral lesson. Every Jew by nature of his birth is “tahor,” spiritually pure, it’s not necessary for anyone to make such a pronouncement. If someone wishes to attribute impurity to a fellow Jew, it will not affect his original status. If someone sees a negative aspect in another Jew, a plague spot, even if he is a great sage, he cannot pronounce him tameh and send him out of the community! Instead we face the accuser and say, “Who made you the expert? First perfect yourself.”
It is troubling that this argument is also used regarding the diaspora. This same person says, “Hey, it’s no wonder we are in exile, ‘our sins have driven us out of our land.”‘ Who appointed him as a judge of the Jewish people? When we ponder how our sages explain the general topic of plague-spots, as relating to the sin of slander, libel and talebearing, connecting the word “metzora” to the act of slander or evil talk, we see this person, who speaks evil, as one who himself will be stricken by the plague-spots.
In such a case, even if the person is one who dons four pairs of tefillin, or wears a “silk kaftan,” i.e., a real big shot, we must go and investigate his conduct. If he is critical of another Jew, the same criteria must be applied to him. If he cannot control his evil talk, he should lock himself in his own chambers, devote himself to Torah study and stop going out to bother other Jews with foolishness!
Let us learn from the example of the Baal Shem Tov, who treated every Jew with love and friendship, who first thought of helping a Jew materially and then spoke to him about spiritual matters. Even more so, let us learn from Avraham’s example, who ran out to greet Bedouim, who worshiped the dust of their feet — the lowest form of idolatry. He brought them to his home in order to give them the best, and he mobilized all his family members to make cakes, to prepare three oxen, and three tongues with mustard, being the best and most delicious food, in order to feed the guests. How much more so must we do for a Jew, especially one who is a “child that was kidnapped by the gentiles” and is simply ignorant of Torah.
Who can decide that a Jew must be sent out of the community? Only the Kohen, the Man of Kindness, a Jew filled with love of his fellow Jew and who blessed the Jews with “love.”
Our goal must be to increase love and unity among Jews, and in this way to nullify the exile, which came about mainly because of unreasonable hatred. This will give us the merit, to see the true and complete redemption, through Mashiach, speedily in our days, immediately and “now.”
5. [Translators Note: On several occasions, the Rebbe Shlita has proposed the practice, and elaborated on the importance of appointing “mashpi’im” throughout the Chassidic community. The role of “mashpia among chassidim has traditionally been one of a learned, pious and dedicated chassid who applies his wisdom and experience, with genuine Ahavas Yisrael, to help other chassidim in all aspects of their lives. Sometimes this role is institutionalized within the framework of the yeshivah or educational program, or it may be completely informal. The mashpia serves as friend, mentor, counselor and guide in the spiritual, religious and moral development of a chassid, in relation to his service of G-d, interpersonal relations and intrapersonal endeavors. The following is a short synopsis of the sichah concerning mashpi’im spoken by the Rebbe Shlita on Parshas Toldos.l
The efforts of a true mashpia must be to really involve himself in the education and instruction of the student or disciple to the degree of real attachment. Sorry to say, the situation remains one where the mashpi’im are in their own corner and the beneficiaries — the students, the mushpa’im, stay in their own corner.
Earlier exhortations regarding this matter have engendered a rash of meetings, resolutions and fund-raising suggestions, but the results have been discouraging and the mashpi’im remain closed in their own circles.
Why is it, that so soon after leaving the halls of the yeshivah, Tomchei Temimim, they have forgotten their purpose and have settled down “each person under his vine and fig tree”?
In yeshivah you were instilled with the goal of becoming “lamplighters” to illuminate and kindle “Man’s soul, G-d’s candle.” As the Baal Shem Tov says about every Jew, we are “precious earth” s~* which are buried treasures of precious stones and pearls, waiting only to be raised from “hidden to revealed.”
Knowing how much the Nasi of our generation urged us to spread the wellsprings to the outside, to the point that he “ate his heart out” beseeching us in this matter, despite all this, they wait until they have satisfied all their personal needs, and then they wait until they are properly honored with the title “The Mashpia” before giving of themselves.
Make a just accounting of how many ‘illuminating lights’ you have kindled, on the eve of this Shabbos and how many before that.
Take a lesson from Yaakov, of whom we read in the coming Torah portion : “Yaakov left Beer Sheva and journeyed to Charan,” which our sages say means the “turmoil of the world.” He went to the “outside” to spread the wellsprings and as a result “Yaakov went on his way,” taking all of his children with him — for they were all righteous. Here too, you must apply yourselves and go out to your students — who are as children, and, with dedication, to spread the wellsprings to the outside. And all together to advance and rise to Eretz Yisrael, with joy and gladness of heart.